Henry Cloud wrote:
“We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change”.
Unfortunately there appears to be a thirty to sixty year delay on facing the consequences of our actions in using up the planet as if it were just here for our convenience. So it seems certain that not enough people are going to change their ways in time to avert environmental disasters of catastrophic proportions. One of Trump’s first moves was to remove all references to climate change and global warming from the Whitehouse website because to the mind of a malignant narcissist, this is all you have to do to make the problem go away.
Our present governments are powerless to do anything from within the socio-economic system we have – from their position of deep within the pocket of the profit motive. The economic values of humankind are incompatible with the laws of nature. The cult of material consumerism has a different story to the trees, the birds and the bees – and it doesn’t include them. The mass extinction has already begun.
Some of us realize this, but not enough to make any real difference. Even if everyone in the UK became carbon neutral overnight it would take China for example, just a couple of months to make up the footprint size. To compound the catastrophe, the effects of global warming are being temporarily hidden in the oceans, which seem to be acting as a great sponge, soaking up the heat for a short while. The complexity and interrelated nature of the issues is mostly too much for people who just want to get on with going to work, earning a living, paying their mortgages, bringing up their children and watching Strictly or X Factor.
Consensus amongst scientists seems to be that the ‘tipping point’ has already passed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million. The 400 ppm threshold has been an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming. The Scientific American claims that “sudden, irreversible changes in the relatively stable conditions that have allowed civilization to flourish,” are increasingly likely. Human nature shows that many people won’t believe it even after it has happened.
There are plans for technical fixes of giant proportions, such as spraying the sky with a reflective layer to diminish the radiation from the sun to compensate. Conspiracy theorists assert that experiments have already begun, using military and commercial aircraft to spray barium, nano-aluminum-coated fiberglass, radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, and polymer fibres into the atmosphere. Some even attribute more sinister intentions to this airborne cocktail, motivated by a cabal who want to make us all sick. Many scientists and authorities deny that there is evidence for any of it. Once again the truth is obscured. ‘Look at the science’ they say but it’s pretty easy to just say what you want and then find some science to justify it.
Geo-engineering, cloud-seeding ships, space mirrors or even just planting more trees are all possible techno fixes to an escalating problem (meanwhile we still continue to cut down 5.2 million hectares of forest globally per year).
One solution to the problem seems obvious – use less energy – but this is not compatible with economies based on ‘growth’, as they increasingly fail to meet energy reduction targets or who, like Canada, ‘opt out’ of the climate agreements they have already made. Perhaps technical fixes will be helpful in the short term – but their effects are completely unpredictable and un-researched, like using relatively untested vaccines – the reults are not predictable. As with many human meddling attempts to improve nature, it may well do more harm than good.
For some of our future-seers, it is already too late to make a difference. Former deputy editor of the Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth became disillusioned with a fragmented and ineffective green movement and sees:
“The failure of humanity to respond to the crises it has created becomes increasingly obvious. Together we are able to say it loud and clear: we are not going to ‘save the planet’. The planet is not ours to save. The planet is not dying; but our civilisation might be, and neither green technology nor ethical shopping is going to prevent a serious crash.”
Many people have joined him and the other founders of the Dark Mountain project, to create more honest stories for a civilization in terminal decline. It seems that humans are chromosomally programmed to self-destruct. As Thomas Berry wrote:
“the devastation of the earth appears to be our destiny.”
This puts a lot of pressure on us poor little humans who, having climbed-up from protozoic slime so quickly – seem to have landed on a snake and have to slide down to start again – if we survive at all. But perhaps there are reasons for this.
There is a huge flaw at the heart of Western Civilisation – the dualism of heart and mind, physic and spirit, body and soul – brought about through the philosophies stemming from Cartesian Dualism. These essentially separate us from nature and have created a basis for the illusions that the conditions of modern life are in any way desirable or durable.
It seems to me that within the pressure barrel of modern society there are more and more people ‘evolving’, discovering a higher purpose beyond our mundane material existence on this earth. People are moving into the third paradigm and are discovering for themselves a whole relationship with themselves, each other, wild nature and environment beyond a subsistence existence.
Perhaps this is the very reason this ‘pressure’ in modern society exists? Just now, right now, to help some of us evolve to a ‘new level’ for humans. There is a window of about 10 years or so where those people lucky enough to have their basic needs fulfilled might be on the ascendant to a completely new way of being, if the planet doesn’t shift us all into chaos.
Maybe the choice is that simple: extinction or transcendence, the pressure of our imminent extinction being here to push as many into transcendence as possible. It wouldn’t be the first time the dominant life form on this planet has been wiped out in preference to another.
There are at least two tipping points at work here. The first is that ‘Nature Bats Last’ and the majority of people are not going to do anything about the incoming environmental catastrophes until they have to – by which time it is too late. Once they see the size of ‘Nature’s Bat’, they will want to act but it will already be 50 years too late. Covid – 19 is just a start!
The other tipping point is that of evolving people, the 100th Monkey Effect. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10% of the population holds an unshakeable belief, their belief will always be adapted by the majority of their society.
The scientists used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideas. When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10% there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. Once that number grows above 10% the idea spreads like flames.
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The race is on.