Fukushima and climate: The earth community in hospice

Fukushima decontamination worker

Photo: Global2000/Flickr.

To be in a body is to hear the heartbeat of death at every moment.
— Andrew Harvey

As I write these words in early November, 2013, humanity is confronting an unprecedented and horrific challenge which it may or may not survive. I’m referring to two uncanny realities about which we are not being told the unmitigated truth.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which suffered a catastrophic meltdown on March 11, 2011 is poised to inflict death and disastrous illness on millions, if not billions of people, as a result of ghastly amounts of contaminated water that is gushing daily into the Pacific Ocean and has already been detected on the West coasts of Canada and the United States.

A video entitled Fukushima: Beyond Urgent, provides a complete explanation of what happened at Fukushima and the consequences in terms of atmospheric and oceanic pollution and ultimately, the life and death of species affected by those. According to physician Helen Caldicott, who has been researching nuclear radiation for decades, we are in a nuclear crisis and have been since March 11, 2011.

We have never been told the full extent of the effects of the Fukushima tragedy, nor can we easily grasp the incompetence of TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, that owns and manages the Fukushima plant. Throughout the duration of this incomprehensible nightmare, TEPCO has proven itself phenomenally inept and corrupt.  The most extensively damaged reactor at Fukushima, Reactor 4, contains spent fuel rods that are highly radioactive and if not removed from the reactor, will continue to catch fire and spread pollution through the air.

Within the next few weeks, TEPCO is planning to remove some of the more than 1400 damaged fuel rods.  Professor Emeritus Guy McPherson noted last month that Fukushima represent a major threat to humanity. If TEPCO fails in moving the spent fuel rods next month, according to nuclear researcher Christina Consolo, if one of those MOX fuel rods is exposed to the air, one of the 1565, it will kill 2.89 billion people on the planet in a matter of weeks, so nuclear catastrophe is right there on the horizon.

Even if TEPCO is able to remove these unfathomably dangerous rods without a glitch, that will not stop thousands of gallons of radiated water from being released daily into the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to the horrors of Fukushima, our planet is also confronting catastrophic climate change. Guy McPherson’s latest updated compilation of climate change science demands our attention.

Meanwhile, ignoring the ghastly realities of Fukushima, some of the top climate scientists in the world, including James Hansen, are embracing nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels and a silver bullet for reversing climate change. This is unequivocally insane.

Dear reader, I hate to break the news, but there is NO silver bullet for catastrophic climate change. Please watch Guy McPherson’s stellar presentation on climate change at Bluegrass Bioneers held in November Louisville. Climate change now has a life of its own, and even if we were to cease tomorrow doing everything that has caused climate change, it is essentially irreversible. Moreover, research increasingly suggests that by mid-century, there will be few habitable places left on this planet that can actually sustain life. This is another truth that we have not been told.

The lessons for conscious humans

What are the lessons for those who wish to be awake at this moment in human history? Scientists such as Guy McPherson, Arnie Gundersen, and Dr. Helen Caldicott can provide a number of lessons having to do with energy, economics, and environmental issues, but the real issue at this moment is: What is the spiritual lesson for humanity?

To his credit, McPherson is positing that humanity has now put itself in a hospice situation. Between the dire consequences of Fukushima and catastrophic climate change, we are confronting near-term extinction, not only of the human species, but perhaps all species on earth.

The fundamental question that McPherson asks is: How Do We Act In The Face Of Climate Chaos? Furthermore, I would ask: How do we now act in the face of possible impending meltdown and radiation poisoning of billions of living beings on this planet? How we act will be determined by our perspective—by our consciousness.

These unprecedented, unthinkable events compel us to consciously admit ourselves, emotionally and spiritually, to “hospice for humanity.”

Obviously, we will all die at some point in time. However, few civilized humans, especially those of us who grew up in America, have ever really grasped, on every level, that we are going to die. Some part of us believes we are exceptional and invincible — which is precisely what has caused the crises with which we are now confronted.

Moreover, we now need the love and support of each other as never before in the history of our planet. Kurt Vonnegut often spoke of his son who somewhere between being a patient in a mental hospital and becoming a student at Harvard Medical School said, “We have to help each other through this, whatever this is.”

It is time to stop trying to “do” things to reverse the cataclysm in which we are embroiled — to stop looking for “answers” and start asking the right questions. The most important one we can ask in this moment is: How do we live in the face of the possible near-term extinction caused by the Fukushima nightmare and catastrophic climate change?

As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I offer these suggestions:

  • Begin working consciously on the reality of your own death. Do whatever emotional and spiritual work is necessary to accept your mortality.
  • Recognize that you have been admitted to hospice whether you are aware of it or not.
  • Utilize every spiritual practice and every spiritual tool of which you are aware.
  • If you do not have a spiritual practice, spend as much time in nature as you possibly can.
  • If you DO have a spiritual practice, spend as much time in nature as you possibly can.
  • When you are in nature, commune with it. Listen to the trees, the wind, the water, and the sounds of creatures. Talk to them as if you were speaking with another human.
  • Do everything you can to make this crisis easier on other species.
  • Allow yourself to feel the deep, deep grief that invariably occupies your body. Talk about it with trusted allies. Take yourself out into nature and mourn — cry, wail, scream, laugh, and dance. William Blake wrote, “The deeper the sorrow, the greater the joy.”
  • Look within yourself and look around you and see where you are meant to be serving in this moment. As we live in hospice, our three main functions are to love, to serve, and to create.
  • Focus on how you can give, not what you can get.
  • Give love as often as you can. My friend Mike Ruppert says, “It is time that we spent our love fully and completely, as though it were fiat currency on an unlimited line of credit.”
  • Every moment of your life from this moment forward is sacred. Every person you meet or interact with is sacred. Every animal, every tree, every insect is sacred.

Some people living in hospice do not use the time wisely. Many other people living in hospice have discovered that it is the best time of their lives. They begin to savor every moment of life as if it were their last. Often they laugh, read good books, eat well, and experience a quality of life they had never known previously.

Death as a spiritual adviser

One of my spiritual teachers, Leslie Temple-Thurston, writes that “we must take death as an adviser—that when we live with the awareness that death could overtake us at any time and fully let that realization in and accept it, our life becomes more real and fulfilling.” In other words, when we allow death to be our constant “adviser,” we become completely alive.

People who are committed to facing their death consciously do a great deal of reflecting.  Here are a few key questions for reflection in our hospice situation: How can I best hold onto you and you to me, and how can we help each other through this? How can I really, really see you and listen to you, and how can I tell you my deepest truth from the depths of my heart? Are there people I need to make amends to? (Now is the time to do it. It’s time to take a searching and fearless inventory of how we’ve lived our lives.) What was really good and decent and precious about our lives? Where did we fail ourselves? Where did we fail others? Where were we less than we could have been? How do we wish to be remembered, even if no one is there to remember?

Life and death are inextricably connected, and ironically, a conscious, clear-eyed preparation for death often results in people living richer, fuller, more meaningful lives than they have ever lived.  Both the poet Rumi and the Buddha said, “Die before you die.” It’s time to let go — let go of control, let go of resentments, let go of anything and everything that does not really matter in the face of death. This is an exquisitely sacred time. Let us mentally greet everyone we encounter with a deep, sincere “Namaste” — the sacred in me salutes the sacred in you.

Namaste, dear reader, and when death comes, may we be fully, passionately, vitally alive, doing the work we came here to do and sharing the love we came here to share.

In addition to the above suggestions, you can read my new book Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. The 52 meditations contained in the hard copy and the 313 meditations in the e-book will fortify, inspire, and enliven you as you navigate your hospice journey.

This article originally appeared at Speaking Truth to Power.

— Carolyn Baker, Transition Voice

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  1. Kaathleen Blair says

    Hansen’s been bought, and I’ll wager that TEPCO is behind that buyout. The disaster at Fukuishima is partially as bad as it is because of the concept of “Face,” which runs *everything* in Japan and China. Everything. You cannot “lose Face,” and you cannot cause another to “lose Face.” Hence, you cannot make mistakes, nor admit you have, nor point out when someone else has. The Nations of the World need to get Japan in a corner and tell them “Your Fukushima plant is threat to us all and we are going to fix it for you whether you like it or not.”

  2. says

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with what we need to do externally. The more personal question for all of us is: What do we need to do internally and in relation to our community and our loved ones?

  3. says

    Based on my experience with my dad in hospice, I would suggest that we are not there yet.
    When in hospice, you get really good drugs, Brompton solution or liquid morphine, that are given sublingually to ease the last days and hours of pain before the body quits.
    Also, when dealing with insurance companies and the medical system, you can’t just go into hospice!
    You’ve got to make the argument that your loved one is close to death. 6 months or less is the standard.
    Your doctor will need to be pressed to “give up” and give the green light on hospice. 6 months or less is not easily calculated.
    The dad of one of my friends from high school just died last week. He had been in hospice for only 48 hours. He died in pain, because the morphine solution didn’t get delivered to his home in a timely manner.

    I’d say we are circling the drain.
    We are not yet at the point of sublingual morphine.
    And we still have time and energy to do good things in the world.
    I wrote an essay about this a while back :

    Two things missing from your to do list:

    #1 resistance.
    I have found that being involved with non violent civil disobedience has been one of the most uplifting activities I’ve done in these dark and doom filled days.
    I highly recommend it.

    #2 laughter
    Laughter has great healing properties. In my professional opinion, laughter is as beneficial if not more than kale!
    Recommended dose: daily.

  4. says

    Susan…I hear your distinction regarding the final stages of hospice and where we are at the moment. Consider that many people choose to enter hospice when doing so is an option for them. Consider also that willingly adopting a hospice attitude is extremely useful and salutary as we navigate our present and future. And OF COURSE there is much to do in the meantime. As you say, service and creating beauty and expressing joy are our principle tasks as we take up emotional and spiritual residence in hospice. Whoever said that hospice is a place to kick back? There is much work to be done there, even as we are willing to practice “dying” before we die.

  5. James R. Martin says

    I think the better analogy to our situation, rather than hospice, is what drug and alcohol addiction treatment folks call “hitting bottom”. Some, even many, in industrial civilization have either hit bottom or are nearing it. Others remain in deep denial. But a “critical mass” will be reached after which the whole of industrial civilization will awaken in a pool of its own vomit.

    And it’s important to realize that “deep denial” is encouraged and supported by pretty much every major social institution in the culture — politicians, “journalists” (media), schools, universities …. But the illusion is getting harder and harder to maintain! And it won’t be lasting all that long — as the gap or chasm between the “official” false picture of our world and its reality has grown outragious and absurd in its extent.

    We’re nearing a mass revolt from this system. It’s getting impossible to keep the “implant” in place.

    It’s uncertain that we can avert worst case scenarios like Guy McPherson’s Near Term Extinction. But it is this very undertainty that should have the more awake among us rolling up our sleeves and working to transform the world. Not attending to its death — which might be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  6. James R. Martin says

    PS- I just watched a televised documentary on JFK’s presidency. It made clear just how close the world came to nuclear war during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Folks very nearly pushed that big red button! But folks pulled back right at the edge of the brink. Maybe, just barely, we’ll do it again.

    Don’t call it “hopium”.

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