The following is the rough draft of the last section of my upcoming third book.
So, here we are in the twenty-first century. We are not a generation born wild and free, running around naked in lush tropical rainforests, nibbling on fruit, nuts, and grubs. We inherited an age of challenges, the result of a long string of risky experiments. Negative consequences have piled up over the centuries, and we now stand in the dark shadow of a mountain of predicaments.
Humans are not cursed with defective genes, but we have succeeded in creating a highly unsustainable way of living and thinking — a defective culture. The clock is running out on this troublesome experiment. It would be wise to acknowledge this, and mindfully explore saner ways of living and thinking.
Like all other animals, humans focus their attention on the here and now, the immediate vicinity. Many animals are capable of foresight. Some know that panthers hunt at night, so they sleep in the trees. With regard to the manmade realm of techno-innovation, foresight is largely impossible. Nobody could have imagined the enormous consequences of metal making, fossil energy, or the domestication of plants and animals. A few wild cultures still live sustainably with barely any technology.
Low impact cultures do not believe in human superiority. They do not suffer from a persistent itch to hoard personal property. They have exactly what they need. They do not control and exploit the ecosystem, they adapt to it. They have time-proven cultures in which everyone practices voluntary self-restraint. In this manner, they could enjoy extended periods of real sustainability, living in a healthy wild ecosystem.
High impact cultures, by definition, cannot have a long-term future. In their spooky fantasies, the primary goal is to pursue economic growth, by any means necessary, for as long as possible, without regard for the generations yet to come. Nothing is more important than perpetual growth, at any cost. This is the dominant paradigm in consumer societies, where it is perceived to be perfectly normal and intelligent.
But deviants on the fringe, who enjoy an amazing ability to recognize the obvious, warn us that normal is insane. For revealing this inconvenient truth, they are called doomers. But the consumer hordes, who are enthusiastic lifelong participants in the most destructive culture in human history, are the true champions of doom.
Consumers are annoyed by the truth tellers, and denounce them for their negativity, but it’s actually the other way around. Sending tons and tons of waste to landfills, via a lifetime of recreational shopping, in an effort to gain social status, is a heartbreaking tragedy. It’s a path of ferocious negativity.
The truth-telling deviants are not doomers, they are simply more present in reality. For them, the foolishness in our culture becomes less invisible. Being present in reality, in the fullness of the darkness, puts them in a far better position to think clearly and make wise decisions. They become less vulnerable to peer pressure. They become less willing to mindlessly do what a mindless society expects of them.
In the process of healing from acute ignorance, you cross a painful threshold. One day, you realize that the consumer fantasyland has little relationship with reality. Big storms are coming, and the future will not be a prosperous and pleasurable joyride. This realization hurts.
When this occurs, despair is an appropriate response. It’s OK to grieve for the loss of a major long-held illusion. At the same time, it’s also appropriate to celebrate your mind-expanding awakening, your successful return from the realm of the living dead. Despair is like a hangover, a painful headache resulting from an unhealthy binge. It’s a normal temporary experience on the long journey to growth and healing.
The consumers scream, “We can’t go back,” and that’s true. We also cannot indefinitely remain on our current dead-end path. John Trudell, the Santee Sioux activist, summed it up nicely. “There is no old way, no new way. There is a way of life. We must live in balance with the Earth. We must do it. We have no choice.”
Eight words precisely describe the one and only sustainable destination, “We must live in balance with the Earth.” That sacred destination has never been farther from where we now stand. So, what should animals with legendary big brains be doing? Obviously, we need to change how we think and live.
At the moment, consumer society feels little or no desire to question its mode of living and thinking. Many have chugged the Kool-Aid of the techno-wizards, and have a blind faith in the wondrous solutions promised by clever experts. Many others have little or no understanding of reality, because they suffer from ignorance, or limited ability to think. Still others can sense the growing darkness, but are paralyzed with fear and powerlessness, and block out the yucky feelings with false hope.
Nothing can stop the coming storms of change, all paths lead to turbulence. You can’t save the world. You can’t fix everything, but you can use your gifts, and do what you can to confront ignorance, protect your ecosystem, and lessen the long-term damage. There are infinite opportunities for doing beneficial work.
It’s time for unlearning, identifying the silly nonsense we’ve absorbed over the years, and hurling it overboard. It’s time for learning, continuing our exploration of reality. It’s time for communicating, helping each other learn. It’s time to get outdoors, without electronic distractions, and develop an intimate relationship with the planet of our birth. It’s time to grow and heal.
We are living in the most momentous century in the entire human experience. It will be a time of immense learning and awakening. As our glorious house of cards disintegrates, we will experience a beautiful die-off — countless idiotic myths, fantasies, and illusions will lose their hypnotic power, tumble into the tar pits, and never again entrance us.
It will be a century of huge lessons, an era of tremendous enlightenment. No, climate change was not a hoax! Yes, there really are limits! Concepts like carrying capacity and overshoot will become well understood by any who survive. The powerful storms of the Great Healing will inspire a great tide of questioning, critical thinking, and clear understanding.
No matter what we do, the Great Healing will eliminate a number of key predicaments, even if we don’t change our ways. Whether or not we get serious about rapid population reduction, the current population bubble will become an ex-predicament. Finite resources will certainly strangle the mass hysteria of consumer mania. As we move beyond the era of climate stability, every ecosystem will be hammered by big changes. The consumer lifestyle will no longer be an option.
Big Mama Nature has little tolerance for overshoot. One way or another, sooner or later, some form of balance will be restored, with or without us. But if we summon our power, and strive to live with responsibility, we may be able to prevent some destruction. It’s essential to understand the mistakes that got us into this mess, so we will not be tempted to repeat them. Learn! Think! Heal!