Last night I began, and finished, the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It seems like overnight I’ve finally realized how all my beliefs are connected, and it’s been one hell of an awakening.
First off, I definitely recommend reading Ishmael. It talks about how human beings changed from leavers to takers once we began the great agricultural expansion, and how since then our relationship with the planet has been fundamentally changed. It ties together issues of identity, power, religion, progress, evolution, ecology and more.
By the end of the book I realized that I am no longer anthropocentric and that my previously held humanistic beliefs are flawed. The belief that humans are the most central being to the planet is the cause of all of the problems we experience today, ranging from environmental disaster to widespread depression. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about our well being, but by separating ourselves from the rest of the planet, from believing that we are the end all and be all of the universe, we have begun to destroy what makes our survival possible. In our attempt to become gods, to control the planet with our ideas of right and wrong, we have lost our place in the natural order, and are now starting to see what problems this presents. We have halted evolution, the general movement towards greater complexity that has been in place since the first organisms came into being. We have started a feedback loop that requires us to exploit more and more of the planet while we continue to grow our population and our greed. As this occurs, the natural order is swept aside and with it our paradise on Earth. Even today when many of us realize what a huge problem this presents we still are unable to steer away from the oncoming disaster. And why is this? Because we are rooted in this fundamental belief that this is how it has to be, that our culture is the top of the evolutionary period and that no better solution exist. I’m here to tell you that that is wrong.
A better alternative does exist. It lies in sustainable development. And not development in the way it has been formulated up until now. We should no longer seek to expand our capacity. We need to instead take steps to re-harmonize with the environment. This lies at the core of the growing permaculture movement. And yes many of us don’t know where to start with the transition. In my opinion we need to first address our cultural beliefs if we are to ever open our minds to new ideas and possibilities. It all begins with a drive for wisdom, to look at our world and ourselves and try to understand what could be better. We need to step out of our comfortable bubble and truly question our base beliefs. A quick trip to the library can teach you a lot about history, civilization, sustainability and everything about our current lives. Knowledge is power, and with it you will start to see the world in a whole new light. There is a best way forward, that is if we feel like trying to right the wrongs that have been made in the past, and this is through a return to nature, all be it one that can still provide security and comfort for human beings. If the world decides instead to push forward with business as is then that is fine. I can’t force my values on other people. But I hope that they’re aware what kind of world they themselves are going to live in, that their children and grandchildren will have to live in. In one way or another nature will self correct itself, and it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to face it.