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 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 can 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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

John Seed: I am part of the rainforest protecting myself

I am part of the rainforest protecting itself

– John Seed

It may seem altruistic to protect nature. For me, it’s self-preservation.

ASSUMPTION OF A DIVIDE

If I see a strong divide between me and nature, then nature can easily be seen primarily as a source of resources, a place to put waste, and a place to occasionally enjoy. If I do something to protect nature, it’s altruistic and often a bit peripheral. It’s a nice thing to do but not terribly important.

INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF ALL LIFE

If I realize the interconnectedness of all life, then I recognize – in a more visceral way – that my own well-being and my own life is utterly and intrinsically dependent on the health and existence of the larger ecosystems and this living planet I am part of. Here, protecting nature becomes self-preservation. I am dependent on the health and vibrancy of nature locally, regionally, and globally.

I AM NATURE PROTECTING ITSELF

I can also go one step further and recognize that I am nature protecting itself. I am a part of this living evolving system protecting itself. I am a separate self, and more fundamentally I am a temporary and local expression of this larger living and evolving system. I am a temporary and local expression of the living and evolving Earth. I am a temporary and local expression of the evolving universe and all of existence.

GETTING IT MORE VISCERALLY

Getting this more viscerally is a big and important shift. It brings us more in alignment with reality. It gives grounding. It’s nourishing. It makes us less dependent on the more temporary surface experiences and situations.

SYSTEM CHANGE

And, of course, it doesn’t mean I am or need to be “perfect” in terms of my own life. I am also a child of my culture. I am also embedded in our social and cultural systems.

As all of us, I live in an economic and social system that rests on the assumption that humans are somehow separate from nature, that the resources of nature are limitless, and that the ability of nature to absorb waste is equally limitless. We live in a human-created social system where what’s easy and attractive to do is also, in most cases, destructive to nature.

And we have another option. We can create an economic and social system that take our ecological realities into account, and where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and businesses – supports life and our ecosystems. It’s possible. We can do it. We even know quite a bit about how to do it.

And yet, it does require a profound transformation of our whole civilization – our worldview, philosophy, economics, energy sources, production, transportation, education, and everything else. And that requires a deep collective motivation. Will we find it? Perhaps. But likely not until we are much further into our current ecological crisis. (Which is a socal crisis since all of our human systems are embedded within our ecological systems.)

Rewilding: Nature protecting itself

On the land in the Andes we are stewards of, there are many different ecological systems, all of them impacted by centuries of grazing and food production. (Although on a relatively small scale.)

Having visited this land for a while, and now living here, several things that come up for me daily.

RESILIENCE AND VULNERABILITY

One is how amazingly resilient nature is when undisturbed by civilization. Ecosystems have evolved to adapt to just about anything that happens in nature with some regularity.

And, on the other hand, how amazingly vulnerable nature is. Ecosystems can be wiped out in a day with the help of machines.

Ecosystems are amazingly resilient when it comes to what occurs naturally, and amazingly vulnerable to civilization and machines.

ECOSYSTEMS PROTECTING THEMSELVES

Another is a feature of the natural regeneration process. On this land, many of the pioneer species have thorns and form dense thickets it’s difficult or impossible to enter.

It’s as if the ecosystem is protecting itself.

It’s as if it’s saying: You damaged me before. Now, as I am recovering, I don’t want any interference. Stay out.

And, of course, machines and technology (including people with machetes and saws) are no match for this natural defense.

CULTURE AND EDUCATION

I keep reminding myself of how important it is to educate the ones we are working with.

The traditional view here is that the pioneer species are “weeds” and should be gotten rid of. Clear everything so you can see the land and decide what to do with it. Clear it all and lay it barren because it’s not a loss.

And, in reality, if you wish to support a healthy ecosystem, it’s a great loss to remove these pioneer species.

IT’S ALL NATURE

Of course, all of this is nature. All of this is the doings of this living and evolving planet.

Civilization is as much a part of this evolving planet as anything yet.

In that sense, it’s all nature. It’s all really the same. It’s all part of the same seamless system.

This view helps us recognize our interdependence with all life. It helps us ground in something more real than the mind-created distinctions between ourselves and the rest of Earth, life, and existence.

And, in another sense, there is a big difference between nature and civilization. Our technology and machines, combined with our numbers, can easily destroy local, regional, and global ecosystems, and that’s what’s already happening.

We are in the middle of an ecological crisis of massive proportions, and one that will impact all of us and humanity as a whole. And, for whatever reason, it seems that only a few take this seriously.

This distinction is important as well. Ecosystems have evolved to deal with what happens naturally. They cannot defend themselves against machines and technology. (Apart from unraveling, taking us with it, and then – slowly – bouncing back.)

We have to defend them, and in that process, we are defending ourselves.

WE ARE NATURE PROTECTING ITSELF

I started out by talking about how this local ecosystem is protecting itself while recovering from damage. Pioneer species often have thorns and form impenetrable thickets.

And I ended with another way nature is protecting itself. We are nature protecting itself. We are part of the living seamless system of this evolving planet, and when we do anything to protect life, we are nature protecting itself.

When I defend this land and take steps to help it recover, I am nature protecting itself.

Priorities & our ecological crisis

We all have priorities, whether we are aware of them or not.

And our life and actions show us our priorities, whether they match what we think they are or not.

OUR COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE FACE OF OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

At a collective level, it’s clear that our priority is business as usual. We collectively behave as if nothing unusual is happening. We collectively behave as if we are not in the middle of a human-created ecological crisis of enormous consequences. We collectively behave as if the messages from scientists have little to no weight or importance.

Why is that? It may be for many reasons. Most people prioritize day-to-day activities and tasks. Most have a political identity and are reluctant to switch their vote to politicians that take ecological crisis more seriously. We see that others don’t prioritize it, so we assume the situation is not very serious and follow their example. Politicians typically operate within a timeframe of just a few years, not decades and centuries. Many people don’t take things very seriously unless they feel it in their own lives. Some may think we still have enough time, that we are adaptable and will manage. Some also go into denial, dismiss the collective warnings from scientists, and rationalize their dismissal.

WHAT MOTIVATES US TO CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES?

At both individual and collective levels, we continually clarify our priorities, reprioritize, and reorganize our life to align with these new priorities. It happens all the time and mostly in small and almost unnoticeable ways.

Major reprioritizing usually happens first when we viscerally get it as absolutely necessary. It may happen when faced with a serious crisis. When life shows us our situation has dramatically changed, or that we need to face a reality we previously ignored or downplayed.

It happens when life shakes us out of our habitual patterns and priorities.

A MORE REALISTIC SET OF COLLECTIVE PRIORITIES

If we would take our ecological situation seriously, how would that change our priorities? What would a more realistic set of collective priorities look like?

Here is just one example, as it comes to me:

Take a long view on our situation and in politics. Plan for decades and centuries ahead. Make policies where we take into account the interests of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children.

Include the interests of all beings when we make decisions. Our fate is intimately connected, so this is in our own interest. Implement policies that take the interest of all life into account.

Future generations and non-human life are voiceless, so we need to speak for them. Not only for their sake, but for our own. Their fate is intertwined with our own.

If these giving voice to the voiceless was our real priority, it would in itself change a lot and put us on our path to a more sustainable civilization. Taking the big picture in terms of time and ecosystems does a lot. It would ripple into all areas of society, including the economy, philosophy, education, production, transportation, and everything else.

For instance, it would likely lead to assigning advocates for those without a voice – future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems. To give them real power in political and business decisions. To make the rights of future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems law.

It would transform our economic system to take ecological realities into account. Our current economic thinking is a fantasyland where nature is seen as only a resource for humans and a place to put waste, and it assumes an unlimited capacity for both. That fantasy is reflected in our current economic system. These new priorities, if taken seriously, would transform our thinking about the economy and our economic systems to be more grounded in reality, which is something we all would benefit from.

WHAT I AM DOING IN MY LIFE

What I am doing in my own life about this?

I look at my life to see my actual priorities. How do I spend my time? What does that say about my priorities? I take a sober look at this and try to be kind with myself. Being realistic about my real priorities, as reflected in my life and how I spend my time, is the first step and can in itself lead to changes and reprioritization.

I am also in a fortunate situation. I was able to buy a sizeable piece of land in the Andes mountains, and. we are now exploring how to use a small part of it for buildings and food production, and support the rest to rewild and return to a more vibrant and diverse state benefitting innumerable beings.

We are also exploring ways to be a little more self-reliant with the essentials. We are looking into solar energy. We are taking steps to collect and store rainwater and use this for our own use and food production. We may gradually expand food production over time. (In a social crisis, which will likely come as a consequence of the ecological crisis, being more self-reliant will alleviate the burden on the local government and it may also be that they won’t be able to reliably provide basic services to everyone.)

Our local community is our greatest resource, so we are also connecting and creating ties with neighbors. And especially those who are like-minded and those who grow food and know how to make and fix things. Self-reliance and resilience mainly happen at a local and regional community level.

We are preparing for a future where our ecological crisis, and all the social consequences of it, is far more acute and severe. And we are learning and plan on sharing what we learn with anyone interested.

We are also considering creating a small eco-community on the land. We’ll see. We need to get to know the land better first.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take these kinds of steps, so we are also keeping in mind supporting those less fortunate, in whatever small ways we can.

And this is not because we are very noble. We are very flawed human beings.

This is because we are aware that this is in our own self-interest. It’s in our self-interest to live in a more sustainable way and create ties with our neighbors. It’s in our own interest to support those less fortunate, in the small ways we can, since we all live in the same society.

And in terms of ecology, we all – all beings – share the same collective fate. We are all impacted by the thriving or deterioration of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

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Historic shifts

We are always living history, any moment is a shift in history, and some shifts are more historical and significant than others.

I have written about the topics of this article in several other posts, mainly under the “Reflections on society, politics, and nature” collections. But I’ll repeat the essence here.

TRUMP ERA

I wasn’t really surprised when Trump was elected, mainly because I had followed 538 closely before the 2016 election and they gave Trump a 1 to 4 chance of winning. (Out of four times the polls looked the way they did, Trump would win one time.)

The main risk of the Trump presidency is and was an erosion of democracy. Even before the election, it was clear that this was a man who did not respect democracy, democratic values, civil and grounded discourse, or a wish to create a society that works for everyone. His words and behavior legitimized bigotry, lies, polarization, anti-democratic views and actions, and much more. And that’s going to change the culture around politics. It’s going to legitimize this type of behavior on a larger scale, and that’s going to have direct and indirect ripple effects around the world. And that’s exactly what happened, and is still happening.

When Trump lost to Biden, I saw it as likely that the next election would be between Trump and Harris. Biden may be too old to continue, and Trump is like a pitbull who will never give up or admit defeat. He would love to come back and undo whatever any sane president over the last several decades put in place before him. Right now, he certainly has enough support in the US to do just that.

CURRENT MIDTERM ELECTIONS

Today is the midterm elections in the US, and Trumpists are likely to win several of the seats, and this will further change the political culture and erode democracy. (Including through gerrymandering, court appointments, and so on.)

It seems that these midterm elections, which usually bring only minor changes, may have larger and more lasting consequences this time. This may very well be a significant historical change in US history, and one that will have ripple effects in the world. (For instance, Ukraine may lose much of its current support from the US.)

US CIVIL WAR

There has been a lot of talk about a coming civil war in the US, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that will happen. (The seeds of it are already there and some, in their insanity, actively want a civil war.)

It obviously won’t be like the last US civil war. It will be a far less formalized civil war. It looks like it may be a kind of civil war between far-right militia groups and the rest of society, and they will target the ones they see as their enemy – progressive politicians, judges and courts that actually uphold the law, police that won’t allow renegades and violence, liberal community activists, and so on.

And who knows where it will go from there. It may be that mainstream society cracks down on it, although that’s not likely if Trumpists are in charge locally and/or federally. (I say “Trumpist” instead of Republicans since there are still some Republican politicians who favor democracy, although these have increasingly been squeezed out of the party.) This kind of low-grade but terrible civil war may continue for years or even decades.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Although Trump does influence politics and society, he is mostly a symptom. He is a symptom of white folks in the US feeling threatened because their privileged position may be lost. After all, the demography is against them, and many educated folks in the US actively promote a deeper and more real equality between this traditionally privileged group and the rest of the population.

And he is also a reflection of a much larger global trend away from democracy and towards authoritarian regime systems. The world is increasingly becoming less democratic. For me, as a Northern European steeped in democratic values, this is a strange and disturbing trend. I cannot see how this is going to help the majority of people, the world, and future generations. At least not in any obvious or immediate way.

And yet, it seems that many around the world actively hold anti-democratic values. They support authoritarian leaders. Perhaps it’s because they offer simplistic (unrealistic) solutions? Or because they share conservative values, often based on religion? Or because they offer someone to blame, whether it’s a minority in their own country, the west, or someone else?

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

For me, conspiracy theories are a part of this shift into a more uninformed anti-science and anti-democratic mindset and culture. That’s obviously the case when it comes to far-right conspiracy theories, and it’s the case with conspiracy theories in general no matter what flavor they have.

What conspiracy theories have in common is that distract from far more serious issues that we all face and can see are happening. The obvious one is that we live in the middle of a major ecological crisis that will impact all of us and may end civilization as we know it. (That is the case independent of the climate crisis, due to all the other kinds of damage to our ecosystems.) And we have a wide range of other and related crises including hunger, lack of clean water, preventable diseases, huge disparity between wealthy and poor, and political and social systems that holds all of this in place.

OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS IS OUR MAIN PRIORITY

Anyone who does not put our ecological crisis as their main priority in their personal life and in their politics has not understood what’s happening.

If you listen to the scientists and use a minimum of common sense (we collectively use far more resources than the Earth can produce), you can see the huge ecological crisis we are in the middle of. You can see where we are headed. And you’ll put that as the main priority in your life and in your political and social life.

Personally, I keep this at the forefront of the main decisions I make in my life these days. (As outlined in other articles.) It’s my main priority when I vote and support political parties and policies. (How can it be anything else?) And a large part of my working life has been focused on this. (I was the paid coordinator of a local sustainability group that focused on cooperation and solutions to the problems we all face together.)

Our ecological crisis is our main priority whether we notice or not, and whether we consciously have it as our main priority or not. Life is not giving us an option.

WE NEED REALITY ORIENTATION TO DEAL WITH OUR CURRENT CRISIS

Trumpists politics is obviously very dangerous just for its anti-democratic orientation and effect.

And something is even more dangerous there, and that is that its anti-reality. They don’t care about what’s actually happening. They don’t care about science. They don’t care about experts. They don’t care about the numbers. (If they don’t like them.)

And that’s the case with conspiracy theories in general. The vast majority of them are inherently anti-reality. They are founded on bad logic and bad data.

People mostly go into conspiracy theories for emotional reasons and then rationalize to make bad logic appear like good logic. For whatever reason, it feels emotionally satisfying to them to go into conspiracy theories. They generally don’t care about science, experts, real logic, history, or whatever else we as a society need to base our decisions on.

And that’s very dangerous. Especially in a time of collective crisis, we need to base our collective decisions on solid science and data. It’s the only sane approach. It’s the only approach that has any chance of working.

THE NEED FOR PROFOUND SYSTEMS CHANGE

I have written about all of this in several other articles, including our need for systems change. (I wrote about this in my teens as well, long before blogs.)

The cause of our ecological crisis, and a large number of other problems, is the way our social and economic system is set up.

It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take ecological dynamics and limits into consideration. For all practical purposes, the resources of nature were unlimited, and the capacity of nature to absorb waste was unlimited. It made sense, at the time, to ignore it. We ignored it because We could.

We still live within these outdated systems.

And now, we can’t ignore ecological realities anymore. We are well past the time when we had that luxury.

We need a profound change in our systems of economy, production, food, water, education, and so on.

We need to create systems in all areas of human life that deeply and thoroughly take ecological realities into account.

We can definitely do it. There is no lack of solutions and grounded visions.

And it’s very possible to find attractive solutions that help us thrive as individuals and society, even more than now.

What we lack is a collective will. Are we going to find that collective will in time?

We are already past the time when we could prevent major ongoing ecological crises. We’ll have to live and deal with them no matter what. The question is how serious it will be, not whether it will happen.

Will we find it at all? I am not sure. It’s possible, and we’ll have to live and make decisions as if it’s possible.

NOTE: Just to mention it – Biden is currently president of the US, the democrats have the house and senate, we are just out of a regularly scheduled pandemic and there will be more to come, there is a war in Ukraine impacting the whole world, scientists and the UN say that it’s the end of civilization unless we engage in major rapid and collective changes, and most people continue with business as usual as if we are not in a disastrous ecological crisis.

Here are a couple of recent mainstream media articles on these topics:

World is on ‘highway to climate hell’, UN chief warns at Cop27 summit

‘These are conditions ripe for political violence’: how close is the US to civil war?

UPDATE: It’s now a few days after the mid-term election in the US and it seems the Trumpists didn’t do as well as expected. That’s good news for democracy. Maybe it shows that many people in the US still are sane enough to choose a more democratic and inclusive approach. Nothing is linear, and politics and society would move away from Trump at some point. Perhaps that’s now?

I lived in the US for twenty years which is partly why I am interested in what’s happening there.

Pretending to be apolitical

Some people like to pretend they are apolitical.

And it is a pretense. It’s impossible to be apolitical. Saying you are is often strategy way to avoid conflict or avoiding to get involved in social matters that impact you.

EVERYTHING IS POLITCS

Everything is politics. Politics is about what we value.

Everything in society reflects our collective values. Everything we individually chose and do reflects what we value.

Everything happening in society impacts us one way or another.

And when something happens in society that more directly impacts our personal life and goes against what we value, the pretense of being apolitical falls apart.

BEING “APOLITICAL” IN RUSSIA

We can see this in Russia these days. According to some sources, about a quarter actively support Putin and the war, about a quarter oppose Putin and the war, and about half are indifferent. As long as it doesn’t impact them, it’s fine. (We can see examples of this in some of the street interviews done about the war in Russia, for instance on the 1420 YT channel.)

That’s not how the world works. The war and the other Putin policies will and do impact you. You live in that society. You live in an authoritarian system. You live in a system based partly on corruption. You live in a system where people are not allowed to publicly speak their minds. You live in a system where political opponents to Putin are imprisoned or killed. You live in a society that goes to war against a democratic and sovereign neighbor. You live in a society where people are randomly drafted to be cannon fodder on the front. This impacts you. And it either matches or goes against what you value.

WHAT HAPPENS IS OUR BUSINESS

That’s the same for all of us. What happens in our society is our business whether we want it to be or not, and whether we pretend it to be or not.

These days, the one major issue is the ecological crisis we are all in the middle of. It’s already impacting most or all of us, and it will impact all of us in a much more obvious and direct way in the (near) future.

We all know this. And yet, most keep voting for politicians who don’t seem to know, pretend it’s not happening, or prioritize a large number of other (important and clearly less significant) issues above it.

Most people live as if it’s not the one major issue we are all faced with today. Most people chose to get caught up in peripheral issues.

This is not the fault of politicians or even corporations. It’s the fault of every single person who says they are apolitical or down-prioritize this issue.

Most people are like the fifty percent in Russia on this topic. And reality is going to bite – hard.

Note: This article was originally from one of the “Reflections on society, politics, and nature” collections of articles.

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Our ecological bottleneck and personal decisions

Since my teens, I have been passionate about sustainability, deep ecology, simple living, and so on. (And worked in that area for several years.)

For decades, we have known that we are creating an ecological bottleneck for ourselves and what we have seen so far is only the beginning. We are entering an era of continuous ecological crises with extreme weather, continued extinction of species, unraveling ecosystems, famine, mass migration, and so on. And a lot of people will die, perhaps most of humanity. (And, as usual, those already worst off will be hit the hardest.)

So what do we do at a personal level?

In my case, there is a lot of grieving, also from seeing the loss of ecological vibrancy and diversity in the areas I know the best, including at the cabin in Norway which is in the middle of a large forested area. (Which soon hopefully will become a national park.)

I have chosen a relatively simple life, relying on less than most people do. (Although I do travel, and I love delicious simple food.)

I have learned to grow my own food, build with local materials and traditions, and so on.

And I am planning for the future. My partner and I have land in the Andes mountains where we can cover most of life’s essentials locally. We are building using local materials and building techniques. We have water and will provide for more natural water storage. We’ll grow food. We are creating good connections with the neighbors and the local community, which is our greatest and most essential resource. We live in a place where heating and cooling is not necessary. (Especially with good building design.)

We are very fortunate in that we have resources to choose where to live, buy land, build a house, and do all of this. Most people in the world are unable to do that, either because they don’t have the resources or because they are tied to where they already are for family or work reasons.

In addition to this (and perhaps it’s a bit excessive), we are going to a place in Europe next week to check it out. It’s a place that’s geographically isolated. They have plenty of water. The soil is very fertile. It’s relatively protected from sea level rise. (Which will be several meters or tens of meters this century.) And here too, there is no need for heating or cooling. It may be another place to live as the current ecological and humanitarian crisis worsens.

Personally, I cannot do much about the bigger picture. But I can make good decisions for myself and my family. And I can create mutually beneficial ties with those in the local community. And that’s perhaps enough.

There is also another thing I am doing, and that’s what I typically write about here. The less I am caught up in issues and traumas, I am better able to deal with change, and I am hopefully able to make slightly better decisions.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT OUR HUMAN-MADE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

Why are we in this situation?

And why does it seem unlikely that we can prevent massive ecological and social problems?

Many like to talk about greed, blame others, and so on.

To me, it looks different and much simpler.

We live in a system where much of what’s destructive for our planet is easy and inexpensive to do, at individual and collective levels. So just by living our daily lives we contribute to the destruction of our ecosystems. (And our future.)

Why did these systems come in place? Not because of any malevolent intention, but because they made sense at the time they were created. They come about centuries ago when nature, for all practical purposes, was unlimited. It was an unlimited source of resources, and it had an unlimited capacity to absorb waste.

What’s the solution?

The solution is to create systems – economic systems and systems of transportation, production, energy, and so on – where what’s easy and attractive to do is also beneficial for our ecosystems. It’s very possible to do this. Many people have developed and explored ways to do it.

What we need is the collective will.

Are we going to find this collective will? Certainly not soon enough to avoid a lot of problems, because that “soon enough” was several decades ago.

Will we find it at all? I am not sure.

As long as we misdiagnose the problem (through blaming greed, others, etc.), we won’t find the real solutions. And as long as we assume that piecemeal solutions (recycling, electric cars) are enough, we won’t find the collective will.

My guess is that most of humanity will have to die off before the ones left collectively seriously address the real causes and start implementing real solutions, and even then we may not since our reduced numbers again allow us to use human systems that don’t take ecological systems into account.

It’s all very simple. Our human systems exists within, depend on, and are part of the larger ecological systems. That means that our human systems – at all levels – need to take ecological realities into account.

If they don’t – and if we have a large population and powerful technology– we will inevitably damage and destroy large parts of the ecological systems we are part of and depend on.

Why don’t more people do more about it?

I suspect many feel they can’t do much on their own so they choose to focus on their own day-to-day lives instead. They may trust that if their leaders don’t take it seriously, it’s because it’s not necessary (yet). Politicians are typically elected for just a few years at a time, so they focus on that timeframe rather than a timeframe that goes over decades or centuries.

I also suspect that more are concerned about this than is sometimes apparent. To others, it may appear that I too am just living a day-to-day life without too much concern about this. (Which is partially true.) What they may not know is the grief I am experiencing over what’s happening with the ecosystems and what will happen with humanity. And they may also not know that when we bought land in the Andes and are building a house there, and are also considering buying something in a location in Europe, it’s with this in mind.

Why do I call it ecological bottleneck?

Because we are in a metaphorical bottleneck right now, and it will continue to tighten in the next decades and perhaps centuries. It’s a bottleneck created by our current economic and other systems which do not take ecological realities into account. Many species won’t survive. (Many are already lost.) Many ecosystems will be severely degraded and damaged, and some will be gone. And as mentioned above, I suspect much of humanity won’t make it through either.

Post-doom

In a sense, the doom is certain. We are already in it and it will get worse. The question is how we will deal with it. I suspect many countries will close down their borders, perhaps even within the EU. A lot of collective and individual resources will be used to deal with an ongoing series of ecological crises. And as usual in a time of crisis, many will focus mostly on their own survival while some will look at the bigger picture and try to find solutions that work for everyone, and there will likely be an increased polarization between the two.

Joanna Macy: If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by… people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear

If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear.

– Joanna Macy

That’s what creates any change. When our love is greater than our fear. When we realize that continuing will be more painful than making a change.

Wolfwalkers & our relationship with the wild in nature and ourselves

I loved this movie in many different ways. And as any good story that deals with primal archetypes and archetypal dynamics, it can be interpreted at many different levels.

It can be seen as a metaphor for how humans treat each other, including how the English have treated the Irish. It can be seen as a more literal story about how humans treat nature and the wild. And it can be seen as a mirror for dynamics in ourselves, and how we civilize ourselves at the expense of the primal aliveness in ourselves.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WILD

It’s easy to imagine a history of the human relationship with the wild, and it will – by necessity – be somewhat speculative when it comes to the early history.

Before agriculture and civilization as we think of it, people lived in nature, with nature, and from nature. They may have had more of a partnership relationship with nature and the wild, and they likely respected nature out of necessity. They had a more nature-oriented spirituality. They didn’t have much property so they didn’t have much hierarchy. They may have had a more matriarchal culture. The inevitable damage to nature was limited since their numbers were small and their technology simple, and they also moved if they needed to which limited their impact on the areas they were in.

With agriculture, this all changed. We could accumulate wealth. We had more division of labor, tasks, and skills. We developed a hierarchy. The ones higher up in the hierarchy developed a wish to control others and the general population. We got culture as we know it. We got more removed sky-God religions. We got a more patriarchal culture.

We lived in tamed landscapes or towns and cities. With agriculture, we depended more on tamed nature. We lived more distanced from the wild. We depend much less on the wild. The wild became “other” to us. For those higher up in the hierarchy, it became in their interest to also tame the population.

We learned to tame nature and ourselves, and find this comforting and the wild scary and unsettling and perhaps even evil.

Our human relationship with the wild shifted. We went from living in and from the wild to becoming distanced from it and viewing it often as something scary and suspicious. We learned that taming ourselves and nature was safer.

WHAT DOES TAMING OURSELVES MEAN?

We know what it means to tame nature. It means to make the wild into agricultural land, towns, and cities. Replace wild forests with planted forests. To kill any animals – typically large predators – we see as competitors or any danger to ourselves. And so on.

But what does it mean that we tame ourselves?

In one sense, it just means that we learn to live with others and in civilization. We learn to express our feelings with words instead of through actions that may harm others. We learn to cooperate. We learn to take others into consideration when we make our choices and live our life. This is natural for us since we are a social species and it doesn’t necessarily come at much or any cost. 

In another sense, it can mean that we tame ourselves at the cost of our aliveness, sense of connection and meaning, and authenticity. This happens when we take taming ourselves in a slightly misguided way. We may deny our emotions or needs, wishes, and desires instead of acknowledging or expressing these and finding ways to get our needs met. We may disconnect ourselves from our body and nature and feel disconnected, ungrounded, and aimless. All of this tends to come as a consequence of believing painful beliefs and identities and perceiving and living as if they are true. And these painful beliefs and identities tend to come from our culture or subculture. They are passed on and shared by many if not most humans in our culture, and some may be common across cultures – especially in our modern world.

HOW DO WE REWILD OURSELVES?

Rewilding nature is a popular topic these days, and very much needed for the health of nature and ourselves and our culture.

But how do we rewild ourselves?

There are several approaches, and what works best is probably a combination of the ones that resonate the most with us – and that may change over time.

We can connect with nature through spending time in nature, gardening, spending time with non-human species, learning about nature, spending time in the wilderness, learning to survive in the wilderness, spending time at a bonfire, looking at the stars, and so on.

We can connect with our body by walking barefoot, receiving bodywork, doing different forms of yoga, learning to recognize and take seriously the signals from our body, and so on.

We can engage in nature-centered spirituality and rituals, including the Practices to Reconnect from Joanna Macy.

We can shift our worldview from one of separation to connection and oneness, for instance through deep ecology, the epic of evolution, the universe story, ecospirituality, system views, integral models (AQAL), and so on.

We can engage in actions on behalf of other species, the Earth, and future generations. These may be small and “invisible” everyday actions or more visible in the world. These may be actions to stop damage, change our culture, or envision and implement life-centered alternatives.

We can learn to notice and acknowledge our emotions and wishes, needs, and desires. We can find ways to express this and meet our needs in a kind way. We can find a more authentic way to live that’s kind to ourselves and others.

We can identify fears we have of rewilding ourselves.  What’s the worst that could happen?  What does my culture tell me could happen? What do I find when I examine these stories? What’s more true for me? How is it to meet and be with the fear and allow it as it is? How is it to find love for it? 

We can find healing for any emotional issues that create a sense of separation and lack of connection, aliveness, groundedness, and meaning.

We can identify and investigate the views and beliefs that create a sense of separation – with ourselves, others, nature, and the universe as a whole. We can identify beliefs passed on through our culture. We can find them in ourselves and inquire into them and find more freedom from them and what’s more true and honest for us.

We can connect with and taste the wholeness we are at a human level, through a combination of meditation, body-centered practices, emotional healing, and more.

We can explore what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. At one level, we are a human being in the world. And what do I find when I explore what I am in my own first-person experience? I may find I more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to me. And what the world – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as. I may find myself as the oneness this human self and the wider world happen within and as.

This is not only for the benefit of ourselves. It benefits our culture. It may help our species survive. And it will likely benefit other species, this living planet, and future generations.

Note: This article itself is an example of rewilding ourselves. I saw the movie three or four weeks ago, made a few notes, and allowed it to rest. Today, I was moved to write the article and it came out easily and naturally, without much if any effort.

When I saw the movie, I noticed I wasn’t ready to write the final article. I knew that pushing it would be uncomfortable and likely wouldn’t give a good result. So I allowed it to rest and digest on its own, and I waited for it to come to fruition in me and move me to write it.

I planted the seed, waited, and it sprouted in its own time in the form of this article.

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Each being is a world

After my partner and I became stewards of some beautiful land, this has been more in the foreground of my mind.

Each being is a world.

On that piece of land, millions or billions of beings (depending on whether you want to include microbes), live their whole life or significant parts of their lives (birds, mammals).

In each case, there will never exist a being like that again. Each one is a unique occurrence.

And each of them experiences the world in their own way. They are, quite literally, their own unique world. A world that has never existed before, does not exist anywhere else, and will never exist again.

Remembering this is very moving for me. It fills me with reverence to be a temporary steward of this land and do my part in protecting it and supporting it to regenerate and rewild.

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 55

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.

OPINIONS AND WHAT THEY ARE ROOTED IN

Some people like to pretend that their opinions about something are equal to the views of others.

One person’s opinion is equally valid as someone else’s, right?

Wrong. This is obviously wrong even on the surface.

Yes, we have views, orientations, and opinions. Yes, none of us can know for certain our view is absolutely true. Yes, our views are always provisional and up for revision.

And no, they are not equal.

They are more or less rooted in solid data and theory.

The more it’s rooted in solid data and theory, and the more it has been examined and tested and found to hold up, the more weight a view holds.

For instance, one outlier academic study that goes against what innumerable solid studies have found does not hold much weight. It can be interesting. It may be worth looking into it further and doing more research. And, in itself, it’s not worth much.

We also know this from daily life. If a group of people see and touch a tree, and one insists that the tree is not there, it’s pretty safe to assume we can disregard the outlier view. There is always a very small chance the person is right, one way or another, but for practical purposes, we can set it aside.

This is basic common sense that some seem to disregard these days.

QUESTIONING THE MAINSTREAM VIEW?

Someone on social media wrote: I love Joe Rogan because the dares to question the mainstream view.

My response is: Anyone can – and often do – question the mainstream view. And if it’s rooted in bad logic and bad data, as is the case of Joe Rogan, then it’s not worth much. It’s just more noise and distraction.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 54

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.

WHY DO PEOPLE IN THE WELLNESS WORLD SO EASILY MISLEAD THEMSELVES?

Quite a few people in the wellness world buy into anti-pandemic measures views and conspiracy theories in general.

Why? Why do they seem so gullible?

I suspect it may be connected with several things.

They may not have a very solid education. They may not be trained in the history of science, logical fallacies, media literacy, and so on.

They may be a bit naive about the world. They may not previously have known about the many flaws inherent in just about anything humans do. And they don’t have a more nuanced and mature view which leads to discernment and knowing that we don’t always have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

They may have an outsider identity and they may be suspicious of the mainstream. So they automatically gravitate to any view opposed to the mainstream medical views.

They have found their own “alternative mainstream” and absorb the views held in that subculture. They want to belong. They want to assume they got it.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 53

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.

THE TRUTH IN THE SEEDS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There are several relatively obvious truths in the seed of many conspiracy theories.

The medical industry is in it for profit. (Obviously, since we live in a capitalist world and generating profit for the shareholders is the main aim of any business.) The medical industry is corrupt. (Of course, since they are powerful and in it for the profit.) Multinational corporations influence and partly control politicians and media. (Again, obviously, since they can and it helps them in generating profit.) When power is removed from people, and the bottom-up vs top-down balance is too far in the latter direction, it’s obviously not good. (And it happens because there is always a shift between the two.) The current system is rigged to benefit the already powerful. (It was set up that way, so it obviously works that way.)

All of this is obvious. It’s what any moderately informed young teenager knows.

I easily agree with all of this and more. I have known about it for almost my whole life, apart from the very first years.

And yet, I don’t agree with the conclusions of conspiracy theorists.

I know all of this and more, and I still agree with the pandemic measures. They are common-sense measures that history shows works. They are what epidemiologists have studied and found works for decades. They are not something anyone made up now.

I know this and more, and see it as systemic and not something that requires sinister scheming from any one group of people.

WILLING TO SACRIFICE OTHERS TO BE A REBELLIOUS TEENAGER

When I see people who have anti-mask and anti-vaccination views, I often see people willing to sacrifice others in order to make a point. They are willing to sacrifice others so they can be rebellious teenagers.

Yes, I agree with a lot of their reasons. (The ones grounded in reality, not the conspiracy theories). And I don’t agree at all with their conclusion.

I know the medical industry is corrupt. Media is owned by multinational corporations. Politicians are influenced by the interests of big money. Even a moderately well-informed teenager knows that.

At the same time, I know the history of pandemics. I know what history shows us is working and not working in terms of limiting the impact of pandemics. I know something about epidemiology. I know that the pandemic measures we see today are not at all invented now. They are well tested, make sense, and are aimed at limiting the impact of the pandemics. I know that in a time of crisis, the government – which is not “other” but us collectively – needs to take stronger control.

So even knowing all the things I know about the system we live within, I chose to wear a mask and take the vaccine and do the other things. I do it because it’s the responsible thing to do. I do it to protect the most vulnerable among us. I do it because not doing it is not going to help the situation in any way at all.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 52

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.

THE BIGGER PICTURE ON CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a relatively obvious (?) bigger picture on conspiracy theories.

And that is the life, the universe, existence, the divine seems to wish to express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways and in as many ways possible.

All beings live in their own world, and often these worlds intersect to some degree. Especially within the same species and community, beings tend to experience the world in similar ways.

In our age of online echo chambers, a huge amount of smaller global communities are formed. Some of these are formed around a shared passion for something within culture or nature. Some are learning communities. And some are conspiracy communities.

Conspiracy theories are one of many ways life or the divine explores, expresses, and experiences itself.

It’s part of the diversity of perception and mental guidelines for life within humanity right now.

It doesn’t mean the views are grounded in reality. It doesn’t mean they are logically very sound. And it doesn’t mean these folks are not sometimes a danger to democracy.

But it does mean it’s all happening within a bigger picture.

PUBLISHED SCIENCE ARTICLES – ON VACCINES, MASKS, THE PANDEMIC ETC.

A friend on social media referred to very weak articles published in less than reputable journals online.

Here is my response:

In any area of science, there are published articles that don’t fit the mainstream view. In most cases, the findings are not grounded in reality. This is just part of science, and – as I said – you’ll find this in any science and on just about any topic. Just because something is published doesn’t make it valid or something that reflects reality.

Especially these days, there are lots of online journals that, at first glance, look serious and scientific. They use the language and format of reputable publications. But the content is very weak and would likely never be published in serious and respected journals.

Personally, I have seen several articles on pandemic-related topics, published in these types of journals, that are almost laughably bad in terms of data and logic. And, often, the articles are written by people with some sort of credentials, just not in the area they are writing about. Which means they have no credentials at all. They have close to zero credibility.

For the findings and views to be taken seriously, it has to be published in reputable journals, the findings have to be replicated several times, there has to be a sound theory behind it, and competing theories and approaches have to be thoroughly disproven.

This is science 101 and I assume just about anyone learns about this in school.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 51

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.

FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY

Some countries require proof of vaccine for entering public spaces like restaurants and movie theaters. In response, some vaccine skeptics say: “I am in control over my own body. Nobody can tell me I can’t do certain things just because I chose to be unvaccinated. It’s a violation of human rights.”

To me, it’s a weak and partly nonsensical argument.

We live in a society, and in a society, we have certain freedoms and responsibilities. That’s required for society to work reasonably well for as many as possible.

We already accept a lot of restrictions to our freedom. We accept that we shouldn’t drive drunk. Kill people. Steal. Damage other people’s property. And so on.

Requiring a proof of vaccine is just one of many restrictions. It’s temporary. And it clearly helps society as a whole, including us as individuals.

We know that those vaccinated are less likely to be infected and seriously ill. That means they are less likely to pass it on to others, and they are less likely to end up in a hospital, take up valuable spaces there, and cost society money. The more people are vaccinated, the sooner we can get through the pandemic, and the less risk there is of new and more transmittable mutations.

For me, requiring proof of vaccine for travel, entry to restaurants, and so on, is among the least we can do to limit the impact of the pandemic.

Personally, I am very happy to accept a limited (very small) personal risk by taking the vaccine, if this can help society as a whole. It’s the least I can do.

Note: It’s almost not worth mentioning, but it’s not a “human right” to enter restaurants and movie theaters. And it’s not a “violation of my body” if someone requires me to be vaccinated to enter those places.

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Sustainability and the changes we knew we had to make

For several decades, we have known that our basic systems – economic, production, water, energy, transportation, and so on – were unsustainable. They did not take ecological realities into account, and just by living normal lives within these systems, we are destroying ecosystems and what we depend on for our own lives.

This is not controversial. It’s obvious. Even without climate change, we would have to make profound and thorough changes to these systems.

So why didn’t we? Why didn’t we in the 50s? Or 70s? Or 90s?

Why has it taken so long for people to wake up to the self-made ecological crisis we are in?

The main answer is probably that most people, and especially those in wealthier countries, didn’t notice it in their own life. (Along with thoughts that we have time and can wait, automatic dismissal of this information because it was uncomfortable and didn’t fit people’s identity, and so on.)

Now, people are starting to notice it in their own life. So now, there is at least some mainstream discussion of this, although many still pretend the answers lie in what others need to do, or in making smaller changes within the existing systems.

That’s obviously not going to work. Our systems are what created this situation, so it’s our systems that need to change.

How much worse does it need to get before more people start to acknowledge this? And much worse, beyond that, does it need to be before enough people find the will to make the necessary changes?

We don’t lack technology. We don’t lack knowledge. We don’t lack practical solutions. What we currently lack is (a) mainstream acknowledgment of the real problem, and (b) collective willingness to make the actual changes.

John Mohawk: The real intelligence isn’t the property of an individual; the real intelligence is the property of the universe itself

Seneca scholar John Mohawk wrote that according to his culture, “an individual is not smart […] but merely lucky to be part of a system that has intelligence. Be humble about this. The real intelligence isn’t the property of an individual; the real intelligence is the property of the universe itself.”

– “Hearing the Language of Trees” by Robin Wall Kimmerer in Yes! magazine

How do we rewild ourselves?

Rewilding activities are conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas.

Rewilding in Wikipedia

Rewilding is a hot topic these days and is sorely needed. It’s needed for nature in general, and it’s needed for our human civilization to continue and thrive.

I have had a deep love for nature since childhood, and have had a passion for sustainability, deep ecology, ecospirituality, and ecopsychology since my mid-teens.

REWILDING OURSELVES

If we talk about rewilding nature, doesn’t that also mean rewilding ourselves?

What about rewilding the part of nature we call ourselves?

What do we mean by rewilding ourselves?

And what are some of the ways we can rewild ourselves?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REWILD OURSELVES?

In a very real sense, we are a wilderness area that has been impacted and domesticated by civilization.

There is nothing wrong with this. It’s a natural process. Civilization is also nature.

All we know from society, culture, industry, technology, science, and so on is nature taking these forms.

All of it is Earth exploring itself through and as us and through and as all of what we think of as civilization.

And yet, internalized culture can put a damper on our aliveness, passion, and curiosity. It can impact our sense of wholeness. It can lead to a sense of fracture in our connection with the rest of nature and existence. And that often leads to a life that feels a bit disconnected and artificial.

So what does it mean to rewild ourselves?

For me, it means nourishing our natural sense of belonging to our wider natural systems and all of existence. It means restoring our natural aliveness, passion, and curiosity. And it means to invite in and nourish a sense of wholeness.

REDEFINE NATURE

A good place to start is our definition of nature.

Do we have a sense of nature as opposed to what’s human? As only “out there” in the form of conventional ecosystems like forests, lakes, and so on?

Or do we recognize that nature is all of what this living planet has formed itself into, including us humans, our thoughts and feelings and imagination, and human civilization, culture, and technology?

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

For me, a more inclusive sense of nature is an important first step in rewilding ourselves. It breaks down the imagined wall between nature and humans, which was a product of our particular form of civilization.

A GOOD STARTING POINT IN REWILDING OURSELVES

There are some relatively simple ways we can explore rewilding ourselves.

We can spend time in nature. Especially long periods in nature, over weeks and months, tend to deepen our sense of being part of nature.

We can learn about nature, including the patterns of weather and animals.

We can learn how to survive in nature and how our ancestors lived. We can learn what plants are edible, how to fish, how to cook food on a campfire, how to make and fire pots from local clay, and so on.

We can do gardening and grow food.

We can rewild our yard, or join a local rewilding project.

We can develop inter-species friendships. We can get to know someone from a different species and seek to understand their communication. We can make a practice of seeking to understand what they wish for and give it to them if possible and imagine how they perceive us and the world.

We can follow the natural cycles of nature. Go to bed and get up with the sun, within reason and what’s possible. Rest more and seek nourishing environments and activities during the dark season, and naturally be more active during the warmer and lighter season.

We can have days where we minimize our use of electricity and anything electric or motorized.

We can sit by a campfire in nature.

We can spend time in nature in the dark. (It’s amazing how much we can see on moonlit nights, and many other nights if we allow our eyes and senses to adapt.)

We can spend time under the night sky.

We can walk barefoot in nature.

We can walk in the rain without protection now and then.

We can go to the shore and watch the waves during a storm.

We can swim in lakes and the ocean at any time of year.

UNIVERSE STORY AND PRACTICES TO RECONNECT

As mentioned, how we see ourselves in relation to Earth and the universe is an important part of rewilding ourselves.

We can explore views that help us find a more fundamental reality beyond our ideas and images of separation. This includes systems theories (Fritjof Capra), deep ecology, deep time, Big History, the Universe Story, and the Epic of Evolution.

We can participate in, and perhaps learn to facilitate, the Practices to Reconnect.

We can seek out and explore local or global ecospirituality groups. If we belong to a religion, we can explore the ecospirituality movements without our religion. (There is always one.)

We can participate in any form of nature-oriented rituals.

EXPLORING OURSELVES

We are already part of nature.

Any sense of disconnect comes from our own imaginations that we – somewhere in us – hold as true.

For both of those reasons, it makes sense that rewilding ourselves includes exploring ourselves.

AUTHENTICITY

When I explore rewilding myself, I find that authenticity is a vital component.

We often allow internalized culture to hijack us and lead us away from following what’s more authentic and alive for us. This is an important part of how we domesticate ourselves.

So finding what’s authentic for me at the moment helps me rewild myself.

This doesn’t mean acting irresponsibly or in an unkind way. That worry is the voice of our western culture.

For me, I find that authenticity means living in a more responsible and kind way. It means to find what’s alive and juicy for me, in a way that’s kind to myself and those around me.

How do I know what’s authentic to me? If we are used to following culture and shoulds rather than our own inner guidance, it can be a process to uncover our authenticity. For me, it’s what brings up a spontaneous YES in me.

Acting from a “should” feels a bit disappointing and discouraging and it tends to lead to resentment. Finding what’s more authentic comes with a whole being YES.

GET IN TOUCH WITH OUR PHYSICAL SELVES

This is another obvious approach to finding the wild in and as ourselves.

Go barefoot. Swim naked in lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Dance. Move with the rhythm. Make music.

Do yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema.

Run. Swim. Play.

Learn inner yoga and energy work. Get in touch with you as an energetic being and the world as energies.

See how it is to bring playfulness and authenticity into this.

UNDO ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS

For me, an important part of rewilding myself is to examine my assumptions and beliefs.

I find that just about all of my stressful assumptions and beliefs come from somewhere else. They come from culture. Many of them are common or universal within my culture. And some may be relatively universal across cultures.

Identify a stressful belief. This is often a version of a universal assumption and belief from my culture.

What happens if I hold it as true and live from it?

How would it be if this assumption didn’t exist?

What’s more authentic for me than this assumption and belief?

FIND WHAT WE ARE IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE

For me, another aspect of rewilding myself is to find what am in my own first-person experience.

At one level, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. (Although it does come with some inherent and inevitable stress.)

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience?

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience, for anything that appears in my sense fields.

I find I am fundamentally what the world, to me, happens within and as. I find I am what whatever appears in my sense fields happens within and as.

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

Here, I am already inherently free of any particular identities. I am free to allow and use any one identity. And I am inherently free from it.

This is what already allows the rewilding process, as it allows anything else.

And noticing this and resting in (and as) that noticing supports the rewilding process.

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Sustainability and hypocrisy?

People are sometimes called hypocrites because they advocate for sustainability while they travel with airplanes and do other things we know are not good for the planet.

I don’t see it that way.

We all live and function within systems unintentionally rigged to destroy Earth and our civilizations. These systems do not take ecological realities into account because they didn’t need to when they were developed in the early modern era. Now, with more advanced technology and far more people, they are unintentionally destructive and need to be thoroughly revised to take ecological realities into account.

They need to be redesigned so what’s easy and attractive to do, for us individually and collectively, is what’s beneficial for the Earth and future generations. And that’s very possible to do, if there is the will to do it.

So I wouldn’t call anyone a hypocrite for advocating sustainability while flying in jet planes or doing other obviously destructive things. It’s inevitable since we live within the systems we do.

For nearly all of us, living a normal life is inherently ecologically destructive because of the systems we live within. And these systems were created by us and can be changed by us.

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 50

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.

ART HISTORY

In the early ’90s, I studied art history for a year (full time) at the University of Oslo. Since they called it “art history”, and since I was young and naive, I was looking forward to WORLD art history. The history of art from the earliest times and across all cultures. That was what I expected, hoped for, and wanted.

To my surprise and disappointment, the course turned out to be the history of WESTERN art, and really just the art of Western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I was left with several puzzling questions:

Why didn’t they have a course for WORLD art?

Why did they call a course that had such a limited scope “art history” without any qualifiers?

Why didn’t they address or acknowledge this obvious discrepancy?

The answer is probably a kind of ethnocentrism. They – consciously or not – may have seen “real” art as the art of western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I imagine that now, 30 years later, they are a little less provincial and more conscious of this. Hopefully, they include the art of the world and not just a small section of the world. Or, at the very least, they label the course accurately.

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Every being is a world

How do we see other beings?

Do we see them as subjects – as living beings like ourselves with their own experiences, wishes, and so on? Do we see them as having the same basic wishes as ourselves? Do we see that they are a world, just as we are?

Do we see them as objects – as a thing that influences our life in a certain way? That helps or hinders us or is neutral? Do we choose to not pay attention to their inner life? Do we assume they have little or no inherent value?

In our daily life, it’s often a combination. We see other beings both as a subject with their own inner life and an object influencing (or not) our own life. And where we put them on the subject-object scale depends on several factors, including how familiar we are with their inner life and how similar we imagine they are to us.

WE PLACE BEINGS ON AN IMAGINED SUBJECT-OBJECT SPECTRUM

Where one the imagined subject-object scale do we put different beings?

We naturally tend to put ourselves at the extreme of the subject end of the scale since we are familiar with and always reminded of our own experiences. We are familiar with our own wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings.

The same goes for our loved ones, our partner, family, friends, and friends from other species. We put these reasonably far out on the subject end since we are somewhat familiar with, and daily reminded of, their interior life.

We tend to put the ones in “our” group over on the subjective side. We relate to their interior life since they are similar to us.

And we place many other beings over on the object side of the scale. These tend to be the ones we are less familiar with and where we are not so frequently reminded of their interior life. Among humans, it may include people we see as other, or people who live in another culture or far away. We also tend to put ecosystems and non-human species on this side of the scale. And, among non-human species, it seems that smaller ones tend to go further over on the object side.

It includes the beings living in ecosystems we eradicate, the spiders we squash, and animals we cage to eat. We are less familiar with and less frequently reminded of their interior life, so we see them more as objects.

WHY THIS SUBJECT-OBJECT SPECTRUM?

Why do we, at least in our western culture, tend to operate from this imagined subject-object scale?

There is an obvious evolutionary and practical reason. It allows us to care for those close to us, and use other beings for our own survival. It has had a survival advantage for our ancestors, and it’s convenient for us today.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF PLACING BEINGS ON THE OBJECT SIDE

What are some of the consequences of placing beings on the object end of the scale?

It obviously has dramatic consequences for the welfare of the beings we place there. It allows us to cage them, keep them in inhumane conditions, eat them, eradicate their habitats, eradicate whole species and ecosystems, and so on.

It also has dramatic consequences for ourselves, in several different ways.

It’s an important factor in our current massive ecological crisis which impacts us all. It’s what allows the systems and actions which has led to this ecological crisis. And it has already led to a loss of human lives, it will impact the quality of life for all of us, and it even threatens our survival.

We treat others as we treat ourselves. If we see and treat other beings as objects, it means we do the same – to some extent – with ourselves and parts of ourselves.

HOW WOULD IT BE IF WE REMINDED OURSELVES OF THE INNER LIFE OF ALL BEINGS?

How would it be to remind ourselves of the subjectivity of all beings? That all beings have an inner world? That they are a world to themselves, just as we are? That they too want a good life free of suffering? That they too want to survive?

How would my life have to change? How would I live my life, reminding myself of the interiority of other beings?

Does even contemplating this feel overwhelming? Scary? Does it feel like too much?

How would it be if we do this, and find peace with it?

How would this be for my own life?

How would it be for us collectively? It wouldn’t mean that we would completely stop modifying parts of nature to suit ourselves (all beings do that). It wouldn’t mean we would stop having non-human species as our companions. And it wouldn’t necessarily mean we would completely stop eating other animals.

But it would mean that we would take their needs and wants, and their interior life, more into consideration. It would mean treating them with more respect. It would mean realizing that we are in debt to nature and do more to pay back that debt.

This is primarily for each of us to explore for ourselves. And it is also interesting to imagine how a culture where this is common practice would look. We don’t have to look too far, since many traditional cultures around the world did and still do this, at least to some extent.

THE IMPULSE TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE

I listened to a podcast I typically enjoy (Judge John Hodgman), and was surprised when it turned out that most of the creators of the podcast were happy to kill spiders in their homes. How can you, when you know that they serve an important function and are no harm at all to humans? How can you, when you know they want to have a good life and survive, just as we do? How can you, when you know they are a world to themselves? How can you, when it’s so easy to allow them to have their life parallel to ours? Personally, I am honored to share a house with spiders.

Of course, the answer is likely just the topic of this article. If you see them as subjects, it’s natural to allow them to have their life. And seeing them as objects, even if that’s not aligned with reality, allows us to squash them without a second thought.

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Michelle Bender: The changes in the legal system deeply affect the psyche

The changes in the legal system deeply affect the psyche. If the law says I’m in relationship with the ocean and the river then it won’t be long before people start behaving as if we are interconnected with the other life forms on the planet.

– Michelle Bender in Should rivers have the same rights as people? The Guardian

Talking with other species and giving them a voice

There is a recent trend I love, and that is communicating with non-human species using buttons. It’s mostly cats and dogs so far, but I imagine we can communicate with a much wider range of species using buttons and a variety of electronic pads and other devices.

This particular method comes from teaching language to children with autism, and it seems to work amazingly well for inter-species communication.

Why do I love it? Because it helps us see other species as thinking and feeling, and with needs and wants much as our own. We are not so different. What’s universal and shared is far more than what’s different.

And this, in turn, can shift how we relate to other species in general. It can lead to a relationship characterized more by respect, kindeness, and taking the wants and needs of these species more into account.

Other species have not had much of a voice in our culture. Now, they literally have a voice, and what we are seeing so far is just the beginning.

My hope is that non-human species, ecosystems, and also future generations, are given far more of a voice in our culture and society. Partly literally through this type of communication. And partly more metaphorically by giving them rights and a real voice in our legal and political system.

A FEW RESOURCES

How Stella Learned to Talk – a book by Christina hunger

Hunger for Words – website for Stella, the original button-talking dog

Billy Speaks – a cat on YouTube

What About Bunny – a dog on YouTube

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXXIII

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.

SUDDEN SYSTEMS CHANGES

Earth is an immensely complex system, and its behavior is similar to any system.

It stays mostly (dynamically) stable within certain limits. It accommodates human inputs up to a certain extent within its usual state, and if or when these inputs build up sufficiently, the Earth systems will shift more dramatically to continue to adjust to and accommodate these inputs.

And since we – as a species and society – are adapted to the previous state, this will be challenging to us. We’ll have to adapt to these new states, and the transition won’t be easy or comfortable.

Most likely, it will involve a lot of human suffering, especially among those who already are marginalized, and it will also involve loss of life of both humans and other species and loss of species.

We are already seeing this and in the middle of it, and it will get worse.

It also means that we can expect sudden, and to some extent unexpected, changes in climate and ecosystems. Right now, we are seeing it in a dramatic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest of North America, beyond what climatologists and meteorologists expected. This is just a small taste of what’s very likely ahead.

When I got into system views in my teens, in the ‘80s, this was already predicted within the systems world, even if the mainstream didn’t take it seriously. Now, those predictions are coming true.

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Feeling our connection with all life

When we hear about our connection with all life, or see a video illustrating the evolution of our distant ancestors, do we see it as something interesting and not much more? Or do we feel it?

Do we feel that these are are ancestors? Do we feel that all life is related?

In a practical – and social and political – sense, that makes all the difference.

If our connection with all life remains intellectual for us, it doesn’t do much for us or life.

But if we feel it, if we feel it in our body and bones, that makes a huge difference for us and possibly for all life. That’s when it gets translated into action.

How do we feel the connection with all life?

So how can we shift from knowing to feeling?

One is intention. If our intention is to take it in and feel it, we have a much better chance of doing so.

Another is through combining our knowledge with feeling. When we watch the video above, how is it to take in that these are our actual ancestors? How is it to let it work on us? How is it to feel it?

We can also seek out whatever evokes this feeling, for instance through being in nature with the intention of noticing and feeling our connection with all life. We can also do this through poetry, documentaries, movies, and fiction writing. And we can seek out talks, books, and workshops about deep ecology, deep time, the universe story, and the epic of evolution.

The Practices to Reconnect from Joanna Macy is also a powerful way to bring this alive for us and feeling it more deeply and directly.

For me, watching the Carl Sagan’s Cosmos when I was ten had a profound impact on me in this direction.

Additional ways to open up for feeling our connection with all life

There are also approaches that may seem indirect but deeply support these shifts.

The more comfortable we are in feeling our own sensations and our own body, whatever it is that’s going on there, the more we’ll feel our connection with all life.

The more our heart is open, the more it’s open towards all life. We can open our heart in many ways, including through finding comfort with whatever we are feeling, and heart-centered practices.

We can do inquiry on any of our beliefs that separates us from the rest of life. For instance, that we are a separate being, that humans are inherently different from the rest of life, that’s it’s scary to feel a connection with all of life, that compassion for all life will be overwhelming, and so on.

We can find ourselves as what our experiences – of ourselves and the wider world – happens within and as. Here, we find that the world happens within and as what we are. In our direct experience, the world is one and it always was, we just didn’t notice.

Each of these and many more approaches helps us open to feeling a connection with all life, deepening that feeling, and act on it and bring it into our daily life.

Why is this important?

Knowing about our connection with all life is a start but it’s not enough for real changes in our perception and how we live our life.

The more deeply we feel our connection with all life, the more we act from it. The more we make choices that bring us and society and our civilization one step further in a more ecologically sustainable direction.

Wait a minute, isn’t this mostly about stories?

Yes, some of it is. It’s about stories from science.

When we watch the video above and use it to feel our connection with our ancestors and all life, we use a story to evoke a feeling. We use stories from science to evoke and deepen our feeling of connection with all life. That’s what the universe story and the epic of evolution is all about.

That’s not a problem, it’s just good to be aware that this is what we are doing.

The one thing here that’s not dependent on a story is finding ourselves as what all our experiences – of ourselves and the world – happen within and as. Here, there is an immediate recognition of oneness, and to the extent we take this in, it leads to a transformation of our perception and life in the world.

Feeling and acting our age

I thought I would add a quote from the QI social media feed earlier today.

We aren’t entirely ‘made of stardust’. About 9.5% of the mass of the average human body is made up of hydrogen atoms that are older than the stars, formed in the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

Do I take this as an interesting fact and not much more? How would it be to take it in? To feel it?

How is it to feel that a part of this body and who I am, is made up of matter unchanged since the beginning of this universe? How is it to take in and feel that the rest is matter from the beginning of this universe, transformed in stars?

How would it be to act my age?

Karl Schroeder: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature

Karl Schroeder

I love this quote. It’s a take on Arthur C. Clarke’s: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And it highlights the hugely advanced “technology” of nature which is far beyond anything we can do or even understand very well.

We do best when we ally ourselves with this technology, and when we make use of it in a way that interferes the least with the natural processes of Earth and all the living systems we are a part of.

In a very real sense, we are one of the many examples of the technology of nature. Everything we are and do and think and feel and create is an example of this amazing technology of nature.

Trauma-informed storytelling

I have watched Peaky Blinders and WandaVision recently, and they are both examples of trauma-informed storytelling.

Having some understanding of trauma, and telling stories reflecting how trauma plays itself out in real life, is not new. But I am wondering if there isn’t an upswing in trauma-informed storytelling these days, perhaps because there is a slightly better understanding of trauma in the mainstream.

In both these series, the main character(s) are severely traumatized, and they react to their own pain in a way that hurts other people. The stories show us the connection between what they went through, which was no fault of their own (war, multiple losses), and how they react to their pain in ways that hurt others (gang violence, making meat-puppets out of citizens in a rural town).

Hurt people hurt people. In a way, that’s the essence of how trauma plays itself out. And that’s what these stories show.

Instead of making the “bad” people into one-dimensional villains, they are shown as real people who hurt a lot and only know how to deal with it by hurting others.

This opens for empathy with people in this situation, and we can probably all find times in our own life where we hurt and reacted to in ways we are not proud of. And that obviously doesn’t make these actions OK. In real life, we still need to do what we can to prevent hurt people from hurting others.

This is multi-faceted and includes working at all levels to provide help for those who experience trauma, preventing trauma at collective and individual levels, and obviously preventing actions that cause harm.

More specifically, this includes… Trauma education for teachers, therapists, police, and people in other people-oriented professions. Good social safety nets and social justice since poverty and social injustice are major sources of trauma. Sustainability since ecological devastation is, directly or indirectly, another major source of trauma, and we’ll see more of it in the near future. And lowering the threshold for seeking out and finding help.

Another small piece of the puzzle is trauma-informed storytelling, as we see it in these two series. It’s one small step in the right direction.

How to deal with climate anxiety & grief?

More people seem to experience climate crisis anxiety and grief, often from a combination of the changes we experience personally and what we know from scientists. And it goes beyond just the climate crisis, it’s connected with the larger ecological crisis we are in the middle of.

As usual, there are several sides to this.

An opportunity to heal person wounds

One is that our current climate crisis can trigger our own personal wounds. Some of the grief and anxiety we experience may have roots early in our life, and it’s good to address this. In this way, the climate crisis triggers something in us that is in need of healing anyway, and if we are willing and able to invite in healing for it, it can be a great gift for us.

The beauty inherent in our grief and anxiety

The anxiety and grief we experience from the loss of ecosystems – and the loss of them as they were – is natural and healthy. It shows we are consciously and emotionally connected to the wider living systems that we already are physically connected with, embedded within, and dependent on for our survival and well-being. It comes from love, so there is an immense beauty inherent in this anxiety and grief.

It’s important to acknowledge and honor our anxiety and grief, and see the inherent beauty in it.

Practical steps in the world

What practical steps can we take in our life and the world?

It’s perhaps most helpful to engage in a constructive way, even if it’s something small. It can be something local, doable, and where we see the effects relatively quickly. For instance, composting, eating more local food and lower on the food chain, switching part of the lawn to wildflowers or food-producing plants, make a habit of doing something else – dance, go into nature – when we notice an impulse to shop, joining a local group working on fun and constructive projects, and so on.

We can also engage in visions of the future we want, and share it with others. We can do this through writing, art, reading, learning about alternatives, and perhaps even get started on this in our own life. For instance, and if we wanted to make a bigger step, we could join an ecovillage or ecovillage project.

It’s equally important to work on stopping the destruction and although some are cut out for this, it can also be draining unless we are very conscious of how we approach it. The more we see people as enemies, get focused on the destruction, expect quick results, go into victimhood and hopeless thought patterns, and so on, the easier we get burnt out. And the more we can avoid enemy-making, look at all the constructive signs and movements, keep the big and long term picture in mind, celebrate small victories, stay connected with nature and have a sense of connections with future generations, and so on, the more likely we are to avoid burnout.

Exploring it further for ourselves

We can also explore this further.

What stressful beliefs do I have about the climate crisis or the larger ecological crisis? What do I find when I explore these? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

What fears and identities are triggered? What do I find when I explore them? (Living Inquiries.)

How would it be to make a habit of releasing tension out of my system around this? (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises.)

How would it be to deeply acknowledge what comes up in me around it and intentionally connect with nature and past & future generations? And to do so with a group of similar-minded people? (Practices to Reconnect.)

How would it be to notice that it all – my thoughts and emotion and the world and the crisis – happen within and as what I am? (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXIX

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.

MOON LANDING

I watched Armstrong (2019) and was happy to see that they, through Armstrong in his own words, touched on some of the themes I see as most important with the lunar missions. (Yes, I have been a space enthusiast since childhood!)

A huge number of people worked on the missions and made them happen, and they – in turn – wouldn’t have been able to do it without the work of innumerable people living then and in previous generations. We see the astronauts on the screen and in the media, but they are just the very tiny tip of the iceberg. That’s how it often is. We stand on the shoulders of not only giants but innumerable people and beings and all past generations.

One of the great benefits of space missions, in general, is that we get to see Earth from the outside as one seamless living whole. And we get to hear the testimonies of people who experienced it themselves and how it changed them. This is the overview effect and it shifts, in a small but significant way, how we see ourselves.

We can say that the space missions are a product of the Earth locally transforming itself into humans, technology, and a desire for exploration. In this case, we are the sensory organs of Earth seeing itself as a whole and from the outside for the first time. (Armstrong didn’t mention this, obviously.)

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How we see ourselves in relation to the rest of nature

This is a big topic, and yet also very simple.

We are – in a very literal sense – part of nature. We are a local and temporary expression of the processes of this living planet. We are local and temporary expressions of the dynamics of this universe.

We are, equally obviously, animals. We share ancestors with all other animals and everything living. We are relatives, and if we look at it from the bigger picture, we are close relatives.

When we look at specifics, we also find how we are animals and share a huge amount with other animals and living beings. Other animals, and especially those closer to us, obviously have emotions much as we do. They even have cognitive processes not dissimilar to our own. They have personalities. They suffer. They want to stay alive. They have culture.

There is an immense beauty in this. To the extent we take this in, it can bring a profound sense of belonging. It can even give a deep sense of meaning and encourage us to live in a way that takes all life into account.

After all, we are part of the same living systems and processes. Our own health and well-being, as individuals and civilization, is intimately connected with and dependent on the health and well-being of this larger living whole.

I find it slightly bizarre that some still insist that we are categorically different from other animals, and perceive and live as if we are somehow separate from Earth.

I understand that it comes from a wish to see humans as special and different, maybe so we can feel better about ourselves, or from a wish to use this fantasy as an excuse to exploit nature and other species.

It’s also possible that just like a teenager often will distance themselves from their parents so they can gain some autonomy and discover who they are as individuals, humanity has needed to distance themselves from nature for the same reason.

And yet, the effect of the view of separation is terrible. It gives us a sense of disconnection, separation, and existential loneliness. The power-over orientation embedded in it causes a huge amount of suffering for the other species and destruction of the ecosystems we depend on for our own life.

Equally seriously, we treat ourselves as we treat other species and the Earth. We are often disconnected from our bodies, sensuality, instincts, and anything we consider “animal” – and that leads us to either deny it or over-indulge in it, and inevitably both.

The benefits from this fantasy of separation are hollow victories. And the damage to ourselves, other species, and Earth is severe.

Of course, I understand why some consciously hold a view of separation, and many – perhaps all of us – hold it somewhere in our system. It comes from centuries and millennia of views of separation in western society. It has a long tradition. It’s held deeply in our systems, and it takes some effort to make it conscious, shift into a more realistic view, and allow this conditioning to soften and perhaps fall away.

How can we support this shift in ourselves?

We can expose ourselves to the insights of others who have explored this, for instance through deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, big history, the Universe Story, or similar approaches.

We can identify views of separation in ourselves and examine each one. Is it true? What happens when I perceive and live as if it’s true? What do I get out of holding onto it? What am I afraid would happen if I didn’t operate from it? What’s more true for me? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore how our mind creates the experience of separation, how sensations and thoughts combine to create this fantasy of separation, and what’s associated with it. (Living Inquiries.)

We can explore how we imagine we – as individuals and humanity – may look to other species, ecosystems, and Earth as a whole, and imagine what advice they may have for us. (For instance, Big Mind process.)

We can engage in the Practices to Reconnect developed by Joanna Macy and others.

We can engage in Earth-centered rituals and spiritual practices.

We can discover what we really are – capacity for the world as it appears to us – and find the oneness of the world as it appears to us.

Another important shift is to recognize that all of this is part of the processes of Earth and the universe. We are the universe and Earth locally and temporarily taking itself as separate from itself. This sense of separation is not inherently wrong, it’s part of life exploring itself.

I usually start out with this as the context, and this time chose to start from a more conventional or human view and include this at the end.

Documentary: The rights of nature – a global movement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR1ReB_ZHxD2j3IPJNFOzORbf4gwkCNTq1dGD-ZxIm7ij_wh_WFT_aDK5rc&v=kuFNmH7lVTA&feature=youtu.be

Description from the creators:

Western views and the legal system tend to view nature as property, and as a resource from which wealth is extracted, a commodity whose only value is to provide for human needs. But for millennia indigenous communities have viewed themselves as part of nature.

As pressures on ecosystems mount and as conventional laws seem increasingly inadequate to address environmental degradation, communities, cities, regions and countries around the world are turning to a new legal strategy known as The Rights of Nature.

This film takes viewers on a journey that explores the more recent origins of this legal concept, and its application and implementation in Ecuador, New Zealand, and the United States. Learn how constitutional reforms adopted in Ecuador have helped recognize nature as a legal entity, and how partnerships between the M?ori and the government of New Zealand have led to personhood status for rivers, lakes and forests, and a renewed sense of balance between people and nature. See how the Rights of Nature function in the urban setting of Santa Monica, California.

The film explores the successes and challenges inherent in creating new legal structures that have the potential to maintain and restore ecosystems while achieving a balance between humans and nature.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXVIII

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.

VALUES, STRATEGIES, AND POLITICS

Most humans have shared values, at least when we drill down to find the most basic expression of our values. The conflicts are often more rooted in how inclusive or exclusive our sense of “we” is and differences in strategies.

So in politics, as in the rest of life, it’s often helpful to differentiate values and strategies. We can identify our respective values. See how similar or different they are, and they tend to be more similar the more we drill down to find their essence. And then explore collective strategies that fit those values.

It’s of course not quite that simple. Sometimes, we may be too invested in a particular strategy to be open to this type of exploration. And it may be difficult to get people on board with this exploration on a larger scale. But it’s a good starting point and general guideline for ourselves and we can bring it into whatever groups we are part of.

If we find ourselves invested in a particular strategy, it helps to take a step back and identify our values and the essence of these values. This, in turn, may help us be more flexible and explore a range of possible strategies that all fit the deeper values.

As mentioned above, there is also the question of how wide our circle of “us” is. Does it include all of life, future generations, and non-human species? Or is it more exclusive? Whether it’s wide or narrow, the deeper values may be the same, for instance, to support life. A more narrow circle of “us” may reflect cognitive limitations, seeing a wider circle as unfeasible, or investment in a view of life as a zero-sum game. Differentiating values and strategies may also here help us open our minds to find win-win strategies, at least sometimes.

This topic came to mind since it seems that some who get into conspiracy theories – like QAnon – seem to share values with people outside of the conspiracy world. They just have (very) different strategies, based on a very different set of information and ideas about how the world works. Although the values may be shared, it doesn’t mean the info and ideas about how the world works are equal. One is based on verifiable information and the other on flimsy disinformation. But identifying and emphasizing the shared values may be a starting point for dialogue.

Thanks to Marshall Rosenberg and Non-Violent Communication for pointing out the difference in needs and strategies, or – as I wrote about it here – values and strategies.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXV

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.

A CONSPIRACY TO USE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS

I love this, although I would rephrase it slightly: “Just wait till conspiracy theorists discover they’re part of a conspiracy to use conspiracy theories to spread disinformation.”

If there is a real conspiracy out there, it’s that some intentionally use conspiracy theories – and conspiracy theorists – to spread disinformation.

And through that, influence politics (e.g. QAnon with Trump support), sow confusion and doubt around certain topics (petroleum industry with climate change), and generally create chaos and polarization (Russia with the US and Europe).

Conspiracy theorists are being used, and they often don’t realize it.

I love this one too. It’s true we are all the universe and Earth and – if we see it that way – Spirit. Our experiences are the experiences Spirit wants to have through and as us. At the same time, if I lived in the US, I would do anything I could – through voting and getting out the votes – to prevent a second Trump presidency.

CLICK READ MORE TO SEE MORE POSTS LIKE THIS….

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXIV

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.

WHAT DO CONSERVATIVES CONSERVE?

Politics doesn’t interest you because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well

– Edith to Sherlock Holmes in Enola Holmes

A question I often ask myself is: what do conservatives want to conserve?

It’s of course many things depending on the person and the brand of conservatism.

Some of which I personally wholeheartedly agree with: Conserving nature and God’s creation. Conserving our world so future generations can have a good life. Conserving some traditional elements of our culture. (Which doesn’t mean to exclude anything else.) Conserving freedom of speech and religion. Conserving – and ideally improving – our democracy. And so on.

And some of which I don’t at all support. Mainly, anything that has to do with conserving privilege for the few at the cost of other groups.

This includes different variations of overt or subtle racism, bigotry, and prejudice, and also preserving unjust economic, political, and social structures.

And it includes preserving the privilege of humans at the cost of ecosystems and other species, and preserving the privilege of the current generation at the cost of future generations.

From my perspective, policies that don’t take the big picture into account – and the interests of all life – seem profoundly and inherently flawed.

THE 2016 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FORECAST WAS WRONG?

I have written about this in 2016 and earlier this year, but it feels worth mentioning again: Some folks still say that the polling or forecast for the 2016 US presidential election was wrong.

I mostly listened to the 538 podcast in the lead-up to that election, and I usually avoid US mainstream media, so I don’t know what they all wrote and said.

But when it comes to what I have seen, it seems that the problem has to do with people not understanding even the basics of statistics more than the polling itself.

538 said (as far as I remember) that there was a 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 chance of Trump winning the election (25-20 percent). Those are not bad odds at all. It means that 1 out of 4 or 5 times the polling numbers looks like this, Trump will win. Nobody should be surprised that he won the presidency.

This year, most – two weeks before the election – say there is a 90% chance Biden will win, which means there is a 1 to 10 chance Trump will win. Out of ten times the polling looks like this, Trump will win once. Even that’s not terrible odds. (Nate Silver at 538 says Trump has between 1 to 5 and 1 to 20 chance.)

How can you be surprised when Trump’s odds are in a reasonably good range? Again, I assume it has to do with reporters and other people not understanding even the most basic statistics – the type of thing everyone should have learned the first few years in school.

And that, in turn, may say something about the US education system.

There is also an over-arching question here: Why are polls important? Why not wait and see the result after the election. I understand polls are important for the candidates to target their campaigns, but why is it important for regular folks? To me, it seems more like entertainment than anything very useful.

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Charities show us where society has failed

Charities are mirrors. They shouldn’t exist in a healthy and functioning society.

The amount of charitable and non-profit organizations that are established to serve the underserved is a direct reflection on the brokenness of a society. […]

Find out what local and global legitimate charities exist, and we will know where the current system is failing us. There are other ways the system has to change but we can use charities as one index for what to get on the next ballot for change.

– my friend MB on social media

When I first came to the US, I was shocked to see that charities were trying to pick up the pieces of a failed society. They were doing a job, in a fragmented and piecemeal fashion, that wouldn’t be needed in a well functioning society. And they were trying to do a job that, if needed, should be done by us collectively, through governance and government.

And that’s what we see globally as well. Why do we have charities and NGOs working on poverty, clean water, hunger, basic medical care, animal rights, sustainability, and so on? Because we – collectively – through governance, have failed to take care of it.