What to Call It

Someone just now in the Deep Adaptation group (Facebook) posted the question, What should we call the planetary situation? “Climate change” is the most common term in general use but doesn’t really encompass the full enormity of what we’ve wrought. The phrase lacks agency also.

Climate instability is just one symptom of humans’ disconnect from the rest of nature. That disconnect — from the natural world and from our fellow humans — is the root of the crisis.

Some of the terms people suggested: ecological collapse; systemic collapse; planetary murder; civilization collapse; The Great Betrayal; biosphere collapse; planetary overshoot.

Another one that comes to my mind is “human-induced systemic collapse.” (Kind of a mouthful though.) I favor “systemic” as a term because it encompasses the social and economic, as well as ecological, nature of the crisis.

“Life-support system” is a term that’s come to my attention. As in, we are destroying our planetary life-support system.

Terminology is a dual-edged sword. On the one hand, if it’s too nakedly alarming, people are tempted to tune out, hide, go into denial. On the other hand, if the terminology is not appropriate to the urgency of the situation, or if it fails to convey a sense of our agency, people tend to fall into either complacency or finger-pointing.

Further Exploration:

“How To Enjoy the End of the World” (YouTube, 1 hour): Talk by Sid Smith for the Greens of Virginia Tech, 2019. Good explanation of Energy Return On Investment; Jevons Paradox; why renewables are not the savior. And how we face the existential challenge; move into new ways of being. Very deep, powerful talk.

Sid Smith: Post-Doom with Michael Dowd (YouTube, 53 min), 2019.

“All the Bunnies in the Meadow Die” (Sid Smith essay on overshoot). “Far too many people are still asking how we can avoid the consequences of overshoot. This is like someone who is already falling asking how to avoid hitting the ground. The right question is, how can we best cope with and mitigate the consequences? How do we shape our lives to fit the future we have made for ourselves? Or rather, not our lives, for that die is cast. What can we do now so that our children’s children’s children may have a world to live in, in freedom, dignity, and peace?”