Climate: A New Story

Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein

North Atlantic 2018 | 320 pages

Having read this book and also watched the video below of author Charles Eisentstein himself reviewing it, I have convinced myself it is a powerful narrative to begin to comprehend the significance of these times in terms of survival of the kind of diversity we have come to know, and of the systems in peril.  It offers a pointer to how we can change our trajectory by seeing ourselves differently. That’s the point where the “new story” leaves it to you and your imagination, which arguably is better than more information.

Frankly its not as good as I had hoped it would be as a book. I guess I’m pragmatically biased to think it would take a “transformation” of how we know ourselves as humans to make the grade to the next level.  That would involve behaving less as individualistic consumers and more as one tribe, one people, living with a “transformed” awareness of each other in a newfound group consciousness and resultant shared economy, awareness, and the like.

Even when I say that I had hoped for a better book from Charles Eisenstein, who is one of my thought leaders, implies that there is something hopeless in our situation. Yes we can fix it and yes that implies it’s broken, so the real question is can you “fix” me? That’s because I’m privileged to know enough to know that I’m responsible and, to date, I don’t seem to be the one I’ve been waiting for.

Heck, I’m 65 and everything is just “fine”, except that you know and I know it’s not. So, at least this book gives the reader a lift into what’s possible, and that includes a change in my way of seeing things. I can’t help or fix the climate, but I can be of service to it in small ways and in ways that reflect a way of seeing ourselves that includes wholeness and relationship and connection. This book is fuel for these thoughts.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYQKLrbiCDE[/embedyt]

Reviewed by Dan Kingsbury, 2019

 

6 comments

  1. Thanks, Dan. I’m in the process of reading Climate right now, and I feel this odd combination of exhilaration, despair, active hope, gratitude and frustration. Somehow it offers so much, such important integrative work, and yet leaves one hanging. Too many loose ends. I guess that’s one of his big points. The fundamentalist approach, no matter on which side, oversimplifies, looks for a simple enemy/problem, a simple solution. And that just ain’t gonna cut it. Big takeaway is we need a wholistic approach to seeing the situation and developing the appropriate ways of changing direction.

  2. So this is the same theme as in Fr. Richard Rohr’s Franciscan publication titled “Oneing”. His Franciscan mentor, St. Francis of Assis, centuries ago lead by example when he rejected his parental affluent society and adopted a very simple existence wherein ALL living creatures, big and small, are cherished as well as Mother Earth and Sister Moon. St. Francis promoted the adoption of this attitude as a personal “spiritual” transformation. He knew nothing about Co2 and climate change, but he could see the need to cherish this planet and everything in it that supported life. He saw Nature as the True Gospel. He is quoted as having said ” Preach the Gospel always, only, if necessary, use words.” He may have been the first environmentalist.
    Dan, I haven’t yet read this book, but I am personally aware of the human hazards of planetary pollution. Humans exposed to ubiquitous environmental contamination have a similar need to repair the subsequent damage to their body caused by toxic exposures. We have livers that are supposed to clean us up from the inside out, but unhealthy, toxin-damaged livers cannot do an adequate job, even if you prevent further exposure. A whole body approach, including a psychological awakening to that need, and major lifestyle changes must be adopted to allow a recovery.

  3. Charles Eisenstein is one of the Speakers at the New Story Festival in Austin, Texas this weekend in for a weekend celebrating creativity, community, and the common good – in other words, living into a story of connection, not separation; of courage, not fear; in which the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Seems the world of spirituality beckons climate change activists as part of humanity’s global need for a total thought and lifestyle transformation that needs be much bigger than each of us individually.

  4. My thanks to Dan for drawing my attention to Charles Eisenstein’s book in his review on this website. I read Dan’s comments which in turn led me to other reviews and to commentary by Eisenstein himself. That all made me aware that the book was garnering plaudits from many diverse sources.

    In his book Eisenstein deals at length with the global obsession with climate change and particularly with carbon as the key indicator of the ongoing climatic shift. In his view the carbon balance sheet has become the focus of the global problem. Eisenstein advocates for expanding our exclusive focus on carbon emissions to see a much broader picture beyond our short-sighted and incomplete approach to mitigating climate change. For him the natural and the material world – rivers, forests, wildlife – are sacred and valuable in their own right, not simply for carbon credits or preventing the extinction of one species versus another.

    There are two main themes in the book:
    – one about our prevalent common perception of the world as a bundle of bits, pieces and resources to be used, manipulated, managed and exploited, and
    – one in which the author asserts that the global community is basically wrong in ascribing ecological and social damage to climate change. In online discussions of his book Eisenstein says that he deviates from orthodoxy in asserting that much of the damage we normally attribute to global warming is actually caused by direct ecocide – ruin of soil, disruption of the water cycle, destruction of forests and wetlands, decimation of whales and insects, etc. He warns of the dangers of “carbon reductionism” that has us evaluate policies and practices and the worth of ecosystems in terms of their effect on greenhouse gases. He says it is a mistake to allow the greenhouse narrative to define environmentalism.

    The author states that the fundamental message of his book is that “it is time to respect the full beingness of the earth and all of its parts, from oceans and forests, to rivers, to species, to every piece of ground, to people too. No exceptions”. He also sees dehumanization of people, whether on the basis of race, gender, or political opinion, as going hand in hand with the objectification of nature

    I agree with Eisenstein when he argues that linking all environmental issues to global warming is problematic. I agree too with his assertion that people who reject global warming also tend to dismiss all other environmental issues like plastic in oceans, species extinction, loss of rainforests, etc. However, I don’t understand why he feels he has to throw the science of climate change into the garbage bin to accomplish any other aims.

    I also don’t think that environmental scientists, ecologists, natural resource managers, foresters, farmers and the thinking general public are so ignorant or so unperceptive as to believe this thesis. Of course climate change enters into consideration when environmental issues like forest fires, salmon harvests, agricultural production or water resource management are under the spotlight, but nobody would seriously think that when (or if?) atmospheric carbon levels are stabilized then management of resources will all be hunky dory.

    I am much more attuned to the author’s other salient point – our relationship with the natural world. If we cared more about the oceans, animals, trees, then we would not be destroying them. This is hardly new – Thomas Berry wrote a pile of books on the subject more than 30 years ago.

    Finally, what I don’t find in Eisenstein’s book are any pointers as to how we get these teachings into the minds of the movers and the shakers, the moguls, the CEO’s and the populist leaders.

    1. I appreciate your take here Stan. Can you share where you saw Eisenstein throw climate science into the garbage bin? In my reading of the book I didn’t see this. I think as you point out so well he’s just trying to show why linking all issues to climate change is problematic.

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