What they thought they knew was a lot, what they actually knew was very little

From our perspective, what they actually knew and was factually accurate was very little. But what they thought they knew, or what they believed based on earlier generations of scholarship, there was actually a surprisingly large amount of that. […] They had a good amount of knowledge about Egypt, but the knowledge they had is not knowledge we necessarily would acknowledge as still being valid. 

– William Clark from Grey History, at 32-33 minutes into Bonus: Napoleon in Egypt, The History of Egypt Podcast

I listened to a podcast where one of the hosts said this about what late 1700s/early 1800s European scholars knew about ancient Egypt.

If humanity and our civilization are still around in two hundred years, they will likely say the same about us: What they thought they knew was a lot, what they actually knew was very little.

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Of course, having this bigger perspective is part of science. My teachers in middle and high school had an academic background and would mention it now and then. I read about it in the books of Fritjof Capra and others in my mid-teens. It was the first I learned at University. (The first semester at the University of Oslo focused on the history, philosophy, and methods of science.)

So it is slightly amusing and baffling when scholars and professionals don’t seem to have this perspective. They seem to assume that the same doesn’t apply to us from the perspective of the future.

This also came up for me when I studied psychology. A lot was presented as “this is how it is” when it was based on flimsy research and could be interpreted in many other ways, and in general was part of a field of study that’s still in its infancy and is only barely and tangentially a “hard science” no matter how hard they try to be a hard science. I assume many did have this perspective, and would talk about it in that context if asked, but put it aside partly for convenience.

WE DO THE SAME IN OUR OWN LIFE

I assume most of us do this in our own life as well.

I sometimes pretend to myself (and others) that I know a lot, while in reality, I know very little.

This not just what I think I know about the world. It includes anything I think I know about life, myself, and others. The most basic assumptions I have about myself and life. (I am a human, an object in the world, a doer, an observer.) Whatever painful stories that I – somewhere – hold as true. (She should understand me. I am not good enough. Life is not kind.) 

HOLDING IT ALL MORE LIGHTLY

For me, this is freeing. It helps me see our civilization in a bigger perspective, and it helps me see my own worldview and ideas about life, others, and myself in a bigger perspective.

I can use ideas and pointers as guides for orienting and functioning in the world, and I can see it all in the bigger picture and hold it more lightly.

There is information and experience that would turn how I see and understand anything upside-down and inside-out. There are whole worldviews that would make as much or more sense to me than the one(s) I have now.

POINTING TO MY NATURE

Thoughts do not provide any solid ground to stand on. So what can I do?

This is something that points to my first-person nature.

I find that my only metaphorical refuge is to notice my more fundamental nature, and to rest in and as that noticing. And really, what’s happening is that my nature notice itself – to the extent that’s possible – and rest in and as that noticing.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE COLLECTIVELY ARE MISSING?

What do we miss in our current Western civilization and worldview?

Of course, I don’t know since I am part of and embedded in this time and civilization.

But I can make some guesses, based on my own biases and filters.

We don’t make much use of an understanding of holarchies, systems theories, and integral models and perspectives. They are out there but not adopted by most scholars, researchers, or people in general. In an imagined future, I see us collectively making use of these and updated versions and understandings in this same family of modes and thoughts.

Awakening and our more fundamental first-person nature are not part of our Western mindset or academic study to any significant extent. There is some research into it and some discussion about it, but it’s all on the margins. To ourselves, we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness. That has profound implications which our Western civilization has only barely begun to explore. In an imagined future civilization, this is far more central to psychology, philosophy, and many other fields of study, and far more part of our worldview and daily life.

Western medicine doesn’t understand much of how other approaches to health and healing work. As a whole, it’s not interested and the few who are exist on the margins. There is very little understanding of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic and similar approaches to medicine. There is very little understanding of energy work and energetic approaches to healing. There is very little understanding of shamanic approaches to healing. And so on. This is a huge gap in the current worldview of Western medicine. In an imagined future, there is a much larger integral perspective that includes and holds it all, and explores and tries to understand it all from many different perspectives and worldviews.

As I often write about, we are in a global ecological overshoot. We use the metaphorical savings account of Earth, which looks OK until we reach the bottom of it and our lifestyle and everything else – our planetary ecosystem and our civilization – comes crashing down. Very few take this seriously, including scholars and researchers who should know better. Even the ones talking about climate change are missing this bigger and far more important picture which is global ecological overshoot. In an imagined future civilization, they understand and take this seriously. It’s part of the fundamentals of their worldview and how they organize themselves collectively and individually. Their social systems function within ecological realities, and not on a fantasy as in our current civilization.

Similarly, we live within an ecocidal civilization. We have set up our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do is also destructive to our health, the health of our ecosystems, and the health and even the existence of future generations. This is largely not understood, and most people only grasp small pieces of it. In an imagined future civilization, what’s easy and attractive to do – individually and collectively – is also what supports life and the health and well-being of ourselves, the ecosystems, and future generations. (Of course, they will get a lot wrong but the intention is there and the willingness to learn and make changes.)

We see ourselves as separate entities. That’s not wrong but we are missing out on a bigger and far more meaningful, nurturing, and guiding perspective. In an imagined future civilization, we know in our bones that we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. (Quotes from Carl Sagan in Cosmos.) Looking back, our current civilization looks poor, lost, and profoundly misguided in its small and fragmented view.

We see ourselves as alone in the universe, largely because we don’t have solid evidence for anything else. That’s OK and understandable. But there is an imagined future where we have made contact and we know we are part of a cosmic society. (There are many ways a contact can be made, from distant astronomical observations to direct contact. And who knows if any actual communication or exchange will be possible, at least at first.)

Note: This is one of the many articles I normally end up not posting. Something about it doesn’t feel quite right. It doesn’t feel as personal or juicy as I would like. It was written when my brain fog was stronger than usual. The content seems a little too obvious, with no surprise twist or layers. I thought I would post it anyway.

Image is by me and Midjourney

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Rural challenges

We all live within an ecocidal civilization, and we all notice and are marked by it in different ways.

SNAKES IN PARADISE

In my case, I have a regeneration project in the Andes mountains. We built our tiny house here. We will plant nearly a thousand native trees in the next few weeks. We wish to make this land into even more of a paradise than it is. We live in a peaceful and magical neighborhood with just a few small farmers and people like us with regeneration and rewilding projects.

There are snakes in paradise, as so often. In this case, the main snake is a huge hotel project being built right across from where we are, in full sight of our house, and where we had more buildings imagined. They are planning an open party and event building right there, which will likely produce a lot of noise. They are also planning the hotel with three-digit rooms, swimming pools, a replica of a traditional town, and a shopping center with chain stores.

To me, this is all madness in this neighborhood. It will create a lot of noise. It will increase the traffic here, on a tiny road where two cars already have trouble meeting. It will take business from innumerable small family-owned businesses. They will deplete the groundwater which will impact all of us in the neighborhood and the ecosystem here. (The trees and vegetation are dependent on a good groundwater level.) Almost nobody wants them here. And the project was approved through what people say was a not-so-transparent process.

These kinds of destructive projects are symptoms of our ecocidal civilization. None of us can escape it. (Unless we are apparently very lucky or have enough money to buy our own island, and even then we are impacted.)

HOW AM I DEALING WITH IT?

How am I dealing with it?

It’s not just one way.

We are in conversation with lawyers, community organizers, and the new mayor.

We are looking at our own personal options and a range of options. (Including at our land.)

I know that this, to me, is all happening within and as the consciousness I am. The consciousness I am is forming itself into it. I am doing ho’oponopono for the hotel project and the ones behind it, and also the distressed parts of myself. (Of course, that it’s happening within the consciousness I am doesn’t mean it isn’t also happening in an outer world in a conventional sense. I have to assume that’s the case. And I am open to the possibility that it’s all happening within and as the divine. No matter what, it’s lila. It’s the play of the consciousness I am. It’s the play of life and the evolution of this living planet and the universe. It’s the play within the divine forming itself into all of this, whether we call the universe the divine or assume all of existence is divine consciousness.)

I am also using tonglen with the people behind the hotel project.

We are using a lot using different Vortex Healing tools and approaches to move the situation in a direction better for the neighborhood and nature here.

I am working on the issues in me that reflect and mirror these kinds of situations. Since the dark part of the dark night started 10-15 years ago, projects and my life in general have repeatedly fallen apart in amazing ways. Something happens that’s a dream for me, it’s starting, and then it falls apart. That has happened over and over in many areas of life. (I lost my health. I lost my dream job. I lost my house and all my belongings. I lost the opportunity to do an amazing PhD in exactly the area I wanted. I lost an amazing relationship that looked perfect. I lost the opportunity to become a US citizen and even lost my residency due to a weird combination of a vital project I needed to finish in Norway, the pandemic, and because Norway was one of the last countries in the world to allow dual citizenship. If I buy something I really like, it often gets destroyed almost immediately. (For reasons outside of my control.) And so on and so on. It seems endless. What parts in me have a charge around this drama and loss? How is it to invite in healing or those parts of me?

How do I see these people? The people behind the destructive project? Can I find it in myself? Can I take the stories I have about them, turn it to myself, and find specific and genuine examples for how it’s true? Can I relate to it with kindness and understanding in myself? Can I find peace with it in myself? Can I relate to it more intentionally in myself?

LILA & MORE

As mentioned above, I see this as lila. The play of the consciousness I am. The play of this evolving living planet and universe. The play of the divine, in whatever way we understand that. (As the universe, as a consciousness that forms itself into all there is.) It’s an opportunity to deepen into that recognition.

It’s also an opportunity to ground even more in my nature as consciousness and all of this happening within and as what I am, and temporarily forming itself into all of this.

It’s an opportunity to find genuine love for the parts of me coming up (reactivity, sadness, grief, anger) that want to protect me and are forms of love.

It’s an opportunity to take action in my personal life and the community.

It’s an opportunity to invite in healing for issues in me mirrored in what’s happening. (Anything in me that has a charge around and connects with loss and drama.)

It’s an opportunity to find in myself what I see in them and relate to it with more kindness and more intentionally.

EVERYTHING IS INVOLVED

Everything is involved in this situation – our ecocidal civilization, the worldview behind it of separation and power-over orientation, politics, corruption, sustainability, community, emotional issues, taking action, prayer, divine support, and it’s even a small part in how our civilization and how humanity unfolds.

The question is: How do I deal with it? How do I wish to deal with it?

UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER

We have received amazing support from the Vortex Healing community in working with the land and situation here energetically. I am very grateful and curious to see how it unfolds. Amma has also been involved in an amazing way.

“I love you, but I love our ecocidal civilization more”

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.

Own dream: Going down into the ground, meeting fears, and enjoying the process

I walk through the shopping center in Ski, Norway, and see a sign saying: “Calvin & Hobbes SALE”. I decide to check it out, and see that I have to go down a very steep and long escalator. I can’t even see the bottom. I notice some old fear of heights but tell myself “I’ll do it anyway” and don’t hesistate in going down. The journey down is quick and over almost before I know what happens. At the bottom is a wide, short, and low train car. I go inside with a few other people and we immediately take off through some tunnels. Here too, I notice some of my old fears – this time claustrophobia – but I decide to just enjoy it. We arrive in daylight, at a place that looked like a modern version of an old-fashioned amusement part. There are also many fun stores there. (It felt a bit like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or Pike Place Market in Seattle.)

The essence of this dream seems to be going down (into unprocessed materials in myself?), having some old fears come up, doing it without hesitation, and enjoying it.

Why the mall in Ski? Because I have spent a lot of time there. I actually enjoy being there. (I love nature and old towns much more, but it’s fun now and then.)

Why Calvin & Hobbes? I have seen several Calvin & Hobbes cartoons posted on social media lately, read an article about the philosophical aspects of the cartoon, and also know that the creator has just come out with something new. I love Calvin & Hobbes.

Why the fears of heights and claustrophobia? Because I have some of that in waking life.

Why was the journey quicker than expected? Not sure. I guess it doesn’t take much time to delve into deep unprocessed materials these days. It feels like slipping into the ocean.

Why the train car? I am not sure. It’s something that takes me through deep tunnels inside the earth. It had a driver, which may be a kind of guide. (A psychopomp.)

Why the amusement park? I love those old-fashioned amusement parks, and places like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and Pike Place Market in Seattle. To me, going into unprocessed materials in me feels a bit like going into an amusement park. There are all sorts of weird and interesting things there, and it’s fascinating and has an element of fun.

Why this dream this morning? Perhaps because I had a massage to release old tension in my shoulders yesterday, and that tends to bring up a lot of old material. I noticed some hopelessness, feeling paralyzed, and survival fears coming up, related to growing up with my birth family. I also received Vortex Healing (Miji mantra) to release what’s most entrenched in my system. All of that brought up things, and I did enjoy swimming in it and noticing what was there.

Of course, going into unprocessed material is often not so enjoyable. I have been doing it for decades now, and recognize many of the patterns and issues, so that’s perhaps why it now feels more like entering an amusement park.

This dream may be showing and reminding me of that aspect of the process.

Image by me and Midjourney

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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David Attenborough: Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist

We have a finite environment—the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.

– David Attenborough in an interview at the World Economic Forum 2019

I love David Attenborough and what he says, although I would say it slightly differently.

ASSUMPTIONS OF INFINITE RESOURCES AND CAPACITY

The problem is not growth in itself, since growth can be defined in many different ways.

The problem is to assume that our planet can provide infinite natural resources to sustain our civilization, and to assume it has infinite capacity to absorb the waste and toxins of civilization.

That assumption is clearly madness. That’s the assumption at the core of the economic system we have today. It’s at the core of the ecological crisis we find ourselves in. It’s at the core of why our current civilization will end. And it’s at the core of the crisis we as humans find ourselves in.

A TRANSITION INTO A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION?

Will we be able to transition into a different kind of civilization? How many of us will die before we do? How many species will go extinct? How much damage will we see to our life-support systems?

Will we make it all? Will our planet change so much that it’s the end of humanity? (It’s perhaps not as unlikely as many assume.)

OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM

How did we get ourselves into this situation?

There are many answers.

Our economic system was developed at a time when we could assume infinite natural resources and an infinite capacity of nature to absorb our waste. We were not that many and our technology was not as advanced, so we could live in that fantasy for a while.

Today, the situation is very different. We are far into overshoot. We are using far more resources than the Earth can recreate. We are putting far more waste and toxins into the planet than it can handle.

Just like using money from a bank account, it may look OK for a while, and then there is a sudden crash. We are seeing the beginnings of that crash.

ALTERNATIVES

Our current economic system is just one of many possible.

It’s easy to imagine an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and many have worked on developing and implementing versions of that.

We have the solutions.

The real question is: Do we have the collective will? Are we going to find it in time to avoid a massive collapse of our civilization?

OUR WORLDVIEW

Another answer is our worldview. We have a worldview that assumes separation – a separation between humans and the rest of this living system we call Earth. We assume a kind of superiority of humans and the right of humans to do what they want with the rest of this living system. We assume no limits to nature and what it can do for us.

We have a power-over orientation rather than power-with. In a power-over orientation, we see nature and sometimes even other people primarily as resources, as something we can make use of for our own benefit. In a limited sense and in some situations, that’s OK. But in our civilization, that’s the primary orientation. In a power-with orientation, we seek cooperation with others and nature. We seek to find mutually beneficial relationships. We seek to live within the natural limits. We seek to live in a way that benefits life as a whole and not just ourselves.

We also have an idea of a sky god, a god that’s transcendent and somehow outside of this universe. That too allows us to see nature as primarily a resource and something to use for our own narrow and often short-sighted benefit. If we saw Spirit in the universe and in Earth and ourselves, it would be very different. In this kind of worldview, we would treat others, ourselves, and nature with more reverence.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Our civilization will not last. All civilizations come and go. Humanity came and will go.

Everything that comes together falls apart.

Death creates space for something new.

In our case, another human civilization may develop in the place of our current one.

Or humanity may go sooner rather than later, and – given a few million or billion years – another species may develop another civilization.

It’s not wrong or bad. It’s how this universe works. It’s how we came to be here.

The death of stars created most of the elements of this planet that formed themselves into us and all we know. The death of species allowed our species to evolve as it did. The death of individuals created space for new individuals, including us.

We are transitory just like anything else, and something else – equally amazing – will take our place.

The larger whole we are a part of will transform itself into something else.

Earth from ISS

A suicidal / ecocidal civilization: Finding a more real, grounded, and kind way to relate to it all

All civilizations rise and fall, and ours is no exception.

An interesting twist is that ours is the first global civilization that rises and falls and we don’t know how that’s going to look.

INDEX

What comes together falls apart | A civilization fatally out of alignment with reality | Sudden change | Familiarity with systems dynamics | We have the solutions but do we have the collective will? | What will collapse mean? | What can we do individually? | Collapse acceptance | Power-over vs power-with | What’s my history with this? | Notes

WHAT COMES TOGETHER FALLS APART

How can we know that our current civilization will fall?

In terms of history, it’s because all past civilizations have risen and fallen. It’s what civilizations do and ours is no exception.

In the bigger picture, it’s because everything does. What comes together falls apart.

We can notice it here and now. Every moment, what was is gone and something new and fresh is here. And it happens at more obvious and larger scales, including at the scale of humanity, culture, Earth, and the universe. It will all be gone.

Everything we know – collectively and individually – has come together and will fall apart.

A CIVILIZATION FATALLY OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH REALITY

We can also look at specifics of how our civilization creates its own fall.

The most obvious may be that our civilization is fatally out of alignment with reality.

We operate on a worldview that’s out of alignment with reality. For instance, we assume and emphasize separation in a world where everything is intimately connected. We assume the superiority and rights of humans over other beings. We prioritize the current generations over Future generations. And, crucially, we assume that the Earth has unlimited resources and unlimited ability to absorb waste. (See more below under “Power-over vs power-with”.)

This is reflected in all aspects of our culture and all our systems. (1)

Let’s look at our economic system.

We have created an economic system that assumes an infinite ability of nature to provide resources and absorb waste, and that our health and well-being is not dependent on the health and well-being of the larger ecological systems.

We made those assumptions because it fits our general worldview, and because we practically could at the time it was developed.

At the time, our population was relatively small and our technology relatively simple so we didn’t receive immediate feedback from nature. For all practical purposes, nature was infinite.

We still use that economic system. The problem is that we now have a much larger population and a far more efficient technology, so Earth cannot keep up.

Globally, our ecological footprint would require two Earths to be sustainable. And for the Western world, our ecological footprint would require around five Earths to be sustainable.

We are also putting more waste into the Earth’s system than it can easily deal with. There are plastic particles and toxins in just about every living being. We are in the middle of an insect apocalypse because we (insanely) grow our good with toxins. Our climate is changing dramatically from all the heat-trapping gasses we release into the atmosphere.

We are in overshoot and we are not doing anything significant to change it.

And that overshoot has serious consequences.

SUDDEN CHANGE

Ecologically, we are doing the equivalent of living on our savings. If we lived on the interests – the surplus produced by the Earth – it would be sustainable. But we are digging into the savings. That looks OK for a while. We have what we need. Then we suddenly realize the harsh reality. We are out of funds.

Our climate is similarly set to undergo sudden change. Any system tries to maintain equilibrium for as long as possible. We put heat-tapping gasses into the atmosphere, the system maintains a kind of stability for a while. And at some point, it shifts into a new state, and that tends to happen quickly. In the case of climate, it shifts into a more chaotic and unpredictable state.

That’s what we can expect with our global ecological system as a whole. In the coming decades, we can expect to see a series of sudden and likely dramatic shifts. These shifts feed into the system to trigger a cascade of other shifts.

What may happen?

Several moderate changes are already happening: More extreme weather. Stronger storms. More drought. Heavier rain and flooding. Crop failures. Species extinction. Mass death of insects impacting the whole ecosystem. Mass human migrations away from areas that become unlivable from drought, flooding, and rising ocean levels (eventually tens of meters). This, in itself, is serious but manageable, at least initially.

We may also see more extreme changes: Changes in ocean currents may significantly impact regional climates. The oceans may die due to rising water temperatures, acidification, and low oxygen levels, and this – loss of oxygen production from plankton, etc. – will seriously impact land life. Forests may collapse in large regions due to drought or they may lose their ability to produce oxygen because of increased temperatures. And so on. These are all things experts in the field say can happen, and will likely happen if the current Earth changes go far enough. If any of this actually happens, it’s not realistically manageable for us. It may not be compatible with human life.

FAMILIARITY WITH SYSTEMS DYNAMICS

If we are not familiar with big-picture thinking or systems theories, we may assume a kind of linear and gradual progression. That means we have time. Things look mostly OK so far, so why change too much too soon?

If we are familiar with overshot and systems views, we tend to see it differently. Then we know that things may look mostly on for a while, then there is a sudden shift, and we are screwed. We don’t have time to wait. Changing things within our current sudden is not enough. We need a deep transformation of our civilization as a whole.

WE HAVE THE SOLUTIONS BUT DO WE HAVE THE COLLECTIVE WILL?

We have the solutions.

We know some (humane) ways to reduce our population. (Educate women, provide economic safety nets for everyone, and so on.)

We have many technological solutions that are part of the puzzle.

We know how to create an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and where what’s attractive and easy to do – individually and collectively – is also ecologically sound. (We have the big picture and know in what direction to move, and the details will be worked out.)

We have the worldviews necessary for a more sustainable civilization. Some elements may be ecospirituality within each of the major religions, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, deep ecology, systems views, integral views, and so on.

The question is: Do we have the collective will? Will we find it in time?

We are already too late to avoid massive changes to our planet which will impact all of us, so we have minus time in that sense.

Will we be able to create an ecologically sustainable civilization in time to prevent the fall of our civilization? We have to work towards it as much as we can, but it is unlikely.

What we tend to see at the end of civilizations is what we see in the world today: A few who recognize what’s happening, take it seriously and sincerely work towards creating a better and more functional civilization. Many who go into denial, continue much as before, or wait for others to do something. Polarization, infighting, distractions, and the privileged holding onto their privilege even if it’s suicidal. Of course, all of this is common anyway.

There is also a great deal of simplistic misdiagnosis of the situation. Ideas that focus on aspects of what’s happening within the system but not the system itself. Some blame greed, governments, or corporations. Some think there is a technological solution. Some assume it’s mainly about climate change. Some think we still have time because the changes will be gradual and incremental. And so on. All of it is simplistic and myopic. This misdiagnosis reflects and comes out of the worldview that created the situation in the first place. And the misdiagnosis is part of the problem.

WHAT WILL COLLAPSE MEAN?

I don’t know.

What we know is that it will look different from the collapse of past civilizations. They were regional and this one is global. People in those civilizations continued to live their lives, just in a slightly different context. A lot from those civilizations was passed on to other and emerging civilizations. In our case, we don’t have another place to go. We have destroyed our global life-support system to the extent that it may no longer be able to support us, or at least very many of us.

The best scenario may be significant ecological changes, a significant reduction in the size of humanity, and a new emerging civilization – hopefully with some lessons learned. This requires that the more extreme Earth changes – like the death of the oceans – don’t happen.

The worst, from our perspective, is the end of humanity. (Along with many other species and ecosystems.) The Earth’s system changes to the extent that it’s no longer compatible with human life. In this case, the end of humanity happens sooner rather than later. If the changes are as dramatic and rapid as some scientists – and especially those familiar with systems views – think, it may even happen within one or two generations.

In the bigger picture, these are not disasters. This is just what happens. It’s how reality is set up. Things come together and fall apart. Death is the price of life.

WHAT CAN WE DO INDIVIDUALLY?

The question then is: What can we do individually and in small groups?

We can do what we can in our own life.

We can find what we are most drawn to, and do that. Joanna Macy talks about three categories: Stopping actions. Creating and living alternatives. And developing and spreading new worldviews.

In my case, I eat organic and local as much as possible and do a few more things in my personal life. I used to be actively involved in local sustainability organizations. I do healing work for myself and others. I currently have 36 acres in the Andes mountains I am helping regenerate and make into a food forest. (I realize the last one is not everyone can do, and I didn’t expect it in my life.)

We can all find something we are drawn to that’s meaningful and a small part of the solutions. We may not be able to save the world. But we can save our world. We can save ourselves by doing something meaningful.

We can realize that we live within a *system* that’s not ecologically sustainable.

That means that what’s easy and attractive to do is not ecologically sustainable. We all, inevitably, contribute to the destruction of ecosystems, just by going about our own lives. That’s not our fault. It’s inevitable. We don’t need to beat ourselves up for it. (And we don’t need to use it as an excuse either.)

We can find ways to nourish ourselves through our connections with the larger whole.

We can explore the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, Deep Ecology, ecospirituality, systems views, integral views, and so on. Whatever we resonate with.

We can spend time in nature. We can connect with and nourish our physical body and sense-oriented animal self.

We can get familiar with the bigger picture.

Through the Universe story, the Epic of Evolution, systems views, Big History, and so on, we can become familiar with the bigger picture.

We expect what comes together to fall apart.

During the end of a civilization, we expect an amplification of what we generally see in society: Polarization, infighting, distractions, denial, people holding onto privilege, and so on. It’s what humans do.

We also expect some to do the work to create a better functioning civilization.

And we expect to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a wide range of emotions as a response to what’s happening.

We can find more peace with death and change.

Change happens. What comes together falls apart.

It happens continuously, which we notice if we look closely. And it happens at a more obvious and larger scale, sooner or later.

Change and death are what allow something new to exist. It’s what opens up space for something new and different. It’s what allows experience. It’s what allows evolution. It’s how we are here. It’s what allows anything to exist at all.

Everything and everyone is born to die.

It’s meant to be. It’s perfect. It’s how this universe is set up.

We can find gratitude.

We can find the gifts in death and change. As I have mentioned above, it’s what allows anything to be at all. It’s what allows us as individuals to be. It’s what allowed humanity and our current civilization to exist.

It’s what opens the space for something new. When our civilization is gone, who knows what will come in its place? Perhaps some humans will survive and create something new, and even something more aligned with ecological realities. And when humanity is gone, who knows what will come in our place? Perhaps the descendants of the octopus will create a new and amazing civilization that would not be possible if we were still here.

We can allow and welcome our grief, anger, and other responses.

It’s completely natural to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a range of other emotions in the face of what’s happening with our world. And it helps to make friends with it and even welcome it.

It’s natural. It’s healthy. It’s something we can channel into action.

We are, in a very real way, a local part of the Earth grieving itself. We are the Earth grieving itself.

These are universal emotions. All humans experience it and many or most species likely experience it in one form or another. It’s one of the things that tie us together. Even what triggers these emotions is universal in its essence.

We can find gratitude.

There is a lot to find gratitude for here.

We are an expression of all of existence. We are part of this amazing and beautiful larger whole.

We are alive. We are alive at the peak, in some sense, of our civilization. We have the basics for life and often a lot more. Many of us live beyond what anyone could have imagined in the past, and better than 99.9% of all humans that have lived in terms of healthcare, food availability, convenience and so on.

We are aware of the larger context of impermanence and can allow it to inform us in sobering and beautiful ways.

By viscerally getting impermanence – including of ourselves and all we know – we can find deep and equally visceral gratitude for our life and what’s here now.

We can find kindness towards ourselves.

We can learn to relate to ourselves and our world with more kindness.

That, in itself, makes a big difference.

It makes our life easier, and we are giving ourselves something essential we all wish for. It’s what we often are really looking for when we think we are looking for something else.

It’s something our civilization doesn’t really teach us and something we don’t learn unless we are lucky with our parents and upbringing. So this work is also part of changing our civilization and our individual and collective worldview.

One of the things I do for myself is to aim at being a good parent to myself, especially when thoughts and emotions visit that it’s difficult for me to meet with kindness. And I also use the befriend & awaken approach.

We can find kindness towards others.

We all do our best with the cards we are dealt. When people go into denial, short-sightedness, and so on, it’s their way of dealing with living in this world. A lot of it, or all, comes from fear.

We can be of service.

We can find meaning and joy in being of service, in whatever form that takes for us. Whether it is supporting humans, non-humans, or ecosystems.

We can find fellowship.

We can find others like us. We can find and create communities. We can support each other.

I did this in the past and lost it to some extent (apart from what I carry with me) due to illness and other life circumstances. Now, it may be time to refind and rebuild community.

We can find our nature, if we are drawn to it.

What do I mean by our nature?

It’s true enough that I am this human self in the world.

And if I look more closely, I find that in my own immediate experience, I am more fundamentally what my field of experience happens within and as. I am, more fundamentally, what a thought may call consciousness, and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. This is what mystics across cultures and throughout time have described. (And talking about it this way is compatible with a range of worldviews.)

Just about anything is an invitation for us to notice and explore how it is to live from our nature. And these types of more dramatic and massive change even more so.

Of course, many won’t be drawn to it. But if you are, then there are ways to explore this. The ones I have found that seem most effective are: The Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Kiloby Inquiries. Basic meditation. And supportive practices like training a more stable attention.

What does this do for us? Not much, necessarily. But it does feel like coming home which is a relief. And it does change the context for everything.

COLLAPSE ACCEPTANCE

What does collapse acceptance mean?

It means accepting that what comes together falls apart.

This civilization will come to an end. Human civilization will come to an end. Humanity will come to an end. Each of those deaths will leave space for something else, which could be a new human civilization or new species eventually developing a new civilization.

It also means accepting the possibility of a more imminent collapse than many expect.

It’s a possibility, it’s not inevitable. We don’t know for certain.

To me, it also means using this to fuel our life – our gratitude, zest for life, engagement, connections, and so on. We can use it to deepen our conscious connection with our life, the life of others, and life in general. We can use it to be good stewards of our own life and life in general. It’s immensely precious as long as it’s here.

POWER-OVER VS POWER-WITH

A few more words about worldviews.

The worldview of our civilization (post-agriculture) has a power-over orientation where we seek power over ourselves, others, nature, and so on. We have a transcendent sky-god out there somewhere and not in or manifesting as everything, including ourselves, others, and nature.

That allows us to see nature – and ourselves and others – as primarily a resource and something to use (and abuse). This is internalized in all of us, and we can train ourselves to recognize it and support and emphasize alternatives ourselves and our culture.

The alternative is a power-with orientation where we seek partnership and cooperation with ourselves (different parts of our psyche), others, nature, and the universe. It’s also to see all of existence as sacred, as the divine or an expression of the divine. (This includes ourselves, others, nature, the universe.)

When this is internalized, it leads to a very different life individually and collectively. We’ll still need to use natural resources to support our own life, but we’ll do it from a different place. We’ll do it with more gratitude, reverence, and seek to find ways to do it that supports not only our own life but the larger living system, future generations, and life in general.

Of course, there will still be times when a more narrow view takes over – times of crisis or when we are caught in trauma, and we’ll make mistakes because we don’t know better – but that will still happen within a larger context of a general power-with and immanent Spirit orientation. And there will be systems in place to protect the interest of life – our own and the wider living systems – to prevent the worst anti-life behaviors.

This is not idealism. It’s what’s necessary for our own survival. It’s how we protect our own survival and the survival of our descendants.

WHAT’S MY HISTORY WITH THIS?

I loved nature from a very early age. As a child, I always said I wanted to become a zoologist. (What I really meant was ecologist but I didn’t know that word then.) I loved being in nature. I loved the hiking, skiing, and cabin trips with my family. I loved sleeping under the stars in the mountains of Norway. I loved the nature documentaries with David Attenborough and Sverre M. Fjelstad. I loved Cosmos by Carl Sagan, which had a huge impact on me and – in many ways – changed my life. (“We are the local ears, eyes, thoughts and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.”)

In my mid-teens, I got deeply into Fritjof Capra, systems views, and the people he references. I also got deeply into Deep Ecology (Arne Næss, a fellow Norwegian) and eco-philosophy, and I got deeply into Jung. I read all the books I could get my hands on from these authors.

Climate change became a big topic in my later teens, in the ’80s, and even then, I saw it as just one expression of the problems inherent in our civilization. We need to make the changes anyway, climate change or no climate change. (Discussing the details about it and whether it’s human-caused or not is a distraction and sometimes an intentional distraction.)

In my twenties, in the US, I read everything I could find about ecospirituality (from any and no particular tradition), ecopsychology, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. I used the Ecological Footprint a lot in my work with sustainability. (I was the initial paid coordinator for Sustain Dane in Madison, Wisconsin.) I organized several projects where we used the ecological footprint as a central theme, and also several events and workshops (and one longer retreat) where we used the Practices to Reconnect and the Council of All Beings.

These days, I work on a regeneration project (15 hectares) in the Andes mountain. It feels deeply rewarding to help this land become more vibrant and healthy again and support the lives of innumerable beings. An integrated food forest will provide food for non-human beings and humans. And it may also eventually be part of local eco-tourism. We’ll see. Anything can happen.

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