Our razor thin atmosphere

The Earth’s atmosphere is very thin, which is why gasses and pollution from our civilization relatively quickly – on historical and geological timescales – have an impact on our atmosphere, climate, and ourselves.

The illustration is from National Geographic via Razor thin: a new perspective on Earth’s atmosphere on Big Think. See more on the atmosphere from National Geographic.

The beauty and madness of civilization: Thoughts as tools vs thoughts as truth

This civilization is immensely beautiful and immensely mad, like many civilizations I imagine.

It’s beautiful because we make use of thoughts to imagine and create things.

It’s mad because we hold thoughts as true.

BEAUTY FROM IMAGINING AND CREATING

Every piece of our civilization was once imagined by someone, and others then reimagined it a little differently.

It has created the immense beauty we see in art, music, dance, technology, science, and much more.

Thoughts – in the form of mental images and words – made it all possible.

MADNESS FROM HOLDING THOUGHTS AS TRUE

This civilization is also immensely mad. It has fueled immense suffering through ideas of power-over, separation, different worth based on changing characteristics, privilege, racism, sexism, anthropocentrism, a remote sky god, nature as infinite, nature as here for us, I am right and you are wrong, you are not quite human, I am unlovable, and so on. Worse than that, it’s ecocidal and suicidal. It has an economics that operates on the idea of nature as infinite, which has led to global ecological overshoot. Ecocide means suicide, so it’s also inherently suicidal.

Thoughts created all this too. Thoughts held as true instead of as questions.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

We are a young species and a young civilization.

We make use of thoughts, we believe thoughts, and we rarely examine thoughts or our relationship with thoughts or find their nature. We rarely consistently make conscious and wise use of thoughts.

Collectively, we have yet to learn to wisely and consciously make use of thoughts as the tool it is.

What’s the nature of thoughts?

They are imaginations. They are different in nature and content from what they point to. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their nature or purpose. They are questions about the world. They are here to help us orient and function in the world. That’s it.

A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION

I imagine a different civilization, one that has a more mature relationship with thought.

Here, children learn to relate more consciously with thought.

They learn to choose as guide thoughts supported by good data and avoid logical fallacies. They learn to find practically useful and grounded thoughts as guides.

They learn to identify the thoughts they operate on. They learn to examine and question them.

They learn to find what’s more true for them, which is that thoughts – even the ones that may seem the most true – are questions about the world. They are practical tools only.

The world is always more than and different from any thought about it.

They learn to hold thoughts lightly. They learn to use thoughts as tools to orient and navigate, and recognize their limits.

They learn to live in and as a deeper mystery.

Will this prevent the inherent problems of civilization? Not likely, but it will make life easier for many individuals, and it may make it easier for us collectively to identify essential problems and make changes.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

All this is literally stardust reorganizing itself.

It’s the universe locally forming itself into all of it – consciousness, us, feelings, thoughts, experiences, civilization, art, technology, suffering, inequality, wars, and so on.

There is an immense beauty in that too.

There is an immense beauty in the messy complexity and awesomeness of it all.

NOTE

There is another way we can see the madness of our civilization, and that it comes from thoughts. Our civilization likes abstractions. It likes things to be easily understood intellectually, and abstractions is a good way to do that. The only problem is, life is not like that.

This is reflected in how we treat nature. Here in Norway, people want manicured and sterile gardens. They remove trees, bushes, and previously wild areas of the garden, and replace it with a sterile lawn with a few exotic ornamental plants. This provides a habitat for almost no animal, bird, or insect. We grow food through monoculture. All of this is easy for our thoughts. It gives the illusion of control.

In contrast, nature is wildly diverse, that diversity provides a rich habitat for a range of beings, and it also balances the ecosystem. For instance, it prevents any one species – insect, plant, animal – from multiplying so much that it’s detrimental to the ecosystem. It’s far more life-supporting and wise than a monoculture.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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The bigger picture of what’s happening in the world today: the fall of empires and ecological overshoot

The main teacher (RW) in a healing modality (1) I am involved in sent out an email yesterday where he talks about humanity’s tendency to violence, and how humanity may be at a tipping point.

HUMANITY AND VIOLENCE

I am also concerned about humanity’s tendency to violence, especially in our culture and especially after we got nuclear weapons. There is nothing new there.

We have been at this tipping point for eight decades if not longer. We have gone through innumerable collective crises. Humanity could have wiped itself out at any point.

In this context, one of my concerns is missing nuclear weapons from the fall of the Soviet Union.

OVERSHOOT

But I am honestly more concerned about the bigger picture. (2)

For decades, we have been in global ecological overshoot – we use far more resources than Earth can replenish and keep up with. We would need two Earths to provide for humanity’s use, and it’s going in the wrong direction.

This is like spending money from our savings account. It looks more or less fine until it runs out and our lifestyle cannot be supported anymore.

In terms of ecology, it means that it all can come crashing down relatively fast, and there is no way to easily recover from it.

We are seeing the beginnings of that crash today.

(Climate change is just one aspect of this crisis, and that discussion is often a distraction from this bigger picture.)

FALL OF THE US EMPIRE

Since RW mentioned the US mass shootings in his email:

In the ’80s, the Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung studied the fall of empires. Based on the patterns he found, and what he could see happening with the US, he predicted that the US empire would fall within a few decades. (3)

We also know some things about how it is likely to look.

Towards the end, there will likely be increased polarization and insanity – also in politics – and increased violence and even the possibility of a kind of civil war.

That’s what we are seeing in the US today. It’s what tends to happen when empires go downhill.

MISSING THE BIGGER PICTURE

As I see it, the email from RW is obviously well-meant. He sees something in the world he is concerned about and wants to share it with his students.

But he does take an anthropocentric view and even a quite US-centric view. He is missing the larger historical context, and he is missing the larger ecological context.

It’s important to include the bigger picture. (4)

NOTES

(1) The healing modality is Vortex Healing. He is obviously a very good teacher in energy healing.

(2) This is something I have studied since the 1980s and I have also connected with some of the leading experts in the field in my professional work.

(3) If I remember correctly, in the early 1980s, he also predicted the imminent fall of the Soviet Empire. It fell about a decade later.

(4) Ecological overshoot and the possibility of an imminent ecological collapse is the overarching crisis we are in today. And there is no lack of significant sub-crises: Poverty and massive inequality. Lack of clean water. Millions dying from preventable or curable diseases. Missing nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. Use of chemical or biological weapons. Plastics and toxins in just about every living being. Species extinction. Insect collapse. The list goes on.

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