Not believing the culture will undergo a voluntary transition is not the same as not having hope. The question, again, is what do I hope for? I hope that salmon survive no matter what happens, and I hope the same for grizzly bears. I do what I can to help. Most of the activists I know do not believe a voluntary transition will take place, but they are hoping--there's that word--that if lynx and bull trout can survive another forty or fifty years, until, they hope, civilization collapses, then these creatures may be able to sustain. If they do not survive till then--whether or not civilization is still standing, whether or not our culture has undergone a voluntary transition--they will not survive at all. An activist friend often says to me, "As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure that some doors are open, and some doors are shut."
He and I both, for example, want to make sure the "door" representing the evolutionary potential of salmon remains open. Two weeks ago I watched wild coho salmon spawning, albeit in a stream clogged with sediment from logging. Coho--and these particular fish were two and a half to three and a half feet of muscle, beautiful gray sides and white bellies, fins frayed from their journeys home--have survived for hundreds of thousands of years, swimming out to the ocean, gliding on deep cold currents, smelling the faintest traces of the places they were born, then following these traces home to spawn and die. They will almost undoubtedly be extinct in the continental United States within the next decade or two. Mine will probably be the last generation of humans ever to witness them cleaning algae off rocks of their redd--their spawning bed--scooping out spaces for eggs, cleaning away sediment with their powerful tails. But I do not want--will not allow--that door to close during my lifetime, on my watch, as it were.
There are intellectual, emotional, and perceptual doors, too, I fight to keep open. For example, the understanding that alternatives exist to industrial capitalism. The knowledge that cultures have existed (and still exist) where women aren’t treated as inferiors. The capacity to feel wonder and to experience beauty in encounters with others--human and otherwise--who are wild and free and different not only from us but from what we expect them to be. And most especially the ability to envision and live relationships (with humans and nonhumans alike) based not on bending others to our wills but on cooperation and mutually-beneficial sharing.
To eliminate false hope is not to eliminate hope altogether, it is merely to remove barriers that blind us to real possibilities, and bind us to unlivable situations. For example, my father was violent, and it was the false hope that my father's violence would miraculously cease that allowed my mother to remain so long married. Early in her marriage, back in the 50s and through the 60s, when battered women's shelters did not exist, perhaps that hope--that false hope--allowed her, and us, to survive. Because we were essentially at the mercy of someone else, with few options for meaningful change--because we were powerless or perceived ourselves as powerless--false hopes saved our lives by helping us to emotionally survive in otherwise untenable circumstances. But what if your life is not immediately threatened? What if you do not merely wish to survive, to get along day after day? What if you strive for something else? What if you wish to live fully?
Do you have hope for the future? What does your response have to do with your Paganism?
Derrick Jensen is one of the very few people on the planet named in my will. He won't get my Hermes scarves, but he could get most of the rest.