We are living in most unusual times. So unusual, in fact, that we have to reach back 65 million years to find one type of change taking place now: mass extinction.
Our present extinction cycle has nothing to do with natural disaster; it is instead induced by the exploitation of nature, coupled with a psychological glitch that we will explore in a series of articles here.
We want to look at how we got to our dramatically unsustainable present predicament — and the compounding error that got us here. Then we will peer into the sustainable future. By definition what is unsustainable will not last.
Human excess is now also resulting in a worldwide paradigm shift that is demanding a lifestyle change from unsustainable to sustainable. The last time the human species lived sustainably was over 10,000 years ago when, like all other animals, we were hunter-gatherers (some still are).
Humans evolved “consciousness” on a planet that had thrived sustainably and in innocence for around 3 billion years of evolution.
Half of the destruction of nature has occurred in less than the last hundred years, and the trend is still escalating. The first half of the destruction took 10,000 years.
We pride ourselves for the wealth we have created. But the fact is, we have stolen the natural capital of the environment and converted it to products, which inevitably end up as pollution and garbage. Are we any happier for all our excesses? The experts say no. There is no correlation between wealth and happiness. If anything, as we destroy the environment, our well-being decreases.
Circumstance is now insisting that the era of excess comes to an end; that we find our sobriety and maturity, and come into balance with nature. This is actually very good news, and long overdue. We have been drifting out of balance for millennia, and rebalancing will inevitably help us as a species as well as nature.
As we will see in the next few articles, this shift is also profoundly psychological. For about the first 200,000 years, Homo sapiens lived sustainably and successfully until a series of events alienated him from nature. Along with the invention of language, agriculture and fixed shelters we developed a compounding error we call the human ego.
The programmed ego is a cultural artifact. It is a juvenile [adult child] phase that is now coming to a close. It is driven by the superego, also called the internalized parent-authority.
The superego is a program that creates untold inner conflict and suffering. Human species maturity also means freedom from this entire ego program. That is also good news!
We will explore the history and the dynamics of this monumental change in future articles.
• Arius Hopman lives in Hanapepe. This series of columns are extrapolated from his upcoming novel.