Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Emperor's Wearing No Clothes and we don't even notice.

As we hurtle on toward a rather uncertain future, lulled by the sweet songs of Mother Culture whispered continually in our ear telling us "everything' OK", it is inspiring to find others who recognize the problems and who are working toward solutions. I've been enjoying my conversations about paradigms, change, and what to do about the future. However, I can't solve much sitting at my computer philosophizing, so I must get back to work in the world as it is, trying to do my bit to live out my own vision of a way forward. In parting I thought I would share some thoughts from a book I'm in the middle of, Sustaining Life edited by E. Chivian and A Bernstein. The following is from the forward.

"Edward O. Wilson once said about ants, "We need them to survive, but they don't need us at all." The same, in fact, could be said about countless other insects, bacteria, fungi, plankton, plants, and other organisms. This fundamental truth, however, is largely lost to many of us. Rather, we humans generally act as if we were totally independent of Nature, as if we could do without most of its creatures and the life-giving services they provide, as if the natural world were designed to be an infinite source of products and services for our use alone and an infinite sink for our wastes."

They go on to talk a bit about species and habitat loss and general environmental degradation.

"This heedless degradation of the planet is driven by many factors, not the least of which is our inability to take seriously the implications of our rapidly growing populations and or our unsustainable consumption of its resources, largely by people in industrialized countries, but increasingly by those in the developing world. Ultimately, our behavior is the result of a basic failure to recognize that human beings are an inseparable part of Nature and that we cannot damage it severely without severely damaging ourselves."

"This general neglect of the relationship between biodiversity and human health, we believe, is a very serious problem, for not only are the full human dimensions of biodiversity loss failing to inform policy decisions, but the general public, lacking an understanding of the health risks involved, is not grasping the magnitude of the biodiversity crisis and not developing a sense of urgency to address it. Tragically, aesthetic, ethical, religious, even economic arguments have not been enough to convince them.

Our paradigm has gotten in the way! Most people don't really see a problem. Those who do, see it at an intellectual level that leaves them hopelessly wanting to do something but frustrated by efforts that produce no meaningful results. The truth is we can't keep doing what we are doing and expect things to change. A new program won't save us, only a fundamentally different way of seeing the world (a new mind), so that our every thoughtless action moves us in a new direction, has a chance.

I'm reminded of a line from a They Might Be Giants' song.

"...I like to change your mind,
by hitting it with a rock, he said..."

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