Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | August 25, 2012

Four Decades

Arguably the beginning of the Environmental movement is only a generation old. Along with Earth Day established in 1970 by John McConnel, Gaylord Nelson and my friend Dennis Hayes acting alongside a bevy of political heavyweights, hippies and activists, the modern environmental awareness transformed itself into a popular movement, in this one generation. And for those of us who grew up in this movement – it seems a long time. And for those of us who never noticed – it’s not even a blip in their timeline. Still a long time it is. Four decades of treading water.

The Environmental Movement has been a great movement of awareness and inaction. This is not because the goals we established were never met, but because we never set proper goals. Saving the Earth is not a goal no matter how high minded we are. The Earth doesn’t need any saving. It is us that need saving.

Our collective failure within the movement to establish the vision of where we want to be in forty years time is our loss. Our failure to set proper achievable goals left us reeling from the blows of vagaries, chances and adversity. Four decades is a life time and as such it speaks to inaction, and inactivity, because people don’t want to waste their lives for nefarious goals.

And although we captured the public imagination – all we got was cheerleaders. We became fodder for PR and Advertising creatives and the marketing machines of Corporations. We failed dismally to even enunciate our aspirations, our leadership dreams and the potential goodness for all of us. So we moved straight to noosphere where the living is the stuff of dreams alone. Still we failed because this movement never informed reasonable effective action and subsequently it never reached it’s potential. It never achieved the status of successful movements like the benchmarks set by the Civil rights movement. Worse yet, the Environmental Movement, never saw it’s day — Earth Day be damned — and never even came close to victory. Fourty years of losses in the making of predetermined battles and staged skirmishes doesn’t amount to a hill of beans let alone a war. Walking wounded, the Environmental Movement has surely lost this war because it always lacked cohesiveness and vision – same as it lacked clear enlightened leadership. It was always a fragmented mosaic of a movement without the glue offered by a visionary Leader or common purpose. And as such it fizzled out and suffered the fate of too many vanity prone “small emperors” and their lot. Small naked emperors playing as best they can their part — but like Al Gore, emperor “wanna bees” none the less — who react to the current “weather” and not visioning the future.

It’s our fault because we never cultivated a Martin Luther and therefore never had an MLK to raise his voice against fear, electrify the masses and sacrifice life itself for the struggle. And although we have many martyrs sacrificing themselves on the defense of this Earth, none comes to mind as an aspirational leader to get us to the Promised land. As such a leaderless campaign, the Environmental Movement was easy pickings for it’s enemies. And enemies are legion. Therefore the EM was easily suppressed and it’s mojo usurped by the very enemies it fought. Isn’t that a clear sign of loss when the energy companies and their lackeys, the pseudo environmentalists and corporate interests – all together honing and greenwashing their polluting credentials claim victory lulling you to sleep?

This was the outcome of forty years of struggle. Naturally so because the important details of the Movement were always left to well meaning youth. Cheerfulness cheerleaders and Youthful idealists living alternative lifestyle alongside adherents who were more interested in ganja smoking and starry eyed aspirational talking about sticking it to the “Man” rather than attending to the boring rudimentary details couldn’t muster a Victory even if it fell on their lap naked. Details like proper accounting of damages as derived from a cost benefit analysis, creating capacity and finding the resources for waging war were always overlooked. Minute details you say – but details is where it all goes pear shaped really fast. No wonder, it all fell apart. We all failed consistently and then tuned out from burn out, slacking and inattention. Because our old friend Evil is always to be found in the details – same place God is hiding.

To this day the Environmental Movement remains shattered. It hasn’t bothered to coalesce. It hasn’ become anywhere near the standard bearing popular engine of change. And it hasn’t captured anyone’s soul. And even though we seem to have been actively working at it for fourty long years we’ve got nothing to show for this. We are pushing full steam ahead and running full tilt at windmills. In the big scheme of things, we are simply doing nothing. We are facing head winds surely but we still act like so many lab rats on the treadmill running a predetermined course. after a while, Life itself seems like a spinning wheel to most of us, alternating between Fortune and Misfortune. But for the Environmental Movement the dial has got Misfortune written all over it. And for the radical elements of the EM itself the future was always lost in adversity. Going at it alone with few arms and a dedicated band of revolutionaries always had the same chances of success like Che Guevara in Bolivia.

The Environmental Parliament was founded some twenty years ago on a simple premise. Deradicalize and Unite. To unite various elected leaders from across the world in a bipartisan Policy making forum and to unite science with Public Policy on issues of Climate Change. And so far we failed to lead the world too. So let’s go back further and see what the Science of the Day has done to translate the obvious writing on the wall and instigate government policy to meet the need. Because science has been at it far more than a century – yet working very quietly like a secret society. Minding it’s circles it never occurred to them to speak loudly and with authority. They only spoke within their closed society, same as one hundred and twenty years ago, when Svante Arrhenius, warned that burning hydrocarbons would heat Earth’s atmosphere and was heard by exactly no one.

Still today the science is certain that we are cooking ourselves up, yet remains awfully quiet like old Arhenius offering his ground breaking advise quietly like a church mouse during mass.

Yet for the Environmental Movement, same as for any new found idea and for the cause of conservation – four decades is a long time to stand still and keep quiet. Just imagine standing still, while going backwards in the flow of the Great River called Life. It was these same forty years ago that the United Nations held it’s first Climate Summit in Sweden and declared that the Climate will be sorted by international agreement. A bit premature but there you have it. With big government agencies spending humongous budgets, come big irrational pronouncements.
But methinks it was our fault that we believed it and helped the UN process along. It was a loss leader and none too worthy to follow.

Still a lot of water has flowed under the Climate bridge in the last four decades but not an iota of progress was made along the issues and none of the polluters that warm up our atmosphere and heat up the earth, has been stopped. Instead more warming is created by industries that were not even around fourty years ago. New found industries such as space travel tourism that is bend to create an additional degree of warming of our Earth just by itself. A whole degree of Celsius of warm up from one new industry alone. Fuckin incredible. And this at a time that Branson, claims to be an environmental businessman while his airplanes and spaceships release more carbon and soot in the atmosphere than anyone else’s business… Talk about insistent Greenwashing.

Forty years on, we have warmed up the planet and caused Climate Chaos even though there are a lot of environmental agencies, environmental groups and a lot of UN conferences and Climate Summits and government think tanks to deal with the problem. Still today we have far less forests than the day the UN met in Stockholm and certainly less than half of what forests were around at the time old Arhenius clearly described the Greenhouse effect as a product of our industrial age.

With the world burning up and the forests consumed in a succession of man made forest fires, we are in danger of becoming a planet like Venus — a hellish inferno. After all Heaven and Hell are both here. We choose which one we want to inhabit.

But the show must go on. So today we have decorative green spaces, green median sin our highways, and green grASS lawns, great green parks and plenty of green “protected areas.” But we have far less forests and far fewer species than the first Earth day four decades ago. We also have greater carbon emissions than at any point in history. And our emissions are scheduled to rise faster at an accelerated rate than ever before. We have the warmest year, the warmest month and the warmest days on record and still we don’t care to do much about it. We have the best climate science and the worst climate catastrophes ever. We have the greatest number of travelers and the worst record of the pollution caused by air travel. We have more Climate refugees than at any time in history and have fewer climate advocates in Leadership than at any point prior. All this and still we remain transfixed in our fossil fuel burning habits watching the Telly for news of our imminent demise.
What a bunch of wankers – we are.

Many of us take pride that we buy organic and lead green Lifestyles since we have tons of “green” products to choose from. Forgetting that these Green Products come from the greenwashing industries producing more pollution than ever. Still we think that we are Green…. Maybe because we have green businesses and greater green consumer advocacy but we have no intact green ecosystems left. We have greenwashing companies claiming to save our environment for us but we have no reasonable actionable advise on how to lead our lives and protect our family and keep our children away from harm’s way. We have a million green things to buy and nary a worthy thing – knowing fully well that all consumer products are harmful to nature, the environment and the earth.

Clearly a dichotomy of understanding and living accordingly. So where is the mental disconnect?

Business as usual and Greenwashing business in particular, is killing our environment. Because in essence we have ripped off the natural resources and productized the Environment by monetizing it’s destruction. But first the greenwashers killed off hope, by destroying the idea of what is a healthy Ecosystem and what living in a functional Environment means, in the first place. Losing your compass is far worse than losing your baggage train when you are lost in the wilderness. And we go on blindly killing our neighbors and rampaging nature’s wonders of Life. All that while we spend fortunes looking for intelligent life in other planets of our Universe. We are seemingly the blind deaf and mute monkeys heading to the forest of inequity. Of course there is collateral damage too, because in the process we are also killing ourselves, our children and all others in Nature.
Somehow tha idea of Abraham sacrificing his first born to an alien God is not that far fetched anymore… when we are all willing to sacrifice our progeny to the alien Gods of Industrial consumption and fossil fuel industries leading us all in the Merry Go Round of our Hollywood tempting lives buying our way to hell via Tesco, WallMart, and your local supermarket choice.
We have packaged the Environment in so many saleable lots. We have parceled the Earth and the Sea. We have clearly demarcated the borders of our nations and divided our treasures in unequal lots too. We have accounted for all that we own and care for, but we have not bothered to speck-sheet the quality of what we have. We neglected to save the primary old growth forests that are the living skin of our planet and now we can’t breath. We have acidified our oceans and now there is no fish to eat. We have turned the Earth into a dust bowl and now we can’t grow crops for agriculture… What more are we waiting for?

This is a Giant FAIL on our part. A huge fail of all of our concerted efforts, and a failure of our intergovernmental agencies, of the UN and government agencies. And a huge fail of all environmental groups and green leaders or vanity leaders out there. Ofcourse, these failures are not necessarily the fault of environmental groups alone, because many parts of the movement have worked hard and diligently in helping to slow down the destructive impacts of the industrial juggernaut, but that’s not enough. Still there is a purpose served by these constant failures because they demonstrate that all our collective efforts are not yet remotely enough.
For example, observing the “Living Planet Index” of species diversity, we find that after 1980 – even with the creation of new endangered species regulations, parks, and protected areas – terrestrial and marine species have declined. For the last thirty years, even with a massive increase in wilderness groups, species diversity has plummeted and the rate of decline has accelerated.

The latest United Nations flop at the Rio+20 Conference proved once again that government conferences change nothing. After thirty years of meetings, conferences and all sorts of failed climate deals — we got nothing. We’ve got nothing because today after all these UN sponsored high fallutin climate deals, we have increased the thermostat on the planet by more than one degree and scheduled for three more. We have more CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions each year, and we are losing ecosystems and species at the same rate like the mass extinction that sped off the dinosaurs 120 million years ago. And after forty years of international ocean dumping bans, the oceans are more toxic and more acidic than ever threatening all reef ecosystems with complete destruction same as all coral and shell life forms. This of course will presage the human extinction too.

Yet let’s look at what protection we have brought to these ecosystems via the best efforts the Environmental Movement has wrought. In the last four decades, land based “Protected Areas” have grown by 600% to worldwide, to 18 million square-kilometers. Marine Protected Areas have grown by 400% to about 2.1 million square kilometers. However, in both cases – on land and in the oceans – biodiversity has declined, and the rate of decline has increased.  Since 1974, terrestrial biodiversity has plummeted by about 40% and since 1990 – in the intervening twenty years – the marine index has declined by 21%. The size and management of the protected areas, does not take into account protecting enough area for species home ranges and dispersal area, and fending off the growing threats to large scale ecosystems. Such threats trace back to growing human populations and consumption demands on environments.

The establishment of protected areas failure to stem ecological and species loss proves that these “walled off garden” areas alone will not stop biodiversity decline without larger, systemic programs. Because in reality most protected areas are really just “paper parks” and “walled gardens” in name only, but are not truly protected. Protected areas are a false hope in terms of preventing the loss of biodiversity. The 2010 global biodiversity protection agreement signed in Nagoya, Japan pledged to preserve 17% of land area and 10% of oceans. Yet it is highly unlikely those targets will ever be reached, due to the growth of human demand for every available resource and complete lack of funding for protection. Furthermore, even if those targets were achieved, it would not stop the decline in biodiversity, because in these “paper parks,” plants and animals disappear to poachers, agricultural development, and industrial pressure for logging and mining. Often, without adequate enforcement, industrial developers simply ignore protection rules. Similarly, in the 1980s, environmentalists fought for and won international bans on oceanic whaling and toxic dumping, yet we continue to fight to enforce the bans as they are routinely ignored by whalers and the toxic waste industries. Furthermore, we are all within connected ecosystems so these paper-park boundaries cannot restrain pollution and global warming impacts. Typically, when a forest or coral reef is protected, the neighbouring area is overharvested by industry and often decimated, breaking natural ecosystem links. Finally, various studies points out that ecosystems require appropriate scale to allow for variations in ecological diversity, richness, abundance, synergies, and co-dependencies…
Even so, many biologists and ecologists have warned that we cannot stop biodiversity decline without putting limits on human population and consumption growth. There is a clear and urgent need for additional solutions, particularly ones that stabilize … the world’s human population and our ecological demands.

The hard part about change is, well … you actually have to change.
In practice, human efforts to protect and restore Earth’s ecological health have focused on a “species” or a “habitat” or some thing that needed protection. But this has failed to account for the fundamental nature of living systems. Earth’s ecology is not a collection of things. Rather, Earth’s ecology operates as interlocking, co-evolving systems, driven by feedbacks and interactions. The systems remain always dynamic, never completely stable, and always correcting for instability, in a dynamic equilibrium, the way a hummingbird adjusts its flight or an albatross finds and lifts up in the thermal spiral flight.
Every subsystem in Nature interacts with all others. Nothing exists alone in nature. Nothing survives alone in Nature. We talk about a “tree” and “soil” and “atmosphere,” for convenience, but none of these exist as they do without the others. They are all leaves of the same tree. There is no absolute division among these elements of the system. Indeed, biological and physical sciences do not describe “things.” Earth Science describes these relationships. All division of the world into things, is arbitrary. The biggest illusion is that of our separateness. All and everything is interconnected to everything else.
Global environmental strategies to date reveal no unifying goals and just reactive and sporadic isolated efforts that in turn lead to systemic failures. As planners and implementers of ecological vision, we lacked the requisite wisdom, and we have not yet grasped the complexity of systems, the rules, demands, and feedback mechanisms of complex living systems.
In short, human environmentalism has yet to embrace Earth’s biosphere as a living process. The biosphere itself exists nested in a geosphere and solar system, which generate materials and energy and information for all the subsystems. Deep within the biosphere, communities, families, organisms, organs, and cells represent finer subsystems.
An ecosystem represents a living system at the highest level of complexity we can imagine, and far beyond our ability to fully describe, manage, or predict. An ecosystem is not a thing. It is a web of relationships, a dynamic co-evolution of systems and subsystems, all nested within each other. Each subsystem draws matter, energy, and information across boundaries from more fundamental systems; decodes information and makes decisions; and passes new information, products, and waste, back into the larger systems. Nature works as a continuum. Ecosystems are not “managed” by any of the parts, and as far as our best science knows, no ecosystem ever will be.
Ecosystems evolve patterns of relationship, which we call “rules,” but these “rules” do not pre-determine outcome. Rather, the “rules” of nature’s “game” create trends and variations on themes. There is no predetermination in Nature. Yet there are tons of Free Will and Dynamic Equilibriums where Life springs forth. And tthis happens all the time. A constant state of flux. There are of course multitudes of variations and patterns that can repeat and replicate themselves in order to become “alive” but all of these, are never just “things.” Every subsystem within an ecosystem – from single cell organisms to multicelluular beings, and from mammalian families to self organized tribes and complex societies – remain a codependent process, interconnected with other dynamic processes – in an effort to stay alive. Because death lurks at every corner with the certainty of the light of day.
In living systems, the continually altering flows of matter, energy, and information, reach states that ecologists call “dynamic equilibria” during which system instabilities oscillate within mutually supportive limits – a body, a forest, a neighbourhood of species –  for long periods of time. During such equilibria, randomness among the interactions give rise to new patterns, radical novelty, called by systems analysts “emergent behaviour,” a new pattern, which can influence the system to new directions.
Since co-evolving systems include random factors – as do chess games or hurricanes – they are not entirely predictable, even if one knows the “rules.” Thus – and this our society needs desperately to understand & embrace – systems themselves evolve, and new relationships almost always include unintended consequences. Each subsystem – organ, body, society – within an ecosystem co-creates a complex web of processes with its neighbouring subsystems. Nature is a web of relationships. Our ecological efforts need to recognize and protect these complex relationships in order to protect the Superorganism we call Host, Earth, Nature, Gaia, The Planet or simply HOME. SUpporting your home is the only wayn to ensure that it doesn’t collapse on top of your head…

We have many manifest weaknesses — yet we have strengths too.
One strength of the human species is our acute ability to learn. Our society appears steeped in denial, but we can learn from our ecological mistakes, because our perceived “solutions” to the challenges of ecology on a crowded planet have not yet been successful. And if engineering is not successful, we best face the Moral hazaard and become Conservationists. Mud slinging against the reality of Life never really works.

We’re losing a lot of battles constantly and certainly losing the war. Sad yet true. Every day, our planet is poorer, with less forests, less species, less fresh water and arable soil, and yet more deserts, more toxins, and more CO2 in the atmosphere.

How can we change all this?
To reverse this, we need to first learn about the systems in which we live in and start acting like we belong here. We must act honestly not as if the Earth belongs to us, but rather we should start acting as dwellers of this great heavenly abode. We should change mindset and create a different software for our brains so we can survive.

Because today’s actions and all our best efforts of the last four decades prove that we simply think that we are smarter than all other species and Nature itself. ANd our religions – Brain Software – prove that we think that we are exceptional and not bound by the “rules” as if gravitational physics can’t be sorted… In the past fourty years we acted with impunity and haste but we learned. We gained awareness about our world and about our place within it and the impact of our actions. We then transformed this awareness and we internalized – deeply learned – what we are doing. And yet we still think that we can engineer our way out of this mess we’ve created.

As our old friend Albert used to say: “You can’s solve the problems created by your present thinking with the saame mental tools.” We simply need fresh “Brain Software” is what I say. Because thinking that we can always engineer ourselves out of the fixes and jams we throw ourselves into is moronic. Not everythinng is a nail, because you only have a hammer. Our errant behaviour presents us with an intellectual fallacy and although am an optimist I can see this as a giant FAIL itself because innovation exists to enhance our living – not to dramatically alter the course of Nature. And the people when acting as humanity are truly a genuinely smart species and we can engineer a lot of things, still based on where we spend our best resources – WAR – we seem bent to willfully inherit the Earth to the cockroaches. At least this is the way we are going at present. So are we that smart and adaptable, so we can give up the planet to cockroaches?

And although, we know the risks and rewards, we are always thinking we can outsmart nature and destroy it willfully. And we are takers, rapers and pillagers still acting out of our limbic brain and not at all keen on working in tandem with Nature. Because we are thinking of our own selfish short term interests first and not of our long term health advantage. Something akin to smoking and hoping for greater advances in lung cancer therapy instead of giving up “smoking” ourselves and the planet to death. This is especially relevant, since the cancer causing industry has “greenwashed” our brains confusing us about who is causing Climate Change and thus rendering us impotent and inactive, vegetating in front of the telly…
Feeling a little low lately?

Sounds familiar?
We are endangering our health with our “smoking” and we are neglecting our true long term survival same as we trash the interests of the ecosystem we live in – this living planet.

We are always wanting to manage and conquer nature for our own rapacious ends and not live in harmony within our own ecosystem as represented in Nature being the super organism of which we are just a part… The feet kicking the head so to speak. But Nature is not just a collection of resources to be reaped. And Nature as a Super organism is far smarter than any human engineering concept. Because Nature is the super organism we depend on living from. Yet much like a malignant tumor we act in our own selfish interest exponentially growing thereby killing the host, and thus ensuring our own death too. Such is the nature of cancers all around. We are killing nature’s sustaining ecosystems, even though “it” is our host and the benevolent Master of us all.

Yet if this is the “interior nature” of a cancer cell, by understanding this “interior all too human nature” – proves that humanity is aware. Awareness is proof of intelligent and malleability to change. So change exists withiin our own nature too, and it’s first and foremost instance of change is humanity’s own mind. We can change our mind often and even we are able to contain competting thoughts and play mental chess to decide the winner. Ergo humanity can change it’s own “Interior Nature” QED the change within drives the outwards change necessary to combat Climate Change and Environmental catastrophe. Of course still “baby steps” are required because we must change our own mind first. But that is a simple brain software upgrade. An all too human brain software adjustment. And changing ourselves and our minds, is the dynamic change in our being that is required now. Because we cannot continuously think that we can change the exterior environment and manage Nature to our ends anymore than we can actually manage our own past, present and future combined — all the while settled in a comfortable space-time continuum.
There are physics conundrums and physical limitations as well to most all of our aspirations. There are limits to growth. But we have our imagination to perfect ourselves. Because there is nothing exponential in Nature except the power of Imagination. We live as we said earlier in a dynamic equilibrium of Ecosystems in balance. And this precarious balance allows our Goldilocks planet to be perfect in “just right” chemistry and all factors needed in order to maintain as well as breed new life continuously. This planet has given us the Life of our lives, in abundance and offered us prospects for living forever in constant harmony with Nature and the planetary ecosystems I and many others, aspire to protect, conserve and maintain. This is all we hope for, even when some of us want to geoengineer this or migrate to other planets at the cost of destroying this one.

True our human nature is at fault here… We are rather greedy, and unable to think long term, in our effort to reach forward always looking for short term solutions. Even when these solutions are contradictory with the long term actions necessary to save us.

Yours,
Pano

PS:

Put yourself in the shoes of any other species living on Earth and ask: ” Who is my enemy? ”
Am pretty certain that “HUMANITY” will be the answer.
Because for every species survival – including humans – the biggest environmental threat on Earth is the cancerous behavior of humans as unchecked growth. And as far as everybody else is concerned this behavior ought to be changed from malignant tumorous cancer like, to benevolent growth, or be excised.

Still we cannot pretend that Environmental concerns are not complex, dubious and are often requiring difficult choices, priorities and triage.
And since our mammalian brains are hard wired as omnivorous foragers, tribal family home makers, and omni-consumers of all the resources Earth has to offer – all in an effort to improve our lives – we are stumped. Unfortunately this is the heritage software of modern humans.

But now we know how to change our legacy software. We know how to change our Hereditary code because we learned how to program thinking machines and by virtue of that we’ve learned how to upgrade the software of our brain too.
BRAIN SOFTWARE. Change the lot and get the Brain Software upgrade to solve the problems of our age. problems that were created with the old software and cannot be solved by it, need to be solved with the software upgrades and bug fixes anew. A reboot too. That’s all of what we have to do in order to change the Heritage Software running our computer nestled inside the skull cavity and comfortably floating in the encephalic fluid. Feed it some new fresh brewed code, fit for our sustained survival in harmony with Nature itself. Living Nature means to be learning from Nature. And it is biomimicry that can make us more like nature than what we already are. And the rules of that game spell out that we are kings of the forest — but we have to have a forest to lord over it…

If you don’t believe me you can find the same story in the Bible or the Koran or the Torah and the Great Sutras or the Mahabharata.

And since we like to think of winners and losers, here is the score. Nature dictates, as Darwin said, that the fittest to survive is the one most adaptable to change. Change or Perish. Simple as that.
Because if we don’t change our malevolent ways – seriously and thoroughly change – nature will eventually have to excise us. Nature will surely be able to go on as it leaves us behind and carries on without us.

Yet no need to lose heart. One must remember that Nature wants us to survive. That much is clearly evident to me. But to do this we need to learn and act in accord with Nature. And what better way to learn than to apprentice ourselves to Nature, in order to learn how Nature solves dilemmas and sorts out imbalances and then go on and mimic it’s eternal wisdom for our benefit.

Sadly we don’t have another forty years to be doing this at leisure. We need to reboot our minds and change our behaviour with new Brain Software — right about now.

Care to change? We have our next Brain Software gathering this October. Care to join me?


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