Saturday, February 9, 2008
I don't think of human beings as being in a position to save the world. It's more like, get out of the way so the world can take care of itself. So my vision doesn't include a 'humans saving the world' concept.
The Earth's biosphere, best we can tell with our crude abilities to find things out, is an interconnection of living systems that will maintain their own ongoing, life sustaining balance without the guidance of human beings. The earth has never needed human beings to maintain its life forces. Instead, what human beings may have become, actually very probably have, is now a potential danger to the complex living systems that make up the total biosphere, and ironically, in pursuit of our own aggrandizement, we have devised some clandestine adaptation strategies that appear capable of unbalancing all the self sustaining processes of the earth, much as a cancer unbalances the self sustaining process of an individual organism by its own, myopic focus on what cancer cells are genetically designed to do to survive.
The difference between human beings and cancer is we have the potential to make a choice about what we do. ...Well, that's hypothetical, I guess. Maybe cancer does have a choice and we don't, or both, or neither.
Western globalized culture has become like what we call in ecology, an r-selected species. Because of what humans can do as a group with their unique abilities to create cultures as an interface with their environment, we have cleverly devised culture based systems that act as our own, evolutionary eco niche adaptation process, only with ours, we can take over just about any niche. It's a unique process we can use without changing our biology, as many other species must do to adapt. Such normally biologically based species (cancer being one, lemmings another) are adapted to low succession ecosystems. Examples of low succession ecosystems are fields of corn, where much external energy is required to till, plant, fertilize and keep out various forms of species that would also like to populate the field where the corn grows, until finally the crop can be harvested.
Human beings have for some time transformed environments with their built places and their agriculture. Now with increasing speed, thanks to the cheap and abundant energy discovered under the surface of the earth, humans continue to raze the many precious and irreplaceable complex ecosystems of the planet, destroying in the process species that will never be seen again, and could take millions of years to regenerate in some comparable ecologically adapted form, so that those areas can be turned into low succession, high yield "resources" for human beings, who themselves now number 6.6 billion in number, but much more than that when the factors of eco foot print is taken into consideration for the more highly technologized societies. This population growth over the last 150 years has roughly the same curve on a graph as any r-selected species.
So human beings, through their cultural adaptations, have made themselves (a species that otherwise has all the characteristics of a K-selected species) into an r-selected species, and with that, they have employed the traits built into their gene pool that allows them to transform their environment, and hence all the environments of the planet that they can, into low succession, low speciated environments. The loss of genetic material in the process may very well completely transform the life of the biosphere to one that does not support most of the life we see around us now.
The solution I see is for humans to recognize what they are doing, and reorient their cultural adaptation away from control oriented technologies and more towards ecologically reflexive, sustainable ones. One of the ways to do that is for each human to begin to reawaken their deep connection to the earth, the one that is part of our evolution, and begin a renewing of the old ways of seeing and interacting with our environment, combined with the knowledge we have developed through the cultural devices of our ecological sciences. If any of our sciences can guide us, those would be the ones.
We need to rediscover the "ways," as in the "cultural ways," or the "Way of Zen," those kinds of ways that acknowledge the psychological unhealthiness of separating ourselves as we do in our isolating built environments. Environments of our own distorting creation that ignore natural needs of the living biosphere while we grow ever more dependent, in the process, on economic systems that are essentially cancerous. We need to "see" this and then renew, or invent ways that will reverse our progress on a path of destruction, and go in new directions with our adaptation strategies, based on a healthy and direct interaction with life processes, so that we are reminded by our daily existence of our connection to the planet's life. That reminder is the basis of individual sanity and psychological balance. An abstract idea about it is insufficient.
That recognition and societal redirection, of course, entails a dramatic rearrangement of whole systems of thought and ideas. A whole new mental paradigm must come about. That's what I'm working on, ideas combined with actions for what that might be, ways of becoming healthy and balanced with a new vision of who we are as living beings within a self sustaining biosphere, not controllers and guardians, as some Western religious doctrines would have us believe.