Episode 30, Air, Water, Food, Shelter, Kinship, Meaning (Part 2)
This episode is a follow up on episode 27. If you missed it I highly recommend you check it out. In that episode we did an analysis of what humans need to flourish. It was kind of like a Site Analysis and Assessment of the whole planet. We looked at what’s going on with our atmosphere and our air, water, soil, forest cover, how we connect with others socially, and how we find meaning. And when we looked at those trends, what became clear is that the methods we meet most people’s needs now-a-days are not at all sustainable, they cannot continue. There needs to be a shift in how we meet everyone’s basic needs.
So now, using what we learned from the past episode, this week we’re going to go into kind of the goal setting part of the design process if you want to look at it that way, but basically just looking at how we can respond to the situation that we’re in. How we can adapt. So we’ll start with the question that we ended last weeks episode with:
“What do we do when faced with the stark realities presented here?”
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Red Dust by Zero 7
- Existential Crises vs. Run-of-the-mill Crises
- Possible Future Trajectories
- Techno-fix Utopia
- The Myth of Progress
- Doomsday Preppers
- Mitigation vs. Adaptation
- Co-operative local communities
- Permaculture and Ecosystem Restoration
- Appropriate Technology
- Parkour – The art of overcoming Obstacles
- “Cheerful Status-Quo Monster” obstacle
- Possibile Futures greater than our imagination
- The Completeness of the needed transformation
- Reification – a Faculty/tool for Change
- Practical steps for change
- Hairy Renunciation
- Making Many Small Mistakes Early
- Work with what’s there
- Mimicing Nature’s experimental approach
- Earths Carrying Capacity
- The Overshoot population pattern
- Living in service to the greater Life
This episode is a follow up on episode 27. If you missed it I highly recommend you check it out. In that episode we did an analysis of what humans need to flourish. It was kind of like a Site Analysis and Assessment of the whole planet. We looked at what’s going on with our atmosphere and our air, water, soil, forest cover, how we connect with others socially, and how we find meaning. And when we looked at those trends, what became clear is that the methods we meet most people’s needs now-a-days are not at all sustainable, they cannot continue. There needs to be a shift in how we meet everyones basic needs.
So now, using what we learned from the past episode, this week we’re going to go into kind of the goal setting part of the design process if you want to look at it that way, but basically just looking at how we can respond to the situation that we’re in. How we can adapt. So we’ll start with the question that we ended last weeks episode with:
What do we do when faced with the stark realities presented here?
Existential Crises are different than your ordinary run-of-the-mill crisis like earthquake and landslides because they instigate a reinterpretation or a reevaluation of the MEANING of every detail of life within the new context of this crisis. This is why a terminal diagnosis like cancer is so life-changing for most people, because it forces one to question everything in their life again, to reprioritize. It gives new perspective. Now, facing the existential threat of climate change and ecological devastation, we as a whole culture need to go through this process.
In the past, if a nation faced an existential threat, it was usually an invading army and they could directly attack and resist the threat. Or it was a natural disaster so they could hopefully flee and safer lands. Our current predicament is different because there is no where we can go to escape it ultimately. And there is no invading army to attack, we are all partly at fault. (especially in developed nations) Instead, the true battleground of this threat is within ourselves, within our culture, and our institutions. In that murky part of our subconscious mind that holds our habitual patterns of thought and behavior. And our cultures narratives and expectations. We need to look closely at the patterns of behavior and thought in all these places and ask honestly if their consequences are improving or degrading the health of the natural living world or not. (land ethic – aldo leopold)
I think the first and most obvious thing that comes to mind is to find a new path, to find a new direction. Not just as a country, not just as a planet, not just as a person but all of the above need to find a new path. So before I start grinding my own ax of the path that I think is the best one to go down. I do want to look a few alternatives that are out there in the culture-sphere.
There’s a few major narratives out there that are vying for dominance as the next stage, so to speak. On the one hand, one that you’ll see a lot is this kind of “techno-fixed” utopia where essentially the status quo continues, our daily lives don’t change too much but were just using different technologies. We’re using LED light bulbs and solar panels and electric vehicles and everybody’s recycling and we have cradle-to-cradle product design. It’s very optimistic but I don’t think it’s that realistic, to be honest.
Consider Hybrid cars. They are clearly more ecologically sensitive than normal cars. But they’re far from being the dominant, even though they’ve been around an available for decades.
There’s a lot of questions about the scalability of such technologies. Not to mention the whole idea of waiting for technology and engineers to solve these big global problems I think it kind of leads to a type of complacency where you don’t see, or realize, or take advantage of the power that you have in your own life, and in your community to make changes and work with what you already have on hand, already the resources that are available around you.
The techno-fix utopia is the continuation of this narrative of progress or what John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, calls the myth of progress which has been carrying forward, especially on the national level — carrying forward the national conversation or the national — not so much the national conversation but the inspiration and motivation of the country has been this myth of progress. I’m speaking specifically of the United States now, if it’s not obvious, but there were similar patterns in other countries as well. But this myth of progress is that human evolution (human society) is continually evolving upwards in a positive direction that is always improving and I think it’s not hard to see it that way, especially with all the amazing inventions and developments and science. Certainly, a ton of amazing progress has been made and that should not be knocked in any way. I think we need to retain much of the knowledge and tools that we’ve gained from this last few thousand years of cultural evolution. But a certain version of that, take into a certain type of logical extreme where technology (technological innovations) solve all of our problems one day. They’re the magic bullet, so to speak. I don’t see it happening. There are physical constraints and physical limitations in this reality.
It calls to mind the trans-humanist and the singularities near led by Ray Kurzweil. this idea that (this is really taken to the extreme) that technology in the not too distant future will be so complex as to allow us to upload our memories and upload our actual consciousness into cyber space and then we can basically be freed of our body and just float around in cyber space forever. So that’s the trans-humanism and we’d basically be melding with our machines. That’s the Transhumanist utopian approach, which is like an even more extreme version of the techno-fix utopia that I was talking about. That’s one way we could try to go if that’s what some people really want to do. If they thought that was the best route but let’s look at some other options first before we make our decision.
Now the trajectory we can go with is the whole Doomsday Prepper’s individualistic survivalist direction. Basically, this one is very not optimistic. It’s the least optimistic and maybe it’s a little bit more realistic but at the same time, I don’t think it’s idealistic. I don’t mind being guided by ideals. I think ideals for the future are what become reals in the present so the only way to make a better reals is to be idealistic. So let’s do that but not to a self-deluding degree.
Doomsday Preppers. So the big issue here is being all closed in into yourself or into cell or into your bunker or just your family and just doing anything you can to make them survive. So you’re stock piling tons of food and guns and building bomb shelters and huge barbwire fences to keep out your marauding neighbors who want to come kill you and take all your food.
The best way for us to traverse is narrow-bottleneck — is to work together (to cooperate). Traditional people knew this. To survive, you have to work as a tribe and work together. So that idea (doomsday prepper plus work together and survive as village communities), I think, breathes life back into the idea of preparing. It breathes the meaning and the values back into it because it’s not all about your survival till the very end but it’s about thriving together. It’s about us, the people that I know, that I interact with in a day to day basis. We create our life. We can create our life and nourish ourselves and find energy for ourselves and keep ourselves warm, protect each other and everything. We don’t need anything more than that. We don’t need some huge government. It’s not even that hard.
So the big difference here is that the survivalists are pushed by fear, away from something that they want to avoid. Whereas, the idea of relocalization and self-sustaining communities creates more of a beautiful vision of how life can be, that pulls us towards the vision, it inspires us, instead of a reaction out of fear.
So the good news — here’s the good news despite all that bad news. The good news is that there are tons of solutions out there that people are actively working on, engaged in, they’re experimenting, they’re refining, and they’re improving. Alternative solutions to meeting all these basic needs without needing to deplete and destroy the natural resources but instead actually nourish and heal the damaged landscapes.
So this trajectory that I’m describing is permaculture. It’s also local resilience. It involves radically relocalizing our resource supply lines. Re-investing in local production. The home (instead of just a place where we go for leisure and relaxation and sleeping after we’re done working) actually becomes a place of productivity and learning. A lot can go on in a home. What if most of each homes, food and energy was produced by those who live in that home? What about that? That sounds like a very egalitarian society. It sounds very equal, there is no big powerful people powering over each other telling other people what to do, managing them. It’s just that everyone takes care of themselves. You just take care of your needs. If your neighbor has some hard times, you go help them out. It’s actually very resilient.
That’s kind of the model and also this idea of ecosystem restoration. So going into these devastated and destroyed ecosystems and rebuilding the soil and planting trees, letting those ecosystem functions come back to the land and learning from ancient and traditional people’s life-ways and practices and cultures and to understand that they actually had a lot of good stuff figured out. They had a lot of knowledge. They weren’t just some primitive, ignorant people who need to be converted to the modern way.
It’s sort of a reforming of our system, reforming of ourselves. Transformation. It’s not a rejection of modern knowledge and technology but it encourages a more appropriate and responsible use of them, given the awareness of our limited natural resources and the impacts that we’re having on the ecosystems. It’s a long term process of reducing our dependence upon highly complex (which also means they’re unstable) technologies and energy and resource-intensive systems.
This narrative (the localization narrative) is in the air. It’s something that people talk about. There’s the local movement, the local food movement and so forth. Again, there are obstacles to this transformation happening and I happen to have very intimate knowledge of overcoming obstacles as a parkour expert.
The basic approach to overcoming a new obstacle in parkour is creativity. First of all, you have a very keen awareness of your own abilities and skills and that lead into how you go about trying to overcome the obstacle. Then that’s where the training comes in, where you try to just try to overcome the obstacle in many many different ways. And it takes a lot of practice and it takes some creativity. And usually you start out with the easier simpler stuff, then work your way up. You start out just jogging at it, and then eventually you go faster and faster until you’re going full-out.
So actually that experience of how I approach obstacles in parkour has really helped me with overcoming obstacles in general, obstacles in life. Obstacles, that is a category of things. Not just physical thing. They’re sometimes conceptual things. In future episodes, we’ll be exploring other instances of obstacles, as well as faculties or tools that we have to solve these problems, and how to apply them. Another category is potential solutions. These are some big category headings that we’ll be slowly adding to and compiling.
Another obstacle that I’ve had a funny time dealing with in my experience is what I call the polite, cheerful status quo monster. This is a monster that shows up almost every day and it’s kind of this ever-present assumption in everyday life. I don’t know if it’s just where I live. I think it’s at least pretty common across north America but it’s this ever-present assumption in everyday life interactions and culture that generally everything, as it is happening now, will continue, more or less, happen in that same way into the future. I mean, it has more or less for the last hundred years. Although there was that great depression thing but barring that, more or less, things have been going the way they have been going for quite a while so why wouldn’t they continue?
I think we’ve enjoyed an unusual period of relative stability, and this lulls us into a false sense of security. That makes it difficult to initiate the conversation in daily life about why it’s so necessary and urgent to search for new systems and processes solutions. The current cultural trajectory is no longer a possible trajectory. We need to find a new one with flourishing flowers alongside the path. If you find a path that has flowers alongside it, maybe go with that one for a little while, see where it takes you.
When you’re looking out at all the possibilities, the possible trajectories your life could go — it’s kind of like being in a forest looking up at the canopy, especially during the winter when you just see all the branches. It’s like each trunk sort of represents a major decision that you could make and then its projecting into the future then each major decision breaks off into these sub-decisions and then other little branches. Then each branch represents a different little trajectory that you could have taken into the future. You just look out at the canopy (the whole forest canopy) and just see there is millions of possibilities. There are so many possibilities that you could have chosen from that you couldn’t even have had the time to look at all of them, to be even aware to think and imagine all of those possibilities. There are so many.
This is another reason for hope. We cannot possibly fathom all the possibilities that are actually possible. Which means, just because we can’t imagine how it could happen it doesn’t mean it can’t, or that it won’t. “There is much more in heaven and on earth, Horatio that is dreamt in your philosophy.” I wish I had the source on that.
So I always keep in mind and appreciate the fact of our ignorance. The fact that, even as we as a species and as a culture have learned so much. There is still an infinite universe of unknown and mystery that surrounds us and there is always more to learn. Having that vision of all the possibilities, that’s a very powerful tool so that brings up another category of things that are not (things knock-knock) but they are still things that we’re not dealing with and working with that we might have. This is going to take everything that we have to make this transition happen. It’s going to take all the tools that we have, it’s going to take all the engineers that we have, all the technologies. It’s going to take hopefully not all of the resources but its’ going to take a whole investment in transforming and changing. It’s not just a small thing, it’s not a small piece. It’s a very whole change that is demanded of us as individuals, of our institutions, of our built environments, of the landscape around us. It is a pretty complete transformation.
Think for a moment. How often is it that you see human beings making humongous, life changing transformations? Is it something that happens that you would say all the time? Is it something that happens sometimes? Or is it something that happens almost never? Hopefully, you have made a similar assessment to what I have. If that’s the case, then you might be getting a little worried. If most people, or at least most people in developed countries that are using the most resources and causing the most damage, if they (all those people) need to go through this intentional transformation to get on to the path that we need to get on to, that’s a little bit hard to believe its going to happen. How often does that happen in history? Not. That’s how often. But at the same time, history is filled with moments when the impossible actually happens to everyone’s surprise. But then it became common place, people didn’t think much of it anymore and it just became normal.
But then again, I look at my own life and other people that I know and I do see progress. I see change and I see that people are adapting and getting interested in these projects and these traditional trades and learning skills, building skills, connecting with each other. That right there is the real s**t. That s**t is the hope s**t and that what is I’m all about, that energy, that culture. I love you guys, that’s basically what I’m saying. I’m just saying I love you, guys (everyone that’s listening to this and everyone in general, why not?)
Another item that we can add to the category of faculties that we possess that — (I don’t think its discussed a lot and so it becomes unconscious but we can become conscious of it and then use it intentionally) This is something I came across quite a while ago so I don’t know exactly where I came across this idea but it’s just a mix of a lot of different stuff.
The idea is reification. It essentially means to talk about something as though it’s real but it’s almost more than that. It’s the ability or the power that we have to speak something into existence. So I guess one example of this is America. So America itself is not exactly a physical thing, right? You could draw the shape of America, I guess, but it’s not just the land. It also has to do with what is on top of the land. all the stuff on top and then not just that stuff statically but how it’s moving and processing and interacting with itself and with each other, how it is continually folding together.
So that idea of America (you might have many different images: you might see flags, you might see soldiers, you might see men on the moon, you might see Uncle Sam, you might see Suburban home — this idea of America) has a power, right? If you invoke the idea of America in our culture (I’m speaking as an American and I’m quite intimately connected with this culture) it definitely has a power in this culture. If you invoke America and you can invoke it in many different ways but if you want to justify any kind of behavior that you want to take, just justify it in a context of: it’s good for America or it’ll improve freedom in America or anything like that. It’s this interesting idea. It’s like ever-present, it’s here always. We’re in America so in some sense America is here but it’s not (we don’t see it) visible. So reification is the way we bring ideas to life and give them a sort of a form even if it’s not a physical form but it is a form. It’s like a cultural meaning-form. You have like a pretty clear idea even of the boundaries of America, not just the physical boundaries but in terms of what America does (which organizations it has and the different processes, the ways that it’s involved in your life and how you interact and engage with it). You know where it begins and ends, generally (most people do).
Now, I think if you look at how the primitive cultures — of course, primitive has become a derogatory term. It’s kind of a dirty word cause it seems to imply lesser — primitive, lesser. I guess I could use the word primary culture. So if you look at primary cultures and how they use Reification (whether intentionally or not), one way that they did it was by reifying nature and bringing nature (a nature goddess or she takes a certain animal form). Mother Nature was reified very strongly so they had an affinity in a similar way that we have an affinity with America today (or at least we’re supposed to). But even more than that, because this nature was (what do I know? im not part of that culture) — but maybe a better analogy than the “America” one is more like when you have a very close relative (maybe a grandma who is very influential in the whole family), like a central character of your family who passes away, it’s very sad and it affects everyone. Afterwards, when people are together, there will be something that will happen and it will remind them of their grandma and so they’ll bring up grandma or even go so far as to say, “Oh, maybe grandma is here”, if things happen like a certain funny way that reminds them of that person. So that’s another example of reification — they give life to this person who once was alive and amongst them. So they keep the memory alive. That’s kind of a beautiful thing that people do, actually. It kind of makes a lot of sense as mortal beings.
But back to these primary cultures, they did this — imagine them creating this fond memory and almost like an interaction with Mother Nature. So Mother Nature almost became a member of their tribe. They would actually have dramas and things unfold and happen where Nature, herself, is a character in what’s happening between people in tribe, for example. But more importantly, it gave them greater awareness of the natural world around them. And it provided a language to communicate those feelings and sensations that they get by observing and tuning into the surrounding environment and the surrounding living systems. It gave them a language and an outlet to communicate that to others so they could all keep a collective bead on nature (how nature is doing). So that’s kind of, I guess, a positive example of reification and how we can use it.
But there’s also definitely some negative sides of reification that you have to watch out for. That’s one of the reasons that I tend to avoid language that is something like, “if I can make myself” or “I have to force myself to..” or if you are trying to overcome a habit or something, that kind of language — it can be common. It makes sense. We all, maybe, have issues with our will power at times. But the thing is, this way of talking — it reifies, it gives life or energy to that part of yourself that is not agreeable and you’re creating sort of an adversary within yourself that is actually trying to harm you and harm your growth and your development. I just try to be careful of that kind of language.
There’s a really cool quote that a buddy Gabe of mine came across, I don’t know who originally came up with this but the saying goes, “Where intention goes, energy flows.” So in the case of reification, I think this quote applies very much. Whatever foes you put your attention on, in a sense, energy will go there and they will gain in strength.
One of our tools in our tool shed for revolutionary change and transformation over to this permaculture world is focusing our attention. It’s the power of focusing — where we focus our conscious mind. Of course, there is this practice where you practice how to focus on things (focusing on them really good). It’s called meditation. It’s pretty helpful because it helps you focus your attention which is the defining connection with reality. Where you focus your mind, your thought, your attention, is like one of the defining ways that you interact and engage with your surrounding world. If you don’t have some guidance over that, it just goes wherever willy-nilly it wants to, then your whole reality is going to be directionless and lost (Pretty important one to practice there). But isn’t it wonderful that we have these traditions and have this knowledge that can help us with that?
Reification is most powerfully done within a group of other people who can all re-enforce and give life to the invisible forms. This is another one of the great powerful things about your local community. Its hat you can start to develop your own ideas, your own sense of identity, your own projects and goals and so much more.
This whole talk here I’m kind of describing how I see the world and sort of our story in the world and really, it’s sort of a way of reifying the larger world that we know exist out there, beyond what’s available to our immediate five senses right here. We know there’s a larger world out there and there’s a lot going on out there but because we can’t see it, we need to reify it. The further out you go, the more abstract you get, the more controversy and conjecture there is at just what is actually happening out there.
So that’s why telling stories and sharing what we think is going on way out there and also right around here is important cause you’re creating that shared sense of reality. It’s kind of like singing the world into existence.
The media really know how this works. They exploit this constantly and daily for their branding campaigns. I wish I had a good example but I just feel like I don’t want to give them any more attention and energy than is necessary cause they already have so much of it. But they know the power of reification, just watch for it. Just observe and see what the ads are creating and even working together what kind of a shared vision, perhaps the life that you should want to have and aspire towards. All the ads kind of reifying that and sort of creating that as an attractive thing in your mind, which will then affect your behaviors. So invisible things affect reality. You can call them spirits, you can call them concepts, and you can call them systems (I don’t care). Ideas and non-physical things affect reality a great deal through us because we’re humans and we have the ideas. But we also share the ideas.
Finally, the most useful, practical part. To bring this finally down, back out of these lofty ideas and apply it now into our everyday life. “Given all this wonderful information, what do I do about it?” Here’s an idea: brainstorm 10 simple changes you can make. Things like starting a garden, planting a few trees, or biking to work once or twice a week, or turning down the temperature on your water heater, or thermostat, doing some foraging or hunting, having dinner with your neighbors, there’s tons of ideas. and then choose the top three and then put them on your planner or you’re to do list and then start talking to other people about it a little bit. Maybe you’ll find someone who has some tool or some skill that you need to reach your goal. In fact, maybe that’s how it works. So while you are making your progress towards these goals, you’re connecting with other people and sharing those values and sharing those stories and those successes and also the failures because those are important stories too. Those are important lessons and I won’t be shy to share that I have experienced many failures along my journey over these last 5 years trying to reconcile my daily life with these big picture trends and facts. It was pretty sad at first.
There is this thing in Tibetan Buddhism called “hairy renunciation” and this idea where the new initiate becomes so impassioned by the Buddhist ideas and ideals that they just immediately give up all their possessions and shave their head and go up in the mountains and they’re just going to become a monk. But then, inevitably, a few days or a couple weeks later, they come back down really discouraged and forlorn and upset and lost because they couldn’t just do it. It wasn’t that easy. This is not the kind of thing you could just dive into (most people anyways). Some people have really great skill, naturally, at that or maybe they grew up in that kind of environment and that’s awesome. We need more people like that but for me, trying to dive into this hands-on-do-it-yourself kind of life with the very limited skill set that I had and the very limited knowledge that I gotten from my formal education system, I failed a lot. Basically my two main skills were fixing computers and doing backflips. But yeah, a lot of the early projects were pretty sad and pathetic but I pulled forward and I ended up learning a lot and I owe a lot to, first of all, my dad who has taught me so much and I still have tons to learn from him. This project actually helped me connect with him. But also just all the awesome farmers around in our area who have been so helpful and supportive and been great mentors. I’ve certainly made progress but there’s several huge steps to go yet before I really feel like I’m living within my means. I’m more or less producing what I’m consuming or even producing more than I consume (giving more than I take). I still have a long way to go there but I’m working on it. We’re working on it.
I think what would have helped me in the beginning is if I took a more honest analysis of my own strengths and weaknesses and also my available tools and resources, my available skills, mentors, land, these kind of things. Just kind of looked around and assessed the situation to figure out how I can have the most success in these efforts. Success, I’m using that word. Actually, I’m kind of re-using that word towards a new destination so that’s good. But what I did was basically just doing whatever fun, creative experiments, meet-you-own-needs type projects, whatever sounded interesting and kind of made sense, I just tried it out and did a bunch of experiments, just like trying a bunch of approaches to life.
You don’t dive in 110% percent in any one direction without first checking the water, checking for rocks, checking for piranhas. I think by starting small and putting out your feelers in many directions and find what projects and efforts that are already going on in your area that you can plug into and give energy towards. Maybe you could look up the Transition or Permaculture group, definitely visit and volunteer at local farms, organic farms. Then when these different experiments — they bring back some small success, then put more energy those experiments. This is the same approach that nature uses. Generally nature doesn’t just create one perfect organism, nature creates millions upon millions of variations and every variation, every species is a different experiment at life. And then, within each species there’s millions and millions of individuals that are each a different experiment or different version of that species. Through natural selection it’s just an ongoing experimental process, and those that are successful end up reproducing and gaining in dominance. Trees and flowers and plants, they throw out thousands of seeds, and the seeds go everywhere, they go, not only in fertile soil, but they also go on the concrete and off into the water where they’re not going to grow.
So that’s the beginning stage, just doing tons of experiments, not putting a bunch of energy into them, just putting a bit of energy into all these different directions and start to see what takes root, start to see which of the seeds that you plant begin to grow. And which ones just naturally take off. Then put more energy into those ones.
Then move those more into a level a prototype. Then once you kind of work out the kinks with prototype, then you can actually apply it, in general, you might actually scale it to the point where you’re sustaining pretty much all your needs in that department.
We gotten to that scale at Realeyes homestead with our meat that we were able to produce more than our own meat that we consume and our heat with wood. Then we got a lot of squash and a lot of veggies and mushrooms and garlic, and with our electricity, too. But that was just a solar panel thing so that it’s kind of a cheat, in a way. But just creating new habits, telling others, building enthusiasm, experimenting, playing with the living world around you — there are all these amazing plants, just go dig them up and experiment with them and figure them out. I wouldn’t go as far as eating them without actually knowing what they are but see how they grow. See how they grow back, see how they respond to different things that you might do to them. I’m not saying abuse them, I’m just saying see what they’ll tolerate, see what type habitat they like to grow in. Then start spreading those plants around, sharing them with friends. Propagation. Plant some trees.
What’s the worst that could happen? (this is totally a Mollison concept) but there’s not much we can do to make things worse than we are now. You could do just about anything and is likely to be an improvement upon what’s going on now. It’s kind of gotten to that bad of a point, which is really sad but in a way its good because maybe it means there’s a breaking point.
To wrap this up now, I’ll provide something of a synopsis of the 1982 book Overshoot by William Catton.
It’s strange but it seems we humans need to be reminded often that we are just one more animal on this planet, on which the vast majority of species that ever existed are now extinct. And the same forces that have affected all those other failed species still affect us. Our current methods of maintaining our numbers are gradually wiping out the biodiversity we need to sustain ourselves.
Left unchecked, this process will inevitably lead to a population crash. This same pattern of a species overshooting their natural resource base can be charted on graphs time and time again. This is nature’s way, and we are not immune.
If you recall your Biology lab experiments with bacterial colonies in petri dishes, you’ve seen this same pattern take place. Introduce a starter colony to a dish of food, and the colony will roughly double in size every day or so. Eventually, the bacteria will either consume all their food supplies, or will be poisoned by the build up of their own waste, and a massive die-off will result.
In fact, if you enjoy drinking wine on occasion, then you also have this very pattern of population overshoot to thank. The yeast that ferments your grape juice into wine feeds upon the sugars in the juices creating alcohol as their waste product. Eventually the yeast either consume all the sugar in the juice, or get killed by the build up of their own alcohol and fermentation stops. And then we say, Cheers!
This same pattern is proposed to explain the disappearance of the Trobriand People of Easter Island.
Our technological innovations has repeatedly expanded the earth’s carrying capacity, hence our massive numbers. This growth curve has persisted for a few generations now, so we’ve all lived our entire lives during this period of exponential growth so we assume this curve can continue indefinitely. But in truth, the new technologies have only allowed us to drawdown the reserves of resources that would normally remain for future generations.
Environmental facts rule our behavior just as much as all the other animals on this planet. But so many of us have made our lives so much apart from nature, within an almost entirely human constructed environment, that we forget our place, and must be told by scientists and journalists what’s happening in the natural world because we can’t perceive it with our dulled senses.
A great temptation now is to blame someone, or some group of people for this predicament we’re in, and turn against one another, making conflict to our bitter end. When this is not necessary, because the whole process is perfectly natural. We must now see ecologically, not antagonistically.
Ecological awareness, and restoration is our true refuge. Of all the other failed gene replicators that have been given the blessed chance at life on this beautiful planet, we are perhaps the only one thus far that is smart enough to see this.
The big question is, are we also smart enough to act on it, and choose a different fate? Or will we suffer the same fate as the bacteria, and the yeast?
I believe the answer connects back to an idea from Part 1, when we were discussing the Hierarchy of Human Needs. I made the observation that our most revered humanitarian leaders like MLK, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Jesus were so revolutionary in part because they put the needs of the whole ahead of their own personal needs. From one point of view, this appears to contradict our instinctual impulses towards which want to prioritize our own individual survival.
However, isn’t the self-sacrifice of a Mother or Father for their offspring an example of nature re-organizing the priorities? What about our soldiers who go to war and, in theory, sacrifice their lives for the sake of the whole nation? Even the very cells in our bodies operate on the basis of self-sacrifice for the greater organism that they comprise. Except in cases of cancer which is so vicious and hard to cure because it is the body turned against itself.
So somewhere, deep down within our biological make-up we DO have the programming to “Flip the Pyramid” and take on the needs of the whole as our own, and even above our own. We don’t have to FIGHT our biology, or our instincts to achieve this, we simply need to change our perspective. We can re-member ourselves as just one of the cells of this much greater living being that is billions of years old, but to which we owe everything. Literally. And to which we are obliged to GIVE everything, when the time comes.
We have all the technology we need to do this. I’m talking about culture. Culture is a type of technology that humans have invented, that can organize our thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, behaviors, customs, and knowledge towards a shared set of values, and a shared vision of the future we want to inhabit.
Let’s make it a green one. Because truly, no other type of future is possible.
I do want to dedicate this episode to some really influential people that have passed away, sadly, out of this world. But I want to keep them alive. I want to keep reifying them and their ideas so this one’s going out to you guys. Bill Mollison, and Toby Hemenway. Thank you for all your immense contributions. You have helped illuminate the path back toward life.
And thank you, dear listener, for your time and attention and reflections.