The tragedy of the horizon

The “tragedy of the horizon” is an evocative phrase that really helps me, as a visual person, to understand the social resistance to changing our ways, in the face of so many dire predictions related to global warming this century.

A Bank of England governor in 2015 talked about the “tragedy of the horizon” in a discussion with large insurance companies:

“Climate change is the tragedy of the horizon. We don’t need an army of actuaries to tell us that the catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt beyond the traditional horizons of most actors – imposing a cost on future generations that the current generation has no direct incentive to fix. 

“The horizon for monetary policy extends out to two to three years. For financial stability it is a bit longer, but typically only to the outer boundaries of the credit cycle – about a decade. In other words, once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late.”

When we can’t see beyond our own horizons to the dangers ahead, then we fail to do what needs to be done.

The solution seems clear: we have to expand our horizons to think about the way we will be living our lives in 10, 20, and 50 years.

And we need to expand our horizons to think not only about us, but also about the next generations who will live their lives in a world that is now destined to be hotter, with greater weather instability, higher sea levels, and ice-free poles.

How does one start this process?

I think we first have to come to grips with the fact that we who are alive today will live to see dramatic changes to the Earth. That is a scientific fact. The Earth that we will occupy in 50 years will be a different Earth that the Earth of today. We all have to accept this, really accept this.

If we can accept the reality that those changes are coming, the next thing we have to do is think about how those changes will affect our societies and ourselves.

And the sad reality here, is that we are just not prepared for those changes.

We are not prepared, because the human race is trapped in too much drama, too much war, too much exploitation, too much needless suffering.

The biggest enemy that humanity faces today is itself. The enemy is us. It is our fears, our broken psychologies, our greed, our uncivilized thinking that we can dominate and exploit each other and Nature with abandon, without consequence.

So then this leads to the third thing we must do, and that is that to acknowledge that the ability to adapt to climate change, and to calm its worst effects, will require each of us to change ourselves, from the inside out. It will require each of us to align with the reality, and not with fiction. Our inner fictions tell us we can secure ourselves from our neighbors, from our governments, from Nature. Our inner fictions tell us that with enough money, we can become invincible. But those are fictions. Those are lies. The reality is quite different. And in response to reality, we each have to do a lot of inner work to pacify ourselves, civilize ourselves, and find our inner gift that we can give to each other and to Nature — our own Life’s Work.

Sustaining our civilization will require many different people doing many different things. But the common thread will be a deep, spiritual understanding that we are all connected to each other and to nature. It will require us to let go of our ignorance, our anger, and our greed. It will require us to become true spiritual warriors. I know this is a tough ask. But I don’t see any other choice. It is the choice I have made. I hope that others will choose to walk the same path, as well.