Bhutto Dies, But Politics Lives On. (George Drake)

So, Benazir Bhutto is dead. The crisis in Pakistan, long in duration and dangerous in the extreme, moves to another level. How long it remains there can’t be determined at this time. Nor the outcome.

As always, and a constant element of surprise to some of my closest intimates, my mind turns almost immediately to the example this represents, skating almost casually–at least insofar as how it may appear–past the significance of the current events. The potential of an overthrow of Musharraf and/or the rise of radical elements in a nation equipped with nuclear weapons can’t be trivialized. And that is not my intent.

But as an example of the predictable tendency of political realities to blow up under pressure, these kinds of events are absolutely at the heart of my pessimism for the ability of mankind to “save the planet.”I’m often asked, “Why isn’t it obvious to you that it’s easier to solve the environmental problems on Earth than to terraform Mars?” The answer is simple. “We cannot solve the environmental problems here on Earth because mankind is here–all over the place.” My position is that, if anything, the opposite of the standard thinking is more likely. It’s much easier to terraform Mars than to solve the environmental problems of Earth. Note, I’m not talking about short-term solutions. Those will be absolutely necessary for terraforming to even stand a chance. No, I’m all in favor of every environmental effort I’ve ever heard, I think, unless they’re poorly thought out and mis-directional, as some are.

But short-term solutions are not solutions at all. They are postponements only. Anything approaching the idea of “solution” has to involve true sustainability, not only as presented and practiced, but as modified and practiced by future generations.

The constant turmoil in the polito-sphere, as exemplified by assassinations, revolutions, wars, world-wide economic struggles for market dominance, etc., etc., makes the idea–save possibly via massive decline in human population–of sustainability so absurd to me that I’m virtually dumbfounded by those who think solutions on Earth are possible, let alone likely.

Of course, many have precisely the projection that massive decline of our population is in the works.


Okay, so that’s probably not so “duhhhable.” Maybe something might happen to stabilize population at, or near, the present level and, simultaneously, to guarantee a sustainable level of consumption from those living at the time, whenever it might be. And forever afterwards, of course.

I just don’t buy that happening, that’s all. Worse, though, in terms of alienating my point of view from the average Joe’s, is that I’m so totally convinced that our almost universal expectation that “massive reduction in human population is the extent of the threat” is way off base. We all seem to believe the rest of life on this planet will just thrive in our newly found absence. “Life on Earth survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, didn’t it?”

But doesn’t Gaian survival depend an awful lot on how the demise of mankind comes about? If global warming, for example, were to lead to a planet more closely resembling Venus than today’s Earth, say, then what happened to mankind along the way seems to me to be a rather trivial question. Of course, there are many people who wouldn’t agree. For them, what happens to mankind is the breadth, height, and depth of the question.

That, more than anything, seems to me to be the attitude of mankind which most needs to change. If, before I die, I can accomplish that much in the minds of a significant number of people, I will have done as well as I can ever hope. It’s really not about us, folks. Really! It’s about Gaia.

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5 Responses to Bhutto Dies, But Politics Lives On. (George Drake)

  1. Hi George! Yes, when we look around us at the [does it sound snobbish to say] “caliber” of people we are surrounded with, then merely reducing our numbers does not appear to be a viable solution.
    I offer you another view of the current trends. People who are violent appear to be killing one another off. People who become soldiers are forced into becoming violent if drafted, but this is often not the case. People who take really good care of their bodies appear to be living longer; those who are mediocre in their care of their bodies often appear to be receiving “wake-up calls” in the form of near-death experiences (I have read several books written by such people, if you arre interested in looking at this possibility.) If they are able to benefit from such an experience, many seem to be turning their lives around and finding a better, healthier and more caring, thoughtful lifestyle. Those who really abuse their bodies die the soonest.
    I don’t know whether you are willing to talk about the “k” word, i.e. “karma.” But when you factor that in, the people with the best karma appear to have the mpst staying power. They tend to choose to live in safer places (I do not think there will be any floods due to hurricanes at SLT or in the Carson Valley, due to the elevation!) to live, and they appear to think their way through their lives rather than sleepwalking through it and using TV as a way of dumbing themselves down.
    I could get all Biblical on you, but I don’t know where you stand in this area, so I will spare you, at least for the time being.
    So, the way I view it, if we are reducing the numbers of non-thinking, non-conscientious people, and improving the ratio of people who have a social conscience and who have a concern for Mother Earth, we have a really good chance of making the world a better place.
    And then there is the 100th Monkey Theory. When a large enough percentage of mankind today evolves intellectually and in emotional maturity up to a certain level, this “critical mass” will serve as a leaven for us all!
    So, this is why I have hope.
    Ever the optimist!
    Kathy Azevedo

  2. Amy Brown says:

    I am equally interested in not diminishing the significance of the loss of Benazir Bhutto and would like to add my own thoughts of the importance of her loss.

    Political unrest and conflict on earth has become somewhat predictable. Empires reach a point of dominance, terrorizing and exploiting the weak and impoverished, until the empire is attacked in an unfamiliar way and is then subject to the backlash of entire nations looking to take advantage of the instability. It’s like the curtain of Oz being raised only long enough for the next illusionist to step in.

    The political illusion works, because conflict will most often occur in sequences that allow the public to forget the last occurrence of failure and deceit. Why some people are apt to believe the illusion, whether it is on environmental or economic issues, may be because they believe they exercise little control over these matters and are bewildered on how to make a difference. Where it comes to making a difference is through the introduction and increased support of new ideas, such as terraforming mars. Ideas change perspectives and when perspectives change, ideas are put into motion.

    Solving the environmental problems on earth through political and grass-root efforts are what we should and can do to maintain resistance toward environmental destruction. The clincher: Without duration of peace, however short, no politician is listening to or in a position to maintain support for moving environmental issues above all other interests. In some cases, as in Bhutto’s, it is extremely dangerous to propose change, when interests are so heavily concetrated elsewhere.

    So, it would seem that change is dependant upon the timing and acceptance of new ideas making it past the distraction of real and dangerous conflicts on earth. In the case of the immediate environment we have only made it far enough to allow the earth to superficially regenerate. I look forward to a change in perspective and have faith it will arise when needed.

    Amy Brown

  3. Janice Eastburn says:

    This is a most interesting discussion. I am particularly inspired by Kathy A’s response, as it presents some interesting points that I feel the need to respond to. As much as I believe in the concept of karma and the law of attraction (“like attracts like”), I feel some moderation is in order in how we use these principles when we evaluate the lives of others. The idea that the violent are “killing each other off” is, I believe, an oversimplification. It does not factor in that the majority of homicides occur between intimates (i.e. in the form of spousal or child abuse). How does society as a whole benefit from the violent death of a battered woman or child? Similarly, while much disease can be traced to lifestyle choices, every day children die of cancer and other diseases which cannot be directly traced to their “lifestyle choices”. Does our society benefit from the loss of these young innocents? Am I to take satisfaction in the concept that I am somehow superior (from an evolutionary perspective) to those who make different choices than I do in how I care for my body and health or where I am blessed enough to live? How does this self-imposed seperation benefit society? The only way we can make collective change is by holding beliefs that unify, rather than seperate, us. Karma, from my perspective, is more about receiving back what we put out into the world (i.e. love generates love, peace generates peace, compassion generates compassion, judgement generates judgement, etc). Like attracts like. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”. This is, I believe, the energy force that will ultimately elevate our society and save our planet. It worked for Gandhi. It worked for MLK. Did it work perfectly? Perhaps not, but evolution is a long process and we all have our part to play. I wish you all peace and joy for 2008.

    Janice Eastburn

  4. George says:

    George comments:

    First, an unrelated (?) link: check out where James Hansen, of NASA, talks about the Bush administration’s suppression and spin of scientific opinions.

    To Kathy:

    I have no hard data on who is dying off quicker, but I’d be surprised if the factors you list really have the correlation you assume. Genocide, for example, rarely seems to reflect the kind of positive effect you seem to wish for. And genocide is only becoming more common as population drives concentrations of people to higher and higher numbers in smaller areas over greater portions of the planet. Same with disease and famine, both of which seem pretty non-discriminatory. What you observe may be more indicative of your perspective: it may be accurate relative to the wealthier societies, but the issues are world-wide.

    Karma, I’ll gladly talk about, so far as I can. Basically, it seems to me to lie in that vast arena of “things about which we cannot know.” At least I can’t seem to. Neither plus or minus. I just don’t know, and all I can say for sure is that almost everyone seems to insist that I should take a position on such things. That seems to me to be the most interesting aspect of it all. Just because we’re perfectly able to ask, why do we seem to think we should even try to answer a lot of these queries? Some things really are mysteries, not puzzles.

    As for where we live, world-wide, where we are born seems the bigger obvious factor than what we choose. Of course, that may all be part of our Karma, but, again, I just don’t know. Don’t know about the bible, either, although I once thought I did and read much more of it than the average evangelical does, I suspect.

    The 100th Monkey Theory is, indeed, a cause for hope, which I’m very glad to see whenever it’s present. Treasure it! Nurture it!

    To Amy:

    I welcome your recognition of terraforming Mars as a new idea in the discussion of the environmental problems on Earth. It’s not an idea either side seems to want to entertain–either environmentalists or space advocates–and, as a result, my book is often not an easy pill for people to take.

    It’s precisely in the change of perspectives, and the resonance that’s created when people like yourself start putting in your contributions to the discussions, that gives me hope. Thank you. My hope is truly very different from that of many, but for people like myself–people who don’t see the current efforts bearing adequate fruit–it provides some where there is absolutely none otherwise.

    Re. the duration of peace: it must–absolutely must–be long lasting. And it must include all major powers. As you’ve clearly ascertained, there can be no real environmental progress, let alone terraforming progress, in the presence of war. The task before us is immense, whether you focus only on sustainability of our planet or terraforming another. No way around it.

    I welcome your faith in change of perspective, but mark it well: it is needed now. Right now.

    To Janice:

    I agree that unifying energy is critical. But something in your reply prompts me to want to address an extension of the “like attracts like” philosophy that, I think, tends to draw some too far in the direction of wishful thinking. The usual delineation of the idea I’m talking about is either “visualize it and it will become so,” or something like “don’t think about possible negative scenarios, for the negative energy will cause the negative effect.” I’m not sure how one reaches the proper balance, but I’m sure that, for me, anticipating potential hostile actions/reactions from people in opposing positions–an “early preparation, if you like–has been invaluable in dealing with those machinations when they do come. I think it safe to say the same technique has worked well for people as diverse in philosophy as Karl Rove and, indeed, Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. And evidence abounds of situations where optimists have been totally blindsided.

    Peace and Joy back at you.

    To Laurel (not posted above):

    Finally, a cut and post of an e-mail sent directly to me, but which wasn’t previously posted here:

    “My only problem with your solution of terraforming Mars, is the inevitable; Mars, with humans, is just another Earth. Same political problems. Same environmental problems, and no doubt, a whole buffet of new ones, in both categories.”

    My response (in part):

    Terraforming Mars will require a minimum of 300 years. Mankind will be lucky if we get far enough along in the project to survive before our presence on Earth destroys it (Earth) and/or it’s ability to continue supporting the terraforming effort. I doubt there’s any chance of humans having a substantial population on Mars before contact with Earth ceases. If mankind succeeds in establishing ourselves there at all, we might be able to survive, but the impact on Martian ecology, assuming we get a viable ecosystem going at all, will be no more than it was on Earth when Lucy met her fate. That’s 3.2 million years before we can expect to regain a presence great enough to support an agricultural revolution on Mars, for technology will definitely not survive such an isolation. To see how technology survives–or rather, fails to–in the absence of a substantial population to support it, read George Stewart’s novel Earth Abides. It’s a great read anyway.

    Unfortunately, of course, even the title of Stewart’s book shows he shared with many of today’s global warming skeptics the misguided impression that nothing we can do can be so devastating as to destroy the entire ecosystem of this planet. As if “runaway greenhouse effect” can’t be truly “runaway.”


  5. This is an interesting discussion. In response to the comments by Janice- I totally agree with you! My road to understanding the concept of karma began when I observed all of the injustice and cruelty to innocent victims in the world! I needed answers, and I just could not accept the conclusion offered by most- that there is a punitive God causing all of this suffering and harm. In dealing with this concept at first, I used to go around saying, “I must have been a Hell of a Bitch in my last lifetime!” (And, unfortunately, that may actually be true!) I asked questions of a Pastor who was my music Prof at UCD who was trying to reconvert me back into being a Southern Baptist- and I demonstrated that there were very important questions that could not be answered adequately from the framework of fundamentalist Christianity. These unaskable questions- and Janice has touched upon some of them- were my first steps towards finding deeper answers! Janice, I, too, was an emotionally abused child- and to some extent a physically abused child. I was an emotionally and physically abused wife. The Womens’ Center in Placerville advised me to “disappear” when my divorce became final, and I have followed this advice. But I still look forward to a future which I hope will be much brighter than the past. I know that if I focus only on the pain and ugliness that I will simply attract more of the same to myself! And I, in my heart of hearts, want to make a difference while I am still here- to alleviate as much of the pain and suffering that I possibly can. If each of us made this same life decision, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. I, too, have made many mistakes- being in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps failing to choose the best possibility from those available- and there have been consequences. There is no one who is exempt from some sort of challenges and/or suffering. But I am still glad to be here- and I hope someday to be as wise as Christ and Buddha!
    Love, Kathy

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