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Dang, lots of interesting stuff.  I'm going to have to wait till I get home to view most of this.


Falling apart in more than one way.  Did you see this today?

Thomas said:

We are very close to everything's falling apart.  Roubini should know.  He's tried the severe austerity of trying to sell his own firm, but will likely have to go down with the ship.  Who wants a sinking ex-cruiser?  Good article.  This sentence is noteworthy:

Private- and public-sector deleveraging in the advanced economies has barely begun ...

Can you feel the paralysis building?  Can't do this or boom.  Can't do that or boom.

The story I shared does not have to do with warming in itself, but with one effect of warming, which appears to be the massive release of methane into the atmosphere (through the effects of thawing), which may have negative consequences for life quite apart from rising temperature or missing ice.

Yes, I agree that at least some of the doom-mongering is likely politically driven and not necessarily accurate.  Nevertheless, I don't think it makes sense to say that something produced by life therefore cannot pose a risk to life.  I believe the prokaryotes were destroyed by their own massive production of oxygen...?  This did not destroy life altogether, because new cells evolved, but it led to a massive (global) extinction event nevertheless.


Anyway, we don't need to discuss this here; it's a tangent to this thread.

As a self-interested human and mammal, who would rather see the continuance of human life and the maintenance of present biodiversity rather than its catastrophic end, I say I would like not to contribute to any activity which would massively threaten human or other mammalian life.  I am not willing to shrug or write off present life in the idealistic service of some future evolutionary imperative.  But with that said, I don't think this release of methane is in our control anyway, so that's a moot point.  I also wasn't saying that human activity is the cause of it.  My only point was that this event appears to be evidence of a possible unraveling of the present order of things, beyond the human economic one.

Here you go again attributing linear (and now simplistic doomsday) thinking to me, when I haven't said anything that suggests I'm reading this linearly (or simply declaring "doom").  Massive extinction events are a fact, and are still a present possibility, but anticipating their possible immanent recurrence is not a result of linear thinking.  Many systems thinkers I'm aware of, including Rifkin, discuss and anticipate the immanent possibility of such an event, and advocate making comprehensive systemic changes in anticipation of such a possibility.  It is nonlinear thinking, in fact, that has allowed us to appreciate the massive, nonlinear, distributed, unpredictable outcomes of changes* in systemic balances and properties, allowing for exponentially cascading mass extinction events (which seemed an impossibility to most premodern and early modern people). I have said nothing about "doom" -- implying a simple "end" with nothing positive or good coming out of it in the long run.  I recognize that the evolution of the larger earth system has, in fact, tended to progress through punctuated extinction events.  Here, I have only been saying that we may be facing a such massive destabilization and disruption at this point, which may indeed have long-term (but not indefinite) consequences for life itself, and which could result in large-scale extinction or at least decimation of certain life forms.  This would not likely be the end of all living systems, and would not imply the end of the project of life as we know it; new, possibly more stable regimes, will likely yet emerge out of such disruption and destabilization.  But such biological events do not typically proceed on a time scale which can be immediately appreciated by, and is not very amenable to present purposes and immediate projects of, human beings; such an event (such as the widescale poisoning of the atmosphere with a toxic gas) would have a significantly more destabilizing and disruptive impact on human beings than the end of an economic system. 

Concerning predicting the "end" of something, you yourself have been heralding the coming "extinction event" of a present system, entailing likely short-term massive disruption and discomfort, even though eventually it may allow for the emergence and consolidation of a superior system in the future.  I'm not saying anything different -- only that we may be facing a similar disruption, which may be potentially quite difficult for present generations (and perhaps a number of generations to come), and may involve a longer turn-around time given the particular types of systems it would impact.

On a personal note, my conversations with you would be less frustrating for me if you would desist from projecting (usually denigrating and inferior) "mindsets" onto me.  You seem to forget that you've previously acknowledged that I have been the one giving you language, in past conversations, for discussion of systemic and autopoietic dynamics.

* Even relatively insignificant or small-seeming changes, from a linear perspective.

Concerning your list of 50, I can definitely appreciate much of that, my own standard of living being significantly lower, currently, than the one I grew up with or that my parents enjoyed.  I regret not being able to give my son some of the things I took for granted.

If you read it as an -ism, meaning I have some sort of ideological commitment to an immanent global extinction event being inevitable, or that I can't see other possible (unexpected, and possibly quite positive) eventualities following from current systemic destabilization, then yes, you are misreading me.  But we've already experienced 5 mass extinction events in the past, featuring the die-off of many different species at once.  I do not think it unreasonable to describe such an event for those beings who experience it as catastrophic, or to imagine that such an event could indeed impact the human community in the near future, given certain basic facts (including the current estimation, according to Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, that we are losing about 25,000 species a year right now, rather than the average 5 a year).  Evolution seems, at some of its scales, to proceed by alternating short-term but large-scale catastrophes and longer-term periods of flourishing.


In other posts, you have playfully (but, I think, also seriously) observed that the 2012-ers and New Agers were correct, after all.  Well, one of the predictions of the 2012-ers is global "earth changes" -- massive systemic destabilization.   The threatened release of untold tons of methane into the atmosphere, due to permafrost melt-off, after many thousands of years of containment, appears to be evidence that such "earth changes" are indeed afoot.  I'm not sure why we're even having this debate, though.  I wasn't, as I said above, trying to preach doom and gloom -- only pointing out that more than human systems seem to be entering a period of rapid destabilization and change, with possible negative consequences for present life forms.  We don't really know what the effects of these cumulative changes will be, though -- being nonlinear in nature.

It has seemed to me that you have been talking about "massive (read: global) systemic destabilization" throughout this thread.  I could point to several posts where you've said things like, "everything is falling apart" or "everything is becoming destabilized."  But, anyway, I know you don't mean that in a blinkered Chicken Little way, and neither do I.  I'm thinking of Prigogine's take on systemic change, for instance -- where systems, which already exist far from equilibrium, move into periods of increased chaos or instability (via reinforcing feedback loops), and from there either leap nonlinearly up into higher levels of organization, or else disintegrate.  There is no guarantee that any particular system -- an organism, a family, a nation, even a species -- will survive periods of global systemic instability, so I don't think individual or "local" concern about personal well-being during such transitions is entirely misplaced or unrealistic, even when one is able to hold a broader systems view and to visualize positive global outcomes for a culture, or a species, or life, or the earth, as a whole.  

Concerning the current rate of loss of species, regardless of whether that is "tolerable" or "acceptable" from a global evolutionary perspective, it certainly marks a significant increase (5000 x greater than average) and is further evidence that we have entered a period of greater-than-human, global systemic change (which is what I was saying in my initial post to you on this topic).  But, personally, while in hindsight I can appreciate where past extinction events eventually have led "us," I am cautious about viewing a greatly increased extinction rate nonchalantly or as nothing to be concerned about, or as a necessary destruction in the service of some higher ideal "end," because that can easily slip into either a fascist sort of attitude (these beings living now are expendable, in the service of the creation of some greater new system in the future, therefore I will write them off and do nothing to protect them, if not contribute to their end), or else just to a rather inhumane and apathetic one.  In other words, while I think it is important to acknowledge that, in the broad scheme, death is generative and creative, and therefore not evil*, such recognition should be balanced, in my view, by efforts to protect and preserve life wherever such is feasible, especially if there is good evidence (and there is) that a good percentage of the deaths, losses, or degradations is directly related to (largely unconscious or non-reflective) human activity.

*I have students do a ceremony using this poem in one of my classes:

1. Without the death of stars, there would be no planets and no life.

2. Without the death of creatures, there would be no evolution.

1. Without the death of elders, there would be no room for children.

2. Without the death of fetal cells, we would all be spheres.

1. Without the death of neurons, wisdom and creativity would not blossom.

2. Without the death of cells in woody plants, there would be no trees.

1. Without the death of forests by Ice Age advance, there would be no northern lakes.

2. Without the death of mountains, there would be no sand or soil.

1. Without the death of plants and animals, there would be no food.

2. Without the death of old ways of thinking, there would be no room for the new.

1. Without death, there would be no ancestors.

2. Without death, time would not be precious.

ALL: What, then, are the gifts of death?

1. The gifts of death are Mars and Mercury, Saturn and Earth.

2. The gifts of death are the atoms of stardust within our bodies.

1. The gifts of death are the splendors of shape and form and color.

2. The gifts of death are diversity, the immense journey of life.

1. The gifts of death are woodlands and soils, ponds and lakes.

2. The gifts of death are food: the sustenance of life.

1. The gifts of death are seeing, hearing, feeling — deeply feeling.

2. The gifts of death are wisdom, creativity, and the flow of cultural change.

1. The gifts of death are the urgency to act, the desire to fully be and become.

2. The gifts of death are joy and sorrow, laughter and tears.

ALL: The gifts of death are lives that are fully and exuberantly lived, and then graciously and gratefully given up, for now and forevermore. Amen

An old friend of mine, a former psychedelic surfer and present day no shit white shaman, once wisely told me, "There is such a thing as too much LSD."

In a similar vein, I think there is such a thing as too much information. Thomas, while I appreciate your zeal, I don't have the energy or time to try to assimilate all the input you're continuously throwing our way. The Internet is a different kind of psychedelic, and it can lead to skewed points of view.

I don't have a problem with your trust in "life processes, and ... that larger trends informing the growth and evolution of life on this planet play considerable roles in stabilizing growth and movement within and of life systems." But I don't perceive any empathy in that viewpoint for the tragic consequences that destabilization of the global economy & the ecosystem are having on real people (and ecosystems) in the present. I reject the notion that it is a "catastrophic doom mindset" to express concern for people or the planet. There is a point where the abstract negates the personal. That is the seed of fascist thinking.

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