By William Kotke
Speaking Truth to Power
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
A plan to save the life of the earth and the human species by creating an entirely new human culture…
In discussion one often hears the refrain, “Oh, we can’t kill the earth. The earth will survive us,” as if that dispels the massive destruction of the planet’s life. Well maybe the ants and cockroaches will survive but the morality of we humans destroying the life of the earth back to the cockroaches must be addressed. These types of comments are made by civilized people, members of industrial society who have little relationship to the life of the earth. Because of the life that we are forced to lead due to the structure of industrial society, we do not have familiarity with the larger life that supports us.
Money is our life support system which we use to purchase food and shelter. We are not like our successful forager/hunter ancestors who could identify several hundred plants and explain their uses for food, medicine or handcrafts. The life of the earth provided their life support systems.
Now, our industrial life support systems are threatened even if we have money. When topsoil, oil or potable water run out, they run out and there is no more. Many are becoming aware that our planet is headed toward a massive die-off of human and other species. Some near the first world shopping malls have not yet got a clue but many in third world countries are already seeing the beginnings of “the end of the world.”
No need to cite the numbers. We know they are huge. The machinery of industrial civilization is eating up the flesh of the earth. The ocean fish stocks are falling precipitously, deforestation is epidemic, add this to topsoil exhaustion, desertification, pollution of potable water, species extinction and many other indices, then add the newer effects of Global Warming and dwindling oil reserves and anybody should be able to get the picture. An exponentially exploding human population, with increasing material consumption based on dwindling resources and a dying planet will not work!
When people first look at this situation they panic and try to think of ways to save everything. Save everything just as it is. People search for the magic bullet that will solve our problems so that we don’t have to think or change lifestyles in any way. Many people believe that “technology will save us,” not realizing that technology got us to where we are.
We in the industrial society inherited from Babylon, five thousand years ago. Babylon’s energy base was the fertility of grasslands, forests and deep soils. In effect this Babylonian type of culture rewards humans for success in extorting fertility from the flesh of the earth. Today the energy base of industrial farming is the topsoil/fossil fuel trade-off – chemical fertilizer and pesticide applied to exhausted soils; and plants bred especially for this industrial application. Instead of the long term fertility of the soil community of millions of different lives, both macroscopic and microscopic, industry produces chemicals from fossil fuels. This has happened in just an eye-blink of humans’ several million year history.Technology and fossil fuelhave aided this type of culture in catching more fish, logging more acres, digging more mines, and generally turning anything that could be found into cash.No one asks about the morality of sucking the life out of the planet earth, the biological mother. Holographically, we are lives within lives. We live within the planetary organism and are eating up that which feeds us. We are at the point where the parasite sucks dry the host and the parasite dies.
We’re talking about lifestyles that practice large scale agriculture which drains the fertility of the soil and over-graze the landscape. The “bigger barns and broader acres” crowd stretches in a line back to Babylon whose ecology now is essentially gone. This is a culture that does not think deeply about the extinction of intact climax ecosystems. An overgrazed grassland becomes a semi-arid desert; the Cattle Baron’s family retires with their loot to the capital city. This is the story of imperialism. We can trace the “surpluses” taken from the earth in the sordid ecological history of the empires since Ancient China, Indus Valley and Babylon.
Viewed as a whole this is a pre-adolescent human culture. The human species has produced many types of culture but the mining of the earth’s fertility to swell the social body, to increase the power, production and profit of the elite who are gathered around the emperor – has been a disaster. This grasping after material objects and desperate need to exert power over other humans is an immature response to life. The highest purpose of life in an industrial society is to produce industrial goods.