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.

Why are wind turbines so bad? Anti-wind energy sentiments in Norway

I have noticed there is a strong anti-wind energy sentiment among many otherwise progressive and sustainability-oriented people in Norway. Some even advocate for nuclear energy (!).

To me, that doesn’t quite make sense.

Yes, wind energy has drawbacks. It’s visible and changes the scenery locally, and it does harm and kill some birds.

At the same time, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind.

ENERGY CONSUMPTION

We have a society, lifestyle, and civilization that depends on high energy input, and Norwegians use more energy than most similar countries. Our priority should be to reduce our energy consumption.

It’s possible to reduce energy consumption quite dramatically through more efficient design and changes in lifestyle. (When someone lived in our tiny house in the Andes last year, that person used several times as much energy as I do when I am there.)

THERE IS AN IMPACT NO MATTER WHAT

We have to get energy from somewhere, and there is an impact no matter what. Our energy-hungry lifestyle inevitably has a big impact. The question is: What type of impact are we OK with?

Wind energy is an easy target since it’s often local and easily visible. The impact from most other sources of energy is far more severe, although it’s also often less visible, at least locally and short term.

For instance, fossil fuels may not have a very visible local impact in the short term, but it has a huge ad devastating impact globally and long term. The same can be said for nuclear energy.

It’s not good that some birds are harmed by the blades of wind turbines, but there are ways to reduce that impact. For instance, there are wind turbines without blades. In any case, the main impact on the bird population comes from elsewhere – especially loss of habitat, loss of healthy ecosystems, pesticides, loss of insects, and so on, and it’s far more important to make changes there.

THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF NUCLEAR ENERGY

Nuclear energy (fission) is a bad alternative.

It moves the cost to future generations which itself is ethically questionable. They don’t have a say.

The waste storage requires ongoing maintenance for millennia, and something will inevitably go wrong. When it goes wrong, the impact is immeasurably worse than the impact of wind energy. It can devastate life in a whole region for millennia. (This can happen even after humans are gone, so we are pushing the consequences onto whatever life is here then.)

Fusion energy is an exception. If we could develop useable fusion energy, it would have a much lower impact and likely generally be a good solution. The drawback is that it requires a centralized system, and it’s still years or decades in the future.

SOME SOLUTIONS

So what’s the solution? Here are some places to start: Reduce energy use. Use more local renewable energy, whatever makes the most sense where you are. (Solar, ground, wind, ocean, water, etc.) Find better storage. Keep looking for better solutions.

Read More

Terrence McKenna: The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet

Yes, the apocalypse is already happening for billions of beings around the world. It’s happening for most species. It’s happening for a huge number of individuals from most species. It’s happening for big portions of humanity, including all those with no clean water, not enough food, and limited resources to deal with increasingly extreme weather.

If the acopalypse seems in the future, it’s because of privilege and insulation.

So what’s the solution? What can I do?

I can open myself to what’s happening. I can allow myself to feel whatever comes up in me around it – which may first be a good deal of grief, anger, hopelessness and similar. What also comes up are visions of how it can be, and wanting to be engaged and be a part of creating the world I want to live in.

I can do simple things in my own life: Find likeminded people. Learn about the situations and the many solutions. Explore good examples of how we can live in a more life-centered way. See what I can do practically, maybe growing wildflowers, making a wild garden, eating local and organic, and so on.

I can realize that all of his is my world. The world as it appears to me is my world. How do I relate to it? How do I interpret it? How do I see myself in relation to it? What is more true for me? What are some more wise, kind, and helpful stories?

How is it to notice that the world, as it appears to me, is happening within my own sense fields? That it’s happening within and as the consciousness I am?

Jason Hickel: The “economy” is ultimately our material relationship with each other and with the rest of the world

Yes, it can be said that simply.

Our economic system is based on the assumption that nature is infinite, that it has infinite resources and an infinite capacity to absorb the waste of civilization.

That assumption made somewhat sense in the past when we were far fewer and had simpler technology.

Today, with a huge number of people and a much more efficient technology, it’s clearly ecocidal and suicidal. It will be our downfall unless we change it, and that change has to be thorough and profound.

Said another way, assuming an infinite Earth leads to an economy based on extraction and exploitation. What’s easy and attractive to do, for individuals and organizations, is also what’s destructive for nature, ourselves, and future generations.

Transforming our economy to take ecological realities into account leads to an economy based on reciprocity and care. We can create an economic system where what’s easy and attractive to do also supports life – nature, ourselves, and future generations.

It’s not only possible, it’s essential that we do it if we want to survive.

Paul Hawken: What I see in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore grace, justice, and beauty to the world

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Both are part of the bigger picture.

Also, if you want to find encouragement, I find that making changes in my own life helps me see that change is possible. Even small changes do that. And that’s much easier if I do it with others.

Rewild your garden. Plant wildflowers. Plant fruit trees and bushes. Buy second-hand clothes. Walk, bike, or use public transportation instead of a car. Buy less, local, and something that lasts and can be repaired. Downscale. Save money instead of spending it all so you can retire early. Volunteer. Find others to do all of this with for mutual support. There is a lot we can do in our own life and small changes help us viscerally get that change is possible.

Read More

Inter-species communication

I have been fascinated by inter-species communication since childhood and early teens and have followed the research into dolphin and parrot communication. (For instance, Irene Pepperberg and the parrot Alex.)

COMMUNICATING WITH BUTTONS

I love the more recent approach of using talking buttons, developed by Christina Hunger and her dog Stella.

Having watched these videos over several years, it seems clear that our non-human friends function much as we do, and they find ways to use the buttons and a limited vocabulary to express what they wish to communicate.

HOW WE RELATE TO OTHER SPECIES

For centuries and millennia, we have trained ourselves to see ourselves separate from nature. We are somehow special, better, different in kind, and so on. We have also developed many justifications for how we treat other species, ecosystems, and nature.

One of these justifications is telling ourselves that other species are mute and dumb, inferior in every way, and even that they don’t have emotions or experience pain. This goes against basic common sense, but we needed this justification to treat them in the terrible ways we have done and still do.

This idea of separation has led to the ecological crisis we now find ourselves in.

Button communication is one piece of the puzzle in transforming how we see – and treat – other species and the natural world. And that will also change how we see and treat ourselves.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OURSELVES

How will it change how we see and treat ourselves?

It will help us see ourselves as part of the natural world and not apart from it. It will help us find a deeper sense of fellowship with all beings. We are no longer as alone here as we may have thought.

We may lose a sense of superiority (which was hollow and based on nothing real anyway) and find a deeper sense of belonging and community.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OTHER SPECIES AND THE NATURAL WORLD

It will, by necessity, change how we treat other species and nature.

If other beings have their own rich interior life, as we do, we’ll need to treat them with more respect.

We can no longer justify exploiting them for our own purposes as if their life and how they experience the world don’t matter.

They deserve a good life, just as we do, no matter where they are, whether they live with us or in the wild.

SEEING AND TREATING OURSELVES AS NATURE

In a deeper sense, finding more respect for other species and nature in general will help us find more respect for the nature we are.

It will help us see and relate to ourselves as nature, which can help us relate to ourselves with a little more understanding, kindness, and perhaps even wisdom.

We are learning to rewild ourselves.

Read More

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

Read More

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 70

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

MOSKOW VS WASHINGTON DC, 1434

I saw this meme with an image of Moskow and Washington DC in the early 1400s. Moskow has churches and big buildings. Washington, D.C. has native American tents. There is no commentary, but I suspect the idea is to show that Russia had civilization back then and North America did not.

That’s misguided at so many levels.

NORTH AMERICA AND RUSSIA ARE BOTH EUROPEAN CIVILIZATIONS

The current North American civilization and Russia are both European civilizations.

What we see in North America today is not the civilization of the indigenous people. (Some of us wish it were.)

NATIVE AMERICAN CIVILIZATIONS

The image combination may suggest that the Native American civilization was somehow primitive or inferior to the Russian civilization at the time.

If so, that’s a questionable view.

The indigenous people in the Americas had their own civilizations.

Even from a conventional European view, many of these were sophisticated and advanced. For example, we can find democracy, equality between the genders, sustainable agriculture, sophisticated architecture, advanced languages and mathematics, large buildings and cities, and so on.

INDIGENOUS CULTURES CAN BE SEEN AS MORE ADVANCED

If we want to compare civilizations, the way we do it obviously depends on our own views and what we value. If we use the filter of traditional European values, then the European civilization will necessarily appear superior. But those are not the only valid and valuable views and values. Other values may be more essential and important, especially today.

European culture and civilization is, in many ways, unhealthy and damaging to nature and people. It sees humans as separate from the rest of nature. It has an idea of a remote sky-god. It sees nature as infinite and here for humans. It sees humans as superior to other beings. It values intellect over heart and the wisdom of the body. It’s traditionally racist and sexist. It has often been colonialist. It has an extractive mindset.

In contrast, many indigenous cultures see humans as part of the web of life. The divine is right here in and around us, which is more conducive to reverence for life. They often have a more ecological mindset and a more ecologically sustainable way of life.

The first is ecocidal and suicidal. The second is more life-centered.

Of course, is not always that simple. There is much value in European culture, and many indigenous cultures have views and habits that most of us wouldn’t like to be exposed to. But in general, European culture is profoundly misguided on some essential and basic things, and many indigenous cultures were and are not.

NOT MEANT TO BE SCRUTINIZED

I understand that these memes are not meant to be scrutinized like this. The people posting them do it for emotional reasons. In this case, the meme only works if you don’t think about it and follow racist logic.

Some pro-Russian propaganda can be surprisingly naive. Still, it’s sometimes adopted by some Western folks on the left.

Why? It’s likely because Putin and some Westerners on the left both like to criticise the US and Western Europe for their policies and how they sometimes treat the rest of the world. They use a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic.

I am also no fan of much of what the US and Western Europe have done and are doing. That doesn’t mean I leave my brain at the door and adopt the views of Russian propaganda.

A MORE SANE VIEW

For me, there is a more grounded and sane approach.

European culture – whether it’s in the US or Russia or anywhere else – is profoundly misguided on several essentials. It has a power-over orientation, an extractive mindset, it sees nature as infinite and primarily existing for human use, the sacred is separate and “out there” somewhere, and so on. That’s found equally in the US and in Russia, and it’s ecocidal and ultimately suicidal.

Indigenous cultures often have views and orientations that are more sane and ecological. These are one piece of the puzzle in transforming into a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

That’s far more fundamental and essential than any US vs Russia debate. And if I wanted to go into that particular discussion, I would certainly not adopt a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” orientation.

Read More

Shifting baseline syndrome: When we don’t realize how much nature is changing & learning to see with deep-time eyes

Yes, this is a big concern. Most of us don’t realize how much nature has changed over the centuries and even over the last few decades. We see nature and don’t realize how impacted it is by human activity.

CHANGES OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES

When I grew up in Norway in the ’80s, the garden was brimming with insects, birds, badgers, hedgehogs, and more. We had the windows and doors open in the summer, and the inside of the windows became full of insects when we closed them. We drove a few minutes in the car, and the windshield was covered in insects. After one drive, we had to clean it.

These days, there is very little life of any kind. There are very few insects. I hardly see any on the windshield. The inside windows have just about none. I don’t see any grasshoppers, ladybugs, butterflies, crickets, daddy longlegs, or any of the very familiar insects from my childhood. I don’t see any swallows anymore.1

I suspect most young people don’t realize how much this has changed and how quickly. They didn’t experience it for themselves. This is all they are familiar with. This lack of life is what’s normal for them.

CHANGES OVER CENTURIES AND MILLENNIA

This is also happening over longer timespans. When I look at the rolling hills here in Southern Norway, it’s beautiful in its own way. For my inner eye, I see something else. I see the rich and diverse old forest that very likely was there before humans, or when there were only a few humans there thousands of years ago. I see a multi-layered old forest full of animals, birds, and insects. I imagine the ocean similarly full of life.

When I walk through my childhood forest, I experience it differently from when I was a child. Back then, I thought this was wilderness. Now, I see a monoculture planted for profit. The trees are all the same type and of the same age, planted too close together for much else to grow there. It’s far from the rich diversity of a natural old-growth forest.

CITIES

When I walk in a city or town, I imagine how it looked before humans built it. I imagine walking through the rich and multi-layered forest that used to be there. (Or whatever ecosystem it was.)

LEARNING TO LOOK WITH DEEP TIME EYES

For me, it’s important to learn the basics of how mature and rich ecosystems look, and how it was where I am before humans had a huge impact. It’s important for me to learn to see landscapes and places with deep time eyes.

IMAGINING HOW IT CAN BE

It’s also important for me to learn to imagine how I can be. If we engage in regeneration and bring back a mostly native and rich ecosystem, how would it look? How would it look right here?

GRIEF, HOPE & ENGAGEMENT

If I look at the past, it brings up sadness and grief, and that’s a natural and healthy response. I am nature grieving itself. I am a part of this planet and ecosystem driving the loss of so much of itself.

That’s why I also make a practice out of imagining how it can be. I imagine the place I am in full of life and a rich and mature ecosystem, with human settlement as an integral part of it.

That’s also why I make a practice out of doing something in my own life. When I do something to bring it about, in however small a way it may be, I am part of the solution. It’s meaningful. It brings hope. I get to see that something can be done.

IN MY CASE: SOME OF THE SMALL THINGS I DO

What are some of the small things I do?

In my mid-teens, I got deeply into systems views and deep ecology. In my teens and early twenties, I also got into ecospirituality, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. I learn to see with deep time eyes. I learned about how the ecosystems used to be before they were hugely impacted by humans. I learned to imagine how it can be, with regeneration and sustainability efforts.

I shifted how I see myself in relationship with nature. I am nature. I am part of this seamless living planet. I am part of this evolving universe. I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I allow this to work on me, and I invite in a deepening visceral experience of it. (Deep ecology, universe story, epic of evolution.)

I learned how we can create a more life-centered and ecologically sustainable civilization. I learned about how our current economic system doesn’t take ecological realities into account (assumes nature is infinite), and how that can and needs to change.

I do small things in my life. I recycle. Use dishwater and shower water for plants. I walk or take public transportation when I can. I try to limit my consumption.

I make connections with and learn from like-minded people.

I have been engaged in several sustainability community projects in the past, especially when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. (EcoTeams, NWEI discussion groups, Practices to Reconnect, Sustain Dane.)

I am also gifted with being the steward of land in the Andes mountains, and I am engaged in the regeneration of this land. (Roughly a thousand native trees will be planted as soon as the rain returns, and we are also developing a food forest.) We are also using natural building techniques (rammed earth), we use mostly local and/or recycled materials, we will collect rainwater and use it to water the plants, we plan on installing solar power, and so on. It’s a gift and a great privilege to be able to do this.

NOTES
(1) Why is the loss happening? The general reason is that we – in our Western civilization – are in ecological overshoot. We use far more resources than nature can keep up with and replenish. The more detailed reasons are many: Use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow food. Monoculture. Loss of old forests. Reduced diversity in the gardens. (When I was little, many gardens had wild areas and in general had a lot more trees, bushes, and flowers.) More houses. Less wild (semi-wild) areas.

Action gives hope

Action gives hope. When I act to support life and create a more life-centered civilization, in however small ways it may be, it gives me hope. I feel I can make a difference. I feel we all can make a difference.

This is one of those things that seems obvious when we know it from our own life and may not occur to us before we experience it.

As usual, there are a lot of wrinkles here.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH

It’s also helpful to come to terms with death – the death of ourselves, our loved ones, this civilization, and even humanity. What comes together falls apart. Death is what allows anything to be. Death and impermanence is what gives space and birth to all we know, and all that was and will be. We wouldn’t be here without it. For all the grief and pain we may experience because of it, it’s also an immense and immeasurable blessing. It helps to let all of that sink in.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH + FINDING HOPE

We can come to terms with death, even the possible near-term death of our civilization and humanity, and also find hope. They are not mutually exclusive. We contain multitudes.

And we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can only put one foot in front of the other and do our best. We can be a good steward of our own life and our role in the world.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

When we notice our nature, and examine our relationship with thoughts, hope is not as important anymore as it may have been before. We don’t really need hope. We have here and now, which is more than enough, and hope is revealed as a story about the future we cannot know anything for certain about.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

I have explored these things since my teens.

I have taken action to make my life more life-centered and sustainable in different ways, and also worked on community projects (through Sustain Dane and other organizations). Even small actions make a lot of difference. These days, I find myself helping to reforest and regenerate 15 hectares in the Andes mountains, which is immensely meaningful to me.

I have spent quite a lot of time coming to terms with death and impermanence, and finding genuine appreciation for it. (Although it often also brings up grief, sadness, and despair in me.)

I have explored my relationship with thoughts, including within the context of my nature noticing itself and through structured inquiry.

Image created by me and Midjourney

Read More

When progressives are seduced by misinformation

“If you think that something in the cow’s digestive process changes the climate, there is something seriously wrong with you”

A social media friend posted this quote. She is someone who seems to care deeply about people and nature and is generally progressive in terms of politics.

This brings up a few things for me.

WHY DID SHE POST IT?

Why did she post it? I assume she may be one of the progressives naively seduced by misinformation. This type of misinformation often originates on the far-right and is – more or less consciously – designed to undermine sane collective action. (Anti-woke is another example of a far-right bandwagon that some naive progressives seem happy to jump on.)

Maybe she wanted to seem smart or anti-establishment? Maybe she wanted to fuel and present a certain identity?

Maybe she knows someone with that attitude and she wants to join in with them?

WHOSE INTERESTS ARE YOU SPEAKING UP FOR?

Here are some questions that come up for me…

Did you consider where that information and attitude come from? (You may find it’s most popular on the far right.)

Did you check to see if there is any solid science behind it? Did you consider if it would hold up in a court of law? (It certainly would not because it’s not funded in science or reality.)

Did you consider that you may be wrong if you see it one way based on whatever, and tens of thousands of scientists from everywhere in the world – who have spent decades studying it – have a different view?

Did you consider who you are aligning yourself with? Did you consider whose interests you are speaking up for? (In this case, it’s the beef industry. In a broader sense, it’s anyone who think they benefit from preventing a shift into a more sustainable civilization.)

Did you consider what those attitudes lead to? (Distrust of science, undermining of sustainable changes.)

Do you value staying close to reality, or something else like belonging or fueling a certain identity? (The second is fine, and it’s good to be honest about it.)

Did you consider that these attitudes undermine what you appear to care deeply about? (Taking care of nature and animals.)

If you love nature, why do you promote attitudes not supported by science that undermine sane actions to protect nature?

LOOK AT MORE THAN ONE CONNECTION

When you look at the connections between two things, it’s good to look at more than one connection.

In this case, what are some of the connections between cows and climate change?

An obvious one is that the digestive process of cows (the need for grass) destroys the Amazon at a rapid pace and that hugely impacts our climate and all of us.

There are more than one billion cows in the world. How can that not significantly impact our climate? They need an enormous amount of grass and grain, which means cutting down large areas of forests and vegetation. This changes the local and regional climate. It creates a dryer and hotter climate. When this happens around the world, it inevitably changes our global climate.

You cannot leave that out.

THE SPECIFIC TOPIC

To address the narrow topic she likely referred to: Methane from cows and climate change.

One cow can produce 250-500 liters of methane a day. With more than a billion cows, that’s a huge amount of methane.

Methane is a greenhouse gas. It works like a greenhouse. It allows light through but not heat.

Light passes through glass / our atmosphere -> the energy of the light is converted to heat when it hits matter -> and that heat is then trapped in the greenhouse / our planet.

It obviously will impact our climate. It’s inevitable. It’s simple physics.

Our planet is small and the atmosphere is thin. It doesn’t take that much to significantly change our atmosphere, and with it our climate and all we know.

This is all simple. It’s what you learned in elementary school.

SANE ACTION

When it comes to cows, there is a sane approach:

(a) Reduce the number of cows in the world and (b) change the way they live and are fed.

Eating meat is hugely inefficient when it comes to land use. It’s far more efficient for us to eat lower on the food chain. It’s also more healthy for us. It helps the cows often living in terrible conditions. And it helps protect nature and our ecosystems.

It’s fine to have some cows, but it’s better – for them and us – if they live outdoors as much as possible, on land that’s managed well. (For instance, silvopasture.)

This is sane action whether or not there is climate change (there is), whether or not it’s human-created (it is), and whether or not methane from cows contributes to it (it does).

Read More

Systems change from an ecocidal civilization to a more life-centered civilization

When I see dynamics that hold our current ecocidal system in place, I see expressions of universal systems dynamics.

SYSTEMS SEEK DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM

Systems seek dynamic equilibrium, and they have dynamics in place to try to maintain that equilibrium. It will resist anything that’s destabilizing. That’s natural and healthy. That’s how any system exists and that’s how we are here.

SPECIFIC EXPRESSIONS OF THESE UNIVERSAL DYNAMICS

In our ecocidal system, we see many expressions of this. Some ridicule those who question the sanity of our current system. Some want to continue with business as usual because it’s comfortable or it serves their short-term interests. Some deny that we are in an ecological crisis. Some think it’s hopeless. Some misdiagnose the problem and blame corporations or the government. Laws and courts sometimes protect those who destroy ecosystems and punish those who seek to protect them.

These are all expressions of our current ecocidal system, and they are expressions of dynamics seeking to maintain the equilibrium of this system.

It’s not personal. It’s not really about the individual. It’s all expressions of systems dynamics, often expressed through the attitudes and behaviors of groups and individuals.

SYSTEMS CHANGE

So how does this system change? How does it shift into another state, hopefully, one that’s more life-centered?

It shifts the way any system shifts. It shifts due to a build-up of dynamics pushing it out of equilibrium and into another state.

It shifts because too many things induce it to shift, overcoming the dynamics seeking to keep it in equilibrium.

A SHIFT OUT OF OUR ECOCIDAL SYSTEM AND INTO SOMETHING ELSE

In our case, it will shift because the dire situation we are in will become obvious to more and more people, the necessity to shift into a more life-centered civilization becomes obvious to enough people, and enough people are taking action to make those changes.

The other option is a collapse of our current civilization. A small portion of humans may survive and create another culture. Or humans may collapse with the system. Either way, our global ecological system will continue and find another equilibrium that deals with the changes our civilization has caused.

Note: These are the things I was passionate about in my teens and early twenties, in the ’80s and ’90s. I haven’t really kept myself up to date with systems views since then, but I assume the essence of this still applies. For the last 10-15 years, I have been unable to read much or take in much information due to my health.

Read More

What’s insane? Destroying our life-support system or protesting against the destruction?

I am watching the recent episode of True Detective. At some point, Jodi Foster’s character says that her daughter’s protest against the mine is “insane”. (Then retracts it.)

It’s clear what’s insane in that situation. Destroying our life-support system is insane.

It’s an insanity facilitated by a system that does not take ecological realities into account. A system where what’s easy and attractive to do is also often destructive for our ecosystems and our own life.1

What’s sane is to (a) do anything we can to stop it. What’s even more sane is to (b) shift into a more ecological and life-centered worldview and (c) to live and promote pragmatic life-centered and life-supporting alternatives. All three are needed to change our civilization into a more life-centered one.

Why do so many get it topsy-turvy? Why do they think that protesting is insane while business as usual is sane? Probably because business is usual is what we are used to.2 It’s normal so we think it’s sane. In this view, protesting is not normal so it’s not considered sane. It’s ridiculed. Pushed back against by our legal system. Marginalized. That’s how the current system tries to stay alive.

(1) This system is inherently insane. It’s also understandable how it came about. It was created at a time when our population was small enough and our technology simple enough so we could, for most practical purposes, assume that nature is infinite.

(2) There are also many incentives to maintain business as usual. It’s profitable to some. It may seem more comfortable than change. It’s predictable even if it’s destructive.

Read More

Creating a bridge between our global challenges and how our body-mind works

Why do we seem unable to make the changes needed to deal with our ecological crisis? Why do we seem unable to profoundly transform our economy and other systems to take ecological realities into account?

I suspect it may be because of evolution1.

We didn’t evolve to take global issues seriously, and we didn’t evolve to think on the scale of centuries and millennia.

We evolved to take care of what’s immediate, tangible, and right in front of us.

That has served us well for millions of years.

And in our global crisis, created by a civilization that is out of alignment with reality, it does not serve us well. It may be what dooms us.

It’s important to correctly diagnose the cause of our ecological crisis and also the cause of our inability to make the necessary changes.

The cause of the problem is our general worldview (of separation) and our systems that assume nature is infinite.

If the cause of our inability is evolution, and we realize that, we may be able to make use of it.

We may be able to set things in place that help us make changes despite our evolutionary handicap. It’s a matter of making our crisis immediate, personal, and urgent. It already is, but many don’t experience it viscerally. How can we help more people get it viscerally?2

Evolution made us perfectly adapted to our way of life up until the modern age, and we are less equipped to deal with our modern life and our current ecocidal civilization. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it does mean we need to create a bridge between the global scale of our challenges and the way our bodymind works.

(1) Just like many misdiagnose the cause of the crisis, many misdiagnose our inability to effectively deal with it. Some think the crisis is created by greed, corporations, governments, and so on, while it in reality is created by systems that don’t take ecological realities into account. These systems were put in place at a time when we could afford to assume that nature is infinite, and now – with far more people and more powerful technology – those systems are ecocidal and suicidal. Some think the reasons we are unable to make the necessary changes are the same: greed, corporations, capitalism, and so on. In reality, the reason may be far more innocent and fundamental. It may be evolution.

(2) Of course, sooner or later – and I suspect sooner rather than later, it will be immediate, personal, and urgent for most of us. By then, we are far into the crisis and it will be more difficult to turn around.

Read More

Water in Barichara

Barichara has wet and dry seasons. The dry season is usually December-April, with two or three good rains within that period. Some years, it rains a lot through the year. In other years, the dry seasons last longer.

We are in the dry season and just had a very welcome early morning rain here. I measured it, and it was around 5cm. I imagine many beings are very happy for it – people, animals, birds, insects, and plants.

The roof of our small house is about 100m2. 1mm of rain on one square meter gives 1 liter of water. 1mm of rain on this roof is 100 liters. This rain gave 5,000 liters of water from the roof. That’s quite a lot.

There is no lack of water here, and it is important to manage it well.

FINCA MILAGROS

We collect water from town in one large and one smaller tank. That means we have water for a while even if the water from town doesn’t flow.

We will install a several-step water filtration system (from sand filter through eventually UV light) for clean drinking water. The alternative is water from large plastic bottles, which is terrible due to all the microplastic particles in the water (200,000 in small plastic water bottles from a recent study).

We will soon start collecting rainwater from the roofs here. I am not sure how big the tanks will be, and we may expand. For now, we are thinking of 2×15,000 liters for the larger house that’s being built (220m2 roof surface) and one 15,000-liter tank for our small house. These tanks will be filled up quickly with some good rains, and we will use the water to water plants. (Perhaps also for showering etc., not sure yet.)

Finca Milagros has one large pond and 3-4 smaller ones. We want to channel rainwater better into these ponds, and make them deeper, so they can hold more water. This is important for the birds, animals, and insects relying on that water, it helps the vegetation and life in the areas around the ponds, and it also helps to replenish the groundwater.

The land here has been grazed so only the area around the big pond has a more mature forest. The rest is various degrees of young forest and arid land. Vegetation helps slow down the flow of water and helps the water absorb into the ground, so that’s one of many reasons we are planning to reforest the area with native trees and bushes.

Bare soil is eroded when it rains. That’s why we are planting cactus and succulents there, mostly native. We are also planting hardy native trees there, mostly boca ratón right now. And we are doing some simple landscaping, mostly with rocks, to reduce erosion.

There is a dry river going through Milagros. It’s dry because of deforestation. Forests bring water into the ground (slows the water flow and makes the ground more porous) and reduce evaporation, both of which give water to the river. With reforestation, there is a chance we can bring the water back into the river, especially if we are also able to help reforest the land higher up.

BARICHARA

As far as I know, there are no groundwater regulations here. That’s enormously important. We need to prevent too much use and contamination of groundwater. (Many houses here use septic fields that leach blackwater into the groundwater.) Depleting the groundwater reserves has a huge impact on the ecosystem. Both depleting and contaminating it has serious and devastating consequences for the very long term. Protecting the groundwater is hugely important.

The water that comes from the municipality (aqueduct) is contaminated. That’s another important thing to work on since not everyone can afford good purification systems or to buy drinking water separately. It’s a vital public health issue.

Reforestation is also hugely important. Forests hold humidity and create rain. The other side of Cañon del Chicamocha has more forests and there are always clouds there. I assume they also receive more rain. They (partially) create rain for themselves.

The photo is of the other side of Cañon del Chicamocha at sunset

agua, barichara, santander, agua subterránea, protección del agua

A kincentric view on life

This kincentric – or life-centric – view on life is far more aligned with reality than our traditional anthropocentric view. It’s informed by ecology, experience, and common sense.

It’s also crucial for our survival. We need to transform the systems of our civilization to align with ecological realities, and a kincentric view will help us do that.

For more from Enrique Salmón, see Kincentric Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions of the Human-Nature Relationship | I Want the Earth to Know Me as a Friend

“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.

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.

Read More

Helpful contexts for my life

I find I have a few contexts for my life that seem helpful

I can also call them pointers or reminders.

Here are some of them, as they look to me now.

DON’T KNOW & QUESTIONS

I don’t know anything for certain, and mental representations are questions about the world.

The nature of thoughts is that they help me navigate and orient in the world. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function. They are questions about the world.

The map is not the terrain. Stories are different in kind from what they point to, unless they happen to point to other thoughts. The world is always more than and different from any stories about it, and also less than any story.

To explore: The Work of Byron Katie. Philosophy of science.

MY MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

In one sense, I am this human self in the world, just like my passport and how most people see me.

And I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the field of experience – this human self, others, the wider world – happens within and as.

I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into all these experiences.

To explore: Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Basic meditation (over time!).

WHAT WE MOST FUNDAMENTALLY WANT

I can’t speak for all other beings, but I have found some things I – and the different parts of me – more fundamentally want. It’s variations of love, acceptance, connection, safety, belonging, coming home, and so on. If I take a surface desire for anything at all and trace it back to something more essential, I tend to arrive at one of these.

These seem essential and I suspect they are quite universal, based on what I see in the world and what others say.

There is something even more fundamental, and that’s a wish to find our nature, to consciously come home to what we already are. That gives us, in one sense, all the things we look for.

And that doesn’t mean that our human self doesn’t have wants and wishes that we can find the essence of and find ways to fulfill – mainly by giving it to ourselves here and now, and also in life.

To explore: Inquiry, tracing our wishes back to their essentials. What do I hope to get out of it? What do I hope to get out of that? And so on.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever characteristics and dynamics I see out there in others and the world is also here. I can take any statement about anyone or anything, turn it to myself, and find more than one genuine example of how it’s true. (Including true at the moment I have the thought about someone or something else.)

This is wonderful in several ways. It means I can use my thoughts about others and the world to discover more about myself. It means I can find more of my own richness in myself and in how I live my life. I can explore outside of what I thought were my limits and boundaries, created by identities and ideas about myself. I can more easily recognize myself in others. And so on.

To explore: Projection and shadow work. The Work of Byron Katie.

OVERSHOOT

Our civilization is in overshoot. We are using far more resources than the planet can generate, and we are putting way more waste and toxins into the planet’s circulation than it evolved to deal with.

We would need two planets to provide for the resource use of humanity as a whole, and five or more to provide for the resource use of the Westernized and industrialized world.

This cannot continue.

That’s serious enough in itself, but there is something more serious. This is like spending money from our savings without replenishing it sufficiently. It looks fine for a while, until it’s empty and our lifestyle comes crashing down.

In our case, it’s not only our lifestyle that comes crashing down. It’s likely our whole civilization.

Will we be able to transition into a new and more ecologically sound civilization? How will the crash impact us? How many will die? How many species and ecosystems will die in the process?

We don’t know but it will likely be very challenging for us and any other species.

To explore: Articles and books on overshoot and the ecological footprint.

DEATH GIVES LIFE

What comes together falls apart.

That goes for this universe, this living planet, our current civilization, humanity, each of us, and everything we know.

Our mammalian psyche may have a problem with that, but it’s actually wonderful.

It’s how anything is here in the first place. It’s how we are here.

We are here because all the states the universe has gone through have come and gone. Stars died and provided most of the matter making up this amazing planet and us. Species died and made space for us. Individuals died and made space for us.

Death opens up space for something new. Death is how we are here. Death is how anything is here.

Impermanence is even how we can experience anything at all. Each moment is gone and opens space for a new one.

Our civilization will be gone, perhaps opening space for a new one. Humanity will be gone, opening space for other species to perhaps eventually create their own civilization. This universe will likely be gone, opening space for a new one.

It’s all a kind of a dream. What’s here is gone, opening the space for something else.

To explore: The Universe story, the Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History.

HAPPINESS, CONTENTMENT, MEANING & GRATITUDE

Happiness comes and goes. Often, what creates happiness are small things in daily life. Holding someone’s hand. A hug. A kind word. Ice cream. A good meal. A beautiful sunrise. And so on. We can set up our life to create moments that spark happiness.

Contentment can come in different ways. We may live a life in integrity and be in relative peace with ourselves. We may relate to ourselves – and especially our distressed parts – with kindness. We may find our nature, our more fundamental home, and find contentment there. We may have been lucky with our parents and upbringing, naturally relate to ourselves and live our life with kindness and wisdom, and find contentment that way.

Meaning is again something else. We can find meaningful activities in our life, and those are often about creativity and expression, being of service to others and the larger whole, or a combination of the two.

Finding gratitude can contribute to each of these. I can find gratitude for the things my personality naturally is inclined to find gratitude for. (I have shelter, water, food, family, friends, a beautiful day, the song of birds, a kind word, and so on.) I can also do a more radical gratitude practice where I find gratitude for everything in my life, whether my personality tends to like it or not. This can bring about even more profound shifts.

To explore: Psychology that addresses these topics. See also this book.

KINDNESS TO OURSELVES

Some of the essentials I seek are love, understanding, safety, and so on.

I can give those to myself. I notice a distressed part of me, and I can meet it as a kind and wise parent would a child.

If our parents didn’t consistently do this for us, we likely didn’t learn to consistently do it for ourselves, so this can take intention, attention, and practice. It can be a lifelong process and more than worth it.

To explore: Resources on reparenting ourselves. Heart-centered practices like Ho’oponopono and tonglen directed toward ourselves. Self-compassion. The Befriend and Wake up process I have written about in other articles.

EVOLUTIONARY CONTEXT

I like to see behavior in an evolutionary contest. It helps me find useful and kind stories to understand myself, others, and other species.

We just traveled with our cat to a new place, and she was hesitant to drink the water. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. In a new place, it’s important to be careful with the water. Don’t drink if it’s not moving or if you don’t see others drink from it. I filled a glass with water, slurped some with delight while she was looking, and she happily drank (a lot!) from the same glass. (This is likely also why cats often like to drink water from the same glass as their humans. They trust it’s safe to drink if they see others drink it.)

I don’t have to beat myself up for having sugar cravings now and then. I understand why. It’s because my ancestors evolved to crave sugar because it helped them and their offspring survive. Sugar was found in rare and nutrient-rich foods like fruits, and the cravings helped them prioritize seeking out and eating these foods. In our modern world, this impulse has been hijacked by the food industry to sell products. I don’t have to be too hard on myself for having these cravings or even following them now and then, these cravings helped my ancestors survive. (And I can find practical strategies for dealing with them. For instance, only buying what’s on my shopping list, and having someone to be accountable to.)

When I am sick, I know that most (nearly all?) of my symptoms evolved to help me heal. The general fatigue and illness feeling motivates me to rest, which helps my body heal itself. Fever – increased temperature – helps my body kill pathogens. Diarrhea flushes out pathogens or undesirable food. And so on. This shifts how I relate to what’s happening when I am sick. I find more appreciation and even gratitude for my symptoms. (It also highlights one of the strange things some do in our culture, which is to try to counter or stop the natural self-healing processes of the body like fever, diarrhea, and so on.)

I have a fear of heights. That too is very understandable from an evolutionary perspective. My ancestors likely survived partly because they had some fear of heights, and the ones who did not were more likely to die young and not pass on their genetics. I can still work on this fear so it doesn’t stop me from doing the things I want.

To explore: Evolutionary psychology.

MY CONNECTION WITH THE LARGER WHOLE

How am I connected with the larger whole? Am I a separate being or is something else more true?

When I find my more fundamental nature, I find that the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. Already there, the ideas of separation break down, at least in how it all appears to me.

Through science, we also find stories of oneness and connection, and these inform our perception, choices, and life in the world.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

The universe is one seamless system. It has evolved and temporarily formed itself into you and me and our experiences and everything we know. It will continue to evolve and change itself into something new. (And that may not always conform to our ideas of “progress”!)

Our planet is one living system. Our health and well-being is dependent on the health and well-being of this larger living system.

This helps me feel more connected as a human being, see myself as an expression of the larger whole, and behave in ways that (are more likely to) take care of this larger living system I am a part of.

To explore: Systems views, Universe Story, Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History, Deep Ecology.

Image by me and Midjourney.

Read More

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.

Reverence for what gives us life

Worshipping what gives us life — the sun, water, soil, ancestors, fellow living beings, the Earth, the universe as a whole – makes a lot of sense.

And worship here, for me, means reverence and gratitude.

It makes a lot of sense to have reverence and gratitude for what gives us life, and that’s everything.

The Sun. Water. Soil. Plants. Animals. Humans. Ancestors. Earth as a living whole. The universe as a whole. It’s all a seamless system. All of it is why we are here. All of it is what gives us life.

I should also mention something about the meme above. It’s phrased as either-or to get a point across. For me, it’s both-and. I can have reverence for what gives this human self life, and what gives all beings life. I can find myself as the unseen, as the consciousness the world to me happens within and as. And none of that excludes Spirit as an unseen consciousness that everything – all of existence and all of our experiences – happen within and as.

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.

Read More

Michael Dowd

Michael Dowd died unexpectedly last Saturday. I met him the first time in the ’90s in Wisconsin, where he led an ecospirituality workshop hosted by some (amazing) local nuns, and several times since then. We were both involved with the EcoTeams at the time, and we both share a love for ecospirituality, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. Over the last few years, his focus was mostly on post-doom no-gloom. He and his wife, Connie Barlow, both did exceptional and very important work, and I am sure she will continue.

On a personal note, I feel sad that two of the people I have felt the most resonance with have recently died (Bonnie Greenwell and Michael Dowd) and that Adyashanti recently retired (although he will still put things out there).

I thought I would share some resources here:

Michal Dowd – his official website with videos and more.

The Great Story – a huge amount of resources.

Michael Dowd on Wikipedida

Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World – I love this book

Interview with Michael Dowd on Buddha at the Gas Pump (2015)

A recent sermon.

The best politician?

The leader of the conservative party in Norway (Erna Solberg) is in hot water these days. Her husband clearly used inside information from her and her government to work the stock market. He bought and sold large amounts of stocks at crucial moments, often the day before her government announced policies that significantly influenced the value of those stocks. She has thrown him under the bus and abandoned any responsibility for this situation, even if she – crucially – is legally responsible for making sure these things don’t happen. And she has received a lot of criticism for it.

A friend of mine on social media says he doesn’t agree politically with her in everything but feels sad since she sees her as the best politician in Norway.

DIFFERENTIATING SKILLS AND POLITICS

In many ways, I admire that approach.

He discerns between political skills and the content of politics.

He acknowledges that she has skills and characteristics many would like to see in a politician, even if we don’t agree with all or most of the content of her politics.

It’s a useful distinction and it reflects sincerity and intellectual honesty.

THE CRUCIAL SKILLS SHE DOES NOT EMBODY

Yes, she may have skills and characteristics many would like to see in a politician.

At the same time, she clearly does not embody certain skills I see as crucial for a politician.

She does not seem to have much interest in thinking in the big picture and long term.

She chooses to ignore the dire warnings of scientists.

As I see it, this shows that she lacks crucial political skills.

CAN SHE BE THE BEST POLITICIAN IF SHE OPERATES WITH HER HEAD IN THE SAND?

Is she the best politician if she is ignoring the warnings from tens of thousands of scientists? If she is not taking what they say seriously and is not prioritizing deep and profound changes in all our social systems. (Not the least our economic system which is blind to existing within an ecosystem with limited ability to produce resources and absorb the products of civilization.) Is she the best politician if she lives with her head in the sand and pretends it’s all mostly OK with just a few problems here and there that can be fixed with minor tweaks? Will future generations see her as the best politician? *

Yes, she may be skilled in some facets of being a politician. And can she be the “best” if she is ignoring scientists and the biggest issue humanity is facing today? Can she be the best politician if she is ignoring that humanity is using far more resources than Earth’s ecosystems can keep up with? If she is ignoring – to take just one of many examples – that the acidification of the oceans may lead them to collapse with disastrous consequences for all of humanity and most life on Earth?

DERAILING THE DISCUSSION? OR FOCUSING ON THE BIGGER PICTURE?

I know that this sounds, in some way, like the talk of a teenager, and it’s exactly the kind of things I said as a teenager in the ’80s.

Some will say that what I am bringing up is beside the point. He obviously talked about certain skills independent of politics, and I switched the focus to the content of politics. That is, in some ways, a derailing of the original conversation.

And yet, what do we see as included in essential and crucial political skills? Isn’t taking science seriously an essential political skill in our modern world? Isn’t looking at the big picture and thinking long-term an essential political skill?

When we talk about these things, do we choose myopia? Or do we look at the bigger picture? Can we afford to leave the bigger picture out of the conversation?

* No party in Norway is really taking this as seriously as they need to. Even the Green Party is watering it down to make it more palatable for more people, which is pragmatic and probably a wise approach. That says more about the voters than the political parties. They are the ones who prefer to not look at reality.

Read More

Climate change or not: We need to transform our civilization anyway

THE ESSENCE: WE NEED TO TRANSFORM OUR CIVILIZATION ANYWAY

There is a simple common-sense approach to climate change:

These are changes we need to transform our civilization no matter what. Human-created climate change or not, we need to shift our civilization into being ecologically sustainable. We need to take ecological realities into account in every aspect of how we collectively live.

We use nearly two Earths’ worth of resources at any moment, which means all of the resources will eventually be depleted unless we make drastic changes. We use more resources than Earth has the capacity to regenerate, and we depend on those resources for our life and survival.

AND SOME ADDITIONAL POINTS

The discussion about whether climate change is happening (it is) and whether it’s created by humans (it is) has little to no practical relevance in this context. It’s a distraction and a side track.

That said, I will pretend it does mean something in the following points:

It makes sense to follow the precautionary principle. If something has potentially serious consequences, we need to take it seriously. We need to prepare for it. We need to act as if it’s going to happen. That’s what we do in other areas of life, so why not with something as potentially disastrous as climate change?

Experts in the field all agree: (i) We are in the middle of climate change. (ii) It’s created by human activities. And (iii) it likely has severe consequences for our civilization. In other areas of life, we listen to and generally trust experts, especially when they all say the same. So why not also here?

The ones disagreeing are typically not experts in the field, they are amateurs. Many are on the payroll of the oil companies. And we know that the oil companies have had an intentional disinformation campaign going for decades. So why trust what they say?

The changes in climate we currently see closely fit predictions from the early climate change models from the 1970s. They fit what we expect to see if (i) there is climate change, (ii) it’s human-created, and (iii) we don’t do much to change it. It does not fit natural cycles explained by solar activity etc. It does not fit what we would expect if it was natural and not created by civilization.

Although the climate is immensely complex, the basic principles of climate change are simple. Even a child can understand and observe it, and people predicted it more than a hundred years ago. In a greenhouse, short waves (light) enter through the glass, hit a surface and become longer waves (heat), and that heat is partially trapped by the glass. There is a net gain of heat. And greenhouse gasses do the same. Short waves (sunlight) pass through our atmosphere, hit a surface and become heat, and the greenhouse gasses trap the heat. Just like a greenhouse heats up because of the glass, the atmosphere and planet heats up because of greenhouse gasses. Our civilization produces a lot of greenhouse gasses and changes the composition of the atmosphere. What we are seeing is exactly what we would expect to see.

NOTHING NEW

This is not a new or uncommon way to look at it.

To me, it’s just common sense, and I have seen it this way since my teens in the ’80s. I remember a conversation with a teacher about this in my high school where I pointed out that climate change is irrelevant since we need to make the same changes anyway. (He disagreed and I probably remember it since it seemed odd to me.)

CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL TAKES DIFFERENT FORMS

For whatever reason, there is still a lot of denial around this.

In the past, some denied climate change is happening but that’s not possible anymore. (Unless you want to deny the climate data and what you can see around you with your own eyes.)

These days, some like to deny it’s related to human activity.

Why do some deny that it’s human-created? Because it’s too scary? Or require a deep transformation of our worldview and our civilization? Or because it’s a threat to your identity to admit that scientists and progressives were right? None of those seem a good reason to me.

WHY THE SLOW CHANGE?

Even if most of us agree it’s happening and it’s serious, we collectively don’t do much to change it. We deny its seriousness and that we need a profound transformation in our collective and individual lives.

Why don’t we collectively do enough to change it?

There are many reasons for this.

Systems inherently try to keep stable. Systems stay dynamically stable until they reach a tipping point, and denial is an expression of the system trying to maintain its current (outdated) state. The denial and complacency are expressions of this dynamic inherent in all systems.

Election cycles are typically between two and six years, and addressing climate change requires planning on a much longer timespan – decades and centuries. If politicians do something now, we won’t see the effects until decades later so even if they personally would like to work on it, they don’t have systemic incentives to do so.

We think someone else will take care of it, either other people alive today or future generations.

We think the crisis will happen in the future, so we push the problem onto future generations. (Even if we are right in the middle of it already.)

Many are voiceless in our system. Non-human beings and future generations don’t have an effective voice in our society, in our politics, and in business decisions. The ones who have the strongest reasons to want a change have no voice. (We can give them a voice by appointing advocates for them who have a real say in politics and business decisions.)

We think someone will come up with a simple technological solution, so we don’t need any fundamental changes in our worldview and how we collectively organize ourselves. (We may find technological solutions, but they will never be enough on their own.)

Collectively and individually, we are busy dealing with our day-to-day life and challenges We may end up using most of our resources to deal with immediate climate crisis challenges, and find it difficult to make the real and systemic changes required.

Read More

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 66

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

SUPPORTING MILLIONS OF BEINGS

My wife and I have land in the Andes mountains, and we are in the process of helping the land become as vibrant as possible. We are planting native flowers, bushes, cactuses, trees, and more. We are creating a food forest that will provide food for birds, animals, and humans. And we are doing some very limited landscaping to collect water and prevent soil runoff.

On these fifteen hectares, millions of being live, and many more will live there in the future. To me, supporting all those lives is immensely meaningful. I cannot imagine much that’s more meaningful.

That, in itself, will make my life more than worth it.

DEATH IS BAD?

I saw a video with Tom Scott where he says that “death is bad” and he implies that (scientifically) striving for eternal life for humans is a good thing.

I can understand that from the perspective of your own life or those close to you.

But in the bigger picture, it’s different. Death is why we are here. Without death, we would soon run out of space on this already overcrowded planet, and we would run out of resources even more quickly than we already are. Death is what allows for new generations, new species, and new life. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the death of past species, past generations, and – going even further back – the death of early stars in our area of the galaxy and universe.

We are made up of dead stars. The death of previous species gave space for new species, including our own and those leading to our own. The death of individuals gives space for us. Our individual death gives space for new individuals, the death of our species will give space for new species, and so on.

Without death, no evolution and no life.

Even more essentially, without the metaphorical death of this moment, there wouldn’t be the next moment. What’s here dies and allows for something fresh and new. That’s happening always.

(How do I know this moment dies and is reborn as something else? It’s because I notice what’s here in. my sense fields, make a mental image of it, and compare that mental image with another mental image I call “previous moment” or “recent past”. And there is no “I” here apart from in other mental representations, it’s just happening.)

Read More

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 65

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

OUR MANY ANCESTORS

And imagine the many non-human ancestors going much further back… to the first one-celled organisms. Our earliest ancestors are the ancestors of all of us alive today of all different species. We are all intimately connected.

PRIDE MONTH

June was Pride Month, and there were lots of rainbow flags outside of stores, government buildings, and homes.

I overheard a conversation where they said things along the line of: “It’s a bit too much”, “Why make such a big deal about it”, and so on. It was not directly queer-phobic, but obviously disapproving of pride month and the limited way it’s been marked in Norway.

To them, as heterosexuals in Norway, it seems like it’s too much. It shouldn’t be such a big deal.

To me, it looks very different. Historically, queer people have been oppressed and even killed, so having pride month is the least we can do to show that they now are included and accepted. Around the world, queer people are still oppressed and killed in many places.

From a sheltered Norwegian perspective, perhaps it seems a little much. But from a historical and global view, it’s the least we can do.

I love living in a country that’s inclusive and accepting in this way, and I love Pride Month and people putting up rainbow flags.

Read More

Meat, health, and ecology

The Norwegian government released new dietary guidelines with the health of humans and the ecosystems in mind.

In short, they recommend eating whole foods, eating low on the food chain, avoiding processed foods, and avoiding alcohol (there is no safe lower limit to alcohol intake). (This is the way I have mostly eaten since my teens.)

To me, this seems like basic common sense. It’s what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It’s the type of food our ancestors lived on and our bodies are designed for.

And, predictably, to some, it seems highly offensive. Are you telling us we can’t eat meat anymore? That we shouldn’t enjoy alcohol? That I can’t have my snacks and pizza?

There is also a discussion specifically about meat. The guidelines recommend reducing the meat intake as much as possible. Some point out that there is disagreement among scientists about whether red meat is problematic for our health. And although that’s an important point, it’s also missing the point.

Meat production is one of the biggest causes of deforestation, and it generally has a huge impact on our ecosystems. Our obsession with eating meat is one of the largest contributors to our collective and individual ecological footprint.

The guidelines explicitly take both health and ecological sustainability into account. Reducing our meat intake won’t harm our health. And it will help us reduce our ecological footprint. That’s more than enough reason to recommend reducing our meat consumption.

And in the bigger picture, our meat intake is intimately connected with our health. Without healthy ecosystems, we cannot be healthy. What happens with the Earth happens with us.

Although the finer points may be up for discussion, the bigger picture is not that complicated.

Image: Created by me and Midjourney

Read More

Population, sustainability & margins

When it comes to creating a sustainable way of living for humanity, there are two major parts to the equation. One is how we organize ourselves. And the other is population.

If we have a small population, we can afford a way of life that’s not completely sound ecologically. At worst, we can move somewhere else. That’s what many of our ancestors did. They moved around according to the seasons, or over the generations.

And if we have a higher population, we are held to much higher standards. We have to live in a way that’s much more finely worked out and in tune with the ecosystems we live within and depend on.

Today, with a very high global population and a way of life that’s not at all aligned with ecological realities, we have created a very difficult situation for ourselves.

In spite of strong warnings from scientists, most people don’t seem to be aware of this. Many may have a vague understanding of it, but not enough to make or support the changes needed.

So what can we do? As I often mention here, it’s all about our collective will. Where there is a will, there is a way. We know many of the solutions, but we haven’t found the collective will yet.

Will we find it in time? It depends on what we mean by “in time”. It’s already too late for the individuals who have lost their lives and the species that are gone because of our ecological situation. It’s too late to avoid serious damage to our ecosystems – that happened decades and centuries ago. It’s too late to prevent massive problems in the future, including massive die-offs of many species, likely including humans.

And what are some of the solutions? The main one is to thoroughly transform our economy and economic framework to take ecological realities into account. We have to create a system where what’s easy and attractive, for individuals and corporations, is also ecologically and socially sound. Within this framework, we have all the smaller technological and social solutions we are already familiar with and some that are yet to be developed.

Read More

How we relate to other species

A neighbor cat comes to stay with me most of the day and evening, although I don’t give him food and he has to go home to his family at night.

His family is home most of the time, so he is not here because they are gone. I suspect he comes because I give him attention, because I may be a novelty, and perhaps most of all because I treat him as an equal.

SEEING HIM AS EQUAL

I see him as consciousness, just like me, that just happens to operate through a slightly different body.

This consciousness here operates through this body, which happens to be human. And that consciousness there operates through that body, which happens to be a cat.

In the realm of stories, it’s similar. We are both expressions of life, existence, and the universe.

He is the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe, just like I am. He is the universe taking the form of a cat. I am the universe taking the form of a human.

And in terms of evolution, we are closely related. What we have in common is infinitely more than the little that differentiates us.

In all the ways that matter, we are equal. We are the same.

HOST, STEWARD, FRIEND

Just like I would with any visitor, I try to be a good host for him. I give him water. I let him out when he wants to go out if the door is closed.

Just like I would with a child, I try to be a good steward of him while he is here. I rescued him when he fell down into the basement. (He fell into a ventilation shaft while exploring, and landed on a cardboard box and was unharmed.) I make sure he goes home at night to spend the night with his family.

And just like I would with a friend, I am attentive to his needs, wants, and moods. I try to be a good friend to him.

SEEING CATS AS CATS OR SOMETHING MORE FUNDAMENTAL

Many treat cats as… cats. They see them as mainly different from us, and they adopt a lot of the cultural baggage of how we in the West treat non-human species. Cats are generally OK with it, but it does create a sense of division. Humans see themselves as divided from cats, and cats sense and adapt to and respond to that.

I and others treat them as equals. We are all living beings. We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. We are the universe taking these local and temporary forms. And cats respond to that as well. They seem to enjoy it. Just like us, they enjoy being related to as equals.

That may be one reason why cats seem to want to spend time with me. (And why I have a history of “stealing” cats in that way, which people tend to not like.)

BEYOND NEIGHBORS VISITING

This, of course, goes far beyond non-human neighbors visiting.

This has to do with how we relate to all of life – ecosystems, this living planet, and future generations.

Since I live in our current system, my life inevitably is mostly destructive to life. That’s how it is for just about all of us. For instance, I fly in commercial airplanes, and that contributes enormously to my ecological footprint.

I also try to help shift us all – and the system we have created for ourselves – in a more life-centered direction. I worked with sustainability for many years. (I was the coordinator of a local organization that helped individuals and groups make shifts in a more sustainable direction.) I have volunteered a lot. I write some about it here. I vote for the Green Party. I am creating a nature reserve in the Andes Mountains. And so on.

It’s a drop in the bucket, but many drops create an ocean. And I am a very small part of helping shift our current system into something that can be far more sustainable.

Photo: The photo above is from last night. He has been coming here for the last two weeks since I moved into my parent’s house to get it ready for sale. (My parents just moved somewhere else.)

Read More
nasa earth

The overview effect & Big Mind

There is an interesting parallel between the overview effect as it’s described by astronauts, and what’s described by those among us exploring our more fundamental nature.

THE OVERVIEW EFFECT I: SEEING EARTH FROM SPACE

Astronauts describe a shift that happens when they see the Earth from space. They see Earth as one seamless whole, without any visible borders. They are struck by the fragility and immense beauty of this living planet. And they experience a sense of awe and a wish to protect life.

This effect seems to be stronger the further out the astronauts were, it seems to bring lasting changes, and happens for many although not all astronauts.

THE OVERVIEW EFFECT II: SEEING THE CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE FROM BIG MIND

Something similar seems to happen among those who explore their more fundamental nature.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. We are this field of consciousness that any and all experiences happen within and as. And when we find ourselves as that, we view any content of experience more from the “outside”. Identification is released out of any particular content of experience.

Here too, we notice the world as a seamless whole, without any inherent boundaries. We are struck by the immense beauty of it all. And we experience a sense of awe and a wish to protect life.

And as with astronauts, there are some individual differences in how we experience and respond to it.

A DISTINCTION

There is also an important difference between the two.

Astronauts literally leave Earth and see it from a point in space.

When we find our more fundamental nature, we find ourselves as the field that any and all experience happens within and as. It’s more as if space itself notices itself as all and as forming itself into whatever content of experience is here.

MY EXPERIENCE

When the shift happened for me, in my mid-teens, it was much as I describe it here.

It happened suddenly and “out of the blue”. I found myself as the consciousness everything, to me, happened within and as. (This human self, the wider world, my human responses to this shift, and so on.)

I was struck by the immense beauty of it all. All was a seamless whole without any boundaries. And it brought up deep awe.

In my childhood and teens, I loved space, astronomy, and space exploration, and one reason was for the perspective it gives us on Earth and our life here. I also got into systems theories since they show the seamless whole we are all part of. And I loved Frank White‘s book The Overview Effect when I found it in my early twenties.

Read More

Robin Wall Kimmerer: We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn

In the Western tradition there is a recognized hierarchy of beings, with, of course, the human being on top—the pinnacle of evolution, the darling of Creation—and the plants at the bottom. But in Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as “the younger brothers of Creation.” We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn—we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance. Their wisdom is apparent in the way that they live. They teach us by example. They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out.

– Robin Wall Kimmerer

That’s how I see it too.

THE WAYS WE ARE THE SAME

In some essential ways, we are all the same. We all share ancestors going back to the first living Earth being. We are all parts of the same evolving living planet and the same evolving universe. We are all part of the same larger seamless whole. We are all the expression of the universe, just like any being and anything else.

A YOUNG SPECIES

And yet, as a species, we are very young.

We are especially young when it comes to dealing with civilization and advanced technology. We have a lot to learn from how ecosystems work and other species, especially since most of them have been around far longer than we have. Mainly, we urgently need to learn to take ecological realities into account in how we organize ourselves and how we see the world.

HOW WE RELATE TO MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS

As a species learning to use mental representations in a complex manner, we are also young. We are still in the early phase of learning to relate to these mental representations intentionally and consciously.

It’s a new(ish) tool, and it takes time for us to figure out how to use it effectively. As it is now, we partially put it to good use, and we partially misuse it.

How do we misuse it? Mainly by not recognizing our mental representations for what they are, and taking them as more true than they can ever be.

And how can we learn to use this tool better? The essence is simple. By learning to recognize our mental representations for what they are: They are mental representations. They are not inherent in what we project them onto. They are questions about the world. They are provisional. They are here to help us orient and navigate. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth.

Although the essence of this is simple, actually doing it sometimes requires a lot of examination and untangling, individually in our own lives and collectively as a culture and civilization.

And that is something we, as a species, largely have to figure out on our own.

OUR CHALLENGES FROM BEING A YOUNG SPECIES

Many of the challenges we collectively (and individually) face today come from being a young species. There are many things we haven’t figured out yet.

We have an economic system – and a civilization – built on the assumption that nature is limitless. That’s understandable considering our history with far fewer humans and far less efficient technology. Today, with billions of us and efficient technology, it’s clearly suicidal.

And we tend to hold some of our mental representations as truth, which creates a lot of distress and conflict – with ourselves, with others, and even with the rest of this living planet.

Image: Midjourney scene of a jungle

Read More

Idealism, realism, our economic system and ecological reality

In Norway, there is a tradition of calling it “idealism” when someone cares for the Earth or works for social justice. I have always found that odd.

To me, creating a society that takes ecological realities into account is realism, not idealism.

It’s our only way forward.

If anything, business as usual is idealism. It’s based on the fantasy that we can continue to ignore ecological realities or that small tweaks are sufficient.

OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM

We have an economic system that was developed at a time when we didn’t need to take ecological realities into account. For all practical purposes, we had unlimited natural resources, and nature had an unlimited capacity to absorb our waste. Humanity was small enough, and we had poor enough technology, so we could afford that luxury.

These days, with our much larger numbers and much more efficient technology, we still use an economic system that has those assumptions built into it. And that’s insanity. It’s suicidal.

That’s why we find ourselves in a situation where our scientists – and common sense – tell us we have to make drastic changes now in order to survive. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

And this is not just about our economic system. This is about all our human systems and institutions. All of it needs to deeply transform to reflect ecological realities. That’s the only way we can survive and thrive in the long term.

ANOTHER WAY IS POSSIBLE

We developed our current economic system in a way that made sense to us back then, over the last few hundred years.

And we can develop another system. One that takes the limits of nature into account. One where the actual cost is included in the calculations. One where what’s easy and attractive to do is also what’s good for our ecosystems and future generations.

And one where as many as possible, preferably everyone, has at least their basic needs met. That too is required for a more stable society that takes ecological realities into account. Desperate people create instability, and content people allow for stability. (Also, it just feels better for all of us to know that others have what they need.)

WHY DON’T MORE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?

Why don’t more of us take this seriously? Why do most live as if nothing special is happening? Why don’t politicians take it seriously? Why do people continue to call it “idealism” instead of realism?

The general answer is that this is how systems work. Systems have many mechanisms to stay dynamically stable and only shift when enough builds up so it has to.

And in this case, there are many of these mechanisms at play.

We have evolved to take seriously what’s clearly immediate and impacts our daily life. And so far, the consequences of the current ecological unraveling seem distant. (In other locations or in the future.) We can explain them away. (Occasional extreme weather.) Or it’s slow enough so we get used to it. (Loss of biodiversity.)

We have evolved to operate on the timespan of weeks, months, or a few years. We typically don’t operate on the timespan of decades or centuries, and that’s the perspective we need to realize and take in ecological changes.

Politicians operate on the timespan of one or two election cycles. To them, it makes more sense to focus on what’s more immediate and short-term. They have few to no incentives to operate on larger timespans. (This is built into our political system and not their personal fault.)

Non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations don’t have a voice in our system. They are voiceless. And they are hugely impacted by our current ecological unraveling. Including their voice in our system in a real way – in our economy, politics, and business operations – would make a big difference. We can do this by giving them legal rights and advocates with power.

We take our cues from others. We see others living their lives as normal, so we assume all is fine and we don’t need to take things too seriously.

We assume we still have time. Things are fine now, and we’ll take care of it later when it’s more urgent. In this situation, we are not seeing the consequences of what we are doing until decades later. And we will have to live with the consequences for centuries if not millennia. It has been urgent for decades already, and many don’t seem to realize it because they have not yet seen or lived with the consequences. (When we do, it will be too late to stop what’s already set in motion, but we can make an effort to keep it from getting even worse.)

We assume someone else will do something. Politicians will do something. Or business leaders. Or activists. Or our children and future generations. That’s not how it works. This is the responsibility of each of us. This is about you and me. Not just others.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

I don’t know what will happen any more than anyone else.

I imagine we’ll have to go much further into the crisis before we collectively take it more seriously. The words of scientists are not enough, it seems. And at that time, we’ll be far into dramatic changes that we’ll have to live with for centuries and millennia.

I imagine a lot of our resources will be tied up in dealing with the immediate dramatic consequences. It’s now that we still have the resources to make the bigger picture changes without too much hardship, so doing it now makes the most sense.

It may be a bottleneck for our civilization. I imagine many will die, especially those with the least resources.

I imagine there will be a diversity of responses, just as we see today. Many will just try to get by and focus on the immediate situation. Some will operate from a zero-sum view of the world. Some will take a bigger picture, a longer view, and focus on win-win solutions.

Read More

Nature documentaries & systems views

I loved the David Attenborough nature documentaries when I grew up, and I love David Attenborough for what he has done to awaken a love for nature in generations of TV viewers.

At the same time, something has struck me about the regular approach to nature documentaries.

They typically take a serial focus on isolated species, with a few prominent examples of interactions with other species or their environment.

They rarely take a systems view. They tend to not emphasize nature as a system and look at dynamics within that system. (Which, of course, includes humans and human civilization.)

To me, that would be far more interesting.

They could still highlight species and draw in people that way. And they could certainly include far more of a whole system view. I imagine that would be fascinating to many viewers.

And it’s hugely important, especially today. It’s enormously important to help people understand and start thinking at a systems level. It’s the only way we can effectively deal with the ecological crisis we find ourselves in the early phases of. (It started hundreds and really thousands of years ago, and we are quickly heading into its culmination.)

I would love to see a series that takes a systems view of nature in general. And, even more, I would love a series that takes a systems view on human history, human interactions with the rest of nature, and the effects on human civilization and local, regional, and global ecosystems.

I have wanted to see that for decades, since my teens when I got deeply into system views (Fritjof Capra and others) and the “green history” of the world.

Back then, I remember I thought that change would happen within a few years, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t yet. The caveat here and that is that I don’t watch TV so there may be series out there taking a systems view that I don’t know about.

Ecosystem collapse

The steady destruction of wildlife can suddenly tip over into total ecosystem collapse, scientists studying the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history have found.

– The Guardian, Ecosystem collapse ‘inevitable’ unless wildlife losses reversed

If we know sometthing about ecology, the history of Earth, and perhaps systems theories, we know that ecosystems can unravel fast and with disastrous consequences. (Disastrous for the beings dependent on the ecosystem, the living Earth will survive and continue to evolve.)

A system is relatively stable even when many factors are pushing it out its stability. At some point, these factors add up sufficiently for a dramatic shift. And the system eventually finds another equilibrium.

OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

We are in the middle of an ecological collapse and we will see more of the consequences in the coming decades. By then, it will be too late to prevent much of the damage. We will be occupied dealing with the immediate consequences of the collapse. And the process will already have gone too far.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Of course, there are still things we can do.

At an individual level, we can get ready for this collapse in whatever ways make sense to us. Creating good community ties is perhaps the most important.

At a collective level, it all depends on our collective will and that’s not here yet. If the will comes, at some point, we can perhaps reduce the severity of the unraveling but we will still find ourselves in a very difficult situation.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LIKELY CONSEQUENCES?

What are some of the likely consequences of this unraveling?

We’ll likely see human migration on a scale beyond anything before in history, with all the conflicts and struggles that will bring. We are already seeing more extreme weather. We’ll see more drought and flooding. We will have problems with food production. (At the very least, disruptions and changes.) We may have more frequent pandemics. (More exposure to unfamiliar pathogens.) We may also see far more serious shifts, including a collapse in the ocean ecosystems which would be disastrous for most land life.

Even the moderate scenarios are immensely costly in terms of money and human suffering. It would have cost us far less to make changes decades ago when all of this was forecast. (I was very aware of it in the ’80s in my teens, as would anyone moderately informed.)

WHY DID IT HAPPEN?

Why didn’t we take care of it back then? After all, it would have been the optimal time. We had the information, and we had the time and resources to make changes.

There may be several answers.

This has to do with the future, which is abstract to us and seems like something we can deal with later.

Politicians typically operate with a time frame of one or two election cycles. The system is set up so they have few to no incentives to think long-term. For them too, it’s easier to push it into the future.

Some may think that this is about someone else and not ourselves. We think we will be safe, and this will be the problem of someone else. (In other parts of the globe, for future generations, or for other species.) We may think we don’t need to take it seriously since others don’t seem to take it seriously. We may think there is still time. We may have other and more immediate priorities, and use our energy and time to take care of our daily life challenges.

Any system has mechanisms to stay stable. And so also society and our culture. There are many incentives and processes that preserve the status quo and resist deep change. That’s generally good, except in this situation where we face a dramatic collective crisis and don’t take it seriously enough.

Our current economic system was created at a time when the limits of nature were not such a problem. Because of low population numbers and less efficient technology, nature was for all practical purposes unlimited. We had apparently unlimited natural resources, and an apparently unlimited ability to send pollution into nature. Nature had enough capacity, so we didn’t need to include the limits of nature in our economic systems.

SYSTEMS CHANGE

These days, we are very much running into the limits of nature so we need an economic system that takes ecological realities into account. We need a system where what’s easy and attractive to do, at individual and collective levels, is also what is good for ecosystems, society, non-human beings, and future generations. That type of system is very much possible, we just need the collective will to implement it.

This is not just about our economic system. This has to do with all human systems, including transportation, energy production, food production, water use, waste, manufacturing, education, philosophy, and far more.

It’s a change that has to permeate every aspect of our individual and collective lives.

LOOKING BACK AT OUR TIMES

Of course, this living and evolving planet will continue even after this crisis. It has survived many crises in the past. (That’s why we are here.) Humans are also likely to survive. (Unless the more radical scenarios play themselves out.)

But we will go through an evolutionary bottleneck. Our numbers may be dramatically reduced, and our way of life will have to dramatically change and adapt.

Hopefully, those who survive will learn something from it. Hopefully, we will transform our systems – at individual and collective levels – so they are aligned with ecological realities. Otherwise, history will repeat itself and we’ll eventually have another ecological collapse.

How will future generations look at our time?

Since I am the one imagining it, I obviously imagine it similar to how I already see it.

I see a civilization formed at a time (1600-1800) with far fewer people and less advanced technology. I see a civilization with systems that do not take ecological realities into account. I see people confused about this and trying to live life as usual. I see people not taking this seriously enough, perhaps because they assume there is still time and others will deal with it.

I see heroes: I see environmental activists. I see young people and their school strikes. I see people who think deeply about this. I see people who develop alternative economic systems. I see people implementing solutions. These are the heroes of future generations.

I also imagine it will look weird how some people today see sustainability and environmentalism as naive and impractical. In reality, it’s the only way forward. It’s the only way for us to survive and thrive.

As science has shown us for decades, sustainability is the only realistic way forward, and that requires deep systems changes. (Far beyond what’s envisioned even by many in environmentalism and sustainability.)

And if anyone is out of touch with reality, it’s the ones who want to continue as before, or the ones who assume that technology alone is sufficient, or that small adjustments here and there are all that’s needed. That looks like wishful thinking. It looks like denial.

Animal communication

I have been fascinated by animal communication since my early teens, and maybe before. I remember Carl Sagan writing about dolphin communication in one of his books, and I have always thought that if we arrive at a better way to communicate with animals, our relationships with them would change as well. Hopefully, for the good of them and us.

HUNGER FOR WORDS

A few years ago, I discovered Hunger for Words through an online article, and I immediately thought that this was one of the breakthroughs I had been hoping to see.

Hunger for Words is a project created by a speech therapist. In 2018, she got a dog (Stella) and wanted to see if some of the methods she used with children would also work with Stella.

Specifically, she started using buttons that each represented a word or simple phrase and taught the meaning to Stella.

I started my experiment with just a few recordable buttons that Stella could push to say, “outside,” “play,” and “water,” and the same language facilitation strategies I use with children.  Since introducing those first words, Stella has progressed far beyond what I ever thought could be possible. Now, Stella uses a homemade communication device to say more than 45 words (and counting!), combine up to 5 words together to create unique phrases, ask and answer questions, express her thoughts and feelings, make observations, participate in short conversations, and connect with us every single day. 

CLOSE RELATIVES & SHARED ANCESTORS

It’s amazing to watch videos of Stella and other animals using these buttons to communicate. They are creative in how they put sentences together in a way that demonstrates a real understanding of language.

And why would we be surprised? Dogs and cats are mammals like us. We are cousins. We share most of our ancestors. They may not naturally have words, but they do communicate clearly. And through this method, they learn to communicate with words so we can more easily understand them.

THE EFFECTS OF IMPROVED COMMUNICATION

As this becomes more common and commonly known in our culture, what effects may it have?

I hope it will help us recognize non-human species as sentient beings like us with emotions, wishes, needs, hopes, and fears like us. They wish the same as we do, which is to be free from suffering and have a good life.

And that, in turn, may shift how we treat our fellow beings. They are like us. More than us versus them we are all “us”. So why not treat them as we would have wanted to be treated in their situation?

Why not give them a voice, even beyond this type of communication? Why not assign people to speak up for non-human beings in places where we make decisions that impact them? (Government, courts, board rooms, and so on.)

Why not give them stronger legal rights and ways to enforce these rights?

SHARED INTERESTS

Some may assume that this is not in our interest. After all, don’t we sometimes need to use non-human species for our own good? To take their land so we can grow food or build houses? Keep them captive for our entertainment? Keep them imprisoned so we can eat them?

It may look that way from a short-term and narrow-interest perspective.

And yet, from a bigger perspective, it looks very different.

Here, we see that we share interests.

We are embedded in the ecosystems of this planet. We are all parts of this living evolving system we call Earth. We share fate. We are all dependent on a healthy, diverse, and thriving ecosystem and planet.

And by giving non-human beings a metaphorical and literal voice, we not only take care of their interests but our shared interests. We take care of our own long-term interests.

This is essential not only for them but for us.

GIVING A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS

This is not by any means idealism. This is realism.

For our own survival, we need to give a voice to those who do not have one in our society. We need to give a voice to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations. And that voice needs to be backed up by laws and the legal system to have a real impact.

Read More

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature?

I recently watched the last season of His Dark Materials, and find I have as much and often more empathy with the dæmons as I do with their human counterpart. (The dæmons are animals representing an aspect of the people, their inner self, anima/animus, or something similar.)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature? Why is it sometimes easier to find love for a non-human being than for some fellow humans?

There are many answers and they all (literally) come out of one.

Here are some that come to mind:

MISTREATED

Non-human beings are often mistreated by humans. I tend to side with the underdogs, and in this relationship, non-human beings are almost always the underdogs. I have a natural empathy with non-human beings for that reason. (I know this particular dynamic is rooted in my own history and experiences.)

INNOCENCE & DIFFERENT HISTORY

The natural world has everything from cooperation and care to fights and mercilessness.

At the same time, we see an innocence there. For all their savvy and specific skills, knowledge, and experience, many of them generally function cognitively at the level of human children or babies.

Most non-human species must have mental representations and use them as we do, to orient and function in the world. And yet, it seems they are much less likely to elaborate on and believe these imaginations. They use them in a more simple and direct way.

For many of us, it’s easier to find love for animals. They are simpler. In some ways, they are innocent like children. For that reason, we don’t experience the same friction with them as we do with humans. We don’t experience the clashes of hangups and worldviews we experience with humans. And most of us have been more hurt by humans than non-human beings, we have a different history with them.

For all of these reasons, it’s often easier to find love for non-human beings. And especially the ones we know personally and live with.

MIRROR

Animals mirror me in several different ways. I see myself in them.

They mirror my animal nature. They mirror how I am with a simpler mental field. They mirror how I am minus my more complicated – and complicating – human mental field with elaborate ideas, beliefs, identifications, etc.

And the different animals mirror different parts of me as well. Whatever story I have about any type of animal, I can turn it to myself and find specific and genuine examples of how, where, and when it’s true.

And since I wish to have – and have – some love and care for these parts of me, I have the same towards the beings mirroring these sides of me.

WE ARE CLOSELY RELATED

All Earth life is closely related. We are all, literally, part of the same family. We share ancestors. We are cousins. We are far more similar than we are different. We share far more than what’s unique and different.

We are “we” far more than we are “us” and “them”. And we all know this in our cells and bones and our mind when we subtract our complicated human mental field. Any ideas of separation come from our ideas, not from reality.

PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM

We are all part of the same living and evolving system we call Earth or Gaia.

We are subsystems in larger living systems.

We are subsystems in the larger systems we call the Earth and the universe and all of existence.

We are all expressions of the same larger living wholes.

We are part of the same metaphorical body we call life, Earth, the universe, and existence.

And that’s not just metaphorical or poetry or wishful thinking. It’s what current science tells us.

As Carl Sagan said, we are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are existence bringing itself into consciousness.

We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

EXPRESSIONS OF THE DIVINE

We can call existence and reality God, Spirit, or the divine.

Here, we can say that we are all expressions of God, Spirit, or the divine.

We are all the divine expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

We are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the divine.

We are the divine bringing itself into consciousness through and as us.

PART OF THE ONENESS I AM

There is also another oneness here, and one that’s far more immediate.

In one sense, I am this human being in the world.

Ehen I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

To me, everything – including any being – is part of the oneness I am.

And to the extent I allow this to sink and infuse and transform my human self, this gives birth to a natural love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

WORDS AND LANGUAGE

I use the word “animal” here since that’s the terminology most people use these days.

In reality, we are all animals. We are all living beings.

There is no reason to create a hard and imagined boundary between us and the rest of Earth life.

We are all closely related. We are all in the same boat. We are all embedded in the same larger living systems. We are all expressions of the evolution of the universe. We are all expressions of existence. We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself through and as us.

When I hear the word “animal” I am reminded of the old Greeks who used a similar mind-created division. They called any non-Greeks barbarians. I assume future generations may see our current human-animal distinction as equally quaint and old-fashioned.

Today, there is a growing awareness of all the many ways racism and sexism is expressed in society and our language. In the future, I assume there will be a similar awareness of how our anthropocentrism is expressed in our language and society, and a movement to change it.

CULTURE & OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

How we see humans versus the rest of life is obviously dependent on our culture.

In some traditional cultures, all life is seen as related and part of the same whole.

The irony is that in our culture, that’s the view of science. Science tells us all life is closely related and part of the same living evolving systems. And yet, most people operate on an outdated and misguided idea of the basic separation of humans from all other life. We operate on misconceptions while we know better.

Why? I assume it’s not just because of tradition and habit. It’s also convenient. It allows us to keep using and abusing non-human beings and nature in general.

And that brings us to saw over the branch we are sitting on. It’s out of alignment with reality, and operating on ideas out of alignment with reality has consequences. In this case, the consequence is the destruction of the living systems we are fully embedded in and dependent on.

NOISE

I’ll add one topic that’s been on my mind since my early teens.

I have personally never liked noise or loud music. I love silence and natural sounds, and less human-created sounds (apart from some music).

And, as far as I can tell from research and personal observations, it seems I share that with most non-human beings.

So why do some humans apparently love noise and loud sounds and music?

I don’t know but I assume it has to do with our noisy and complex mental field and what happens when we take certain (painful) ideas as reality. (Taking any idea as reality is painful in itself, no matter what the idea tells us.) Perhaps the outer noise masks the inner noise, at least for a while? Perhaps it’s a strategy to distract ourselves from our own discomfort and pain?

Perhaps it’s a sign we haven’t found peace with our own experience, as it is? A sign of war with our experience?

In our culture, we act as if we are at war with nature, and we act as if we are at war with our own experience. The two are closely related. They depend on each other. And they may break down together.

FINDING PEACE WITH OURSELVES & PEACE WITH NATURE

In most cases, if we find peace with our experience, we tend to find a deeper love for nature. And finding a deeper love for nature tends to be reflected in finding more peace with our experience.

Of course, both take work. And even if we find this peace, and wish to live in a more peaceful relationship with life in general, we are still living within a social and economic system that is inherently destructive. It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take the limits of nature into account. And now – with increasing human numbers and more efficient technology – it’s obviously destructive to life.

We can personally experience peace with life, but our life is not peaceful to life as long our collective human system is as it is.

It takes personal intention, skill, and work to find peace with our experience.

It will take a similar collective intention, skill, and work to find real peace in our relationship with nature – and transform our collective life so it takes ecological realities into account.

Read More

Nicolette Sowder: May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things-the dandelion, the worms and spiderlings.

Children who sense the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards sun…

And when they’re grown & someone has to speak for those who have no voice

may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things

and be the ones.

– Nicolette Sowder, May we raise children who love the unloved things

Nicolette Sowder is the creator of Wilder Child and Wildschooling.

And yes, I love this poem.

I love anyone who loves the unloved things.

I love finding love for the unloved things in nature, in people, and in myself.

FINDING LOVE FOR MY OWN EXPERIENCE

For instance, it seems that any part of me that experiences stress, unease, discomfort, and so on, and goes into reactivity, does so because it’s unseen, unfelt, and unloved. Meeting it with love makes all the difference. I can meet it as I would like to be met when I feel that way. (When I identify with those parts of me.)

And to really meet it with love, I can do a bit more. I can dialog with it, listen to it, hear what it has to say, and see how I can shift my relationship with it to be more helpful. I can also find what’s more true than its familiar stressful stories, and help it find it for itself. And we can both notice that my nature is the same as its nature. We share nature. (AKA consciousness, we are both consciousness, we are the same, it happens within an as what I am.)

FINDING LOVE FOR THE UNLOVED

Finding love for the unloved – in people, nature, and ourselves – is crucial for our own well-being.

It’s crucial for creating a society that works better for everyone and especially those less fortunate.

And it’s crucial for the survival of our species and civilization. We are now facing the consequences of not doing this, and not speaking up for those without a voice, and life is showing us that our own survival depends on it.

Life is giving us a masterclass in finding love for the unloved and giving a voice to the voiceless.

It’s up to us if we realize what this class is about, and whether we learn and change and transform as needed.

Why rewilding?

Why am I embarking on a rewilding project for our land in the Andes mountains?

There are many answers to that question.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY REWILDING?

First, what do I mean by rewilding?

I am perhaps using a more loose definition than some others. For me, and in this case, rewilding means supporting the land in becoming more diverse and vibrant and a good habitat for a range of life from microbes to insects to birds to reptiles and mammals.

It won’t be the way it was before humans came here, or before Europeans came. That’s not possible. But we can use native plants to help the ecosystem recover and become more vibrant and thriving.

Rewilding for me means what the word implies. It means helping the ecosystem become more wild again, even if it will by necessity look different from how it has ever been before. It won’t be a copy of how it was, but it may rhyme.

WHY REWILDING?

And then, why rewilding? What’s the reason for it? Isn’t it better to make use of the land for food production or housing? Doesn’t it make more sense to sell parts of the land to make money on it?

Here are some of the answers that come up for me.

MOVED TO DO IT

The most honest answer is that I find myself moved to do it. Life moves to do it through and as me.

Beyond that, I don’t really know. I can have reasons and elaborate on those reasons, but I don’t really know.

MEANINGFUL

At a more personal level, I can say it feels meaningful. If this is a project for the rest of my life – and hopefully far beyond, continued by others – then that would make me happy and I would feel my life had meaning in a very specific way.

On a day-to-day basis, it gives my attention and energy direction. It’s a project I can put energy and time into as things move in that direction, and I can give it a breather when that feels more right. It’s a project with its own pulse and life and without a particular timeline.

EXPRESSION OF MY NATURE AND REALITY

It’s an expression of my nature and reality.

I am an expression of this living evolving system we call Earth, just like anything else here is. I am this global and local living system supporting itself.

INTERCONNECTIONS AND SHARED FATE

From a more conventional perspective, I also know that my life as a human being is intimately connected with the rest of this living system.

Although Earth will continue without me and humans in general, we also share fate to some extent.

My health and well-being and the health and well-being of society and our civilization is intimately connected with the health and well-being of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

It’s in my own interest, and the interest of all of humanity, to take care of our ecosystems and do what we can to help them recover and become more diverse and thriving.

LOVE FOR NATURE AND HUMANS

I love nature, and I have loved nature since very early childhood. I do it because I love nature. I love to see nature in a more healthy and vibrant state. It makes me happy.

I do it because I care about humans and the future of humanity. I love our amazing – and sometimes terrible – civilization and it would be a shame if it ends now. (Although if that happens, that’s OK too. Earth or the Universe doesn’t need humans, although we do bring something unique and beautiful to it.)

THE MANY BEINGS HERE

There are millions of beings on this land. This is their home. Many of them are born, live their lives, and die here. This is all they will know. This place is their life.

If I, as one person, can help millions of current and future beings have a good life here, I would love to do it. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful and amazing.

Each of these beings are their own world. They are their own cosmos. From the smallest microbes and up to the mammals here. What a privilege to support these worlds to have a life here.

I do it for their sake. It’s easy to imagine myself in their situation, and how much I would want someone like me to protect them and their habitat.

NEEDED IN THE WORLD TODAY

Biodiversity loss is one of the major issues in the world today. It’s one of the massive crises we are in the middle of, and one that’s tied in with the more popular climate change and equally if not more important.

If I can play a (very) small part in this global effort to protect our diversity, then what I am doing here is more than worth it.

Just by living in our current economic system, my life inevitably has a harmful effect on life. So this is my small part in making up for it.

LEARNING

I love learning and especially about sustainability and nature, and this is an amazing opportunity to learn.

We will hire two local experts to guide and help us with our rewilding project, and I am looking forward to learning as much as I can as we move forward with this project.

I also look forward to sharing it here and perhaps on social media and/or a dedicated website.

A MODEL

If what I am doing here can be a small local model, then that’s icing on the cake.

If it only inspires one person to do something else, that makes it more than worth it.

We sorely need these models today, in all aspects of society.

MULTIPLE REASONS

So although I most honestly don’t know the answer to this “why”, I can also find a lot of reasons.

Each one of these alone would make it worth it.

I am not doing this because I am especially noble. I certainly am not. I do it because I love it.

And I know there will be times I’ll be frustrated, fed up, tired, and want to give it all a break. I have already experienced that. (For instance, when workers cut down large areas of pioneer species allowing invasive grass to take over and did so after we explicitly told them not to.)

Read More

Loss of biodiversity – Norway & the Andes

Many talk about climate change these days, although the global biodiversity loss we are experiencing is as – and likely more – serious.

NORWAY

I grew up in Ski, a village outside of Oslo, Norway. Growing up in the 80s, I remember that the garden was full of life. There were butterflies everywhere, grasshoppers, beetles, and all sorts of insects. A badger family lived next door. There were frequent hedgehog visits. We saw swallows flying around and eating insects. At night, there were bats. If we kept doors or windows open at night, the house would get lots of moths and moths inside.

In the last decade or so, these are all gone. I don’t see butterflies. There are no grasshoppers. I don’t see beetles. The swallows are gone. There are no bats at night. If we keep the windows or doors open, nothing comes inside.

It’s easy to think that this is because this village is more built up and the general area is more built up. That’s true to some extent, but it still has the same mix of rural and suburban. And the same has happened at the cabin which is in the woods outside of Oslo. This is an area that’s scheduled to become a national park, and here too, there is a noticeable loss of biodiversity and life.

A few decades ago, we have several swallow families nesting at the cabin each year. Last year, there were none. I don’t see bats anymore. I see some butterflies, but fewer than before. I don’t see all the insects that used to come inside when we kept the windows and doors open at night.

THE ANDES

I am now in Cañon del Chicamocha in the Andes mountains. The insect and animal life here reminds me of how it was in Norway two or three decades ago. And that makes me worried. Will the same happen here? The loss of biodiversity has been going on here too for centuries, and will most of what’s left be gone too in a while?

CAUSES

Why is it happening? The simple answer is that we – our culture and civilization – don’t prioritize biodiversity and life. We don’t value it quite enough. We have created a system that treats ecosystems as an unlimited resource for us and as having an unlimited capacity to absorb our waste and toxins. We see ourselves as somehow separate from the natural world and the Earth.

The more immediate answer may be a combination of many things: Loss of nature. Use of toxins in agriculture and homes. More manicured gardens and fewer flowers. Loss of key species. And I am sure much that doesn’t come to mind right now or I don’t know about.

We are currently in the middle of a mostly quiet and very serious ecological crisis, and we will all be impacted by it – likely far more than we imagine.

SOLUTIONS & WOLDVIEWS

What’s the solution? We can all do our small part in terms of not using toxins, replacing a manicured garden and lawn with a more natural and wild one, encouraging plants and flowers that support a diversity of insects and wildlife, raising awareness on this crucial topic, and voting for politicians who take it seriously (only a few politicians and political parties do).

Collectively, we need to change our economic and social systems. We need a deep transformation so our human systems take ecological realities into account. In our current public discourse, the vast majority of solutions are piecemeal and far from sufficient. ‘

CULTURE CHANGE

And we need to realize, in a more profound and visceral way, that our ecosystems are fragile when impacted by our civilization, and that our health, well-being, and civilization are dependent on the health and well-being of our local, regional, and global ecosystems. It’s all one living system. It’s all us.

“Us” is not only our family or local community or nation or humanity. It’s all of life. It’s Earth as a whole.

It’s existence as a whole.

That’s the mindset that will support a more sustainable civilization.

And the more viscerally we get it, the more it will naturally color our individual and collective life.

THE SHIFT

This shift in worldview and culture is crucial, and it’s not something that will happen through wishful thinking or shoulds.

We can explore it in our own life and deepen into it. We can make it available to others. We can help others explore it. We can also include it in the education of children.

And, most likely, it’s a shift that will happen because it has to happen. Life and nature will show us that we cannot continue as before, that a major shift is needed, and that’s how many will find it and perhaps how we’ll collectively find it.

The upside is that this ecological mindset is more aligned with reality so what’s needed is to shift our views to be more aligned with how it already is. The downside is that a worldview of separation has been ingrained in our culture and individual mindsets for centuries and millennia. Systems typically don’t change dramatically unless there is a big disturbance. And the upside is that life will show us when we operate on worldviews out of alignment with reality, even if the wake-up call can be harsh and difficult.