Mind-forged Manacles

Back in the Sixties, the visionary scientist Buckminster Fuller foresaw only two outcomes for humanity: utopia or oblivion. Either we continue our present social and political arrangements until we destroy ourselves, or we rapidly transition to a new social system, allocate resources rationally, and elevate the human community, as a whole, to an abundant state of being. I remain convinced that Fuller was right.

Our civilisation is a planetary suicide machine, rapidly annihilating the biosphere that sustains us. We are spewing more than a million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every hour. Our oceans have become 30 per cent more acidic in the past 40 years, as they absorb excess carbon. Climate change is proving to be an erratic and complex process, but the great danger remains that we will soon hit a tipping point where we unleash rapid, unstoppable warming.

We face other ecological problems that are equally severe – a quarter of mammalian species, perhaps all species, will disappear within the next 30 years. We can’t predict when our industrial monoculture’s radical assault on the biosphere will induce feedback loops that cause the ecosystem to shut down, like a planetary heart attack, but the prospect is neither distant nor implausible.

Our post-industrial infrastructure remains fragile, toxic and perilous, while instruments of mass destruction proliferate. Climate change has caused increasingly unpredictable weather, with “once in a century” super-storms, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods now happening every year. Will nuclear power plants in America or the UK do better than Fukushima in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami? When resources become scarce, will aggrieved nations trigger nuclear contact? Will enraged individuals turn to bioterrorism? As sea levels rise, what will become of the hundreds of millions of environmental refugees?

While our current system enhanced the quality of life for vast populations, increasing lifespans and improving access to goods, services and communication technologies, it also created incredible, horrific inequities between the haves and have-nots. Since the Second World War, the US and its European allies have mastered the use of debt as a weapon of domination and control.

The planetary mega-crisis cannot be solved in piecemeal fashion – the symptoms are aspects of a universal disorder, a systemic disease. The only conceivable response is the rapid construction and universal dissemination of a comprehensive alternative, a new “operating system” for human society. Revolution is an antiquated term that refers to older political and social arrangements. What we require now is more like a metamorphosis, where we consciously transform our existing infrastructure from within and without, utilising archaic techniques and postmodern technologies to bring about a polar reversal of values and behaviour.

Our social and cultural evolution appears to be an extension of natural or biological evolution, and follows the same principles. In nature, evolution leads from primitive competition to sophisticated symbiosis, coordinated co-operation. As an example, our bodies consist of hordes of micro-organisms that once fought for resources until they learned to work together.

We are in the process of realising that humanity, as a whole, is a planetary superorganism, a sentient swarm constantly altering and transforming the ecology that sustains us. Confronting the mega-crisis that threatens all life on earth, we will either die off or we will transition from domination and aggression to co-operation and sharing.

It has been noted that one cannot solve problems at the level of consciousness that created them – problems “dissolve” when we attain a more encompassing awareness. In our present dangerous circumstances, we can no longer maintain an oppositional world-view. We must, instead, adapt the mystical perspective that recognises the universe and the self as one indivisible whole.

The process of transformation has many dimensions, for the individual and the collective. Today, many people are discovering their beliefs and behaviour patterns to be rooted in subconscious programmes, imprints from early childhood. We must break free of these programmes that are running us – what the poet William Blake called “mindforged manacles”. As we awaken to the reality of our precious, perilous situation, we can take responsibility for changing it.

The flip-side of the negative potential for planetary apocalypse is the prospect that we can reconstruct human society rapidly, using the communications infrastructure and social tools that evolved in the past few decades. Sustainable technologies for permaculture, bioremediation, holistic health, rainwater harvesting, alternative energies, and so on can be mass-distributed. We can use mass media and social media to disseminate a new set of values and principles that supports a holistic and sustainable way of life. Facing rising seas, we can construct eco-cities that act as scaffoldings for living systems, supporting local communities, with food and energy produced on site. Through a co-ordinated movement of civil society, we can dismantle the military-industrial complex and institute a peaceful world.

If this seems impossible to conceive, we must take a moment to recall how many seemingly impossible things have come into being. The human imagination remains an unlimited resource. Perhaps we subconsciously created this planetary mega-crisis to force ourselves to unleash, as an immune system response, the full power of our creative ingenuity, to reach the next level of species consciousness.

The choice is ours, as the future remains to be written.

Original article on New Statesman

The Monsanto Act, Reality Sandwich, March 2013

Congress passed a bill last week that included a provision which “protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.” This provision is now called the “Monsanto Act.” This provision was snuck into an “emergency” bill (it’s always an emergency, isn’t it?) which prevented the shutdown of the government, and many of those who voted for it may not have actually read it.

We don’t know the eventual consequences of genetically engineered food–we don’t even know the current consequences of it. I keep thinking back to the invention of plastics, which must have seemed like a magical solution, but now pollute every eco-system in the world and also our bodies, causing hormonal changes, cancers, and other effects. There are often unintended and unforeseen consequences in the implementation of new technologies that become obvious only decades or even generations afterward. We are currently running an uncontrolled experiment on the entire population of this country, and other parts of the Earth, without any agreements or controls. We don’t know what the intensive consumption of GMOs will mean for human beings a generation or two from today. Some studies–though the results are contested–appear to demonstrate sterility in rats who are fed a primarily GMO diet for several generations.

The argument–made by the Gates Foundation and Monsanto (the Gates Foundation is one of the largest owners of Monsanto stock: “Under the guise of ‘sustainability’ the Foundation has been spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform Africa into a GMO-friendly continent,” writes Eric Gomez in HuffPost)–is that GE food is necessary to sustain the current human population and its continued growth over the next century. Monsanto is currently developing drought-resistant crops: “Because water shortages are predicted for many parts of the world, Monsanto expects these drought-tolerant plants to be a huge commercial success,” writesThe Economist.

According to Fritjof Capra in The Hidden Connections: To create genetically modified organisms, scientists splice genes into viruses or “virus-like elements” and use these unnatural “gene transfer vectors” to “smuggle foreign genes into the selected recipient cells.” One danger of this process is that “aggressive infectious vectors could easily recombine with existing disease-causing viruses to generate new virulent strains.” Capra cites the work of geneticists Mae-Wan Ho and other critics who think “that the emergence of a host of new viruses and antibiotic resistances over the past decade may well be connected with the large-scale commercialization of genetic engineering during the same period.”

According to many critics, GE only amplifies the mistakes made by the Green Revolution: “Like high-input agriculture, genetic engineering is often justified as a humane technology, one that feeds more people with better food,” writes biologist David Ehrenfeld. “Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase the sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers.” Many GE crops are only effective for a number of years, until the pests they are designed to poison figure out how to mutate themselves (similar to what is happening with antibiotic resistances).

The alternative to GE would be a global initiative to train farmers in organic and permaculture methods of agriculture. Many studies indicate that organic and permaculture-based farming can be more productive–and uses much less fossil fuel, thus producing less CO2–but it is also more intensive and requires a higher level of training, care, and connection to the local land (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/organic-agriculture-benefits_n_…). Over the last two hundred years, the mythology of modern civilization was that people do not want to farm–they want to lead urban lives and be part of “progress.” Farming should be done by machines, as much as possible. We need to reverse this ideology/mythology, as climate change and drought could endanger our current industrial food-production system over the next years. I see more and more people feeling a desire to grow their own food and reconnect with the land.

I don’t think there is a conscious “conspiracy” by an Illuminati elite to reduce human populations by feeding them poison–but the question of what is conscious is an interesting one. I tend to think that we need to question our whole relationship to technology, which as Martin Heidegger pointed out, is not just an instrument but a way of “enframing” the world as a “standing reserve,” a resource for humans to use as they wish. The technologists who are currently running our world are trapped in a worldview that sees the development of ever-more intensive hyper-technologies as beneficial–it is beneficial, in the short-term, to corporate profits, but endangers our future existence on the Earth, if we want to have one.

Original Article on Reality Sandwich