It has been a hot, dry summer where I live. In a normally temperate region, we reached 116 degrees a few weeks back. It was hot enough to wither the buds and flowers and burn the leaves on plants. It was the first time in my life that I experienced such intense heat. It was the hottest weather ever recorded in my state.

Unfortunately, odd and dangerous weather events — both short and long term — are happening all over the world now. The whole southwestern part of the United States is drying out and experiencing ever-increasing water shortages. Forest fires are growing in number and extent. Glaciers are melting at shockingly rapid rates. Sea level is rising.

When one reads the scientific statistics, it is inevitable to conclude that our days are the last chance to make changes — and severe changes are needed — to protect life on this planet — human life included. Some predict that civilization could collapse within 20 years.

In short, humanity is on a fast ride to the abyss — and taking all of Nature along on the insane gallop.

One would think people would be concerned enough about their children and grandchildren — about the future of humanity — to rise up and demand change, and be willing to go through what is necessary to save the future for the young and the coming generations. But many seem lost in wilful ignorance — asserting that what is obvious to the rational is some kind of hoax, or that Jesus will come and save them (he won’t). And meanwhile, the planet is metaphorically and in many places literally on fire.

Here is the little alcove in my house:

On the right side is a lamp I found in a thrift store (what used to be called a “second-hand” store). In the center is a Buddha image — a symbol of transcendent wisdom. And at far left is a thin slab of rock with two fossil fish on it — a reminder of impermanence.

I don’t think people are sufficiently aware of impermanence — and what a delicate balance keeps human and other life on this earth possible.

When I was a small child, my “Weekly Reader” school newspaper was already warning about the need for population control. Scientists have been predicting the dangers of pollution and climate change for many, many years. And yet one would think from human behavior that none of these cautions had ever been made.

It is like the old parable of the children playing in a house aflame. They are so wrapped up in their play that getting them to notice the deadly fire is very difficult.

Well, all the signs are obvious. Humanity is headed for catastrophe — environmental disaster, loss of species, food shortages, water shortages, disease, suffering, and death. And yet humanity continues to play with its toys as the flames begin to engulf the house.

For a writer and teacher of hokku, this is not at all the kind of thing I want to blog about. And I certainly do not think my few words are going to have any effect on the course of things. Nonetheless, anyone writing a verse form based on Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature cannot but speak out against what is happening to the climate and the planet.

As far as I can tell, nothing sufficient is being done by the governments of the world to stop this impending disaster. So perhaps this will be the last generation to experience something of Nature as we have known it in the past. Everything is now quickly changing, taking us headlong into calamity far faster than even scientists had anticipated. Joni Mitchell once wrote, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Well, we are witnessing it all beginning to go. And with it will go countless lives, human and non-human. A human-caused Great Extinction. All the result of greed and ignorance.



3 thoughts on “LIVING IN A HOUSE AFIRE

  1. Jean

    It breaks my heart to see the unheeding dash to catastrophe. We do our tiny, insignificant, bit by recycling, trying to keep our consumption down and by encouraging the local flora and fauna but it feels like we’re rowing against a hurricane. You mention children and grandchildren. We no longer have either but still we feel for the children of our friends and relatives, horrified by the carelessness for their future.
    I’m well aware of the tendency of every generation to see disaster following them but I’m convinced that this time, something really is broken.

  2. I wonder too David what is to become of this world. I am 64 years old now and I think about what the future is for my 3 grown children. Love does not prevail in this world that much- the love of Nature I mean- but perhaps the love of money and self-righteousness get in the way and make the world blind. As my 94 year old mother struggles now to keep awake and active, I am suddenly aware of the impermanence you speak of – and that Life is a gift we need to treasure . Thank you 🙏

  3. As I understand it the human population on the earth increases every 5 days by one million people (70-80 million per year; that’s about the population of a country like Germany). I think about the resources those people will need (water, food, health care, education) and how unsustainable the population increase has become. Recently, there has been much in the media about a couple of private space launches, financed by some of the richest people on earth. Are they visionaries? Do they see the collapse of civilisation on earth and want to be sure they can survive in the infinity of the universe? I doubt that the International Space Station is the new Noah’s Ark.

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