“What are your thoughts on climate change and the devastating impact we have had on the planet? Have we run out of time to save it as many of the climate experts seem to think? Curious about your thoughts on the subject since you never seem to talk about this issue…”
Yes, I don’t talk about it much because I’m no climate expert. I don’t know if the planet can be saved or not. I don’t know to what extent we have been responsible for its destruction. That humans have had a negative impact, is clear to me.
To me the conversation surrounding climate change seems terribly polar. There is the climate change denier camp which is living in a la la land with blinkers on. And then there is the “man-made climate change is real” camp. I don’t think there is any debate as to whether man has caused the climate to change. But how much? To what degree? What proportion of that change was inevitable even without humanity’s footprint? Has the impact of civilization contributed to 95% of the climate change or 5%? To me these questions have not been sufficiently answered. And until we know precisely how much of an impact we have had in altering the climate we won’t know how much of an impact we can have on reversing it.
Mind you, I’m not terribly well informed on the matter either so there may be research that I’m not aware of that answers these very questions. I’m happy to take a look if someone has those facts and figures to show.
THE REAL PROBLEM
The reason I haven’t immersed myself too deeply into the whole climate change issue is because the problem for me is something else entirely than the one climate change advocates seem to be focused on. From where I stand, even those who are campaigning to save the environment are doing so from the same fundamental misassumption that those who have allegedly “wrecked it” are working from.
And that assumption is that: mankind is separate from the planet, rather than a product of it.
Without realizing it, we all tend to think of ourselves as an extra-terrestrial species that has come to inhabit this planet. We are aliens to it. And as a result, we believe we have the power to either destroy or steward its destiny. It hasn’t even occurred to most of us that the roles may be reversed entirely. That the planet has evolved us in order to have exactly the kind of impact we are having at the moment – both negative and positive. That, rather than us destroying the planet, it’s really a case of the planet destroying and recreating itself using us as its instrument.
In fact, if one is of a truly scientific mindset and sees the inherent rationality in Darwin’s theory of evolution and that of evolutionary psychology, I don’t think there is really any other conclusion one COULD draw.
We live in an age where we understand that we have evolved from lesser species. An age where our DNA conclusively reveals our evolutionary roots in nature. And further, we live in a unique era in which ancient wisdom paths and neuroscientific discovery have converged upon the same basic conclusion: this “self” that we think exists is really an artifice – an intelligent illusion required to manifest a “sense” of personal will, volition and direction.
In other words, the SAME science which says that we are nothing more than an extension of nature and that our sense of being separate from it is a mirage – NOW claims that WE are responsible for the destruction of the planet. Is no one seeing the glaring contradiction in this?
If humans are to be fundamentally held responsible, this then implies that the findings of neuroscience are false and a concrete self DOES exist that is entirely separate from everything in the natural world. And if that is the case, evolutionary theory needs to scramble to explain where this self came from if it isn’t just the outcome of some natural phenomenon. This then opens up a Pandora’s box of religious speculation once again.
A NATURAL DISASTER
I don’t think of humans as separate from nature. I think of humanity as a “force” of nature.
And just like natural disasters such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, epidemics, earthquakes, insect plagues and meteor strikes have been responsible for radical alterations in the fabric of the planet and its eco-systems, human beings too are nature’s agents of radical alteration. At the scale at which we live, it may seem like this destruction of the planet has been slow and gradual, unfolding over centuries since the industrial revolution. But from the point of view of the planet, in which evolutionary cycles span hundreds of thousands of years, the entire history of human civilization has been nothing more than a blip on the radar.
In other words, our impact has not been gradual at all, but sudden and explosive. Humanity has erupted into existence and the effects of that eruption have engulfed the entire planet. Humanity has been a natural disaster. But just like a volcano or a virus is not some alien scourge attempting to destroy the planet but rather is an outcome of the planet calibrating itself, so also are human beings not separate disembodied entities but rather creations and extensions of the planet itself.
The planet is perpetually recreating itself – prompting new disasters, creating new pestilences to wipe out what already exists in order to create space for something new. When a volcano erupts and destroys the eco-system, new eco-systems form and thrive from the very molten rock that once burned everything to the ground. Humanity has been a similar explosive phenomenon, a similar pestilence.
THE SINS OF OUR FATHERS
There is a great irony in condemning ourselves for the sins of our ancestors.
When we condemn the empires of the past that set out to conquer the rest of the world we conveniently omit the fact that the global connection and cultural diversity that we enjoy and celebrate today is a direct outcome of all that conquest and bloodshed. Similarly, the very tools and technology we are developing today – both in order to produce more environmentally friendly solutions and in order to communicate and organize this clean-up initiative on a global scale are the direct outcome of the dirt and soot of the industrial age.
Human beings once lived in small isolated tribes scattered across continents. And certainly, when the population of the world was a paltry few million, having a zero carbon footprint was a no brainer. Yet, in a mere few thousand years, the species has literally exploded to an astronomical number of nearly 8 billion strong with the added bonus of a doubled lifespan boosted by an evolutionary impulse to cross-breed outside one’s own tribe. To think that ANY of this would have been possible without the planet taking a massive hit, without there being copious amounts of destruction and bloodshed in the process is a vision that is terribly naïve and myopic.
The smooth veneer of civilization has been built brick by brick by the blood and chaos of our barbaric pasts. Sitting in our ivory towers casting stones on the sins of our fathers believing ourselves to be chaste and utterly divorced from such evil is both childish and stupid.
Humanity cannot have its cake and eat it too. We want the ability to totally infest the planet with our species like some swarm of locusts BUT we want to do so responsibly and with zero footprint. That is absurd! If you believe humans truly ARE the problem, then the solution is to get rid of the problem. If you have termites in the house, you call an exterminator. You cannot reform the problem while continuing to perpetuate its numbers.
But no one wants to tackle that elephant in the room. No one wants to admit that our agenda for the planet is always subservient to our own agenda as a species. And our agenda as a species is to survive and proliferate. And these two agendas, whether we like it or not are ultimately conflicting. They undermine each other.
So, presented with all the facts – which include not just climate statistics, but rather a vision of the whole and how our evolutionary path has really been about the planet’s own evolution not just that of our species – seeing this big picture, what can we as individuals do about it from a practical perspective?
Here, I return to the same mechanism I’ve alluded to in past posts. We need to work with a paradoxical wisdom. And that wisdom in this context goes something like this:
I realize the self is an illusion of my mind and yet I learn to utilize this illusion. It exists for a purpose. Knowing that ultimately I am not the doer, I DO ANYWAYS – acting with will, volition and determination.
I do not accept blame for the past deeds of humanity. Nor do I point fingers and cast blame on those who have allegedly “caused” these woes. There is no blame because there is no choice about the past. The past, no matter how sordid, has resulted in my existence in this human form. To condemn the past is to condemn myself. The past has unfolded beyond our will.
In fact, the human will has been nature’s own tool. The human brain, nature’s own technology.
Thus, I accept the past as inevitable. Yet, I do not accept the future as inevitable. Because to do so is to condemn it.
The root of our delusion has resulted from our error in viewing the past as the future and the future as the past. Believing that the past is changeable rather than inevitable; thus believing things “should have been” different, that humans “could have acted” differently. Equally misguided, is our preemptive acceptance of the future as inevitable rather than changeable. Convincing ourselves that since we have no real agency, we can have no real impact. That everything will unfold as it must anyways…
Everything WILL unfold as it must but NOT because of our inaction, but as a result of our ACTION. Because humanity is a force and a force ACTS upon its environment.
NOT IN, BUT OF
This is the paradox. And the only way to face a paradox is to LIVE it:
To take full responsibility for the future… AND YET neither accept nor perpetuate any blame for the past.
To see that the self is an illusion; that there is no action that is independent from the movement of the whole… AND YET to act in a truly independent and self-determined manner.
To see humanity as an extension of nature like the leaves of a tree rather than an aberration or an alien entity; realizing that our WILL is ultimately directed by nature’s own evolutionary designs… AND YET to direct our own will freely and unhesitatingly driven by our own unique aesthetic.
To balance on the knife’s edge between absolutely negating our own existence and absolutely asserting it.
“Be IN the world, but not OF it”. I don’t know if we realize what a destructive statement this is.
It is the single belief that drives all people regardless of whether they are spiritually or materially oriented. It is a validation of our basic feeling of alienation from the world. I am IN this world, but I am not OF it. I am an alien from some other dimension. As long as this remains the belief or the spiritual ideal we aspire to there is no recourse but to continue perpetuating the same destructive patterns. We will either destroy the world out of frustration or desperately attempt to escape it through transcendence because this existence doesn’t feel like our home. This simply can’t be all there is to it.
Total freedom and total responsibility go hand in hand.
And these can only result when we no longer see ourselves as being separate, no longer alien visitors to a foreign dimension. When we realize that we are a force of nature. When we fully embrace the paradox of our own existence and learn to,
BE OF THE WORLD, BUT NOT IN IT.