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Paradise Lost

Many of us who have been paying attention to the state of the world over the last half century have now begun to realize with growing horror that the progressive deterioration we have been tracking shows no signs of resolution. In fact, to some of us it looks as though there is no way to resolve this deepening crisis. The end of the track is in sight. The planetary factory is in flames, and all the exit doors are barred.

Proposed technical solutions are utterly inadequate to the scale of the problem. Many ideas like geoengineering will simply make matters worse. There is no political constituency for degrowth – none at all. There is precious little political support for even putting a light foot on the brake. This road to Hell has been paved with the very best of intentions – giving our children a better life stands near the top of the list – but here we are nonetheless. The climate is signalling that our future may be a little warmer than we were expecting, once our seven-billion-passenger train passes those gates.

Now that the denouement is in sight, I’m setting aside the anger and outrage, the blame and shame, to focus my attention instead on why this outcome seems to have been utterly inevitable and unstoppable.

Why has this happened? I don’t buy the traditional “broken morality” or “flawed genetics” arguments. After all, our genetics seemed to be perfectly appropriate for a million years, and the elements of morality that some of us see as sub-optimal (the greed and shortsightedness) have been with us to varying degrees since before the days of Australopithecus. I don’t think it’s just a mistake on our part or a bug in the program – it appears to be a part of the program of life itself. It looks to me as though much deeper forces have been at work throughout human history, and have shaped this outcome.

The main difficulty I have with all the technical, political, economic and social reform proposals I’ve seen is that they run counter to some very deep-seated aspects of human behavior and decision-making. Mainly, they assume that human intelligence and analytical ability control our behavior, and from what I’ve seen, that’s simply not true. In fact it’s untrue to such an extent that I don’t even think it’s a “human” issue per se.

I have come to think that most of our collective choices and actions are shaped by physical forces so deep that they can’t even be called “genetic”. I haven’t written anything definitive about this yet, but the conclusion I have come to in the last six months is that a physical principle called the "Maximum Entropy Production Principle”, which is closely related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, actually underlies the structure of life itself. Its operation has shaped the energy-seeking, replicative behavior of everything from bacteria to humans. All our intelligence does is makes its operation more effective.

This principle is behind the appearance of life in the first place, has guided the development of genetic replication and natural selection, and has embedded itself in our behavior at the very deepest level. Like all life, our mandate is simple: survive and reproduce so as to form a metastable dissipative structure. All of human behavior and history has been oriented towards executing this mandate as effectively as possible. This “survive and reproduce” program springs from a universal law of physics, much like gravity. As a result it even precedes genetics as a driver of human behavior. And lest there be any lingering doubt about the connection to our current predicament, the survival imperative is what causes all living organisms to exhibit energy-seeking behavior. Humans just do this better than any other organism in the history of the planet because of our intelligence.

In this context, the evolutionary fitness role of human intelligence is to act as a limit-removal mechanism, to circumvent any obstacles in the way of making make our growth in terms of energy use and reproduction more effective. It’s why we are blind to the need for limits both as individuals (in general) and collectively as cultures. We acknowledge limits only when they are so close as to present an immediate existential threat, as they were and are in hunter-gatherer societies. As a result we tend to make hard changes only in response to a crisis, not in advance of it. Basically, the goal of life is to live rather than die, and to do this it must grow rather than shrink. This imperative governs everything we think and do.

As a result, I don’t think humanity in general will put any kind of sustainability practices in place until long after they are actually needed (i.e. after population and consumption rates have begun to crash). I don’t think it is possible for a group as large as 7 billion people to agree that such proactive measures are necessary. We are as blind to the need for limits as a fish is to water and for similar reasons. After the crisis has incontrovertibly begun we’ll do all kinds of things, but by then we will be hampered by the climate crisis and by severe shortages of both resources and the technology needed to use them.

I have given up speculating on possible outcomes, because they are so inherently unpredictable, at least in detail. But what I’m discovering about the way life works at a deep level makes me continually less optimistic. I now think near-term human extinction (say within the next hundred years) has a significantly non-zero probability.

Our cybernetic civilization is approaching a "Kardashev Type 0/1 boundary" and I don’t think it’s possible for us to make the jump to Type 1. Like most other people, Kardashev misunderstood the underlying drivers of human behavior, assuming them to be a combination of ingenuity and free will. We indeed have ingenuity, but only in the direction of growth (and damn the entropic consequences). We can’t manage preemptive de-growth or even the application of the Precautionary Principle, because as a collective organism humanity doesn’t actually have free will (despite what it feels like to us individual humans). Instead we exhibit an emergent behavior that is entirely oriented towards growth.

I see no purpose in wasting further physical, financial or emotional energy on trying to avoid the inevitable. Given our situation and what I think is its root cause, I generally tell people who see the unfolding crisis and want to make changes in their lives simply to follow their hearts and their personal values. I’m not exactly advising them to “Eat, drink and be merry”, though. You might think of it more as, “Eat, drink and be mindful.”

Further Reading:

22 Comments

  1. Aloha my friend sounds like you are having a real tough day. This planet is build to grow food now only for all of us but for every living thing. Hope is the fuel that will drive us to peace love balance and harmony. All any of us can do is lead by example. Everyday do the best you can physically spiritually and your mind set will be positiveand soon the number of people thinking this way will tip the scales and we will ride a real positive wave with a wonderful vibe. We are better today then yesterday and not as good as we will be tomorrow. Never give up, never settle and never ever give in to indifference. Rediscover your passion and love for life. Much aloha. :)

  2. Paul, unfortunately, as I think you know well, the vast majority of the world’s population are totally ignorant of the massive kinetic energy, or momentum, inherent in our present society on its current disastrous trajectory. Indeed, it is that very ignorance that is the impediment to meaningful change. Instead of that meaningful change, we get, instead, greenwash and fluffy, wishful thinking.

  3. I know, Craig, I know. According to Tim Garret’s research most of the energy we can generate goes just to support stuff we’ve already built. That 18 terawatts of primary energy just to keep things from falling apart. That represents enormous momentum.

    Then there’s the inconvenient fact that all of our evolved cognitive biases are oriented towards shielding us from the awareness of what we’re doing to the biosphere if at all possible. Our risk perception evolved on the savanna, and only short-term, concrete threats tat impact us personally generate any kind of urgency.

    Plus the little problem that our vaunted analytic intelligence has one primary evolutionary role: to act as a limit-removal mechanism. We use it to go over, around or through obstacles to growth. That takes cleverness, not wisdom. Recognizing, acknowledging and accepting limits would represent wisdom. We don’t have that quality to any great extent. So I would say we’re not “intelligent”, just really, really clever. Oops!

    I wish everyone who is working to mitigate what’s coming the very best of luck. But I think it’s helpful for our sense of perspective if we season our hope with a dash of realism. There is a whole lot of THAT, only a tiny bit of THIS, and time seems to be running out.

  4. Hello to all,
    There is one text I would like to refer to, if I may.
    https://www.paulchefurka.ca/FindingTheGift.html

    I belive our life on Earth is more than it may seem to a strictly “scientific” mind. Something is at work here that transcends our notions of reality. And because of its transcendence, that something will always be beyond our reach, and talking about it is pointless.
    Yes, I agree we are on a train running madly towards the end of the bridge. There is no way to prevent its falling (short of a large, chaotic and potentially equally deadly derailing). In other words, im my opinion, whatever happens this century, there will be either few or no survivors in the next.
    And that is exactly what makes this the most important moment in the history of our species, in which it is most important to Do the Right Thing, always in all circumstances, whatever it may mean to our (percieved) selves. Because we don’t know anything at all about the REALLY big picture, we have to do everything we can to participate in this Life.
    If this means humans will make themselves extinct, so be it. At least we tried. And we will have left a planet full of opportunities for further evolution.
    If, however, some humans do survive, this will be the greatest and most important lesson we will ever collectively learn.
    Life is bigger and deeper and more mysterious than we will ever know.
    Even though we don’t understand it, Let’s Live!

  5. The mega wealthy sociopaths who create wars for profit also realise what you are saying. The ‘Population Bomb’ was written in 1968. Time might be running out at our current trajectory but if an event was manufactured that removed 90% of the population then the remaining 10% and the life on the planet would be in a very comfortable position. This is my conspiracy hypothesis! I dont spend much time thinking about this, these are just some logical extrapolations. Honestly its beyond our control and I think Bobby Burns was on the right track with his don’t worry be happy theme song.

  6. I entirely agree with everything you say. The world is changing fast and who knows what will happen. There is chaos and disaster everywhere but the thing that really annoys me is how many people still assume that “humanity” and its welfare is the only thing that matters. That is an old fashioned idea and is no longer appropriate.

  7. There is a difference between seeing the problem and giving in to apathy in the face of the difficulty in solving it. Consider – an increasing number of very smart people now realise that it is in our own best interests to change our behaviour so as to avoid driving ourselves to extinction.

    If every person who sees the problem makes some effort, no matter how small, towards solving it, then we have a very good chance of making it through. If people who see the problem fail to act, to teach others, to maintain hope and optimism for our long term survival, then we lose as a species and a culture.

    It is hard, no one (no one reasonable) says that it isn’t. But we’re very, very good at solving hard problems when the solutions are important to our survival. Don’t count the human species out just yet.

  8. My opinion for what it is worth is that that most of the worlds problems stem from the use of economic benchmarks as levels of authority for direction or justification of paths of progress. When you remove the human factor from the decision making process you remove the imperative to do what is best for humans. Then remove the intrinsic value of the economic standard and your left with a value system that is based solely on confidence and has no real value at all. We have be conned into a decision making process that is devoid of any humanity and has no real value. In such a system decisions about all of life matters will be relentlessly and inevitable pushed toward goal ie. the removal of all humanity and the removal of any real value.
    To the mega wealthy sociopaths as you call them, and I concur, I would say that if they sow the wind they will reap the whirlwind and their time will come as irresistibly as the french monarchy’s did so I worry for them.
    As to the matter of the train wreck of humanity, if it is inevitable and I for one think it is then get off the train. The initial crash and tumble will be painful but it does offer salvation to all who do it. It encourages others to jump to restart to rethink to get your head out of the virtual world and into the real.
    In the movie “Being There” Chauncy was confronted by an angry gang member which made him uncomfortable so he pulled out his tv remote pointed it at the man an clicked trying to change the channel. As stupid as this seems society has been led to believe that it can do the same. In real life however the channel stays the same and the consequences and results are real.
    The example of Cuba shows the resilience and intrinsic wisdom invested in the collective humanity when faced with a real world as opposed to a virtual world. A world where real things have real value and there is virtually, nothing.
    So my answer would be to get of the train and help others to do so. As harsh as it is, the reality of the situation is that those that wish to stay on the train would not survive the crash or the aftermath. That’s sad but it is real.
    So much preparation so little time.

  9. Hi Paul,
    Great article about the source of human behaviour and our predicament. Are you aware of the work of Robert Prechter and his hypothesis of ‘mood change’ originating in the amigdala of the brain, as the cause of human mass behaviour?

  10. Paul. Thankyou for a deep and thoughtful article. My intellect agrees with all you are saying. My emotional response however is different. As a mother and a grandmother, it is written into my biology to seek straws, bridges, canopies, nets, pathways, whatever it takes to ensure my progeny has a future. Your concluding sentence ‘Eat, drink and be mindful’ just doesn’t sit well with me – I have to be continually active – specifically and recently by embracing, practicing and promoting permaculture.
    The metaphorical train you show would surely lose it’s momentum and slow down if it was starved of the fuel provided by the consumer meme. If enough people jumped off, its trajectory could change. To my mind there is a barely distinguishable line between mindfulness and despair and apathy. Friends tell me my optimism is based on the books and blogs I read, and the social media I use and that this is far from representative of the mainstream perspective and lifestyle. I know this but (thanks to social media) minds, trends, fashions do change – rapidly. We can all help this to happen, every tiny shift of perception adds new energy to this process.
    You say ” We can’t manage preemptive de-growth or even the application of the Precautionary Principle, because as a collective organism humanity doesn’t actually have free will (despite what it feels like to us individual humans). Instead we exhibit an emergent behavior that is entirely oriented towards growth.”
    Surely this is a very recent phenomenon in our evolutionary history? We have been trained to embrace this meme of endless growth?

  11. If you haven’t yet read How the World Really Works you might like to do so. Each chapter is a book review.

  12. Lots of wailing and gnashing here and little in the way of a path forward. I don’t mean that as a criticism but rather as an observation. And it’s very common everywhere. Growth over the millennia has generally been a good thing. The consumer fueled growth that began early in the 20th century has generally been perceived as a good thing until fairly recently, say the early 70s when The Limits to Growth was published. So if growth is not the answer, what is? No growth? Sustainable growth? Anything that centers around the word growth is a non-starter. A discussion about No growth simply locks us into an unresolvable argument which results in continuation of the current situation. Sustainable growth implies more of what we have in some fuzzy sustainable way. While attractive when it was first used, we quickly realized infinite sustainable growth in a finite world is not possible. The word growth has to be removed from the discussion in order to open us up to new words. I would argue that sufficiency is a possible working model: I have enough, I’m satisfied, I’m Happy. We measure our current economic model using GDP. There is a measure for measuring a sufficiency model: the Gross National Happiness Index. It sounds a bit hedonistic but if you look at the detail of what is being measured – https://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/docs/GNH/PDFs/GNH_Variables.xls, I think many would say that these are the things that we want out of life.

    So how does this translate into policy? If you look at the 2010 survey, one of the highlights is that Men are happier than women on average. In our current model, we look at results, ask why, and then try to respond. There is no reason not to apply that approach in the Sufficiency Model.

    It’s not possible or even desirable to simply stop using GDP and start using GNH because of the chaos that would result. However, including some, if not all, of the measures of GNH within GDP would begin the discussion and process toward change, especially if any of the GNH factors are negative since they will bring down the overall GDP index. In order for the overall index to be healthy, the components must be healthy. Yes, quantifying GNH will be a challenge. There are criticisms of GNH but I view them as development discussion points which might also include Green National Product – https://www.eolss.net/Sample-Chapters/C13/E1-21-03-03.pdf

    If we are going to find away out this impasse, it seems to me that we look for positive expressions of the things that are wrong. If we don’t like degradation of the environment, let’s measure quantify it. If we aren’t happy, let’s quantify it. Once quantified, we can measure progress but this is progress in a direction that we want to go in towards values that we want.

  13. Good conversations worth having. Kinda leaves me thinking of a similar conversation ‘Hope in the Age of Collapse’

    https://thoreaufarm.org/2012/04/hope-in-the-age-of-collapse/

    I tend to lean closer the Kingsnorth side of the story who also concludes “I’m going out for a walk.”

    Much thanks Paul,

    Glenn

    p.s. Nassim Nicholas Taleb in ‘The Back Swan’ tells a host of stories that seem to affirm that the human animal is a complicated creature that simply isn’t as clever as it thinks it is – maybe not up to the challenge?

  14. For those of us born with the empathy gene it has been a long and twisted journey that has left many of us depressed and addicted. I for one sprung from the Kent State experience and helped organize the first Earth Day ceremonies there in 1970. Interestingly enough, our protest was on the theme of a premature funeral for the children of tomorrow which included parading thru the streets of Ohio with a 1800 horse-drawn funeral coach followed by gas-mask wearing students. This was covered by ABC News and a film company from Japan, and created quite a stir at the time…
    I feel we are at a very important turning point in our journey home. I see many people rustling about trying very hard to find a way to become involved in positive change, motivated by fear for the future. My experience with indigenous peoples extracted me from the dominator paradigm and lead ultimately to Permaculture. There really is, as the lyrics from Sting sing, “no political solution”. And in a strange way, at least now we can quit worrying about the future…and descend from the peaks to the valleys where the world awaits. It is thankfully all downhill from here…easier with the law of gravity on our side. And please don’t just write me off as negative and pessimistic (pessimystic?) because I have two grand-daughters to consider who live in the same small California coastal town and their futures are very much on my mind.
    When asked, my elders tell me the same story…they have seen this coming…it’s been terrorism and genocide since first contact, and there is this strange destiny of the time spirit that really doesn’t care for our procrastinations. The wind really doesn’t care what you think…and these wise earth fathers say, the world heart is melting. My approach has been to utilize my talents, abilities, and experiences to create biodiversity food gardens…teach the children how to grow food and cook it (what a concept) and to maintain the ceremonies of gratitude that feed the soul. I want to be living when I die (however and whenever) and I want to cultivate a trust in the great unseen forces that animated my ancestors and all life on this planet. It is time to create another parade…maybe this time lead by a pied piper who can lead the children into the mountain. Can we bring the “S” word into this and realize that no matter what your religion, we are deep within a spiritual crisis, and it is more about the survival of those endangered values and morals that define us as human rather than actual physical survival. If fears arise, read quantum physics. And as a Hawaiian shaman told me, every experience we have is stored in our bones, so it is vital that we store up the highest consciousness in this skeleton, then when death occurs, our disintegrating calcium molecules will interpenetrate the earth and pass on our highest achievements to others. Our only responsibility now is love…a “radiating” love that transcends all understanding. The coming chaos then can be viewed through the lens of perennial wisdom. Ancient. Profound. And Free….

  15. David, Cuba is certainly a comforting example. Best we not look too closely at North Korea and pre-WWII Japan, though. Their examples also have something to say about the intrinsic qualities of collective humanity…

    Jackie, I think the word “growth” can be removed from individual vocabularies, but not from the collective one. Growth, as in the search for more energy to enable individual survival, and excess reproduction for species survival is built into our genome. Our intellect cannot counter these instinctual tendencies because its evolutionary purpose is to facilitate them. At a species level we have little if any free will in this area – we’re hostage to our genetic programming. Having even a billion individuals chose a path of radical degrowth doesn’t amount to much if 6 billion plus keep climbing that mountain.

    My position these days is predicated on the fact that collective human behavior, like that of all species, is driven by the two evolutionary imperatives of personal and species survival through finding more energy (food, wood fires, coal, oil, nuclear, wind, solar etc.) and excess reproduction – all of it massive enabled by the limit-removal capability of our evolved brains.

    If one accepts that picture of the situation, all else becomes a question of our personal response to the inevitable. Insofar as there is free will and agency available to human beings, it exists only at the personal level. The collective species marches to a drummer that is at least four billion years old.

    In fact if my speculation about the origin of life being rooted in an offshoot of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is close to the mark, the general shape of this behavior may actually be a result the structure of the universe itself.

  16. Paul, that may or may not be the case.
    But we may be here as a species with precisely that purpose: to transcend that tendency to grow.
    Or we may be here precisely to die.
    Or the entire subject may be much more complex than it seems, and no human mind can really understand any part of it – much less the whole.
    Like I said above, we just have to do what seems to be the “right thing”, each of us individually. If we try to understand things outside our sphere, we will inevitably make mistakes, and we may possibly even sabotage the “plans” in our collectiveness, whatever that means.
    I subscribe to Fukuoka: no human mind can reach the subtle perfection of Nature. Therefore, to attempt it is futile, and may even be destructive if we actually start believing our minds instead of our eyes.

    We do not know.

    Let’s accept that in full, play our part to the very best of our abilities, and let things run their course. It will all make sense, but only in retrospect. For now, we do not know.

  17. I think the word “growth” can be removed from individual vocabularies, but not from the collective one.

    I was proposing to remove it as the centre of discussion because it always involves ending up at a dead end of disagreement. Leave growth in the vocabulary because the collective currently has a definition that is entrenched and embedded. By including the factors of happiness, fulfillment, sufficiency in our growth measures, the current definition will start to change. Will it change enough to avoid where the current definition is taking us? Who knows?

    Population is function of technology and not easily dealt with even with a “better” definition of growth. If procreation is driven by something in our biology, then a biological solution will be the caribou herd solution. Lush pasture leads to more and more calfs. A too large herd overgrazes and die-off occurs, often accelerated by a poor grazing year. Disease in an overcrowded situation would also reduce the size of the herd. Since we are of Nature rather than above Nature, we are no different from the caribou herd except that our “diet” involves a huge number of external dependencies of finite resources which increase the range of possibilities of a herd cull.

    If your solution is to deal with the problem at the personal level, then you or your children or your children’s children will die because the collective will destroy all. The challenge is how to change the collective. Unless you have the higher ground, a head on approach is doomed before it starts. Far better to change from within. And the change must be aimed at undermining and replacing what is not tinkering with what is.

  18. I don’t think such fundamental change as voluntary degrowth is possible from within. I think that the roots of growth-oriented behavior (and the resulting beliefs) are rooted in our evolutionary history, in the genetic-level behavioral drivers that kicked in when we discovered fossil fuels. While it’s possible for a few members of a species to go against the evolutionary flow, it’s not possible for a whole species (or even a majority of one) to do it. From a species point of view degrowth represents a death-wish.

    What does reliably change the behavior of all species, up to and including H. sapiens, is a change in their physical circumstances. Resource limits and environmental degradation are the two biggies.

    That is precisely why I emphasize individual responses. The system is well beyond our ability to influence, especially into a direction that the majority of our fellows will see as foolish, irrelevant and frankly dangerous. In that situation, the best response for we few outliers is to build closely knit, smallish communities based on personal relationships. They have always worked, and they always will. All of us alive today will die, but we can always plant cultural seeds – who knows what will or won’t survive and flower?

    My evolutionary psychology point of view is directly at odds with how most people today see the world being shaped primarily by human reason, knowledge and free will.

  19. “Very wise must you be, to know all that is possible and all that is not!” – Yoda, Star Wars, tongue in cheek.
    Maybe voluntary degrowth is possible ONLY from within, and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to catch on. Maybe not.
    Maybe all this supposed “mess” in this pre-catastrophe period, as well as the catastrophe itself, are exactly the way for the collective to become something else. Something better, preferably.
    The way the world works will not change according to how we think it might work. It will only change according to how we act.
    From personal experience, it is my opinion that you might be better off if you started thinking less :)
    Trust yourself, even if you don’t understand yourself. Your feelings know more than your mind does. And trust the world, never losing sight of your place within it, and your role in its change. But trust.
    Have you tried to re-read what you wrote? https://www.paulchefurka.ca/FindingTheGift.html
    I’m not trying to prove you wrong, or even silence a truth that is unconfortable to me. I’m trying to give back to you what you gave me with that text.
    Thank you, by the way :)

  20. Tiago, I don’t mean to come off as some kind of know-it-all. Like many other men of my age and culture, I have a tendency to speak definitively, even if it’s not necessarily warranted (and it almost never is, for me or any of the others). I fight the tendency, but when I have a new and transformational insight, it’s hard not to get enthusiastic.

    There is no question that the collective is in the process of becoming something else, but what that “something else” might be, and what the process could be like in various places around the globe, is open to question. After spending some intense time studying the role of thermodynamics in living systems, and the implications of that involvement for our ancient evolved psychology, I am now comfortable with the idea that the field of choices open to human beings – especially at the collective level – is constrained by our genetic heritage going back billions of years, and by the environment within which we operate.

    As the environment changes, it rubs up against our genetic growth imperative, and any mismatches are resolved by our so-called intelligence. The resolution is always in favor of growth if possible. If some factor blocks further growth, whether it may be energy or other resource shortages, environmental problems, social or cultural barriers, we ALWAYS looks for ways around them in order to keep growing. That tendency sets the tone for the denouement.

    In the distant past both an inhospitable climate and lack of access to high-energy resources kept our growth rate down to under 0.05% per year. We should realistically expect a reversion to that mean once the excess unsustainable mass of civilization falls away.

    I have a thought for you. According to anthropologist Marvin Harris, it is quite probable that our world does not in fact change according to how we think or act. Rather, he has good evidence from examining cultures around the world, that the way we think and act changes according to the way the world has changed. Of course there are feedbacks in that process, like CO2-driven climate change, but his underlying point remains. We change our beliefs, values and actions based on the opportunities and requirements of our physical situation, not the reverse.

    Harris calls this effect the “Principle of Infrastructural Determinism”. It’s is one of the reasons I’ve had to accept the notion of human free will as being unhelpful, except possibly at the individual level. Collectively our thoughts and behaviors are shaped by much larger and deeper forces that reduce our freedom of action far more than we recognize.

    Recognizing the involvement of the laws of physics in the shaping and constraining of human behavior was one of the “Stage 6” gifts that I received I came to terms with what’s actually happening. In fact it’s a perfect example of such a gift, because I could not have seen it if I had not fully accepted what’s happening. Any vestige of resistance to accepting what’s going on would have blinded me to it, as I had been “blinded by hope” in the past.

    I have tried thinking less in the past. I didn’t like it much.

  21. I thoroughly agree with much, if not most, of what you’re saying, except I don’t see nearly any of it as an either/or question. For example, I completely agree humans are constrained by the laws of physics and genetics, but I still see room for free will (lots of it). Yes, even at the collective level.

    Yes, we do have a genetic imperative to grow. And we have an (arguably) even greater imperative against death, especially of ourselves and our children. Exactly because of those imperatives, I think we would all be collectively driven to find self-sufficiency and a life of decrease if we genuinely believed we would die if we didn’t. We still haven’t changed our collective beliefs because our environment hasn’t changed enough to make us notice it, but awareness is rising, and we in the permaculture viewpoint are a part of that. Are we in agreement?

    Now the other side of the coin… the really big pickle we’re in can be seen as the natural outcome of the interplay between our environment and our genetics, but it can also just as well be seen as the result of the evolution of the collective human consciousness exercising its free will.

    But in the end it really doesn’t matter, and that’s where I’m coming from. Nature, or even reality, doesn’t have or need a brain. It just happens. Yes, it has “rules”, like gravity and chemistry and whatever, but we only call them that because we happen to have brains, and understand the rules better that way.

    The part I said about not thinking so much can be double-edged, sorry about that. I realize many people spend their lives not thinking enough, and that’s a really important thing that has to change, and is changing.

    However, in my view, rational analysis is only useful to a point. It’s not so useful if applied to systems larger than our brain capacity, namely the inner workings of humanity as a whole, or the much larger inner workings of our entire planet. Some parts we can more or less understand, but the whole is just too big.

    What I was trying to convey was that – for me at least – life is a mystery, and will remain so. We can evolve and learn and become better people in a better planet, or we can fail and die, but there’s no way we’ll ever understand WHY.

    Which shouldn’t ever stop us from wondering! After all, the wondering itself IS the why! But I digress.

    My point: yes, you can reach many conclusions by looking at the world, just don’t forget you’re inside it – in fact you’re a part of it – and therefore will never have the complete picture. Trying too hard is just as bad as trying too little.

    We’re all here to help each other live a life we don’t understand, and which involves real, inescapable suffering. I agree you should warn everyone about the dangers we’re facing, but please, be positive about it! This is actually LIFE!

    Thank you very much for this conversation!
    Tiago

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