One of life’s big lessons is that what we anticipate and what we get can be very different things
This podcast was prompted by an e-mail from a good friend of mine, concerned about the climate crisis.
Here are my current thoughts on the climate and environmental crisis. I have reservations about the current climate picture: it’s not wrong, but it isn’t quite right either.
And this issue isn’t primarily environmental, it’s social, psychospiritual and about the nature of planetary civilisation.
Each and every one of us has to get behind this for it to succeed – form a world consensus that everyone can buy. That’s tricky. The breakthrough point on climate will come alongside a breakthrough point in humanity.
As a forecaster – working mainly along social and geopolitical lines – I’ve learned a few things about predicting the future: what we currently visualise for the future and what actually happens when the future actually comes can be quite different things.
Introduced by the waves at Portheras Cove, a few miles from where I live, here in Cornwall.
And if you’re mulling over the world’s future, try this. It’s the concluding page from a report I did in 2018 about the world in 2050, called Possibilities 2050. In the report I outlined four possible scenarios: manageable, difficult, disastrous and transformative. Here I map out what could be likely.
I’ve had good news. I talked on the phone to the haematologist at Treliske hospital in Truro (about 40 miles away) and she seems pleased with my results. Although the readings from blood tests are slowly rising – this is to be expected, but I could be worse than I am – the PET scan I had a couple of weeks ago, to see whether any further damage was being done, turned out well. So I do not need to go back on chemo right now. I’m glad, because I’m tired of getting poleaxed by medication and fatigue. I need to revive before the next round.
But that’s not what I want to write about.
As promised, here are my thoughts on the next ten years or so. There’s a combination of a historian, futurologist, astrologer and seasoned observer coming through here, and long hours in bed have meant a lot of time to ruminate on these things.
I think the 2020s are going to be both difficult and more encouraging than the 2010s. Covid is the beginning of a process, and there are more storms to come – that’s the difficult bit. It’s going to be an uphill grind. Or a different kind of grind than the one we had before.
Looking more longterm, this process started around 2008-12, when the overall balance of global trends tipped critically, and it has been ramping up over the last ten years: the world crisis is no longer a thing of the future but it’s now present and here, in all departments of life and coming at us in waves. We have entered the inevitable period of price-paying for the profligate lives we’ve led in the rich countries and the destructive aspects of the world system we’ve created. Some of us saw this coming way back in the 1960s, but the majority didn’t agree or want to look.
During the 2010s we needed to be given gritty, distressing challenges to get us engaged, to grind us down and prepare us for what happens next. It was in many ways a dispiriting decade, but a lot of good things bubbled underneath. Many revolutions failed, but many people were changed by them. Covid is in a way a climax of that phase and the beginning of the next one. It’s a punctuation point.
The issue is this: since the world has delayed action on necessary human and planetary issues, there’s a lot of catch-up to do, and a lot of damage has been done. We’ve lost fifty years, and things can’t wait. Events are taking over. This is no lnger a matter of opinion.
There’s a long way to go before we find the full range of solutions – it will take the whole 21st Century. To progress, we need to be accelerated into a process of change that will take us out of our comfort zones and confront us with hard facts. Humanity needs to get itself mobilised. Now it’s a time of consequences, imperatives and seeking solutions.
Though a few might think it’s the only option, an all-out catastrophe would not help. Catastrophes hurt, disable, stun and set people back, and they are not the best recipe for change. We need to make big choices and get behind them – even if we’re arm-twisted by events to do so. What’s needed is a deepening series of crises that tip us incrementally into change-processes, forcing us over a succession of thresholds and pushing us to get really real about our situation and its many details, nuances and implications.
It’s especially about human society. Without substantial changes in our group psychology and behaviour, we will not get through the century intact. This concerns cooperation and sharing, and it brings up collective emotional issues about identity, power, who decides, and how much we really care about nature and human nature. It concerns Us and Them.
So people across the world are variously cleaving into progressives and resisters, new tribes and old tribes, and this is the new politics. Ultimately, humanity has to realise it is one tribe, but this will come clear only when Ronald Reagan’s late-1980s Reykjavik Proposition comes true: humanity will unite when it realises it is not alone. But without humanity cooperating as one planetary race, there will be insufficient resolution of environmental issues, tech hazards and the wide range of potentially fatal issues that face us now.
So we’re being accelerated, and it is reasonable to expect further crises ahead, and particularly multiple crises happening at once, or cascading crises with proliferating implications – as Covid is with the social and economic issues it has precipitated. The urge to restore normality is an unconscious reaction to this acceleration, part of the process of letting go of the past. Normality will not be restored, no matter how many dollars and scientists you throw at it. But there are still options. It’s just that the new normal is going to keep changing.
The 2020s are likely to be very different from the 2010s. The shit will increasingly hit the fan. But something else has been bubbling up underneath to meet this and change the equation: a growing surge of new ideas, perspectives, attitudinal changes, technological advances and challenging situations that nevertheless prompt progress and positive developments – as in ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.
Astrologically, an interesting and rare configuration is approaching in the later 2020s for which my best description is ‘cultural florescence under duress’. This will not be easy because we’ll be battling with more crises. But the difference is that the tide will be flowing more strongly then, and this loosens things up. It allows creativity, innovation, new ways of seeing things and new reality-configurations. There is likely to be a battle of ideas, perspectives and loosening positions, and a generational change in which Millennials will be coming to power (and my own generation will be dying off).
One of the big questions will be, do the people exist for the system or does the system exist for the people? Questions of systemic control, the rights of the individual, the needs of the collective and the balance of the three.
This will not be the old workers-and-capitalists battles of the 20th Century: it will be between progressive people and ideas at all levels of society, and resisters, some of them indisposed to change, some victims of change, some of them vested interests, and many who are older, marginalised and disoriented. These too need to be considered, because this isn’t any more about my side or your side of the argument, it’s about the complete outcome of all arguments, for all people and in all areas of life.
So we have come to a need to rehumanise society. Another issue concerns social willingness to cooperate. If change is imposed, and if governments and those at the top of society fail to act in people’s overall benefit and society fails to come together to cooperate, then resistance, exceptionalism and non-cooperation will ensue, complicating things terribly – this issue has been tested in the Covid crisis.
So we’re likely to get an escalation of both problems and solutions, and we’ll be challenged to see when solutions are actually solutions. If we judge events on the basis of past norms, there will be a plethora of problems, but if we judge them on the basis of the possibilities they offer, they become a solution. Much hangs on this. In the Covid crisis, from which everyone is so anxious to escape, we have been given multiple solutions but we fail to see them – we choose to focus on the problem side, on what’s being lost. And yes, things are hard.
This year we have wobbled over a tipping point, toward rehumanising society and making the world more fit to live in. Millions of people are thinking deeply about their lives and about life itself. The rich world is at last starting to become aware of its consumption patterns, which need to reduce radically. And the developing world needs to find new ways of developing from those that have existed before.
Then there’s ‘mental health’, a term based on the presumption that conventional normality is good health. Chaos has broken out in people’s lives, and for many people it’s really hard work. Many, including me, have also had to face being very alone. But calling it a ‘mental health crisis’ avoids the main point.
We’re in a rather necessary spiritual crisis, affecting everyone in varying degrees and ways. For some, this has been really tough – the bottom has dropped out of their universe and many people are flailing. It’s all about facing our demons and fears and, as individuals, communities and societies, we all need to face them. Old values, expectations, judgements and preferences are becoming obsolete, and there’s a lot of grasping at straws, blame and escapology going on. This is a transitional inner growth crisis for many, a time of what disaster professionals call ‘epistemic insecurity’ – confusion over what and who to believe.
In the later 2020s, specifically around 2024-2028, we’re coming into an avalanche period, a torrent of events and issues – but I don’t think it will be as blocked and struggly as the 2010s were. There will be pain and also increasing relief – relief arising from a cumulative adjustment to and acceptance of what’s happening. But the pain often comes first and the relief tends to follow. We’re in the pain bit for now.
Conservative forces from the top to the bottom of society are beginning to realise that things are changing anyway – and this applies also to that part of ourselves that prefers our comfortable routines, habits and security. The part that wants to be the exception. The part that says, ‘I’m up for change as long as it doesn’t affect me’.
There’s a rule in geology: the erosive power of a river increases as the square of its volume. That is, when volume of flow increases three times, erosive power increases nine times. That’s what we’ll see in the 2020s: the erosive power of events. The flow and volume of change is increasing, and it’s eroding anything that gets in the way. Whether we like it or not, it’s coming at us.
But the good news is that a flood also clears out the channels and generates energy. The challenge for us all, for individuals, communities and nations, is to get used to living and operating in a far more tumultuous and challenging world.
What is the gift in that? It will make it easier to face the 2030s and 2040s. Because things are not going to slow down.
But there’s an extra issue here. Whenever the world fully accepts change, things will progress faster but it will still take time. Forests take half a century to grow. People need time to adjust and sort things out. Innovations need trialling. Cities take years to redesign. Soil takes time to reconstitute. This means that, even when the big decisions have been made, it will take decades to find out whether it will actually work. By the 2040s this could raise world neurosis levels to a peak – or it could bring a new kind of sanity. This is new territory – we’ve never done this before and we don’t know what will happen. So the decades following 2030ish could be a nail-biting period.
To put a time-perspective on all this, the two big dates of the 21st century are these: 2048 and 2065. The changes we’re in now are operating in a time-frame from 2012 to 2048ish. I won’t go into that now (my book Power Points in Time tells all), but it’s worth flagging up here.
The 2020s are part of the run-up to 2048 – astrologically a Uranus opposition Pluto. The conjunction, the beginning of the cycle, was in 1965-66, and the square, the growth-crisis, was in 2012ish. So 2048 is the climax of all that started in the 1960s. The 1960s were a time of dawning awareness that all was not well on our planet, and that we faced daunting times. Times that we now are in.
2065 I would call the beginning of the start of the future. The time of nail-biting might well be over, and we’ll know the facts of our situation – the crunch-time is likely to have been around 2048, followed by a rather shell-shocked post-crisis period following it, dealing with pressing realities and taking stock. By 2065 I would imagine that, whatever the state of the world, we’ll have a clearer sense of what comes next. It’s a Neptune square Pluto, the crunchpoint of a cycle starting in 1892.
So Covid has upset the apple-cart. The starting gun has been fired. And, to be honest, even though things are hard, do you really want normality restored? Do you really want to go back to the way things were before? It’s strange to say this, but in some respects, since cancer took over my life a year ago, it’s been coming clear that it’s the best thing that could happen to me. But I do also choose to see it that way – not just in my head but in my bones.
Well, that’s what I think anyway. Whether my prognoses resemble the reality to be, we shall see. None of us can presume to know the big answer. That’s quite amazing, really.
At times I give out the wrong impression. When I write my blog or talk to people, I’m usually in an up state, so people get an up impression. But at present I am up for only about 5-6 hours each day, then I start drooping. The rest of the time I’m fatigued, flumped in bed, watching the birds outside my window or floating in the ethers. I didn’t know what fatigue was like until I got it. It’s not just serious tiredness: it’s a helpless, leaden megaflop. Time slows down and disappears. Brains clog up, and lifting an arm or keeping up a conversation becomes an act of will. But when I flop, it’s bliss. I float into faraway realms that, forty years ago, I strove hard to enter.
Cancer is a strange gift. It focuses you and rearranges all your priorities. You have to work at being alive. You find out what’s important. Things that used to worry you just evaporate. You have to focus on being with the cancer and also with the side-effects of medication. You find out who your real friends are. Some people you just can’t deal with any more – like those whose opening gambit is the inevitable ‘How are you?’ (for the umpteenth time today) or, rushing in and asking ‘Anything I can do to help?’, without realising that I’ll remember what I needed just after they’ve rushed away again! (Advisory: just observe the person, and take thoughtful initiatives.)
Talking of side-effects, I had reservations when the doctors gave Dexamethasone to Donald Trump – Dex is rather like cocaine. It has its virtues – it reduced my cancer, helped my back and was strengthening in effect. But I also became insensitive, detached, mental, badly behaved, retaliatory and prone to misjudging situations. This was upsetting to Lynne, who saw my glazed eyes and was shocked at my evasive unreceptivity, but at least I didn’t have the keys to a nuclear arsenal or the power to affect too many people. Giving Dex to Trump is a security risk. He says he ‘feels great’ – but he won’t when he comes off Dex. He’ll sink into post-Dex despond – equally dangerous.
I had a phone consultation with the haematologist. My results are good, better than expected – after all, I’ve been drooping and struggling recently. But I won’t need to go back on chemo and steroids for a while. There’s no remission with bone marrow cancer: you have to live with it and manage it until you pop your clogs. I’ve been helped by positive attitude, inner openness, exercise, rest, the love and care of Lynne (who comes every other weekend), Tulki (my son), a clutch of other goodly souls and the prayers of many people and beings (bless you all). I have twelve pill bottles next to my desk – antioxidants, vits, CBD oil and allsorts. I’m guzzling blueberry powder, ginseng, oils, beansprouts, colloidal silver, cider vinegar… it goes on.
But I never thought I’d get bored. This is weird. Usually I’m thinking, creating, churning out stuff – one of those who has no time for TV or gaming. Writing a book has helped immensely, except it’s finished and I’m now unexcitedly dragging through amendments and finding a publisher – and my usual strategy of going travelling or on a lecture tour after finishing a book is a thing of the past. I’ve been in confinement for a year now and I’m drying up.
Even so, it’s wonderful here on the farm and it nourishes me. I can prop myself up in bed and watch the buzzards through the big windows. I live in The Lookout, and that’s precisely what you do here. Insights come up while doing so. Lying in bed one day, I was doing my usual psycho-trick of looking for the gift in my situation and suddenly realised that I was, in a way, channelling collective fatigue. People are worn out and fed up, deep down. The Covid crisis was triggered on a Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn in late January, and this has dug up much deeper stuff than we’re aware of even now.
Doubts, guilt, fear, anticipation, insecurity about the past and future, and everything, really – personal, social and national issues. Astrologically, the lurking fear of the Great Unknown is a symptom of Neptune, the main driver of Covid as a global experience. It gives us a deep collective sense of vulnerability because we can’t nail down solutions, control the virus, find the escape hatch and restore normality. Neptune in Pisces wants us to see, to reconsider reality and reconfigure our perspective and roadmaps.
A spiritual crisis is going on (they call it ‘mental health’). What is my life for? What are we here for? What are, or were, truth and reality? Such questions have been studiously avoided for generations. There’s a stored-up reservoir of dread down there: perhaps everything has been in vain, perhaps we got it all wrong, perhaps it’s all going wrong. To avoid facing this, society deflects into blame, rebellion, compliance, complaint, argument, depression and desperately grasping for solutions that aren’t actually there.
Or at least, we aren’t finding what we think ought to be the solution. A solution where we don’t have to really change – others should change instead, not me, not us. But reality has changed. We’re faced with our fear of the Great Yawning Precipice. Things aren’t going back to normal. The situation we’re in is providing solutions we need, but we see it as a problem. This is an acceleration. We’re moving into a time where the future is causing the present more than the past is.
Covid is the first of many crises, and secretly we know it and need to get used to it. Change will come through a growing avalanche of events and conjunctures that no one thought possible, against which we are undefended. Like Covid. Totally unexpected situations are the mechanism by which radical change is likely to happen.
Not long ago I posted a video on FB in which a bunch of smiling Palestinians were saying ‘World, we know you’re going through a hard time – we understand you, and welcome to the club!‘. Palestinians, despite everything, are a bizarrely happy people compared to us. They’re not at all happy with their circumstances but, inside, they’ve accepted something about life that we have not. They’re still there despite everything. Meanwhile, in richer, declining countries like Britain, we stand on the edge of a precipice, complaining, and we’re scared shitless, pretending to be alright.
The Palestinian secret is sumud: stay on the case, tough it out and never give up. That’s how they lose battles while stopping their oppressors from winning the war. By degrees they have less fear, guilt and shame than people in countries like Britain. Here, we wet our knickers over face-masks, lockdowns and freedoms but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Covid forces us to face a dilemma that was creeping up on us anyway. Society was permitting it – surveillance, regulation, compliance, slavery to the megamachine, fear of rocking the boat, taking risks, losing income. The dilemma is about control, a primary issue in coming decades.
We have a choice: to get through the future, we humans need solidarity and cooperation from ground level up, and anyone who doesn’t join is, in effect, sabotaging humanity (sounds terrible, but there’s truth in it); on the other hand, Covid and digital technology are being used to curtail social and political freedoms, ramping up the matrix of control from the top down. Rebellious exceptionalism undermines the first option, and the second option, though Orwellian, is undermined by competition at a high level between clashing ideas and a splintered oligarchy. The world is rudderless, stuck in a logjam which only an overwhelming flood of stirring events can shake out. Covid is a practice run.
I find my confinement manageable yet difficult, though it’s also fruitful. Alone (mostly) in a wooden cabin in paradise, watching and feeling the world, listening more closely to things than to people, I’m grateful to be alive. In my fatigued dream-states I tune into people who have it worse than me, like a man I know in Gaza who has cancer, no medicine and is getting bombed. I sit with people like him in the innerworlds.
Back in early August I woke up one day with a feeling that ‘if I hadn’t had treatment, this is the day I would have died’. The baby swallows from the barn, fluttering around outside, made me smile – today is the beginning of the rest of my life.And for all of us, today is the beginning of a new world. It doesn’t look like that, but remember: the computer you’re looking at has its origins in a disaster called World War Two. My late aunt Hilary was in Alan Turing’s team and she was one of the world’s first ever computer operators. They thought they were fighting Hitler – well, yes, but they were inventing the computer too, and in the fullness of history, that’s bigger. We think we’re ‘fighting Covid’ – well, yes, but something else is happening underneath, though it might take seventy years to realise what it has become.
Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. So hang in there. We’re on a mission and it’s gonna take a while. We’re working on historic matters, a turn-around in the very nature of civilisation. Everyone has a bit-part to play. Everyone is right and nobody is wrong, because we’re all playing parts in an enormous chessgame that is bigger than any of us can see. All of us, together, will decide the future of the world, whatever anyone thinks about elites, controllers, billionaires, conspiracies, reptilians… or fathers.
If, like me, you’re not that far from passing away, do you plan to leave this world behind when you go, or will you come back to see this planetary change-process through to its conclusion? One day, when the world is rendered safe and sound, there’s going to be a big, global party and, having come this far, I want to be there. Then, I’ll be happy to leave the future to others and go my way, relieved. Job done.
May the light of spirit bless us and keep us, and cause its light to shine through us and guide our way home.
Love you all, Paldywan Kenobi.
Photos by Lynne Speight, astrologer, photographer and handholder extraordinaire