Twenty-First Century American Reality: Confronting Ecocide and Forging a New DestinyMark Weiser I Social Economics I Commentary I October 31st, 2014
What is reality? Reality is the absolute truth no matter what that may be. Because everything is connected and related to everything else directly or indirectly, reality is complex. Everything we know is all part of the universe itself, encompassing a space so vast that words are inadequate to describe it in human terms.
We know life on earth exists as a result of the symbiotic relationship(s) between plants and animals which are dependent on sun light; and the warming of earth and atmosphere, which cause clouds to form and rain to fall. The significance of plant and animal life being interdependent with life sustaining atmosphere and climate cannot be overemphasized - neither life, nor the life sustaining atmosphere, can exist without each other. The universe, the sun, and the delicate symbiotic interdependence of life on earth are all glorious things of natural wonder and intricate beauty in themselves - and all are completely necessary for man to survive. It should be no mystery why primitive man, loving life, revered and worshipped the sun as it warmed the earth, allowing rivers to run and life to flow.
The Human Spirit
When talking about reality on earth, the conscious spirit of humans must be discussed. The human spirit is believed by some to be separate from our physical universe, not just a result of our physical being; though in all truth, we don't have a way to positively prove that separateness exists to each other. Many believe mans spirit is not alone in the universe and a conscious God, as written in religious texts, is right here existing among human beings. There are others who believe a conscious God exists, but do not believe any religious text accurately describes man's true relationship with God. And there are others still, who believe the physical universe is all that exists and mans spirit can only exist while being part of, and emanating from, a living body.
I will take exception to the last statement above in that: The spirit of any individual can still affect other people's lives long after the individual's physical body is gone. So reality concerning mans understanding of conscious spirit is that some believe the human spirit exists beyond physical life, while others simply do not. Regardless of what any person or group believes, physical events that take place on earth are sometimes influenced by the conscious spirit(s) of one or more person(s) - and some of those person(s) may be influenced through belief that a conscious God exists - but not all believers of God are influenced by religious social culture.
Man is instinctually inventive and has made life easier by forging tools for manipulating matter, chemical compounds, the human body, and genetic codes to serve his own purposes. This knowledge and inventiveness directly results from genetic instinct, human nature, human intellect, and social culture; in one combination or another. Indeed, observation and learning come naturally in childhood and are part of the basic survival instinct for human beings. It's very likely man is not more intelligent today than 5000 years ago. When man learned to control fire and stumbled on the forging of metals in 3000 to 4000 BC., the evolution of technology was only beginning.
Two thousand years before man learned to forge metals, the great thinker Ingenuitus Homo would have forged the first metals had he not met an early death from a rock to the head. And theoretically, as exemplified in that scenario above, humans could be two thousand years further advanced in technology than we are today. Technology can only build on previous learning and technology, and has evolved from the forging of simple tools to the mass production of complex machines and chemical compounds, along with advances in medicines and medical procedures. The average human is not any more intelligent today than in the ancient past, but the next genius who arrives on planet earth will simply have a greater accumulation of prior knowledge and sophisticated tools with which to begin work.
As Primitive as Primitive Gets
Competition between human beings is instinctual on some level and, in theory, contributes to the survival of the fittest ensuring the strongest of our species will lead the way into the future. At one time, if given equal numbers of combatants and equal weapons, physical strength would have been the deciding factor in battles over territory and resources. In today's reality, after man's inventiveness has progressed for over five millenniums, the tools of war have become more important than the numbers or physical strength of combatants - as technology now provides the deciding advantages to those who will triumph over others.
It's very unlikely mans instincts or human nature has significantly changed in 5000 years or more. Although we tell ourselves we're "civilized," man still commits the same atrocities today that were committed throughout history by confiscating the resources and property of others - including the confiscation of human lives through imprisonment, various forms of slavery, and causation of immediate or belated death. The only difference between now and our primitive past is the level of sophistication in the tools being used.
When considering the "tools being used" we must include the tools of propaganda as employed in modern civilizations for instigating, committing and sustaining atrocities against other humans or the environment itself. Even the most militarily powerful country in the world employs sophisticated propaganda techniques, enhanced with technological communications, to manipulate its own population for purposes of garnering support for commencing unjust wars, and commandeering resources which belong(ed) to unfortunate and vanquished others. In certain cases, theses atrocities span multiple generations of those we've imposed upon. Propaganda concerning the environment is basically profit motivated; there are entire industries which profit from seasonal or continuous assaults committed against the environment.
Due to the human instinct and social culture advocating procreation, added to the fact that agricultural production has increased with use of machines and chemicals, the world's population has exploded with the industrial age from approximately one billion people in 1800 to over seven billion today. The more the merrier? Not necessarily so. Because economic structures did not keep pace with population growth, as the population increased, human suffering increased as well. The total number of humans living in poverty today is said to be as high as two to three billion, or more, depending on whose numbers are being considered accurate.
It is unfortunate that the evolution of our instincts for survival have not kept pace with our technological advances. We continuously instigate military confrontation due to lust for resources, driven by the fear that we otherwise would not be able to self-determine and control our own destiny. In doing this, we're automatically excluding others from self-determination, and from reaping those benefits from resources which are legally and rightfully theirs - a moral conflict to say the least. Militarily excluding others from reaping the benefits of their own resources is as primitive as primitive gets. And because instinct and human nature are prone to retaliation and escalation, no individual or group atrocity of any possible magnitude can be ruled out with today's available technologies.
Ecocide and "Acceptable Risk"
We know that producing and using certain technologies and substances are dangerous to various forms of life and the earth's ecosystem in general terms. And we know the world is finite; knowledge that is in direct conflict with man's instinctual and cultural influence to endlessly propagate and procure wealth for his physical comfort and well-being. With our present state of technology, more people means more damaging assaults committed against the ecosystem - something none of us can live without.
People want industrial-technological conveniences to make life easier and richer in varying ways. This again has much to do with our human nature and taking the path of least resistance; and when combined with social culture, the sum total either allows, or dictates, what we convince ourselves is acceptable at any given time. Which brings us to the question of, what is acceptable risk? Asking Americans if they're concerned about their progeny living beyond the turn of the next century, almost all will tell you they are. But almost all will point to the fact that we are all damaging the environment collectively through everyday living, and will use this fact as justification to continue doing exactly the same, while saying, "Everyone else is doing it, so it doesn't matter what I do. And if I stop, it won't make any difference at all."
Modern-day industrialized humans, in all truth and reality, are addicted to fossil fuels, industrial waste, harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and dirty energy, as well as nuclear weapons and waste; while we're being driven at the same time by our instincts for survival through competition and one-upmanship. Considering we employ these vices to make money and wage wars for securing more of the same, there is a certain level of prevalent madness once we're aware of the dangers. If a madman unleashes total destruction tomorrow, or if "civilized society" consciously pollutes itself to death over a period of two or three hundred years, the end result would be the same - with the only differences being the duration of time and the number of individuals consciously contributing to the end result.
The irony with all of this as presented so far is that no matter how beneficial our technologies are, the negative effects of those technologies are taking a toll on the environment over time. And with modern weapons aimed and ready to fire, technology poses an immediate and immense threat to the stability of our life-sustaining ecosystem. Almost all we do as human beings is the result of instinct and human nature combined with our social culture at any given time. If not driven by instinct, human nature and culture in various combinations, what then is driving us to live with these life threatening conflicts of interest?
The human spirit and intellect are no trivial things and can't be overestimated when considering the potential for positive accomplishment through cohesive unity. It is unfortunate that cohesive unity does not always manifest without being compelled by some repugnant and malevolent force of considerable magnitude. That malevolence is standing at our door step now while we collectively refuse to acknowledge the threat we pose to ourselves. And at the same time, we're collectively refusing to acknowledge our ability to bring and cause change to our own instinctive and culturally-induced behaviors.
Forging a New Destiny
Of course no one wants to discuss changing our instinctual human nature and social-economic-culture when changing those things would be much more difficult than the discussion itself. But would it really be that difficult? Or could it be as simple as us making up our minds and accepting those necessary changes?
The health of our ecosystem trumps any other necessity or problem where the future of mankind is concerned. Ecological collapse will neither be bigoted, nor influenced by bribes; and will spare few, if any, human beings. As the momentum from past environmental transgressions could potentially carry us beyond the point of no return, it would be in our own best interests to err on the side of caution. And what is the rush to find more, and use more of the same harmful technologies and substances that have put us in this predicament? Of course, the urgency to find and produce more is tied to the advantages money can bring within our present social-economic-culture (how our social-economic-culture promotes greed was discussed at some length in a previous essay).
As human beings in the modern age, if we're going to give our species the best chance for succeeding well into the future, it would serve us all to stop dividing ourselves by petty and insignificant differences. If two or four hundred - or four billion - get together with the same valid goals in mind, they may be required to discard some of those petty things we often use to divide ourselves. We should all hope and strive for the day when humankind will finally get it together living as sisters and brothers. After all is said and done, we're all the same, wanting and needing the same basic things with no difference between us in that respect. We all come from the same earth, and we're all going to the same place(s) in the end. Some seem to think they'll be the ones left standing in the game of industrialized monopoly, as our world and societies become more divided and exclusionary through economic and technological advantages being administered by a primitive mindset. To let our instincts for "self-survival" dictate how we react to realities that can't be beaten by ratcheting up the competition between ourselves - this is not a strategy. What we're currently doing is not sustainable, and not healthy for our psychological or physical well-being. The sooner we remove divisions between us while recognizing we all have one common earth, the better our chances will be.
When all boiled down to the raw elements of cause and effect relationships, all that's required is that we don't tread on each other and don't allow anyone else to be tread upon. By looking out for mother earth we'd also be looking out for each other - good shepherds, you are now of great value, more than ever, to the existing and future life on earth. Breaking those psychological barriers which keep us at odds would allow us to spend that energy on more constructive and viable-future endeavors. It's entirely possible that our collective culture will soon recognize the need for change, as indeed the momentum is building now. Our human cultures are flexible enough that it could actually become stylish to give a damn about our world and each other by acknowledging the common denominator of life-dependency on maintaining our ecosystem - life would then automatically take on an entirely new and higher significance than the self. Who among us wouldn't benefit, and want to be part of that? Almost all of us are capable of feeling and having hope for each other, while caring what happens to others and the world around us today, tomorrow and beyond.
The human spirit is such that self-sacrifices of various sorts are often made to secure the future well-being, however temporary, for one or more others. What would any of us as individuals or part of a group be willing to give up so others may live, suffer less, and have a viable-existence in the foreseeable future? To think that others will live on when we're gone - and that we owe it to them for bringing them here - to leave them something they can work with - that could be our legacy and our destiny if we so choose.