What’s The Problem?

In one of my favorite, and most inspiring, movies, Apollo 13, Gene Krantz, the flight director during the emergency confronting that mission, says, “Work the problem, people!”
I recently visited the website of the Birth 2012 movement, led by Dr. Barbara Marx Hubbard.  It’s a very laudable attempt to invigorate people to incorporate a new way of thinking about human behavior.  Much talk there is devoted to such things as controlling or reducing our pollution, sustainability, and stewardship of the Earth.  Good stuff, all.
But the effort is undermined by one glaring problem.  Glaring once you recognize it.  The future of humanity is what drives everything at the site.  That’s typical of virtually all of the current attempts to coagulate a movement based on the large and still growing population of disgruntled environmentalists.  The survival and flourishing of humanity is the force behind almost all our expressed concerns.
But, if we want a truly new vision of the world–a true paradigm change–it is exactly to the flourishing of humanity that we must look.  The problem is not that we are finding it harder to live with our booming population.  The problem is that Gaia is dying because of our population is overwhelming every natural system that keeps Her alive.
Climate change, caused by humanity’s success, is a global problem.  The threat is to the whole of the planet, not just to humanity.  Earth, very like what we now believe may have happened to Mars, may die.  Living planets, like Mars very likely once was, may die.
Thinking of planets as potentially “living beings” is the first step to understanding what we confront.  We are, through our species’ success, on the verge of killing our planet.  Here it is worth reminding you that “verge” is a relative term.  In geologic time, “verge” is anything short of a few millennia.  If we were to continue with successes aimed only at “the survival and flourishing of humanity,” for even so much as a few more centuries, the survival of the living creature, Gaia, will be impossible.
Seeing the planet Earth as a living being is what seeing the whole Earth photo from space, and especially time lapse exposures, enabled my generation to conceive.  Recognizing this as fact is the paradigm change that we are urgently striving to achieve.  What we must achieve.
We must begin viewing the preservation of the life-force, of which we are only a small part, as the problem.  Not our preservation.  Not our difficulty finding ways to flourish even more.  If any of those problems is addressed, all the better.  But that’s not the problem.
So long as we think it is, we remain a cancer on the body of the Earth.  We have to find ways of going into self remission.  Nothing short of that goal can prevent the ultimate disaster.
The fact that we humans cannot survive without the survival of the whole is actually irrelevant to the point, and focusing on it–far worse–is counterproductive.
When we do that, we’ve subtly misdirected our attention, once again, to thinking only about ourselves.  To retain the image of the ultimate problem as being Gaia’s is terribly difficult, for protecting Gaia will often seem at odds with protecting the immediate interest of human beings. Our evolutionary training has never had to put the life-force itself ahead of ourselves, but that must end.
Work the problem, people!

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One Response to What’s The Problem?

  1. Hank Raymond says:

    A population problem??? Really?

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