I cannot say if it always works, but I can say that a strangeness is evoked, a strangeness that conveys how, in spite of all our erudition, we walk the earth in the 21st century as in a dream—arms outstretched, eyes closed, the natural landscape dropping away into oblivion after our every footfall.
The above quote was in the book review by Paul Greenberg of the book On Extinction: How We Became Estranged From Nature. The description evokes the image of a zombie which we frequently use as an appropriate metaphor for an unconscious humanity. Our topic for this essay is the interface of science and the environment and more specifically, global warming.
Global warming? Fughetaboutiiiit! Elsewhere in the content of the Simple Reality Project we made the provocative statement that global warming was irrelevant; and it is. Not because it isn’t happening but rather because humanity does not have the consciousness to effectively intervene. We will, in a sense, sleep through the whole thing but it will be a nightmare-disturbed sleep.
Not only do we lack the consciousness to intervene as we destroy our environment, we don’t have the awareness to tell the difference between the truth of what’s happening and the illusion of what we prefer to imagine is happening. It has been over 50 years (1962) since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, warning of the toxic effects of DDT. The truth deniers flocked to pillory the courageous, relentless warrior for whom the reality of the evidence she had uncovered thrust her into a role she did not relish. And, of course, Monsanto led the attack.
“Time magazine patronized Carson’s polemic against pesticides as an ‘emotional and inaccurate outburst … unfair, one-sided and hysterically [back then male editors could always rely on the good ole female “hysteria” to discredit uppity women] overemphatic,’ while the chemical manufacturer Monsanto fought back with a parody, ‘The Desolate Year,’ that envisioned a pesticide-free world in which insects ravaged crops and spread devastating plagues.”
But nowadays we couldn’t find any “head-in-the-sand” deniers could we? Oh contraire, mon ami! Those fossils, the Libertarians can be counted on to thunder out of the past waving their rusty swords, the galloping Galahads of yesteryear. In 2012 the libertarian Cato Institute published a new attack entitled ‘Silent Spring’ at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson.
Even on the issue of DDT it seems that the final verdict is not yet in, even showing up in works of fiction. “In Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear, one character says that ‘banishing DDT killed more people than Hitler,’ a sentiment Crichton publicly agreed with.” “The Web site www.rachelwaswrong.org, which is run by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy group based in Washington, makes a similar charge: ‘Today, millions of people around the world suffer the painful and often deadly effects of malaria because one person sounded a false alarm.” So which side of this long-standing argument does science support? What is the truth?
We will find out in a moment that there is today a false environmental crisis but not the one the Libertarians, Washington politicians or free market advocates would understand.
But first, more homage to our heroine who did the best she could with the facts she had and more importantly, the paradigm in which she had discovered them. William Souder, a fellow admirer, has written (2012) an anniversary tribute entitled On A Further Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson. Carson demonstrated the kind of courage that is needed today albeit she saw the problem differently than we do in the context of Simple Reality.
She became the reluctant champion of a paradigm shift, which predictably, was met with resistance. “The storm over Silent Spring, he [Souder] notes, was a ‘cleaving point’ in history when the ‘gentle, optimistic proposition called ‘conservation’ began its transformation into the bitterly divisive idea that would come to be known as ‘environmentalism.’”
A similar struggle continues today as another paradigm shift looms on the horizon but a much more profound one. As usual, we have a cutting-edge truth-teller vs. those for whom “reality” is too threatening. In this case we are still talking about “relative” truth because Simple Reality remains out of sight as far as the mass of humanity is concerned.
But what about the business of being the creature that reasons. Well, of course, scientists will come up with relative solutions (solutions that address the symptoms rather than the underlying causes) that might give some environmentalists hope for the future. The technologists will also invent devices and machines that will be too little deployed too late or used in a self-destructive way (think the A-bomb). And most importantly, the whole enterprise will remain in the control of the vast majority of unconscious people under the influence of the false-self bent on denying what is actually happening; for example, the coalition of government and the private sector which has a false-self driven vested interest in the status quo.
What is the connection between science and the catastrophes looming on the horizon for the people of the global village? The answer: There isn’t one. Take the impending pandemics involving anti-biotic resistant bugs, the next plague, or Black Death. It will happen. Take the threat of pointless, devastating wars. It just happened, is happening and will happen again. What about over-population and the tens of millions of refugees fleeing famine, desertification and rising ocean levels due to global warming. Yes, yes and yes they will happen. Speaking of global warming and the self-destruction of our environment including air, water and soil pollution …
Can we find a respected scientist who would agree with our opening paragraph? Yes we can or at least one who will agree with all except perhaps the implication of the last sentence. Most scientists do not see people as fundamentally unconscious. Why bring up this disturbing subject? Don’t people have enough to worry about? That is precisely why we do broach the subject. The truth is important. The truth just might set us free!
Many of us are worried about the future of our planet because we think that the earth’s future is our future. This belief that the world of form is at risk and that we are inextricably linked to its fate is not shared by everyone. However, it is shared by most scientists.
For the last ten years, the alarm siren announcing the evidence of our self-destructive behaviors has grown increasingly shrill. “The reports that biologists are finding freak fish near Denver and Boulder, some with both male and female sex tissue, are ‘very disturbing,’ Nickum said. [David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited] … Nickum said any angler knows that fish are ‘the canaries in the coal mine.’ When they are diseased or dying, it signals trouble for all of us.’” This report is from a column by Diane Carmen in The Denver Post in 2004.
As we approach the end of this chapter and launch our final assault on the intellect, science and technology, we might be accused of an unwarranted and insupportable bias. In that case, we need to go outside the community of mystics for an ally, a former environmentalist turned realist.
“After decades of fervent environmental activism, Paul Kingsnorth decided it’s too late—collapse is inevitable.” Kingsnorth has reluctantly admitted that organizations like Bill McKibben’s 350.org, although engaging people, are ultimately leading them to despair. “For Kingsnorth, the notion that technology will stave off the most catastrophic effects of global warming is not just wrong, it’s repellent—a distortion of the proper relationship between humans and the natural world and evidence that in the throes of crisis, many environmentalists have abandoned the principle that ‘nature has some intrinsic, inherent value beyond the instrumental.’ If we lose sight of that ideal in the name of saving civilization, he argues, if we allow ourselves to erect wind farms on every mountain and solar arrays in every desert, we will be accepting a Faustian bargain.”
The Faustian bargain is not with Satan but with the deluded false self and we are not selling our soul but turning our backs on our own deeper nature but also our true relationship with nature. Let’s continue with the conflict between the mainstream environmentalists and Kingsnorth who seems a traitor to some of his former allies. Kingsnorth has remained engaged in the challenge presented by the reality most of us have yet to acknowledge and he has formed his own organization called Dark Mountain.
Kingsworth’s friend, author and activist Naomi Klein says that Dark Mountain “has given people a forum in which to be honest about their sense of dread and loss. ‘Faced with ecological collapse, which is not a foregone result, but obviously a possible one, there has to be a space in which we can grieve. And then we can change.’”
How can we “actually change?” What is the plan for that change? Environmentalists are in denial of reality and Dark Mountain has succumbed to the narrative of the “frozen-in-fear” pessimists. A dark worldview has paralyzed those who are mesmerized by the intellect, environmental science and the limitations of technology. Kingsnorth acknowledges as much, albeit unconsciously.
His first book came out in 2003 and he also wrote pamphlets and articles after reporting on the environmental movement taking place on four continents. “Here’s millions of people who don’t like this way of measuring the world, don’t like this way of living, don’t like this way of seeing the world [emphasis added].” Our way of “seeing the world,” our worldview, is the place to start that can lead to an effective response to the reality of global warming and other problems successfully addressed by a worldview of Oneness.
Kingsnorth has moved beyond denial which is the challenge for all of us in searching for an experience of Simple Reality. However, in letting go of one aspect of P-B, he has yet to find the P-A alternative. The American poet, Robinson Jeffers, provided the name for Kingsforth’s organization as well as identifying the cause for humanities paralysis.
The beauty of modern
Man is not in the persons but in the
the heavy and mobile masses,
the dance of the
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain.
The image of the sleeping, “dream-led” masses was a compelling one for Kingsnorth and should be for all of us. Kingsnorth and co-founder of Dark Mountain, Dougal Hine are on the right track in calling into question the central beliefs of P-B. “Each man draws a distinction between a “problem,” which can be solved and a “predicament,” which must be endured. “Uncivilization” [the label for Dark Mountain’s worldview] was firm in its conviction that climate change and other ecological crises are predicaments and it called for a cadre of like-minded writers to ‘challenge the stories which underpin our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality and the myth of separation from ‘nature.’” All of this should sound familiar to students of Simple Reality although it is an incomplete catalogue of P-A beliefs, attitudes and values.
Kingsnorth has gone from: “Saving nature from people. Preventing the destruction of beauty and brilliance, speaking up for the small and the overlooked and the things that could not speak for themselves.” To: “Wow, we are really screwed here. We are not going to stop this from happening.”
The facts as early as 2007 were: “the NASA climatologist James Hansen, who has been ringing the climate alarm since the 1980s, announced that in order to elude the most devastating consequences, we’d need to maintain carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a level of 350 parts per million. But we’d already surpassed 380, and the figure was rising. (It has since reached 400 p.p.m.) Animal and plant species, meanwhile were dying out at a spectacular rate. Scientists were beginning to warn that human activity—greenhouse-gas emissions, urbanization, the global spread of invasive species—was driving the planet toward a “mass extinction” event, something that has occurred only five times since life emerged 3.5 billion years ago.”
Does Dark Mountain have a plan? Not yet but some of them are literally feeling their way through the initial darkness of their fundamental insight. Hine seems to be searching for the distinction between illusion and reality. “Let’s not pretend we’re not feeling despair. Let’s sit with it for a while. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with each other. And then as our eyes adjust to the darkness, what do we start to notice?”
The leaders of Dark Mountain are not advocating meditation, a profound introspection which might lead some of them to “notice” that somewhere within there is a place of deep inner peace beyond fear. And beyond that there is wisdom that blends the energy animating our human experience with all of Creation. We can let go of the world “out there” which seems to be impermanent because it is; but we are not that, we are something much, much more and that something can watch the coming and going of galaxies with complete equanimity.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality Trilogy
by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I? Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here? Behavior – The Third Great Question