I find that moment in the sixties when the camera turns and shows humanity their home to be hugely significant, in particular, the words of the co-founder of the Overview Institute, David Beaver, who suggests that we were not actually trying to see the moon but ourselves. Narcissism seems to be something we can all confess to at times but this seems to transcend mere navel gazing. The philosopher, David Loy, sees this moment as the birth of a new type of self-awareness. For me, it seems to represent seeing ourselves as part of as opposed to central to something far bigger.
I’m often comparing the collective human development to that of the individual life-cycle and would like to believe that our level of self-awareness is growing. The earth has been around some four and a half billion years and the sun is expected to burn for another 6 billion. This puts us somewhere in our early adulthood I guess. In some respects, Neanderthals could be seen as young children, blissfully ignorant of their own existence and yet innocently and playfully connected to their environment.
Having persevered through the dark ages of humanity’s adolescence, we are now at what Erickson called the young adult stage where we are faced with the conflict between isolation and intimacy. Our disconnection from our environment and the rage with which we bombard it is reaching boiling point. Do we engage with the task of improving our relationships with others through reflecting on our most protected vulnerabilities, or do we commit suicide or self-medicate like so many people in their early twenties?
The answer… who knows? Optimists will tell one tale while prophets from the Church of Half Empty Glasses will describe another. I would consider myself to be relatively environmentally responsible but must admit, I do get comfort from the fact that humanity is just one part of the much larger puzzle and as destructive as we are, it can all be repaired and restored by nature, perhaps by destroying us, perhaps not. Either way, it’s not over. As Einstein said, energy can not be created or destroyed, just changed. With this in mind, the end of humanity cannot be seen as positive or negative – just a sort of neutral alchemy.
I’m not suggesting we all burn our compost bins and smash our solar panels… not at all. But this perspective does take this edge of guilt out of the equation freeing us up to become creative in our response to climate change, to enjoy nurturing the environment as opposed to ticking off a to do list so we’ll sleep better at night. As Geoff Lawton, one of the founders of permaculture said, we have the ability not just to protect our environment, but to profoundly enhance it. What a legacy that would be.
- The Overview Effect (33rdsquare.com)
- International Permaculture Day 2013 (thetonedeafbard.wordpress.com)
- A Cognitive Shift: The Overview Effect (ekostories.com)
- Permaculture Teachers: Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton Together (nextworldtv.com)
- City Farming: Geoff Lawton on Urban Permaculture (existenceisme.wordpress.com)