Adams, Carol (ed) 1993 Ecofeminism and the Sacred,
Continuum Publishing Company, New York. ISBN 0-8264-0586-X
NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is, without question, essential reading material.
Talk about the Weather: The Greening
of Eschatology - Catherine Keller
Women Against Wasting the World Catherine Keller
Talk about the Weather: The Greening of Eschatology - Catherine Keller
Catherine Keller, author of From a Broken Web. Separation Sexism; and the Self, teaches feminist theory and constructive theology in the Graduate and Theological Schools of Drew University. She is completing work on Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Approach to the End of the World
You know how to interpret the appearance of earth
but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, "the end of the world?" A premillennialist horror fantasy of final tribulation, complete with planes crashing as born again pilots join the rapture of the true Christians? The final heat death of the universe? The smoke and fire of nuclear war, and endless winter afterwards?
Let me guess that as the nineties count down to the millennium, the rhetoric of "the end of the world" stimulates for most white middle-class North Americans, male or female, anxious ecological associations. Apocalypse is getting colored green. "Increasingly, apocalyptic fears about widespread droughts and melting ice-caps have displaced the nuclear threat as the dominant feared meteorological disaster," notes Andrew Ross in his aptly titled Strange Weather (1991). Consider what it means that-among the religious and the irreligious alike-phrases like "the destruction of the earth" or "save the planet" have within a few years become commonplace. But if apocalypticisms have become casual, so has the casual become apocalyptic. You exchange pleasantries with a stranger and find a casual allusion to the weather-for instance when it is unseasonably warm, or cold, or when the weather weirdly bounces-rudely insinuating the end of the world. The foreboding feeling of irretrievable and unforeseeable damage reverberates in the brief silences, as we nod and shake our heads, break eye contact, change the topic. Talk about weather has lost its innocence. Such a loss poses a social crisis for human discourse. How but through the weather do we move beyond the formalities? What other topic everywhere and always connects us, whoever we are, whether we are strangers thrown together for a few moments or partners rising from the same bed? The great inclusive "it" of "it's looking like rain," "it's gorgeous," has always bound us, with accompanying sighs, groans, and grimaces. It embeds our relations to each other in nature-that materiality which is shared, no matter what, across every arbitrary human division. In the commonplace medium of the weather we encounter the ever mobile face of the creation here and now. This encounter, and the eschatological threat to human meaning posed by its material devastation, places the present theological enquiry within the realm of daily experience. What weather talk means differs quite precisely according to our cultural as well as geographic location. Thus elite Western cultures tend to scorn weathertalk as banal. This superiority to small talk about the weather symptomatizes a kind of relationship to the planetary condition. Thus it is important to ask who benefits from a relationship of distance from the rest of creation. Who profits from the so-called transcendence of nature? However piously couched in the language of higher, eternal and invisible preoccupations, such transcendence correlates nicely with western technological practices. Freedom from nature implies, for instance, freedom from the vicissitudes of weather. It therefore facilitates practices of control of the environment and the exploitation of the earth's energies to sustain artificial environments with homogenized, centralized, steady, comfortable weather. Who can better afford to experience nature" as banal, exterior, outside of immediate importance than those urban elites who seem to have severed the immediate bonds of dependency upon weather conditions? But have they not therefore also forfeited the subtle shifting consciousness of our connections to all the earth creatures who share the dependency? This means most of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Nonetheless, even in the banality of our clipped connections, we talk about the weather. We are somehow still at home together in it. The weather is at once a metaphor for the ecological crisis in which the planet finds itself, and its most inescapable symptom. The weather, like "nature," has readily been woman-identified-alternately enchanting and frightening, nurturing and withholding, rhythmic and capricious, moody and unstable, subject to the modem and "manly" sciences of meteorology, climate control, and other modes of social management. Talk about the weather therefore becomes ecofeminist discourse. Theologically, because it is about the end of the world as we know it, it falls under the heading of eschatology talk about end things. More precisely, I am situating it within the theological topic of "apocalyptic eschatology." It revolves around "apocalypse" meaning disclosure or revelation; around "eschatology" meaning discourse about the ultimate or the end; and around "end" coming from the Greek eschatos for a temporal or spatial end, edge or horizon. This essay considers the link between ecology and eschatology. Apocalypse is a type of eschatology. The ecological trauma apocalyptically encoded in the weather may clue us into our eschatological missions, as theological practitioner -our missions not to a life after life but to life itself. Eschatology is discourse about the collective encounter at the edge of space and time, where and when the life of the creation has its chance at renewal.
It was the change in weather patterns that inspired Bill McKibben to title his work on the ecological crisis The End of Nature. The book displayed on its black cover an image of the earth ringed by a fiery haze-as though the planet is on fire. The publisher chose to inflame the ecologically endearing photo of our common home with apocalypse. Though the biblical "apocalypse" does not (contrary to popular usage) necessarily imply the "end of the world," any imagery of "the end of . . ." certainly taps the fantasy of apocalypse. It is not necessary to suggest some sort of absolute annihilation of all planetary life in order to imagine the destruction of this world, this fragile, resilient interplay of human culture and the rest of creation. Apocalypse, the edgiest of eschatologies, always reveals the threat to a particular world. In what sense does McKibben's text develop an apocalyptic discourse? Referring to what scientists call the "large-scale geophysical experiment" entailed by the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, he makes his interpretive move, saying, "While there are other parts to this story-the depletion of the ozone, acid rain, genetic engineering-the story of the end of nature really begins with that greenhouse experiment, with what will happen to the weather" (McKibben, 10). Why? Mainly because the changing of the atmosphere and the subsequent warming, changes everything. These changes will be on an unprecedented scale. The chain reactions of heat, drought, rising ocean levels, catastrophic storm systems, mass species extinctions remain in a certain sense incalculable. Yet the signs of the nine are already manifest. Jesus had seemed to scold his questioners for reading weather indicators but not the signs of the time-of the end of the age. The current configuration seems to require both readings at once-the signs of the times are written in the sky. Moreover, Jesus, in classic eschatological form, also grasped at women's experience to find hope amidst the prospect of greater doom, likening tribulations to a woman's travail: "all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs" (Mt. 24:8). McKibben inadvertently draws upon the same metaphor. "To declare, as some editorialists have done, that the seaming has not yet appeared and therefore the theory is wrong is like arguing that a woman hasn't yet given birth and therefore isn't pregnant" (McKibben, 29). While certainly not intending to design an eschatology, McKibben uses his apocalyptic language with precision. For him, "the end of nature" does not mean "the end of the world" -for there will still be rain and snow, summer and winter, if not the "same" rain and snow, summer and winter. He means the end of that to which the idea of nature refers. He understands that idea as our sense of nature as eternal and separate," in some fundamental way independent of our influence, autonomous and powerfully over and against us. McKibben's definition of nature is not without serious problems for the present argument, as we shall see. But it has disclosive power. Once the atmosphere is changed, nothing is "untouched." (Loss of innocence indeed!) For instance, summer is going extinct, replaced by something else that win be called 'summer.' This new summer will retain some of its relative characteristics-it will be hotter than the rest of the year, for instance, and the time of year when crops grow-but it will not be summer, just as even the best prosthesis is not a leg." In other words, human culture now determines haphazardly, recklessly, but effectively-the course of everything "natural." There is no mountain peak where the wind blows or a stream flows uninfluenced by human input. "By changing the weather, we make every spot on earth man-made [sic] and artificial. We have deprived nature of its independence, and that is fatal to its meaning." In other words the problem of ecological destruction is not just a global rat's nest of gruesome facts. It is at the same time a problem of meaning. Christian theology trucks in nothing if not meaning questions. McKibben's view of nature has tremendous implications for any theological attention to the future of creation, that is, to eschatology (See Moltmann 1979). The end of nature's analysis stands as a prophetic, properly apocalyptic text, representative of an entire genre of ecological discourses. Like the Book of Revelation, it involves a certain determinism. Sin, corruption, and exploitation have wreaked irreversible evil, and human effort cannot return the earth to any pristine Edenic conditions; yet they also sound the conditional doom which calls, rather dubiously, for conversion. Its hope of course is not for a miraculous new heaven and earth, but for change enough, and soon enough that the changes of sky and earth already in process can be minimized and their effects handled with maximum decency (which would be something of a miracle anyway). The best to be hoped for is a kind of well managed planetary park. In this sense the vision resonates sadly to the artiflciality of the vision of John of Patmos rather more than to the eschatological hope of the classical prophets, who did not quite envision universal doom as the precondition of renewal. The New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse has no sea, no natural sun, and little geography beyond a lush architectural miracle through which supernatural rivers lined by unnaturally fecund trees offer nourishment to all. John of Patmos of course does not, like McKibben, lament the prospective loss of "nature" but rather celebrates the artifice of God. Back to the weather. Theologically it is crucial to distinguish between man-made eves, sic) and God-made conditions. Nature itself consists of spontaneous vitalities which cannot according to orthodoxy, as well as to process theology be read as simple mirrors of divine will. But nature at the end of the twentieth century, as McKibben has so cogently argued, can only be understood as a product of human agency. Thus its destructiveness cannot be understood as judgment but rather as that for which we will be judged. But the punishment seems to be with a terrifying indifference to individual human agents already contained in the sin. As I first considered these connections, Bangladesh was suffering the hideous aftermath of a calamitous storm. The poverty which causes the population to mount uncontrollably and to crowd the coastal areas worked in tandem with apparently "natural" disaster in this case. The 1990 State of the World foresaw just such a disastrous storm surge, not as natural at all, but as an effect of the rising planetary heat, which is so ominously accompanied by rising oceans. The higher the sea level, the more catastrophic the storms. Recalling the worst storm of the century, which hit Bangladesh in 1970, the author wrote that "as the region's population mounts, so does the potential for another disaster" (Brown 1990). Human injustice here shows a cosmic face set especially toward poorer southern nations which are most vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by the industrial north's greenhouse gases -and least able to do anything to stop it. Some islands will simply disappear by the turn of the next century at present rates. Low-lying coastal ecological systems, of which Bangladesh tops the list as an example, will suffer ever more apocalyptic weather. The very notion of a "natural disaster," like what the insurance companies designate "act of God," may soon sound like nostalgia for a lost universe, where innocent humans heroically stood their ground against cosmic caprice, finding solace in some sense of a divine controlling providence behind the assaults of wild weather or wild beasts. Ecological analysis displays a morass of "man-made" factors vastly exacerbating any so-called "acts of God." Indeed it reveals-apokalypsis-the interstructured density of oppressions for which North American political theology at the end of the millennium senses its accountability. The intertangling strands of the so-called "issues" begin to stretch out into their own eschatological horizon. The mix of obstacles to the goal which the World Council of Churches has dubbed "justice, peace, and the integrity of creation" creates a formidable threat of doom. But at the same time the growing consciousness of the deadly mixture of economics, race, gender, nationality and religion creates a true apokaIypsis, or revelation. It discloses the just demand for a radically inclusive horizon of practice. This revelatory moment renders the best contemporary prophecy horizontal -attentive to the perspective within which we live and relate to the rest of creation. It also draws it horizontal-the divine is encountered in our relations to each other and the other creatures upon the earth rather than in sheerly vertical moments of transcendence. Nowhere is the density of the tangle more clearly manifest than in the planetary ecological crisis. After all, ecology is the discipline of interrelatedness par excellence, and in its increasing exchange with the varieties of social analysis, begins to contribute to a richly textured social ecology. Thus at the same time that the crisis of non-human communities requires prophetic human attention, the human communities traditionally understood in terms of oppression can no longer abstract their historical issues from the bio-regions in which they seek to survive. But also our own human relations of domination or of solidarity gain illumination from the ecological model. From the perspective of an earth-bound eschatology, there may be no more disclosive field right now than that generated by the intersections of the "issues."
Sexism is just one such vantage point for observing the ecological intersections of both modes of oppression and modes of solidarity. It remains the privileged issue for ecofeminism, that is, its entry point into analysis of the multiple oppressions. The "man" of the "man-made apocalypse" does not implicate all males of our species any more than it exonerates all women. However, it does allow us to discern that gender imbalance may lie at the heart of the ecological imbalance. Take, for instance, the rising global population rate, a catastrophic trend variously underplayed both by right wing anti-abortionists and feminists combating the misogyny implied by monofocal emphasis on population (often encouraging female infanticide and forced sterilization). It brings the gender dimension of ecological 'cn'sis into focus. For poverty and population growth are positively correlated with each other and inversely proportional to women's status. The way to an enlightened population policy is clear:
[S]tudies on every continent show that as female literacy rates rise so do income levels, nutrition levels, and child survival rates; at the same time, population growth slows, as women gain the self-confidence to assert control over their bodies. (Brown 149)
The bodily self-confidence of women flows directly and eschatologically against the currents of the artificial apocalypse. The "end of nature," which poses threats to all bodies-but to some much sooner and more than others-seems to be the product of the same world view which has subordinated all women to men and most men to a few pale and privileged ones. So environmental racism and the police state policies here and abroad which enforce it enter the picture as well.' Like a shadow-side of our unacknowledged web of connections, the tangle of "isms" underlying the ecological crisis twists endlessly round the planet. It stirs up strange weather. My point is not to enumerate them here but to point to the horizon of assumptions by which they enclose our vision-and open it up radically when exposed. Apocalypse means literally "to unveil." In exposing and disclosing, it leaves no hiding place. The text in Revelation 6:12 ff, mocks the very effort to hide, when, at the opening of the sixth seal, "the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich..." call to the mountains, "Fall on us and hide us ..." That seems to be our situation, when even weather patterns threaten the future life of human civilization. In North America, we normally think of cozily hiding in our houses from bad weather. But the ecological vision reveals, in a less mythological sense than apocalypse, that there is no home to hide from the weather in. The home of the human species is the planet. The ravaged air and water and earth are the elements in which we move and live and have our being. We can't keep the weather out. There is no "out." Ecology-etymologically it means "talk about home"-has become talk about the planetary home of homes, the ultimate "habitat for humanity." It has developed as a discourse only because there is no longer any notion of home, like weather, which can be taken for granted. The weather itself poses the need to talk about the rapid deterioration of the home-spaces, deterioration to the point that without radical and rapid renovation, our terrestrial habitat will soon be uninhabitable to most of us except the rich, the armed, and the insect. Talk about home merges with talk about the end of the world-the ultimate case of homelessness. Apocalyptic eschatology, which entertains the vision of the imminent collapse of the world (the sum of nature and civilization), appears at moments irresistible. 'This is both mythically appropriate and historically dangerous. And precisely therefore must those who practice spiritualities of justice within Christian contexts consider the theological force field of the weather and other ecological traumas. This means doing our apocalyptic "home-work."
But, after all, what about eschatology? Can Christian talk about ultimacy help to inspire the needed clean-up? Or do eschatological beliefs about our ultimate home only mess things up worse on earth? Eschatology, I have suggested, is the doctrinal lens through which Christian culture, consciously or not, imagines any "end of the world." Yet since eschaton does not simply refer to a final temporal end, but alludes at the same time to the spatial image of an end, an edge, so the moving, and therefore endless, spatial horizon of the earth presents itself both as metaphor and as content of any adequate eschatology. The edge of life takes on the charge of an ultimate encounter, a kind of discourse that takes place and takes time at the edge of wherever we as a people are. Because the very notion of the end of the world has been distorted by the modem capacity to bring that end about-that is, to effect a man-made apocalypse the meaning of eschatology must also be fundamentally renegotiated. Unless it can meaningfully and effectively address the green apocalypse, Christian theology becomes a trivial pursuit at the end of the second millennium Let me then suggest the following criterion: a responsible Christian eschatology would be an ecologically sound eschatology, one that motivates work to save our planet. It quite simply must be good for the earth, and must inspire and challenge the caretaking, biblically referred to as stewardship, to which we, the human component of creation, are called. For we find ourselves at the edge of history, where history threatens to consume nature and therefore itself. We can entertain the prospective of a retrospective judgment upon human stewardship by extrapolating statistical trends as well as by mythology final judgement. Responsible theology recycles its own resources. Therefore, rather than seeking to junk the doctrine, a sound theology requires an earth-bound eschatology But is this reconstruction of eschatology possible? Or is it another case of liberal Christian wishful thinking? Does not Christian eschatology gather under its wings precisely that array of doctrinal symbolics which have drawn interest away from the earth, from natural conditions, from finitude and flesh? Has Christian reflection on the ultimate destiny of redeemed humanity sucked the best of life toward a heaven which only deathless and fleshless souls are fit to inhabit? Sometimes eschatology has retained the biblical imagery of the resurrected body as the inhabitant of the new creation, attempting to emphasize that wholeness becomes incarnate. Early theologians such as Tertullian argued hard on behalf of the goodness of the material creation against the flesh-despising "heretics," in order to affirm the bodiliness of the resurrection not just of Jesus but of all humans. Yet this spiritual body has been conceived as free of natural limits and geographical ecologies, hence perhaps again-tragically feeding the Christian tendency to substitute supernature for nature. One can argue that this addiction to the unnatural is unbiblical, that Hebrew scripture and much early Christian thought is far earthier than its Hellenized later theologies. But are not the biblical roots of Western civilization themselves ecologically ambiguous, casting stewardship in terms of dominion? Lynn White's classic essay, less dismissive of Christianity than the defenses from Christian apologists would suggest, first got this case a wide hearing (White 1967). He claims that the environmental crisis has roots in Judeo-Christian attitudes toward nature as placed under human dominion. Dominion means in its original context, quite precisely, domination and subjugation. Human subjugation of the other creatures thus mirrors the creator's controlling power over creation. Will such a doctrine of creation inevitably justify human irresponsibility precisely in the name of responsibility, as it does now in the hands of anti-environmental lobbyists? If so, then it always finally necessitates a "new creation" by the same omnipotent Creator. Is the biblical understanding of history as moving toward the "new thing" which God will do already problematic? Does it indirectly teach us to undervalue the present tense of the earth and its cycles of renewal-never forgetting their pagan associations? Does it thus prepare the way for the throw-away culture in which we live from one "new thing" to the next? With the apocalyptic emphasis upon the new heaven and earth, this new creation comes about by the supernatural intervention of the omnipotent God. Is not the new earth, with its new Jerusalem, so incomparably more perfect than the first creation as to make this one out to be a crummy little earth ball? In other words, when Christian hope basks in such resplendent supernatural futures, why would it worry much about mere nature? Indeed, serious concern with the natural world, like too much occupation with one's own bodily processes, indicates within this framework a lack of faith. There are many varieties of what we may call the unearthly eschatology. At their best they sin by omission-by draining energy away from our earth-home, living life in orientation toward a many-mansioned heavenly home. But at a certain point, the indifference toward nature implied in traditional eschatology becomes lethal. That is, its distraction from the earth complies with the destruction of the earth. This need not be so bald as Reagan's infamous appointment to the Environmental Protection Agency of James Watts, a Mormon who used dominion language couched within the premillennialist apocalypse of the imminent end of the world to justify the rapid exploitation of all planetary resources. It also plays itself out in continual casual references to right to use, now called 'wise use," (that is, to "use up" the rest of the creation, because of "mankind's" privilege at the apex of the created universe. The strange failure to develop practices of sustainable use within a culture in which Christian eschatology has shaped our view of the future is, accordingly, not so strange. For there is no need for endlessly renewable resources if the earth is not an endless proposition. The end is in sight. Sooner or later, but within the foreseeable future, God will create a new heaven and earth. Thus it so happens that the neo-fundamentalist fantasy of the rapture out of this world, just as the going gets bad, followed by a supematural new creation, claimed such public power in the eighties. This was precisely the time of the most profligate development of the throw-away consumer culture.
Has a set of apocalyptic codes-more subliminal than intentional-embedded itself deep in the subtext of westem culture? If so, is it altogether surprising that the doomsday text of apocalyptic mythology can function as self fulfilling prophecy, realizing itself with all the techno-power of late modem literalism? The disregard of the creation seems to be endemic to the culture which has called itself Christian. In other words, the assumption of the imminent end of the world, however indefinitely deferred, may be the ultimate self-prophecy. But why this temptation to flee the earth, whether in a rapture that awaits the supernatural new creation, or in an afterlife expectancy which always for orthodoxy suggests the final resurrection of the dead at the end of history? Why has faith for most Christians through most of our history come down simply to hope for an after-life, not for life? How did Christian fantasy get addicted to visions of heaven and hell, sucking the meaning out of our lives as earthlings? How did popular religion come to mean so little more than this-be good enough in your private life so that you can get your personal reward at the end of your life? How did eschatology come to function as the great magnet of future reward, sucking all embodied life toward a fantasmagoric future, melting the earth and all its delicate, voluptuous, daunting, dynamic ecologies into nothing but material means to immortal ends? The Marxist answer, that religion has provided the opiate for the people, now appears as quaint as the Soviet army belt buckles and other Second World memorabilia on sale at tourist shops throughout Europe. Materialism, even the apocalyptic-prophetic materialism of the socialist vision, has overreacted against other-worldliness and thus done violence at once to spirit and to the nuances of its matter. It has totalized the worst anthropocentrism and technological utopianism of modernity. Yet it does address the power of an addictive vision to distract from the real needs of human bodies and spirits. It bears witness to the suffering which religion has tried, however pathologically, to address. To decry this flight from the earth as western, indeed, as patriarchal dualism (which includes the Matt vision), may come close to the truth but remains too foggy. The habit of transcendence upwards, boredom and alienation in relation to nature seems to be a symptom of systemic suffering, of fissures within the self and its community, from which selves can find no earthly relief. But viewed from the vantage point of late North American modernity, we cannot but be suspicious that the construction of salvation as supernatural has helped to cause the very destruction of nature from which the earth now needs saving. When salvation means removal from the earth to a heavenly home, then our oikos is abandoned to the assaults of those whose ultimate concern is neither heaven nor the earth, but the power and wealth of their particular households. These households, however, drain heaven and earth of what used to be called their "glory" and that of their creator-their energy, their beauty, their disclosiveness. This makes for lousy weather.
Before we can decide to what extent Christian eschatology may share in the culpability for the present eco-apocalypse, and to what extent it may redemptively address the crisis, we need to understand better the crisis itself. What kind of late modem secularized "eschatologies" are at work in the structures which facilitate eco-apocalypse? What sense of home? A recent cover of Life magazine (May 1992) featured in bold display type "OUR NEXT HOME." Beneath it floated in cosmic black the photograph of a planet which at first glance could be the earth. But the caption read "MARS: Bringing a dead world to life." NASA's "young Turks" are pushing a project called "the terraformation of Mars," the greening of the red planet. "It's ridiculous to go all the way to Mars just to plant the flag, grab a few rocks and come home," biophysicist Robert Haynes is quoted as saying. "Humanity needs a new vision, a new challenge, not a cosmic park. Mars could provide that challenge." Rather than construing problems like the present perils to our own planet to be worthy challenges, the argument cuts in the opposite direction: precisely in the fight of ecological and nuclear threat, the chief of research for NASA!s life sciences branch opines that "it is foolish to put all our eggs in one basket. It would be wise to look for a place other than Earth where this species could make a home. It would be wise to learn how to terraform Mars." This flagrantly secular vision of the new "man-made" creation, the "new heaven and earth" has metastasized as the new earth in the heavens. Earth, no longer worthy of the manly imagination, is disdained as a mere "basket" in which we may or may not invest all of "our eggs" (truly far from Jesus' mother hen apocalypse of Matthew 23:37ff., which does not boldly stride towards new worlds but rather laments the self-destructiveness of this one). Why clean up our home when we can make a new one? Here we have an ultra-modernist technological utopianism at work, willing to accept apocalyptic consequences for the earth while transferring traditional American optimism about progress into the heavens. It carries early modem colonialist millennialism of the new world literally beyond all horizons. Indeed it frees itself from limits precisely by its exultant idolatry-an idolatry which proclaims the next giant step for mankind. Life's writer blandly notes, with no criticism intended, that the new challenge is "to re-create Creation-to play God." This utopianism exemplifies what we may call the eschatology of progress, an apocalypse without judgment, an apocalypse, therefore, that blithely furthers the green apocalypse. Even without Martian visions, various modes of this irresponsible futurism thrive in the technocratic hopes of an ever unrepentant modernism. But the fantasy of the terraformation of Mars offers itself as a metaphor and a caricature of the colonizing optimism of modemity. The degree to which the modem technological utopianism has begun to give up on the earth itself. Indeed it suggests the desperate level of failure and of denial encoded in this eschatology.
More common among the range of modernist eschatologies is the well-organized and well-funded "wise use" movement, the free enterprise attack on environmentalism. Again the terms are unavoidably theological. But here they are pointedly anti-utopian, as the following article from Forbes demonstrates (Nelson 1990). This is because the right wing now identifies various progressive movements (not technologism) as the utopians to contend with. Nelson is appalled at such environmentalist rhetoric as the notion that "humanity is the destroyer of the earth." He lambastes one such ecologist as follows: "[he] doesn't want to settle for cleaner air; he wants to roll back man's conquest of nature. Indeed, Forbes goes on to identify "eco-theology" with the "quasi-religious fervor" of the "new gospel of ecology," analysing both Judeo-Christian and pantheist modes of environmental religion as irrational fanaticisms, which he sees as heretical divergences from the interests of late capitalism. His coup de grace comes in his revelation that dialectical materialists in search of a new cause are joining the ecological crusade:
Environmental theology, like Marxist theology, teaches that human greed and exploitation have infected the world with sin, yielding a condition of human alienation. Both are fundamentally utopian expressions of the desire for heaven on earth.
Indeed the argument seems well prepared to characterize any prophetic analysis of structural sin as Marxist and utopian. The capitalist altemative, interestingly, gets justified in Christian terms -the starkly anti-apocalyptic eschatology of Aquinas "and other medieval scholastics" is vaguely alluded to as the basis for the market theory. The Forbes article goes on to say that
As against this fanatical religiosity, there fortunately exists in Western theology a pragmatic tradition that regards the pursuit of self-interest, the maintenance of property rights, the desire for the good life and the institutions of the marketplace as the best available accommodation to the facts of human nature. Heaven will not be realized on earth for at least some time to come. . . .
Indeed the Angelic Doctor did stand with orthodoxy against the radical apocalyptic movements of his day, like the radical Franciscans. These groups, inspired by a new wave of apocalyptic new age prophecy, rejected private property as sub-Christian. But this pro-capitalist Aquinas is about as historically accurate as portrayals of Jesus in a business suit. So we have here examined two varieties of secular eschatology, the first utopian-apocalyptic in its willingness to give up on the earth and expect a new one; the second realist-triumphalist in its business as usual attitude and its vested interest in the endless "delay of the parousia." The first sees a need to "boost morale" in North America-in the light of the apocalyptic levels of destruction, no doubt -by proposing a highly unrealistic and heavenly vision of hope. The latter, which represents more or less the status quo of economic thinking in North America, construes not the destruction of the ecology but those who warn of its destruction as the problem. The apocalypse it opposes is not that of the NASA scientists -this project, if it stimulated the GNP, might well appeal. Rather, it pits itself against the sort of secular apocalypticism which stems from the Hebrew prophetic tradition of the denunciation of sinful exploitation. To this it juxtaposes its free market "realism", which accommodates "the facts of human nature," by which are meant no doubt precisely the self-interest the prophets have traditionally felt themselves called to denounce. Indeed this free market triumphalism pronounces its own pragmatism environmentally more sound, because the environmentalist visionaries will "one day create a backlash." Note that each of these bastardized eschatologies relies on the imagery of "man's' conquest of nature," either in the colonization of Mars or the Earth, to stimulate the proper attitude. The first gleams with its visionary futurism, the second holds doggedly to the status quo, but both aggressively ignore the real apocalypse, the one pointed to by McKibben's burning earth. Each of them acquiesces in the present levels of terrestrial deterioration as inevitable by-product of "progress." Indeed, it is progress defined as the unimpeded, indeed accelerating, "conquest" of terrestrial and extraterrestrial nature that must yield the solutions to present problems. That, at any rate, is the basis of the modernist faith in technology, growth and the market .2 There are, as we shall see in the concluding section, premodern, theistic antecedents for the eschatologies of utopia and of the status quo. But a peculiar "thrust" toward independence from the materialized "Nature" (helped by the male God) and then from God himself (revolt of the sons from the Father) characterizes the process of secularization by which modernity shapes its futures. Despite some begrudging steps toward ecological globalism, the project of Western modernity still thrives on dominance of and independence from the physical world, then, rather than creative cooperation among its interdependent members.
Let us then agree: the cause of the ecological crisis is precisely " 'man's' conquest of nature." AU that is not of the God-identified pale male ruling class gets situated in "nature," or as "more natural." Such more natural beings-women, darker persons, and animals-are, naturally, suited to perform the alienated physical labor by which raw "nature" is cooked, both by production and reproduction, into "culture." Feminist commentators have not missed the implications of "'man's' conquest of nature." Ecofeminists takes their rise from our analysis of the parallelism of the subjugation of women and nature. Whether the feminist strategy is to celebrate or to dispute women's so-called closeness to nature, any feminism will acknowledge that the fates of women and of nature have lain on the same side of the cultural dualism which pits an alienated mind against its own matter. Analysis of this dualism provides a key to the interstructured oppressions constituting the momentum of the man-made apocalypse. Gender dualism rehearses at the most intimate level of relation to one's own body and relation to the closest other body a foundational practice of disconnection. " 'Man's' conquest of nature" begins at home. The oikos of intimate violence seems to provide an inner landscape of apocalypse. Private and yet becoming, in its revelation, startlingly public, the ecology of abuse discloses the lie by which the illusion of separateness is maintained. Within the matrix of interdependent life, abuse seems to control the flesh and the spirit of that upon which the controller is unconsciously dependent. The outer landscape of an abused planet discloses the cosmic results. An attitude of disconnection of the subject from an object allows the subject to subject the object, that is, to make it into a mere means for the subject's end. Subjection of nature and nature-identified beings to man's' ends" drives the mainstream eschatology of Western civilization. The sorry paradox revealing itself to us at the end of our millennium is this to make nature a means to anthropo/androcentric ends is to realize "the end of nature." The end of nature as an idea, the end of "nature" defined as something separate and independent of us? No. Here McKibben's diagnosis becomes itself symptomatic of the problem. The conceptualization of nature as independent of us humans is the flip side of our quest for independence from nature-an independence pursued with the aggression of the preoedipal son seeking his freedom from mom. To construe our right relation to nature as one of transcendence is to reconvene the project of modernity. Nostalgia for nature's independence from us is the mirror reversal of the scientific project of independence from nature-both reflect the same presupposition. The presupposition of ontological independence, far from guaranteeing respect for radical difference, carries with it the dualist substructure of all modernism. It suggests first of all that nature is something that we are not. The difference of the human as subject from nature as object is protected, indeed barricaded, by an ontology of separation. In the modem dualist sensibility which seems to begin philosophically with Descartes one senses the character of a male defense against threat, indeed fear of a feminized nature, of chaos, of finitude and uncertainty. Susan Bordo has called this Cartesian anxiety a "postparturition crisis." It sets in as the more organic medieval (indeed, Thomist) relation to nature fades. One may argue that all ideology of separation and independence is maintained as a defense against difference and violently simplifies the character of freedom in relation-and that such ideology orders the thought-patterns of patriarchy. (I argued this in my book From a Broken Web.) McKibben's focus on wilderness and mountain peaks rings at moments precariously masculinist, suggesting the sportsman's conquest of the peaks, the elite adventurer's escape upwards from mundane, homebound, traditionally feminine, concerns. We are again in the grips of a late modem apocalypticism-his end of nature is the end of the modem view of nature. A self-healing respect for nonhuman nature win not be to return to a view of its separateness. That is what allowed us to wreck its weather in the first place. Rather it means allowing all kinds of earthlings winged, homed, creepy and crawly, two-legged and four-legged, dark and Hght, female and male -the space and time they require to be who they are. But human earthlings will not grant such permission without restoration of ourselves-ourselves in the light of our interdependence with all the creatures who together with us are "the creation." Such reconstruction is not a matter of nostalgia for the way the weather used to be, for seasonal rhythms and climatological stabilities which may be changing now forever. Not that grief for the lost innocence of weather might not offer an apt starting place. But-finally and first of all-the human sense of what satisfies, the human sense of ultimacy, requires what Rosemary Ruether called "the conversion to the earth" (See Ruether, 1983; and Ruether in Thistlethwaite, 1990, 111-24). That is, the metanoia will only be large enough to make a difference if it redeems our sense of shared human purpose and future: our eschaton. It will only be powerful enough to save the time and space in which that future can unfold if our work on collective structures taps the energy at once of judgment and of hope. So eschatology itself needs reconstructing, if it is not to sabotage its own work.
What would such a reconstruction of eschatology be like? Earlier we wondered if any such redemption of eschatoloy is worth the effort. Is eschatology itself hopelessly addicted to the end of nature? Can there be a greening of Christian theology? If so, a new kind of theological self-understanding, one with a method expressive of its content, must develop. We need a theological practice of recycling. It will issue from a kind of ecology of discourse. Discerning the toxins at work in Christianity and its cultures allows us, or rather requires us, to break down the elements of the Christian hope, to cleanse them where possible of their own patriarchal poisons and late modem capitalist deteriorations. An ecology of discourse requires the recycling of the elements of what we are -as persons grown in a culture replete with Christian influences, however disconnected these influences may be from their healthier contexts and communities of origin. Those of us somehow called or situated to recycle the Christian theological heritage must understand this work and have it understood as a needful and radical contribution to our relevant subcultures, not as some Sunday School nostalgia. The biblical array of eschata present a complex picture incapable of homogenization (despite the attempts of modem fundamentalists designing those complex charts of the seven dispensations of creation to reconcile the different biblical accounts). But one thing is clear: there is no biblical reference to "the end of the world." Rather, one reads of anticipating a day of judgment and of a subsequent renewal of the entire creation. That is, the prophetic tradition focuses the uniquely biblical passion for the "new," the future. Its futurity feeds upon that rage at systemic injustice and hope for a repentance of the people that will allow the restoration of wholeness. This wholeness does not look supernatural. Rather it expresses shalom in intensely natural and historical terms. Hope in the Hebrew scriptures is not for life without death but for a long, full life, lived under the shade of one's own vine and in the fullness of a community healed of the alienation of nature and culture (the lion and the lamb cohabiting, the little child leading ... ). In a way not unlike that of Native Americans today, the prophetic vision harkened back to a tribal sense of "the land," imagined as new Israel, new heaven and earth, new Jerusalem. In their incipience, this imagery has little unearthly about it (and hence it was often deemed too materialistic by later, especially 19th century, Christian interpreters, who preferred eschatologies of the next world.) Yet the Hebrew images of home, dreamed in exile, became frantic when the homecoming itself disappoints. Then it is that apocalyptic eschatology begins to emerge, bringing with it a desperate, totalizing hope, a new sort of hope, for a once-for-all supernatural action of punishment and restitution (See Hanson 1975). But still the call for the conversion of the people resounds, and still the hope does not leave the earth except to find the agent powerful enough to create the desired new heaven and earth. It is still a hope for the radical reformation of life on earth, a hope for a home that can be lovingly and equitably cohabited by all creatures. What about the eschatology of Jesus? Surely the basileia tou theou provides fresh imagery for the already ancient expectation of the new Jerusalem. His reliance on the form of the parable-replete with ecological imagery of seeds and growth-provokes a process that is neither merely individual nor merely political, neither merely realized nor merely futurist, a process of mutual engagement quietly unfurling to include all time and space in its celebration. The Pauline notion of the new creation transfers this tension into a christocentric messianism of which of course Jesus himself was incapable. In both Jesus and Paul there is an occasional recourse to the apocalyptic anticipation of utter annihilation, which in Jesus means the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem Temple (the center of the Jewish world) and in Paul even extends to include the cosmos.
Only in the Book of Revelation do we find a full-blown New Testament apocalyptic narrative. Here there linger few traces of the subtlety and gradualism of the parables of the divine commonwealth, nor of the traditional prophetic trust in the power of repentance to turn around impending destruction. Now fear rather than love seems to motivate fidelity, and justice is depicted not by a radically disarmed power from below, but by a cosmically armed overpower. And what of nature in the Book of Revelation? Here we have the ultimate case of bad weather. It is seen in hideous tribulations that result in the death of one third of the life of the seas, the fresh waters, the arable fields, the trees.' Yet the element of divine judgment intends "the destruction of the destroyers of the earth," not the earth itself. There is intuition here into the profound interlinkage of the economic and political injustice of Rome/Babylon and the devastation of nature. After the cosmic violence of the final solution, the New Jerusalem appears, now dressed up as "bride of the lamb." She "comes down from heaven" as an architecture of wish-fulfilment, a place of "no more tears," where food and drink are free, and where there is "no more ocean" (the salt water of tears and oceans both evoke maternal chaos and threat). Beauty manifests itself in supernal jewels rather than a regenerated ecology. Nonetheless, the imagery remains so mythic and the structure so non-linear as to leave this extremist eschatology open to endless reclamations-those of liberationists as well as reactionaries, of those whose faith works for "justice, peace and the integrity of creation" as well as for those whose faith awaits Armageddon with the assurance of those for whom nature and its history have become expendable, soon to be replaced. But however desperate, dualistic, determinist and farfetched the hope of John's Apocalypse appears, it does not in itself require an otherworldly or unearthly reading. Its New Jerusalem can be placed in the context of prophetic hope for a radical renewal of this creation. After the biblical period, especially after the conversion of Constantine in the fourth century, Christian history would never settle the tension between an explosive apocalyptic utopianism, which carried within itself the prophetic social critique, and a conservative ecclesial triumphalism. Augustine split the eschatological hope for a new age of justice and cosmic harmony within history into the "city of God" transcending nature and history and the "city of Man" within them and ending soon. Christianity as the religion of the Empire could too readily acquiesce in this static [email protected], which undermines any motivation to struggle with the institutional causes of suffering. The eschatological triumphalism of orthodoxy emerges on this basis. The city of God could not be better realized on earth than it already is in the church; true fulfilment is only attainable individual by individual in heaven. Almost a thousand years later, a new rash of apocalyptic movements, inspired by Joachim's prophecy of a "third status," an age of the free spirit about to break in, reopened history. Yet these insurrectionist movements and their anti-Augustinian view of history were by the time of Munzer definitively relegated to the far margins of history. These currents provide theistic antecedents for the self-interested modernist distortions discussed above. Belief in technological progress for the creation of heaven of earth-and failing that, earth in heaven-uses the old energy of apocalyptic hope for the qualitative leaps of real-world change. Yet it skips the step of judgment against the status quo, which, after all, it seeks merely to reinforce. Capitalist triumphalism, on the other hand, rests easily on the long Constantinian tradition of conservative realism that pits itself against any can for radical transformation of the social order. Both, precisely in their aggressively secular colonialist modalities, move to the conquest of the universe freed from the inhibitions of theistic doctrines of creation and new creation. They exploit the danger already inherent in biblical texts-the patriarchal recourse to moral dualism, to control from above, to coercive power, and to hopes for a future dissociated from present processes. Though in their secular forms they are supremely "worldly" -committed to economic self-interest and its symbiosis with political and technological prowess -they heighten the Christian tendency to take the earth for granted, indeed to disdain the claims of its multiple creatures. Let me suggest, as a speculative hypothesis, that the ever hovering Christian (if minimally biblical) expectation that history will end soon has shaped the horizons of modernity in peculiar ways. Late modem capitalism tortures time into something endless and undifferentiated like a line. Yet its actual praxis uses the creation as means to its own ends and brings about the very futurelessness it denies. Its currently climaxing passion for short term gain seems subliminally to presuppose the imminent end of the world. And through the "conquest of nature" involved in the endless stress of development and exploitation, it is bringing that end about.
Christianity cannot be held unilaterally accountable for the modem distortions of its messages. Yet it is surely not accidentally the culture whose holy book happens to culminate in a vision of the imminent devastation of the earth, the culture that has developed the technologies and politics capable of Armageddon-nuclear or greenhouse. To the extent that the expectation for the cataclysmic end, the redemption through cosmic violence, did indeed inspire apocalyptic hope, to that extent the task of theologians at the end of the millennium is to take responsibility for defusing the self-fulfilling prophecy of worldly doom. Thus the recycling of eschatology becomes precisely a means of the metanoia of theology itself returning to the earth. It is not that there can be no responsible sense of life after life and of spirit-existence; after all, most of the indigenous traditions we praise for the intimacy with their own ecological realities also entertain complex connections to ancestral and other denizens of the spirit-world. A gaiocentric eschatology need not bang the spoons of reductionism. Eschatology has been about life after death, and may find new earth-embracing ways of affirming the sustaining and renewing powers of the Spirit and the spirits of life. Still -reconstructing the Western relationship to the earth must mean nothing less than understanding the earth as our ultimate home a major come-down to all conservative and most liberal theology. Home however does not mean "end"-indeed home allows the rootedness by which we grow through endings and beginnings..Home takes on the edginess of eschatology only when it is itself threatened. Jurgen Moltmann has argued that Christian eschatology is not a matter of end but of hope (see Moltmann, 1976). We are therefore in the position of hoping against hope-against the false hopes of modernity which are destroying the nature out of which future lives. Christian attention to the promised future, the future of universal fulfilment, shalom, resurrection-certainly can and does serve, by default or direction, the ends of the " 'man'-made" apocalypse. The question is whether Christian hope can also energize work on our home or not. The ultimacy, the eschaton of eschatology designates the radically inclusive spatio-temporal edge of our existence and therefore the shared future of our earth-creaturely existence. All creatures -the all upon whom falls the rain and shines the sun, the all who share the weather: the endless species, threatened with premature endings, who together constitute both the habitats and the inhabitants of the creation. Indeed there is no creature who is not also home to many other creatures. Inhabitant is also habitat. Being at home means home. "The human is less a being on the earth or in the universe than a dimension of the earth and indeed of the universe itself' (Berry 1988, 195). The Greek word oikumene from which "ecology," "economy," and "ecumenism" stem makes oikos, home, into "the inhabited earth." This is the earth not as a geological formation but as that portion of the creation for which we have a steward's accountability, precisely not as passing outsiders but as paramount insiders. The Greek word oikonomos means "house steward." The old term "ecumenacy" added the theological dimension. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it, oddly, as "the ecclesiastical primacy or supremacy of the world." (One would expect rather "the universal primacy or supremacy of the church.") This trope invites us to understand ultimacy in terms of the primacy of the inhabited earth. Here pulses the central insight for a recycled eschatology an eco-eschatology that will not content itself with interfaith, inter-religious or multicultural exchange, but will call forth a green ecumenacy, the earthly ecclesia of all creatures. Eschatology, as a doctrine, cannot be conceived apart from the doctrine of creation. By the same token, the doctrine of creation appears as irresponsible apart from eschatology, that is, the new creation. Yet this responsibility, because it roots eschatology in the ongoing, albeit so far hideously neglected and thwarted, call of stewardship for the ecumenacy, is a matter of response to the groaning of the creation. This particular dimension of an eschatological ethic is clear. It is revealed to us, in fact, in a way that it could not have been during the biblical periods, when nature still laid claim to a certain ferocious inexhaustibility. Yet bibhcal authors display occasionally passionate sensitivity to the effects of systemic greed upon their fragile and desertifying ecology: "Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room . . ." (Is. 5:8). Hence the eschatological imperative of the jubilee year's sabbath rest of the land, correlated with the liberation of the oppressed and the interruption of the economic system. We ourselves are also in the consciousness of a prophetic minority. We are called to the work of the new creation, the renewal of creation. But this work only breeds futility if not done in and with the Spirit-which refracts in a multitude of spirits-of the creation. We cannot create or recreate this life. Our responsibility for the new creation is not to terraform planets and otherwise play God. It is to participate in our finite, interconnected creatureliness with metanoic consciousness -that is, facing up to the " 'man'-made" apocalypse, resisting the North American array of post-utopian cynicisms, pessimistic determinisms, reactionary Christian messianisms, and business-as-usual realisms. All together these spell out the omega points of culpable doom. As earth-bound Christians, we may indeed embrace a utopian realism, bound to the rhythms of earth and its indelible history, but nonetheless still "bound for the promised land" a promising place and time which is the possible healing of this one. The realistic hope for ecology today lies not in miraculous interventions, supernatural or techno-capitalist. It lies in the still-greening mass consciousness that the apocalypse is unacceptable, that its causes are analyzable, and that we the people can make a difference. Who the "people" is makes a difference as well. Perhaps the most moving case studies in eco-hope come from the far and southern reaches of the planetary ecumenacy. For instance, the grass roots Chipko movement in India, the tree-hugging women who are using Gandhian techniques to save trees from the bulldozers of development and therefore have been renewing the face of the earth by reversing erosion and desertification, for the sake of creating a sustainable village economy (Weber 1988). Similarly, an even more pointedly woman-centered movement, that led by Wangaari Mathai in Kenya, has planted millions of trees, created jobs, accessible fuel and renewable agriculture, leading the way toward the desirable future in spite of persecution. For North Americans, especially white urban ones, the prospect of sacrifices in lifestyle required to redress the injustices to the other peoples and nonhuman species indeed just to save ourselves increasingly brings on numbness. Such eco-numbness, akin to the "psychic numbing" of nuclearism (Lifton 1979), spreads readily across bodies invested with the force of nature-alienation. At this point calls to conversion and sacrifice only have a chance of being heard by the not-yet-converted if they are inscribed with the language of desire. Desire not just for the sake of an abstract future, but because a new community already begins to form in the practice of ecojustice. That is, to sort through our garbage, to make choices based on awareness of the sinister and/or beautiful web of connections of our food to our weather to our starving and tortured fellow humans to women's bodies and the homeless ... this multi-dimensional work of recycling releases new ways of being together, a new sense of common goat of being on the edge together, of consoling and delighting each other in our edginess. We find together spiritual practices which allow us to ground, quite literally, in our bodies and our earth, the anxieties of the unknown future. To ground the lightening terrors of apocalypse. We are here in our particular communities, in our particular times and places, with particular ecologies, histories and spirits we must struggle to recognize. We are here to claim, to defend and to renew our earth home, the inhabited whole. This is the task of the green ecumenacy. We will still talk about the weather, just because we are in it together. That's what weather talk always did. But now the damage to the earth-home binds us all together as never before, as members of a species, indeed members of a planet. Though doused with new griefs and furies appropriate to the situation, we will find surprising possibilities for dwelling together here at the edge of history. The weather retains its unpredictabilities. The word "weather," after all, comes from verb "to blow" like the pneuma, the ruach, that blows where it will. We gain nothing but panic and cynicism, I suspect, by claiming that nature, our nature, the nature of which we are a nettlesome dimension, is ending, let alone "the world." The Spirit that brings life to life is also there, in the weird weather. HoWever we mean it, we do well to keep on discovering the holy life-force of all living things. Then hope stays alive, renewed in the power of life to renew itself, no matter what. The hope, itself already manifesting renewal, calls forth the green ecumenacy. A song of Hildegaard von Bingen, the 12th century prophet of viriditas, the "greening power" of the Spirit, translates itself effortlessly into the ecology of the late 20th, waking us from the numbness:
Holy Spirit, making life alive, moving in all
root of all created being, cleansing the cosmos of
every impurity, effacing guilt, anointing wounds.
You are lustrous and praiseworthy life,
You waken and re-awaken everything that is.
Diamond, Irene and Orenstein, Gloria (ed) 1990 Reweaving the World,
Sierra Club Books, San Francisco ISBN0-87156-623-0
NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is, without question, essential reading material.
Catherine Keller WOMEN AGAINST WASTING THE WORLD:
NOTES ON ESCHATOLOGY AND ECOLOGY
to waste: v.t. 1. to lay waste; devastate 2. to use up; consume; to wear out 3. to emaciate, to cause to be consumed or weakened, as by overuse, disease, or the like; to enfeeble 4. to expend needlessly, carelessly, or without valuable result; to squander . . . see RAVAGE MERRIAM-WEBSTER
Time is short, since the deterioration of some life-support systems appears to be accelerating. STATE OF THE WORLD 1988
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. REV. 21:1.
THE EARTH IS BEING WASTED-devastated, with a violence echoed by the crude contemporary idiom of "waste the sucker"; it's being used up, its profound resources squandered, its lush abundance consumed, its complex surfaces worn out. Yet this apocalyptic sort of message would not be worth repeating if it weren't also the case that there is still great life and responsiveness in the Earth as well. This is no time for despair -and there is no time for despair. Yet something in us readily succumbs to a sense of futility, something perhaps more than, yet related to, the objective configuration of economic and political forces laying waste our planet. So I want to begin to ask: What is the connection between the flagrant, accelerating waste of our world and the contemporary recrudescence of the myth of the Apocalypse? Do women have, as women, a specific response to make? I will not try here to offer any definitive answers; at present I am more interested in getting these questions formulated, in feeling a way into their tensions and possibilities.
Here is how the melodramatic voice of the connection sounds to me: "Waste her! Go ahead, use 'er up! Devastate, consume, expend, squander, ravage, Daddy will give us a new one. The final rapture is almost here!"
This is not the voice of any single belief: it is a voice uttered from the whirlwind symbiosis of born-again Christian apocalypticism and military/industrial consumerism, from an unprecedented alliance of reactionary premodernism with hypermodern greed that reared its gleaming head during the decade of the 1980s. Listen to what it says: "Waste not want not? Haste makes waste? Old wives' tales -make way for the new bride! Who needs the warnings of ecofreaks, antinuclear fanatics, and witch women who don't understand that the Lord has made all good things for our use: to use up before the millennium. Not to waste is to waste-make haste, Jesus is coming! Fill the Earth and subdue 'er! -that was God's command at the beginning. Now, at the end, let's dispose of that which was created to be at man's disposal."
Let me be clear: such a caricature does not reproduce the sincere faith of many born-again Christians, or any evangelical doctrines. I mean to evoke something more pervasive, more systemic, than the influence of the U. S. right-wing Christian movement, than even of its televangelists, those dispensationalist apocalypticists preaching the imminent demise of the world, preceded by their own rapture before the tribulations.' The power of the televangelists has been interrupted by the revelation that, at least in the realm of personal morality, they do not live by the absolutes they preach; and the rightest momentum of the 198os may not sustain itself through another presidency. But regardless of the next moves of the religiopolitical right, the apocalyptic myth has been influencing and will continue to influence the course of planetary history. That is, the expectation of an end-time and of an end of time has, I believe, defined the limits of Western patriarchal consciousness, Christian, Jewish, and secular. Perhaps all the more effectively because largely unconsciously, the imagery that concludes the Bible has conveyed a formative framework for the end of history. To the extent that this is true, it should come as no surprise that the paths of Western technological and political development have led us to the threshold of annihilation. Nor is it an accident that the masses of middle-class White humanity-including at this moment White middle-class women-who unlike people of color and the poor usually have no urgent matters of social survival facing them, do not rise up and make this end-of-the-world scenario stop. Of course, the most concrete reason that we as a class let it continue is because of our dependence upon ecological and military exploitation to sustain anything even vaguely resembling our middle-class life-styles. Our helplessness before the modern state generates both a widespread lack of belief in truly sustainable options and a sense of the futility of resistance. I am claiming, however, that this economic dependency itself reflects artificial limits upon the imagination. Participants in Christian civilization, which extends far beyond the bounds of belief, have been preprogrammed by ancient visions to expect that when the going gets rough, the world will go. Apocalypticism leads some to a fervent hope for the end, which promises a new beginning, and others to a gloomy resignation to global destruction. These have always been the two sides of the apocalyptic consciousness: hope and despair .2 Because of the literally apocalyptic situation of this late modern period, both of these attitudes side with omnicide. Nuclear annihilation continues to be an option, one preferred by many for its impressive capacity to fulfill "God's" prophecy in such passages as Rev. 16:17f:
"Then the seventh angel poured his bowl on the air; and out of the sanctuary came a loud voice from the throne, which said "It is over!" And there followed flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, like none before it in human history, so violent it was."3
But the nuclear and ecological threats are twin manifestations of the same source: the unchecked power of the military/industrial establishment, subliminally inspired and justified by apocalyptic assumptions
of an end of history. Within this textual context I will focus more on that form of doomsday annihilation that is already well underway: in the moment-bymoment "end of the world" proceeding through the tangible, cumulative, daily destruction of the physical environment. This we feel now all the time, this doom, this dread, this rage, quite apart from the pervasive nuclear anxiety. For instance, let's talk about the weather. It is again today, as I write, too hot for this time of year. I have winced each time native New Jerseyans (I haven't lived here long) shook their heads and said, "It just doesn't seem right. Maybe my memory mistakes me, but June was always more pleasant than this." "Springs have been getting shorter and shorter." I have felt a wretched gratitude if someone indicated that this is just a variation within a normal pattern. Maybe we still have time ... But, of course, the information is now suddenly everywhere and unavoidable: that the warming pattern of the greenhouse effect, based especially on the burning of fossil fuels and the accumulation of now a century of industrial waste gases, has almost certainly begun, much sooner than scientists expected. I notice that sometimes I choose not to mention these things, as though it is impolite in the course of a simple discussion of the heat; at other times, a kind of apocalyptic rudeness overtakes me, and I say, "Well, unless we do something it is only going to get worse." This morning even that bastion of establishment "balance," the New York Times, took on the issue as its leading editorial: "The Greenhouse Effect? Real Enough." The editorial pointed out that, in the face of a disastrous drought unlike any this country had known, and the fact that "four of the last eight years-1980, 1981, 1983 and 1987 have been the warmest since measurements of global surface temperatures began a century ago, and 1988 may be another record hot year," measures should be taken and suggested a set of crucial means for slowing the greenhouse warming (including encouragement of nuclear energy development).4
Quite apart from moments of political consciousness, these end-time winces, semiconscious mixes of acknowledgment and denial, fill our days with nagging little apocalyptic tensions. We wonder whether to use bottled water even for making coffee and then wonder how to find out whether the bottled water comes from a nontoxic water source. Habits and plans shift, to outings that do not center around prolonged exposure to the sun. In this summer of 1988, people who previously didn't think about skin cancer, now, with a certain ruefulness, mention the ozone layer and wear a hat to play tennis, wear #35 sun block even for an hour in the sun.
It is good news that the news is finally getting around. We may get to widespread action. This end-time is not irreversible, yet, though some of the damage may be. But the prospect of a permanently scarred planet, like that of a person who comes out of a mugging with some scars, is no reason to shut down hope -yet isn't there something within all of us that seems to give up the future with each new wave of ecological bad news? To sustain action may require naming the apocalyptic element that has embedded world destruction within a vision of Divine providence moving history from creation to conclusion. The mythic miasma of a few apocalyptic texts, operating out of context and unconsciously, seems to preform our sense of time and history.
As you read the following two passages, remember recent heat waves, droughts, and media attention to the greenhouse effect, and consider the effects of the passages' juxtaposition on you:
By 1987, what had become known as the ozone "hole" was twice the size of the continental United States. Though the hole involves a series of as yet poorly understood chemical reactions, it could portend an unexpectedly rapid ozone depletion globally and translate into lowered crop output and rising skin cancer and eye damage as more ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth . 5
The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun; and it was allowed to burn men with its flames. They were fearfully burned; but they only cursed the God of heaven for their sores and pains, and would not repent of what they had done. (Revl. 16:8ff)
Obviously there is a certain fit -and fundamentalists are far more expert than I at matching biblical "prophecies" to current events. They read (and always have) these parallels as evidence of the imminence of the last days. Others, taking a staunchly secularist view, may write off such parallels as coincidence. Let me say that if these are the only two options, I suspect the fundamentalists are closer to the truth. Close enough to succumb to a frightening distortion, a distortion already infecting the apocalyptic writers themselves. It is hard to miss the patriarchal, militarist dualism in the Book of Revelation. There may be a profound intuition at work in the vision of the oppressed community
for which "John" wrote 6 -that if civilization continues along the route of the gross and violent imperial materialism symbolized by the "whore of Babylon" (and Rome), then globally scaled destruction, involving not only society but the cosmos, becomes inevitable. But even the critique of imperialism is couched in the terms of both religious and male chauvinism; a literalist mindset seems to turn the outcome into a vindictively foregone conclusion. There is a voice that even in me-who has a background quite the opposite of any Christian fundamentalism whispers, "Maybe it is inevitable. Maybe there is no other way than the way of regeneration through destruction." This voice, in myself, does not feel authentic; it has a derivative, superstitious, despairing ring. But, for millions of persons in this country, this voice has become dominant, militantly evangelical, and committed to the belief that ecological and/or nuclear disaster, along with increasing political injustice and violence, are more or less inevitable signs of the times: that is, of the end of time.
For this reason it is best not to simply and angrily discount them, but to try to hear. It is not only that as the prophecies of Revelation seem to approach realization, we have reason to think they were on target; rather, this is a formative text deeply enough inscribed in Western consciousness to have found the means of its self-fulfilment. That is, as the early Christian movement became increasingly institutionalized, patriarchal, and, finally, with Constantine, the bearer of imperial power, such mythic imagery became part of the understanding of time, nature, and history that has shaped the course of Western development. So it is not that the text of the bowl and the burning sun literally predicted the hole in the ozone layer, but that the text may be the sine qua non for the hole. But the text could have been-and has been realized in many other ways as well.
If this hypothesis -that the end-time myth serves as sine qua non of the present end-time threat-has any validity, then it behooves us to examine the connection between ecology and eschatology. Ecology: the study of the relationships among things. Eschatology: the study of end things. Is it as simple as this-that because the relationships among things, among everything animal, vegetable, and mineral have been neglected and violated and because patriarchal humanity has exploited rather than nurtured its relationships to its environments that the literal "end" seems so imminent? That the degradation of relationships to means to ends in fact leads to end things? What relation does such degradation bear to Christian eschatology? Is eschatology a cause of the literal end? Is it also a resource against it?
Eschatology has traditionally referred to the final judgment and resurrection of the dead, to the in breaking at any moment of the Divine realm, or to life after death. Early Christians as well as the Jews of the same period lived in high expectations, born of the classic prophecies, of a new heaven and earth, a new Jerusalem, envisioned originally as a just and harmonious world order in which humanity has ceased its wars and its exploitations and lives in harmony with a renewed ecosphere. Apocalyptic eschatology is a radical development of that hope, taking the form of mythopoetic visions of end-times involving a catastrophic end of history, a rapture of the saved, the sons of light, who are installed in triumphant glory along with the Messiah at the Second Coming, and a Final Judgment in which the sons of darkness receive, after gruesome tribulations during which they do not repent, the justice of eternal corporal punishment.
Of course, mainline Christianity quickly veered away from the early charismatic hope for an end to the world within the generation: it institutionalized and individualized its eschatology and usually ignored the hallucinogenic excesses of the apocalyptic vision. Yet the fundamentalist forms by which it has returned in our time do not suggest a marginal exception, but something more like the return of the repressed. The extravagant moral dualism of the apocalyptic perspective, which can resolve the tensions of worldly life only by destroying the world, has returned with the full secular force of U.S. industrial imperial power in this decade. Reinforcing the moral dualism is a theological dualism, in which an absolutely transcendent Deity reigns from outside his "creation," utterly independent of that world. This in turn yields a temporal dualism of beginning and end: creation is at the start, and eschatology refers to a literal conclusion.
And so there is some causal link between the ancient vision of a world at the "disposal" of a controlling Lord and that world of disposable products, itself subject to human control and human disposal of its resources, brought into being by modern technology. The sacred story ends in the apocalyptic tribulations of the end-time, preordained by the Divine dominance; the secular derivative ends -despite its belief in endless progress and its repudiation of supernaturalism-in some combination of whimpers and bangs brought on by the ecocidal and omnicidal measures of a politics of domination. Although both present supposedly hopeful visions of the future, both involve the destruction of the Earth. The latter, with its vision of endless progress by way of endless exploitation, seems to have developed the science with which to effectively and unconsciously fulfill on a worldly plane the other-worldly vision of the apocalyptic. One can surmise that the development therefore of scientific modernity, despite its apparent secularizing focus, is still inspired by biblical apocalyptic. Both in fact drive toward the end of time and the world: neither respects the spatiotemporal rhythms of earthly ecology. And, for both, woman, in her association with bodiliness, becomes the metaphor and recipient of the subjugation and externalization of nature. Woman, as whore, old wife, witch, is the embodiment of time, which is to be used up, which is running away. 6 The link between the kind of science and the kind of theology that worked together to create the present situation is suggested by biologist/physicist and Nobel recipient Ilya Prigogine: "The 'mechanized' nature of modern science, created and ruled according to a plan that totally dominates it, but of which it is unaware, glorifies its creator, and was thus admirably suited to the needs of both theologians and physicists.... The debasement of nature is parallel to the glorification of all that eludes it, God and man [SiC]."7 Prigogine and coauthor Isabelle Stengers never mention the additional parallelism so obvious to feminists, that of the debasement of woman to the glory of a he-man God and the men who bear his image. But let us return to the original text:
Then I saw a great white throne, and the One who sat upon it; from his presence earth and heaven vanished away, and no place was left for them. (Rev. 20:1)
No place was left for them -the natural universe, whose extension is identical with the extension of space, loses place. This at the moment when its time is up. From the vantage point of White transcendence, the apotheosis of masculine rule, the One precludes the many. The universe seems to condense itself in the vision to a single unifying centerpoint, which realizes itself by annihilating the spatio-temporal world. A pristine simplicity is achieved, in which the New Jerusalem, the bride, of "gold bright as clear glass," of twelve gates each "being made from a single pearl," can be erected for the eternal bliss of the sons of light. "All this is the victor's heritage" (Rev. 20:21). The debasement of nature is parallel to the glorification of all that eludes it, God and man.
The architect of this "victor's heritage" glories in a cosmic minimalism: "The city had no need of sun or moon to shine upon it; for the glory of God gave it light (Rev. 21:22). "And there was no longer any sea." To elude nature is to elude its evolutionary complexity, to transcend diversity. That the sea is eliminated from the new creation is no accident: the first creation of Genesis inherits the old Babylonian identification of the sea with the primordial; with the female, chaos, the Tehom. The oceanic womb of life, construed in various Hebrew scriptures as a monster to be contained, is now eternally vanquished, replaced by the purely paternal creation. But even the relatively austere diversity of planetary bodies is eliminated, and a glory-light of immaterial transcendence shines on the desired future. This drive to transcendent unity is, of course, a profound impetus in all patriarchal spirituality, and it always achieves its ends at the expense of nature and multiplicity. I am also suggesting that it pertains to the present ecological situation.
Consider what is happening to planetary multiplicity today: "As forests disappear, as the soils erode, and as lakes and soils acidify and become polluted, the number of plant and animal species diminishes. This reduction in the diversity of life on earth may well have unforeseen long-term consequences."
Indeed. And the long term is precisely what the apocalyptic deadline short-changes for the sake of a specific sort of present intensity. (This is an ironic reversal of original intent: what operates as self-denial for the sake of future reward in fact functions to justify the systemic hedonism that wastes the future for the sake of present consumption.) What is the relation between the elimination of complexity and the elimination of the future? And what, precisely, is the ecofeminist relation?
Certainly modern complexity, ambiguity, and pluralism have created a horror of any more "progress"-not without good reason! The syndrome of future shock accounts in part for the massive recursion to simplistic, premodern, apocalyptic solutions to the moral and spiritual perplexities of the late modern age. But why has it come to this?
Let me suggest, further, that the relation between complexity and future concerns essentially the very nature of relatedness. To relate is to complicate. Whether we imagine a relation to our body, a tree, an intimate friend, an enemy, global society, or the ecosphere, to bring consciousness to the relation is to sustain complexity. And quite apart from any human consciousness, the evolutionary processes in nature all demonstrate complexity within ecological relatedness.
We are, as is everything that is, an instance of becoming-in-relation. Nothing is independent of anything else. This is the fundamental ecological vision, applicable to human culture as well as to nonhuman communities. The others always influence us, however much we screen out, deny, simplify. To embrace the influx of otherness into self, to acknowledge that even what we despise becomes a part of our experience and therefore of ourselves-this is to live in the consciousness of our interconnectedness. Yet the dominant cultures of the West have systematically stifled this sort of consciousness. In the words of Agnes Whistling Elk, a Canadian native shaman: "White people have this thing that says, 'I'm not a snake. I'm not a squirrel. I'm something important.' They separate, and that's their tragedy. "9 This is a tragedy of momentous proportions, which threatens to annihilate the squirrels and the snakes, any native peoples who survived White genocides, and of course, life itself, to which these White separatists seem to see themselves as an exception-precisely by separation.
Many of us have felt and argued that women have been the caretakers of relation, that the dominant separate self of the culture is the male ego. Yet we must at the same time acknowledge that inasmuch as this female relatedness has survived, it has been the very means of women's entrapment, our dependency. And the dependency is no more ecologically viable than the illusion of an independent ego; indeed, ironically, it has led to our own modes of separation, of social isolation as well as the disconnection from our bodily knowledge. So Agnes Whistling Elk may perceive rightly, as a woman of color, that all White people, including White feminists, suffer from a destructive and self-deceptive separation. Perhaps we-White women-can only begin to regain the wisdom and power of relation as we move into contact with non-White, non-patriarchal, and non-modern modes of connection with the physical world.
This relatedness does not present itself as something single, simple, or conclusive. Note, for instance, the extraordinary complexity of the spiritual paths of Native Americans and other shamanistic and Earth-centered peoples. Every bird or stone or ancestor might embody the sacred and needs to be heard, heeded, internalized as "medicine." Relatedness is not, as classical monotheism might have it, a matter of the One Other, or the One who is Other. At any moment we meet an infinite plurality, most of which we do indeed screen out, bundle and reduce into manageable perceptual and cognitive categories. To attune ourselves to this plurality means to live with the untold, indeed unspeakable, complexity it poses for us. For as we take in the many, we ourselves are many. The cohesion we achieve is not simple oneness, but, in philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead's language, a "composite unification." No unitary subject underlies-and therefore "controls" -the spatial and temporal multiplicity that informs every moment of our experience. Our nature is not that of a separate essence; rather, the nature of things -of all things natural, which nothing eludes but by self-deception -is this fluid complication out of which the "essence" of something must compose itself. The self arises, as does the self of every cosmic creature, moment by moment in new conjunctions of influence and creativity. Its continuity composes itself out of its creativity, as it spins long-term futures on the basis of its long-term memory. The deep past and the worldly future matter naturally to the connective self. For it knows its own emergence from and extension into an endless network of relations.10
If this is so, then relation is cumulative in its complexity. And time itself is the complex pattern of relationships. Complexity can no more be evaded than nature itself. At least if one is growing with and not against the grain of reality. To honor reality is to attend care-fully to the diversity of each moment-the many cannot be purged, wasted, flung like the devil: "the cowardly, the faithless, and the vile, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars of every kind" into "the lake that burns with sulphurous flames" (Rev. 21:8).
The dualistic solution to the problem of evil is characteristic of the great monotheisms: simplification by Oneness never quite unifies reality, never quite works -it always has the cumulative impact of its discarded waste products to dispose of. (Hence sulphurous fumes?) No wonder time must end in some final conflagration -the cosmos cannot contain all the garbage. In this worldview that at the most intimate, emotional levels as well as the ecological and economic levels refuses to recycle the past, the force of denied diversity appears as chaos and evil. Thus, already in the first creation epic, the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian creation myth from the late second millennium B.c.), the male warrior God Marduk establishes his universe by conquering the first mother, the Great Goddess Tiamat-who as the primordial ocean is interpreted as a monster of chaos. The biblical version is the story of Genesis, in which the word of God creates His world out of the Tehom-the Hebrew equivalent of Tiamat.11 So the Bible opens with the creation of a world out of the primal sea, in which chaos is not yet fully defeated; and the Bible ends with the destruction of that world, in which diversity and fluidity still had their ways, and its replacement by one with no sea. While we can argue that Genesis represents a critique and transformation of the warrior myth, in Revelation he returns full force: "From his mouth there went a sharp sword with which to smite the nations; for he it is who shall rule them with an iron rod" (Rev. 19:20).
This messianic figure, also called the "Lamb," mocks the relational complexity required by Jesus's own teaching of the justice of love, even of others and enemies. This second coming-less of Jesus than of the Babylonian Marduk-poses a simpler solution, the final solution. For Jesus of Nazareth, eschatology referred, as with the earlier prophets, to a just version of this world, and its timing was unpredictable, even to himself. The point was to "pay heed, watch-for you know not the time" (Matt. 24:42). Watch -attend consciously, alert to the possibilities for relation and transformation flooding in upon us now. We are not to waste those opportunities, but to relish the eschatological banquet now, by opening community to include those who are radically other, poor, needy, disdained. In its better moments, the eschatological future is not a literal end but a creative edge -the moment of the fullness of time in which a new plenitude of relations is realized. Anxiety is healed not by elimination of complexity but by the cosmic trust of the lilies.
If time is the complex of relations in which diversity unfolds, then end-time is a logical consequence of the debasement of diversity and of relation. Temporality is the mark of physicality, of body and woman and all that complexity that resists control, that undermines the unitary ego, and that mocks the male hero. Relationship and sensuality have been assigned to women, and the Earth itself has been feminized and ravaged accordingly. Feminist theory has well mapped the long history of religious, philosophical, and scientific projection of "nature" onto woman's body and of woman's body onto the Earth. Ruling-class men, especially but not exclusively those raised within the domains of Western monotheism, have seen themselves as godlike exceptions to nature, diversity, and death. And so, along with women, the diversity of peoples, of races, of religions, and of species have suffered irreversible degradation during the course of patriarchal history. Yet it is not these suffering ones, but those who have inflicted the suffering who seem most to want out, who threaten to bring on the final death, the escape from time and relation and, by a perverse logic, from death itself. For apocalypticism portrays the death of everything as the way to the eternal life of the privileged few.
Science has been the needed and perhaps unwitting tool of the apocalyptic literalization. As Prigogine and Stengers analyze modern science, its classical insistence on a single, immutable, timeless, and universally dominant truth and its describing nature as a simple and homogeneous machine continued the theistic assumptions of simplicity and control -and of the transcendent mind of either scientist or God. But they offer an interesting hope by claiming that, at least in theory, contemporary science has moved to a new time-bound pluralism: "Both at the macroscopic and microscopic levels, the natural sciences have thus rid themselves of a conception of objective reality that implied that novelty and diversity had to be denied in the name of immutable universal control." They show how this shift has emerged along with a new valorization of time (which even Einstein could not accept), that is, of natural processes that are irreversible. Irreversibility is the basis of the thesis that order always emerges out of chaos (of randomness or irreversibility); that "today interest is shifting from substance to relation, to communication, to time.... Our universe has a pluralistic, complex character.
Perhaps this new valorization of time, especially in conjunction with pluralism and relation, signals a certain conversion within the White male power elite. But in itself, such a theoretical shift is only interesting. We are now working under imperative deadlines. However, in conjunction with political movements linking ecology, social justice, and feminism, it signals an alternative to the deadly and self-contradictory mix of technological mechanism (based on time-reversible process) with apocalyptic eschatology (an archaic form of irreversibility: history moves from a beginning to an end).
What we need is a reduced and sensitive technology cooperating with the exhaustible, irreversible, spontaneous, and pluralistic character of the universe and the Earth. To achieve this we also need a new understanding of human socioecology-one that cherishes our own diversity rather than exploiting it through hierarchies of state, race, class, and gender. We therefore need to propagate a spirituality that imagines an open and sustainable future, one that looks lovingly on time as the garden of all the relations that have been and will be, that works practically to effect change where it is possible.
Such a spirituality cannot disconnect itself from the biblical heritage altogether. Some of us at least can afford to (and perhaps cannot afford not to) tap the eschatological energies of the classical prophets and of the Mary and Jesus of the synoptic gospels, for whom "prophecy" referred to the denunciation of injustices against the vulnerable and the vision of a lush future in this world for all who partake in justice and wisdom. None of these ancient texts come free of their own sexism and nationalism. We cannot find there a point of pure and undiluted liberation, yet there is much radical wisdom there to recycle.
When we revere the complexity of our own and each other's relations and situations, rather than seeking a feminist purity, we have the chance of extending our work effectively and multilaterally into the culture at large.
But here enters eschatology. For while apocalyptic eschatology may bear responsibility for the creation of a sense of time as coming to an end, in a larger and older sense, eschatology in the context of the prophetic cry for justice may be responsible for a sense of the irreversibility of history itself. That is, the sense of history as dramatic unfolding rather than cyclic repetition has its strongest sources in biblical consciousness.
A deliteralized, deapocalypticized eschatology can better serve the feminist project of a socially and historically responsible ecocentrism. Mary's Magnificat, for instance, proclaiming the eschatological "year of the Lord's favor, " the "good news to the poor, " suggests like all liberation theology, biblical and contemporary-the opening of the sacred community to be realized now, though its fuller realization is still in the future. Such reformed eschatology might give us some leverage for addressing the end-time mode of eschatological consciousness with a modicum of empathy-therefore giving us the chance of affecting it. Without an ecocentric consciousness, liberation eschatology will neglect the natural environment for the sake of small gains now for the poor, undermining the soil, the water, and the air from which everyone's future must flow.
We also need an eschatological consciousness in the sense that we are watching now with acute consciousness of the risk to all life; that we are aware that though some processes of damage are still reversible, others are not; that we are in an edgy time, without endless time ahead-indeed, that we are in an end-time. The end of what time? Either of Earth's capacity to support human and most other societies; or of patriarchal history and its time sense (or lack thereof). That is, ending end-time means beginning again with a new, full concept of time a time that has space for us all and a space that has time for us all-a helical time.
For such a concept of time we draw from whatever Earth-centered, native sources may still speak to us. From them we begin to learn the way of the creatures, of our creatureliness, so that our bodies, our ancestors, and our communities can again speak wisdom to and through us. Women in the past two decades have reopened access to Goddess religions in which woman was neither reducible to, nor separable from, Earth-any more than was any other earthly thing. In a culture that has led to an apocalyptic displacement of the universe in which we dwell, projecting a White warrior experience of alienation into the infinite, to be simply at home again, in our bodies, our worlds, is to become ecocentric: "eco," from oikos, the Greek word for "home," which is also the root of "economy." This will mean being at home on the edge of time, not fighting against time but with it. It will mean finding economic/ecological niches for all the wildness of diverse creatures who still, however nervously, populate our planet. Many, too many, are gone, irreversibly, forever. Many will be lost before there is time to save them. But we can take their memory into the creation of a future out of the sacred abundance remaining to us. There is no centralized rule in the universe, no simplicity that will save us. But there is the rhythm by which, again and again, we center ourselves, embody ourselves make a home for ourselves amidst the multiplicity. We need no new heaven and Earth. We have this Earth, this sky, this water to renew.