Creativity in Times of Ecological Collapse


It’s us on a Sunday in Northern California, a day when there is bright sunlight and the peachy amaryllis is blooming in some quasi-pornographic explosion of color and form.  It’s a day when we are yet partially frozen in position on the grey couch, staring out the wide sliding glass doors at the sea. It is a day when we are trying to parse what is the role of creativity in times of ecological collapse.

It’s us holding each other close with our voices and words and thoughts. We are not hiking today although we could hike and talk. Instead we are simply sitting, holding one another’s wrists. We both write about ecologies and think about ecologies and some days this makes us sad. We try to not allow the sadness, the sense of loss, to wash over us relentlessly. But we have learned to embrace the feelings as we embrace each other, as we bat ideas around.

We’re talking about ecological collapse—the sixth extinction and we are talking about creativity. I am asking this question: Is creativity simply another form of distraction when we face down all of these existential questions around the death of ecologies as we know them?

We’re trying to understand our own compulsion to write on a sunny day when Australia is on fire and the Iranians have withdrawn from the nuclear agreement.

We’re trying to talk about climate crisis, which is often our topic and we are talk about how complex and broad it is. And in one manner of thinking, it is. But what if the problem with our thinking is that it is not complex at all? That we have been trained to think that it is complex. See, little lady, this here’s a complex world and you cannot begin to understand how complex it is. What if we stop thinking about complexity and instead think about simplicity.

We’re trying to sort through this concept, this idea of environmental thinking being overly dominated by ideas of not doing things, like driving cars and eating burgers and buying plastic bottles of shampoo. It’s about doing more of the good things, like standing still and staring at the sky, thinking about the cosmos.

We’re also trying to grasp our ecological presence and how we represent ourselves in words and build worlds with our writing and art — this is a topic of keen interest to us. The concept of being one, unified ecology on Earth — all of us, from the bees to the clouds — has been for a me quite a profound aspect of daily life. The idea that aspects of ecologies live in a spatial and temporal scale that is super-human, as in, we cannot know it because it’s too massive to be known.

Philosophers write about this in the language of philosophers.  What we are thinking about is how most of us are not philosophers in the classical sense and that’s a good thing. We are thinking about how art and writing help us to understand what it means to be human and in these times what it means to be human means what does it mean to be a colleague in all these changing circumstances, in our case equally with the banana slugs, the coyotes, and euc trees, who reside with us here. Here is where we walk. Sundays are good days for sharing quiet, ordinary thoughts about ecologies.

I am speaking about creativity on January 25 at this lovely Moxie Road event. I hope to see you there — we’ll be talking about how we maintain and nourish a robust writing practice within our complex (and simple) lives.

4th Annual New Year, New Moxie Writing Retreat
JANUARY 25, 9 am, The Hivery, Mill Valley