Tuesday, August 24, 2021


  by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS

For Me, Living Only With What I Truly Cherish
Encourages the Vibrant Essence of Life

In part one of this blog, I addressed some of the ways climate change impacts have obviously come to the forefront of our lives, playing out in multiple ways in the present as opposed to "theoretical" warnings of things to come.

These impacts include life-threatening heatwaves, drought, uncontrollable historic fires, flooding, increasing freshwater scarcity, famines, population migration, and more, and this is just the beginning of what is going to get much worse as a result of self-reinforcing tipping points.

I also discussed the fact that we - as a species - are not only not doing anything to mitigate the coming consequences we have been warned about in no uncertain terms, we don't even seem to be alarmed and are blindly allowing the causes to continue unabated.

Apparently, concern about global warming mostly only awakens when it gets personal.

In this second part, I'm going to address my own journey around "avoiding the rush" (if you hurry, you might get in on that), and we're going to take a look at why we're so complacent about our potential self-imposed demise (it's largely because of cognitive dissonance) and how we, as individuals and communities, can approach our impending demise in the most conscious way possible.

The title of this two-part series, Collapsing Consciously in Panama, is taken from my own personal experience of downsizing and moving from the U.S. to a small Panamanian island in the Caribbean, and before that, the massive and comprehensive website  - Collapsing Into Consciousness - I created a few years ago that I eventually shut down due to a lack of interest.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

My tagline for that website was "Collapse Now - Avoid the Rush," meaning there was much we could do to avoid the pain that's coming to us now by getting smaller, reducing our individual and global footprints so that we wouldn't have that far to fall when "the rush" started as it is now beginning to happen. 

After a year of investigation, I chose Panama's Bocas Del Toro as my "collapse" destination, keeping in mind my strengths and limitations and how I would fit them to that final destination. Bocas Del Toro is small and has a much lower cost of living than the U.S. I am easily able to be without a car (and insurance, gas, and repairs) for the first time in my adult life. A bike and walking are healthier. Rent's cheaper here than anywhere in the U.S. Health care is phenomenally less expensive: so much that I am easily able to pay for my own health costs and just carry catastrophic health insurance for under $100/month. A recent visit to the doctor was $1. There are some inconveniences here, but nothing I can't manage... and, there are cheaper places to live, but, OMG! the beaches!

And my ecological footprint has been greatly reduced.

Down Sizing

Over the past three and one-half years, I've moved from the 2300+ sq ft house I built on a ridge in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, to a rented 1300 sq ft house in Asheville, to an older 750 sq ft Mobile home I lovingly remodeled (and loved!) in an over-55 mobile home park, to my sister's spare bedroom in Napa, CA, to Houston and a too-small second bedroom in my daughter's RV for three months, and finally to Bocas Del Toro into a 400 sq ft one-bedroom apartment a block from the beach. This is small enough, thank you!

Aside from the fact that I loved being able to spend time at my sister's and my daughter's places before I came here, I am perfectly content in my BDT apartment. I shipped some things from the U.S. to Bocas that I truly cherish - about 20 pieces of my art, some sentimental "knick-knacks," books I wanted to keep, some kitchen items and appliances (who knew you could cook pretty much anything in an air fryer!), my high-end desktop and dual screens, and some shoes and clothing. There is freedom in no longer having what George Carlin called "stuff."

I am content, even in knowing Bocas Del Toro will not be spared from the consequences of global warming in the long run, but hopefully, there won't be as far to fall.

What can you do?

As we saw in part one, we can clearly see that the powers-that-be are not going to change in time to make a difference. Nor do we have sufficient numbers or even the political will to make them change. We're too complacent or in denial (the first of the Five Stages of Grief - See more on that later) and it's just not going to happen in time.

These are tough facts to face and it's going to get bad. Real bad. Will the human race survive? Maybe. It depends. This is clearly uncharted territory.

It is also an opportunity for growth. If you're someone who has been "doing your work", then you know what that means. When I teach the Spiral Dynamics values developmental model in my men's workshops, I emphasize how and why people change and it's not because they're happy. Happy people don't change. Why would they? People change because they have come up against a Cognitive Dissonance problem that their current level of development can't solve or answer for them. In short, cognitive dissonance can make people feel uneasy and uncomfortable, particularly if the disparity between their values, beliefs, and behaviors involves something that is central to their sense of self. read more here

The growth happens when we work through the cognitive dissonance - the pain - to reach a new and more complex level of understanding about the problem: A new awareness of the problem and a new way - and increased ability - of responding to it. In this case, the potential demise of the human race - the 6th Great Extinction - or a best-case scenario of billions of lives lost with pockets of humanity hopefully surviving. 

How does one find meaning in either of these potential scenarios that make what's happening a little more bearable?

I believe the answer lies in being in service to others. This is not a time to retreat or be alone on a mountain top like a monk. This is the time for spiritual warriors to ask, "How can I serve"?

One way I serve is to get my COVID vaccination. In this time and place, if I can play even a small role in alleviating someone else's suffering, even for a short time, I'm down.

I'm not concerned about being in Bocas Del Toro on the second floor of a 4-story apartment on land that is about 5 feet above sea level. There are no places to hide  - as we're seeing - as we pass the many tipping points that bring even more devastation and changes. There is only now or later. There is only mourning and grief, and eventually, acceptance.

It would be good if we are able to find our personal state of grace and acceptance, in order to help others. The 5th stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grieving is all about acceptance

Allow yourself to mourn and grieve this loss. Allow yourself to be angry. If you or someone you love are struggling as a result of the realization of this loss (and who isn't?), your emotions probably feel overwhelming and confusing.

Feeling this way is natural and even necessary. These emotions are forward steps in this momentous journey, even when it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, and if you’re having a particularly hard time with it, resources like counseling and support groups can help you cope. Better to do it now rather than later.

There is no right way to do this. We will never like this reality or make it okay, but eventually, we may accept it. Acceptance is more about how you acknowledge the losses you’re experiencing rather than "getting over it" - how you learn to live with those losses that just keep on coming, and how you readjust your life accordingly.

Last, if possible, savor any moments of joy. Allow yourself to laugh, to love, to cherish every good moment. Try to find meaning and purpose in your life and make it matter.

Because it does.



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