Read an Excerpt from The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day being recognized as a global holiday. While we may not be able to gather in nature to celebrate this year, we can always connect to our planet by educating ourselves on how to take care of it. Dahr Jamail’s revelatory The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption is the perfect Earth Day companion this year. Recently released in paperback with a new epilogue by the author, The End of Ice teaches us how to grieve the devastating losses that global warming has caused, and to find new ways to love and fight for the earth, even if it cannot be saved.

 

“[Jamail] suggests that we must sit with our grief for the ever-diminishing planet; to understand how to proceed, we must acknowledge what we have lost and what we will continue to lose.”
The New York Times Book Review on The End of Ice

 

The following excerpt from The End of Icefeatured in Truthout, reflects on the importance of grief and the danger of hope as the climate crisis continues to worsen. You can also watch Jamail live with Town Hall Seattle on April 30th at 7:30pm PDT (10:30pm EDT). More information on the event can be found here.

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For decades, many of us have turned a blind eye to what is happening to the planet. But now, given that Earth may well be dying, we may be ready to stand up to protect what we love. An extraordinary alchemy can take place when people follow their inner directives to stand up and face squarely the dire odds of biosphere survival. These actions involve extraordinary outer and inner courage, which can nurture a profound activism. The gifts provided by the crisis at hand are the conditions that make possible widespread shifts in political identity, purpose, and consciousess.
 

No one knows if the biosphere will completely collapse. Our future is uncertain. Given the fact that a rapid increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere coincided with previous mass extinctions and that we could well be facing our own extinction, we should be asking ourselves, “How shall I use this precious time?” Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of the value just in being present with what is happening to the planet: “When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief.”

Reporting on the catastrophic impact of climate disruption for this book involved trips to the front lines of collapsing geo- and biospheres and interviews and reports about near-apocalyptic scenarios: about rapidly thawing permafrost, the release of methane into the atmosphere, the flooding of coastal cities, the increasing likelihood of billions of people dying in the not-so-distant future. Though I learned to find a way of looking unwaveringly at what was happening to the planet, I fell into a deep depression and I began to wonder whether there was any point in even writing about this.

I had hoped my work in Iraq would contribute to ending the US occupation of that country. I had hoped, too, that writing climate dispatches and bludgeoning people with scientific reports about increasingly dire predictions of the future would wake them up to the planetary crisis we find ourselves in. It has been very difficult for me to surrender that hope. But I came to understand that hope blocked the greater need to grieve, so that was the reason necessitating the surrendering of it.

Back home from Denali, I had to continue to find a way to balance what I was experiencing. I resumed my weekend forays into the nearby Olympic National Park. Again drawn to the mountains, I hiked through old-growth forests up into alpine basins filled with mountain lakes and hemmed in by rugged peaks. Scrambling up steep rocky slopes toward another summit and finding a cliff ledge to perch on for a lunch of nuts, dried salmon, and coffee, I breathed in the scene below: a valley running toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the glacier just below the summit of Mount Carrie, a raven flying above. I savored every moment. Each trip sparked my curiosity about another peak or valley. When I returned home, I cleaned my gear and replenished the food bag, and the maps came out again, and I would begin packing for my next hike or climb. These forays into the mountains are my way of being with the Earth in order to remain connected to my sorrow for what is happening, as well as to honor her.

We are already facing mass extinction. There is no removing the heat we have introduced into the oceans, nor the 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere every single year. There may be no changing what is happening, and far worse things are coming. How, then, shall we meet this?

“The question is not are we going to fail. The question is how,” author and storyteller Stephen Jenkinson, who has worked in palliative care for decades, states. “The question is, What shall be the manner of our inability to care for what was entrusted to us? The question is our manner of failing.” Jenkinson, who now makes his living by teaching about grief and the acceptance of death as an integral part of living, spoke eloquently about grief and climate disruption during a lecture he gave at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. When he talks about our failure to care for what is entrusted to us, he is also saying that the time to change our ways is long past. “Grief requires us to know the time we’re in,” Jenkinson continues. “The great enemy of grief is hope. Hope is the four-letter word for people who are unwilling to know things for what they are. Our time requires us to be hope-free. To burn through the false choice of being hopeful and hopeless. They are two sides of the same con job. Grief is required to proceed.”

Each time another scientific study is released showing yet another acceleration of the loss of ice atop the Arctic Ocean, or sea level rise projections are stepped up yet again, or news of another species that has gone extinct is announced, my heart breaks for what we have done and are doing to the planet. I grieve, yet this ongoing process has become more like peeling back the layers of an onion— there is always more work to do as the crisis we have created for ourselves continues to unfold. And somewhere along the line I surrendered my attachment to any results that might stem from my work. I am hope-free.

—Continue reading at Truthout.com

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Want to read more? Pick up a copy of The End of Ice, on sale now. Join the author on Thursday, April 30th for a discussion about The End of Ice and climate disruption with Town Hall Seattle at 7:30 pm PDT (10:30 pm EDT).