The destruction of the natural world has created an emergency on planet earth. Over 50% of the earth’s population of 7 billion people (Population Clock) are urbanised (Source: United Nations) and therefore cut-off from the natural world. Why is our world sick? What does it means for us as individuals?
Extinction emergency on planet earth
How ironic that, as the Earth enters a new period of extinction, humans could be among the first casualties. [Source: a new report, led by US universities of Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley; echoing Duke University’s findings last year. BBC News, June, 2015]. Man’s abusive attitude to Mother Earth is having far reaching consequences: for all other species, the environment, the atmosphere, the planet’s future.
The current extinction rate is more than 100 times higher than other periods. Since 1900 more than 400 more vertebrates have disappeared. [Source: BBC News] Surviving animals lead dismal lives in captivity. [See my blog post: Vegan food for the Soul].
Humans are uniquely connected to our planetary eco-system. We are no more or less important than the humble ant or bee. Or any of the other parts of the eco-system.
The survival of bees has far-reaching implications for all other species’ survival on planet earth. If bees disappear, the whole eco-system collapses. Conversely, if human beings disappear, the natural world would thrive. As scary as it may sound, if the earth really is a self-regulating organism, it would make sense to get rid of us first.
There are many signs in nature and warnings from scientists that we are facing an emergency on planet earth. Nevertheless most humans societies still act as separate from and superior to nature. Wisdom of the old ways is looked down upon. Living in harmony with the cycles of nature is seen as quaint. Regardless of all our technological capabilities, mankind’s consciousness is stuck in an old story. A medieval fantasy that the world’s resources are infinite. That we must divide, conquer and rule. And that nature must be dominated.
In ‘World as Lover, World as Self (1991) Joanna Macy explains: “The crisis that threatens our planet, whether seen from its military, ecological, or social aspect, derives from a dysfunctional and pathological notion of the self. It derives from a mistake about our place in the order of things. It is a delusion that the self is so separate and fragile that we must delineate and defend its boundaries, that it is so small and so needy that we must endlessly acquire and endlessly consume, and that it is so aloof that as individuals, corporations, nation-states, or species, we can be immune to what we do to other beings.”
Whether in the area of politics, economy, religion or private life, individuals pursue their own interests, egoistic ideas and goals. In the course of this ruthless striving, we exploit fellow human beings and nature alike.
Currently, man is the most dangerous life form on earth. Our appetite for destruction is unsurpassed. The planet is suffering. Yet we still believe we are a Superior Human. Climate sceptics still won’t believe this attitude could threaten our life on earth. They ignore the emergency on planet earth.
The over-population emergency on planet earth
I’m going to mention The Pope now. Not due to any personal religious beliefs, but because he still has a huge influence over the population of earth.
In May 2015, in Encyclical Letter On Care For Our Common Home, Pope Francis addressed climate change, loss of biodiversity, global inequality, and much more. [Source: The Vatican]. He called for the richest nations to take responsibility and see the impact of our lifestyles, choices, attitudes on the rest of the planet.
Even the The Pope is warning that nature, animals and the poorest human beings will suffer most as a consequence of mankind’s current superiority and separateness. Dissappointingly he and the Cartholic Church avoid the issue of over-population which is causing so many other problems. Population growth is an emergency on planet earth.
In Brave New World Revisited (1958) Aldeous Huxley warned about the dangers of future over-population and observed an “increasing mental sickness” in society even then. He quoted philosopher-psychiatrist, Dr. Erich Fromm:
“Our contemporary Western society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is increasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and the capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton who pays for his human failure with increasing mental sickness, and with despair hidden under a frantic drive for work and so-called pleasure.”
Today over 50% of the earth population of 7 billion people (Population Clock) are urbanised (Source: United Nations) and therefore cut-off from the natural world.
In David Attenborough Meets President Obama (BBC iPlayer, June 2015) President Obama, a fan of the renowned natural historian and broadcaster since childhood, spoke of his children’s fears about climate change. The President recently signed an agreement with China for both nations to reduce carbon (greenhouse gas) emmissons to 25% below 2005 levels by 2025. However he admitted: “The climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it.” Obama’s term in office ends in 18 months with so much more to do to address the emergency on planet earth.
Sir David Attenborough says: “The young people, they care. …I think it’s more idealistic than that. They actually believe that human species have no right to destroy and despoil regardless. They actually feel that very powerfully.
“What is required is an understanding, a gut feeling, that you understand the natural world is part of your inheritence. This is planet on which we live. It’s the only one we’ve got and we’ve got to protect it. And people do feel that: deeply and instinctively.”
The mindset emergency on planet earth
We live in extraordinary times. Climate change, ecological and economic crisis, pollution, species extinction, scarcity of resources, as well as social unrest, are all signs that our planet is in great distress. We humans are being called to wake up. Dramatically. To our physical as well as our physical and psychological interconnectedness to other-than-human species and the rest of the natural world.
As human beings awaken, we may ask: why we are destroying the very home which supports and nourishes us? Why do we regard the world as a huge host organism. The German psychologist Thorwald Dethlefsen, made correlations between the increased rate of cancer growth and man’s lack of ability to live in harmony with his/her host planet.
Cancer cells regard the body as a host organism to be ruthlessly exploited.* Cancer cells are oblivious to the fact that the death of the body means the death of the cancer cells too. In same way modern man does not realise that if he destroys nature, he will destroy himself. The cancer cells lack awareness: of there being a greater, encompassing whole (the body). Is man like a cancer cell? Are cancer cells mirroring the way human beings exploit the planet?
[* Source: Authors Bodo J Baginski and Shalila Sharamon: ‘Reiki Universal Life Energy’, Life Rhythm Publications, 1988.]
Waking up to the emergency on planet earth
It may be possible if we work in co-operation with other human beings we to overcome the emergency on planet earth. But how does mankind make the transition from this apocalyptic scenario to living in relationship with the rest of life?
The answers are not easy and human beings face a painful time ahead.
Those living in ‘first world’ countries maybe forced to sacrifice luxuries so far taken for granted, and curb their appetite for consumption. Meanwhile, many people in in developing countries may not survive due to the ravages of climate change, pollution and dwindling resources. Animals fare less well.
The twentieth-century spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff argued that the consciousness of modern humanity has devolved, no evolved. His classic work All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tale to His Grandson, Gurdjieff argued that modern man is in a state of waking sleep, a low-grade hypnosis. Part of this sleep involves dissociation: the body walks through its daily routines while the mind ponders grievances of the past, and fantasises about the future.
Feelings of powerlessness, work overwhelm and insecurity, lack of time, financial debt and countless distractions (social media, showbiz news, television, soaps, etc) all keep us in a sleep walking state.
If you compare an average industrialised nation to a human adult, you might say that it is like an overweight, unfit, dysfunctional and mentally sick person. This person still finds it too painful, frightening and inconvenient to look in the mirror. It might take the equivalent of a heart attack, serious illness or the loss of a loved one to find enough motivation to face it’s shadow.
Just as the horrors of the 1960s Vietnam War spawned the Peace Movement, what momentous events are needed for worldwide spiritual growth to occur today?
Conclusion: The Greening of the Self
In her book World as Lover, World as Self (1991) Joanna Macy talks about the arising of ‘the ecological self’ . She describes the human ego identities eroding in the face of increasingly unavoidable suffering around us. An example of this is in summer 2015 when over 11,000 Icelanders opening their homes to people fleeing the Syrian refugee crisis. The statement ‘We are one’ can no longer be dismissed as spiritual wishful thinking.
Science’s ‘systems theory’ and ‘cybernetics’ recognises all of life is dynamically composed of self-organizing systems, patterns that are sustained in and by their relationships. Finally, adding to this holistic thinking, is the resurgence in nondualistic spiritualities and the interconnectedness of the internet. All of these recent global developments combine to undermine our small ego self, which sees being human as different from and superior to the rest of life.
These factors are breaking down old boundaries and definitions of what it means to be human, into a more connected , equal way of being which respects the whole. Joanna Macy says: “Instead of egoself, we witness the emergence of an eco-self.“
We shouldn’t be ashamed of our tears for what is going on in the world. If we let ourselves experience the depth of our own pain in response to the world’s pain, we can develop true compassion and empathy, heal ourselves and cultivate a new awareness and vision for the world. In this way, if we let our hearts break open, there is the potential for the whole world to heal.
At the same time this is not about navel gazing. Many already awake, spiritual people need to take more active responsibility for their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health. Each one of us has a responsibility to love and care for our true selves.
Part of this process involves having the courage to face our our unconscious shadow material as well as healing our psychological/emotional wounds. If we stop denying our own shadow and pain we can face the global crisis consciously. In our external world, this means expanding our conscious awareness of how our inner world and mindset impacts the physical world.
For example, being aware of our individual and collective global footprint and our day-to-day choices, i.e. waste, environmental damage, unethical consumerism, etc.
Abused and oppressed people have a ‘learned helplessness’ where an abused person only sees the source of power as outside of themselves. The human evolution is a step-by-step recovery from this powerlessness. From an apathic, hopeless depression.
You have the power to shape your own destiny – and that of the world
- 10 Easy Ways to Help Yourself then the Planet, see blog post: 10 Step SuperHero Checklist.
- We could be entering the next stage of planetary and human evolution. The most well-known spiritual revolution theories describe how mankind’s current global challenges from a higher perspective, see: Spiritual revolution or death?
- For more powerful illustrations by Steve Cutts, a London-based illustrator and animator, see: www.stevecutts.com.
- World as Lover, World as Self: A Guide to Living Fully in Turbulent Times by Joanna Macy (Parallax Press, Rev. 2007)
- Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone (New World Library, 2012)