During these COVID-19 days, we may be more covered and cloistered and concerned about the future than most of us have ever been; but the good news is that this moment of solitude has given us the opportunity to tap into a greater reservoir of consciousness– forgotten, and rediscovered. And, we are becoming more healthy humans for it.
It’s important now to align our human consciousness wit life’s principles in order to transform ourselves through these tumultuous times and thrive.
As a society, we are reconciling ourselves with the overly extractive and consumptive ways we have burnt nature’s raw resources pre-COVID-19 by walking-running-cycling more now and driving-flying less. Clearly, the more we do, the more we realize we can do and the more inspired, committed, and empowered we become to do more and to share our journey of positive transformation with others. Every one of us can live a carbon neutral lifestyle. And, soon we won’t have to hunt for niche alternative options to power, move, and fuel our personal and professional, actual and virtual worlds. Technology has advanced to reach such a pinnacle that– given collective political will and public adoption– renewable energy from the sun, wind, water, and earth will soon travel to and from every prosumer (producer-consumer) home and business along micro-macro connected grids. The global coalition has formed. The Great Reset has begun. Cities and businesses are making plans to build back better with Bio-consciousness, Bio-economic aims, and BiodiverCity programs.
As individuals; we have been sitting more often alone in silence during the forced social separation spurred on by the global pandemic. We are spending time reflecting on our past and strategizing our future, simplifying our lives, amplifying our senses, and scrutinizing the air-water-food-information we trust to feed our bodies. We are finally slowing down and noticing day after day the chirping of local birds in the morning, the frequent wildlife reports at dusk, the blossoming of spring flowers, the bursting of summer berries, and the fresh evening air free of jet plane contrails. Thankfully, we are also beginning to make the connection between healthy (carbon-free) or unhealthy (carbon-polluting) human activity and nature’s vitality or degeneration.
The more time we spend in nature to sink into her rhythm and blues; the more our senses awaken and our direct experience of the miracle of life happening all around us, deepens. The more we learn to observe nature in our neighborhoods and attune more closely to our local biosphere’s song; the more we feel we belong. The more we experience nature’s peace, the more motivated we are to adapt our lifestyles in ways that protect these wild sanctuaries, also as refuges for our socio-economic stress release.
Awakening Human Consciousness: The Importance of Nature
The silver lining of COVID-19 is that being forced into lockdown and shut out from the outdoors; we are re-discovering just how much our biological clocks, psychological alarms, mental health, and spiritual beings function best in connection to other living beings, including animals and plants. The global pandemic has given us a chance to reflect in the mirror and observe how sick and separate we can become when we isolates ourselves from one another and from nature. The pandemic has revealed the truth of our absolute need for nature in order to optimize our health and feel well. Curiously, before COVID-19 many people in the modern, urban world spent 90% of their time in artificial indoor spaces apart from nature…and somehow coffee or other stimulants allowed us to ignore our modern society’s chronic health decline. However, these past 6 months of reflection have given us pause to realize that: 1. Our current indoor lifestyles make us sick; 2. We actually crave spending time outdoors in nature; and 3. We are better off reclaiming our natural vitality by breathing in the pine forest air, rather than constantly consuming coffee.
We are hearing more today from doctors, psychologists, health practitioners, and social scientists prescribing time in nature to help heal chronically depressed, anxious, stressed patients. And sadly, given the multitude of stress factors affecting society, patient numbers for these health professionals continue to grow, especially among the youth. In America, for example, we have a real health crisis on our hands when 81% of young adults under 30 are clinically diagnosed as depressed and anxious. (Harvard Study, May 2020). Can nature help cure them? Well, even without our doctor’s advice, don’t we already know that our urban parks are healthy public sport, social, and solace convergence zones where everyone can come from every culture, creed, and color tone? In these destabilizing, disturbed, divided, chaotic, and contentious times, is it not true that we are feeling drawn outdoors to breathe and to calm down; re-discovering nature to be that potent medicine to help us stop and again find our feet solidly rooted on the ground? Given the current chaos and future uncertainty in our lives; aren’t we naturally craving refuge in the soothing silence of wild spaces to listen for our heart’s deepest desire and to define new purpose in life, as well, a fresh approach to work that’s more meaningful to us, supportive to our family, and essential to society? Don’t we long to back away from our computer screens and end our zoom business calls earlier or our virtual classes sooner to just bolt outside–and hear the real running rivers, smell the real roses, catch the real sly foxes roaming through the brush, and witness a real spectacular sunset ? Isn’t that our new (yet old) Tom Sawyer daydream these COVID-19 days? Well, it’s not too late to awaken our Natura Vera, our conscious selves from our long pre-agricultural age slumber. In fact, it is the perfect time to re-connect to nature and to re-align our lifestyles around life’s essential principles that underpin our natural existence. Not only is this the secret to regaining our personal health; but it’s also the secret to regaining our planetary health.
If there’s anything that nature’s novel corona virus and sky’s lightning in northern California can tell us; it is that when we are out of balance with nature and the pendulum has swung too far, too long to one side; nature’s pendulum will inevitably swing back to the other side. The first principle of nature is that nature always seeks balance. So, while it may appear (and many have become very angry at the fact) that wild nature is intentionally, purposefully, maliciously causing havoc on humanity in a Kali-like fury; nature is simply recovering balance.
In the case of the fires, forests burn. There are natural return frequencies, intensities, and extents in healthy, mixed forests. And every forest tree stand is different in its pattern of growth, fire frequency, and regeneration. Fire is part of the natural cycle of forest succession. And as we are learning this century, when our forest management policies prevent forest fires from naturally burning and fire fuels pile up, then when lightning strikes- as in mountain forest ecosystems lightning inevitably will; then fires happen—and they may be intense, extensive, and extreme with the right fire weather. Factor in warmer, drier summers due to climate change and we have the perfect trifecta of fire storms at the size and scale we are now seeing again (for the third year) in Northern California. The Coastal and Plains Miwok, the Ohlone, and other Native Peoples in California know the coastal forests, know how to read the fire wind, and used to set prescribed fires to back-burn areas that might threaten villages. I imagine expert fire fighters are tapping into Indigenous traditions and prescribing fires as part of fire ecology protocols. But such intense development of California communities settled on the wildland interface have restricted the extent of preventative, prescriptive fires the Native Peoples or fire-fighters can light today, simply due to the potential damage to greater, contiguous neighborhoods, farms, wineries, and large land holdings. And clearly, climate change is causing such anomalous weather conditions and unpredictable hot, dry lightning storms that even with more intense prescriptive burns; averting the spread of over 130 fires currently burning in Northern California would have been near impossible. The good news is that Governor Gavin Newsom just passed a new fire management plan that’s more aggressively prescriptive and fire preventative.
In the case of the novel corona virus, the pandemic is perhaps indicative and symptomatic of our rapidly degenerating relationship to the animal kingdom. Biodiversity keeps ecosystem communities healthy and resilient to deadly diseases. As we have now witnessed this century a decline of 52% mammalian wildlife due to habitat loss and land degradation, insect populations plummeting eight times faster (currently at 40%) due to agricultural pesticides, pollution, and climate change; degradation of forest soils that host friendly bacteria and fungi, and accelerating loss of biodiversity throughout life’s phylogenic tree; we find ourselves in a downward spiral of species extinction that could result in over 1 million animals, reptiles, birds, fish, amphibians gone in the next decade. (IPBES 2020) As well, as we have developed, disassembled, and degraded thriving, connected ecosystems in many bioregions of the world; we have also degraded the living conditions of many species, and so reduced their vitality and ability to thwart different non-living viruses or deadly bacteria; replicating and mutating (seemingly) at the speed of sound. Yes, our human + nature narrative always comes back to ecosystem health and becoming more aware of our human impact on living systems, so we can be supportive of life; not hostile to it.
Thus, the secret to our survival, the formula for recovering biodiversity loss (or at least halting further extinction), and the key to reversing climate change, nature degradation, and ecosystem pollution in our lifetimes is understanding our humble place in the biosphere and learning to listen to nature’s cues with our nature-selected, evolutionary-superior gift of human consciousness. Nature gave us human consciousness right here, right now to rise up to our rightful role as stewards of a healthy earth system; not to stumble blindly, arrogantly down a dark, dangerous, non-conscious path toward greater planetary hardship and pain where we’re concerned solely, selfishly with human gain.
No, that can’t be our future path lest we erase our path and the path of many other living species with whom we now share the biosphere. True, nature’s novel corona virus and nature’s fiery lightning have literally taken our breath away; but it really didn’t have to be this way. We humans have a say and now a new revolutionary role to play. It’s time for us to live more consciously for what appears nature’s wrath, is really nature’s naturally intelligent response to our unconscious human actions.
The Power of Human Consciousness
Homo sapiens (smart humans) have fortunately evolved with a very special adaptive strategy to respond with greater perspective, temporal-spatial context, and reflection to widespread changes in our environment. This strategy is called consciousness. Humans have the ability to not only sense our environment, but to reflect upon our state in it, to imagine future realities, to remember back and learn from past events, to recall resonance and discordance in different social relationships, to build culture around community, to create transformative art, to attribute meaning to metaphor, to communicate in different languages and across mediums from prose and poetry to pictures and paintings. The brilliance gifted humanity along our fortuitous evolutionary path and the jam of our human potential to innovate, morally charges us to elevate ourselves out of this current socio-economic, geo-political, global environmental conservation jam. If only all the world would be motivated by our “conscious nature”, concerned for our common good, and moved primarily by this natural intelligence gifted our species in this 11th hour of biological evolution; then we’d rise to this great transformative moment and live up to our role as protectors of earth’s biology and guardians of life in the galaxy.
“No scientific quest is more important to humanity than to nail the phantom of conscious thought.” E.O. Wilson
Consciousness is humanity’s unique value proposition to the biosphere to protect all life on earth. Consciousness is an evolutionary act of genius that first featured in early hominids, then flourished in Homo sapiens after a relatively short period of geologic time. Imagine, our brains physically doubled in size over 3 million years of evolution from our Australopithecus primal parents to our Homo habilis nearest ancient ancestors, until we as, Homo sapiens, finally capitalized on that intelligence and launched out to explore the world. (EO Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence) The problem was that our perception of endless terrain and nature’s limitless abundance led us to eventually develop more and more extractive strategies for acquiring nature’s raw resources–flowers, fruits, meat , furs, and fins without consciously caring about the recovery, reclamation, or regeneration of our generous plant-fungi-animal kin.
This nature supremacy complex led us to slowly civilize, and then to conquer and dominate every other ecosystem on earth, nearly 135, 000 years ago. Instead of further acknowledging our dependence on the natural world for survival, appreciating our privileged top predator role to protect the integrity of the whole, and giving back also in gratitude, when hunting, harvesting, fishing, or launching an attack; we lost our life compass way when we decided that the cycle of life, rotated around our human-centric clock. Then, it was during the Industrial Revolution and with the mindless mechanization of extracting natural resources to no insatiable end when we really went astray… and with so many of us occupying planet earth today (7.8 billion); we were bound to one day, pay. It is clearly time to stop and re-wind our clock before we go farther astray.
One way is to revert back in time with our piezoelectric quartz watch is to remember our ancient ancestor’s rhyme that can unlock the naturally intelligent relationship door we had before we started planting genetically-modified seeds, playing in artificial laboratories with earth’s biology, and replacing naturally-tamed wild lands with noisy, misbehaving urban jungles. For literally centuries we have been breaking nature’s laws left and right… but now COVID-19 and climate change have come to show us the light. After six months of slowdown—shutdown–rundown, we realize NOW we’ve entered the dark night of the human soul; where we must now decide which way we want go. The Great Reset— this Anthropocene evolutionary step, must now actually be a dialogue and a dance not just among humans; but also with other non-human—both biological and non-biological beings (e.g. intelligent electronics, robots, and cyborgs).
Which way will we go? We really don’t know. Will we innovate toward AI or NI or hopefully a healthy marriage of both that’s good for all? Humility will be key. It is clear we can learn much from one another’s unique brilliance; from machine learned output produced by expedient, technologically superior, electronic systems; and from life’s clever adaptations to rapidly changing environments.
What is important now is to slow down, listen, observe, evaluate, and thoughtfully discern the right human conscious decisions we should take for our future and for the future of our seventh generation future now at stake.
A few things are clear when it comes to awakening human consciousness at this critical moment in history. It is clear that our human impact on the world is unprecedented as a species. It is clear that we have the acumen, artistry, adaptability, agility, physical-mental ability to imagine and to elicit a new world that is amiable toward life or hostile to it. It is clear that as we dive deeper into today, we can already begin to re-orient our compass and to pray— to literally face East and the rising sun in anticipation of a new life emerging from this shattered one. And, it is clear that when we re-orient our compass, we must do so with an reflective mind, a compassionate heart, an active body, and an inclusive spirit.
Human Consciousness and Leadership
Leadership matters. Leaders set the tone and tenacity of a nation to create chaos, hatred and division or to calmly, collectively, consciously solve problems. We can look across history and the globe to find examples of conscious and unconscious leadership. I will focus here only on the United States today, as the vote for the next President will determine America’s (and the world’s) future for a long time. And, the current political tone in the US really does create the perfect paradox between unconscious and conscious leadership.
In America, there could not be a starker contrast between leadership styles, ethics, energy, and efficacy than between the current occupant of the office and the Democratic Presidential nominee, Joe Biden. Whereas, the current occupant of the Oval office has “cloaked America in darkness (with) too much anger, too much fear, and too much division”, Joe Biden promised in his speech at the DNC (Democratic National Convention) this week to “draw on the best of humanity, not the worst; to be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.” The current unconscious president has thrived on creating instability, economic uncertainty, confusion on climate change, and political conflict leading to the unraveling of many international agreements, which have protected world peace for nearly a century. As a result of a multitude of ineptitudes followed only by trumpeting tweets; the United States has seen: “The worst pandemic in over 100 years; the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; the most compelling call for racial justice since the 60’s; and the undeniable reality and accelerating threat of climate change” than my generation of Americans has ever witnessed.
Could 2020 get any worse for the American people? Well, four more years of the current occupant of the Oval office will surely do us in because without acting consciously with a coordinated plan across the country to combat COVID-19 and a communication strategy to inspire citizens to follow WHO health guidelines as part of their patriotic duty; we will stumble to get back healthy and well on our social, environmental, economic feet. Could 2020 get any better for the American people? Well, if we Americans vote for a future that celebrates coordinated national action on COVID-19, common decency, compassion, moral character, and language- policies-actions that unify rather than divide; then we can expect to turn this tide and on the international front take back our American pride.
If we Americans vote for future President Joe Biden, then we can recover the universal healthcare before 20 million of us go unprotected and recover our environmental legislation, law, and order before our country’s natural treasures become further degraded under mismanagement or threat of further development. I believe Joe Biden meant his words at the DNC this week. I believe that he will consciously protect us against threats seen or unseen. I believe he will consciously stand up to world dictators and stand next to our world allies in democracy. I believe he will consciously ignite our individual passion and purpose for honest, good work by stimulating entrepreneurship and injecting economic life back into the middle class. I believe he and his wife will consciously deliver positive and progressive programs in public education rather than leave us during these COVID-19 days lingering in virtual purgatory. When elected, I believe “We, the People” can expect to begin building America back better before the end of 2020. We just need a conscious leader who cares and who operates with dignity, respect, honesty, and thoughtful intelligence as the President of the United States. Powerful, progressive, and positive policies will follow with the right moral character in office, operating with integrity, collective intelligence from a capable team, and conscious discernment about what is right and good for the American people and the world. All healthy policy stems from these ethics and principles.
“Don’t hope on this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme” Seamus Heaney, Irish poet
Human Consciousness and Community
Yet another COVID-19 silver lining is that we have actually been able to focus our social attention more sharply and (hopefully) more lovingly toward those who matter most in our lives. We have probably also recognized the importance of belonging to and interacting with a group, a team, a tribe, a neighborhood, a family. For all our foibles and flippant remarks about protecting our independence, sovereignty, and autonomy; we humans are supremely social creatures who naturally crave community, solidarity and unity. It is our belonging to a group or a tribe that gives us great joy and identity. We were not meant to feel alone, live alone, or navigate through life alone.
“ To be kept forcibly in solitude is to be kept in pain, and put on the road to madness. A person’s membership to his group (his tribe) is a large part of his identity….” EO Wilson
It is our communal spirit of belonging that also creates loyalty and pride and promotion of our group in healthy competition with other groups that challenges us all perform to our optimum. The Olympic Games played among nations and sports in general are wonderful examples of our tribal affinities. The race for the COVID-19 vaccination among different medical groups, companies, and countries is another great example of competition for the greater good.
Time and again, history reveals that people who feel part of a tribe will actually live, die, and breathe for the tribe. Conscious statesmen and women who use our tribal affinities and patriotism politics wisely and responsibly for the common good— rally the public to ward off a common threat, innovate in a new energy direction, create a new fund for small businesses, adopt a new zero waste policy, build unity among diverse and segregated parts of the community, construct common spaces, gain buy-in for a new health-economic-social plan, and inspire all citizens to support new education programs for the disadvantaged.
Patriotism, tribal politics, and a sense of belonging to a group is what also, tragically, convinces young, strong, smart people to differentiate themselves from others, to attack those the “tribal leader” deems “other than us”, even though we are all members to the same common humanity. That said, it is honorable that the brotherhood/sisterhood is what keeps soldiers in platoons committed to the frontline and when pulled out of that conflict zone, eager to return, forever ready to die for a member of their tribe. The tragedy is that we go to war with each other, another tribe at all, knowing full well that diplomacy and compromise are the real new deal tools of the end game that maintains lasting peace.
However, as conflict and war have been a part of the human experience from time immemorial; let’s just hope that in a more conscious globalized world led by conscious leaders; our battles become more over intelligence, information, and communication; rather than nuclear arsenals, oil fields, land, and earth energy resources. Let’s hope that our modern day conflicts create zero life lost and negligible environmental damage. If our collective consciousness grows and if our sense of self expands to include other cultures and communities; then a healthier blend of friendly competition and cooperation over increasing our human-nature intelligence will become the future global cultural norm.
Human Consciousness and The Global Tribe
Really, there is no reason in this civilized age that we can’t rise to our greatest human potential and decide that our tribe is more than ourselves, our families, and our immediate kin; but includes every one of us on earth, within. And while we are at it, we might as well include all other non-human life. After all and in reality, especially during these devastating, unraveling, and revealing COVID-19 days, we are living our in-dependence on the trees and the bees; the health of the migrating human masses and the socio-economic stability of everyone across classes.
“When you aren’t considerate of another’s benefit; you lose your own benefit.” HHDL
The perception of our tribe—and the definition of who we really belong to matters. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors who acted consciously in a concerned way for the collective tribe carried forward the genes of a cooperative bloodline. Cultural anthropologists found throughout human history that tribal groups who oriented toward the collective good in altruistic and inclusive ways of even foreign others were normally, naturally, culturally selected for survival. (Yuval Harari, Sapiens)
The diversity of strategy born from a wider range of experience gained from foreign others proved valuable for our H. sapien species to innovate out of ecological conundrums and hunt more efficiently, thereby, out-competing H. habilis and other hominids for resources. As well, diversity of character within a group, among a species, within an ecological community enhances the chances of a few individuals in a group to overcome a biological threat and pass the group’s genes forward. Evolutionary biology also reveals that for most every species over time, cooperation and collaboration– not competition, actually correlates with the greatest group success in response to environmental and climate change. Thus, in playing earth’s resilience game to survive; it is in humanity’s best economic, social, health interest to promote diversity and inclusivity in imagining our future global tribe. Full stop.
This is a very important message for today because as we live through this COVID-19 pandemic, it is uber-important for us to reinforce community and social interaction within our tribe-group-community, while physically distancing for a while longer to keep the transmission numbers of the virus low. And, it’s no surprise that those communities and countries wearing masks and following the health guidelines as their patriotic duty for the common good are suffering less from the virus and faster returning to business and post-COVID life. Thus, nature is already selecting for the collectively conscious communities to thrive into the future. Right? Knowing that, don’t we want to be among those groups who thrive?
Indeed, the most conscious collective humane way forward for us is actually to imagine ourselves as part of our family and member to our local community-special interest-social-sport groups; but also part of a global tribe that includes all of humanity. When we can raise the consciousness of every human being to understand that we are no different from anyone else no matter our political preferences, religious beliefs, or cultural orientations.; we cultivate unity consciousness. Peace will prevail when we can help people see that we can belong to many different social groups and we can be part of a common humanity—that we are one, and we are many.
Is it possible to be so conscious in our thoughts, words, and actions; such that we reflect a real connection to one another and consciously behave in ways that reflect our inclusive value that all lives matter? Yes. Could the internet and the worldwide web have opened up the portal to that greater consciousness? Yes. Then, ensuring the remaining 52% of the human population has access becomes an ITU priority, right? Right. Isi it in the best interests of our global tribe to create new post-COVID-19 economic relief plans that level the playing field among the rich and the poor; the north and the south; the privileged and those with great potential by inviting the billionaires–the 0.001% socio-economically-biologically privileged global nobility, to the relief table too? Why not? Such a post-COVID-19 move to narrow the poverty gap would reduce public tension and mitigate the cause for a greater global 99% public good “tribal” attack, right? I believe so.
The good news during COVID-19 regarding the conscious health of our whole human community is that we have also become more aware of those for whom we have marginalized or isolated in some way from society in our retirement homes, mental facilities, prisons, and urban slums. Hopefully, COVID-19 has inspired us to be more empathetic toward these groups living in the darkness, whose plight is now brought into the light. Hopefully, we feel more and more a sense of duty to protect and to direct resources toward these groups who for the most part, still remain isolated and alone. Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. Homeless lives matter. Refugees lives matter. Every life matters.
Human Consciousness and BioGenetics
And that said, every new H. sapiens life may not now and in the near future comprise solely life’s matter, right? We are about to abandon the revolutionary, evolutionary process of natural selection that created us. We are about to dam and divert the natural stream of genetic coding that has coursed through life—defined it’s unique biodiversity for 3.8 billion years. We are about to artificially override the naturally intelligent miracle of creation that first birthed human consciousness in the first place. Are we Ready, Player One?
As curious creatures and intrepid explorers, we will breach the code of life’s ethics and dismiss the laws of nature to assert our control over natural processes in unnatural ways, even if we don’t have the capacity to fully understand… simply because we can. We will attempt to the greatest of our financial ability and political pull to optimize the mental health, the creative capacity, the athletic ability, and the overall aptitude for some of us to excel in this human-centric world we have created.
We will increase the access of economic opportunity for some children (likely not all children) not only through high culture, quality food and nutrition, superior education, and upper class communities; but also now via genetic manipulation…potentially widening the gap between the rich and the poor that much more. True, economic classes and social hierarchies have historically and do today already exist. Yet, now by manipulating also the biology of unborn babes to optimize their survival capabilities in the contemporary world, without their consent, and before they are born; changes nature’s game.
Problem 1: When these technologies are reserved only for the elite few; non-elite others without access may find themselves at an even greater disadvantage—economically, mentally, socially, and physically—compared to those with access. Now, if we activate our compassion gene and expand our perception of self to include the larger wealth of life during this precious gift of the Great Reset, then we may resist the temptation to use bioengineering tools as the latest innovative way to reinforce human hierarchies; but rather only to save threatened lives and to flatten the curve of inequality. That would solve the inequality challenge of potentially unconscious bioengineering forward advance.
Problem 2: Regulation is a tall order for those invested in this explosive and exciting field as regulation grates against innovation and innovators. I‘m not an extremist when it comes to therapies with the power to alleviate pain and to regain life, where death is the only alternate cord-cutting knife. Thus, one strategic way forward could be that instead of focusing finances and favorite biomedical procedures on trying to figure out how to inseminate, cosmetically manipulate, artificially replace, optimize or genetically enhance the brain and body of an already naturally intelligent miraculous life; we channel and direct research and development dollars in areas that protect life (e.g. avert the sickle cell anemia pre-condition)
Problem 3: Even with the best regulation and monitoring of any new technology, there will be rogue efforts to apply them in uncontrolled settings and for malicious purpose. Indeed, the ease in which these life-altering technologies may now– as the speed of technology is excruciatingly fast and furious, find their way without moral check and balance to arrogant, edgy, dangerously ego-centered demi-gods at play is indeed frightening. And like any security concern– new nuclear threat or cyber attack; a robust international system of protection needs to be put in place, right? Here the World Economic Forum’s 4th Industrial Revolution network and focus on ethics in bioengineering becomes a vital resource.
Problem 4: While we are so entranced by our new-found ability to manipulate life’s genetic code and alter the ecology of the environments where we live; we risk losing reverence and thoughtful reflection on the extraordinary, intricately layered, super conscious legacy of naturally intelligent evolution that makes us who we are today. Life on earth, divined by nature, is precious and perfect in the larger context of the Self (Universe)– we can’t as humans easily perceive. The adaptive dance of species and earth’s dynamic changing environment is beyond our imagining. The naturally intelligent processes, nature’s selection of species and genetic attributes, and the common principles of life that continue to permeate, precipitate, and circulate within the living biosphere require respect… and pause.
The real purpose of my commentary here is to heighten our awareness, to jumpstart our concern, and to awaken our consciousness to the critical questions that we now must answer if we are going to play a more central role in our own evolution.
Who are we, really? Who do we want to become? Who will replace us when our stewardship role on earth is done? Or will we be the responsible One to bring all of life together in unity consciousness again under the sun? From where will the evolutionary processes of life now, come? Who will be play nature’s drum? And if we believe it to be humanity; how can we ensure life’s continuity? Are we so confident in our own human intelligence and earth stewardship ability to take on mother nature’s role with such supreme integrity and inclusivity? Isn’t it also important to reflect for a moment upon who really gave us this authority? Perhaps it behooves us now to practice humility and to slow down– to set boundaries for the creative sandboxes of biogenetics and businesses with billion dollar annual projections in place, before it’s too late and the biodiversity of life we have erased.
And perhaps in awakening our human consciousness, we also re-member the principles of nature and reorient our current regenerative actions toward them in order to advance humanity in a co-creative, unpretentious way; more aligned with the forces of the universe at play. If we have determined that our genes and our genetic expression will no longer be controlled solely by the natural forces of the environment, but now also influenced by one species, ours; then minimally we can commit ourselves to acting from our greatest human potential with compassion when discerning which traits to human-select and aim toward returning the greatest good for all.
Note: A film called: Human Nature will be coming out soon and explores these issues.
Human Consciousness and Evolutionary Biology
Humans are part of the continuum of life. Even though we are one of the last species to have evolved and thus comprise the greatest constellation of evolutionary success genes; we are not above or below any other species. Rather, we are related to St. Francis’ brother bird and sister snake, in such interconnected ways that that in their fitness and vitality; we have also a survival stake. And again when it comes to humans genetically modifying the biosphere’s code of life, we will most certainly make many a mistake. Yes, we have evolved the combination of social intelligence and consciousness among species to new heights. But, if we rely solely on our human intelligence to unilaterally make decisions about the continuum of life’s future reality; then we are doomed to make more limiting decisions than an entirely conscious and connected universe, practiced in natural selection and subscriber to nature’s laws for a far longer time than humans existed.
The biodiversity of life may have evolved slowly and rather accidently by nature’s surreptitious selection; according to our impatient, rational, linear human sense. However, this perspective may lead us to believe that when we can interject our limited logic, synthetically inject petro-chemicals into our foods-soils-systems, and interconnect a seemingly unlimited bandwidth of biotechnology into the web of life; then we can create more efficient, faster, optimally functioning, practical, and surgically superior evolutionary processes and patterns in nature. The danger in this way of thinking is that it is necessarily limited in our knowledge, perception, experience, and sensory abilities. We are part of nature’s plan– not the epitome of the plan, but rather meant to be stewards of it. Given a human-centric approach to life, rather than a stewardship life-centric approach; we will encounter (and have already encountered) unintended consequences. When we re-design and re-engineer our micro-macro biology and the natural world according only to our preferences and predilections and when we act in ways that do not consider our impact on the larger biosphere; then we suffer the ricochet effect we now feel with the fires, pollution, climate change, and threatened planetary systems collapse– precisely because we are unavoidably connected to the health of the biosphere in ways we don’t know or understand.
All beg the questions: Why would we try to fool Mother Nature and crisper clip a few passive-active genes here and there? Why would we build cities and industrial complexes disconnected from the bioregions where they belong and negligent to the natural ecological metabolism that supports the local natural capital economy, environment, and species diversity/health? Why would we produce non-biodegradable plastics, pump petrochemical oils into our microbial-rich soils, graft orchard trees, genetically modify seeds to sprout seedless fruit? Why would we build cement sea walls instead of regenerating endemic mangrove forests? Why would we not attune our senses more to nature’s ways? Why would we not recover the sensibilities and sensitivities of our ancestors– to observe, discover, and apply nature’s solutions to our sustainability challenges, which are really all about humanity rightly re-balancing our relationship to nature?
So, if we think ourselves competent enough to alter the essential code of organic existence and impact the continuum of life, change the course of our biodiverse evolution; we should think again. If we think ourselves superior in our sensing of the world around us, and so already keenly enough aware of how we impact the environment; we should think again. Yes, we can see, hear, touch, feel, and contemplate life with a larger, more comprehensive earth consciousness, but are we conscious? And, compared to the potential range of sensory awareness and experience of other species; we are blind, deaf, tasteless, and unfeeling. We can only see between 400-700 nanometers on a vastly longer electromagnetic spectrum. A butterfly has a greater range of color sensory abilities; keying out different flowers by their ultra-violet frequency bands. We can only hear sound within 20-20,000 hertz. Flying bats have greater range, navigating at night via eco-location, bouncing ultrasonic pulses off of cave walls. (EO Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence)
If we believe that the super-computers we constructed with artificial intelligence and the ability to machine learn, even without the assistance of humans; we have to consider that our limited sensory, multiple biases selves are the ones who constructed these highly-evolved machines– artificially, thus outside the realm of the biosphere and naturally intelligent continuum of life. We should think again. Even if we consulted the intelligence of our animal, plant, fish, fungi, bacteria kin; we would still be at an evolutionary loss; discerning the future with a still very limited range of experience, albeit collective.
Human Consciousness and Earth’s Planetary Systems
We have not yet lived up to our human potential as conscious human beings concerned about the earth and the biosphere and acting out our stewardship role as guardians of the galaxy. Of course that doesn’t mean we can’t now evolve, but we haven’t significantly so far.
Here’s our current baseline. Over 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land serves humans for habitation, food production, or land use. Almost 90% of nature’s NPP (net primary production) and 80% of nature’s tree cover has been exploited by humans (Ellis and Ramankutty 2008). (Our Future in the Anthropocene Biosphere, 2020) Land converted for agriculture to feed our human population caused 70% of biodiversity loss and 50% forest cover loss in the past century. (WWF Intl June 2020)
Humans represent 10 x the weight of all wild mammals on the planet (Bar-on et al 2018)— increasing from 1 billion persons in 1800 to 7.8 billion persons in 2020 (WHO 2020) in the blink of a geologic eye. In addition to our numbers, human impact has caused rapid biodiversity decline and reduced ecosystem functioning. Many regular human activities have led to an unhealthy relationship with nature– the domestication of wild animals, controlled reproduction of crops, livestock, alteration of habitats for human use, (Jackson et al 2001, Sala and Knowlton 2006, McCauley et al 2015), urban sprawl, exploitation of mineral resources, over-fishing, fragmenting forests, and paving over living ecosystems (Inger Anderson, UNEP, Champion of Nature, WEF 2020).
Earth system’s scientist warned for decades that as we grow our human population, and engage in unhealthy extractive, inequitable transactions with nature on a global scale we will suffer from ever-shrinking resources and degraded systems with long recovery times unless we get the resource efficiency and simple living narrative correct in the next decade. But if not, natural resources are finite and will become more scarce, leading to earth’s life support systems collapse. (Johan Rockstrom, Big World, Small Planet 2018) Add climate change plus air-water-soil pollution, and we have a lethal trifecta cocktail for life.
Unsettling is that the world has not seen a 20C temperature increase in 2.6 million years. We don’t know exactly how Earth’s climate and water systems will respond. But we do know that currently, the oceans offset 25% of human atmospheric CO2 emissions and absorb 90% of the heat. (IPCCC Report 2019) And we do know that the oceans can’t sustain that load forever (Cheng et. al 2020). We do know that most of Siberia covered in permafrost is melting along with the glaciers and sea ice and that soil carbon represents 4.5 times more carbon than atmospheric carbon. (Our Future in the Anthropocene Biosphere, 2020).
“And we think the global pandemic has disrupted our world; just wait for the world’s permafrost to melt and unleash thousands more diseases, more deadly.” (Inger Anderson, UNEP, WEF 2020)
No one knows exactly what will happen if/when we reach our 3-50C increase predicted for 2100 (Burke et al 2018); if/when we don’t radically change our carbon budget and rapidly, collectively change our energy consumptive lifestyles, today. We’ve never been here before. We’ve never lived outside the Holocene’s Garden of Eden. Some social scientists predict that 1-3 billion people will need to learn new (old) survival skills living in a Sahara-like environment, deprived of the biodiversity and ecosystem services a rich forest brings. Tragically, these are environmental conditions ripe for conflict and exodus.
At least we do know that our (former) utilitarian perception of nature for endless human exploitation during the 1900’s Industrial Revolution—serves us no more. If there is any gift that the COVID-19 pandemic has given us, it is that we viscerally understand our connection to and dependence upon one another and the natural world for our survival.
So, instead of trying to control the planetary and biological systems nature put in place billions of years ago; why don’t we elevate our earth consciousness, learn nature’s principles (next section), observe Mother Nature’s warnings and wisdom (now supremely clear), and optimally adopt nature’s protocols for recovery? We now know what happens when we live on one end of the pendulum swing –life on the edge, life on the extreme- overfished, over-deforested, over-exploited, over- urbanized, over-crop sized, over-produced. Right? And, we must now know that the pendulum will always swing back; launch an attack… because again, one of nature’s laws is that nature forever seeks balance.
Thus, the art of our lives forward will now be how to live the Golden Mean; a life in balance and harmony with the rest of the world and with all species on earth. Clearly, vision is necessary. We have never been here before. Thus, it is time for the visionaries, artists, entrepreneurs, innovators to lead the way and visualize for us what it will look like to live in this new 21st Century Garden of Eden, without delay.
If “Art is the lie that leads us to the truth.” Picasso … then let our regenerative future lead us far from our present reality and into the light of what was thought unobtainable ecotopia, but is now our new lived truth.
Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD, Natural Intelligence Media is committed to awakening Natural Intelligence in the World. We produce multimedia content — books, films, experiences, and podcasts that inspire everyone to live a happy, healthy, nature-conscious life.
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