new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton

essays, interviews


First published in Pacific Island Monthly, January 2000.



Earth will die as seas dry up, like those on Mars did once, extinguishing all life; cooling of the magma has dropped temperatures 100 kilometres below the surface, dragging water beneath the crust—oceans sinking into the rocks, dragging the tectonic plates with them, down into the interior of the earth. The drying up of Earth will happen within the next 1 billion years.

Population: we celebrated just lately 6 Billion Day. The earth’s population is growing 2% per year: 5 babies every second—most are destined to be poor, illiterate and ill-housed.

Movement: 1 billion people are on the move on the planet each year as tourists, migrants or refugees.

We can be excused for apocalyptic thought. The public has become aware of the fact that massive biological extinctions occurred in he past and may have been associated with impacts of asteroids or comets colliding with the earth - 65 million years ago: extinction of dinosaurs ... in some part of our consciousness there is, therefore, the knowledge of "Earth-crossing objects" - within our galaxy there are rogue lumps of matter, one of which will collide with our planet. Outside the galaxy, there are comets, lumps of ice, that are slowly turning towards flight paths that will cross Earth’s orbit. Are we ready?




Most of us are of that generation that grew to consciousness with nuclear weapons. Aware that we had the potential to destroy the earth. As Robert Oppenheimer said at Trinity when the first A-bomb was exploded - ‘"Behold, I am the destroyer of worlds"

Science, since the Enlightenment, had replaced religion as the metaphorical landscape for teleological thought - what will happen to us? The urge towards the perfectibility of our existence was older; our belief is in an orderly creation - hence the search for scientific laws of nature. The development of ‘the useful arts’ / technology was to bring us closer to God.

Science and religion met, perhaps for the last time, in that explosion at Trinity - it seemed to present us with the outcome of the ancient Babylonian prophecy of ‘sky on fire’ - the purging of the world’s sins in a universal cleansing destruction. Nuclear arms are ‘of the past’ - no longer useful/or part of our imagination/ but they still exist ...

Science is now dedicated to what is immediately profitable. Research is conducted by companies, not governments - travel, communications, pharmaceuticals, weapons, robotics, information processing and genetic engineering ...

The problem of science is that industry offers us what is profitable for business, ie what is expensive (Marx—added value) but what the world’s peoples need is what’s cheap ...




The present system intensifies gap between rich and poor within societies and between societies) - politics is the slowest to change of economy/technology

The poor become concerned that government has no concern for them. In either case, citizens suspect that government can no longer guarantee anyone’s safety. Alongside this feeling that ‘we are on our own’, is the glaring fact that democracy is now an open door to corruption in government. Even in New Zealand, we may suspect that structural reforms have created a kleptocracy - "half of the misery of the world is caused by people whose only talent is to worm themselves into positions for which they otherwise have no competence."

The accumulation of wealth alongside decay of society, the non-payment of the unskilled and unequal distribution of wealth and skill: as this inequality comes more and more to seem insurmountable, we undergo a loss of a sense of the scandalous!

As for the past 50 years, the major trends in our society continue to come from the USA. We can expect a revival of division over basic social problems we thought had been solved: the division between left and right will be fought out on the issues of family values ... feminism, abortions, choice: to work outside the home?

Oh, the problems—parenting ... the children ... immigration ... job loss; loss of national identity, loss of personal identity ...




Our literature and culture, our thought patterns, are derived from Christian ideas of heaven and hell ... the death of God, as Jesus Christ, was to save all men, therefore an idea of equality. As Christianity has declined, so too has our idea equality.

What replaces that urge towards equality (to prepare for the perfect earth) is the urge to be normal - confirmation of identity. Who am I? The ego ...

The libido ... the need for confession ... therefore, a personal not a mandated spirituality.

Simplification - television - don’t make me think!

As safety is mandated by government, the push to some risk ... gambling! New, expensive machines and technologies ...




Poetry as the idea of freedom/liberty; mental processes that that cannot be decoded; the secret transmission system, transmitting feelings directly from brain to brain - collective memory, collective consciousness

Earth Observing System to monitor the earth’s biosphere and climate. Poetry is the Mind Observing System ... on the look out for Mind-Crossing Objects ... and the end of the world as we know it ...

The apocalypse is one idea of the millennium as the Second Coming / alongside the Last Judgement. There is another idea though - the millennial idea that the end of the world would be preceded by a thousand-year rule of the saints ... what the Book of Revelations calls: ‘the first resurrection’ ... the faithful will live on Earth with Christ and the world will be perfect ...

but what happens then? ‘When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison’.

We don’t know what we’re looking at but which ever way we look, it’s not looking good.


© Alan Brunton 

Last updated 13 July, 2001