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In the Grand Scheme of Things

A few months ago, after spending several hours trawling my Facebook feed (I use it to gather environmental news, some of which I then share to help raise awareness of issues I care about), I wrote the following:

In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter what we do? Even if we poison, plunder, and populate ’til we are blue in the face. Unless something apocalyptic happens, on a scale that is beyond our control (I’m thinking of an asteroid hitting this planet or the sun fizzling out), Earth will survive, the basic prerequisites for life—sunlight, oxygen and water—will most likely persist, and life will evolve again. Without us. That, at least, is a small consolation.

We are only making our own lives unbearable, if not impossible. No other species, I believe, has the capacity of envisaging the future of its children, of worrying about a time that is five years or a decade or a generation from now. Only we can predict, and comprehend, our incalculable loss. And yet, even with this gift, we do not do enough to prevent our downfall.

Another day, I came across this quote from Helen Keller and promptly decided to make it my motto in life:

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

In sum, there are days when I seesaw between two extreme emotional poles: despair and grief (the words are not too strong) on the one hand, and on the other, profound admiration and hope for the great things humanity can achieve if we put our minds to it.

Frankly, it’s exhausting.

So, what I’m striving for, and occasionally glimpse, is equanimity. Acceptance. A quiet resolve.

When I look up from my writing, as I do now, my gaze falls on a smooth, chalk-white pebble on my desk, engraved with the word ‘TODAY’. I have it to remind me of that cliché: to live each day as if it were my last on Earth. Gracefully.

Photo: Jessica Groenendijk

In the grand scheme of things, that’s all I can do.


Note: Perhaps, like me, you find yourself lurching between panic, rage, unease, sorrow, optimism, and denial. Maybe, like me, you feel lost and helpless, misunderstood, alone. If so, I hope that, by sharing my ongoing journey of Deep Adaptation over the coming weeks through a series, I may be able to bring some comfort and calm to yours.

Although we each arrive at this painful moment of truth, of anticipated or actual collapse, from different angles, with different backgrounds, jobs, passions, and skills, chances are we, none of us, have all the answers; we all make mistakes and try to learn and mess up again; we all feel insecure and vulnerable in one way or another. Yet, without doubt, we each have something to offer the world, however much we might think we don’t, or can’t. This is my way of giving back.

Join me; hold my hand and let’s walk together.

Jessica Groenendijk, a Dutch otter biologist and nature writer, is the author of The Giant Otter: Giants of the Amazon, and her work has been published in BBC Wildlife Magazine, Earth Island Journal, The Island Review, and Africa Geographic, as well as in Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine and Zoomorphic, among others. She is a volunteer assistant editor for Deep Adaptation.

For more of Jessica, see: Words from the Wild. This blog post was originally published on her website in August 2015.
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram): @JessGroenendijk

personal journey

Comments (4)

  • I can identify. Some days I am motivated todo everything I can on a macro and micro level. Other days I feel deflated. Still other’s I just accept that the inevitable collapse is coming and there’s not much I can do.

    • Hello Adam. When Jessica writes the next part, we’ll put a link to it in here. If you have a feed reader, you could subscribe to the blog … although then you’ll get all the blog posts (!). At the moment, we aim to put new posts up every two weeks but I know Jessica is on the road so likely she won’t do a part 2 for another month or so… Thank you for following! <3

  • Jess, I just wanted now how strongly this resonates with me: and how beautifully you put that feeling – that see-sawing. This journey’s not linear. Not linear at all! But there is a general direction, and I’m glad to be heading thattaway as best I can, in company with good people like yourself.

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