Back in the 1960s, the visionary design scientist Buckminster Fuller foresaw only two outcomes for humanity: utopia or oblivion. Either we continue our present social and political arrangements until we destroy ourselves, or we rapidly transition to a new social system, allocate resources rationally, and elevate the human community, as a whole, to an abundant state of being. I remain convinced that Fuller was right – we have a limited window of time to transform our planetary culture, along with our political, social, and financial institutions. We therefore must accomplish this – despite odds that seem daunting if not impossible.
Our civilization is a planetary suicide machine, rapidly annihilating the biosphere that sustains us. We currently spew more than a million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every hour. Our oceans have become 30% more acidic in the last 40 years, as they absorb excess carbon. Climate change is proving to be an erratic and complex process, but the great danger remains that we will soon hit a tipping point where we unleash rapid, unstoppable warming. Vast deposits of methane gas under the Arctic have begun releasing gigantic plumes – uncontrolled release of methane, a much more potent heat-trapping gas than CO2, would transform the Earth into a biological desert within forty years. We face other ecological issues that are equally severe – 25% of mammalian species, perhaps all species, will disappear within the next 30 years. We can’t predict when our industrial monoculture’s radical assault on the biosphere will induce feedback loops that cause an eco-systemic shutdown, like a planetary heart attack, but the prospect is neither distant nor implausible.
Our post-industrial infrastructure remains fragile, toxic, and perilous, while instruments of mass destruction continue to proliferate. Climate change has caused increasingly unpredictable weather, with “once in a century” super storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods now happening annually. Will nuclear power plants in America or the UK do better than Fukushima in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami? When resources become scarce, will aggrieved nations trigger nuclear contact? Will enraged individuals turn to bio-terrorism? As sea levels rise, what will become of the hundreds of millions of environmental refugees?
While our current system enhanced the quality of life for vast populations, increasing the lifespan and providing access to goods, services, and communication technologies, it also created incredible, horrific inequities between the haves and have nots. Since the Second World War, the US and its European allies mastered the use of debt as a weapon of domination and control. In 2008, the global financial system essentially collapsed, and since then, the corruption of the system has attained a state of self-parody. Each month, the Federal Reserve creates, from nothing, $85 billion as part of a “stimulus” program, buying Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. That is more than $10 per month for every person on Earth, where 3 billion people survive on less than $2 a day. Another breakdown of this system is unavoidable.
The planetary mega crisis cannot be solved in piecemeal fashion – the symptoms are aspects of a universal disorder, a systemic disease. The only conceivable response, then, is the rapid construction and universal dissemination of a comprehensive alternative, a new “operating system” for human society. Revolution is an antiquated term that refers to older political and social arrangements. What we require now is more like a metamorphosis, a nonviolent transmutation of human civilization, where we consciously transform our existing infrastructure from within and without, utilizing archaic techniques and postmodern technologies to bring about a polar reversal of values and behavior. This dangerous mission is a true hero’s journey, requiring creativity and cunning, unlikely alliances, and courageous experiments in cooperative living, in building networks based on trust and transparency.
Our social and cultural evolution appears to be an extension of natural or biological evolution, and follows the same principles. In nature, evolution leads from primitive competition to sophisticated symbiosis, coordinated cooperation. As an example, our bodies consist of vast hordes of microorganisms that once fought for resources until they learned to work together, building more complex organs and structures.
We are in the process of realizing that humanity, as a whole, is a planetary super-organism, a vast sentient swarm constantly altering and transforming the ecology that sustains us. Confronting the mega crisis that threatens all life on Earth, we will either die off or we will transition from domination and aggression as a social norm, to cooperation and sharing. This, inevitably, requires the construction of a new social infrastructure, new instruments for exchanging value, and a transformation of the media to serve collective enlightenment and human emancipation. When we consciously recreate ourselves as a planetary super-organism, wealth and resources will no longer be hoarded by a few. They will be shared equitably, just as the cells in our body receive and transmit energy, according to immediate need, without obstruction.
Paradoxically, the nascent organs in the collective body of humanity appear to be multi-national corporations. An energy company functions like the circulatory system, distributing blood through the body. A media company is the perceptual mechanism of the global brain, a sanitation company like the liver – and so on. In order for corporations to be transformed into symbiotic agents, the underlying rules of the financial system must be rewritten. Corporations must become intrinsic elements of human society, entirely transparent operations, serving the public good. This requires a global movement of civil society – we saw the first wave of this in the last few years, with the spread of resistance movements such as Occupy and the Arab Spring.
It has been noted that one cannot solve problems at the level of consciousness that created them – problems “dissolve” when we attain a more encompassing awareness. In our current dangerous circumstances, we can no longer maintain an oppositional worldview. We must, instead, adapt the mystical or Tantric perspective that recognizes the universe and the self as one indivisible whole.
In my previous work, I explored archaic shamanism and psychedelic substances that reliably induce temporary states of ego dissolution and “cosmic consciousness.” Mystical epiphanies, whether induced chemically or through techniques like meditation, carry a proto-political charge: they force the realization there are no “others.” Such experiences also undermine the nihilist and materialist worldview that props up the current system of domination and exploitation.
The process of transformation has many dimensions, for the individual and the collective. Today, many people are discovering their beliefs and behavior patterns to be rooted in subconscious programs, imprints from early childhood. We must break free of these programs that are running us – what the poet William Blake called “mind forged manacles.” As we liberate ourselves from past conditioning and awaken to the reality of our precious, perilous situation, we can take responsibility for changing it.
The flip side of the negative potential for planetary apocalypse is the prospect that we can reconstruct human society rapidly, using the communications infrastructure and social tools that evolved in the last decades. Sustainable technologies for permaculture, bioremediation, holistic health, rainwater harvesting, alternative energies, and so on can be mass distributed. We can use mass media and social media to re-train the global population and disseminate a new set of values and principles that support a holistic and sustainable way of life. Facing rising seas, we can construct eco-cities that act as scaffoldings for living systems, supporting local communities, with food and energy produced on site. Through a coordinated movement of civil society based on Gandhi-esque principles and organized through social technologies, we can dismantle the military industrial complex and institute a peaceful world.
If this seems impossible to conceive, we must take a moment to recall how many seemingly impossible things have come into being. The human imagination remains an unlimited resource. Perhaps we subconsciously created this planetary mega-crisis to force ourselves to unleash, as immune-system response, the full power of our creative ingenuity, to reach the next level of species consciousness. The choice is ours, as the future remains to be written.www.vdfuture.com