‘A major human adaptation has been the creation of stories (beliefs) that trigger and guide emotions; the emotions are real, the actions are real, but the stories are only coded devices to attach motive force to action.’
JAMES KEYE – Politics & Emotion
The human species has long since become an inventive story telling productive force, a capacity that for better and for worse has given us an enormous advantage over all other species that inhabit planet Earth. However, as our scientific story of biology informs us, in essence we continue to be no more or less natural than any other species on planet Earth, all of whom are thereby subject to the natural checks and balances of planet Earth’s primary productive force, also storied by the scientific story of geophysics as the biosphere.
The human productive force is now artificially disrupting the Earth’s atmosphere to the point where global weather patterns are producing more intense climate variations, resulting in more severe droughts, floods and wildfires. The observable, measurable and thereby scientific rate of ‘climate change’ – particularly that of measuring the average surface temperature of planet Earth, is a relatively recent phenomenon that can be storied as a predictable response on the part of planet Earth’s biosphere to a disruption of it by a lesser – albeit significant, human productive force. It can also be storied that the capacity of the human productive force to artificially alter the planet’s atmosphere is now being subjected to the sort of natural checks and balances that have consistently taken place throughout planet Earth’s biosphere for millennia. Planet Earth’s capacity to respond to significant disruptions to the biosphere has evidently survived the test of time – about 4.5 billion years of time. We humans now have good reason to story planet Earth as simply doing what she has always done, she is responding in this case to a human induced artificial disruption of the atmosphere in particular and thereby Earth’s biosphere as a whole.
In the context of our human disruption of the biosphere, according to some of the more reputable scientific storying of the atmosphere eg; The Woods Hole Research Institute, we now only have three realistic options left ie; mitigation, adaptation and suffering. While we already participate in all three options to some extent, each depends upon the other, for example, the extent to which we experience the ‘suffering’ option depends entirely on the extent to which we act on the other two options.
Planet Earth’s biosphere as a whole is the primary productive force that has enabled the seasonal cycle of life and death to flourish for billions of years, it should therefore be regarded – even celebrated, as being the essential pre-requisite for the emergence and continued development of our human productive force. Conversely, our effort to dominate planet Earth’s productive force for material gain is proving to be a serious human mistake, a mistake made possible only through some of the tall stories we have invented to convince, motivate and justify such stupidity.
If we are to better understand and manage the relationship between our human productive force in the context of planet Earth’s primary productive force – the biosphere, then some of us may need to change our stories, especially our most influential religious, scientific and political stories.
For better and for worse all three religious, scientific and political stories influence each other to some extent. For example, the more influential religious and political stories that persuade – even convince, many of us that the human productive force is superior to and should have ‘dominion over’, the natural resources of the biosphere, while such hubris has indeed inspired many a great invention, such stories are now proving to be delusional life destroying stories. Particularly misleading can be such religious, scientific and political stories that persuade some of us humans to regard certain artefacts and entities as sacred – even sacrosanct, including the artefacts of deity, money, private property and wealth. The time has arrived when we need to question our most influential religious, scientific and political stories, with a view to replacing them with stories that will help us to avoid destroying ourselves and possibly the entire planet.
I know that this is easier said than done, requiring as it does some serious attention and rigour, but my advice is that we look for religious, scientific and political stories that are at least compatible with the health of our biosphere and less contradictory with each other. For example, rather than being confined to some imagined, theist pie in the sky superstition, it is easy enough to find animist type religious stories and or spiritual practices that are more down to Earth, observable and thereby more available to our physical senses, even measurable.
Lucky me, I have ‘PaGaian Cosmology’ authored by my partner Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. in 2005. PaGaian Cosmology is an Earth based spiritual story and practice that celebrates the Earth, Sun and Moon relationship, a relationship that enables and sustains planet Earth’s biosphere. PaGaian Cosmology is a spiritual practice based on scientific observation, with no need for superstition. Human induced or otherwise and irrespective of what happens to our weather patterns, the Earth, Sun and Moon relationship enable a cosmic seasonal wheel of the year comprised of solstice and equinox moments that are fixed, observable, measurable and consistently determined by the angle of Earth’s axis and the rate of Earth’s rotation around the sun. This cosmic wheel of the year together with our Moon’s equally consistent 28 day cycle of waxing and waning, makes for an awesome phenomenon and story that is not only critical for the health of our biosphere, it is also worthy of our admiration and celebration.
Given that we are all now participating in an information technology (IT) revolution that is in turn enabling the development of artificial intelligence (AI), the search for and choice of scientific stories is all the more critical and deserving of careful scrutiny and some rigour. The inevitable and relatively rapid advance of IT and AI is already having a huge impact on our human well-being. For better and for worse, scientific research and development is often influenced by our religious and political stories with a view to exploiting planet Earth’s natural resources including the human productive force – waged labour. To the extent that the scientific story is being influenced by religious and political stories, makes the task of finding scientific stories that are more compatible and less contradictory even more challenging. My thoughts on the search for scientific stories that can have a positive influence on the wellbeing of life in general and us humans in particular, is that they should at least have been subjected to serious peer group review and thereby able to demonstrate a level of scientific integrity that can be trusted and valued.
While the world wide web and its variety of search engines now make it possible for us to do more thorough searches for the best of scientific stories, it should also be their compatibility with our personal world view and values that ultimately lead us to decide to what extent we are prepared to be influenced by the story of science.
‘Climate change, and other manifestations of environmental degradation, are the product of a social and economic system that is incapable of organizing global production in a rational and scientific manner, on the basis of social need—including the need for a healthy environment—rather than the endless accumulation of personal wealth.’
(WSWS.org ‘Perspective’ 3rd Jan 2020).
Given that we are now confronted with the twin threats of catastrophic climate change, and war between nuclear armed states, looking for a political story that is capable of mitigating these threats and thereby worthy of adopting and being influenced by, is probably our most urgent and challenging search.
As a species we obviously have the capacity to move beyond the fear based, antagonistic nationalist programs that place such a disproportionate emphasis on protecting and defending the accumulation of privately owned wealth within their respective nation states. Most of our religious and scientific stories including the sacred, the good and the bad, are not constrained by nation state boundaries. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for our political stories, most if not all of which are deliberately confined to looking after the interests of their respective nation state, particularly the ruling elite of the nation state.
My own life experience includes having sailed around the world in the British merchant navy (1965-67), having been a forest overseer in Victoria (1976-90) and having had my mind properly adjusted while living and working among the traditional aboriginal Anangu owners of Uluru in Central Australia for eight years (1990-98). Following my introduction to a more indigenous and traditional Australia, I was motivated to study for and gain a Master of Applied Science (Social Ecology) with Distinction (University of Western Sydney 1999-2003) – in a somewhat vain effort to cross the cultural bridge between an indigenous and a colonised Australia. For me this is still a work in progress.
On the strength of what I now regard as a relatively privileged life experience, I eventually found a political story that genuinely cares about and places an emphasis on the wellbeing of planet Earth and the human as a whole. After several years of searching and frustration and having almost given up on politics – particularly the Australian variety, I found the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) through its Sydney NSW Australia branch of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP). What attracted me most was a political story whose founder Leon Trotsky made it clear in 1938, that his programme and party was different to any other in that ‘the aim of our party is the full material and spiritual liberation of the toilers and the exploited’. At last I had found a political story and party that placed a deliberate and genuine emphasis on our human wellbeing, by uniting and liberating the human productive force to achieve its full potential ‘throughout the entire planet’. If you have not already done so, I can highly recommend you visit the World Socialist Web Site – WSWS.org, where you will find a relatively rare political story that is indeed compatible with the well being of the biosphere in general and us humans in particular.
‘For peoples, generally, their story of the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.’
(THOMAS BERRY, The Dream of the Earth).
Southern Summer 2020.