Through our species’ unique endowment of language, and self consciousness we have developed a deep understanding of where we live, as well as a powerful confidence in our ability to harness its potential.
Our earth so often referred to as our mother, not only being the place of our birth, but also for raising us and providing all sustenance for living. Our young species has now grown up to find that there are greater responsibilities involved in keeping our home balanced, than we had considered in the ‘Eden’ of our adolescence.
While she has retired for the most part, our ‘parent’ has been providing an emotional mirror for us children to learn how to act in accord with our environment and with one other. Everyday the images of our behavior are magnified on the screen and off the presses, in between the lines and behind the scenes, the complexity of our human dilemma becoming increasingly apparent.
With great faith we have taken the relative tranquility of our historical epoch to be the historical norm and, through great scientific progress we have shown that our powers are equal to the task of survival, if not yet able to harness the capacity for self-control. With each discovery we are confronted with another set of questions, and when we talk about breaking the genetic code for example, this can be exhilarating.
At the same time, the more mundane findings of our research, the toll of poverty and war, the levels of deforestation, coral damage, CO2 emissions, and the unarguably bizarre recent meteorological events leave little doubt that we are also actors in our own fate. While the faith of both religions and technophiles no doubt provides us with assurance that we may survive underground, or perhaps in orbit, if not everlastingly, it can only highlight any failure to make the life that we lead now the best it can be.
Today there are individual adaptations now occurring concurrently with what we call Globalization, creating new cultures of information and experience. These changes are potentially as transformational as the Industrial Revolution, which facilitated unprecedented mass affluence, as well as lead to two world wars and uncontrolled resource depletion.
With instantaneous transfer of information, the capacity to generate data and process it untold times beyond what our senses can conceive, and social worlds that lie outside of both classrooms and nation states, the child today may simulate the world we know or, leave it for the virtual.
The adjustments to these changes by governments have often been slow and unevenly reasoned. Many assist industry to exploit wage disparities and lax laws abroad, but shirk international responsibilities, creating shibboleths for a blase publics’ retrograde nationalism. Individuals generally adapt faster than institutions. Recent DNA studies reveal that we are always changing, or rather that the agents of change are coded within, awaiting the appropriate trigger to impart yet another timely reworking of ourselves.
200,000 years ago, the language that was always dormant in our programming (not to mention still lying dormant in many other species) found its voice in response to who knows what need to survive. The finding of the double helix interestingly coincided with early work by Turing and the birth of cybernetics.
Later, super computers arrived precisely when it makes sequencing that DNA meaningful. We tend to evolve with the needs of own survival, and yet that doesn’t guarantee us more than just that, survival. To thrive as a species, in harmony with our environment, we still have learn to live with one another altruistically as well.
Over 6 billion homosapiens live on this big blue marble, yet the Earth could be just as content without us, as once it spun. We do not enjoy the benefits of our planet equitably. A large percentage of us are missing basics like fresh water and simple medical care costing just a fraction of our budgets for advertising and embarrassingly, military spending. There must be some essential breakdown in our priorities.
The economic gospel that growth in itself is in the best interest of all, including the developing world, is running up against the real fratricidal possibility that everyone may be able to have a car someday, and other mod cons. The time when our inalienable rights were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is becoming simply the right to material pleasure.
Of course anyone should have a right to these things if others do, but it may put us over the limits of our habitats’ ability to support us. Incidentally, as we have seen after September 11th, 2001, that when confronted with crisis, liberty itself faces its greatest challenges. The time to act is sooner rather than later.
That said, its clear that we need to implement global structures of government featuring the better ideas coming out of the United Nations, from nuclear weapons monitors to the global court. The treaties on pollution and the better efforts of the IMF are as amazing as many of the discoveries of hard science, in that they are the necessary and timely adaptations of the new diplomacy integral in handling emergent world issues.
Of course, the aforementioned can hardly be considered a complete success apart from the broader consensus’ they achieved, and the wealth of generally objective research being conducted on their behalf. All this was unlikely policy just a generation ago.
The temptation to exploit borders for profit is expected, but the undermining of nations and the endangerment of underrepresented people, through offshore bank havens, arms smuggling, and dumping of hazardous materials really has no other forum but the UN to turn, with support from media and observers. Our human relationship with nature is one of political struggle to find the will to monitor and moderate our use of its’ gift to us.
The great Chinese population control experiment, and its subsequent failure, tells us that the problem of overpopulation is being recognized and that there are incredible practical difficulties to engineer human reproduction, even if the politicians are bold.
At an American standard of living, a little more than a billion of us could balance our consumption with environmental damage, and the current European lifestyle could just support two or three times that many. Other regional lifestyles could support more many more billions to live in ecological harmony, using far less resources than the West.
There are minority scientists who maintain that we still have a lot of room to grow. Giving technology its due, there have been more efficient methods of harnessing energy on the table for some time now, yet again, the will to implement has been tepid.
There are many things we can do now. Less than what we pay the average athletic team these days could provide the billion or so condoms a year necessary to keep unwanted children being born, and another 2 dollars per pregnancy could spare the lives of the half million mothers who die giving birth each year. The failure to address these reasonably small needs gives us pause about the handling of bigger problems coming our way.
Ditto the sincerity of national leaders to think beyond the next election cycle at home and see the global picture. The disparity between rights of western women to control their own bodies, with the manipulation of fundamentalist zealots’ enforcement of female subservience in developing countries undermines our credibility elsewhere. At almost every turn, the failure to implement initiatives comes down to the coercion of just one country, the USA.
Growing up in America, it became hard to reconcile knowing your consumption is entwined to the world’s poverty, and there’s a general paralysis associated that usually appears outwardly as indifference. It’s more a deep sense of guilt, muted by righteousness about the expense Americans foot to be the world’s policeman.
This contributes to a deep denial, which culminates in the present ‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ mentality. Within us though, our dormant genes of altruism and survival, await a provocation to give us the courage to face up to the complexities of our lifestyle, and our lunatic economic assumptions.
With the clock ticking and the human race slipping ever more out of balance with its environment, what now can we do to move the mountains in front of us? In a word, like the US generation of the 40’s and 50’s, the time has come for sacrifice.
Adjusting to the idea that the military industrial complex does not reflect the generosity necessary to making the world a more hygienic or educated place, is the first step. Recent American governments have embittered the middle classes by reducing services (but not costs, human or budgets) in order to display their own incompetence. They’ve succeeded in turning the public into skeptics of bureaucratic institutions, leaving them in place as tools for oligarchic plundering.
On so many important treaties the United States has been a minority of one that we can only conclude that the way forward is to say, ‘OK, then we are against you,’ at least in the short term. This has already been happening even before the recent diplomatic breakdown over Iraq.
Heavy-handed US foreign policy has exasperated heads of state, and the rejection of nuclear arms treaties, pollution standards, the world court, and other popular international treaties on both land mines and chemical weapons, has radicalized populations against it.
It appears that many are now willing to stand and sacrifice now to give us a chance for a better future, even if America is not. We should say, ‘if you ignore the plight of the world around you and want to dictate policies that will jeopardize all of our futures in the long run, we will take a short term economic plight to achieve some kind of compromise.’
The responsibility of journalists outside the US to keep faithfully at the issues using the power of free speech against the isolationists, is the boon of our digital world. We should expect our young empire to mature, to work well with others.
It’s dusk in America and time for the most revolutionary of peoples to join in a new re-evolution to make our world more sustainable, with a just future for the entire planet. The earth after all, is our actual wealth. The UN should expel the US and ratify tabled agreements to get the ball rolling on workable world government. It won’t be easy.
The challenge must be taken to less-fringe than you’d think Armageddon watchers, and the hyperbolic polemicists that substitute for debate in the US media. Then there are those barely acquainted with the world outside the TV set. Confrontation will secure their interests in finding out why this opposition or antipathy exists, and should lift them off their sofas.
Those who see the signs of our destruction have always existed and will have to accept their own complicity. Haranguers will find common ground with a common enemy before them and debate may finally begin.
We can hope, like the rather nasty argument between the proponents of nature or nurture concludes with both sides being correct, that we can find the courage to accept our discoveries, as in the functioning of genes, with open eyes and clear consciences in this crucial time. Keeping the reading of our DNA in the public sphere is a sign that, despite the contentions of big business, we can hope that the intrigues of our habitat, and our ‘nature’ will inspire our imaginations rather than our fears.
Nature exists only as we perceive it through our senses, fearlessly, lovingly, for we know it will repay our affection unconditionally, and that we have but one shot to learn to live in it.