After reading Glenn Parton’s wonderful essay The Machine in Our Heads, which I would urge everyone to read, I was inspired to try again to articulate, in simple terms, the environmental philosophy that underlies much of what I have come to believe in the last five years, and which has driven much of my recent lifestyle and behaviour change, and the writing of this blog. Here’s the latest attempt, talking to myself out loud:

  1. I believe that Earth, our planet, is a single organism, a self-organizing and self-managing system, which evolves deliberately and ‘consciously’ to maximize the diversity, the resilience, and the well-being of all its utterly connected component life forms. Like the cells and organs of a human body, the purpose of each creature is to look after and care for its community, and in so doing contribute to the continuance, balance and health of the Whole. In this sense Earth is sacred — worthy of our absolute respect, reverence and devotion. [Basis: Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, Suzuki’s Sacred Balance etc.]
  2. I believe that our current culture, which we call ‘civilization’, was a well-intentioned human invention designed to adapt to, and cope with, a sudden global scarcity of food, which probably arose as a result of the last ice-age. Although this invention was initially successful, producing agriculture, work specialization, and urbanization, its consequences have included war, crime, poverty, overcrowding, epidemic disease, environmental devastation, species extinction, ecological fragility, global warming, massive psychological illness, and violence on a magnitude previously inconceivable in Earth’s history. [Basis: Economists Peter Jay & Marshall Sahlins Original Affluence theories, Diamond’s works, Pilger’s New Rulers of the World, etc.]
  3. I believe that our current culture, which we call ‘civilization’, has, as a result, made all of humanity mentally ill, and physically degraded the planet to the breaking point. [Basis: Quinn’s Story of B etc.]
  4. I believe that we need to deal with the pandemic psychological damage caused by this culture first, because we cannot galvanize the will, effort, and resources to create a wholly new and radically different culture until and unless we have
    • a clear picture of what our civilization has done to us, and to our planet,
    • a clear understanding that there are no simple, moderate solutions within the vast scope of human ingenuity, no easy way out,
    • a comfort with our ability to live without civilization, and
    • an appreciation of what that means: not a savage, primitive, subsistence, nomadic, hand-to-mouth existence, not a turning back of the clock, but instead, after a period of massive social change and modest sacrifice, moving forward to a paradise on Earth
  5. I believe that man is not naturally violent, acquisitive, greedy, negligent, aggressive or destructive. These are all symptoms of stress-related mental illness caused by our culture. No one is to blame. [Basis: Hall’s The Hidden Dimension etc.]
  6. I believe that the psychological and spiritual healing necessary to cure our pandemic mental illness will require a combination of education, to learn about the true cost of civilization and re-learn the alternative ways to live, and support to help each other heal. That education and support will have to be personal and one-on-one. It will be difficult, because we’ve been so well indoctrinated to believe that our brutal, violent, destructive civilization is the only way to live — our religions, our institutions, our stories, our moral systems, our reasoning systems, everything we’re taught from early childhood, even our language is imbued with cultural bias. But as civilization hurtles us ever more alarmingly to crisis upon crisis, and the absurdity and unsustainability of civilization becomes more obvious, the willingness to create a new culture and abandon the old one will accelerate. And humans lived successfully and peacefully for three million years before civilization culture, so our instinctive knowledge of how to live without civilization, the knowledge of a Sacred Earth culture, is in our DNA. We’ve just forgotten, and we can learn to remember and rediscover that knowledge. [Basis: Jensen’s A Language Older than Words etc.]
  7. I believe that spending time away from civilization is critical to this healing. We can’t listen to our instincts if we’re surrounded by civilization’s louder noises, and we can’t reconnect with the Sacred Earth if it’s only an abstract concept.
  8. I believe that if we fail to heal ourselves, and fail to create a new healthy culture in time, our world will suffer a series of eco-tastrophes by the end of this century, which will bring an end to civilization anyway, but much more horrifically than if we can replace it voluntarily first. But I’m sorry to say I don’t believe we will act in time to create a new Sacred Earth culture. The old culture simply has too much momentum, and belief systems and behaviours change slowly. The old culture is moving too fast and no one is in control, so even though we are already timidly applying the brakes (with efforts like the Kyoto Accord, population growth reduction in some countries etc.) I don’t think we can stop before we crash. And many of the victims of the old culture — corporatists, neoconservatives, and religious fundamentalists especially — will fight us fiercely and incessantly to prevent anyone from taking their foot off the growth ‘accelerator’. They are the worst addicts to our civilization culture, and will be the hardest to liberate. [Basis: Gould’s Full House, data from the UCS, Census Bureau, Worldwatch Institute, etc.]
  9. I believe we need to try for a ‘soft landing’ anyway, no matter how hopeless it may seem. I have no use for neo-survivalists and salvationists, the fatalists at both extremes of the political spectrum who are actually looking forward to the crash that ends our civilization, in the belief that it’s inevitable so we might as well get it over with. I’ve already described in my How to Save the World Roadmap the things I believe must be done in order to avoid eco-tastrophe and bring us, with minimal suffering, into the Sacred Earth culture. My novel (in progress) will describe what life in this future culture could be, will be, like.
  10. I believe we need a Plan B, in case the voluntary measures in my Roadmap aren’t enough. If civilization is analogous to a car (with 6.3 billion passengers all fighting for control of the wheel) driving too fast on black ice toward a pile-up ahead, then the Roadmap, Plan A, is most of us applying the brake together with all the force we can muster. Plan B is to ditch the car, to derail it by more drastic means, in the belief that anything is better than a high-speed crash. Plan B is the radical environmentalist’s reluctant manifesto, which involves removing those with their foot stubbornly on the accelerator, by force. More on Plan B later this week.

Please let me know what you think of Glenn Parton’s essay. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I have little use for psychologists, but I found Parton’s paper very compelling. If you enjoy The Machine in Our Heads, you might also like his Humans in the Wilderness paper, published in the remarkable Canadian eco-philosophy magazine, Trumpeter.

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  1. dave you got it – i’m right there with you

  2. shari says:

    Dave, thanks for putting out this essay. Unusual to see a psychological analysis, especially connecting the global with the individual. I’ll have to think about this essay a bit more…my own paradigm is that the ‘false self’ is a separated self, from nature, from the divine, from our own original self. I don’t like the term false, even though it is accurate. Seems too negative.

  3. Jon Husband says:

    Thanks as always Dave. Points 1 – 4 are key for me, and I focus in on 2 and 3 – the “dis-ease” we are living is cultural, and this is where we must start.Given your career, you may know of or remember this name – Roger Harrison. He was one of the “grand old men” of the OD world, a contemporaryu of Dick Beckhardts and the Lippett brothers and so on. One of the inventors of “Power and Role Negotiations” in group processes, etc., etc. He would have had much to say about Knowledge “management”, particularly the tacit side.He wrote a brief piece in the mid-90’s, which he passed out at a small private workshop I attended, titled “A Time for Letting Go”. In it he suggested that organizations and the dominant mental model of growth have many many parallels with the world of addiction (something I am sure you and I would agree with), and that consulting – the work he did, you did, I did – was so very often collusive, enabling of that addiction.And then he goes on to examine the grand tradition of detachment found in most responses to addiction and codependency.I have never found this article in a book or magazine, and just found my paper copy whilst cleaning. It was extraordinarily impactful on me and my life when I first read it in 1997.I have posted it on my blog, attributing it to Roger, here:http://www.blogue.com/wirearchy/2004/03/21#a650

  4. Dirtgrain says:

    You might have read these already, but David Edwards recently published two articles that somewhat relate to this topic (he deals with the effects of the corporate world on our psychology and identity): Breaking the Chains of Illusion and Breaking the Chains of Illusions — Part Two: The Catastrophe Of Corporate Work. Edwards’ book Burning All Illusions also is a good source on this issue. See also Fritjof Capra’s Web of Life if you haven’t.

  5. shari says:

    Dave, Jon and Dirtgrain: what a wealth of articles. I’m all set for my week’s worth of reading.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks, everyone. Shari — I agree with your suggested renaming of ‘false self’. Jon & Jan: Thanks for the additional excellent reading sources.

  7. I have been reading your articles for awhile and this one was just too good not to comment. Great perpective, I believe alot of people are coming to this same point of view. I have been studying with this shaman Martin Prechtel who has this same point of view but from a Mayan spiritual perpective. http://www.floweringmountain.com It is really cool to see both views, one spiritual and one more logical.

  8. Don Dwiggins says:

    Must be a good essay — it reminds several folks of connected works. Here’s mine:Re 1: I mentioned Elisabet Sahtouris’ “Earthdance” previously; it certainly fits here. You can find it online at ratical.org/lifeweb.Re 3: Another book that makes this point is Gary Alexander’s “eGaia”. Shari, he also talks about separation, using the term “disconnection”.Re 7: Again, a book that I mentioned previously: Paul Rezendes’ “The Wild Within”.Re 10: Dave, as you know, I’m also working on possibilities for a Plan B. My belief, however, is that the idea of a few bright people inventing a plan that everyone then implements simply won’t work (see my comment to your review of Singer’s book). I also believe that trying to meet force with greater force is doomed from the start. Finally, I believe that the seeds of the solution are all around us, and that the best use of bright people is to recognize them, raise awareness within and among them, and act as something roughly analogous to gardeners to an organically growing solution. This will take a combination of boldness, humility, and patience. (For an interesting analogy, Google for “sahtouris imaginal disks”.)

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