Gaian Connection: Our Relationship With The Living Biological Planet We Call Home (PART 2)
The Industrial Machine
Retailing analyst Victor Lebow declared shortly after WWII, ” Our enormously productive economy….demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.” We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less in order to move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We can’t force the planet to accommodate itself to our insane consumption patterns because our demands are out of this world. I say that quite literally, we would need other planet earths to continue living the way we do. When I say “we” I mean people in the industrialized nations, if all the people in developing nations lived like we do we would surely need a lot more planet Earths to supply all that demand.
This global system in place needs continuous and infinite growth to maintain itself and reducing consumption by slowing down our voracious pace seems unthinkable and unattainable. The insane notion of eternal growth is unsustainable and illogical, nothing in this world can be exempt from the natural cycles of life and death. The only processes that we can rely on forever are cyclical; all linear processes must eventually come to an end. Our civilization rose thanks to cheap abundant energy,trapped under the ground and created over millions of years, but this trapped energy source will run out at some point and therein lies our problem: we became dependent on a finite resource. Our modern way of life and our modern cities are dependent and accustomed to cheap fossil fuels, mainly petroleum. But the very things that gave humanity the chance to thrive and grow at an extraordinary rate are now the very same things which are destroying us. The foundations to our world are built on sand and unless we rebuild and reshape our structures our world will be folded back into the sand.
Changing Our Global System from Unsustainable To Sustainable
We are slowly making the planet a place inhabitable for humanity and if we continue with the toxification of our world we will leave behind a planet inhabited by cockroaches, microbes and bacteria. Earth and life will continue on but humanity will be forced to drop out of the race of life joining the rest of the species who have gone extinct. We’ve made it so far and we could go so much further, we have so much potential, but we are squandering it all because of greed, the lust for power, and false ideas of progress. Those in power, blinded by their might, are hell-bent on destroying the ecosystem which sustains us. It’s hard to accept these harsh realities, like Chris Hedges said, “To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us”. A gradual change of our ways will surely be better than to crash head-on against the impending doom which lurks over the horizon. I don’t want to live in a world filled with violence and oppression as the powerful fight to secure resources and their wellbeing at the expense of everyone else’s.
We the people are the only ones who can fix this planet out of whack yet most of us could care less about the state of the environment. I understand that most of us are busy with the daily grind of life but we will have to face this problem regardless if we care about it, or know about it. We will not be able to ignore it for much longer and those who don’t care today will be forced to care at some point in the not-so-distant future as the freak weather patterns, the powerful storms, the earthquakes, the floods, the droughts, and the chaos keeps mounting higher and higher. We need to understand that we are fighting for our very survival and we need to wake up and fight before it is too late, no one is exempt form this struggle and we will all have to face the consequences. Sadly some people need to get punched in the face in order to know they are in a fight. I hate to be the one that paints the grim picture, but things are not okay and they will continue to get worse if we fail to act. Our consumption levels keep rising, CO2 levels keep rising, temperatures keep rising. Our crisis is not only environmental, it is also political, economic, spiritual, and as these crisis converge the outcome could be a world totally out of control. It’s the disenfranchised, the poor, the weak, who will first suffer the consequences of a world gone awry but we will all eventually succumb to despair, for all of our grievances are connected. We are truly one species and any injustice, famine, poverty or death, chips away at our humanity and we all suffer the consequences. what will it take to wake us up? Humanity is headed straight over a cliff and instead of changing our course we have accelerated towards it, we continue to fuel our own demise. Why can’t we see the suicidal path we are on? Where do we draw the line and say enough? We can’t afford to keep applying quick fixes. Rather than addressing the symptoms which arise we need to address the real underlaying issues and attempt to eradicate the problem at its source. We need substantial, transformative, systemic changes.
“Up to now, much of the debate over the environment has had the character of monkey chatter amongst the withering leaves of a dying tree–the leaves representing specific, isolated problems… very few of us have been paying attention to the environment’s trunk and branches. They are deteriorating as a result of processes about which there is little or no controversy; and the thousands of individual problems that are the subject of so much debate are, in fact, manifestations of systemic errors that are undermining the foundations of society.”
I don’t think over-population is our major threat but rather the wastes and inefficiencies within our systems. There is enough for everyone on this planet and enough is plenty, like Gandhi said, “the world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” We live in a finite planet, and we have to learn to live within the limits of our world. We are not wiser than nature, and no new technology will save us or grant us free and unlimited energy, that’s not how the Universe works, there is no such thing as a free lunch. I don’t think the answer lies in space either, no matter how much faith you have on astronauts and space colonization, we have an intricate relationship with this one precious blue marble and we need to take care of it. We need to build a unified planet and the Internet gives me hope that a truly global community is attainable.
But in our race to globalize we lost touch with the local community. We need to find ways to organize ourselves more efficiently by reaping the benefits of a globalized world but also developing locally. Like Bill McKibben explained, “Local economies would demand fewer resources and cause less ecological disruption; they would be better able to weather coming shocks; they would allow us to find a better balance between the individual and the community, and hence find extra satisfaction.” By going local we could better provide clean food and water, community and a sense of belonging, education, and most importantly connection and love. I think survival for the Human species lies in small-scale self sustainable communities, but that doesn’t mean we have to live isolated and alone like in the past. We can all be connected through the internet to a globalized world where we could travel and visit other communities freely. It’s still possible to dream.
Like i’ve discussed in other posts, we all can do something to alleviate this problem: We need to learn to Live Simply so that others can Simply live. Our insane levels of consumption are destroying us, they are both environmentally and socially damaging and better lives and a better environment can be found by reducing consumption.
We need to recognize the planet as a living biological entity which provides our nourishment and sustains our health then build a new relationship with its living, breathing, creation system. We need to return to nature. We need to return to the sacred.
“As scientists, many of us have had profound experiences of awe and reverence before the universe. We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Our planetary home should be so regarded. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred.”
-Union of Concerned Scientists,
Preserving and Cherishing the Earth: An Appeal for Joint Commitment in Science and Religion