Category Archives: Evolution

Genesis 1:28 Revisited (The Sanctity of Sperm)

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Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…  (Genesis 1:28)

Dear patriarchal, monotheistic Deity,

thanks for the good advice. We have dutifully followed these instructions. What next?

Yours faithfully,

The People of Earth

Today the human population is rapidly approaching 7 billion, growing by around 80 million a year. That’s 1.5 million every week or 10,000 every hour. The human ecological footprint (impact upon nature) is the total number of people multiplied by average per capita level of consumption. Both total population and average consumption are increasing which is why we have an environmental crisis. Humanity is consuming the living fabric of our planet faster than it can regenerate and thus extinction is increasingly likely (for us and many other species).

There is a pervasive and dangerous taboo which prevents an honest, open and pragmatic debate about reducing the total human population. There seems to be an assumption that because human life is sacred and reproduction a fundamental right, we should all just keep reproducing as if the planet was still a giant unexplored wilderness and resource constraints inconceivable. Sadly, this era is long gone. If human life is sacred, shouldn’t we work to keep it in existence for as long as possible? Over population is a short cut to extinction, as David Attenborough says “All environmental problems become harder — and ultimately impossible — to solve with ever more people.

The Great Man

Limiting human fertility also offends because it may discriminately affect the underprivileged but there are multiple ways to reduce human population in a progressive way that actually helps to redistribute wealth more fairly. The greatest mistake we can make is to ignore the population time bomb, for whatever reason.

Population growth is highest in developing countries. The two proven, most effective ways of slowing this growth is (1.) to reduce infant mortality and (2.) to educate woman for longer. Both of these should be given top priority anyway, irrespective of the importance for the global ecosystem. Governments must join up their environmental and developmental strategies and, urgently, invest far more to achieve these aims.

Human Population Growth

The aspiration in many developing countries is to have lifestyles like people in the West, for example, car ownership in China  has ‘exploded’. However, this is impossible. It is not just that the developing world cannot consume like us in the West. We in the West cannot continue to consume as we do, resources are running out.

Current global rates of consumption are said to be unsustainable and with population and consumption both increasing the only way we can become sustainable is by reducing consumption combined with reducing population. Developed countries must contract consumption to converge on a sustainable and fair global average.

Some Western countries with static populations like Spain and Italy have set up funds to boost fecundity. Spain now offers a 2,500 euro bonus for every baby born. Of course, from a global perspective this policy is diametrically opposed to sustainability. Countries faced with the fiscal problems associated with static growth and an ageing population can make their borders porous and accept the flow of immigrants coming from more crowded countries rather than incentivising additional populaion growth.

At a time of global ecological collapse the notion of the nation-state isn’t just anachronistic, it is dangerous and retarded. We cannot shift to sustainability and survive without taking a global, scientific view-point on resource use and climate change, so, with this planetary perspective in mind, lets respond as one species without borders.

Project Prevention is a US charity that has caused an uproar by paying (bribing) drug addicts to become sterilized so that they cannot bring a child into the world that is born to suffer. Should this concept be extended? Why not set up a global fund to pay anyone who will voluntarily take the money: a fee to be sterilized?

The reason this plan would be unpalatable is because within the unfair global economic system the poor will  more likely take up this offer of  cash, but is the world any fairer, or better, where half a million poor women die every year in child-birth and millions of children die from malnourishment? At least paying volunteers to be sterilized will help to redistribute wealth and alleviate suffering.

Why don’t we do this in the UK too? Currently the government pays increasing child care support with each extra baby, an ill-advised incentive to increase the population further. Why don’t we shift things around so that if you have had two children the government will pay you a one-off lump sum to get sterilized. This reduces population and increases the quality of life of those remaining.

Sue and Pete Davison and their 10 kids take home £45,000 in benefits (Source: http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/notw/news/907438/Work-Not-on-45K-benefits.html)

Thousands of years ago when the Old Testament was being put together, the human population was a minute fraction of what it is today. In that era, the guidelines for human success were to procreate and claim land. Today, the game has changed. Go forth and multiply are instructions for a long gone era. It is time for new planetary guidelines for our species. Crucially, these plans, policies and ideas must reduce the total human population, reduce per capita consumption whilst creating a fairer and happier world so how about:

Slow down, stay local, conserve and be happy


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The Windup Girl

23rd century Bangkok as imagined in the Windup Girl

Every sci-fi nerd dreams at some point about owning a gorgeous, Japanese, android sex toy that is genetically engineered to satisfy their every whim. No!? Must be just me then. No wonder I enjoyed  Paolo Bacigalupi’s biopunk, sci-fi thriller, The Windup Girl.

Paulo constructs a vividly real Bangkok in which biological power is king again. Post peak-oil, ‘expansion’ cities lie like vast graveyards to the carbon intensive industries that created them; methane lamps provide the light, cycle rickshaws run the streets and the twisted Dung Lord has a monopoly on the decomposing half of the economy. Nature has been massively contorted by the pressures of humankind and the species sits perched on the edge of an evolutionary precipice braced for famine, resource wars and worse.

Corporations have become more powerful and the world is now run by giant ‘Calorie Companies’ (AgriGen, PurCal and RedStar) who have seized control of most of the global energy flows used by humans and use aggressively engineered diseases to wipe out competing crop varieties (and people’s).

Thailand has somehow managed to hoard a reserve of genetic material out of the reach of the Calorie Companies who now come  in sail boats, with shock troops, armed and ready to take this fresh slice of the global market. The Environment Ministry is ready to fight back but with Trade  in ascendency political intrigue prevails and a showdown is inevitable.

Against this cataclysmic backdrop our central characters wrestle with each other as well as will the terrible unfolding disaster of human technology unleashed on an unsuspecting natural world. But as a sinister and powerful genehacker asserts; they are life, so what is unnatural about them taking control of evolution?Perhaps the engineered Blister Rust that’s eating away at his legs?

The Windup Girl (Emiko) is avoiding ‘mulching’ by providing a disturbingly humiliating sex routine in a Bangkok sex club with a vile tormentress who, like others, believes ‘new people’ are sub-human scum. As far as Emiko is concerned, she is as natural as everyone else, and she desperately longs for some kind of niche.

The Windup Girl is genetically engineered to get your rocks of but as the tension cranks up to the epic showdown she discovers her enhanced body is capable of much more. It seems artificially created life will cling to existence too, and at some point we all have to choose what side we are on. Environment or trade? Natural or artificial? Life or death?

Whether these engineered creations are natural or not, might they be they our evolutionary descendents? The way the Military Windups kick ass it certainly could be possible and they seem to be resistant to the swirling plagues that ravage the human population, but can they overcome their coded urge to obey?

I wouldn’t recommend this book to the idle armchair environmentalist but if you are a proper Eco Freako and like your armageddon rich in technical details unsettlingly, accurately extrapolated from today’s mega trends, then this one is for you. Savour the exploration of our biology as humans unravel their own composition at an imminent evolutionary cross roads.

The Windup Girl on Amazon

Must it end here?

Borders divide; frontiers unite

You have to go full screen, dim the lights and sit back for this one.

First seen on: http://halfiranian.com.

UFO sightings in Rio

Mark en route to Rio

I haven’t been to Rio, but I have heard great things about it. When a good friend headed over there 18 months ago I expected to learn a lot more. Instead, my buddy disappeared off the radar. Was he lost in the jungle? Madly in love? Trying to stop an enormous damn from being built in the ‘lungs of the world’? No, he has been communicating with alien intelligences.

I met ‘Marky’ while studying Environmental Technology at Imperial College in London. He made his mark as a laid back guy with big ideas. Despite being on the business module he had strong political ideals and a sensitive nose for the bullshit that sometimes wafted through the corridors. He was in the small minority of people on the course who insisted they didn’t want to ‘sell their souls’ and go and work for an ‘environmental’ consultancy so he surprised us all by working diligently for 4 years for a large ethical fund. 18 months ago he had enough and cut loose. He was last seen heading to Mexico riding a sweet Surly Long Haul Trucker.

There has not been much news since although there have been rumours he had reinvented himself as a conceptual artist and had started a chapter of Critical Mass in Rio… until now. It appears that Mark has been working together with his co-conspirator Thais Medeiros and a group of extra-terrestrials. They are excited by the role of alien intervention in our technological evolution. Now the question on everyone’s lips is “what will their next intervention be?!”

Fellow abductees discussing their experiences

Mark Philipp e Thais Medeiros http://www.educacao-espacial.com

Mark after communicating with the Aliens

A recent Critical Mass in Rio

The Artists post contact

The Zeitgeist Movement Responds to Egypt

Rewinding Life

The Humpback Whale: endangered

Nations of the world are coming together at COP 10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to face up to the fact that our efforts to rein in the current mass extinction crisis have failed. In an attempt to put the issue on the political map, biodiversity is being allocated a monetary value much as the Stern Report’s did with climate change. However, this approach fails to acknowledge a bigger truth. Reducing the diversity of life on earth effectively puts evolution in rewind taking us back to an ecological period when humans didn’t exist. This unraveling of life’s rich tapestry destroys real value that took millions of years to create and shifts ecosystems away from those human’s are adapted to.

The Gorilla: endangered

Human’s who continue to generate ‘wealth’ by consuming nature are perverted and sinful. This may not be the conventional attitude today but it will be the attitude of our wiser descendants if they survive the coming austerity of a decimated planet. They will look back at our time as an idyllic Eden, so rich in life it was home to panda’s, cheetahs, blue whales and other extraordinary creatures. They will consider the leaders and powerful elite who presided over this ecocide as criminals. To prevent the worst from happening this must become the attitude of us all now.  We must wake up to the true value of nature.

Everyone has been talking about climate change and for nefarious reasons the media insists on including climate scepticism in the debate as if it were a sane position. But leaving all that noise to one side, it is still hard to discern how fragile life on earth is and therefore how precarious a situation human civilization is in. On one extreme we have scientists and environmentalists telling us that the human eco-footprint is unsustainable and that many critical ecosystems we depend on are nearing collapse and on the other we have pioneers and prospectors who, appealing to our rugged, masculine urges, tell us that nature is strong and we should concern ourselves with the folks back home not something ‘out there’ called ‘nature’.

WWF’s Living Planet Index: decreasing

How can we examine the world around us to objectively determine where on this scale we actually are and therefore what our course of action should be? Measuring carbon in the atmosphere or the abundance of natural resources is reasonable, but both are debatable and therefore political. For example, the warming effect of CO2 can in theory be reversed by geo-engineering or perhaps captured by a new technology and turned into a fuel. Declining resources can, in theory, be restocked and a complete knowledge of, say, a cod stock, can be disputed.

The Leatherhead Turtle: endangered

In contrast, biodiversity is an absolute that cannot be disputed. As we destroy the natural world, species go extinct. This is not negotiable. Either you can find a living specimen or you can’t. If you can’t, it is game over. It is not possible to bring a species back and habitat loss means that if in the future we can, they won’t have anywhere to live.

 

Gradinsko Lake Croatia

Human’s turn ‘natural capital’ (forests, fisheries and mountains) into ‘human capital’ (cloths, cars and iphones) and in doing so are pruning the tree of life. The current loss of species is so extreme it is being called the 6th mass extinction event. The last one is the most famous because it caused the extinction of the dinosaurs but several others were far more severe. For example the Permian extinction event led to a 90% die off. It takes at least 10 million years for diversity to begin to recover from such an event.

The Dinosaur Impact 65 million years ago

Mass extinctions are thought to result when a long-term stress is compounded by a short term shock.  Remarkably humans appear to be doing both simultaneously with cataclysmic results: “The speed at which species are being lost is much faster than any we’ve seen in the past — including those [extinctions] related to meteor collisions,” said Daniel Simberloff, a University of Tennessee ecologist and prominent expert in biological diversity. If present trends continue one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years, as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

Humans are killing the world that we evolved from. This is far worse than biting the hand that feeds us; it is kicking the vagina that delivered us. This petulant destruction will cost us money; it will limit new opportunities in medicine and cuisine and travel and adventure; but it will also shift the planet’s ecology away from one that can sustain us massively increasing the risk of our extinction. Surely this is the main reality to engage with?

Today, whilst human minds fixate on the financial ‘crisis’ and channel unprecedented resources into keeping pathological markets afloat, the real crisis goes unchecked. It is nature that really needs the bailout.

Big impact mass extinction

65 million years ago it wasn’t the impact of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. It was the ecological changes that occurred as a result of the long, nuclear winter that followed. Massive plant eating dinosaurs starved after plants withered and soon so too did their predators. The tiny shrew-like early mammals we are descended from probably survived the long darkness by gnawing on the fetid flesh of the multifarious dead behemoths.

Evolutionary destiny

If humans do not wake up out of this mass, suicidal hallucination and start apportioning a proportional value to their life support system it may be the cockroaches who survive the dark of our nuclear winter by gnawing on the dead bodies of people laid strewn through the wreckage of civilization. Maybe the roach descendents will learn from our ruins and exist for long enough to seize life’s opportunities and increase exploration of (both internal and external) space?

Although the trends today are apocalyptic, the solutions to the biodiversity crisis are well understood. The way to stop species going extinct is to preserve their habitats. The only effective way of preserving habitats is by creating large nature reserves that are off-limits to human exploitation. We could imagine a future sustainable world in which human cities, towns and farms are nestled within an international network of mega-wildlife corridors which are large enough to allow for terrestrial species migrations. Huge human-free marine zones are also required.

The Blue Whale: endangered

Dead

To secure these vital eco-systems the human economy must acknowledge and respect limits to its prospecting of nature’s bounty. Limiting human expansion isn’t even on the table as an option as government’s fall over each other to try and endlessly stimulate new economic growth. When will they see that as Edward Abbey says: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” And that growth that destroys life is actually death.

We must put part of nature beyond the reach of markets. This is entirely logical because, as our cosmic mother, home, nourishment and inspiration nature is, of course, literally priceless. Whilst this may be anathema to free-market apostles who understand their universe only through attaching dollar signs to everything, human species-control is the only practical way to maintain the ecological integrity of the biosphere; which is the way for us to survive.

The Orang-Utan: endangered

To make limiting further growth of the human economy politically viable we need people’s values, attitudes and behaviours to change. First up, understanding that it is not just that losing species depletes our planet and undoes value that has taken millions of years to accumulate, value well beyond the puny, vulgar dollars and pounds that rule this brief epoch. It is that we are undoing the ecology that we evolved into. We cannot be certain that whatever follows may not be so hospitable. Whether pioneers, prospectors, religious fundamentalists and other anthropocentrists can stomach it or not, our destiny is utterly and completely bound to the destiny of all the other species of life on earth.

White Ttiger Swimming: endangered

We also need to share widely the understanding that improving the human condition is no longer dependent on extracting more from nature. Collectively, we have all we need. All future progress must be dematerialized; from government policy to business development through to what we do on the weekend, enough with stuff.

We are the smartest species that ever existed but somehow we are not collectively using our brains. We are blessed with a planet brimming with, literally, the most extraordinary richness in the known universe. This phenomenal, unique, living layer which pulses and shimmers against the dead blackness of infinity and drawing on the energy of the nearest star steadily increases in mass and diversity is not just our home. It is our destiny. So it is time to show compassion to the millions of other species who share our world. Let’s follow the golden rule and do unto them as we would have done unto us. Let’s love our fellow creatures as we love ourselves because ultimately any sense of separation is an illusion.

Gaia

Will we stop mass extinction?

I’ve just signed an urgent global petition supporting a new treaty to prevent mass extinction. The petition will be delivered Friday at UN talks in Japan — check out the email below and sign on here:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/the_end_of_whales/98.php?CLICKTF

A Critical Mass of dissent… on wheels

Critical Mass, June 2010, London

On the last Friday of every month something strange, spontaneous and spectacular happens on the streets of central London. The roads are congested (as always) however; they are not filled with big, heavy, dangerous machines that spew out poison gas. They are filled with cycle fanatics who insist on propelling themselves around the place under their own steam; powered by whatever they last ate. This is Critical Mass and it’s a wonderful improvement to the city.

The rendez-vous

Meeting on the South Bank

For a brief time this enthusiastic, motley assortment of London residents join together to reclaim the streets and celebrate their freedom of movement. The giant mobile herd is diverse composed of people of all shapes, sizes, colours and affluence; bound together by the shared love of self propulsion.

This melange of misfits meets up on the South Bank at 18.30. The air is buzzing with excitement as friends reunite. Beers are cracked open, bikes admired and tales of surviving on the mean streets of London traded.

Riders crossing the Thames

Soon the crowd swells like water behind a damn and the air is filled with the dinging of bells. Anticipation gives way to urgency and the cracks in the damn start appearing as the first brave riders head up the ramp to the Imax cinema roundabout and off into the heart of the city. The hive-mind has been engaged and without an agreed route or leader the peloton surges forth to find its way to an unknown destination.

Riders

A mobile sound system

Once beyond the safety of the South Bank you find yourself on roads which have had their ownership seized by the sinister Cult of the Car. So powerful is this cult that the membership is utterly convinced, despite all the evidence that it is reasonable to sit in giant polluting snakes of mechanized metal along the arteries that traverse our giant human beehives. They have suspended rational thought to the point that they cannot see the obvious truth that cars and cities don’t go. Like square pegs and round holes, metal and microwaves and turds in swimming pools.

Whoop!

By invidious means the perverse, sociopathic behaviour of these cultists has been normalized so that London is now permanently shrouded in a haze of pollution and death on London’s roads is an accepted part of city life (4000 deaths by air pollution, 184 deaths by traffic collisions in 2009, 3043 serious injuries). This is the price we are all supposed to pay for the mythical individual convenience that leaps out from billboards but never comes close to manifesting in a city where millions of people are compelled to share limited space and move about each other in some kind of harmonious diurnal cycle.

It's fun for kids

Maybe it’s a power thing, maybe it’s a class thing or maybe it’s the myopic and inapt conflation of technology with progress. Whatever it is, car drivers are convinced the road is theirs as if cars always existed and always will. Car drivers naturally assume that they always have priority over cyclists. So when drivers have to wait as a giant swarm of happy riders surges by in front of their over-engineered wheelchairs they literally start having a nervous breakdown. They froth at the mouth, throw their rattle out of their motorized prams, bang their neo-luddite skulls against the steering wheel and curse the unjust laws that prevent them from teaching us once and for all that cars are mightier by driving through us in a glorious eruption of fossil-power.

Refueling

They scream out of their windows that they are trying to get somewhere and how dare we be so inconsiderate as to hold them up. They might think we would care but they are speaking to the wrong audience… big time.

There is not a single person on this ride that doesn’t have to daily put up with the gross imposition of the car. Day after day we breathe in their fumes, wait as they block up huge sections of the city and weep as they kill our friends. Day after day we peer into the windows of cars filled with solitary occupants and try to comprehend how the system screwed up their weak little minds so badly that they think this offensive behaviour is okay. They are crapping in the swimming pool daily and like thieving mps they say it is okay because it is not against the law. For once they can wait. The bikes are biting back.

Negotiating road space allocation

It might not seem like much but actually it is. This is the sharp edge of a wedge of dissatisfaction against the tyranny of the car. A critical mass of dissent is growing on the streets if London. For one evening a month, for a couple of hours, we take control of the streets. For a fleeting moment in time we can cycle in safety surrounded by friends and music. We can see the city as it could be…. as it should be. Open and flowing, alive not dead.

This is what cities in the future will be like. And the happy and healthy residents of these cities will remember these pioneer cyclists who took a stand for something they believed in against seemingly insurmountable odds and raise a glass to them.

Makes you think... dunnit!

More photos from Critical Mass:

Not all the pedestrians are 100% supportive

Father and son

Die hards

Fun

Explaining the new rules of the road

Amusing

Who's bike you looking at bitch?

The ride home

Science is Great but God is Green

 

William Blake's God

More than anything else, the future of civilization depends on the way the two most powerful forces of history, science and religion, settle into relationship with each other.

Alfred North Whitehead

Technology is presented as the solution to environmental problems but wasn’t it technology that got us into this mess in the first place? This won’t sit well with the people trying to sell us green gadgets but we may have to change more than just our light bulbs. The environmental crisis we face is more than just a technological challenge. It is also a moral challenge. Whether it is fashionable or not to bring it up most people on earth still belong to the world’s great religions. Could these huge collections of people hold the key to the widespread behaviour change needed to save civilization?

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.

Albert Einstein

The success of science is the foundation of the modern age. Science has enabled us to build new technologies, live longer and accrue unprecedented material wealth. However, the ongoing expansion of human capital is marred by the looming spectre of environmental collapse. Humans are expanding into, and at the expense of, the natural world upon which we depend. Humans also have a track record of using smart technology in stupid ways. Exploding thermonuclear devices above cities, engineering viruses and building gas chambers all demonstrate the immense harm we can do ourselves with technology. Holding up science and technology as the solution to environmental problems passes the buck away from the simple truth that it is what we do with technology that is the problem. To paraphrase Ghandi we need to be the change that we want to see in the world; our behaviours and cultural norms must change in line with our changing ecological context.

Indian Cow

A scientific interpretation of religion sees it as a complex adaptive system of beliefs that persists because it instils an advantage on practitioners. For example, the reverence of the holy cow in India effectively prevents the slaughter of cattle. Anthropologist Marvin Harris has shown that cows play a critical role in the Indian economy and the greater good is served by not slaughtering them. The dung is fuel, their traction pulls ploughs and they provide an ongoing supply of milk for children. Thus religion can act as a means of optimizing behaviour.

Religion is culturally ubiquitous and acts as social glue. It provides the common values necessary to make individuals want to do what they must do if social order is to be achieved especially in times of hardship or scarcity. Examples can be found from every religion of peoples’  faith providing a narrative allowing them to make sense of their universe and optimize behaviour in the face of overwhelming unknowns and challenges.

The Pope: useful priorities?

Clearly, religion has its dark side. History is made up of bloody competition between warring tribes. Often it is religious belief that gives a human superorganism its sense of superiority and it readiness to fight and destroy other groups. However, just as modern nations are increasingly multicultural; could not religions coexist with a shared sense of duty towards the planet? An expansion of the religious approach from being tribal or ethnic to planetary could transform modern religions into powerful forces for nature conservation. Just to take Catholicism as an example, if the Pope invested a fraction the energy he spends on sexual morality encouraging sustainable resource use the gains for everyone would be huge.

Voluntary (material) simplicity, revering creation and showing love to fellow humans will be pivotal ethics in the campaign to reduce the total human ecological footprint and are core teachings of many religious leaders including Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Ghandi. Yet to date there seems to be little coming together of environmental and religious worldviews. Are religious people so focused on the afterlife they aren’t concerned with progress down here on the earthly plane? Perhaps new and more relevant interpretations of what the religious founders were saying are called for?

Buddha

The root etymological meaning of religion, the Latin religio, translates as ‘to connect’. A modern interpretation of our religions could connect all humankind to itself and to this planet. By combining with religions a more sophisticated understanding of our mutual interdependencies and the physical limits of our planet a common cause between religions can be identified and a common route into future existence mapped out.

This is in actual fact the completion of a circle. The first religions were invariably based on nature worship. For our ancestors the environment was more immediate and vital. Food, predators and the seasons determined life and death from one day to the next. So it is fitting that as our environmental conditions again become a matter of survival the focus of our religions should pan back and once again incorporate all of the natural world not just human affairs.

It is hard to hear the first voices of dissent opposing never ending economic growth in the face of the deafening roar of development. Indeed environmentalists have been branded radicals and terrorists for opposing the apostles of the free market. Greens with a spiritual dimension to their campaign are derided most: ‘New Agers’. However the ‘idealism’ behind moving to an ecological age is in fact the only rational future for humanity. Prophets or shamans may see outside the consensual reality tunnel and report back and precipitate change.

Mi'Kmaq Warrior Chief and Peace Pipe Carrier, Sulian Stone Eagle Herney with Alastair McIntosh, 1994. (Photo: Murdo MacLeod, The Guardian, 1994)

Alastair McIntosh was one such man. He stood firm in the face of development and preserved his home island. The Isle of Harris was chosen by Redland Aggregates as the prime location for a new massive quarry to supply aggregates for new motorway construction. At 10 million tonnes output per annum, the proposed quarry at Lingerabay would have been 50 times larger than a conventional large British quarry. The area is a designated National Scenic Area. Alastair a Quaker joined forces with Donald Macleod the Calvinist and Chief Stone Eagle Herney a Mi’Kmaq Warrior from Nova Scotia to lead an irresistible campaign preventing construction. They all testified at the public enquiry not by engaging in a scientific debate but by drawing on a sense of profound connection to the land, reverence for God and entering into a “dynamic of service to the natural world”. Their testimonies supported by the pluralistic, democratic campaign proved an unstoppable force.

The Awakening Universe... what next?

For these people religious thought is clearly more than just an adaptive behavioural trait. It is an expression of the spirituality available to all people. Life has evolved into ever more complicated forms on this planet for 3.6 billion years. This increasing complexity suggests a direction and purpose. Opposed to the onward march towards entropy of the rest of the universe life is becoming ever more complex and organized. Humans sit atop this apex of development and our conscious minds, composed of atoms created in suns, is the awakening universe knowing itself.

God sleeps in the rock
Dreams in the plant,
Stirs in the animal,
And awakens in man.

Sufi Teaching

The development of human consciousness and the science and religious thought associated with it allowed humans to expand out of our ecological niche and spread over the world. An expansion of this consciousness further will allow us to shift from competition driven on by our so called ‘selfish genes’ to cooperation. Once society becomes sustainable the world is literally our oyster. Technology can be called upon to once again enhance the human condition. We can explore our planet; celebrate and study other life forms; realize the full creative potential of our imaginations and ultimately head for the stars.

Our Cosmic Crib

The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of the collective psychological crisis of humans struggling within the existential void of existence that comes from the false belief that we (our egos) are independent entities separate from the rest of the universe. This crisis represents an opportunity. In choosing to move into a sustainable, ecological age we must necessarily open our hearts to our fellow humans and deepen our connection to nature. The ultimate spiritual revelation, as reported back by the great sages independently in disparate religious traditions is called the Perennial Philosophy.  It is the “the confidence that we have devolved from a single Source and the process of spiritual development is completed and perfected in our return to that One” It has been stated thus:

“Thou Art That” or Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि), one of the Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements) in Vedantic Hinduism

“Be still and know that I am God!”  Psalm 46:10

“If thou knowest thine own self, thou knowest God.” Ibn-Al-Arabi

This has been re-encapsulated in our time by the environmentalist David Suzuki who said:

“We are the environment.”

Of course this is a scientific truth too. Humans are dissipative structures. Our organizational structure is maintained through the consumption of our environments. We eat other living organisms and the atoms of their bodies become the atoms of ours. There is a flow of energy and matter from the universe around us into the temporary structures that make up our bodies. So ultimately scientific and religious thought converge. The take home lesson is that you should love your environment, your planet and indeed your cosmos as if it was yourself… because it is.

Understanding this not only leads to the conclusion that what we do the environment we do to ourselves and that a species going extinct is like the death of a part of our soul but that everything around us, including ourselves is, for lack of a better word, God.  This expansion of consciousness is our next evolutionary step. We have reached what Buckminster Fuller called our “final evolutionary exam”. Choosing existence and starting the shift to an ecological age is an opportunity to reinterpret our existence. At best sustainability will be a triumph of our better nature and shared adventure into spirit. At worst, we will survive.

Zen

Home is a giant spaceship with a rejuvenating supply of psychedelics onboard for all the crew!

The Spaceship Earth

As humanity has extended its reach the planet has seemingly shrunk giving rise to the concept of ‘Spaceship Earth’. If you have to go journeying through the cold, black void you really couldn’t really do better then our 6 star vessel. This baby comes equipped not just with the essentials (forests to produce oxygen, fungi to break down dead things etc) but with all manner of lush, decadent add-ons that have snuck into existence.

Creatures like the blue whale, snow leopard, giant salamander and lantern fish reveal the mad exuberance that the life-process is capable of.

Japanese Giant Salamander

From a species perspective, our home is the whole planet and we are nestled within a complex global ecosystem. So it may not come as a surprise that the term ‘ecology’ (coined in 1873 by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel) is derived from Okologie, from Gk. oikos “house, dwelling place, habitation” + -logia “study of.”

Assuming humans can grow up and stop crapping all over the play pen, our home, Spaceship Earth could provide for our physical needs for 2.3 billion years (until the sun goes red dwarf on our collective asses). This may be enough time to develop intergalactic travel allowing our descendents to go and find fresh pastures. Luckily, there is so much going on aboard our mother ship we are unlikely to get bored over this vast stretch of time. However, in case we do nature abounds with a range of powerful and magical compounds that offer a means to radically change our perspectives. That’s right! Spaceship Earth provides for our mental and spiritual wellbeing as well as physical. Psychedelic compounds are produced by nature in a vast array of forms on every continent.

For millennia indigenous peoples all around the world have ceremonially and recreationally ingested Mother Nature’s finest and reaped a range of benefits. From San Pedro using shamans, Ayahuasca drinkers in the Amazon, the Mazatec who use hallucinogenic mushrooms, and the Huichols who use Peyote; hallucinogenic plants have been used as religious sacrament, healing medicine, and spiritual guides. The Aztecs called them “the flesh of the gods” and Siberian shamans used them to enlighten their path to the spirit world. In Europe the psychedelic experience was extremely common, whole communities would trip out when their crops where infected with Ergot.  and Celtic warriors are known to have consumed a psychedelic potion derived from mushrooms before entering into battle.

In the preliterate world entheogenic substances were an important part of everyday reality and were highly respected for their ability to bring forth the divine. Often entire tribes would partake in rites and rituals used as an initiation into adulthood, for healing, to help guide the community in the decision process, and to bring the direct religious experience to anyone seeking it.

Maya Mushroom Moon

The potential of these compounds is broad and mysterious. Shamens who use Ayahuasca in the Amazon report being able to enter new worlds and dimensions beyond our own. In his extraordinary book The Cosmic Serpent Jeremy Narby presents the case that Amazonians’ encyclopedic, specific knowledge of pharmacology derives not from arduous testing of thousands (millions) of species of plants  (there may not have been enough time for this to have worked) but from direct communication with the plants themselves whilst in hallucinogenic trance.

A record of ancient hallucinogenic mushroom cults symbiotic relationship with fungi is found in prehistoric rock art in the Sahara Desert dating back to 9000-7000 B.C.  However, it is highly likely that humanoids will have used psychedelics for far longer than this. Given the long and illustrious ethno-botanical relationship of humankind with naturally occurring, hallucinogenic compounds the modern taboo and laws against ingesting them seem retrograde at best and at worst a deliberate, self-induced lobotomy on our collective mind. Indeed the industrial decimation of the biosphere, genocide of indigenous tribes and homogenization of culture may be more closely linked to our collective denial of Dream Time then we might think. Terence McKenna, in Whole Earth Review (1989) writes:

“Re-establishing direct channels of communication with the planetary other, the mind behind Nature, through the use of hallucinogenic plants is the last, best hope for dissolving the steep walls of cultural inflexibility that appear to be channeling us toward true ruin. Careful exploration of the plant hallucinogens will probe the most archaic and sensitive levels of the drama of the emergence of consciousness.”

This is in stark contrast to the drugs currently prescribed by contemporary doctors in the US, which are designed precisely to normalize behavior and maintain the ‘walls of cultural inflexibility’. For example, the noisy, impulsive, outspoken (fun) kids in school are labeled as having ADHD and placed on Ritalin. Ritalin aka Methylphenidate’s pharmacological effect on the central nervous system is almost identical to that of cocaine and may prevent free thinking children from asking pesky questions like ‘why are we being taught this bullshit’. Ritalin is currently prescribed to approximately six million people in the US. 75% of these are children, with boys receiving Ritalin about four times more often than girls.

Pill Head

In the United Kingdom the use of antidepressants increased by 234% in the 10 years up to 2002.[28] In the United States a 2005 independent report stated that 11% of women and 5% of men in the non-institutionalized population take antidepressants.[29] For severely depressed people these interventions may be useful. However, for many it may avoid proactively making the changes to their lives which are necessary to improve well being for example, seeking out meaning in life, finding creative outlets and connecting with others on a profound level. Most worryingly of all is the prospect that it is precisely the materialist, atomized dystopia we have created that causes depression which has now led to the new profitable industry of corporations reducing the symptoms with their synthesized chemicals. In this Brave New World the people lulled into their Soma-like druggy happiness will never stand in between an ancient woodland and a JCB saying ‘the line stops here… we don’t need any more roads, malls or car parks’. We can drug ourselves happy while we pave over paradise. It is either nonsensical or purposely repressive to treat natural psychedelics like other drugs. McKenna again:

“The pro-psychedelic plant position is clearly an anti-drug position. Drug dependencies are the result of habitual, unexamined and obsessive behavior; these are precisely the tendencies that the psychedelics mitigate.”

Furthermore, our governments seriously endanger the wellbeing of young people by automatically banning anything non-corporatized and failing to accurately communicate the relative risks. Professor David Nutt was recently sacked as the chairman of the government’s drugs advisory panel for saying that taking E was no more dangerous than riding a horse. This may rankle Middle England but if your child is determined to get high wouldn’t you rather they were taking E then a harmful drug like crack or smack?!

From the paucity of information emerges worrying trends. Kids in the UK are increasingly turning to Ketamine for their high which is cheap and readily available. What these kids do not know is that regular use attacks their bladders and they may end up needing a catheter . Prof David Nutt, suggested that Ketamine should be upgraded from a class C drug due to the harm it can cause users but since the government sacked him this is unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, naturally occurring magic mushrooms are rated as a class A drug whilst being non addictive with widely reported beneficial effects.

It is, of course, an awful irony that the US which leads the world in corporate drug pushing (which is now so out of control that we are seeing widely reported sex reversal in frogs as an effect of drugs in the environment ) also leads the world in the ridiculously named War on Drugs. The War on Drugs seems to exist mainly to mask the U.S. counter-intelligence and paramilitary presence abroad and contribute to the cyclic creation of a permanent underclass.  Whilst their government fights an endless war with another fabricated, intangible enemy millions (70 % non-white) of Americans waste their lives incarcerated in dehumanizing prisons.

Sheriff Arpaio Prisoners

In the UK some enterprising people found a legal loophole allowing them to sell fresh magic mushrooms.

Camden Mushroom Company

As recently as 2005 the my friends and I would stroll down Portobello road and visit the Camden Mushroom Company and enjoy regular trips with close friends. These happy, fun times in the park came without a hangover normally accompanied with profound insights and plentiful giggling.

On discovering the legal loophole enabling good citizens to legally trade these highlights of nature’s bounty a dark and evil force was again extended from the government and within 2 years the good times were over. The 2005 Drugs Act labeled mushrooms a class A drug (like crack cocaine and heroin) with a 7 year jail term for possession.

This draconian step feels like a totally disproportionate intrusion into my life. On whose authority do these law makers act? What right do they have to ban us from intimately connecting with nature and extending our own conscious reach? Making something illegal that grows out of the ground is exactly the kind of perverted authoritarian distortion you would expert from leaders who think they can persuade the people you can bomb a country to avoid a war.

Dark and Evil Force

Are these law makers the same people who lied to take the nation to war wasting billions of our tax pounds to invade and control a distant sovereign state illegally? Are they the same people have spent all our money bailing out banks in what has been termed the greatest swindle of all time with money that should be paying for the transition to a sustainable society? Are they the same people who finally lost any moral credibility and were been rumbled with their hands in the till ?  If so I will defer to my own moral judgments rather then following knee jerk laws written by suited, drab, automatons operating in parliamentarian bubble.

Houses of Parliament

As the human species grows up there will be an ever growing range of narcotics knocking around. Those who seek to control the supply would be better off regulating and raising tax revenue rather then banning with all the subsequent problems of drugs being controlled by the black market and global underworld. Decriminalization and regulation is the only way to control drugs and protect the young. Furthermore, if the government is going to regulate drugs why not do so according to the harm they cause as established by scientists?

Whilst the government sorts out its perverse legislation the good citizens of this country needn’t worry. They can ban but they can’t exterminate. So in the mean time the rest of us can head out to those special patches in the English countryside where our slimy mushroom friends push their pretty heads out of the dark Earth and together celebrate the mad journey us life forms are on. It is a difficult thing for many people to get their heads around, but the fact remains home is a giant spaceship with a rejuvenating supply of psychedelics on board. Let’s enjoy the trip!