For decades, we have been in a global ecological overshoot.
If we continue, it can only end one way: A dramatic ecological collapse, and with it the collapse of our civilization. (We are in an escalating phase of that ecological collapse now.)
So why don’t more people take it seriously?
Why do so many, in effect, say to their children: “I love you, but I love our ecocidal and suicidal civilization more”?
THE CRUX OF THE SITUATION
The crux of this situation is not – as many think – greed, corporations, governments, lack of technology, or similar. These all exist within a system that’s out of alignment with ecological realities. People are just fulfilling their roles in this ecocidal and ultimately suicidal system.
The crux is the system itself and the worldview it comes out of.
We have a civilization out of alignment with ecological realities.
For instance, our economic system assumes unlimited natural resources and an unlimited ability of nature to absorb our waste and toxins. This system was developed at a time when we had few enough people and simple enough technology so we could make those assumptions. These days, with billions more people and far more advanced and effective technology, it’s ecocidal and suicidal.
What type of worldview does this come out of? We have a worldview that assumes separation. We don’t viscerally get that our own health and well-being is intimately related to the health and well-being of our larger social and ecological whole. We assume, as mentioned above, unlimited nature while we live as part of a limited planet.
Even more fundamentally, we have a civilization that reflects a power-over orientation. We seek power over ourselves (just look at the orientation in many self-help books), others, and nature. And one that assumes that divinity is a sky-god removed from us, nature, and the universe. By removing divinity from ourselves and nature, we open it all for abuse.
The alternative is a power-with orientation where we seek partnership and cooperation with ourselves, others, and nature. And seeing divinity in nature and the universe, which leads to relating to it all with more reverence, respect, and gratitude.
There are workable alternatives. It is fully possible to have an individual and collective worldview that treats ourselves, others, and nature with reverence. And it’s very possible to have a system where what’s easy and attractive to do, individually and collectively, is also what supports society, ecosystems, and the lives and well-being of other species and future generations of all species. It’s a matter of priorities and collective will.
WHY DON’T WE TAKE IT MORE SERIOUSLY?
So why do so many – through their words and actions – prioritize supporting this clearly suicidal civilization over the lives and well-being of their children and grandchildren? Why do they continue to vote for the same politicians? Why do they feed themselves and their children food grown with poison? Why do they clean their houses with toxins? Why do they use pesticides in their garden? Why do they have a sterile lawn instead of a natural garden that supports life? Why do they continue to live as if we are not in a massive ecological crisis?
As usual, there are many possible answers.
We live within this system so it’s difficult to break out of it and live very differently. Our system makes what’s easy and attractive to do also, often, damaging to our life-support systems.
Many have enough with their daily lives. We don’t feel we have the resources to deal with the bigger picture or long-term thinking.
It requires intention and effort to change our worldview, way of life, and who we vote for with our money and ballots. It’s easier to put it off.
The change required may go against our identity. We have built up an identity around a certain political orientation and way of life, changing it all requires us to go outside of that identity, and that seems difficult and scary.
We live in denial in different ways. We tell ourselves that…. nothing is happening, we have time, others will take care of it, we’ll find a technological solution. We distract ourselves (being busy, entertainment, scapegoating, going into harebrained conspiracy theories, and so on.)
Many misdiagnose the situation. As mentioned above, they think it’s about greed, human nature, corporations, governments, lack of technology, and similar things existing within the system. In reality, it’s about the system itself and the worldview it reflects. Some also seem to think our crisis is mostly about climate change while it’s far more fundamental than that. In theory, we can solve climate change, and we’ll still go into ecological collapse if we don’t solve the overshoot problem itself.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
I don’t know. We can just do our best and see how it unfolds.
Our current civilization will end, as they all do. In the best case, it will transform into a more ecologically sound civilization.
Very likely, we’ll have to live through a massive ecological collapse first. It seems difficult to avoid, considering how far we already are into it, and how most people distract themselves with literally anything else.
And that means a massive loss of different types of species, and – again in the best case – a massive reduction in the size of humanity.
So what do we do individually?
SOME THINGS WE CAN DO
Here is some of what I have done.
I have educated myself about the situation. Early on in life, I learned about overshoot and ecological footprints, studied systems views, and so on.
I aim to orient myself to reality. I try to take a sober and informed view of our situation while also knowing I cannot know for certain how it all will unfold.
I find joy and meaning in my connection with the larger whole, through the Universe Story, the Great Story, the Epic of Evolution, Deep Ecology, and the Practices to Reconnect.
I am working on transforming my worldview – intellectually and viscerally – in the same way, and also through different forms of inquiry.
I have made myself somewhat familiar with what happens when civilizations decline and end. What we see in the world today is partly typical for our civilization, and partly what we would expect when it’s in decline. (That includes people distracting themselves with conspiracy theories, or attaching to super-optimistic views of a coming golden age, lots of people waking up, and so on.)
I take small actions in my daily life. I eat organic, local, low on the food chain, and with the seasons as far as possible. For many years, I only bought (very cool and high-quality) second-hand clothes. When it’s possible, I buy food from local farmers. And so on. Doing this helps me feel that it’s possible to change and that I am contributing, in a small way, to the solution.
I have also been involved in other ways. For several years, my self-created job was to coordinate a relatively large group of people with a passion for sustainability. We used a consistent partnership-oriented and solution-focused approach. These days, I am the steward of 15 hectares in the Andes mountains and we work on a long-term regeneration project there to help the land back to a more diverse and vibrant state.
I remind myself of what I am grateful for. At times, I have done a daily all-inclusive gratitude practice. (Write and send a list to a partner that includes what it’s easy to find gratitude for and what’s challenging, this helps open the mind to find the genuine gifts in anything that’s happening in my life.) Other times, it happens more spontaneously in daily life.
I know that endings, change, and death is what opens space for something new. The early relatively uniform state of the universe gave way for particles and matter. The death of stars provided more complex molecules that formed themselves into this planet and us. The death of species opens space for other species. The death of previous civilizations created space for ours. The death of individuals creates room for new individuals. Another civilization may come after ours. Eventually, after humanity is gone, other species may develop their own civilization. And so on. I know this intellectually and am deepening into a visceral knowing of it.
I have sought out communities of like-minded people. I was involved with an amazing sustainability organization in Madison, Wisconsin. I was active in natural building and permaculture groups. I did a work trade at an organic CSA farm in Wisconsin.
I notice my more fundamental nature. I bring my more fundamental nature to the foreground of attention. I find myself as what the world – to me – happens within and as. I find myself as capacity for it all. That helps to release some entrenched identification with this human self, a sense of doer or observer, and so on. I sometimes use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process to explore this further. In the past, I did a lot of basic meditation (notice and allow what’s here in the field of experience) to invite my more fundamental nature to notice itself and rest in and as that noticing. This too is something my system is viscerally deepening into.
I have done a lot of inquiry on stressful beliefs and identifications (The Work of Byron Katie), and on my sense fields to soften the charge in identifications (Kiloby Inquiries).
I use heart-centered practices to help shift how I relate to whatever is here – thoughts, emotions, sensations, others, situations – and so on. Mostly ho’oponopono and tonglen.
I have done a lot of body-centered practices like taichi, chigong, yoga, and Breema. This helps shift how I relate to my body and myself and life and helps me find more nourishment and grounding.
I have also done a lot of practice to train a more stable attention. Mostly, bringing attention to the sensations in the nose from the breath.
I have done and am doing healing and trauma work to help shift how I relate to whatever is here in experience and invite healing for issues in themselves. I find Trauma and tension Release Exercises (neurogenic tremors and movements) very helpful. And these days, I mostly use Vortex Healing.
I am sure there is a lot more that doesn’t come to mind right now.