Today, April 2022 is world Earth Day and this year's theme is 'invest in our planet'.
On January 28, 1969, a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing more than 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a reaction to this disaster, activists were mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Among the proponents of Earth Day were the people in the front lines of fighting this disaster, Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, and Bud Bottoms, founder of Get Oil Out.
I would first like to say that I think that the inspiration behind 'Earth Day' and the spirit behind this annual event is a fantastic response to an oil spill and big businesses' apathy toward the many environmental disasters they've perpetrated over the last two hundred years.
But the fact that 'Earth Day' has been going on since 1969 proves to me that the choice of theme is a clear example of Human Beings missing the point altogether, trying to find a solution within a construct that lies at the root of the problem they’re trying to address.
Invest in Our Planet
Unless businesses act now, climate change will ever more deeply damage economies, increase scarcity, drain profits and job prospects, and impact us all. Smart companies are discovering that it is no longer a choice between going green and growing long-term profits — sustainability is the path to prosperity. So for both humanitarian and business reasons, it is imperative that companies of all sizes take action and embrace the benefits of a green economy. Tell business leaders to get on board with a sustainable future or get out of the way.
As well-intentioned as they are this quote from the website, especially the end part, clearly spells out the fallacy at the heart of the idea of trying to force ‘green investment’. Business leaders are not answerable in any way to me, or you, or pretty much anyone, unless perhaps a political ally who supports their operations for some type of mutual gain.
Evolution of Ideas
The form of consumptive capitalism that proliferates across the vast majority of the globe means big business will always work primarily based on economic competition, and this competition constantly seeking a larger profit margin, is what creates the ‘consumptive’ in my term consumptive capitalism.
All 'Isms' we've seen so far throughout human history allowed to run riot to such an extent have caused untold damage, suffering, and destruction. Autocratic systems such as North Korea’s totalitarian regime are undoubtedly a more extreme (and obvious) example of how centralization of power creates profound suffering.
But one extreme example of a (rare) totalitarian system, doesn’t negate the FACT that we are now seeing indisputable evidence of our destruction of planetary systems, such as ecosystems, ozone layer depletion, and rising water temperatures, that have slowly built since the industrial revolution. A period of frenetic development driven by expansionist empire-building, and the advent of consumptive capitalism which is now the norm for the most part across the globe.
On the face of it, investing in the planet is a good idea, I am in no way against it as a concept. I’m simply saying that there is no way to incentivize it or enforce it on the type of global scale that is needed.
I would one hundred percent love to be proven wrong tomorrow.
I want to see a mass agreement between business leaders tomorrow to implement a rapid investment plan in green energy, re-forestation, growing vast seagrass meadows that remove more carbon from the atmosphere per square meter than the same area of rainforest and covering the deserts with so many solar panels that they could provide over half the planet's energy needs.
But I would bet my life that this never happens!
Who will force the likes of Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk to see past their planet-sized egos and perhaps sell a private yacht or two? Or drop billion-dollar plans for mining other planets to put their money, infrastructure, and many resources toward saving our planet with little profit potential?
Who will force them to change their business practices?
Another perceived problem based on current human behavior and conditioning, is that if the solution is to 'invest in our planet' who is making the money? If the solar panels are all in desert areas western governments will consider this a geopolitical risk, handing too much power to nations in the Middle East and Africa.
No company will invest in creating seagrass meadows because where is the profit?
Some companies have and will invest in green energy (solar/wind/wave) when it is profitable.
The root of this extremely complex problem of why we are destroying the very environment that sustains us goes much deeper; it is a question of psychological conditioning, both on a familial level and a societal level, over millennia.
The way in which we continue to operate within our environment on a multitude of levels is the reason we continue to destroy our planet. It frequently boggles my mind that groups of intelligent people habitually miss the FACT that we have created a dying world by acting like a disease.
We are at this point because of Humankind's collective mental illness, built up over thousands of years, and multiple constructs such as religion, hierarchical structures (throughout history mostly patriarchal), and the way we have developed our perception of how we value those things which we create.
The reason why I tagged this essay with ‘meditation’ is because after a certain period of meditation you start to realize that a large part of your personal suffering, internal problems with relationships, and high-stress responses are all intrinsically linked to identification with thought.
As a conceptualizing species, we’re completely out of balance, without being able to spend time awake, aware but without thought. In this unbalanced state, we attach ego to our opinions, we form tribes to defend our stances, and ultimately as you work your way through levels of realization with meditation it becomes apparent that these same issues are clearly visible on a greater societal/global scale.
Conditioning, belief, and opinion are all mental constructs that people will kill other human beings over when they identify with them so strongly that they manifest hate.
Identification is the problem and is different than thought itself. Conceptualizations, the ability to learn and adapt these things into applications isn’t the problem, the problem is that throughout history for the most part people have (and continue to) act on any innovation/discovery without taking time to silence the thought process after making their discovery. Great clarity can come out of times of no thought as this literally allows us to look with new eyes, so to speak.
When we look at the achievements of the human race down the ages with a wide lens, it is clear to see that many sociopathic opportunists have used concepts to create division so that they can raise themselves to positions of ascendance, this can often be clearly seen in the politics of religion. Usually, the origin of religion comes from words spoken by people who were ahead of their time as both thinkers, and non-thinkers, people who had risen above the social conditioning of the times and seen the balance that exists when you peek beyond the veil.
I don’t feel the need to claim the above ideas as fact, as that would be identifying with my views and opinions in exactly the way that I’m theorizing causes most human suffering and destructive mechanisms. But I do feel that examples in nature help point to some of my realizations as valid. Even in the back and forth, predator/prey fierce competitive elements of nature an equilibrium remains, one which we as humans seem unable to maintain.
Nature as a Teacher
If you watch the amazing phenomenon of an orangutan using a tool, you won't see one (or a group) of orangutans attacking the tool using orangutang to steal that tool, before spending 4 years backward engineering how to use this miraculous tool.
Orangutang will meticulously watch the tool user, sometimes taking years to learn the craft before finding their own shaped stones and following the process to crack the hard outer shells of a particular species of nut.
You might say - so what, this is how humans learn as well, and this is true, we learn how to tie our shoelaces in exactly the same way in a one-to-one parent/child dynamic. But there is one distinct difference between us and the many animal species that live in harmony with nature; we also pass on our opinions, judgments, value structures, beliefs, and (often very divisive) social conditioning based on class/wealth status.
As I’ve mentioned above, I feel that these things are strong contributors as to why we oppose or exploit natural systems almost systemically, and the distinction is important because throughout my entire life being very interested in observing nature - scuba diving and traveling to different parts of the world to see different habitats, all the creatures I’ve observed, however complex in their behaviors, have instinctually known how to live in balance.
Coral is another, and perhaps the best example of a miraculous and balanced manifestation of evolution. Coral is made up of both botanical and zoology creatures working in harmony to build their own environment. Coral reefs have rightly been called the skyscrapers of the ocean ecosystem. As the years' pass, they construct new layers of life on the old bone (calcium carbonate) that is deposited by the feeding animal part of the coral polyps, these creatures build themselves from the inside out reaching ever higher towards the light that sustains the zooxanthellae algae that make up the plant part of this symbiotic organism.
To really get to the heart of the sophistication of this symbiotic relationship it is important to explain that corals do not only live in tropical waters. As an animal/plant symbiosis they show a perfect adaptation to varying environments. Coral grows in deeper colder waters, where they feed mainly on upwelling’s of nutrient-rich waters. In this environment, the polyps provide most of the food while the zooxanthellae algae feed on the waste products of the animal part of the organism.
Zooxanthellae absorb the nitrogen wastes produced by the coral. The algae use these nutrients together with sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars in the process of photosynthesis.
Whereas in tropical environments where the shallower reef waters provide less phytoplankton and other microscopic food sources, the zooxanthellae algae come into play producing the larger proportion of the food that sustains the symbiotic relationship. In this way reefs can sustain themselves in varied ocean environments, providing essential shelter and nursery areas for young fish. As coral bleaching causes reefs to die this feeds right up the food chain to us as fish stocks become depleted.
It has been scientifically proven that coral bleaching is caused by an increase in water temperature, and in the past before the advent of global warming, relatively small areas of reef systems could be decimated due to natural environmental factors causing temperature variance such as El Niño. But as many scientists have pointed out, the death of over half of the world’s coral is one of the clearest observable indications of global warming caused by humans. That level of decimation is impossible in a shorter time scale like that of the cyclical El Niño!
Coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the world’s oceans but are home to more than a quarter of all marine life, including the clownfish, seahorses, and other creatures that make these ecosystems special. But coral reefs are slipping away. Warming seas, diseases, and other threats have already wiped out more than half of the world’s corals.
Source: vox.com- coral reef restoration
These two examples bring me to the central point of this essay's thesis.
I think that the course of evolution for a species as complex and socially sophisticated as humans is not only a case of physical adaptation; it is also one of mental/conceptual adaptation. Changing the way we think, and also re-learning how to switch off thought is paramount to our further evolution.
This is directly applicable to my first point in this essay about how the well-meaning people marketing 'Earth Day' have completely missed the point. The answers won't be found in our existing constructs, economical or otherwise. New ideas and an evolution of thought is needed.
It is humankind’s tendency to charge forward without any silent thoughtless consideration of what it is s/he has created or theorized, or how it might better be adapted to work with natural environmental structures, that causes us as a species to destroy the environment that sustains us.
I can think of no better example than the recent personal race between billionaires to get into space for no other reason than ego, to point to the fundamental truth that identification with our conceptual superiority is a massive part of why we fail as a species to achieve what even the humble coral has already figured out, how to work in harmony with nature rather than in direct opposition to our planet.
Thanks for reading.
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