A Viable, Sustainable Human Future

The Ecotopian Solution – R. Crumb

    A viable, sustainable human future will, of necessity, be a world in which humans cooperate with natural biospheric processes, not work against them.

    A viable, sustainable human future will, of necessity, be a future in which humans do not consume natural resources faster than they are naturally replenished, and do not produce wastes faster than they can be naturally dispersed and assimilated.

    A viable, sustainable human future will have no more humans than can be sustained through natural biospheric processes. My guess is about 2 billion humans would be the optimum maximum global population level to allow recovery and continued viability of the biosphere.

    A viable, sustainable human future will have a reduced energy demand per capita, produced locally, and used at the site of production. Energy production will be by life-cycle renewable, passive sources. Heating and cooling of homes and businesses, where necessary, with be limited to local resources and locally manufactured and maintained technologies.

    A viable, sustainable human future will require far less human transportation. Humans will work where they live, live where they work. Local transportation will be on foot and by human powered vehicles. Regional transportation will be by solar charged electric vehicles and sail craft; long distance transportation, where necessary, will be by solar-charged electric vehicles and sail craft.

    A viable, sustainable human future will have a steady state economy, based on local production for local consumption, with limited trade for materials not available locally. Local population and economic growth will be limited by local resource availability. Local food production will require less energy, less irrigation and will be distributed locally through farmers markets and cooperatives.

We Live in the Natural World

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Gary Patton, a local lawyer, teacher, proponent of local limits to growth and past County Supervisor, publishes a blog called “We Live in a Political World,” which once was called  “We Live in Two Worlds.” His underlying theme is that humans live in the human created world, which is separate from the Natural World, even though humans depend on the Natural World for our survival.

My understanding is that we don’t live in two worlds, that there is only one world, the Natural World, in which humans are not only dependent, but are intricately intertwined.

Yes, humans do build an artificial world, both materially and culturally, that humans attempt to manage as if it were separate from the Natural World. But that material world is subject to all of the natural processes and principles of the Natural World, such as gravity, entropy, thermodynamics, geomorphology, plate tectonics, Cartesian and quantum physics, cycles of weather and climate, atmospheric and oceanic dynamics, evolution, population dynamics and disease.

This cultural separation of the two worlds has resulted in management of the human world on the basis of two underlying assumptions: the myth of control and the myth of unlimited growth.

At the University of Wyoming the Engineering building has the following inscription carved into its facade: “The control of Nature is not given, it is won.” I’ve written about this several times on Searching for Balance, for example, HERE, HERE,and HERE.

Recent events have brought the myth of control into sharp focus, as the Covid-19 pandemic has questioned the assumption that centralized control of the world we live in is possible or even desirable.

It seems that the harder we try to control the spread of of the coronavirus around the world, the faster it spreads and the more humans are affected by it. Government responses to the virus have caused more havoc in the lives of people around the world than the virus itself. One wonders if this pandemic had been treated as we treat yearly influenza pandemics, the disruptions to the human world would have been less severe. Humans have evolved with viruses, even to the point of incorporating viral RNA into our body cells, to the point that we are viruses almost as much as the viruses themselves. Perhaps accommodation to the reality of inevitable virus outbreaks would be a more effective and less costly alternative.

One of the contributing factors to the current pandemic is the increasing incursion of humans and their built environments into the natural world where we have come into close contact with new viruses and other diseases that have been present in non-human species unnoticed by humans, who, as a result, have no natural immunity. The myth of unlimited growth is basic to the dominant human culture, such that it is unacceptable for government officials to even consider limits to population or economic growth. Lack of constant economic growth is seen as failure, and reductions in population threaten government funding based on increasing individual consumption and increasing taxes on economic activities.

Observant humans might put 2 and 2 together and come to the conclusion that there is a better way to organize and maintain human societies. Rather than viewing humans as separate from the Natural World and natural processes, why not view humans as part of the world’s natural ecosystems, in which the human built world functions as a critical component of ecosystems that include animals, plants, mountains, plains, watersheds, rivers and streams, oceans and one continuous atmosphere that supports all life on this planet.

Why not recognize that All Lives Matter, human and not human. Why not recognize that cutting down a tree troubles the forest and all that therein lives. Why not recognize that humans are connected with every other living thing through ancient evolutionary processes through which we share the ultimate fate of all life.

Why not recognize that human health and well-being is intimately interconnected with the health and well-being of all life on this the only home for every living thing in the known Universe.

This could be the basis for an ecological human society, in which all other species have a voice in the affairs of the one species that impacts them all.

Learning What Doesn’t Work

Years ago my father told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “The secret to happiness in life is to find out what doesn’t work for you, and don’t do that.

In recent months, we’ve learned a big lesson on what doesn’t work. Looking at statistics for the incidence of Covid-19 around the world, two conclusions leap out with crystal clarity:

  1. Viruses thrive in areas of high human population density
  2. Viruses are deadly in humans who have existing health problems

These are two things that obviously don’t work well for humans, so according to Dad’s aphorism, we shouldn’t do dense human populations and poor health.

So, why is it then, in our local community of Santa Cruz County (as well as most of the rest of the world), local government encourages increased population density, and our culture encourages poor public health?

Population Density

The County of Santa Cruz and the incorporated municipalities in our county: Santa Cruz, Capitola, Scotts Valley and Watsonville, all have Economic Development Departments (EDDs), Planning Departments (PDs) and Public Works Departments (PWs), all of which are busily engaged in increasing population densities in our county and communities.

we’re passionate about supporting a flourishing and expansive local economy. Santa Cruz City EDD

One of the greatest challenges of living in Santa Cruz County is the cost of housing, one of the highest in the nation. Because Santa Cruz is a desirable coastal destination, our economy is based on tourism, and our housing stock is largely dedicated to second homes, vacation rentals, B&Bs, hotels and motels. During the Covid-19 shelter in place, many of our homes stand empty, while many of our residents lack sufficient housing. There is no lack of housing in the county, but there is a lack of affordable homes for the people who live here.

Local government responds to this condition by falling back on the age-old economic principle of supply & demand, that is, build more housing to lower the per unit cost. But in a tourist destination, this principle doesn’t work. There are millions of people just over the hill who want a house here to either come to on vacations or to use as an investment to make more money so they can afford to vacation in exotic places.

Since Santa Cruz is largely built out, there is little undeveloped space available to build more single family housing, so the answer is always to build up. This, of course, greatly increases population density in developed areas, thus creating an ideal breeding ground for the transmission of viruses.

In the face of what we’ve learned about spreading viruses, after months of (ineptly named) “social distancing” and mask-wearing, do the people of Santa County really want to risk our health by creating even more high population density? What would it take to not do that?

Human Health

Global Covid-19 statistics clearly show that humans with existing health problems have compromised immune systems that make them more susceptible to the virus and its resultant disease. The majority of deaths of individuals tested positive for the virus have underlying unhealth conditions, such as cardio-pulmonary disease, obesity, and diabetes all of which add to the lethality of the virus-born disease. Whether or not death is caused by the virus, or by other causes exacerbated by the virus, underlying ill health has contributed to the Covid-19 death rate throughout the world.

It obviously doesn’t work to have a large percentage of the population at risk due to general ill health. So, what would it take to not do that?

Lessons to be Learned

As we begin to contemplate an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, and lifting of government edicts on how we live our lives, now would be a good time to pause, contemplate the lessons to be learned from the pandemic, and think about how we want to live from here on out.

  • Would it be wise to continue to increase local population density?
  • Would it be wise to encourage local population growth beyond what can be sustained with local resources (think, water)?
  • Would it be wise to return to “nonessential” business and activities?
  • Would it be wise to continue to live far away from where we work and drive personal automobiles there and back every day?
  • Would it be wise to continue to encourage unhealthy diets, sedentary live styles and frenetic daily activities that interfere with sleep.
  • Wouldn’t it be wiser to encourage eating good, nutritious locally grown food, more local exercise, less travel and more engagement in local, meaningful work that supports the community?

Wouldn’t it be wiser to learn what doesn’t work and don’t do that?

For everything, there is a season

Sunrise, Kauai

It’s the fourth day of the new year and the winter season. We’ll enjoy thirteen seconds more daylight today than yesterday, as the planet we all ride upon swings merrily around the sun, the giver of all life. Last night, a wee thunderstorm rumbled through our fair county, echoing off the mountains, flashing their peaks with white lightning. It’s chilly these days and nights, at least for this part of the world. Winter arrives, even on the Left Coast

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It’s time for my favorite Christmas story by Ed Abbey, Merry Christmas, Pigs, a celebration of all things wild and wonderful, including we humans. You can read it HERE.

We celebrate this new year and new season together, as we look forward to our daily walks through the neighborhoods and along the shore of the, mostly, Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay.

Jean's Birthday

Long live the weeds and the wilderness, the two-legged, the four-legged, the feathered and the scaled, and those upright bipeds who defend and protect them.

Happy new season, merriness in the vast biodiversity of life!

Reviving Radical Environmentalism

Radical Environmentalism has fallen on hard times.

7740d-backhoe

Ever since “The Death of Environmentalism” by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger appeared in Grist in 2005, accompanying the global obsession with climate change, environmentalism, real environmentalism, has evaporated under a flood of climate change hysteria, with side branches of Extinction Rebellion, Green New Deals and corporate managed school walkouts.

Keith Makoto Woodhouse’s 2018 book, The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism, tells the sad tale of the rise and demise of radical environmentalism, from its roots in the New Left, SDS and Aldo Leopold’s traditional conservationism, to Earth First! and the Sea Shepherd Society confrontational tactics, to the rise of Washington-based Big Greens and the inevitable compromises that turned radical environmentalists into corporate toadies and hunter-gatherers of government funding.

It’s a weird new world we live in these days, with the United Nations touting climate disaster to pump up their Sustainable (sic) Development program, to fund economic growth in less developed countries so they can join the global economy freight train rushing toward the collapsed bridge over Extinction Canyon.

Now we see impressionable children paraded before the ubiquitous media eye, reciting their memorized mantra of climate disaster caused, so they’ve been indoctrinated to say, by burning fossil fuels.

Climate change hysteria is the ultimate separation of human beings from Nature. Climate alarmists and their unthinking followers, call for us to “fight climate change,” to “stop climate change,” and in its most benign form, to “reverse climate change,” as if climate is something outside of human beings that we can control at will. Climate change alarmism is the ultimate expression of our species’ hubris (is there any other kind?).

If we are to rescue radical environmentalism from the clutching claws of climate change alarmists, we must also revive an understanding of ecology, evolution, geomorphology, and, most of all, a common sense perception of the world we share with billions of others species on this benighted planet.

To cultivate this perspective, find a patch of undeveloped Earth, get down on your hands and knees and stick your nose into the plant and animal life at your feet. Stay there for a day or two, maybe three, until you know intimately every creature crawling in and around every plant in your field of vision. Then, when throughly familiar with that wilderness, stand up on your hind legs and look around you, in a 360 degree scan of the roundabout thereof. Expand your awareness of the wilderness at your feet, to the wilderness surrounding you. It’s there, even if, temporarily, hidden under roads, houses office buildings and other monuments to human folly. The same biophysical processes are at work wherever you look, inescapable, perfectly natural (Nature-all), continuing apace as they have since the beginning, if there is one, of this Universe thing we inhabit.

Once you are thoroughly at home with your own bleeding piece of earth, your dealings with local government, developers, Chamber of Commerce growth maniacs, militaristic imperialists and other butchers of things natural and good, take on a depth and authenticity unavailable to those drifting in a sea of social media, cell phone obsession and dislocated, electronic distraction.

“O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!”

Radical environmentalism is a revolutionary awakening that brings into sharp focus the yawning chasm between human ignorance and uncaring profligacy, and the natural world that arises of itself within and around us. Once awakened to this all-encompassing reality, one can never see the world in any other way.

I’ve been walking this path for a long time. For a glimpse of my travels and travails, go to The Way of Nature, and join me as we look beyond our toes at the edge of the abyss, turn around and take our first steps forward.

Why Start the New Year on January 1?

It’s the night before the New Year and all through the town, all the people are stirring, getting ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It’s an old custom, ingrained in our culture, seemingly as natural as night and day.

But why January 1st? What’s so special about this day that we celebrate it as a new beginning?

The easy answer is that the first month of the year is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman God who looks both forward into the future and backward to the past, just as all the pundits have been doing for the past week. Julius Caesar created a calendar with Janus’s month at the beginning, named after himself as the Julian Calendar, which was used from 45 BC until the 11th Century.

We don’t use the Julian calendar anymore, because it didn’t agree with the exact time it takes for the Earth to revolve around the sun, thus getting further and further out of date with the seasons as time wore on, as it often does. This was inconvenient and verily it troubled many of the new Enlightenment thinkers of the time.

So Pope Gregory started a new calendar in 1585, that inserted a leap year to keep the seasons and the calendar in sync. We use the Gregorian Calendar today, with January 1st as the first day.

But wait, why did my ancestors in the Olde Country start their year on March 25th, thus messing with the heads of future genealogists trying to pin down vital records of their distant 11th Great-Grandfather?

Well… as you might already know, pagans and other non-Christian folks counted their days, nights and years by the seasons and by celestial phenomena, which we retain in our culture as the Winter and Summer Solstice and the Spring and Fall Equinox. There were lots of other nature based holidays to celebrate as well, which helped a lot of medieval folks get through some pretty tough times.

Originally, the new year was celebrated either on the Winter Solstice, when daylight hours once again began to lengthen and the ascent from a long dark winter was begun. Others chose the Spring equinox as the time of renewal, and growth of things green and warm, a suitable occasion to start the new year.

When the Christian religion spread from Rome to the hinterlands, wily Christian theologians discovered it was more effective to co-opt the old pagan holidays and rename them to match the new belief than to try to do away with them altogether. Thus, the Winter Solstice became Christmas, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, and the New Year was set to begin on March 25, marking the Annunciation, the announcement that Jesus Christ was born, starting the whole Christian year.

This went on for some 600 years, until, in 1752, ecclesiastical squabbles over the true date of Easter resulted in resetting the date of the Gregorian New Year back to the old Julian January 1st.

So here we are, poised on the cusp of a new, Gregorian, January 1st New Year!

Have a Happy New Year whenever you start it!

Happy Solstice

The Winter Solstice has long been my favorite seasonal celebration. It’s that ancestrally magical moment when the Earth pauses in its seasonal round, contemplates its equator for a moment, and moves in a new direction.

After months of steadily decreasing sunshine, even here at 37 degrees North latitude, the prospect of the return of the sun, increased warmth and budding Spring helps to wipe away the winter doldrums.

It’s a very real event, grounded in the Earth, the solar system and the Universe, a time of renewal and dedication to a new annual round.

Happy Solstice, one and all!

 

Putting it all together or taking it all apart?

jigsaw-puzzle

On one of my other websites, The Way of Nature, I’ve described many of the elements of an ecosophy that seeks to balance human activity with the natural world. These are philosophies and practices that I find attractive when thinking about the horrible mess this human world has created at the expense of the broader biosphere.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t see any way for the current dominant human way of life to continue much longer. There just aren’t enough resources on this the only planet we can inhabit to support 7+ billion human beings without destroying the habitats of the eleventy bazillion other inhabitants, including our own. The human world is caught up in social systems and philosophies antithetical to living in harmony with all other life. There is no sign at present of any serious movement to change to alternative lifestyles that offer any prospect for continuing into the foreseeable future.

Visualize Civilizational Collapse

A combination of environmental, social and economic collapse seems inevitable, most likely within the lifetime of those living today. A civilization (sic) based on unlimited growth coupled with exponentially increasing consumption of finite resources will inevitably expire in a much deserved collapse, just as previous civilizations and empires suffered the same ignominious end.

If there is such a thing as natural laws, this must be one of them. Any species that eats itself out of house and home will drag itself down the evolutionary porcelain parkway with alacrity. Rabbits do it. Caribou do it. Even plants do it.

The difference is that, unlike humans, non-human animals and plants have natural predators that keep their numbers in check, and that, providentially, strengthen the prey species by eliminating the halt and the weak and the diseased. But hubristic humans insist that “every sperm is sacred” and no individual shall be allowed to die without massive medical intervention to keep them alive and breeding… for a price.

So it seems truly well and good that human civilization should take its place in the good old dustbin of history and make way for what is to come afterwards.

What comes after Civilization?

It’s seems most likely that once human civilization has had its way with this planet, and descended into the abyss of evolutionary despair, there will be insufficient resources remaining for humans to claw their way back out of the hole they have dug for themselves and build a new shining city on the hill to hold dominion over all once again.

This is where the Way of Nature comes into the story.

Any future human world will, of necessity, be organized in harmony with natural cycles of resource availability, just as are all other extant species on the planet. It will be characterized by the same features as other species: diversity, adaptability, humility, cooperation and unswerving patience.

In other words, any post-collapse civilization will live by the Way of Nature.

Take some time to review the elements of the Way of Nature, and we’ll start going through them in the next post on Searching for Balance.

More reading on collapse:

  • Collapse, Jered Diamond
  • The Party’s Over, Richard Heinberg
  • The Enemy of Nature, Joel Kovel
  • Good News, Edward Abbey
  • Toward an Ecological Society, Murray Bookchin
  • Human Scale Revisited, Kirkpatrick Sale
  • The Twilight of American Culture, Morris Berman

Nature’s Way

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I’ve not been writing much of late, at least not in this forum. Tickling these plastic keys is less esthetically pleasing than scribbling in a notebook with a proper pen and ink. What to do with it then after it is written? It rarely survives the transition twixt page and screen.

But things must be said, after all. The state of the world hovers between chaos and collapse. It’s hard to tell which way we’re headed.

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody Allen

If we’re lucky, we’ll have another recession soon, a good one, a thorough one, an economic collapse “with four part harmony and feeling.” Clear out the dross, bring down the high mucky-muck, unto the seventh generation. Everything is stretched thin and another economic blow might just break it permanently, with little resources left for recovery.

Yes, all will suffer, especially the high and mighty who have depended on this insane system of economic and environmental oppression at the the expense of trillions of living beings with no say in the outcome. Its about time. A season for everything. The pendulum swings.

We who still defend the wild and the wildlings stand on the shoulders of those who have lead the way before us. Those shoulders are dwindling, their voices stilled. And there are fewer shoulders growing up to take their places. Our voices are drowned out by the bombastic shouting of the growth maniacs and global economists, their political and military minions, and the general populace enthralled with consumerism.

Still, this too shall pass. That which cannot go on forever, doesn’t. A thousand years from now those still alive will be those who have accommodated to reality, learned to live in harmony with natural cycles, those who have settled back into living as one species among many, with no pretense of dominion over all.

It’s Nature’s Way, the only way there is.

The Wu Way

In my search for a sane and rational way of living that does not destroy biodiversity and natural habitats for all other species, I’ve looked to other worldviews and philosophies for examples of how other cultures and societies have thought and taught about the world we all live in.

The unfortunate thing about individually focusing on Taoism, quantum mechanics, consciousness, neuroanatomy or any other named discipline is that we can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s all of a piece; the names separate out the various parts. We get so mired down in the minutia, we don’t see the whole.

As it is in the Multiverse, so it is unto the quark.

Let me take this Way in striving for a model of the totality of reality, consciousness, the Multiverse/universes/Universe and everything.

In quantum physics we identify the Multiverse as the infinite set of infinite universes, which includes our own infinite Universe. Our Universe consists of eleven dimensions, time and three physical dimensions, plus seven other tightly wrapped dimensions of which we are not consciously aware. We use mathematics to describe our Universe, the Multiverse and their eleven dimensions, because mathematics is not burdened with symbolic meaning. The “words” of mathematics are clear, unambiguous and universally understood.

The universes of the Multiverse can and do interact in startling ways, as is demonstrated in the easily reproduced double slit experiment, which also shows us that human consciousness is an intimate part of the working of the Multiverse. The double slit experiment shows us the Multiverse/Consciousness in action. When we look for light as particles, we find particles. When we look for light as waves, we find waves.

In a like manner then, consciousness consists of the Universal Consciousness as the infinite set of consciousnesses, which includes our own personal Consciousness. What we identify in psychology as the subconscious is the connection between our personal Consciousness and the Universal Consciousness through the eleven dimensional computation matrix built into the structure of our brains, as a result of human evolution within the eleven dimensional Universe. Meditation, sleep dreaming, day dreaming, imagination, intuition, deja vu and altered states are descriptions of mental states that quiet the busyness of the brain’s internal dialog so that we can experience the connection to the Universal Consciousness. This experience is difficult if not impossible to relate in words because it transcends verbal expression, cannot be objectively verified and is meaningful only to the percipient. Yet the experience is universal.

This consciousness has been known for thousands of years, by people who have tried to express the experience in many ways, many of which have become distorted, manipulated and controlled as organized religions. Others maintain oral traditions, which we call myths, that are nonetheless grounded in experience with the ineffable, and combine them with practical experiences of being a human being in the natural region they inhabit. Raven stories, coyote stories, origin stories, all carry the seed of the contact with universal consciousness.

There are some who hold that this level of human consciousness is a fairly recent development in human evolution, which would fit in with the evolution of the human brain’s eleven dimensional computation matrix. One might speculate that this development may have been responsible for the success of Homo sapiens sapiens and the demise of Home sapiens neanderthalensis.

“Where are you going with this?” says the wag in the back.

Good question!

The point of Taoism is “The Way.” This is not a judgement call; there is no “Right Way” and there is no “Wrong Way.” There is only “The Way.”

The Way is the Multiverse. The Way is Consciousness. The Way is the eleven dimensional computation matrix we carry around in this head thing of ours.

When we go against The Way, when we force things, control things, lord it over others, when we push the rope, make it happen, press on regardless, we fight against the flow of the Multiverse.

When we go with The Way, when we allow things to rise of themselves, when we wait for the cusp, pause until grokking is, go with the flow, swim with the stream, we cooperate with the flow of the Multiverse.

Our Modern Western Civilization, if that’s what it is, goes against the Way in every respect. It is the antithesis of the flow of the Multiverse. It is the cause of immense suffering in humans and untold destruction of the non-human world.

An alternative approach is wu wei, not doing, arising of itself, doing what’s natural, going with the flow. If it doesn’t arise of itself, if it feels like pushing the rope, if it resists at every turn, don’t do that!

This is a simple approach, probably too simple to have any effect. We have to start somewhere.

NOTE: I’ve referenced a lot of esoteric stuff herein without citations. If something above piques your interest, or if you respond with “Huh?” let me know and I’ll supply a bibliography. It’s about time I worked one up anyway, so I can remember where I’ve read things.