Thursday, 20 December 2012

Obsession and Addiction

It's shocking how many kinds of addiction exist. Often, too often, things that starts out as just a normal part of your life at some point cross the line to obsessive, compulsive, out of control. The thing about addiction is it never ends well. Because eventually, whatever it is that was getting us high, stops feeling good, and starts to hurt.

Dr Meredith Grey in “Grey’s Anatomy” (2007)
  
As you may have gathered I am gripped by (obsessed with?) archetypes and climate change. In my view the latter poses more of a threat to me, family and friends around the world than global terrorism. Furthermore, many of our habitual behaviour patterns – e.g. addict, hedonist, saboteur, thief – play a major role in accelerating climate change. Today I want to put the spotlight on the addict.

We all have a personal addiction or obsessive compulsions: e.g. shopping, computer games and the latest technological gadget, tobacco, food, prescription drugs, cosmetic surgery, nail biting, co-dependent relationships, as well as the usual suspects of gambling, alcohol, substance abuse and sex. Our addictions blend into the fabric of our lives; sometimes we don't even recognize them for what they are. Our addictions and obsessive-compulsive habits are masking a deeper inner need, which often remains unknown...

...It's strange how we can mostly get what we want, but hardly ever what we need. My mother often said 'be careful what you ask for, you might get it'.  It's only now, many decades later, that I understand what she meant.

Vested interests benefit immensely from our addictions: from clothes, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and gizmo manufacturers, through oil producers to drug barons. The parallels between our addictions, deteriorating physical and mental health, and the increasing pollution of the planet were thrown into sharp relief by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Following the disaster, British newspaper columnist Simon Barnes commenting on the spillage, wrote:

"It is more important to get oil than to stop occasional wallops of it polluting the world. These spills concentrate the mind, at least for a while. They tell us that our addiction to oil is madness, that our short-term thinking is madness, that our reckless approach to oil at any price is madness. Treasure this spill: it is a rare occasion on which we can see this essential truth of the way we run our lives with absolute clarity. We crave oil as the junkie craves his fix, and like the junkie, we will put up with anything to get it. But even for an addict, there come moments of searing clarity: a sudden revelation that this is actually a stupid way to live life. Well, the spill tells that this is a stupid way to run our planet…"

Globally we are facing the challenge of a compulsive-obsessive attachment to a type of carbon energy, specifically to oil and other heavy fossil fuel, which we seem unable to break. We will go to any lengths to acquire oil, including to the detriment of life, limb and livelihood. We remain wedded to the belief that oil production is an important part of our economic lifeblood, but in the ‘free market’ very little regard is given to effective safeguards against recklessness and taking shortcuts that lead to catastrophes. 


And now we have fracking: a technique used to extract natural gas from rocks thousands of feet underground. The process includes pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas.

Those ‘for’ fracking point to the many benefits of having an abundance of cheap fuel for the next hundred years. Think of all the money you will save on gas and electricity bills. Those ‘against’ suggest that this process affects the water we drink, air we breathe, food we eat and the climate.  In the US, house-holders living close to a 'fracking processing' site, demonstrated on camera how flames flared up from tap water running into the kitchen sink when they lit a match! God help us.

At this point I take refuge in Donald Rumfeld’s explanation (to journalists at a NATO Conference in Brussels) of why a particular situation had arisen in Iraq. Obviously a participant in Werner Erhard’s training seminars (est), He said:
            There are known knowns – that is, things we know that we know;      
            There are known unknowns – things that we know we don’t know;
             But there are unknown unknowns – things that we don’t know we don’t know.

At the time some laughed at the then US Secretary of State, and what sounded like pure gobbledygook; but he is absolutely right! There most definitely are things that we don’t know we don’t know.

One thing we do know: catastrophes will continue to occur as the demand for oil and gas, and other planetary resources require exploration in progressively more inhospitable, dangerous and environmentally sensitive places. We risk saturating fragile and susceptible ecosystems, generating personal health problems as well as environmental destabilization.

When the earth dies, in time it will spring back into new life; and humanity does too – as a new civilization.

Like a moth drawn to the flame (perhaps a death wish?) I am a little mesmerized by the thought that I may be part of a civilization that will be wiped out by climate change. Or, perhaps I am part of a civilization that gets to re-imagine life on earth, once some of us arrive on the other side of the tipping point.  Or, I am part of a generation that finds a way to avoid, evade, or outwit climate change AND re-imagine a different way of being on the planet.

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