In a few days from now world is going to witness yet another attempt to address to reduce, mitigate and thwart the impending vagaries of Climate Change in the form of a summit meeting, COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. There is a great interest and speculation about whether the meeting is going to deliver us some kind of solution or if it is fated to fail like Cancun.
The more I follow Climate Change Movement of the world and come to be aware of the emerging new order of scientific philosophies, the more it appears to me that a strange coincidence is taking place slowly, possibly still too subtle for mass acceptance and belief, and I increasingly feel that we are in a state of transition of a paradigm shift of our collective world view.
I fondly remember a debate that I got into making some comments on a blog post titled ‘Why I think Change Is Good For You’ by Mattias Adolfsson in Th!nk About It platform. A gentleman by the name ‘Mike’ came heavy on me and made some seriously silly contrarian comments. Despite a bit of ‘under-the-belt’ exchange, it had been quite fun. Also I commented on a blog post titled ‘If Climate Change Is Our Religion Then Who Is Our God?’ by Jodi Bush.
I was not a member of THINKERs platform then, but I immensely enjoyed the free, varied and sometimes outlandish ideas of people – which I consider an essential condition for something new to happen. If a deck of 52 cards can hold so many interesting deals, what a human connectome can hold! And there are 7 Billion humans in the world. Not connecting and not churning the bed of ideas is almost criminal. And in that process of churning, nothing is really outlandish, no idea is really crazy. Or if it is crazy, maybe that is what we will be looking for ultimately. Climate Change, AGW and the strife by humanity to find a way to avert a gloomy future will, in my opinion, require a crazy idea. It took quite a ‘crazy’ Leonardo Da Vinci some 500 years ago to make the world stand on its head.
To be honest, blogging and reporting mere events, in my opinion, is not enough creative. It may serve some journalistic purpose (and I do not question the necessity and usefulness of remaining informed – the value of information is obvious) but what seems more important to me is what we make of those events, the turns, twists and facts, what we think is the general emerging picture and if you like, what we think we should do about that, individually and collectively. And voicing what we think.
In order to voice what we think, we will be required to run the risk of being refuted, ridiculed, humiliated and even attacked. There is also the common anxiety that we are not experts – and climate science is a highly complex study; possibly one of the very few where there is strong polarization of ideas and beliefs of the people even who practice it. But if we believe that Climate Change is, even partially, influenced by our own actions, we need to carefully remember that its scientific purport is very different from other branches of physical sciences where nature is the player, not us. It needs to be realized that Climate Change is a human issue now and no effective reversal of the worsening effects of environment can ever be achieved without the participation of each of us. It is kind of funny to expect a handful of scientists and experts (or an intergovernmental panel for that matter) to find a solution to a problem that has arguably been created by whole societies over centuries.
My take on this has been laughed at by many. I want to share that it has been taken as interesting, maybe true by many as well.
History of civilization is replete with instances that show that human civilization goes by epochs. Each epoch is characterized by a ‘governing’ world view – a kind of social orientation of mind and behavior. This social orientation of mind is somewhat based on deep psycho-social needs. To imagine this you can consider a very big mosaic, whose pattern is not discernible when you zoom on to a ‘bit’ – an individual, but when you zoom out, you get to see the grand scheme of things. In social scales, this zooming in and zooming out is only possible temporally, over a span of few centuries. I contend that very roughly, we have seen few such epochs already, namely:
1. Epoch of relocating for better resources – earliest human migrations.
2. Epoch of brute power, colonialism – an era of plunder and genocides.
3. Epoch of religious indoctrination – springing of Abrahamic religious faiths and conquests
4. Epoch of Science and logic – birth of reductionism, western materialistic philosophies, reign of logic and empirical evidences leading to Newtonian clockwork universe and Industrial Revolution.
5. Epoch of New Age Science and Holism – break down of determinism, emergence of frontier science which tends to merge with philosophy, organic principles in designs and holistic medicine. We are presently in this epoch and reaching impasse on almost all important aspects of life: economic growth, medicine and healthcare, clean technologies.
I am not going to put time spans against these epochs, as these are sure to invite disagreement and I, myself, feel that the transitions of one epoch into another had not been sudden, rather slow and gradual over centuries.
Each of these epochs had human beings influenced and motivated in both clear and subtle ways. For one individual the influence might not have been obvious, but as communities, the ‘governing’ world view continued to act on them deeply so that the most relevant issues of life for the people of one epoch remained characteristic of that epoch. The whole belief system, culture, rituals and daily activities of our earliest nomadic ancestors reflected the ‘transience’ of life. The stunning absence of monuments from this epoch is one indicator of this fact. By the same token the Mayan and Egyptian Pyramids marked the end this epoch, when settling instead of moving was the paradigm shift. This was the first transition. When humanity rolled onto the next epoch, the ‘governing’ world view shifted to a territorial attitude. The world, for the first time, got split into territories, and territorial interests started to dominate human life. Sensing that the key resources of the world might be favorably distributed into other territories, wars, expansions and ultimately colonialism began to seize the world in a cruel grip. In order to attack, kill and loot other communities, we needed a moral justification and religion filled this void. So we saw another transition and the world view again shifted to religious faith and authority. The influence had been so deep that Church and Caliphates came to take decisions for the Kings and Emperors. Life of a common man was almost governed entirely by religious decrees. Christian missionaries and Islamic rulers found it ‘ordained’ by their respective ‘gods’ to either kill or convert the indigenous people (pagans or Kefirs).
We have a credible recorded history of the rise and fall of this epoch. By the time determinism was available from western philosophers, the transitional conflicts of a new paradigm and a dying one was marked by event like Galileo facing inquisition by the Pope. However, within a relatively small span of 400 years the transition was complete and the epoch of science, logic and technology started to influence our lives like never before. This was possible because of vast advancement of scientific research, industrialization, development of a consumer economy but most of all because of the hidden and subtle change of world view of people that material prosperity is supreme.
This deterministic, consumer growth-driven worldview started to be challenged with the advent of Einstein, quantum physics and first hint of environmental degradation. The easy, secure and prosperous future started to look marred with uneasy questions. We started to see our dream of growth seriously limited by constraints of nature, first by natural sciences and next by the fact that in our ambitious plans of developments we might, possibly, have pushed the lever too much. In my opinion, we are now in this epoch looking at the face of yet another transition.
Few interesting observations about these transitions are:
1. Each transition is shorter (in time scale) than previous. The current one, in my opinion, will be the briefest on account of communication boom which clearly expands our connectomes exponentially faster than previous ones.
2. Each transition is marked by conflicts, intellectual and physical. It costs us to change.
3. Each transition is either characterized by a global anxiety or an apathy towards the current order.
4. Each transition is ultimately successful because of a grand collective human demand.
So where are we headed through this transition? What is the next epoch?
This is what I think. We are headed for a radical change in the whole ways we look at the world. We are being subject to a subtle environmental anxiety; the darkest of our fears is that our off springs will be in deep trouble. During this transition conflicts will continue to rise, confusion will rage like wildfire, even we are fated to see some serious damage in coming 100 years. This will accelerate the environmental anxiety ultimately to tip the balance towards the next epoch when environmental issues will become the most relevant human issues. So, in my opinion, we will have the next epoch characterized by environmental conservation.
This may sound crazy but (this is how I think) when the next epoch comes, the following radical changes are very possible:
1. Vanishing of geo-political boundaries completely.
2. Mass exodus and relocation of humans.
3. Voluntary depopulation.
4. Environmental global governance to fix and monitor limits of individual consumption of resources and energy.
5. Complete breakdown of consumer economy.
(Not necessarily in the order given).
I am not overtly anxious about failure of COP17. Frankly, when I think the way as I shared with you, many failures and conflicts are ahead of us.
(Re-written from earlier post My Crazy Idea in Think Climate Change)
Feature Image Credit: Body+Soul
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