mercredi 14 juillet 2010

Prophecy in our time

Prophecy: why today? You can't miss them. The prophets with a direct link to the Source on tv, announcing the end of the world. Some are secular ecologists who speak in the name "Science" and "Reason". Then there are the bible-thumping evangalists who speak for the Creator Himself. Who to believe? WHAT to believe? Should we believe anyone..

"Prophecy", with its theological bagage, is a term I use with provocation. I subsume under the term any "art or science of predicting specific future events or describing the general course of future events". "Prognostication", "prophecy", "divination", "prediction", "extrapolation", discovering trends, creating scenarios,.. all valid game in this hunt: Cartesian rationalists beware..

I want, above all, to isolate, dissect out those social / cultural / historical / spiritual conditions favoring popular interst in prophets and prophecy. Why, at some periods of history, is the common man piqued by the collective fate? This phenomenon remains to explained.

Prophechy, we hold, gains in popular interest in periods of scial and cultural transition. People sense, to varying degrees, that they are teetering on some "Edge of History" (title by historian Robert Heilbroner). They fee they are in danger of falling head first into some Unamed Abyss..

There are, of course, numerous ways of describing and cataloging such a deranged collective psyche, depending upon one's interests, field of specialization or "agenda":

1- "Age of Anxiety": the existentialist philosophers

2- "Time of Troubles": an ancient Chinese curse reads "may you live in interesting times!". "Interesting", that is, from the view point of future historians looking back from a more settled, more civilized age and seeking to discovers its originality, its character and dominant themes in the mutations of the "Time of Troubles" that gave birth to their world.

3- "End of History": Karl Marx (with recent echoes in Francis Fukuyama but from a very different historical perspective and interpretation). This view posits a final, stable state of secular felicity after the Proletarian Revolution.One easily recognizes a secularized, "rationalized" vision of the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelations. For Marx the secularized Messiah who "returns" to usher in the Golden Age is the Working Class, a collective or corporate Messiah. (One even finds a perverse echo in Hitler's imminent "1000 year Reich" which takes up the "Millenium" theme of Revelations.)

At thousand year intervals, the Book of Revelations, with its dense, cryptic and endlessly re-interpretable imagery, makes a grand return:

- the time of Christ when the "imminent" New Age prophesized by Christ and Paul failed - in the eyes of followers - to materialize,
- the chaotic 11th century birth of Modernity portrayed in Norman Cohn's description of medieval "mystical revolutionaries", The Pursuit of the Millennium

- and now, of course, our own sorry troubled times..

Another variant of theme of the "End of History" was provided by Nietzsche who correctly saw that the days of modernity were numbered.The ultimate pathological drives of modernity, which Nietzsche attributed to Christianity and its - in his eyes - offshoot, Socialism, were "nihilism" and a "psychology of resentment".For Nietzsche modernity was doomed by it suicidal, antilife drives

4-Theory of Historical Cycles: A nearly universal conception in earlier societies. One finds descriptions in ancient Graeco-Roman, Chinese and "barbarian" (Nordic, Celtic) mythography and philosophy, Bhuddism, the Upanishads (Hinduism), Occidental and Oriental esoteric / gnostic teachings, Hopi and other New World traditions,.. Historical time is cyclical in nature. "World Ages" are often seen as beginning with a Golden Age (garden of Eden). Followed by a degeneration through successive stages: Silver Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age (Greek myth, Upanishads). The terminal age of degeneration culminates in a "return to Primordial Chaos" (Mircea Eliade: The Myth of the Eternal Return).

A new World Age would be born from the destructive / creative chaos, initiating a new Golden Age.  The ancients prized stability and adherence to the models provided by the heroes of the past. They did not seek "progress". For them, History turned like a great wheel either forever or for a very long time (some traditions taught that time moved in "cycles of World Cycles" - wheels turning within greater wheels..)

      The archaic beliefs in an End of History or in cyclic time die hard (to say the very least!). HG Hegel, Marx's "mentor" elaborated the concept of cyclic history using the language of the Enlightenment and 19th century science. Great historical forces emerge - the "thesis" - and, over time, encounter / generate destructive "internal contradictions" - the "antithesis". The war of thesis against antithesis is resolved in the "synthesis" which abolishes both thesis and antithesis and serves as the thesis of a new three-step thesis / antithesis / synthesis cycle. Thus an archaic - "archetypal" - conception of cyclic time found its way into the modern - supposedly "scientific" ideology of Marxism (Communism): Old Ideas do indeed die hard !! Perhaps they are like the dinosaurs who were reborn as modern birds..

      Nor should ancient archetypes be swept aside lightly. Modern Self-Organizing-System theory tends rather to support, while enriching, the intuitive archetype of cyclic history:

Complex, self-organizing systems: ecosystems, biological evolution, human societies, history, earthquake fault-line systems, electrical activity in the mammalian neocortex.. are not, we now know, not driven by inexorable astronomical / astrological "clocks": much of their cyclicity - where it exists - may be internally generated. Cycles may not even appear in a particular context: cyclic behavior may break down into chaotic behaviors or a periodicity may be replaced by a new regime with a new period and typical range of behaviors.. Nevertheless, the ancients saw the cyclicity of nature (tides, day / night, seasons, local weather pattern oscillations..) and grasped that a deep operational principle of the World System was at work. The best we can do today is eliminate their errors of interpretation and extend their insights with the tools or scientific rationality. 

     We have much work to do to produce a valid "Road Map of Reality" that will serve to re-establish the natural rythms we, in our collective arrogance and hubris, have disrupted..

Future development:

- The psychology of fear as driver of prophecy: Toynbe's mythological "time machine" to past "Golden Age" or future "New Jerusalem". Dangers: nihilism, escapism (including suicidal behaviors, individual and collective; manias..), scapegoating ("sacrificial victim")

- We need a New Road Map of Reality / Paradigm of Everything to deal with our changed situation - Post-Darwinian or Conscious Evolution (Lovelock: Awakening of Gaia). We are indeed at a psycho-bio-spiritual turning point in evolution of life on earth. Mind has now become an emergent actor on the World Stage: Nietzsche - as usual! - saw this in his recognition that the "Will to Power" was essence / driving force behind life. Today, that will is sick, nihilistic, anti-life, suicidal: witness what we do to our world, to each other. We have yet to learn to use power with wisdom! In cosmological terms, the crisis Gaia, the Earth Mother, Magna Mater, is transiting is - at least - as profound, as far reaching as the crisis of early photosynthetic bacteria who reached a threshold of oxygen auto-intoxication: they had to learn to recycle / re-utilize their waste (oxygen). They managed the transition: we - the animal kingdom - are here to prove it. Crises - period of "choosing" - are, at best, not just destructive but potentially creative and life-furthering..

- the case of Cayce (possible discussion)

mardi 3 février 2009

canto for the 3rd millennium

feb 2, 2009: I was born 3 years after WW II ended and grew up in a right wing N. England town (Bircherville). The Cold War was on, making me a "child of the Cold War Era": like all of us born in those days, I carry the psychic burden for life. We boomers are, above all, a generation of escapists, of reality deniers: GW denial, gated communities, SUVs (for "security"), the drug culture, religious cultism (1960s - oriental / neopgan exotica, post 60s - "christian" fundamentalism). Could we be other than a generation of escapists and deniers, given the times we were born into? Around age 12, in a department store, I heard a woman - about my mother's age, say that my generation was growing up in a bad time. The constant threat of nuclear anihilation and the practice bomb alerts in school - hide under your desk - couldn't, she felt, be doing us much good. I imagine she was right.

At any rate, that world I grew up in is dead. The Soviet Union is no more; Mao's social engineering, a historical curiosity. Good riddance, one is tempted to say!

Even at the time, I felt I was living in an era of constriction, of repression, closed borders - physical and mental, a time of living on the surface of things. Depths were not plumbed, too many secrets were not shared, too many feelings went unexpressed, unexplored.

When "secrets" - like black resentment - exploded like bursting pus sacs into the public consciousness, the accumulated toxins suddenly entering the common circulation provoked fever shock. The world went mad at Selma..

It was, still is (some things haven't changed), a time of hysterical bottled up energy which - eventually - must be released. The question is how? Violently or "rationally"? In those days, the 50s, 60s, even the 70s, I still believed in a naive version of Enlightenment Rationality - without having yet read les philosophes: people SHOULD be rational in order to express their humanity (man being a rational animal by nature). Quelle naïveté!

The Cold War is now dead - really cold! - but strange new wars of religion and access to resources loom on the horizon. In a sense, things are not better: the shit is now really in the fan, we are in the dragon's mouth: IPCC climate change reports..

Odd as it may seem - even to myself! - I take some real pleasure in this situation. My ennemies, the neocons, are faltering. Isn't vindication sweet?

I don't deny the tragic, the stupid, the infuriating, the terrifying and uncanny aspects of the times. How could I? I saw nearly all that is happening today in my early 20s, back in the 70s, simply by extrapolating the dominant themes and values of industrial N. America into the future. A no-brainer, from my perspective..

What I DO find amazing is that the "masses" were so godamned stupid that they passively accepted - even embraced! - the suicidal tendancies fo the age. Nietzsche rightly saw nihilism as the disease of modernity, after all - but WHY?

What the "masses" and their rulers did do is obvious: they push doubt and fear out of consciousness. The tragic price they paid is a lowered level of consciousness: dumbing down, race to the bottom, groupthink (think of the McCarthyite "Red Scare" witchhunts of the 1950s and early 60s). This is also the reason we have such an imperious need for scapegoats these days..

The "masses" accepted to be programmed like cyborgs to consume! consume! consume! and work till you drop in order to consume yet M-O-R-E / consume till you drop in order to fill corporate coffers and offer CEOs ever growing lust for emoliants.

Et voilà! Here we are, facing demographic collapse, starving for energy, land, food, water, clean air, dignity.. The planet can't take such consumption, given our numbers and the botched nature of our technology.

How would appropriate (non-botched) technology function? See the first 4 entries:

feb 9, 2009 (full moon): "The System" - our world, our civilization - is fucked, too fucked to be fixed.

Analog: Scientists claim that Canada's dying, overexploited east coast codfish population is now too dilapidated to recover. Human greed and stupidity has lethally wounded the ecosystem and the resident cod population, once top predators, will expire in about 40 years. Oh, the depravity of Late Patriarchal Culture! When Europeans arrived cod were "as big as a man" and weighed about 100 pounds! They swam in "streams of fish so thick that our ships were slowed in their passage"!

Hegel realized that an old order - "thesis" - eventually becomes shot full of paradoxes, antinomies and internal contradictions which, he claimed, coalesced into a coherent "antithesis". The "thesis" and "antithesis" go to war from which a new thesis - the "synthesis" - arises to begin a new 3 step cycle: thesis - antithesis - synthesis.

The Chinese expressed similar ideas in the Yin-Yang philosophy: the decadant Romans persecuted the Christians who, now in their decadance, morph tragically and stupidly into the New Romans. And so the Big Wheel turns. Rueda la rueda..

Stop the world! I want to get off!

OBSERVATION: Some say a new Copernican Revolution is taking place in the new (meta-)science of Complexity Theory: ADD REFERENCES

17 february, 2009 (3rd quarter moon):


We live a sunset time, a world ending.
Will a new one be born
or is void the other side of dawn?

The price to pay to stay the course is high,
too high for man to live, too high for earth to give.
The lords of the earth run to ground, shut their gates,
shut out a world spinning down, spinning out of control.
Shut the gates, shut out the unwashed,
rage on the road, call out the patrol!
They are damned our clever ones,
our entitled, our witty, our learned ones.
Their world is dying.
Will a new one be born
or is void the other side of dawn?

The price to pay to stay the course is high,
too high for man to live, the End Times near..
Seasons are disordered, unclear.
Fervid seas rise, refuse former bounty.
The goat is scaped in the public place.
The learned, the wise, the mighty -
they buy a pittance of time
with the blood of innocence.
Run behind your gates, shut out the world,
spinning down, spinning out of control.
Rage on the road, call out the patrol!
Today, the mad lead the blind,
a state that cannot endure:
look, the signs are everywhere!
Some nights stars fall from the sky
and draw down worlds in their wake.
Our lands are cursed, our croplands dry,
rivers rampage, cities die,
storms surge, forests fry,
Strange plagues snatch the unaware:
the three merry hags to MacBeth lying
wouldn't have wound a more wicked charm..
Our world is dying.
Will a new one be born
or is void the other side of dawn?

The price to pay to stay the course is high,
too high for man to live, too high for earth to bear.
The masses find too scant their share.
They bought the Great Lie - now they must die.
Oh Lord! Oh Lady! What will the day of their wrath bring?
The wind rises at our backs, threatening worse.
Life seeks the dreamer, death those who cling.
We live a sunset time, the leaves of autumn fall.
A world is ending.
Will a new one be born
or is void the other side of time?

21 july, 2009, wedenesday (new moon)

Lament for the world

The world's sorrow reads in its fury. Fools are happy, excessively so (being fools), else they are good actors. They rush headlong into hell's fury - just see them go! With blind eyes, they rush unseeing..

They make a lot of noise, too, to distract themselves from their fear, to render themselves blind with folly, the folly of the securitizing herd. They seek to become drunk with rage which empowers the afflicted.

See how they play at being children in a playground; they attempt to deny they are really child demigods rolling dice over the world's future: it's easier to look away, one does not feel responsible..

No, the world doe not want to see; it wants to be blind, it wants to be unfree: this is why democracy sells so cheaply these days on the global market! This is why the perverse "psychology" of the schools teaches that man is not free, that mind and soul - even emotion! - do not exist. (Note 1) Our poor world seems ruled by fools, madmen and their dupes..

Should we, then, feel sorry when the world - the sorry, deluded world - stumbles and falls: but how else could it learn ?? Who, then, to blame but the world for its sin, its error, its dereliction? Each daft fool brings the brick of his own self-destructionto to add to the common edifice: they build the blasted tower, the new tower of Babel (also know as the House of God). Now the sign of the blasted tower is fire, signaling the light which devours: "let the light devour men and eat them up with blindness" (liber al vel legis, II, 14).

Tonight, we write to cleanse the heart, to let it weep and unburden itself. Perhaps one or two or three will hear and that is good. Will they find my text a cheer, well-thumbed, clear..

For me, at least, the writing is therapy (I need it man!)

On a cheerier note. Today, I read Edgar Morin: La Méthode, tome 2 on ecology. Self-Organizing Complexity! This is the way the world runs, lacking practical knowledge of which we - or our civilization, at least - will die. This teaching seems destined to become the probable root of the desperately needed "New Paradigm-of-Everything" (its first draft anyway..). Our technology has simply become too powerful, too universal, too invasive to permit false ideologies: we are on the road to becoming roach food. But now at least, a sufficient number may understand: in this lies our hope..

Note 1: Only the educated could come up with such an absurd counter-evidence as an article of faith! The Upanishads observe: a sufficiently intelligent mind can prove any proprosition - a corollary of Goëdel's theorem yet predating Goëdel by centuries!

jeudi 16 octobre 2008

October 14, Canadian Federal Election 2008: Steven Harper, Conservative (Neocon Lite) prime minister re-elected.

As I predicted Harper won but without the parliamentary majority I anticipated. (NOTE: Commentator Rex Murphy says Harper won a "defacto majority", presumably due to his increase in popular vote and the fragmentation of center-left votes among Liberals, Greens, New Democrats and Bloc-Québécois).

These are times of socio-political reaction. Out-moded power structures and modes of governance are crumbling everywhere, in tune with crashing ecosystems: witness the finanacal débâcle currently afflicting the world's financial markets !! People are running scared and Harper certainly benefited from the recent upturn in world stock markets which was inspired by lucrative bank "bail out" schemes.

However, Harper's victory should be seen in context: THE VOTING TURN OUT WAS THE LOWEST IN HISTORY.,_2008

Why was it so low? I believe that at some level of consciousness, the masses KNOW (deep visceral GNOSIS), they are not fooled by the smoke 'n mirrors of the formal political process. Young voters, in particular, are APATHETIC. And with reason! Harper: "The Kyoto accord is a socialist plot to destroy the economies of the West". Then there is Canada's pathetic failure to meet its Kyoto CO2 emission reduction goals (under a LIBERAL (Neocon Xtra Lite) goverment).

Overheard: College and university students active in environmental movement are disengaged from the formal political process. "At some level of consciousness", these enlightened young people see through the smoke 'n mirrors of the formal electoral process: election call - campaign - inevitable promises (inevitably unfufilled in large part) - stasis (the world drifts blithely toward Armageddon) - election call - campaign - inevitable lies... and so the wheel turns..

One can only conclude that things are at a tense stalemate, an ustable and untenable equilibrium. Perhaps it will prove to be the calm before the storm (??) Disatisfaction, fear and frustration are the daily bread of the masses, sporadically exploding in the violence of scapegoating: 9-11 and its sequel, the unjustified Irak war; feminist / gay bashing, Islamophobia / Islamofascism, terrorism / neonazism.. Ripe times indeed for the ascendancy of fascism.

I have been told that the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" is composed of two roots whose meanings are "danger" and "opportunity". In the present impasse, I actually find some hope in the political apathy / cynicism of the young. Their frustration, badly canalized, can lead to socio-political reaction in its worst forms; well canalized, that frustration can provide the MOTIVE FORCE for life renewing change. Only time will tell which form will prevail. Qui Vivra Verra!

samedi 6 septembre 2008

reflections on reading Chis Turner: The Geography of Hope

I recently began reading Chris Turner's "The Geography of Hope: a tour of the world we need", Random House Canada, 2007, 439 pages + source notes and index.

Turner's thesis is interesting, not least because, he agrees with our own analyses posted in this and several other discussion groups. (This proves that no matter how crazy you are, there's always someone, somewhere at least as crazy..)

Turner argues, as many critics of conventional environmentalism are saying these days, that exclusive emphasis on the negative side of our interactions with nature has become counter-productive. Pointing out the damage we have done to the environment is a disincentive, dissuasive force akin to a Skinnerian "negative reinforcer": it 's intended goal is to turn society away from a suicidal, ecocidal way of life. It's the "stick" used to beat public opinion into mending its ways. Greens want to shame the public into behaving morally toward the rest of living nature and responsibly toward the fate of unborn generations. So far so good! But, says Turner, the PRACTICAL RESULTS of this policy have not been impressive. Moreover, time is running out. We have to find a better way to turn things around.

If environmental "doom-saying" is the "stick" of the argument for Sustainable Development (SD), then the Golden Opportunities offered by SD constitute the "carrot" which will entice the public to actively embrace SD: clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, transport systems and industries that do not pollute, new jobs and career opportunities in the expanding Alternative Energy market, a chance for global peace as LOCAL populations throw off the yoke of foreign economic domination and learn to harvest nature's wealth SUSTAINABLY AND EQUITABLY in their own back yards,.. Such are the promises Turner holds out.

And he may not be lying !! The text is based not on academic or corporate sponsored think-tank "scenarios" but on visits the author made to communities where people have actually chosen to live sustainably, to reduce their carbon footprint, to leave an intact planet to their descendants. Turner, in essence, is calling for a space age high tech "return to the earth". This is what James Lovelock - inventor of the Gaia Hypothesis - called "The Awakening of Gaia": human consciousness FULLY INTEGRATED into the workings of nature as PART OF the evolutive process which is Gaia herself.



1- Terms like "post-Darwinian evolution", "self-organization" or neo-Christian "co-creationism" (in which man is seen as God's partner in the creative process) are sometimes used to characterize the "new world order" emerging. Such "philosophical intuitions" go back quite a few years. Charles Péguy (died in WW I), French Catholic writer and social critic, held that God needed man to fufill the creation of the world. The work of the revisionist Catholic theologian, Pr. Teilhard de Chardin, expressed similar views and may even be seen as a precursor to the emerging "Gaian" world view. Chardin's major works date from the 1st half of the 20th century. A more Nietzschean, "bourgeois" view is probably reflected in the "transhumanist" movement which aims to "transcend" our (flawed) humanity through technology.

At the limit, all these views merge at the center (where they overlap). They can be seen as representing divergent - or "mutant" -tendencies within a much larger, global, emerging World Paradigm ("Paradigm of Everything" - a new "Road Map of Reality"). The very existence of such variants is actually more of a testimony to the strength of the emerging paradigm than to its weakness..

In retrospect, this current movement to "re-enchant the world", this re-insertion of man back into the cosmos as an active agent, only continues a trend that began in quantum physics in the early years of the 20th century: there can no longer be "disembodied observers", each act of measurement ("measurement" without intent to modify) alters the process which is being observed. The observer is no longer separate from that which s/he observes..
Continues the review of Chris Turner: The Geography of Hope

In chap 1 Turner provides a case study of Sustainable Development (SD): the Danish Island of Samso which, over a 10 year period, reduced its carbon footprint to less than zero (by exporting windpower). The island uses a variety of innovative yet available - "off the shelf" - technologies to achieve sustainablility. ("Sustainability" is defined a bit loosely. Fossil fuel consumption on the island is offset by energy exports. The islandrs have, with a bit of "creative bookeeping" attained a sustainable ecological footprint.) Grasses are grown to produce steam for community domestic heating, solar panels and windmills provide power for local use and commercial export.

One of the interesting points Turner makes is how LITTLE the life of the villagers of Samso has changed. The Danish government wisely involved local communities in planning and development of SD projects, working with THEIR human resources. Islanders thus "owned" the projects they were implementing, instilling pride-of-place and local commitment. "Top-down", imposed, approaches, Truner warms, must be avoided at all costs if the Green Revolution is to work! "Decentralization" is the word of honor in SD.

Theoretically, this makes a lot of sense. Simulations in the emerging study of Self-Organizing Systems (SOS) shows that the most gneral, efficient, robust approach is to develop / evolve control systems with a high degree of MODULARITY, HIERARCHICALLY ORGANIZED. Each "module" serves a function relating to the whole system and is regulated by commands from the top, but is quite AUTONOMOUS in how it goes about organizing and regulating its own internal behaviors. Generally, info flows BOTH ways: not only do commands flow from the top to lower levels but lower level modules feed info to higher levels to help the "command" levels formulate and correct overall goals. One can argue that the Soviet Union collapsed, in part, from botch-ups created by upper levels of the command structure attempting to micro-manage all lower levels of the economic machine.

I remember our Economics 101 prof telling our class about a factory in Siberia which, for some 15 years, continued to crank out gigantic lfet side wheels for a locomotive series that had been discontinued. Some bureaucrat in the Kremlin had messed up and forgotten to send a telegram to the factory manager in Siberia !!

Turner isloates the following principles as crucial factors for any equitable, decentralized, Sustainable Development (SD) project:

1- HOPE: (which in the words of one American activist "renders the present supportable"). I formulate this principle a bit differently: we must do what is right because it is right (not because it is popular or "is on the winning side").

2- MEANINGFULNESS: "Discover your life project" say the Existentialists. "Engage in right livelihood" say the Bhuddists. Our livelihoods should be SANE (as opposed to the suicidal non-sustainable status quo). They should be "ennobling", "worthy", "meaningful" (different people will find different emphases..). We should leave behind us a world at least as intact to our children as the one we received from our parents. We should do nothing to consciously diminish the chances of life of those yet unborn.

3- WILL: Not the (pseudo-)individual will to make a fast buck and prove that one is "better than the Jonses" but the collective (political) will to leave behind a better - or, at least, equivalent - world to future generations. The collective Will to engage the "Grand Project" of SD.

4- COMMUNITY: FUNCTIONAL COMMUNITY IS THE BASE OF ALL EFFECTIVE ACTION. This is why the neo-cons went after the "base communities" of the Liberation Theologians in Latin America with such vengence. One the other hand, when it comes to "mobilizing the masses" for THEIR objectives, the neo-cons indeed go for the "grass-roots", exploiting the hysteria and paranoia of the Cold War era to create a collective climate of fear, hate and intolerance. See, for example, Lisa McGirr: Suburban Warriors

The results of this exercise are telling: it is liberalism that, despite its former successes, got beat all hollow while the neo-cons have hardly looked back since the glory days of Nixon-Reagan. Without the support of local communities, the Green Revolution will simply not occur.

As a concluding, personal note, for this installment, I would suggest that activists acquaint themselves with the odd, confusing mixture of brutalizing pseudo-individualism and paranoid group-think that appears to be the hallmark of fascisms (of all stripes and colors): JP Stern: "Hitler, The Fuhrer and the People is a good place to begin.

jeudi 1 mai 2008

Thoughts on reading Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey D Sachs: Common Wealth, Economics for a Crowded Planet, Penguin Press, New York, 2008, 339 pages + glossary, notes, reference, index. 28 $ US

Reading Sachs is leaving me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel, well, sort of vindicated: "I could have written this book!" (obviously, I refer to his general analyses, not to the wealth of info arising from his professional work in his specialty..)

Sachs, director of the Earth Institute (Columbia U., New York), writes well and convincingly. He ties facts and analyses from various disciplines together with facility, offering illumination. I would probably recommend this book to beginning green activists as a general survey of the situation of Sustainable Development (SD) at the present moment.

I especially like Sachs' emphasis on linking SD and the war against terrorism. Poverty, underemployment, unemployment and forced emigration are factors feeding terrorism and fanaticism (religious, political, racial, ethnic). In the long run, I argue, the costs - human, environmental, economic and cultural - of defending ourselves against terrorisms (external and internal) will far outweigh money spent for well designed, equitable (redistributive) SD. Such projects, which would aim to promote local entrepreneurship and participatory modes of decision making and governance, are sorely needed in our energy short world full of willing hands and of minds attuned to local needs and resources. In short, if well designed, decentralized, participatory SD could probably deliver the biggest bang for the development / aid buck.

Well designed, therein lies the hick! For what we lack, I feel, is the will to act or even, it seems, to realize that what happens on the other side of the world is our business (Global Warming, Climate Change, poverty-bred terrorism..). What will it take to wake people in the West up to this - to me - evident reality of the interconnectedness and interreactivity of the modern world system? For unless we realize that interconnectivity we cannot, I think, get a handle on the future. Thus our world continues to spiral into chaos..

lundi 21 avril 2008

Earth Day 2008

Earth Day, 2008

Earth Day and the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. But what can be done? Is the world, in fact, going to hell in a handbasket? These are the types of questions we want to address in this blog. (I would, first of all, like to apologize for the rough nature of these early notes. Writing a blog, as it turns out, I find a bit disconcerting: the spotlight is on me! Reaction: writer's block. Hoping that things will go easier..)

The terms Gaian consciousness or the Awakening of Gaia refer to observations made by James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia Hypothesis. A long, long time ago Gaia was the primordial Earth Mother of the ancient Greeks; we still see the root geo- in modern words referring to the earth: geology, geography, geode.. In the Gaia Hypothesis, Gaia refers to the totality of life on earth plus the physical environment which both supports life and is modified by biological processes to render it more life-sustaining.

Gaia, the Planetary Macro-organism, can said to "awaken" in human consciousness because of the rapid rise in our scientifico-technological understanding and control of natural processes. If we don't use SciTech to destroy ourselves first, these emerging human powers will allow Gaia to transcend blind, unconscious Darwinian evolution and ascend to a new, higher, more integrated Post-Darwinian evolutionary sequence, one caracterized by conscious evolution. Today we see the initial stirrings of such possibilities in emerging technologies like genetic engineering (itself an extension of traditional techniques of "artificial selection" of cultivars and livestock).

One of our central theses is that human Science and Technology are not, in themselves, either "good" or "evil". They contain the seeds of both. At present, mankind benefits from certain aspects of the Scientific Revolution: increased life expectancies, older people who remain healthy and active longer, reduced child mortality, rising literacy.. Unfortunately, these gains have been produced through a process which is, globally speaking, unsustainable. In short, we risk a civilizational collapse which could reduce the survivors to a state worse than the one they started from. For example: the hundred of millions of North Americans would not be able to return to the pre-columbian hunter-gatherer economy; there are too many of us and we have destroyed much of the natural heritage (plains buffalo..) which sustained the Native Americans. Short sightedness, ignorance (including willfully programmed ignorance serving vested corporate and social interests), defeatism: these are our true enemies today, not international terrorism or "clashes of civilizations". In reality, terrorism and conflicts are often, usually, by-products of failed processes of development, particularly in the poorest regions of the planet.

Today, we need to get international development on a sustainable track, capable of sustaining future generations. There is a great moral imperative here: in failing to work for Sustainable Development (SD), we are depriving future generations of the right to a life of dignity. This must be the height of human arrogance and stupidity: seen from a moral perspective, our current position is simply untenable.


To make a donkey move, one uses "positive reinforcers" or rewards - the carrot - and "negative reinforcers" or punishments/ threats - the stick. We hold that the current environmental and SD debates are hampered by an excessive pre-occupation with the negative consequences of environmental degradation and resource depletion. All stick and no carrot causes the donkey (the world's publics) to switch off the doom-sayers and engage in escapist-denial behaviors such as:

- drug addiction,

- absurd risk taking (road racing, extreme sports, jackass contests),

- scapegoating (9-11, religious or ethnic intolerance..),

- religious and political fanaticisms (fundamentalisms, neonazism..).

One of the goals of this blog will be to help people concerned about the future to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to wield stick and carrot effectively, in the proper dosage..

While collective - international and national - effort is essential if we are to succeed, we believe that the effort must begin with individuals and small groups of individuals linked by community or by internet.

Our goal, therefore, is to empower individuals and local groups of environmental and SD activists to act effectively in their own communities: think globally, act locally.. We also aim to create mutual aid - synergy - between groups thus rendering their actions more effective.

Hoping to be hearing from you soon..

blessed Earth Day, 2008