Charles Eisenstein has been challenging my thinking for about 15 years now, but never more so than with his latest book, Climate: A New Story.
Basically, Eisenstein argues that focusing all our environmental activism on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming is a bad idea.
As a card-carrying member of the enlightened, scientifically-literate, progressive wing of the American populace, of course I know that human-created climate change is the single greatest threat to our civilization, and that the biggest thing we can do to combat it is to reduce our carbon footprint, individually and collectively.
Heck, that's one of the best arguments for eating a plant-based diet – that it fights climate change more profoundly than switching from a Hummer to a Prius, or eschewing air travel entirely. And since I want as many people as possible to go plant-based, of course I'll deploy this convenient, terrifying climate narrative (which 97% of climate scientists agree with) to add one more reason to the mix.
After all, the last thing I want to do is stand with the crazy, greedy, deluded, ignorant climate skeptics, right?
Well, after reading Climate: A New Story, I have a whole different view on what needs to be done.
The earth, or “Gaia,” as Eisenstein calls our home, is quite sick. Rising temperatures is one symptom, just as a high fever might be a symptom of an infection in a person. Just as the pharmaceutical industry treats symptoms and ignores root causes, so too the environmental movement has become mired in reductionist treatments of symptoms rather than addressing root causes.
A healthy planet, Eisenstein argues, can withstand perturbations like increased greenhouse gases. A sick planet, whose organs (forests, wetlands, oceans, prairies, etc.) have been destroyed by human beings, will not have the resilience to absorb the extra carbon.
Digging deeper, Eisenstein identifies the root root cause of our mistreatment of our only home: we don't view the earth as sacred.
Until we return from our illusion of separation, with its requirement that we control and dominate and bend all the forces of nature to our instrumental will, we cannot heal the planet.
In fact, approaching climate change like we approach our other problems – with a war on carbon emissions, just like our failed wars on terror, drugs, crime, disease, and agricultural pests – guarantees that we will fail. Warlike thinking is the cause of the problem. We need a different mindset to find our way out of it.
As you know, there's a fierce battle going on about whether climate change is real, and if it is, whether it's our fault, and if it is, whether there's anything we can do about it. Like all wars, this one demands that we choose sides. If you were to suspect me of being a climate skeptic or denier, you probably would dismiss me and my podcast out of hand.
Listen to our conversation, and please read Climate: A New Story. It's essentially a work of politics, economics, history, and science that takes spirituality seriously. You can map the teachings of Eckhard Tolle, in A New Earth, directly onto Climate. If you've ever wondered what enlightened public policy would truly look like, Eisenstein is a good a guide as any I've come across.
I'm thrilled that Charles agreed to share an hour with us, and I look forward to some spirited, and respectful, and loving, debate from the listeners of this podcast.
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box or audio recording box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
A New Earth, by Eckhard Tolle
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
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