Living in the (Rabbit)-Hole-ocene

Go down the rabbit hole: 

To enter into a process or journey that is particularly strange, difficult, problematic, complex, or chaotic, especially one that becomes increasingly so as it develops or unfolds.

Geologists tell us that we’re living in the Holocene, which is the name they’ve given to this, the second epoch of the Quaternary period.  The Holocene covers the 12,000 years, give or take, since the last glacial epoch, the Pleistocene[1].

Some would say that human beings have defined a new epoch, the Anthropocene – the age of it’s all about-us. There’s a good case to be made for this. However, it just may be that the current epoch is actually morphing into something less:

The Rabbit-Hole-ocene.

This reality dawned on me during the morning’s commute to the office on the Metro. I’m old school, so each day I bring the home-delivered print edition of the Washington Post along to prepare me for the day. On the ride in, I read, in succession, that

  • The U.S. signaled intent to withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change at the earliest possible moment (meaning the day after the 2020 presidential election)
  • California wildfires were knocking out the state’s air quality monitors, just when the air was approaching its smokiest
  • New Delhi is losing the battle against air pollution
  • Another forest “guardian” was killed amid the rising tensions over logging in the Brazilian Amazon
  • Bauxite mining would harm Ghana
  • Chocolatiers are fueling deforestation
  • California burns. Always has. Where there’s smoke, there’s California.
  • (from the science section) that physics only works if we supply a giant fudge factor, bringing in “dark matter” and “dark energy
  • (from Dogbert) that “dark matter” must be “stupidity” – and when Dilbert asks “why didn’t I see that,” Dogbert drives his argument home: “because you’re 85% dark matter.”
  • (and all this is just the job-relevant news, before I get to the Nats’ White House visit or Carolyn Hax’ always-lucid advice).

Yup. Each day’s world’s events, and their retelling, are strange, difficult, problematic, and complex on the face of things, and become even more so as we delve in.

Not just during the morning commute, but each and every hour of the day, you and I are confronted with a choice between keeping up with what eight billion people are doing while our backs are turned, or making our own contributions, while their backs are turned. Seeking to understand, vs. seeking to be understood. Balancing the two, especially when engaged in knowledge work, is problematic, almost existentially so. Getting it right matters!

That’s why I’m glad I also read this morning’s Washington Post articles on

  • The prevalence of worry in our society (who knew “GAD – generalized anxiety disorder – was a thing?)
  • The benefits of coffee (these articles on coffees effects appear frequently; as a six-cup-a-day-guy I hold my breath whenever I see such a headline; each time (so far) I’ve come away relieved if not reaffirmed.

To repeat: if we fail to immerse ourselves in news and social media of every stripe, we risk irrelevance in 21st-century society. But if we do nothing else, if we fail to make our own contribution to the general noise, we will lack utility.  Two quite different skills, traits. The former rewards those of us who are ADHD, and extroverted. The latter calls for focus and favors the introverts among our number.

Well, now I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. Gotta run – on to my day job, and its focus on the value of environmental intelligence.

(With a tip of the hat to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – who saw this all coming almost two centuries ago.)

[1] If you succumbed to the instinct to click on this link, you’ll agree we live in the Rabbit-Hole-ocene.

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