to me the first and yet only convincing contribution to the ongoing climate debate

Over the weekend I read. Countless newspaper articles on renewable energy development in the light of climate change and its decarbonisation imperative.

And I also read Charles Eisenstein’s book „Climate – A New Story“.

triftsee am ort der geplanten staumauer

Striking, the energy shift I sense, between reading those politically, scientifically and societally motivated articles on the climate & energy crisis. This powerless gloom-sense that creeps through me when reading those statements in their narrow narrative of how we “best” consider and respond to the economic needs of our society.

And the light of hope that immediately arises within me with the first paragraph I read in any of Charles‘ essays or books.

Grimsel, Oberaarsee Stausee mit Staumauer
Grimsel, Ausblick auf Lauteraarhorn und den Lauteraargletscher

In this particular book: Charles offers a thorough analysis on the current climate change debate, formulating with a genious clarity my own gut-felt-understanding of the global situation. Putting all the complexly interrelated issues into their deeper, holistic context. His reflections strongly confirm what I sense too, and which I have been struggling to voice in my own words (see my last articles here (german version), and here (english version) – which may have appeared blunt and perhaps a bit naive for some).

It is one of the most insightful and hopeful books I have read in a long while

On the 280 pages, Charles presents an ever so care-ful, thorough and holistic analysis, covering this challenging issue in its complete width and breadth.

ancient natural temple site, chitwan jungle, madi valley, bankatta
Gasterntal, Wasserfall

​It is not that Charles Eisenstein negates the pressing challenges of our times – he utterly sees and strongly relates to them.

But he does it on another note. One that dives deeply to unearth the actual underlying causes. One that surpasses the current discussions along simplified, linear perspectives – and looks to the true transformation potential this crisis may hold. One where the tremendous global, environmental and social challenges could actually turn out to be an initiation – a much-needed spark into a next level of the humanitarian experiment.

THIS is where I orient myself. His vision sparks my hope. And it is this path that I too pursue with the work I do and the life I live.

Bergmargertitli in Felsenlandschaft
Nepal, Archway to a Temple
butter lamps for prayer and blessing in front of doorstep, tihar festival, nepal

I consider this holistic analysis utterly important and relevant for anyone engaged in the Climate Debate to read.

This is why I will share some key excerpts of the book here. It is a tiny choice of essential statements, just to give you a taste. To hopefully nudge you to read the full version. You can read a free version online here, in a variety of languages.

Grimsel, Oberaarsee im Abendlicht
gletschervorfeld mit hoher artenvielfalt und türkisblauem mäanderfluss

So here is a collection of some of the highlights.

Note that there is hardly a page in the book that did not receive a mark of some kind – exclamation marks, question marks, double and triple lines, underlines, notes…. So this here is really just to give you a taste.

Flowers smiling out at you
nepal, prayer flags in the wind

Perhaps to start with the essence:

«Earth is a complex living system whose homeostatic maintenance depends on the robust interaction of every living and nonliving subsystem. As I will argue later, the biggest threat to life on earth is not fossil fuel emissions, but the loss of forests, soil, wetlands, and marine ecosystems. Life maintains life. When these relationships break down, the results are unpredictable: global warming, perhaps, or global cooling, or the increasingly unstable gyrations of a system spinning out of control. This is the threat we face, and because it is multifactorial and nonlinear, it cannot be overcome by simply reducing CO2 emissions.» [p 36]​

marigold flowers and candles in large water jar
delicious dal bhat, traditional nepali dish

„I am suggesting here that the frame of the debate is itself part of the problem. The “frame of the debate”—drawing from the Story of Separation—includes [p 57ff]

  • A conception of nature as “environment” and thus separate from ourselves
  • The assumption that climate is governed primarily by global geomechanical processes (solar radiation, atmospheric gases, Earth’s rotation, polar/equatorial heat differentials, etc.) and not by life processes
  • A mechanistic view of nature as an incredibly complicated machine
  • The primacy of a quantitative approach to knowledge
  • Valuing other beings based on instrumental utilitarianism—their use-value to ourselves
  • The belief that human beings are the only fully conscious, subjective agents on this planet»
panorama view from yalung la pass towards rolwaling

„The problem with the climate debate then, is primarily one of misplaced emphasis. Whether average global temperatures are increasing is not the main issue. We are engaged in the wrong debate. Climate derangement will continue even if we stop emitting carbon, and it will bring calamity even if average temperatures remain constant. That is because Earth is a living body, not a machine, and we have been destroying its tissues and organs.»  [p 80]

buddhist prayer wall in upper mustang, nepal
magical sunrise, himalayan sunrise, pikey peak trek, spiritual trekking, experience beautiful himalayas
Dawn on Pikey Peak basecamp

“What is it that we are really looking for in our quest for bigger, faster, and more?

Later chapters on energy and agriculture make it clear that humanity’s problems do not stem from any quantitative lack—hunger for instance is nearly always a result of maldistribution. 

We seek through growth to meet other needs, needs that, because they are fundamentally qualitative, growth can never meet. Basic human desires for connection, community, beauty, sacredness, and intimacy are met with faux substitutes that temporarily numb but ultimately heighten the longing. The trauma of our deprivation drives our collective addictions. Ecological healing therefore requires our society to look beneath its consumptive symptoms and reorient toward qualitative development. To do so requires significant reprogramming, since our guiding narratives, from economic to scientific, embody quantitative thinking.“ [page 7f]

lake at kongma-la pass, everest 3-passes

„Is life on earth valuable or sacred in its own right, or only in its utility to ourselves?“ [p. 19]

triftsee am ort der geplanten staumauer

„The failures of carbon-motivated policies have something in common—they emphasize the global over the local, the distant over the immediate, and the measurable over the qualitative.

This oversight is part of a more general mentality that sacrifices what is precious, sacred, and immediate for a distant end. It is the mentality of instrumentalism that values other beings and the earth itself in terms of their utility for us; it is the hubris of believing we can predict and control the consequences of our actions; it is the trust in mathematical modeling that allows us to make decisions according to the numbers; it is the belief that we can identify a “cause”—a cause that is something and not everything—and that we can best understand reality by dissecting it and isolating variables.“ [p 34]

klares Meerwasser in Korsika

«As with terrorism, drugs, or germs, if we crack down on the proximate cause without addressing the underlying condition, the symptoms will return in a new and more virulent form. Similarly, when we make decisions by the numbers, then that which is not measured, the excluded other, will come back to haunt us.» [p 35f]

Nahaufnahme von Feuersglut

… with these essential excerpts, we have only just arrived at Page 80. As I do not mean to copy-type the book, but to give you a first flavor, I will stop here. It is up to you to discover 200+ more pages of insight and deeper understanding…

…and arriving for yourself at the concluding chapter of the book with hopeful answers to the key question: “Where do we go from here in practical terms?

everest region, gokyo, der moment des sonnenaufgangs