Note: First published on Facebook this morning, but I wanted to preserve it somewhere else.
I love Facebook. It asks me what’s on my mind when I visit. So here goes: For those who are bouncing around in the media’s portrayal of a dramatic binary opposition, represented as two political parties vying for the attention and support of the political will of the people of this nation, I just want to call attention to the underlying truth that’s been with us — and building in strength — through most of my life time. Deep, institutionally-based presidential power.
Simply put, the difference that all this daily uproar we are currently experiencing as “news” is supposedly all about is superficial. In psychology family dynamics it’s called uproar. Uproar is a power play game where one individual gets everyone else confused in a chaos of personal argumentation while they advance an agenda of their own underneath the atmospheric haze that results.
I think this current administration has done us a favor and made no effort to disguise that superficiality. But now we have to come to grips with the facts. It WAS disguised all along.
Apologists for the Democratic Administrations of one of those two parties need to look at what the last, inappropriately-awarded Peace Prize version of their party was really about. And face this: it was not a big deviation from the previous administrations, including Clinton’s, and certainly including the one that put my generation into Vietnam, and of course the one that put us on this path to unending military engagement in the Strategic Ellipse, an engagement ever seeking to expand across The Arc of Instability (search those terms, you’ll find the descriptions if you don’t know what they refer to; your military leaders and political policy professionals certainly know what they mean) where, incidentally, you’ll find many of the raw materials needed to keep industrial civilization growing. And that’s what most people really want, isn’t it? So who really wants to look beneath the uproar?
Well, in case you do. There are voices out there talking about it.
Here’s one just this morning, I’ll link it below. It came through what amounts to my news feed of headlines in one of my email accounts.
As a little background to the article: I’ve looked (deeply) into the upwardly growing arc of power in the executive branch of the U.S. I found that the basis for that growth in power was put forward as a coherent theory during Reagan Administration. Remember Reagan? A favorite and a hero president to many? Also, incidentally, a grade B movie actor, but good with remembering his lines, and talented enough to act presidential on stage in front of a nation tuned into those news feeds with their televisions.
Well… during his administration this thing came up called the Unitary Executive Theory (UET). It is a legal theory that delves into the intentions of the Founders and their Constitution we now live with, and their constructive concepts about the relative powers of the Executive Branch. The legal scholars who were advancing this theory also started a legal “club” known as the Federalist Society. Please look it up if you don’t know what it is. At least five of the SCOTUS justices are associated with it. It didn’t even exist before the Reagan Administration.
Hmmm. A legal society intent on changing the nation’s interpretation of the Constitution that didn’t even exist thirty eight years ago now one of the biggest and most influential legal societies in the nation….? According to their textualist and originalist-based theory, the President was supposed to have more power than they thought presidents at that point, in the early 1980s, had.
And, guess what, presidents since then have been trying to act out that theory in order to make it a reality. That includes Clinton and Obama. Presidents want more power. It makes their job easier. Trump isn’t disguising that in any way at all. And I, for one, appreciate that he’s bringing it out in the open. That way this nation can decide, finally, if it wants to be a nation of authoritarian followers or not. I hope we get to decide for ourselves.
The UET, of course, can be a troubling idea to anyone who might be concerned that a presidency can move towards something more dictatorial in nature — which, as a political system, is one of the noted dangers of a presidential system. I don’t know if they teach that in high school political science classes. It wasn’t mentioned in mine as I recall. I had to find it on my own.
Jacob Bacharach doesn’t mention the UET in his article. But what he is describing is the result of it, especially as it was expressed throughout the much maligned previous Obama Presidency — maligned by the people who now support the current President, whose Presidency is following the Obama arc of seeking ever greater presidential power, with a few hyperbolic steroids added to buff those presidential muscles, but not maligned by most of those who are now in binary opposition to the current Trumpians. Like I say, superficial.
Trump’s Brutality is Part of Obama’s Legacy Now by Jacob Bacharach
I agree wholeheartedly with Manning’s and others’ assessment of the ecological contradiction that is the process of creating vast monocultures for the survival purposes of one single species. I’m thinking here of a recent youtube interview with environmental journalist Richard Manning as I compose this post. Here’s a link to that video:
However, I also feel there’s a factor that does not get fair and equal billing that is a systemic part of agriculture. Nearly all who go after agriculture as a root and therefore logically linear cause tend to fail to observe that it is not a linear progression from the discovery of doing agriculture to the development of cities. Cities and agriculture co-evolved as systems. We don’t tend to think in systems so we often have difficulties recognizing them.
Agriculture as practiced with the rise of cities became a monocultural process taking over habitats, as Manning notices early in the conversation, that would not have been needed without the populations that clustered in another form of habitat monocultural transformation, cities. Cities and their trade routes.
If you study the collapse of complex societies, and discover books by investigators of the process like Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies, first published in 1988, the correlation between energy and complexity becomes clear. If you don’t want to read the book, he gives a pretty easy to follow synopsis of his argument in this youtube talk of “Why Societies Collapse and What it Means for Us“. Throughout he invites us to draw our own conclusions.
Cities and agriculture clearly share a co evolutionary dynamic, and it’s that dynamic that would have had to have been addressed quite some time ago, and was not. I’ve concluded it could not be. Thus my dour perspective on our circumstances. If I want to bring about depression I just try to imagine getting these complex institutional arrangements that make up the civic centers that, linked together, are the whole of global civilization, to consciously simplify themselves. That’s actually what collapse will be, a simplification process. Ironically, our social complexity is the result of our monocultural self-centered efforts at extracting maximum energy from the earth, that, coincidentally, destroys the natural complexities that make up the higher, more sustainable levels of succession. Human social complexity is a contradiction to biological complexity.
I don’t see any way that an intentional complexity reversal could have ever happened. Not through any en mass form of intentionality, such as that proposed and fantasized through the notion of democracy. Some of us may opt out individually, but that’s just not enough to have much effect on the whole. We are the weirdos, the kooks to be laughed at and reviled, Sometimes we can be a little more than individuals as minor movements and cults. We are not necessarily stupid as a species individually. But as history has shown, over and over, we are not very good at holistic perceptions through our complex, institutionally-based societies.
Jane Jacobs made an eye opening case for that very human-based feature back in the sixties with her revolutionary thoughts she expressed in her book, a book that many “experts” in academia at the time tried to ignore at the time, The Economy of Cities. In it she makes the simple but glaring recognition that cities and agriculture are codependent on each other.
She does not make the case that together they create a kind of monocultural disease. Maybe she would have with what has emerged from the process today. But she does reveal the systemic logic of their inescapable relationship.
Therefore, if you want to reverse the habitat destruction of agriculture, the city must be included in that whole problem, you can’t just go after agriculture as the source of the problem. Well, I’d say that’s unthinkable enough of a problem for a large portion of humanity participating in the system for it to be an impossibility no matter how much information is thrown into the works of complex societies.
The ontology of complexity is like an artificial intelligence, a Matrix if you will, that takes over as a kind of mind control, though not in the authoritarian sense of that. People willingly participate, and the word for that is hegemony. Here’s how Stan Goff puts it in a quaint little presentation about the fears of tyranny in our pseudo democratic society or what Sheldon Wolin came to call just before his death an “inverted totalitarian” system:
It’s much easier to exercise control over a population whenever they consent to their own domination. They sort of accept the official story, accept the official ideology and then we all just sort of go around and cooperate. That kind of control, where we internalize the control, is hegemony. Where when I come up and hold a gun on you and you do it out of naked fear, that’s coercion. And the idea is you’ve got sort of hegemony on one pole exercising ruling class power, and coercion on the other pole, and as hegemony fails then coercion becomes the more prominent instrument.
People adapt to the institutions and what they create, not the other way around. Complexity becomes the ecological environment. It is not that people themselves are stupid, it’s just that we as a species adapt through culture, and we learn the rules of our culture from birth, and those rules, arbitrary to a great extent, are the world to us. That’s what I learned by studying cultural anthropology.
Consider the probability that no one single dynamic will enable our individual attempts to create a broad, institutional awareness. No matter how insightful my individual book, or another’s perceptive insightful journalistic reporting, like Manning’s, the societal system seems to marshal on, its steps moving with beating to its own ontological drum. Societal understanding all works together as a kind of ecological system of its own, including info-tainment as the “news” that informs everyone about how the world works and helps to form attitudes. Jacques Ellul back in the sixties called it sociological propaganda. Referencing Ellul in the introduction to their work in the late eighties, Chomsky and Herman called it Manufacturing Consent.
I personally was riveted by some dire perspectives when I began my studies after my four year stint with the military during (and in) the Vietnam era. Naturally my mind was very open and awaiting some way to explain the problems I had been awakened to by what to me was a huge societal mistake. People who were actually in and part of the Green Revolution in the late sixties and early seventies began to recognize the systemic problems that were part of civilization’s experiment in adapting to this planet, and I benefited from their discoveries and wisdom while studying at one of the primary Green Revolution-invested universities; we called it Moo U, otherwise known as Michigan State University. It was especially well known for its advances in the industrial technology of dairy farming, thus the moniker “Moo U”. I studied cultural anthropology and I expanded my studies to an ecology program that was put together by some of those awakened upstarts in the agricultural departments of MSU and other universities of that kind, one of whom walked into one of my first classes in the program and slammed down his most recent book on table next to the lectern, a book predicting the water problems we are actually facing today. He looked at our startled faces for a moment then he announced in a forceful voice: “The Green Revolution is Dead!” That was 1972. It was dead, he told us, because it’s killing us and the environment, it’s dead because it is not in principle sustainable.
There’s much individual insight and radical thinking to be found in universities, perhaps more than in other parts of complex societies, but in the end, to survive, they must be part of the process of manufacturing consent. And agricultural colleges tend to get a lot of their research grant funding from institutions like Monsanto and Dupont. MSU was no exception. So this little upstart department that came about in the early 70’s, talking about the death of the Green Revolution, did little to change the overall purpose of the university, and on its industrial ag programs have gone since then.
After all, the myth that an individual can change whole attitudes of millions of people and bring them to see the world in conscious ways is just that, a myth that works with all the other systems to keep a society going. The dynamic of people telling me I’m wrong about where all this is heading and having plenty of support for their reasons from the system is part of it.
So I’ve been living with that basic understanding about creating monocultures and watching as humans form the whole earth into one vast human-centered monoculture since I began studying cultural anthropology and ecology in the early 70s.
I didn’t really expect much to come of Deb Ozarko’s book Beyond Hope Letting Go of A World in Collapse. And my expectations were pretty much fulfilled for 199 pages. Not saying she isn’t saying things that for many will be profound, earthshaking, even terrifying if they take it seriously, which most wont, just saying I felt like I was hearing someone express what I’ve been seeing and saying for years.
Let’s speculate that the spectacle of debate we are witnessing in the media most tune into is a debate between two corporate parties that make up what we consider to be the politics of the constitutionally organized entity called the U.S.A. Ostensibly deemed by this constitutionality as a democratic Republic.
One reason I stepped back early on from our local resistance organizing (WBR) was because I saw (early on) that the debate over supporting Democratic candidates, and therefore moving en mass to working within the two corporate party establishment, would all too easily become the will of the so-called resistance. Simple. It’s the least path of resistance to go with the given binary format of resistance. I could see that the leadership doing the organizing were Democrats first, and therefore Democrat Party-inclined in their will to resist mainly Trump. Few were Obama or Clinton resisters. This idea of resistance is set up already to be a corporate propaganda scam within the extant inverted totalitarian system. So my resistance to that system would be subsumed into the Democratic faux resistance. It was mine and a few others resistance to Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Presidency that got the Thom Hartmann board closed by Thom and his administrators. As they put it, they did not want to be party to any efforts that might put a Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Here’s one article that provides information to support my position, complete with links to his argument to show they are not just his opinion:
The writer’s own succinct summary after a somewhat hyperbolically-laced discussion:
Just to sum up, the Democrats have helped, voted for, and often argued in favor of all of the following:
Giving Trump unlimited war powers.
Giving Trump unlimited trade negotiation powers.
Giving Trump unlimited surveillance powers.
Giving Trump the power to lock someone up indefinitely without a trial or charges under the National Defense Authorization Act.
Giving Trump the power to assassinate American citizens without a trial or charges.
Giving Trump’s administration full control of our election system infrastructure.
And the conclusion, to which I will add one comment:
If this is considered “resistance,” then I don’t want to be a part of it. I’d rather spend my time resisting the “Resistance” and thereby taking this dictator’s toolkit away from Donald Trump.
As George Carlin said, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” Schiff is corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Trump is corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Ninety-five percent of the Democratic congresspeople are corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Ninety-nine percent of the Republicans are corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street.
Do not expect them to save us.
We cannot look to inverted totalitarianism to save us from inverted totalitarianism. The ruling elite will let us die and then charge us for the coffins.
We need to organize on the local level—change things in our states and cities, where it’s still corrupt, but a little bit less so.
Don’t wait for their permission to make a better world.
Ok, yes “we” need to organize at the local level. But who that “we” may turn out to be could very well amount to a tiny small minority of one, at least in my case, here in Willapa Bay where resistance is now about supporting a Democratic candidate to beat the reigning Republican, Jamie Herrera.
I keep hearing the call that “we” need to organize on a local level. And usually it will be followed by some weak final bleat that one should not wait for permission to go about making a better world. I guess that’s supposed to stand in for ending on a positive. Completely meaningless ending when put to a context, which it usually is not when left dangling like that. In actuality, there is no context in a civilized world for that to make sense. Everybody is already enculturated into some version of civilization, even if it’s the binary being called “resistance” by some group that feels they are outside the current “imagined power” as described by Sheldon Wolin in his construct: Inverted Totalitarianism.
One must simply uncivilize at every level of one’s being to get outside one’s own enculturation. No, Ghandi, civilization would not be a good idea for the Westerners who had taken over your civilized country, India. They already are. They need to uncivilize and learn to re inhabit the biosphere. Learn to do as little damage as possible as a species. Theoretically that may be impossible. Even for the most discerning, hyper critical individual. The reason I use the term “theoretically” here has to do with at least two basic problems. One is the nature of the species as an evolutionary creation. Human beings are an evolved complex social animal. We have deep within our DNA the basics for learning from birth to become part of the society we are born into. These learnings are shown to be turned on and off at various points in our biological maturation process, and what’s turned on is usually a kind of learning potential that no amount of behavioral programming can induce, and what is turned off is also what no amount of behavioral programming can replace. Language capacity is one of the better researched and known of these, but who knows how many more social facilities might be involved? How about our capacity for empathy, feeling, loving, and so forth? Can a psychopath or sociopath be the result of a missed opportunity to learn some key aspect of our social animal capacities?
The other part of this theory involves something I’d call the embeddedness of the mind with the body, and the question that has been raised on a number of fronts now that we’ve asked about it, a question about whether the mind and the body can actually be separated so that the mind can become an objective observer, apart from all the inputs from the body itself at every moment of one’s life. The very notion of subjective and objective rests on that problem.
In exploring this whole issue of civilization and its component parts, simply call them institutions, which all seem to have some basic hierarchical organizing components, I can see that much of the rational machinery of civilization rests on the assumption that objective rationality is possible for a living human being. In a very general sense, human beings, the social animal, adapt their whole humanity to the institution when they take part in them. Today, you go to work, do a job, and if you are part of the elite in the institution, you do a “professional” job, you drop aspects of your humanity from the presence you bring to that job. You do not bring an empathy, a feeling, a concern for others to that job unless the job is some sort of social/psychological institutional job. And even then the institutions of sociology and psychology develop rules for what those empathies and feelings are allowed to express. Everybody that has been trained to work in those fields knows what I’m talking about. Can you say DSM-5, for example, and know what it means? (Here’s a link: DSM-5)
But look at what is also taking place with literature and art. Those are the vaunted civilized compartmental homes of social criticism and now maybe the increasingly redundant place for so-called novel ways of seeing to emerge. Literature, for instance. Look at the current entertainment for the masses that passes for literature these days. Just basically notice that a lot of it is based on the question of Artificial Intelligence (AI). And why not? Have not computers become an increasingly large part of the social interactions of modern civilized life around the world? What skill sets are involved in that incorporation of the minds? What may once have been unique cultural adaptions to local habitats is now normalizing – rapidly I might add — world wide into laptops and hand held computer/phones, along with all sorts of ways to connect to an Internet of webbed communications.
Yes, of course, there are those estranged of the species being left behind. Maybe they are displaced and struggling all around us in various ways. Their displacement may appear as a local struggle between immigrants who once lived locally in their own habitats off a form of locally adaptive culture, sometimes sneered at as peasant, or indigenous culture. “They don’t belong here and they should go somewhere else, back to their homeland or something.” Increasingly they are seen as threats and outcasts to the civilized, wherever and however those civilized humans identify themselves. The very idea of identifying with a group and feeling a part of it is very likely mixed into the DNA of the civilized humans who consider themselves oh so rational and superior to those quaint folks who cling to the ways of a different cultural form of habitat adaptation. “Get with it!” they are saying to the outsiders. “We are progressing. You are not.” Forget that we all may be rapidly progressing towards an iceberg that will gut our poorly constructed Titanic. Then those of us who jump the sinking civilized ship will find ourselves floating in inhospitable waters. Forget about that.
Well, as I see it, civilization itself is the Great AI. The Great AI is a machine. A machine is a tool. A tool is a human invention to replace a missing part or capacity. A machine is therefore a prosthetic device, like a missing limb, glasses, or hearing aids, and the humans adapting to this machinery are becoming just that, prosthetic parts in a giant prosthetic adaptive tool, civilization.
So, yeah. AI is kind of a big subject these days, maybe as much subliminally as it is ostensibly.
The idea of uncivilizing is something we can conceive. But… can you do actually do it?
In a discussion that followed my last post, my friend Ogun linked an excruciating-for-me-to-read essay that defends the need for biodiversity from a number of attacks coming from the various think tanks that are part of the current machinery we call industrial civilization. This is an extremely important topic linking with my recent posts, especially because of its relationship with the concept of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, which is about the topic of over extending a human presence in all the habitats of this planet. That relationship is one of potentially dire consequences, not just for the human species, but for the biodiversity of all species on this planet. So I want to bring that part of the discussion up top, out of the more or less visually subdued section called “Leave a comment” under these topics. So here I am replicating my reply to Ogun because he’s linked such an important addition to these posts:
Thank you for the essay: In Defense of Biodiversity: Why Protecting Species from Extinction Matters. That’s an excruciatingly heart-rending essay for me to read. All my years of assessing civilization and its human arrogance that so many mistake for intelligence are recalled in the writer’s own efforts to see a relationship between humans and the living planet. All that I’ve surmised to be of equal importance to the human species is once again being questioned by the machinery of civilization, and I suspect in that questioning will come even more excuses to destroy biodiversity.
This guy, Elon Musk, has become a spokesperson of hope for civilization. He’s wealthy beyond most of our capacities to imagine wealth. For many he is a kind of hero because he’s using his wealth for “good”. In a similar vein, Donald Trump is looked at as a hero who is using his wealth for good by “draining the swamp” and making “America Great Again”.
Some people who are leery of computers and some technology are listening when Elon Musk says:
But seldom are they leery of civilization itself so they agree with him. I do agree about AI, but I don’t when he adds the word “civilization” to his sentence. The following thoughts also flow with that essay that defends biodiversity:
One thought I have about AI: If machines are Artificial Intelligence, what would Genuine Intelligence (GI) be?
Institutions are a kind of machine, a technology designed for a purpose. Civilizations are made up of institutions, both private and public. People adapt themselves to the institutions as if they were machine parts, they follow orders, do what they are told to help any given institution achieve its purpose, or they go elsewhere, that’s why machines can replace them. Clever people. Create machines to replace themselves.
Civilizations have proven to be not very intelligent when it comes to long term sustainability within the natural, biological order of this planet, the only planet we actually know where such an order exists, an order not created by machines. They tend to destroy their environments as the institutions busily work to achieve their purposes, then collapse. That’s been the observed 10,000 or so year history of civilizations, or complex societies as some tend to call them.
I suggest civilization as a whole is a kind of AI. People who have adapted to civilizations have adapted to an artificial intelligence as a survival strategy, giving up much of their innate humanity in the process… their feelings for cold, in other words, sociopathic rationality, their emotional intelligence for a rational intelligence at which machines excel, their intuitions of which machines have none, their empathy for other living beings of which machines are not.
I’m not, never have been very interested in being a part of a society where I have to pretend to be a machine to be alive. That’s made me a kind of living stranger in a strange land, to quote the title of a provocative science fiction novel. The question I’ve often asked, then, what choices have I really had? Civilizations as giant mechanical institutional systems tend to grind out the indigenous cultural survival strategies that might actually offer us choices. That process we call colonization. It’s often done with the slogan that “we” the superior civilized beings are improving the lives of the ignorant savages. But maybe they and their simple societies are the GI.
Calling societies that are “civilized” complex, and calling ecosystems that are diverse — and therefore at the upper stages of what we who pay attention to ecology call succession — complex are actually kind of paradoxical in their final analysis. An ecology that is complex, a climax succession ecology, is a complexity that produces a kind of habitat stability, although much is going on within that habitat on an ongoing basis that is rich with living activity among the species. Unless something comes along to disrupt it, such a climax succession ecology can persist indefinitely in state of biodiversity balance.
That is not true of a complex human society. A complex human society is a kind of machine that destroys its habitat’s biodiversity for its own purpose, creating low level succession habitats, or “monocultures” such as you will see stretching all over the flat, vegetatively fecund loess soils of the world as monoculture crop lands, where the machinery of civilization busies itself carefully removing all competitive plant life in the process. This is part of a complex system that feeds the machinery of civilization, including the self-made machines that drive to work in little wheeled machines every day on the freeways to work as machines in purpose driven technologies we call institutions, all working together in a complex of machinery we call civilization.
A couple other “insignificant” examples of the paradox, and these can be multiplied exponentially into a morass of civilized complexity: mountain tops are removed to gain access to short term, finite energy sources in order to fuel the growth of complex societies we call civilization. Whatever complex level of succession that happened to be in place is removed as well. And so on. The oceans’ complex ecologies that “magically” provide edible protein called fish are now harvested with sophisticated technologies that complex societies can create, and the ecosystems there are reduced to low level successions of whatever minimal forms of life that might be left over.
And so on.
And civilization’s institutions and its web of meaning manipulations called sociological propaganda will logically manufacture meanings for doing this as well as the consent of the humans who have become machines within and now rely on civilization for their daily existence. Let us not worry about the future.
What is the meaning of “abrupt” in this instance?… Here’s a suggested working definition from scientists: Abrupt means any changes occurring faster than we, as a species, are prepared to maintain a living relationship with. A mass extinction is one of those abrupt change results. Through science we have been able to deduce that in the entire history of evolutionary life on this planet there have been five such abrupt changes affecting mass numbers of species before now. We have a pretty good record of how fast species died out, and in what time frame for all those five.
In the following talk, Guy McPherson, an evolutionary biologists, discusses the changes that are taking place on our planet, on a planetary systems-related scale, at this moment. Some of these changes are of the paradoxical double bind nature. Dr McPherson has been and will no doubt continue to be attacked for presenting this science-based information in this straight forward manner.
Individually we adapt to this set of living arrangements we tend to call industrial civilization. Industrial civilization, we tend to forget to notice most of the time, is our species’ current global-wide macro adaption to the planet. Thus, individually we busy ourselves throughout our lives with micro adapting to this set of living arrangements. The sum total of this set of living arrangements is our species macro adaption; individually we simply fit ourselves to that macro pattern by making the choices it offers us. IF that macro adaption is in the end lethal to the living habitats of this planet that any given species is adapting to, there are scientifically known results of that adaption strategy for any given species over the history of life’s evolution on this planet.
As I’ve said in previous blog posts on this site, civilization appears at the moment to be a kind of habitat virus infection in nearly all the habitats on this planet. I find that to be a deeply saddening proposition to think about. But in the end, my feelings are meaningless to the whole of life because they are actually only part of my own micro adaption of my lifetime. Individually we simply can’t do much to affect the macro adaption process.
Dr. Guy McPherson:
Though it may not seem so, this post goes with yesterday’s. I ended yesterday’s with this line:
I think the result is we’ve made humanity into a kind of mindless disease expanding like a virus on this planet.
To understand what I mean by that, it helps to enter the fabricated world of the ecologist, where the ecologist has employed systems thinking and made an attempt to understand how ecological systems work to form habitats, and how habitats manage to achieve a kind of dynamic living balance proceeding through what must be imagined as time on this planet. Balance and imbalance become interacting features of this process, and where balance occurs, a multitude of species interact. Imbalance is usually the result of at least one species getting out of hand and trying to take over the resources that make a habitat possible. The ecologist, noticing that, attempts to understand how and why that might be, not to control it, but merely to understand and appreciate.
One ecological thinker came to this understanding: Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
Revolutionary change and radicalism sort of go together in my mind. Radical has a very distinctive meaning that is often overlooked when people use the term. The first definition in my Webster’s under radical describes it as of, relating to, or proceeding from the root; so radical problem solving is thinking towards the root of a problem. When the root is systemic, consisting of interlinking rhizomes under the surface, that opens up to a whole new way of thinking about the underpinnings of the universe we take for granted while we work at the problems we face individually. Here, in a forty eight minute video easily accesible from the Internet, William Catton describes his somewhat radical realization when he was inspired to write that book about the ecological basis of revolutionary change:
If anyone studies systems thinking, something that was in vogue in the seventies during what I now see as our brief awakening to our self-created environmental dilemmas, then the relationship I see between awakening the whole human brain — with our capacities for intuition, emotion, empathy, compassion, love, feeling relationships that can transcend our cold and mechanistic logical relationships, and all sorts of other related sensitivities — will likely be more obvious, unless that individual has suppressed those capacities to the point where they can’t work at all anymore. If that’s the case with the majority of the population, then I suggest we are truly doomed.
Anyway, that is my introduction for Richard Heinberg’s August Museletter, also published in EcoWatch under the title: “Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope”. EcoWatch is an environmental news site I’m almost certain will show up these days in many Republican’s environmental lexicons as a fake news site.
The second sentence in Richard’s essay contains the key ecological concept “overshoot”. Familiarization with that concept will help to make the rest of his argument easier to get through, even obvious. He’s writing what I find to be a lucid summary of everything I’ve been trying to say about the seriousness of our current predicament, along with the absurdity of believing our technological society is going to solve the problems that it’s created with the very rational and purely technological approach it used to create them.
So, in hopes of joining with another voice on what I believe is the fundamental — radical, if you will — issue of importance for humanity today, here’s Richard Heinberg: