by Carolyn Baker
Atlantic Free Press is pleased to have a feature article via Carolyn Baker - from William Kotke whose website, books, and other works are listed below.
We are all looking at the end of the world as we know it. Our attention is focused on the holes in the ozone layer, planetary warming, Peak Oil, the spread of DU weapons, the collapse of the house of credit cards, and the prospect of the planetary financial elite quickly establishing fascist control of the planet. Below this threshold of conscious awareness our biological survival systems are rapidly eroding. At this point some twenty percent of the planet’s soils erode each twenty-five year period. Each year at least two hundred thousand acres of irrigated crop-lands go out of production because of salinization or water-logging and experts say that sixty to eighty percent of all irrigated acreage is due to follow the eight to ten million acres that have historically gone into ruination from irrigation. The total drylands of the planet are 7.9 billion acres of which 61% are desertified, that is, driven by human abuse toward uselessness. Globally, 23% of all arable crop lands have been lost since 1945 through human use and experts say that all arable land on the planet will be ruined in 200 years.
It is estimated that prior to the human culture that we term civilization, one third of the planet was covered with closed canopy forest. Now forests cover 10% of the earth. In the oceans the collapse of major fish stocks is increasing. At least eight stocks have collapsed beginning with the Antarctic Blue Whale in 1935 to the Peruvian Anchovy stock collapse in the late-twentieth century. Since 1984 the world fish catch has been shrinking even with greater investment and the taking of what in former times were considered "trash" fish. Of the 32 ocean fisheries, 30 are in decline and some of those are collapsing. At the same time coral reefs and mangrove swamps which are considered the "incubators" of sea life are dwindling precipitously.
Soil is the basis of the planetary terrestrial life. In the best of circumstances such as old growth forests and prairies, soil builds at the rate of one inch each three hundred to a thousand years. It is being exhausted and is eroding away. The way that the industrial system has continued to increase the food supply is by trading off soil fertility for fossil fuel energy through artificial fertilizers. Now, nearly half of the world’s people eat because of the added production of food caused by artificial fertilizers being injected into depleted soils and the use of all of the other accouterments of fossil- fueled industrial agriculture.. Half of the planetary population are hanging out on a limb essentially eating petroleum! Now as the population continues to explode, we reach Peak Oil and its decline. We do not need to continue filling in the details. Our intellect can draw the conclusion for us. An exponentially exploding world population with increasing material consumption, based on dwindling resources and a dying planet, won’t work!
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But this is not a new phenomenon as some would assume. This
culture of civilization, of empire, was an ecological catastrophe when
it began some eight thousand years ago. It is this culture and its
inculcated reality-view that is the disaster. Half of China was once a
great temperate zone forest. That forest was gone before recorded
history, destroyed by the Han Chinese Empire. The Indus River Valley
Empire had ecologically destroyed its habitat before recorded history.
We do have recorded history of the Sumerian and Babylonian empires. We
know they decimated the forests and overgrazed the landscape. One third
of the land in Iraq that should be arable right now is still so
salinized from imperial irrigation four and five thousand years ago
that it cannot be used. The erosion material coming down the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers from that destroyed the watershed has filled in 185
miles of the gulf. As we follow the history of this type of human
culture we find the Mid-East ecologically denuded. The empires of
Greece and Rome used Turkey and North Africa as "breadbaskets." Now,
there are towns in Turkey, North Africa and even in Italy that were
port cities during those empires which are now ten and fifteen miles
from the water - all filled in with erosion material from the
ecologically destroyed landscapes. Then we go on to the destruction of
the great forests of Europe and now the whole world. These examples and
many more are indelible effects on the world ecosystem which have not
recovered in thousands of years.
The Success of the Human Species
Are humans a failed species? Is it what some Natives Americans
have said, "very shrewd but have no wisdom?" When we look around the
biosphere we see that most other species devote much of their life
energies to birthing, raising and protecting their progeny. In this
respect, civilized humans are a failed species. They can’t even keep
the planet alive for their descendants. But humans have been a
marvelously successful species. For several million years we existed as
forager/hunters. We lived in balance with the ecosystem, migrating in
our traditional patterns around our areas gathering the fruits of the
earth. We were adapted to the planetary life. We developed astonishing
oral literatures; we developed a rich cultural life. Anthropology says
that each forager/hunter worked an average of 500 hours per year
obtaining the necessaries of life. Traditional agriculturalists like
the Hopi or Balinese worked 1,000 hours per year and had shorter life
spans. Now the modern industrial person works 2,000 hours per year on
average and only stays alive because they have health insurance.
Anthropology says that the forager/hunters (even those still remaining)
have almost perfect health.
They also had a rich culture. They didn’t simply sit around the
campfire but created voluminous oral literature, great works of art as
handcrafts and a rich ceremonial life of the tribe. Our species lived
with the living earth. We had wide knowledge of the living things
around us and we respected life. Such a grotesque event as killing
thousands of buffalo simply to take their tongues or hides away to
market and to leave the carcasses to rot was an act that was
inconceivably inhuman in the eyes of a forager/hunter.
Our ancestors were well fed with a widely varied diet.
Anthropologists studying the Kung Bushmen of the inhospitable Kalahari
Desert in Southern Africa say that each person’s daily protein intake
was more than Britain’s and exceeded by only ten industrial countries.
The proportion of men and women over sixty was only ten percent smaller
than industrial countries. Forager/hunters who lived in more luxurious
ecosystems did even better. This means that most of the people of the
third world and the poor of the first world do not even have the living
standards of the Kung Bushmen, and for eight thousand years, all of
those who did breast beating about the superiority of "civilization"
did not even come up to the living standards of free living
forager/hunters - talk about being sold a bill of goods!
For 99% of the time our species has lived successfully in
balance with the energy flows of the earth. The soil community with its
millions of inhabitants provides a milieu in which plant roots can
absorb nutrients that are in solution. The plant community sheds leaves
and other organic debris onto the soil which feeds it as it is eaten by
the "decomposers." This cycling of biological energy is then
extrapolated to the cycles of life of all the other biological entities
of the ecosystem through the food chains and other services species do
for each other in what is an energy flow system with photosynthesis as
the primary motor. This is the energy flow system that our species was
adapted to for an untold period of time. Being a small nomadic group
(average of 28 people according to anthropology) we had a cooperative
culture, a sharing culture, and being migratory we only carried
necessary items so that materialism, the accumulation and adulation of
material goods, did not occur.
Then in Central Asia and Northern China, humans began to destroy
the living planet with agriculture and herding. The military based
empires began to grow by running a net deficit of the earth’s fertility
- a human culture based in looting, thievery. This culture began then,
in just an eye blink of time, just eight to ten thousand years, and the
energy adaptation changed. Humans began civis, towns, the root
of the word civilization. Male dominance - patriarchy, the horse and
militarism became rooted in the soil, to grow based on sucking out the
fertility of the earth. This culture was, in its origin, a culture of
coercion based upon biological slaves such as annual plants and
domesticated animals and human slaves, in order to extort fertility
from the earth. The ecological history of empire is there for all to
see. We no longer gather the fruits of the earth, we force the earth to
give up surpluses, profits, until the earth can no longer, then we move
on. This is the culture of empire, a culture of growth and imbalance.
Its main tenets are patriarchy, hierarchy, materialism, and militarism.
The configuration of the imperial system is: an Emperor (male),
surrounded by a small financial/military elite, who control and profit
from a coercive hierarchal command system. That is, they feed off the
productive social activities of the people in society!
Now we are near the end. The culture of empire has spread over
the earth except for a few pockets of remaining forager/hunters. As the
exploding population meets the dwindling resources, societies begin to
unravel. We are beginning to see massive cities around the planet, each
encircled by millions of the poor. These people are still fed by the
dwindling acres, but the breaking point is in sight.
The human species is faced with an ultimatum. Will the species
die off or can a rabbit be pulled out of the hat over the long term?
Inasmuch as humans live from other living things, we know that whatever
humans may exist in two hundred years will be humans that have been
able to keep their area of the planet alive.
We live in an era in which a number of things are occurring that
have never happened to the species before. We live in a time of
human-caused, mass, global, die-off of species. This is the third and
largest mass die-off of species since life began on earth, the previous
(and second) die-off being when the dinosaurs went down millions of
years ago. Humans have also caused the ozone holes and the climate
warming. But, we also now have planetary communication and through the
internet we also have planetary communication available on an
individual level. This is the first time that the human species as a
whole can communicate. This is also the first time that humans are in
control of evolution on this whole planet and the possible further
manifestation of themselves. Humans are in control and the choices that
they make in the next few generations will determine the course for the
future of the species as well as the earth.
The Cultural Conditioning
Culture is hypnosis. A hypnotic suggestion can be given in deep
trance or in light trance, a state of conscious attention such as
watching television. In light trance the suggestion is repetitive over
time. We have all had a world view suggested to us by our cultural
conditioning. For example, we intellectually know that, except for
native people, the rest of us in the American hemisphere and many other
places on the planet are colonials. But, we don’t subconsciously hold
this understanding because of culturalization. Since birth we have
heard of "warlike" Indians. But intellectually we know that any country
that is invaded will put up a vigorous response. Intellectually we know
that, according to the historian Eduardo Galeano, up to 70 million
native people were eliminated from the Americas by sword and pestilence
yet we subconsciously view the holocaust of the Jews and Armenians as
the only significant massacres.
In this manner our world view is created. The gold fish does not
see the water. As our culture instructs us that wealth is security and
is the purpose of life, we use up the earth more rapidly toward our
demise. On a psychological level we identify with our material
possessions and subconsciously assume our existence without these
elements would be non-identity. Our needs toward greater ego-security
also point toward our demise.
The Species Initiation
Now that the planet-wide human species, is by default, in
control of the life of the earth we can understand what would be needed
for the species to succeed to full maturity. The first order is to stay
alive. To do that we must maintain that which feeds and shelters us. We
must keep the earth alive and ecologically restore it even in the areas
of dense human population today. Our reality view is, in fact, global
now by default. Ozone holes, nuclear radiation, sea level rise, planet
heating and the rubbing out of the living flesh of the earth are global
Like the Six Nations Iroquois who frame each tribal decision to
its effects on the seventh generation, we must create a reality frame
as the life of the earth. Given our subconscious conditioning that is
difficult, but in this case our intellect can lead us. If we can frame
our cultural reality view as based upon the care of the earth and teach
that to the children, then many other cultural values will flow from
A present day citizen of the earth, if they were a mature and
responsible adult, would say that honorable actions would perpetuate
the living earth for its sake as well as for the progeny of the human
species. That commitment at the level of the whole species would
signify the initiation of the species to maturity.
The Hero At The Portals of Initiation
The center does not hold.. Oil and the resources of the earth
such as soil and forests are exhausting as the mass swells. Can the
hero make it through the disintegration? Can small land based,
self-sufficient communities make it through, some of them? Can they
carry the universal value of life through with their culture? Can they
create a culture that will spread in the future, that focuses on the
highest development of each human as a person rather than the highest
rung up the ladder of empire? This is what is being asked of the hero
for initiation into human species maturity - nothing less than courage,
the adherence to the culture of life over long periods of time and
All the elements that we need exist. We have examples of
alternative buildings, created from local materials, with solar
advantages that can heat and cool themselves with no outside energy
inputs. We have a world-wide movement to Permaculture which can help us
restore ecologies while producing more human food per acre than the
industrial system. We have a wide and increasing selection of human
development methods which can aid in the development of each individual
to their highest potential - outside the materialist paradigm. We have
planetary communication through the internet whose maintenance could
require few resources.
When the hero can succeed at the matter of keeping the human
species and the planet alive and see that as just a "housekeeping"
duty, then we can get on with the truly challenging task of creating a
positive and joyous human culture to which the hero is entitled.
William H. Kötke is the author of Garden Planet: The Present Phase Change of the Human Species. See at: www.gardenplanetbook.com and THE FINAL EMPIRE an underground classic book available for free download at: http://www.Rainbowbody.net/Finalempire .
PUBLISHER: Arrow Point Press
WEB SITE: http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/literaryservices (All contact info at this site)
Free download of the underground classic book: THE FINAL EMPIRE at: http://www.Rainbowbody.net/FinalempireNEW BOOK ! Garden Planet: The Present Phase Change of the Human Species. See at: www.gardenplanetbook.com
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