After a five-week break from my column, and feeling somewhat renewed and refreshed, the usual New Year writing fare is to make breezy statements about fresh starts and new beginnings. But this is me you're talking to so, that's not happening. Get real.

Of course, it's instinctive to enjoy believing that last year can be wrapped up in a box, complete with a bow on top, and tidily tucked away in a compartment labelled "yesterday". The term "going forward" has never been more psychically apt than at the dawn of another 365 days.

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My nose tells me that 2018 already smells like the Anthropocene – the sixth mass extinction – and my eyes tell me that we are losing species at an alarming rate. The collective human impacts on our blue ball are now influencing Earth's atmosphere, geology, hydrology, biosphere and other earth system processes. In other words, we've got trouble.


Indeed, 99 per cent of currently threatened species are on the brink due to human activities. Since the rate of change in our biosphere is rapidly increasing, and because every species' extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are expected to snowball in the approaching decades as ecosystems begin to unravel.

Knowing it's happening, and feeling empowered to do anything about it are two different things. While, arguably, many scientists now believe humanity may only have another 100 years – my view is that's ridiculously optimistic – the fact remains that we're taking out every living species on Earth at an alarming rate, including ourselves.

If you stay with that thought, and let it sink in, how does it make you feel? I can tell you how it affects me.

Waves of grief wash in and out like the tide. It comes and goes, but it's as regular as clockwork. In between times, I can set up a barbie on the beach, laugh and joke over beers and sausages with my buddies, swim when it gets too hot, and generally enjoy life.

Then the next wave crashes over my feet, and the grief resumes.

And maybe this is the normal cycle of a human life. Joy and light outshone by the ever-present laser beam knowledge that one day you – and everyone and everything you love – will die.

But there's a difference between planning to leave life behind knowing that's the natural order of things, and checking out while mightily aware that your kids and grandkids are not far behind you.

For me, as a childless heathen person, my grief is mostly triggered by the demise of the wild, and every living thing in it. The birds, the bears, the bees, the bass. That it's now expected we'll take every last one of them down because of us, is sometimes too much to stand.


My grief for humanity is not so sharp. It's there, but is blunted by decades of politicians talking and not acting, capitalism and its cronies choosing profit over the perpetuation of people, and the wilful denial of society to accept that the house of patriarchy – which we all dwell in - has failed to produce anything tangible other than planetary pain.

So, in 2018, what can we do to ease that pain?

Welcoming the future in has never been harder. The things we've always relied on are now distinctly unreliable. The climate for one. We knew this change was coming but, it's here now. All the old ways of doing things must either be stripped away and rethought, over and over and again, or it will be done for us. We'll have no choice.

Because despite all the technological advancements, the rise of young and diverse voices prepared to speak up for true sustainability, the amazing scientific progress, and the billions of words written about the environment and how to help it, here we are. We are not so much standing at a crossroad; more a precipice.

Your stage of grief may be entirely non-existent. You may be busy with whatever your deal is – consumption, capitalism, cows, cars, Christ. None of which changes what's coming. (Pro tip: It's not the Second Coming).

Or you're busy bargaining, or being angry, or even denying there's a problem at all. You may even be stuck in depression.

My stage of grief is acceptance. That doesn't mean all hope is lost, or that I will give up trying to change things. You never know. Miracles can happen.

Expect my next column to turn to less apocalyptic matters. I'll speak of things that, in and of themselves, likely don't matter. For that's what being alive is. The shallow and the deep.

In other words, I'm back. All guns blazing, and defiant 'til the end. Until it all fades to black.

Happy New Year!