I am now deep into the book, “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman, and I must say, this has been an incredible read. The author takes us on a journey of human history and our relationship (attack) upon the natural world. He poses the thought experiment, “what would the Earth be like if we all suddenly disappeared?”.
One of the things I find amazing is I found this book at a local book sale, only $1 for as many books as you can fit into a grocery store plastic bag. I bought all non-fiction materials, and found this gem among the pile of books there. It was stamped “Discarded” by our local public library, so was probably donated to the book sale.
By why was it discarded? It’s a great book, well researched and well written and published quite recently (2007). The fact that it was considered inconsequential is what is most troubling of all. The author reveals the incredible human impact upon the Earth and what this is all leading to, yet the local library tossed this out…
It is a sign of the times. Our refusal to admit to our own hubris, our responsibility, and our deep connection to the life on this Earth is absolutely staggering.
Humans are a huge force of nature, that is perfectly clear. We have wiped out tens of thousands of species now, virtually hunting them into extinction, or so perfectly destroying their habitats that they cannot adapt fast enough to continue to exist. Science reports that the extinction rate now is over 10,000 times the normal rate, all of this caused by humans and our impacts upon this planet.
There is ample evidence throughout the entire world that we are literally eating our way down the food chain, as fast as we possibly can. Right now, the 7th billion human is a journalistic theme in the media, and how we are going to grow to 10 billion, even 15 billion souls on this planet. Possible? Maybe, but the collapse we have caused is well underway now and there is absolutely no guarantee at all that we will “achieve” such numbers.
Currently we are unable to feed the billions we have now adequately. The reasons are quite obvious, but population is still expected to continue upwards. Al Bartlett’s “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” series is well worth watching if you haven’t already. The exponential function of our consumption, fueled by population growth, all by itself in a “perfect world” would signal our collapse.
But we do not live in a perfect world. A review of human history reveals that we are quite voracious and very, very violent. Modern civilization attempts to gloss over these facts with glitz, glamor and patriotic messages, but the truth is quite the opposite. Electronic warfare from thousands of miles away in the Nevada desert dropping bombs in Yemen may seem sanitary and efficient, but the reality and the suffering we cause on the ground is very much different.
The recent killing of Gaddafi joins Bin Laden and Saddam as America’s long line of “justice” against the alleged evil in our midst. Except it’s much, much more then just that. It is a part of this country’s insatiable quest for energy resources at any cost, including (in all three cases) befriending these so-called “evils” as convenience dictated, providing them weapons and support, and then as the “need” arose, utterly destroying them (and their countries).
American duplicity is unbelievable. Our unbridled ferocity against all those who would claim to view the world differently is absolutely endless. Recall the newly named “Freedom Fries” because the French refused to support our attack upon Iraq? You can still find these listed on the menu in backwards locations of America.
I just watched “Severe Clear“, a DVD movie about the Iraq war. The propaganda was hard to stomach. Video clips of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Bush were intertwined with brain washing sessions to the troops about how we were “protecting America” by bringing war to the Iraqi people. The missing weapons of mass destruction was only mentioned as an afterthought, but the destruction was already complete by then. The body count was very high, but it was all somehow “justified” by the sheer fact that our presence there made it justified. The logic was simple — if we were ordered to be there and do this, then there must have been good reason.
Except as we all now know, there wasn’t. There wasn’t any justifiable reason at all. Certainly not the reasons we were all force fed. In the beginning, many of us saw this, but during and now after, we’re still questioning the wanton destruction. Those voices are going more silent as the war on dissent ratchets up higher and higher in this country.
This then is what brings me to my point. Humans, both large and small, politically powerful or lowly soldier, housewife or union boss, hold an incredible capacity to engage in and support extreme acts of violence based upon nothing more then sheer propaganda and the “belief” that this encompasses. But what does this then tell us about ourselves?
Most of this country was alleged to support the war, just like most of this country is alleged to revel in the deaths of Saddam, Bin Laden and Gaddafi. America is right, and therefore justified, by any and all means necessary, and these actions prove it.
Except of course that they don’t, they prove exactly the opposite. A complete and total disregard for human life, international law, the rules of war, the Geneva Convention and all the boundaries we have constructed for ourselves on how we should govern our own activities. The million plus Iraqi dead are a grisly testimony to our xenophobic hatred of all others, and our disregard for anything “not American”.
But there is much, much more then war against other humans to consider and contemplate too. We are at violent war with the environment and the natural world that sustains us. This has been going on as long as humans have been around. Paul Martin (in the book) believes that we wiped out the (truly) large mammals on the American continent through over-exploitation, virtually driving them into extinction. We know that this happened in many other places too, again and again, as humans invaded a land, devouring everything in sight until there was virtually nothing left.
Easter Island of course comes to mind, but there are many other notable examples. In case after case, it is homo sapiens that have driven the natural world before them into their nets, spears and traps until there was nothing left and then we moved on, if we still could. And many times, we did, it’s the reason humans are here on this continent.
Here in the modern world a few cycles of the sun later, we have been led to believe that we’ve changed our ways, that human concepts such as justice, lawfulness and fairness now govern our actions and our behavior. But this is simply untrue, these constructs are pathetically weak when it comes to measuring them against our own reality and actions. We are very swiftly at each others throats for the dumbest reasons you can even imagine, killing, maiming, murdering and destroying as quickly as we can, totally “justified” in our minds that we were somehow wronged by an entire people we have never even met.
We stand entirely alone as a species with this type of self-destructive behavior, which has only been permitted as long as we ourselves still manage to survive, and this survival comes not from our own “doing”, but from the world itself which we are at war with.
We are indeed a stupefying force of nature, quite literally fashioning the world into our image. What is that image? It is death, destruction, consumption and the total domination of all things. How can that image or the world that has sustained it manage to last? It cannot.
We cannot seem to help ourselves either. Again and again, we are at war, killing, maiming, justifying and “legalizing” our actions. Our war extends to our environment, each and every day, every moment of every day, polluting, consuming, corrupting, destroying and wiping out whatever we choose with a complete and total disregard. This too is war, war on a entire planet, war on the natural world, war on every living species in the entire biosphere, ultimately even upon ourselves.
It is as if humans have a hatred gene in their genetic makeup that deludes us and impels us to kill, destroy and dominate, even though we can logically admit that in the end, this is self-destructive. Our own history is replete with countless examples of our desire for domination, a “scorched-Earth policy” of take no prisoners, show no mercy, again and again.
Our brains and moral sensibilities tell us that there must be a better way, but the solution to this conundrum seems to elude us. We’re governed now by forces we don’t control — government, politicians, corporations, consumption, even greed, all being wielded now like a slashing sword, slaughtering whatever is in our path. But deeper down, past all the edifices and institutions that we have imagined ours, we’re left with just looking at us, who we are, what we are.
And this hasn’t changed. We are the same as we have been for 10,000 years. We’re still here not because of our self-appointed status as king of all species, but because of the formerly sheer abundance of the Earth itself, which we have grazed off of until this very day.
But that is now in collapse, almost entirely because of what we have done. “Our” oceans are in severe decline. “Our” glaciers in severe melt. “Our” soils, lakes, rivers and streams polluted. “Our” resources are depleted. “Our” way of life threatened, imperiled and in collapse.
Setting aside the misconception of human ownership, the evidence of a severe decline throughout the environment is everywhere now. Entire countries, once lush with trees and verdant wildlife are now denuded, desert landscapes. Oceans once full of fish and marine creatures are scraped clean, now devoid of life by armies of trawlers. The air we breathe is toxic, polluted and unhealthy. Human released toxins invade the environment and atmosphere, even in the farthest reaches of the world. In the world court of accusation and blame, only one species alone is responsible for all of this. But we cannot seem to admit to any of it in meaningful ways.
Like the book mentioned above, we cannot simply discard the Earth when we’re done with it. Go where? Live how?
Collapse is a human-engineered event. There is nothing natural about it. Nothing. We can survive earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms and even tidal waves, but we cannot survive our own hubris. Engineering our own destruction is unbelievably stupid. Which makes us not the smartest species on the planet, just the dumbest.
Plenty can be said about this (and has). It’s done little good. Individuals are a force of nature insomuch as they are a part of the collective whole of the species. How the species acts and behaves, even what it believes, has proven to be a monumental force for both good and evil. There are some in our midst that are not like us, having chosen a different path. They are quite dismayed at our behavior and rightly so. The Taker society is killing the planet out from beneath their feet.
I’ve often been asked about “survival” over the years. What to do, where to go, who to help, where to even live. How do you truly prepare for survival when your own species is hell-bent on self-destruction? Where the “right to life” triumphs all else? Or better said, where greed governs our every action?
Should we survive ourselves? Does anyone actually think that only the “good” will survive and all the bad will be destroyed?
What if this already happened?
Think about it. What’s left today? Who is left?
Humans have made damned sure that only the “chosen” are still here. All others were systematically wiped out. Very few remain now. However, our experiment with civilization has proven to be quite disastrous. All of us were born into this, something we cannot help. But none of us have to stay here. Not if we don’t want to. But the truth is easy: we want to stay. We know this is true because it’s all that we do. We build it, refashion it and redesign it over and over again, believing that we can eventually get it right or somehow “better”. But we’re making a rather mess of things, aren’t we?
The good are almost all gone now. And we are what is left, supposedly an “improvement” upon things. Now, we get to work live slaves for corporate masters whom we never even meet, accepting lifetimes of toil and drudgery, producing endless reams of paper or electronic blips, churning out “consumable goods” while we rape the planet blind. We hope against the sheer reality that we can “make it” somehow to the end (of our lives), where we can then finally rest from our labors.
Looking back, we console ourselves that it all somehow “mattered”, that our lives were not spent uselessly doing useless things while we participated in this grand experiment of “civilization”. Selective memory always helps here, where we can choose to ignore our own contributions over a lifetime to our collapse, our destruction and our endless and senseless killing.
This is insane. It’s all insane, behavior you would find only in a lunatic asylum filled with the mentally ill. Crazy people do crazy things because to their way of thinking, it’s all okay. But it is not all okay, none of this is all okay. It’s all wrong — every last damned bit of it.
It’s also extremely pervasive and hard to break through. Voices are going silent in utter despair as the juggernaut of civilization drowns out reason. We’re fighting against an entrenched enemy — ourselves. Even authors of pieces just like this are looking in the mirror with the horrifying realization that we too are the enemy within. Our “greed gene” refuses to release us. We’re not immune from the horrors of our civilization or our participation.
Recently, I watched Apocalypse Now again, after many years of my first viewing. Colonel Kurtz words words still echo:
I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me.
It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means.
Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies!
I remember when I was with Special Forces… seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn’t know what I wanted to do!
And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it… I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God… the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.
And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that.
If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgment that defeats us.
Do you understand? We are all murderers, every one of us. We are the horror. You have to come to terms with that. This is why moral terror are “your friends”. If not, this is the enemy to be feared — the denial of oneself, who you are, what your species is.
Do not stand in (self) righteous judgement and declare yourself exempt — you are not. Nobody is. We are all part of the terror, the horror inflicted upon this world because of who and what we are. We have embraced the deception that we are the undisputed on this planet and demonstrated this in a millions ways in endless sequences of death and destruction, including war upon our own species. The sheer scale of this slaughter boggles the imagination. We can read about it, even experience it, but we can never truly comprehend it all, as it goes back to the dawn of human history. This is what we are.
Kurtz’s last line of all is perhaps the most important to remember which he whispered in tortured agony of realization:
The horror… the horror…
The realization of who we are and what we are entirely capable of doing… including the imminent act of his appointed assassin Willard…
Now do you understand? Our collapse is as immutable as the rising sun, an event that unfolds even now.