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Before It’s News Interview Regarding “Collapsing Consciously”

Collapsing Cons ThumbnailInterview with Carolyn Baker on Collapsing Consciously from Before It’s News

Brought to you by North Atlantic Books

1. What was your prime motivation in assembling your book Collapsing Consciously knowledge wise?



In 2007 I became aware that what we are confronting is not a series of isolated problems but rather, the collapse of industrial civilization itself and the paradigm out of which it was developed. Given my background as a former psychotherapist, my first thought was: In the face of this momentous unraveling of our way of life, how are people going to deal with this emotionally and spiritually? Thus I wrote my first book on the topic Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse. Given the unanticipated success of that book, I took the material to the next level and published Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition in 2011. That book was even more successful, and since I had always wanted to write a book of daily reflections, I chose to begin writing Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. This 2013 book is being released in two different formats. The hard copy features 17 of my essays followed by 52 weekly reflections. The e-book version contains the other 313 reflections not found in the hard copy.



Libraries of books and countless Internet websites offer information on logistical preparation for our uncertain future—how to grow and store food; water purification and storage; learning skills required for a post-industrial world; permaculture design; and much more. However, as far as I know, I am the only person writing and speaking about emotional and spiritual preparation.



2. How did you feel about the shut down situation in the United States and the near apocalyptic scenario?



The shutdown of the US government is a glaring example of an empire in abject decline. One of the characteristics of a crumbling empire is its inability or unwillingness to govern itself and the masses losing confidence in, and in fact rejecting, their elected leaders. Contrary to what Mitch McConnell says, there WILL be more government shutdowns, or at least, many more instances of the ship of state becoming a failed state. The most recent shutdown gave us a clue of what might ensue in the throes of the next ones.



3. It seems like the only thing that can maybe cause change is a large collapsing catalyst of sorts. To bring people together. What are your thoughts on this?



I have written for nearly 13 years that there are no “solutions” to the unprecedented predicament in which we find ourselves. John Michael Greer, who wrote the foreword for “Collapsing Consciously,” distinguishes between a problem and a predicament. A problem, if addressed fairly early on can be solved. However, when a problem is continually ignored or denied, it becomes a predicament, and there are no solutions to a predicament. Predicaments cannot be solved, only responded to. We now face a predicament encased in catastrophic climate change, global economic meltdown, global energy depletion, and the nightmare that keeps on giving, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

While there are notable exceptions, industrial civilization has produced highly narcissistic and entitled citizens who are incapable of imagining what life outside of civilization looks like. Unless they are octogenarians or older, however, they will have a glaring opportunity to find out exactly what a post-industrial world looks like. Comfortable people do not change significantly absent massive suffering, and I do not see any significant changes occurring until a mass transformation of consciousness unfolds. This results not from a hundredth monkey-amount of people chanting “OM” but from unprecedented levels of suffering. Carl Jung said that the origin of all mental illness is the refusal to open to legitimate suffering. Indeed, our culture is insane; however, if we are able to understand the nature of our suffering and WHY we are suffering, we have an opportunity to find a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives, deeper and more meaningful relationships and a quality of life that we have never before experienced, not in spite of our suffering, but because of it. Attempting to have infinite growth on a finite planet necessarily exacts a horrific price—a price that affects everyone, especially the innocent. Yet within those consequences are also opportunities for healing, wholeness, experiencing joy, and the creation of beauty—making art, music, poetry, dance, and building community.



Writing about his experience in Auschwitz, Victor Frankl said: “What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves, and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly.” Frankl also said that what really matters is not so much “the meaning of life,” but WHO is asking the question: What is the meaning of life? And so in my work, I am constantly asking: Who do you want to be in the face of our predicament and its consequences? What did you come here to do? Are you doing it? Why or why not?



4. Could you share some of the meditations with us from your book?

One thing I have discovered in the process of opening to this collapse is the power of poetry. Prose is linear and relies on left-brain thinking. Poetry originates in and opens up the heart. Thus I have included fragments of poems throughout “Collapsing Consciously.”



On P. 150 is a quote from Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm: She says “It is no accident that we were born in these times, that we find our lives unfolding now, with our particular histories and gifts, our brokenness, our experience, and our wisdom. It is not an accident.”



Or from Bill Plotkin: “Getting older by itself does not cause us to mature psychologically. Adolescence is not at all confined to our teen years. And adulthood cannot be meaningfully defined as what happens in our twenties or when we fulfill certain responsibilities, such as holding down a job, financial independence, or raising a family. Rather, an adult is someone who understands why he is here on Earth, why he was born, and is offering his unique contribution to the more-than-human world.”



5. This is a wild card question. What would you like to share with us from your book that our readers might find beneficial?



I believe that in addition to the reflections, my readers would very much enjoy the 17 essays I have written at the beginning of the book. These cover a variety of topics related to our predicament, the first one being “The Joy of Mindful Preparation.”



6. Would you like to share one of your poems from the book?


Yes, I would like to share a poem by Rebecca del Rio called “Constant.” This poem concludes the book:




We live for constants,
Rain in winter, the cat
Curled like a furry comma
On the edge of the bed.

Sometimes, many times
These don’t come, instead
There is drought, the father dies,
The mother grows old.

The constant is this:
The mind insists, persists in the insane
Circle of creation from chaos.
Make order of mystery.

“Listen to me,” it shouts.
So we listen.
Constant chatter, constant need
Growing like a curse.

The constant is this:
Life is chaos, disintegration, blooming
Anew into order and collapsing
Again to blossom into something more perfect,
Then chaos, disintegration and on.

We watch helplessly, entranced
Like the magician’s audience,
The hypnotist’s mark.
Nothing to do but join hands,
Bow heads, say blessings
To the capricious, wild
original god.

7. What is a transformative truth you’d like to share with us from your book that you feel might hit home for everyone as of late?



Yes, this one from physicist and author, Gary Zukav, Ph.D.: “Spiritual growth is now replacing survival as the central objectie of the human experience.”



8. What are you up to next book wise or projects wise and any links you’d like to share or parting words? Thanks.



I have completed the manuscript for my next book “Love In The Long Emergency: The Relationships We Need To Thrive.” I believe that our relationships with everyone and everything will be the most important aspects of navigating the coming chaos. I would also like to give thanks to Andrew Harvey for making possible the Sacred Activism series of which my books is a part. In that series I’m honored to have my book among those written by Charles Eisenstein, Adam Bucko, and endorsed by one of the great voices in this project, Matthew Fox.



I am available for life coaching and workshops for the Long Emergency and may be contacted at

11 comments to Before It’s News Interview Regarding “Collapsing Consciously”

  • Edelle Rose

    My husband and I are raising our 5 year old grandson. How can we best prepare him for what is to come in his life? He, like all children is being bombarded with consumerist messages that lead him farther away from the love and community I believe he will need. Please help parents with this unprecedented situation.

    • I wish that I could tell you, “Do these five things and everything will be fine,” but I can’t. None of us is going to live long. That’s a fact; that’s reality, and our first task in this moment is to acknowledge that and prepare emotionally and spiritually. As for children, I would say that the best thing you can do for your grandson is tell him the ancient stories that have been lost. I have many other suggestions, but this comment forum is not the best place to share all of the many responses I have. Please email me at and consider some coaching sessions for this topic where we can discuss this in depth.

  • James R. Martin

    “None of us is going to live long. That’s a fact; that’s reality….”

    Of course, it’s always been true that none of us are going to live long, as contrasted with, say, a giant sequoia. And THAT is a fact. That’s reality.

    What is not a fact is the premise that we’re all going to go extinct as a species sometime very soon. That’s a speculation based on a very rare interpretation of the available evidence. It’s not even close to being a fact. It’s a very marginalized hypothesis.

  • James R. Martin


    You said “Thom Hartmann is finally getting off his butt on this one and not worshipping the failed efforts of Bill McKibben anymore. (”

    I then invested a fair chunk of time watching this video, waiting and hoping for Hartmann’s comments on Bill McKibben, which never appeared. Nor did Hartmann even so much as mention anything relevant to McKibben’s political response to the climate crisis.

    I did note, however, that the scientitst interviewed certainly didn’t believe humanity is in immediate risk of “near term extinction” of the kind Dr. McPherson and yourself have been advancing — in which we’ve ostensibly only got decades left as a species…. Instead, they spoke of a real risk to our species survival (and that of most all of Earthlife) in the centuries to millennnia time frame. And they spoke of the nearer term risks to human civilization, due to sea level rise, mass migration (to where?) and climate related crop failures.

    “Very rare interpretation of the evidence? Seriously?”

    Very seriously! Only a tiny, miniscule % of relevant scientific specialists (subject matter experts) agree with you or Dr. McPherson on the NTE hypothesis. You won’t get this impression from listening to McPherson, who tends to cherry pick only the most poisoned cherries — and has on occasion muddled the difference between projections based on business as usual (BAU) FUTURE (projected future!) GHG emissions and projections based on a dramatic course change from BAU. That’s not a particularly balanced approach to interpreting the available data and its prognostic usefulness. (I’m being sensitive to McPherson here out of genuine respect for his knowledge and talent when offered in a more balanced way.)

    “And furthermore, what’s so wrong with living as if we only had another decade left?”

    I’ve explained this a thousand times in various places, including your blog. The problem with it is that NEVER have we so profoundly needed to take a long view and care for human and non-human Earthlife over the long haul. Never have we so profoundly needed to racially change the course of our culture / civilization as now. Never before have we faced the climate and ecological crisis we now face. And the only well informed and intelligent approach to our situation–with love and compassion as our guides–which I can think of requires us to engage in passionate, creative response. It’s going to require a lot of effort, hopefully joyful effort. And it’s going to require imagining possibilities and nurturing these over decades of healing transformation.

    NO ONE will roll up their sleeves and get to work on such a transformational effort if they believe Earthlife is all doomed already and there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Ever hear of self-fulfiling prophesy? Of course you have. You have studied psychology, after all.

    As you know so well, people never try that which they think impossible.

    • Indeed, Thom Hartmann did not in this video refer to McKibben, but anyone who follows Hartmann knows that for years he has touted McKibben and Hansen as saviors in the climate change arena. I implore you to please PROVE that climate change is NOT irreversible when overwhelmingly, the evidence points to our having passed the point of no return. Yes, let’s all roll up our sleeves and bail water out of the Titanic with teaspoons. Good luck on that one.

  • James R. Martin

    PS –

    I watched the Michael Mann video you offered after typing my above response. It also offers no support for your view that we’re all doomed to die off in a matter of a decade (or two, or three…). Mann concludes the video by saying we need to mitigate GHG emissions with some seriousness.

    That means we’ve got work to do! We certainly ought not to adopt an “we’re doomed; its’s futile” attitude!

    I’d like to see you come back to the camp you once served before you bought into McPherson’s outragious exaggerations.

    And I say this with gratitude to McPherson for occupying the very far end of the spectrum. Sombody had to do it.

    But McPherson’s not helping either. He’s encouraging people to assume that the struggle is over as NTE is in the pipeline and there’s nothing we can do to avert it.

    I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again. That’s irresponsible. Because it’s far from certain. Because it’s very unlikely to be probable, even.

    I’m in agreement with Mann regards the IPCC’s overly conservative and cautious approach. And I think the IPCC’s even worse than that, because it should be obvious that the IPCC’s “carbon budget” suggestion of 2013 is absurdly optimistic about how much more carbon we can “safely” (“somewhat”) emit in the future. They propose that we can somewhat safely emit almost as much CO2 over the next few decades as we’ve done since the beginning of the industrial age! That’s clearly mad, as we’ve already apparently reached–and crossed–the Arctic sea ice tipping point. If that’s not a signal to put an end to industrialism as we know it (high carbon economy) I don’t know what could be!

    • James, I think you should compose an extensive research paper on your opinions and ask Guy to publish it at Nature Bats Last. Have you ever had a serious dialog with him about your position? I think it’s about time you do. Deal directly with what you perceive to be “cherry picking” and “outrageous exaggerations.”

  • James R. Martin

    “I implore you to please PROVE that climate change is NOT irreversible when overwhelmingly, the evidence points to our having passed the point of no return.”

    Carolyn, “proof” is something mathematicians and logicians partake in, not scientists, who deal in probability instead. I think your intended word is “demonstrate”. A demonstration falls short of proof, which is exacting — as in math.

    Irreversibility is a science concept which may be more … well, complex … than you may imagine.

    “The scientists, Damon Matthews of Concordia University in Montreal and Susan Solomon of MIT, make the case that policymakers, the media, and to some extent the public have misunderstood the implications of two key concepts — the “irreversibility” of climate change, and the amount of global warming already in the pipeline due to historical greenhouse gas emissions.

    The duo challenge what they say have become pervasive misinterpretations of recent scientific results, including findings from a 2010 National Research Council report they helped write that said that the amount of global warming to date is essentially irreversible on the timescale of about 1,000 years. That study has been repeatedly cited by policymakers to justify delays in tackling carbon emissions by making global warming appear to be inexorable, regardless of what actions are taken.”

    (above quote from):

    Climate science makes brain surgery and rocket science look simple by comparison in complexity. The overwhelming majority of climatologists fall far short of McPherson’s extreme outlier position concerning prognosis.

    Yes, Earth has been shifted into another climate regime. It’s a very dangerous situation. One calling for dramatic GHG reductions. Not despair.

    We don’t know yet where the new climate regime will be, regards what’s already in the pipeline. That’s why we cannot afford to despair!

    I’m not the right guy to challenge McPherson publically in a serious paper or debate. I’m clued in enough to know that his position is a radical outlier position, way off the charts.

    I certainly don’t think you’re more science-informed than I am, regards climatology. Neither of us are subject matter experts. So why do you take the extreme outlier position? Is there a psychological reason for it? Perhaps the discomfort of uncertainty combined withe the grief about our collective inaction? Too painful?

    • Why do I take the “extreme outlier” position? Too painful? Omigod, you can’t be serious. Let’s talk about painful: Near-term extinction, 200 species going extinct per day, the vanishing of ice in the Arctic, unfathomable amounts of methane escaping from the Arctic Ocean and gazillions of tons of it in the Antarctic, vast islands of plastic debris in the oceans the size of some US states, ocean acidity off the scale? And we haven’t even factored in Fukushima here, and please don’t tell me that you have the final word on that one because you don’t and no one does. That is precisely the maddening thing about Fukushima. WE DON’T KNOW, and we may never know. I’m not a Zen Buddhist, but THAT is the ultimate Zen koan. Massive amounts of death from Fukushima are pouring into the sea and air every day, and we don’t get to know how much and where.

      And you think that staying with “complexity” is too painful for me??? I would say that the pot might be calling the kettle beige here. No James, what I’m down with is the finality and preciousness of life. What I’m down with is recognizing my mortality and the mortality of all life on this planet. What I’m down with is preparing for near-term extinction by creating the most joyous, compassionate, meaningful, juicy, vital, human-serving and other-species serving life that I can possibly imagine. What I’m down with is recognizing that I am not more durable, resilient, or invincible than any other species. What I’m down with is recognizing my limitations—and my demise which as the title of my 2009 book says, is “sacred.” Living life to the absolute fullest and preparing for my death at the same time is my spiritual path. Obviously, anything is POSSIBLE. Miracles are POSSIBLE. Are they likely? Hardly? Will there be some pockets of life or habitable places on earth after humans have made most of the earth uninhabitable. Probably.

      Please do not offend me again by calling me “extreme” or an “outlier.” I’ve heard that all my life from both lily-livered liberals and screaming right-wingers. Every time we decide what “normal” is, something kicks us in the ass to redefine “normal” as being what we had rigidly assumed was “extreme.” Let’s wait five years, and let’s see if near-term extinction is truly an “extreme” position.

      And finally, I reiterate my challenge to you to confront Guy McPherson directly with your complexity position. If you have the expertise to criticize him elsewhere, you certainly have the expertise to do so straightforwardly. You’re not the guy to do so? Oh James, you are PRECISELY the guy to do so.

  • James R. Martin

    “Please do not offend me again by calling me “extreme” or an “outlier.” I’ve heard that all my life from both lily-livered liberals and screaming right-wingers. Every time we decide what “normal” is, something kicks us in the ass to redefine “normal” as being what we had rigidly assumed was “extreme.””


    My intent was hardly to be offensive to you. What I said was meant informationally and contextually. And what I said is also factual, as a matter of statistical observation. Almost every climate scientist on Earth, and most others who are very well versed in the relavant climate science, say that it’s too soon to conclude that current atmospheric GHG must necessarily result in runaway climate change leading to 2, 3, 4, 6, and ultimate 8 degrees of global average surface temperatures since before industrialism.

    These scientists are basically BEGGING us to take this matter seriuosly as a planetary emergency to which we can and should respond — by changing how we live, basically.

    As for the other ecological issues you mentioned, I’ve devoted my entire life to prolonged and protracted study of human ecology, which is an interdisciplinary study of ecosytems, sociology, psychology, history, economics and so on…, with each of these informing all of the others. I’m aware of the fact that we’re pushing ecosystems everywhere, and the biosphere as a whole, toward the brink of mass extinction. I’m aware of most of the more serious symptoms of our failure to respond appropriately, including those you mentioned.

    But I’m not about to give up — not now, when the need to engage with informed optimism (rather than niave optimism) is so great and urgent.

    I want to live just as you say you’re living, or trying to — with a depth of experiential awareness of the sacredness and preciousness of each moment, being, thing…. I thank you for yours, and for the encouragement. It’s a beautiful thing.

    And the pain you speak of I now in every cell, bone and muscle. But mine is not yet the pain of Hospice Earth. Maybe it will become such? I don’t know. But there is only one way I can live now and that is with a commitment to help us shift the culture off the current ecocidal course. It’s what I’ve prepared to do all of my life. It’s what I work at each day. It’s all I know how to do in response to the situation.

    Please don’t think I meant to be offensive. It’s just that I can only sing the song I have in my heart. I can’t sing your song. I can’t sing McPherson’s. I can’t sing any song other than my own if I am to be authentic. I hope my authenticity is a gift to others. But I must live it, anyway, whether it is appreicated or not.

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