Is human ingenuity sufficient to meet the crisis of climate change and species extinction, or will only a radical change in human consciousness itself, beginning within the individual, be adequate?
The usual, outer-directed view is that all we need is "human ingenuity, unleashed in coordinated, well-funded fashion on the climate crisis" as has been to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.
However "human ingenuity" is what has decimated the Earth. Even if "we deployed the planet's best minds, funded them well and turned them loose on the problem," climate change and "The Sixth Extinction," not to mention economic injustice and political chaos, would continue.
Viewed from satellites that afford a whole view of the Earth, even conventional thinkers say, "There's something sacred to this sight. As the source of all life, as the birthplace of our species, it deserves veneration. It follows that any harm done to it - and we're doing plenty - is a desecration."
But then, with unbelievable obtuseness, they go on to say, "We need an all-hands-on-deck fusion of the Manhattan Project and the Marshall Plan, only this time funded by all of the world's major economies and led by the largest: the United States, the European Union and China."
Those are examples of human ingenuity all right: building atomic bombs with the destructive power of the sun at its core on one hand; and rebuilding a devastated continent after a war that killed over 50 million people on the other.
Besides, nation-states are incapable of leading in a global society, even in the dream world of "the world's major economies and led by the largest." Nations serve their own self-interests. If we really want to meet the crisis of climate change, the cornerstone must be cities.
It's dreadfully mistaken, when referring to the ecological crisis, to say, "The war has started. We're losing." The Earth is not at war with us; the only war is by man. The Earth is merely reflecting and boomeranging us back to ourselves.
"A fusion of the Manhattan Project and the Marshall Plan" is absurd. We need an authentic worldview by a sufficient minority of people. Apparently even people who make a hobby of studying the Earth from space (apart from astronauts perhaps) haven't acquired one.
The truth is that the advocates of "human ingenuity" venerate man and thought more than they venerate the Earth.
Why did the Earth evolve man, a creature of increasing fragmentation, when nature's first principle is seamless wholeness? Does life make such a 'mistake' wherever so-called intelligent life emerges? If so, is it completely up to the potentially intelligent species to awaken true intelligence?
The first is a question that science cannot answer, and theology, or even philosophy doesn't even ask. I propose the answer to the second question is yes, although some symbolic thought-bearing, technological species are obviously more pig-headed and slow to change than others.
Clearly, whatever "the mind of God" is up to in the universe, it's completely up to us to awaken true intelligence. That isn't a matter of 'free will,' because the will is never free. It's a matter of response and responsibility for the whole of humanity, which is within each one of us in microcosm.
Therefore, while questions of vision, political strategy, technology and policy are important, the deeper, more critical and rarely examined challenge is the fundamental question of whether human beings can bring about a revolution in consciousness.
We emerged as "fully modern humans" tens of thousands of years ago, possessing the intellectual capabilities we have today. Since then our consciousness has been dominated by images, memories, assumptions and identification with particular groups, from tribes to nations.
Man is a psychological, social and political animal, and for the human being to emerge, a conscious transmutation is required.
While thought, accruing knowledge, has created tremendous technological developments, global markets, medical breakthroughs and great architecture, it has also created organized crime, terrorism and immense injustice and insecurity.
Many of the unseen consequences of self-centered activity and self-interest, such as racial, class and religious division, now threaten our very survival, including global pandemics, climate change, extinctions and mass food insecurity.
A psychological revolution would overthrow the limitations of thought in the individual and in the global society, allowing a coherent movement of true intelligence, propelled by shared insight and inclusive participation.
So can human beings, for the first time in historical and evolutionary history, radically change within, and thereby change the basic course of humankind?
In this perilous epoch, we can adequately respond to the existential dangers of environmental, epidemiological, political and social crises through a revolution in consciousness. We can transform ourselves into human beings of insight, rather than the symbol-based, limited and selfish hominids we have been since "fully modern humans" first exploded onto the scene less than 100 millennia ago.
To hell with personal resolutions - let this be the intent of awakening human beings for 2021.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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