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October 19, 2017

Late Night Anxiety & the End of the World: What if the Scientists are Right?

It’s between 2:30 and 3:00 in the morning—the darkest part of the dark of night.

And instead of peaceful breathing and REM-induced dreaming, I find myself awake.

Late-night anxiety has stolen any hope for the peace of uninterrupted sleep. The comfy softness of my pillow has been overpowered by a mechanical bull of jostling thoughts. “What if it’s true?” the bull asks, inside my brain. “What if the scientists are correct?”

Hurricanes are setting new high bars with their intensity, “500 year floods” have become all too numerous in recent years, and unquenchable wildfires, heat, drought, and crazy weather are the new normal. The nightly newscast more often sounds like a script reading for a bad dystopian movie. And what if it’s true? What if our grandchildren don’t stand a chance unless we drastically change our ways, today?

I guess when I do “anxiety,” I don’t stop at the small stuff.

Grasping for straws, I try calming the bull. “If it’s true, then science and technology will find a solution, or the millennials will figure something out, or God will save us, or the space brothers from the Pleiades…” But the bull will have none of it. He continues to knock about my consciousness, treating it like an amateur rodeo wannabe.

During the day, it’s much easier to find mind-numbing solace in trivial distractions. I can become willingly blinded by the surface dramas of life, believing they are somehow more urgent than our grandchildren’s future.

But in the dark, the bull will have his way. The clarity becomes overwhelming, like the shining beam of a military tactical flashlight highlighting my scariest thoughts. In light of our planet’s trajectory toward hospice care, which political figures I revere or revile is a small affair. As we face the annihilation of our world’s living systems, any opinions about nationalities, politics, religious affiliations, or the political activism of professional athletes are small potatoes.

In the dark is where I remember that many scientists, who are truly smarter than most of us, believe that in 30 years the coral reefs of our oceans will be dead. And the entire oceanic ecosystem, like the devil’s own domino array, will come crashing down. And again, the scariest thought of all continues nipping at the back of my closed eyelids, “What if it’s true?” The late-night mechanical bull ride continues.

What it comes down to are the simple lifestyle choices I make on a daily basis. During the day, I am totally supported by our society’s profit-motivated worldview. It’s almost like being hypnotized to not think about the true cost of those drive-thru value meals, for example. Of course, I’m referring to the cost to the living systems of our planet in terms of their mass destruction and extinction in support of the meat industry. And ultimately, the cost to us humans when those living systems are no longer able to support our life.

This could be the legacy we leave our grandchildren. This could be true. What if it is?

What is the call to action here? How do I assuage the mechanical bull? How do I calm the anxiety that is borne from the probability that our grandchildren will be living in a cancerous world with a terrifying prognosis? Perhaps I can find relief by embracing an alternative to the terrifying prognosis.

Maybe we will adopt a new worldview in time to make a difference, one that is more centered on people over profit and balance over unfettered growth for no good purpose other than greater wealth for the few.

I believe the only way I can corral the bull is by embracing the alternative, today. I feel the need to retool my own personal worldview and connect it to our larger collective one through my daily actions and choices. For help, I googled “how can I help mitigate climate change,” and I got plenty of useful hints.

Ultimately, any hope to lull the bull to sleep will come from bringing a deep awareness to my own lifestyle choices. I can only offer up my own lifestyle to our grandchildren. It’s funny when I ponder all those before me who have given so much more for such smaller ideas than the survival of the entirety of the species, ideas such as family, tribe, or country.

The grandbabies are not asking me to give up my life, only to change my lifestyle—to simply make different, more life-affirming choices. They’re just asking that I engage in a little retooling toward a more balanced lifestyle, based on a greater awareness of how I live in the world.

And it’s pathetic to think that I might hesitate to offer that up.

~

Author: Tod Evans
Image: @ecofolks on Instagram
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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Tod Evans