The dark just before dawn is a magical time. The earth is morphing from the dreamlike state of night to the brightness and focused attention of day. In like manner, most people are transitioning from sleep to wakefulness, from the slower pace of sleep to the activity of the day. The dawn is special; it is the coming of the light. A light switch in a home is also magical, though more sudden. It, too, brings light into a darkened area, revealing that which we could not see in the dark. Often, it reveals to us work which we need to do, work which we may have preferred to ignore in favor of the more relaxed pace of the dark. Sometimes, if we have ignored that work too long, it is painful to address: mountains of filing to be done, dusty clutter in basements to be cleared, overgrown lawns or gardens to be tended to are some of these. Our current pandemic situation can be construed as a time of dark, when everything slows, pending work of the world is ignored or concealed, and the media at least try to keep telling us how lucky we are to have this time off. Times of darkness are valuable times of introspection and renewal; they are also times when we are tempted to give in to the human fear of the dark and ignore anything but our fear.
Whatever our individual opinions on the coronavirus pandemic may be, it is obvious that the attention of most of us is placed on the pandemic, repeatedly focused there by the media. Whether we think of when the lockdown will end, how we will survive unemployment or partial employment, the chances of getting sick or dying, staying six feet apart, the usefulness or need of masks, gloves, worry about whether others are following the rules, how to keep kids amused and engaged, opportunities to exercise or availability of food and supplies, the attention is on some aspect of the pandemic. Other critical issues seem forgotten by most, except for activists or those who are campaigning. We need to learn our lessons of introspection and begin emerging from our darkness to pay attention to what else is going on. Our Earth, especially, needs our attention, including our planet and all its denizens, among them humans and their cultures.
Without a planet, any other issue with which we may be concerned is immaterial, because we will no longer be there to engage with it, and the Earth itself may or may not continue to be able to support life. Our lives after this coronavirus dissipates will not in any case be the same as they were before the virus began. However, if we wish to shape the directions our lives take, we will need to be ready to make changes on many fronts. It is time we began looking at those fronts.
As our systems are interconnected, it is difficult to isolate any one of them with which to begin. Perhaps they need to be addressed at the same time, each part by those with expertise in that part. Our economic (especially banking) systems enable our energy systems, which enable our food production and distribution, which feed into our health systems and our medicines, all of which enable our media systems and our military systems, which in turn support our economic systems. It is a Gordian knot. We creative humans have built a massive, impressive construction for ourselves; that creation is on the verge of destroying the planet. Three video productions, one older, two recent, vividly illustrate what is happening that we prefer not to see. Earth 2100 (PBS) is fictional; it is an excellent pseudo-documentary of the years between 2000 and 2100, well done, based on fact and interesting to watch. The Story of Plastic (by the environmental group The Story of Stuff, shown on the Discovery Channel) is a visceral revelation of what we have done with our desire for convenience and profit and the overwhelming task of cleanup. Planet of the Humans by Michael Moore, available on You Tube, pulls back the curtain on what we are headed towards on the path we now walk. They are not pleasurable distractions, but thought-provoking and hopefully action-inspiring information we need if we have the courage to look and act.
The main components of the Gordian knot we have built ourselves can be summarized as Big Oil/Big Energy, Big Agriculture, Big Health and Medicine, Big Media, Big Military, and Big Banks. Big Technology facilitates all of them. It is hard to talk about one without the other, and certainly there are experts on each topic. However, it does not need a technical expert to know some things. One is that technology is an extremely useful tool and may help us if we can use it with humility. However, it is not God, and it will not save us, especially if we worship it, put our hopes and reliance on it. It will not help us to make no change and simply continue with some variety of the systems we are now following.
The changes we need will not be convenient. They will require us to take care of ourselves and each other, rather than being taken care of by a hopefully benevolent government. They will require us to accept and respect each other with all our differences; we cannot require everyone to be the same, nor can we require everyone to adhere to the same ideas. We will have to find ways to peacefully cooperate and to join as one while at the same time honoring each other’s differences. We will have to give up the idea of killing – each other, the old, the young, the Earth and her denizens – for the sake of short-term profit or aggrandizement. We will have to learn to live more simply, attaching our self-worth and comfort to inner/spiritual health rather than the production, consumption and amassment of things. That is a huge task.
For example, in order to reduce the rising temperature of the planet, we need immediately to stop extracting and using fossil fuels. That is not so easy when we realize that the technology needed to make such things as solar panels or wind farms consumes fossil fuels and releases carbon dioxide as much or more as the panels or wind farms save. Those things will not save us. In addition, the electricity on which we all depend is itself dependent on fossil fuels. Yes, it is cars and factories, but not just that. Imagine a world without electricity. Imagine how we will live in such a world. We also cannot burn up our forests for fuel, as the forests themselves are the lungs of the world, sequestering the carbon and providing us with oxygen. Imagine living in a world in which our only fuel to burn would be the twigs and dead wood which are naturally created in the lifespan of a tree. We may need to know how to do that. It is not convenient.
Many people think that reducing our population is the answer to our problems: fewer people, less need for resources. Of course, none agree on who it is who should be culled. Killing off the unborn or the elderly or the disabled or those different from the powerful does not result in a better situation; it results in an unbalanced population. Pandemics are an equalizing way of reducing population, but most of us would prefer to avoid them. Nature has a way of balancing populations; when an ecosystem can no longer provide for an ever-expanding species, that species simply quits or limits reproducing for a time. They do not have the technology to create (imperfect) contraceptives; they simply abstain. Are we as strong as they? Can we do that? (Try reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis and focus on the description of the Hrossa.)
We need to reduce our sprawl, which has devastated the habitats of animals who now try, to our chagrin, to live among us. No more suburbs. Cities can be built vertically, both in high rises and low rises (beneath the ground). Here, our technology might be useful in making these more comfortable. Or, we can build rurally in clusters, with the expanse of land around the clusters rather than around individual homes. Can we agree to live in density? Can we agree to govern ourselves based on the decisions of likeminded groups gathered together, respecting the decisions of other like-minded groups different from ourselves? Can we trade peacefully with someone with whose philosophy we disagree?
We humans, with our advanced technology, have succeeded in polluting our land and waters with factory farm runoff and pesticides and genetically engineered plants and animals not in nature, and we have succeeded in destroying the living nature of our soil. We need to immediately cease operations of our factory farms and slaughterhouses and clean up the mess they have created. We need to give up our pre-prepared foods, our out of season foods, our excessive meat consumption, our sugar addictions. We need to engage in restorative, regenerative agriculture and organic family farms. We need as much as possible to grow our own foods and re-learn the arts of cooking from scratch (men and women) and preserving foods. Are we willing to learn?
We must realize that the time to abandon war has come. If we believe that to stop killing each other is a sacrifice, can we understand the benefits of not existing under the fear of being attacked by another group or individual? War is a major destroyer of the planet, and a major contributor to the systems which have brought us to where we are now.
We must give up the systems of banking and interest, which fuel the entirety of the destructive components we have now and create the massive inequality of resources with which we are now faced. (check out the video, The Biggest Scam in the History of the World by, I believe, hiddensecretsaboutmoney.com, and posted also on Socratesgold.com/crucial-education-about-money/ Video #4) .We need to learn again to trade with each other and be willing to help a neighbor. I think those are our basic instincts. Are we willing to change to use them?
We need to give up big government, which by its very nature is more interested in amassing power than in the welfare of the people. We need to give up the instruments of government control, such as massive surveillance, and instead be willing to agree on laws and mores in smaller groups, with the basic tenet being that each group respects the other and does not engage in violence against another. Countries could still exist, but the control would be with the people, not from the top. Can we have that conversation?
In all this, a respectful use of technology could help us. It is the abuse of technology to dominate and consume the planet and disregard the other beings which inhabit it that is destructive now. It is the use of technology to discourage the personal, physical connection of person to person so as to live behind a screen in an electronic interweaving which ignores nature, assuming that technology needs no nature, that turns technology toxic to life. Used correctly, this amazing tool could help us to do what we need. We could start with science fiction (from which inventions often come) for ideas. For example, in Frank Herbert’s Dune Trilogy, the people of the desert had unique ways of conserving and creating water which enabled them to live in the desert without destroying the often-fragile desert ecosystem. We can turn to existing communities (check www.fic.org ), some of which have made great strides in sustainable, off-grid living, and some of which are expert on how to live and get along with others.
This posting has been decidedly longer than usual, and still covers only a part of what needs doing. The bottom line is that it is time to stop focusing on the pandemic, or on whether our neighbor annoys us, or even on political parties (focus on candidates and issues instead). We need right now to have the conversation of how we will make the many changes needed to save the planet which is our home. That is a real and urgent issue, not a sentimental one. The time is now. Later will be too late. Let us awaken now and put our energy into this conversation and these actions.