GRETA the GREAT! In Praise of Gaia’s Favored Daughter, Greta Thunberg, on the occasion of her escape from the American Nightmare.
Prigogene’s theory of dissipative structures describes how all systems work in nature — organic and inorganic. Due to the law of entropy, disorder increases. The Industrial Revolution is the most pressing example. Heat, after all, is itself the measure of disorder at the molecular level. The Industrial Revolution has turned the world into a heat engine, and the unnaturally accelerating disorder in the climate is reflected in the increasing sociopolitical chaos in the world, as fossil fuel and petrochemical robber barons exert their political will on the land.
It withers and dies. As described in “The Waste Land,” T.S. Elliot’s visionary poem of modernity, we’ve become a “heap of broken images, where the sun beats, [a]nd the dead tree gives no shelter… And the dry stone no sound of water.” Think California here.
Of course, Prigogene did not receive the Nobel Prize for Physics simply by describing systems as entropic. What he showed, instead, is that eventually any system reaches its crisis point, where it can broach no further chaos.
This is the world today. She is breaking down. Trophic systems are failing after centuries of rapacious human downgrading. The ocean itself, source of all life and half the world’s breath, is dying. We have triggered the Sixth Great Extinction event, and our collective hand is firmly on the throttle.
Because the Earth is a living organism capable of self-regulation, and we are part of her biome (her gut, just as our own biome is inhabited by countless living organisms with their own DNA), this feverish chaos is reflected in our politics, at our borders, in our culture, in our community, at our children’s schools, in our homes, and at the level of our psyche.
Long before scientists across all disciplines agreed that Gaia, the name given to our living earth by James Lovelock upon seeing the image of her rising over the barren moonscape, was a living, breathing organism capable of self-regulation, the visionary psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung described her psycho-physical state of being, working across disciplines with one of the founderss of quantum physics, Wolfgang Pauli. He posited, based in part on the joint exploration of synchronicity with Pauli, that she has a psyche, just like us.
Jung referred to this “Psyche” (capitalized) as Anima Mundi, or world soul (the word ‘psyche’ itself means soul, or breath of life). We are each and all connected to Gaia’s Psyche, Anima Mundi, at the deepest level of our own individual psyches.
Because Gaia is being continually assaulted now by the biospheric trauma we have inflicted on the planet, on all life forms including our own, we are acting out her trauma. Because trauma arises in the context of broken (unnatural) relationship, the only path of recovery from trauma is relational. Because our natural reflex is to suppress trauma, it must first enter our awareness and then be acknowledged.
For Gaia’s trauma, this awareness must be collectively acknowledged, and then worked out through social movements which forces culture to face difficult truths and unresolved injustices.
The cure is always found close to the wound.
The miracle of Prigogene’s theory is that when the system is at maximum chaos, just when it looks like it is about to break down entirely because it cannot take any more chaos, a catalyst appears and triggers systemic change. Like the crystallization observed when water becomes ice, the result is the quite-sudden attainment of an altogether new, higher level of order.
The system makes a quantum leap. Order is restored. In an interconnected world, there is no reason to think this will not happen at the systemic levels of politics, economy, and culture. Of course, like birth itself, it is necessarily messy. It is an order borne, after all, of chaos.
At the level of Psyche, if her psycho-physical regulatory system begins to break down, Gaia will naturally call on those who feel her most closely, such as Indigenous cultures who still relate to her as our Mother. Her troubled mind will bubble up from the depths of our psyche — in dreams awake you might say — as eco-anxiety, feelings of grief, natural depression, and the fright/fight/flight symptoms of our own traumas being triggered by hers at every level. Individual, intergenerational (epigenetic), cultural and collective.
Greta Thunberg is Gaia’s favored daughter. She is the Prigogenian catalyst that is triggering all the sleeper cells in Gaia’s natural immunological defense system. To the extent that you are still connected to the natural world through human nature itself — such as through contemplative practices that penetrate the depths of psyche, through a natural whole foods diet and embodied practices, and through natural communions like gardening, forest bathing, or nurturing relationships— you feel Gaia’s trauma and are affected by the pleas of her enigmatic emissary, this preternaturally young and laser-focused Swedish schoolgirl, who was called herself to go on a solitary strike from her school to sit outside the Swedish Parliament until the world took notice.
History will remember Greta as the MLK of the climate movement. Because of her self-described superpower, because Gaia’s trauma nearly killed her as a precocious child, and because she is in the final analysis just a little girl who only knows truth, in the way only a child can know truth, this climate prodigy has the moral authority and centeredness to shame our world ‘leaders’ into action.
She sparked Extinction Rebellion in UK when they disrupted business as usual, taking over bridges and squares in downtown London — the first modern city and birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The rebellion spread quickly, and has already prompted nations and cities to declare a climate emergency.
Ascending the world stage in New York, Greta spoke truth to power in a way that has not been heard since MLK stood at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial and told us he had a dream where all God’s children would walk hand-in-hand one day into the promised land.
He had a dream. A dream of social justice. She has a plea. A plea for a normal life, and a viable future that is quickly being consumed:
This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet you come to us young people — for hope! How DARE you! You have stolen my dreams, and my childhood, with your empty words.
Listen to the science. Stop assaulting the planet. Live as if there will be a future worth living for your children and grandchildren. Take action as if all life depended on it.
In 2020, we must change the world. The Green New Deal is an imperative, not just a policy. And it will not happen without de-escalation of war, conflict, and plunder. Because as Naomi Klein rightly points out “this changes everything,” everything must change. And it must change now.
We cannot save the world, we cannot make our schools safe, and we will not have social justice if we continue to assault the planet with bombs and chemical warfare — which includes killing all that lives in our soil while poisoning the waters with agri-chemical farming, fracking, and factory farms — and we continue to ‘gas’ all that inhabits the biosphere with carbon and methane.
Here in America, only Bernie’s Green New Deal answers Greta’s call for action. Bernie Sanders has charted the only working map for our collective recovery from Gaia’s trauma. I don’t say this lightly, as I myself felt “Berned” by his capitulation to the establishment in 2016 at the sight of the Liberty Bell. But only Bernie has the foresight and wisdom in 2019 to place a plan for peace at the center of the Green New Deal.
The trillions we’ve been spending on death and destruction must now be redirected to life and regeneration. It’s just that simple. Now is the time.
And we are the ones Gaia has been waiting for.
Come next Spring, America must have its own Extinction Rebellion. We must leave our jobs, we must walk out of our schools, and we must flood the streets, spreading like wildfire to disrupt business as usual and demand the basic human right to a living planet. We must speak with one fierce voice:
Stop fucking with our Mother!
Viva la Rebellion! LONG LIVE GRETA!! LONG LIVE GAIA!!!