CLIFTON WARE: LIFE CHRONICLE-MEMOIR
PART V: FINAL LIFE STAGE (2020-TBD)
(Remaining as Well and Active as Possible)
In wrapping up my annual 2021 chronicle-memoir, it seemed appropriate to cover some serious thoughts I’d contemplated over the years, mostly since retiring in 2007. During humanity’s second pandemic year, I’d spent much of the time thinking deeply about a host of crucial issues, including ideas explored and developed. And now, in this revised version I continue presenting an overview of what I’ve learned, including some updated conclusions based on ongoing research, study, and thoughtful processing of information gained.
Acknowledging Multiple Crises and Primary Contributing Factors
Over the past several years, the ongoing multiple worldwide crises the world has been experiencing are now designated as the “Great Acceleration.” All living species are negatively affected, and the main upstream driver of all crises is pointing to a single culprit: our rapidly expanding human enterprise, also referred to by some eco-centric activists as a “human superorganism.” So, in addition to being a species known as Homo sapiens, we may also be thought of as Homo colossus, a reference emphasizing our oversized industrial civilization.
Simply stated, we humans are Earth’s dominating apex species, wholly responsible for the ongoing consumption and depletion of finite natural resources. Even more egregiously, we are responsible for producing the overwhelming accumulation of waste products that are consistently flowing into expanding landfills, the atmosphere, and all water bodies.
Finally, there are hopeful signs that growing numbers of world citizens are realizing that the main cause of global warming (heating) and deteriorating climate conditions is the combined double whammy of overpopulation and overconsumption. Moreover, it’s becoming more acknowledged that weather conditions are growing more erratically unpredictable, as evidenced by record-breaking temperatures, extreme weather-related disasters (storms, droughts, wildfires, floods) and geo-political and social conflicts, all of which are driving mass migrations of refugees to safer havens.
The chief catalyst causing such ecological mayhem has been accurately attributed to humanity’s use of fossil-based fuels, chiefly coal, oil, and gas. Ever since the discovery, extraction, processing, and burning of coal to help power the first Industrial Revolution, humanity has pursued a manic-growth trajectory. The discovery of oil in the 19th Century provided an even greater power source that, at the beginning of the 20th-Century, helped set in motion an ongoing “explosion” of technological advances.
The awesome power of fossil fuels, especially oil, facilitated the development and use of weapons capable of causing mass destruction, as illustrated with the two world wars in the first half of the 20th Century. In fact, the use of fossil fuels made it possible to develop nuclear power, and effectively hastened the end of WWII.
In the three decades following WWII, a neoliberal economic paradigm founded on a quasi-religious allegiance to constant material growth began gaining power, particularly in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And it has continued unabated, even though persons committed to substantial factual evidence must surely understand that infinite material growth within our planet’s finite ecosphere is physically impossible.
Many sustainability colleagues concur that a new paradigm is needed, a sustainability-oriented worldview based on limiting human-driven material growth. They suggest beginning as soon as possible, preferably using humane measures that gradually lower human population to more sustainable levels by 2100. The expanding human enterprise (superorganism) is simply overwhelming the planet, in turn guaranteeing an unsustainable future existence.
In searching for answers as to why humanity is unable to restrain its enormous appetite for perpetual growth, recently deceased American sociobiologist E.O. Wilson succinctly summarized our existential predicament in a 2009 debate he gave at Harvard University:
The real problem of humanity is the following:
we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.
A Brief Survey of Human Evolution
It seems clear what Wilson meant in offering these specific influences. Our origins began in the Paleolithic era, with the evolution of prototype primates around 2.5-million years ago. But our current form as homo sapiens evolved as recently as 300,000 years ago, all the while competing with a few close-kin species, including Neanderthals.
However, our recent epoch (Holocene) began as recently as 12,000 to 10,000 B.C, when worldwide glaciers retreated, the climate gradually stabilized, and expanding habitable regions opened up, making it possible for human population to increase and spread into regions with ample resources, including wild game.
It’s important to emphasize that, for 99% of human history our species evolved as migrating hunter-gatherer bands focused primarily on seeking sustenance, especially food and shelter. Because hunter-gatherers were relatively few in number, they evolved an egalitarian ethos that enabled them to cooperate and collaborate for mutual survival. Also, since they were not confined to our modern age’s 9-5 jobs and owned minimal material possessions, they had time to enjoy relatively simple lifestyles, with more leisure time to socialize and pursue personal interests, including the fashioning of various stone tools, which accounts for the Paleolithic era’s popular designation as The Stone Age. Equipped with a variety of tools, the principal ones being fire, language, and abstract (conceptual) mental processes, they were capable of producing essential items, including clothing, weapons, simple shelters, and furnishings, as well as creative artworks and music.
In sum, we Holocene-epoch humans have enjoyed a relatively brief timespan in which to develop agriculture and build the settlements that gradually developed into towns and cities, followed by states, institutions, and empires. Even more striking is the realization that we’ve managed to increase our numbers and wreak havoc on the planet in such a relatively short time span (the last 200 years), thanks largely to the discovery and exploitation of once plentiful, easily accessible natural resources that enabled the discovery and creation of amazing technologies. Our overall human impact is progressively contributing to the depletion of precious natural resources, including all fossil-fuels, without which life as we who are alive today have thus far experienced, will likely deteriorate over the next few decades.
The Search for a Big-Picture, Deep-Time Perspective
In trying to make sense of where we are at this particular time in history, I continue seeking a perspective based on two principles: 1) a big-picture, systemic, evidence-based study founded on scientific findings, and 2) an all-inclusive view, in terms of scope, scale, content, and context.
Hopefully, what eventually emerges from this query will also provide some constructive strategies for addressing humanity’s existential and future challenges. It’s quite an assignment, but what more important and urgent endeavor is there for someone in my elderly stage of life? In referencing the folksy Pennsylvania Dutch proverb: “Too soon old; too late smart,” I prefer substituting the word “smart” with “wise.” It seems that a worthy goal for us humans might be to seek as much enlightenment and wisdom as possible. The pursuit of wisdom might well be the most worthwhile goal one can undertake in life.
For certain, it’s hard to gain wisdom without understanding and appreciating the role of deep time in assessing human nature and our current predicament. For instance, I’m finally realizing that, in worrying so much about our long-term survival as a species, we might be taking ourselves too seriously. Actually, over the span of deep time most species experience extinction. Indeed, from the beginning of life on Earth 3.8-million years ago, ninety-nine percent of all species on Earth have gone extinct!
So, why do we humans find it so hard to accept the likely prospect that our unique species will also be extinguished at some future time? Assuming that humans do continue existing, it’s possible that over thousands of years of adapting to changing biophysical conditions, evolutionary processes may lead to changes in the psycho-physical characteristics of current homo sapiens.
One of the most impressive, critically-acclaimed futuristic ecological films we recall viewing is WALL-E (2008), an animated depiction of a lovable solitary (last of its kind) waste-collecting robot on a long-uninhabited Earth. The go-cart sized WALL-E was programmed to retrieve items from huge mounds of trash, form compact bundles, and stack them neatly in piles.
With Earth growing uninhabitable, the megacorporation Buy n Large (BnL) had evacuated humanity to space on a giant star-liner named Axiom. By the 22nd Century all passengers, lacking any real purpose in life, had degenerated into inactivity and helpless obesity. Robots managed all essential functions of life, and catered to passengers’ every whim, as they spent much of their awakening hours sprawled in large reclining deck chairs around an Olympic-sized pool no one was capable of using.
On Earth, when an investigating probe robot named EVE arrives from Axiom, WALL-E falls in love and pursues EVE across the galaxy. When he finds EVE in the spaceship being repaired, he rescues her from worker robots and they escape back to Earth. While there, WALL-E grows dysfunctional and EVE tries to repair him. When failing, she gives him a good-bye kiss, which miraculously awakens him, and once again they are united. At the same time, having learned that Earth was finally a safe haven for human life, the spaceship returned to Earth and began unloading its grateful passengers, and presenting a happy ending.
We took our five-year old grandson with us to see the film, and he remained totally invested in the unfolding story. So deeply involved was he that, when WALL-E was experiencing great danger, he startled us and other viewers when blurting out a loud “NO!” We were also moved emotionally, but for us the ecological and philosophical messages inherent in the film came through powerfully, including such varied topics as consumerism, human environmental impact and concerns, waste management, obesity/sedentary lifestyles, corporatocracy, nostalgia, and global catastrophic risk (Wikipedia).
In reflecting on all that I’ve written thus far, the conclusion I’ve reached, along with most sustainability activists, is a sobering sense of realism. If humanity is seriously concerned about surviving in a world that’s continuing to grow hotter, producing extreme and erratic climate-changing conditions that overwhelm the coping mechanisms of most lifeforms, we must drastically adjust our collective worldview. Above all, such a tactic requires abandoning any beliefs and practices that continue contributing to our destructive exploitation of Nature, the primary support system for all of Earth’s lifeforms.
Ironically, it’s highly probable that our presence on this planet rests with the huge asteroid that struck Earth 66-million years ago, in the vicinity of present-day Yucatan peninsula. The devastating impact radically modified the planet’s atmosphere and biosphere worldwide, extinguishing most life forms and setting in motion the evolution of mammals, a new species that culminated with primates, including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and—us!
Why We Need a Sustainable-Future Paradigm
As the apex predatory species, our major failure might well be described as an inability to set limits on our insatiable desire for acquiring lots of stuff. In particular, it’s our dopamine-hijacked addiction to consuming finite energy sources that facilitate the extraction of finite resources to produce material goods, subsequently creating toxic waste products that are rapidly degrading the biosphere. Nor have we learned a hard truth: every advanced human technology serves as a two-edged sword, with the potential of producing not only positive results, but also dangerously negative outcomes.
It seems that our concerted efforts might best be directed towards addressing our species’ long-term survival prospects. We can begin with the realization that maintaining some semblance of qualitative planetary viability will require learning how to exist harmoniously with all lifeforms within Earth’s endangered ecosphere.
According to reputable sustainability experts, any viable long-term solution will be successful only when implemented in conjunction with a greatly reduced human world population. Although an ideal balance of humans with the rest of Nature will depend on future global conditions, a few highly respected population experts propose fewer than two-billion world citizens, with everyone living middle-class lifestyles similar to average contemporary Europeans; in other words, no extremely wealthy or poor world citizens.
Of course, such a favorable balanced ratio will happen only if and when steps to mitigate all converging crises are urgently addressed within the next two or three decades, and before 2100 if at all possible. I agree with experts who believe that, if the global population reaches the projected 10-11 billion before a projected decline in global birthrates occurs, stabilizing sufficient life-support systems will become extremely challenging, most likely impossible.
So, what is the likely scenario If humanity fails to take essential mitigative and adaptive strategies aimed at slowing climate change and creating survivable worldwide living conditions for all existing species? I think the answer is clear. Barring the lack of constructive activism, the odds increase that human population numbers will be greatly reduced inhumanely, the tragic result of a supersized human population’s profligate overconsumption of the Earth’s resource base. In short, if tipping points connected with all life-threatening crises are breached, the inevitable outcome will be a greatly deteriorated and uninhabitable biosphere.
It’s widely acknowledged that all global crises are systemically interconnected with global warming, the climate-change catalyst that’s driving extreme weather conditions and producing widespread droughts, floods, powerful storms, and rising sea-levels. Other interrelated, ongoing crises include: the toxic pollution of air, water, and soil; the loss of arable land for producing food; deforestation; the spread of deadly diseases; ongoing geopolitical conflicts; depletion of finite natural resources; and extinction of life-supporting species. Although the chances for survival appear dire, it’s likely our species will continue existing, albeit at levels and conditions that necessitate lifestyles based on simplicity and frugality.
The eventual strategy for humanity’s future survival will largely depend on successful adaptions within livable regions, which may be severely constrained due to intensely detrimental human-caused impacts. The unavoidable calamities of aggressive weather extremes will render some regions uninhabitable for many flora and fauna species, including our unique species.
Extreme heat will cause the greatest challenge for survival, as most lifeforms struggle to survive when experiencing long-term, abnormally hot conditions. Scientists confirm that humans (and most lifeforms) are typically extremely sensitive to sustained hot conditions, especially elderly and ill persons lacking access to air-conditioned buildings.
Another projected environmental tragedy will be a decline in arable land, partially the result of intense rainfall events that swell waterways and flood agricultural fields, in the process destroying topsoil and life-sustaining habitats. Moreover, coastline areas will be eroded by rising sea-levels and ravaging storm surges that flood fresh-water wetland ecosystems with salt water. According to estimates of reputable sources, the globe’s total land space will likely shrink by up to ten percent—perhaps even more.
Migration of climate-change refugees is expected to continue worsening, as climate-weary global-south citizens flee to more temperate zones, where it so happens that other flora and fauna species will also migrate. Because highly constructed, densely populated mega-cities tend to act like heat islands, more urban-based populations will continue forsaking large urban areas for rural spaces and small towns. Likewise, populations living on endangered seacoasts—as well as in areas subject to prolonged drought conditions, including declining water supplies and prone to wildfires—will flee to more survivable zones.
For example, the city of Duluth, Minnesota is experiencing more U.S. citizens moving to the area from large urban centers, in turn causing home prices to increase and a tighter housing market. Cited lifestyle advantages include the area’s cooler climate, ample water supplies (Lake Superior), low crime, an educated populace, and, so far, a moderate-sized population.
Regions located around the equatorial belt have the potential of transitioning into dead zones, especially the areas experiencing abnormally high temperatures. Native plant species will continue migrating to more favorable climes. The migration of animal and plant species is also occurring in oceans and seas suffering from severe, ongoing changes caused by overheated, acidic waters that contribute to the death of coral reefs, affect the fluctuating patterns of migrating sea life, and control the movements of ocean currents.
After presenting what seems to be an unpromising future for life on Earth, replete with dire-trending futuristic projections, I’ll now share a more hopeful outlook. Based on what I’ve learned thus far, it appears we need to fashion a future-oriented paradigm, one that challenges the superficial, dysfunctional, so-called Plan-A: Mythical Paradigm, which has thus far guided modern civilization into a predicament marked by multiple converging crises.
I concur with a cadre of notable sustainability experts who propose forming a Plan-B: Realistic Paradigm founded on proven ecological principles. For certain, if we fail to abandon our dysfunctional neoliberal, capitalistic, human-centered worldview, we’ll inevitably continue progressing toward a systemic collapse of both civilization and our planet’s ecosphere. A new paradigm just might help preserve, and even enhance, the life-sustaining quality of all surviving lifeforms.
Backstory: Religious Influences in Seeking Truth and Meaning
Like many long-term, dedicated truth seekers, I’ve spent considerable time and effort studying and pondering the meaning of life—more precisely, the meaning of my life. When pursuing a philosophy major as an undergraduate in a liberal arts college, I gradually realized that coping effectively in life requires having a dependable belief system grounded in reality (truth). I’ve written about this topic in earlier memoir sections, but I think it’s worth revisiting some main influences in motivating my truth-seeking quest.
First, I was fortunate to have received sensible moral guidance from my parents during childhood and youth that was also enhanced by our affiliation with a moderately progressive (for the South) Methodist church, the second largest in the state. I was particularly influenced by enjoying active participation in the church’s excellent youth program, which provided ample opportunities during my formative high-school years in experiencing a variety of constructive group-oriented endeavors. Both my parents and church leaders—pastors, lay leaders, and teachers—promoted Christian teachings that followed traditional biblical precepts, but were never expressed dogmatically or coercively.
At this point, a disclaimer seems appropriate in reexamining and explaining my southern roots. Over several decades of life spent in observing, reading, and learning, I have gradually realized how separated we white folk were from having peer-level associations with black folks. Although I enjoyed cordial contacts with many, I never had a close black friend, simply because the two races were mostly socially separated. That is, until the 1960’s civil rights movement, when all Americans became acutely aware of the “race issue.” Even so, throughout the period of civil unrest, life continued as normal for most of us young career-driven types, as we remained effectively isolated in our personal social-sphere silos.
Gratefully, I’ve since enjoyed knowing and working with several black colleagues, as well as continuing to respect and admire many people of color, notably our former president, Barack Obama, whom I (and family members) enthusiastically supported.
In short, I regret it took so long to become somewhat enlightened, and realize that (to paraphrase MLK) all persons deserve to be evaluated according to the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.
Returning to my moral upbringing: I was lucky to have avoided influences of religious zealots seeking to “save my soul for eternity.” I did experience some religious fundamentalists at my high school, mostly students associated with Youth for Christ, an evangelical organization that still appears to be going strong.
[Note: In an earlier memoir section, I described my experience attending a Billy Graham revival in 1950, when joining a neighbor friend at the end of the service to answer an altar call for the purpose of accepting Jesus as my personal savior. I must admit that the decision, along with active participation in my home church, helped keep me on a good-boy path throughout my early teenage years.]
One explanation for my having escaped indoctrination in religious fundamentalism may be attributed to Methodism’s “social gospel,” particularly as promoted in the progressive Methodist literature published during the late 50s. I’m fortunate that religion and “religiosity” were presented in a more balanced manner, as opposed to the more openly evangelical approach of most southern religious denominations. Being “saved” was not a big deal for Methodists, at least at Capitol Street Methodist, our family’s church.
This Methodist background led me to Millsaps College, a reputable regional college in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. After starting out as a music major, I switched to philosophy in my junior year, as I was considering the possibility of becoming a Methodist pastor. By then Bettye and I were married and working part time in churches, she as organist and I as choir director in local Methodist churches.
I’m grateful that the philosophy and religion courses I took exposed me to a scholarly, historically grounded interpretation of the Bible, with philosophical and religious concepts covered in compatible courses, including history of philosophy, world religions, ethics, logic, and aesthetics. It was invigorating to have my knowledge base expand beyond the confines of Christian Methodism to a wider spectrum of philosophical perspectives and worldviews.
Following graduation, Bettye and I served a two-year joint appointment at a medium-sized Methodist church in south Jackson, she as organist and children’s choir director, and I as music-and-youth director. In those two years I also completed a music major at Millsaps, while also earning a Methodist Preacher’s License. During those two years of service, I actually entertained the idea of pursuing a church-related profession, continuing to serve as a music-and-youth director, and potentially as a pastor. The main drawback came with the gradual realization that most of the topical content of sermons, the texts of popular hymns, and the various rituals and creeds used in worship services just didn’t seem to make sense.
Thankfully, the idea of pursuing a full-time church career was dispelled when I received a music fellowship for graduate study at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. I was also hired as director of youth and adult choirs at a nearby local Methodist church, in musical partnership with Bettye, who served as organist and directed the children’s choir. As a bonus, we (plus two young sons) were allowed to live rent free in a comfortable church-owned home located next door.
During that year of graduate study, my mentor-teacher and choral director encouraged me to pursue a career as a vocal musician. It didn’t take long for me to agree, so I enthusiastically embarked on a career path that included singing, teaching voice, and choir directing.
For the next two decades—while continuing music performance and teaching careers—Bettye and I held part-time church positions in Jackson and Hattiesburg, MS the Chicago area, and the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She served as either organist or chorister, and I as a choir director or tenor soloist-section leader for large downtown protestant churches, including a one-year tenor soloist position for a large Catholic church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Meanwhile, we enjoyed performing church-music, associating with church members, and participating in worship services. Even so, we never fully accepted the basic theological teachings and traditions associated with Christianity.
When I finally decided to retire from church work, I was in my mid 50s and beginning to author voice publications. From that point on I rarely attended church-related activities, except to perform or attend a significant event, like a music performance, a wedding, a funeral-memorial service, or lecture. I decided it just wasn’t sufficiently challenging, mentally or spiritually, and I felt a bit hypocritical about continuing. Although Plymouth Congregational Church (our preferred church) has remained a progressive religious institution, we remain loosely connected with traditional Christian dogma.
Seeking Truth and Meaning: Philosophical and Environmental Influences
I think I’ve sufficiently explained our Christian-based religious background. I’ll now pivot to discussing the major influences that have shaped our thoughts and actions during our retirement years—beginning in 2007, when I retired from my 37-year teaching career at the University of Minnesota.
Five years prior to retiring, in 2002, I began teaching a negotiated retirement phaseout at a very comfortable quarter-time teaching load. With the extra time available, I managed to author two new books—The Singer’s Life and The Aging Challenge, plus an updated 4th edition of Adventures in Singing. My time as a writer of voice publications, which began in the late 1980s, came to an end in 2008.
Throughout our child-rearing period, in combination with time-consuming, fast-paced music careers, our latent environmental concerns were placed on the figurative back burner. However, when we began reducing professional commitments and adjusting as retirees in the early 2000s, we dedicated more time and effort to exploring and addressing environmental issues.
This seems an appropriate place to explain how earlier environmental concerns and experiences influenced our renewed interests. We remain particularly concerned about the combined deleterious effects that the growth of population and resultant consumption are having in hastening the decline of Earth’s finite natural resources, and also exacerbating a series of mega global crises, including radical climate changes.
Our interest in population growth can be traced to an eagerly anticipated visit to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. On our long road trip from Jackson, Mississippi, we eventually connected with the north-south route of I-95, a few hours south of the city. As we sped along in heavy freeway traffic, we were astonished to discover consistently expansive human developments on both sides of the freeway. It was quite a shock to natives of a mostly rural state, where our home town—the capitol city of Jackson—had a population of around 150,000, and rural areas within a short drive.
Getting around in the Big Apple was also an eye opener, with crowds of busy people—everywhere. It was also our first experience riding subway trains, at the time packed with tourists attending the global event near the JFK International Airport. The number of attendees exploring all exhibition buildings also made a big impression, especially the long, slow-moving lines of people at many attractions. We were also surprised to discover our Holiday Inn was not the typical ground-level motel we anticipated, but rather a multi-story hotel with underground parking.
So, that was our eye-opening experience when first encountering heavy vehicular traffic, massive human infrastructures, and countless numbers of people moving about. Our eyes and minds were definitely opened on that trip. But that wasn’t the only eye-opening overpopulation adventure. Three years later we were introduced to even more overdeveloped Atlantic coastline states, when taking an even longer auto trip to spend a week attending the 1967 World Expo in Montreal, Canada! In the tradition of former world fairs, the two we visited focused on presenting the latest techno-utopian marvels. In retrospect, we came to understand that all such popular gigantic events are products of the 20th Century’s neoliberal, unlimited-growth economic paradigm.
Now, fast forward to the first decade of the 21st Century, when we were attending an event at Plymouth Congregational Church event in Minneapolis. At the social event following, we were introduced to David Paxson, founder and director of World Population Balance (WPB) in Minneapolis. That acquaintance rekindled our interest in population and environmental issues, and led us to become active WPB members, and have remained active financial supporters of this most worthy charitable organization.
Not long after joining WPB, we were very pleased when David hired our youngest son Alan as a WPB research fellow, based on his impressive scholarly credentials and personal interview. Within a year or so Alan began giving presentations at area schools, and eventually assisting with the first WPB podcasts.
When Dave Paxson decided to retire, Dave Gardner, the founder-director of Growth Busters and Citizen Powered Media, assumed the directorship of WPB. As a reputable film maker, Dave is widely acknowledged for vigorously addressing the unsustainable practices promoted by the prevailing conventional neoliberal economic-growth model. His most notable attempt culminated with his highly acclaimed film, Growth Busters: Hooked on Growth. We’ve known Dave for more than a decade, and greatly enjoyed associating with him at WPB, as did Alan, who collaborated with Dave on many exciting projects during the six years Dave served as director. One of Dave’s final contributions on behalf of WPB was seeking and interviewing candidates to assume his position as director. Fortunately, he succeeded in finding an ideal replacement.
Nandita Bajaj, a resident of Toronto, Canada, became the chief officer of WPB in 2020, and began initiating significant changes, including renaming the organization to Population Balance, creating a new website and newsletter, reorganizing the board of directors and advisors, and focusing more on a woman’s right to decide whether or not to have children. PB is now more of an international organization, with an official address in Minneapolis but managed remotely, with official business transacted collaboratively in discussions with staff and board members.
Another significant learning period for us began in 2006, when Alan introduced us to the writings of American philosopher Ken Wilber, founder of Integral Theory and the Integral Institute. We procured several of Wilber’s major publications, and found the overall content informative, enlightening and inspiring.
In 2008 we attended monthly meetings of an Integral Meetup Group at the Monterrey Cohousing Community in suburban St. Louis Park, Minnesota. From six to ten persons attended and everyone contributed to some stimulating free-ranging discussions. Sadly, the overall lack of organization and the minimal interest of members in sustainability (environmental) issues persuaded us to stop attending meetings.
But before signing off completely we decided to attend the First Integral Conference, which was held in 2008 at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California, within an hour-long rail commute of San Francisco. Following the conference, we reflected on the conference proceedings while taking road trip back to Boise, Idaho to catch our flight back to Minnesota.
Not long after attending the conference the realization dawned on us that most practitioners of Integral Theory were more focused on personal development than on social or environmental concerns. Nevertheless, we appreciate the concepts and practices espoused in integral theory, including the valuable information and techniques for understanding and acquiring greater awareness of how humans evolve in attaining higher consciousness.
In brief, integral theory suggests that humans continue evolving throughout life — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, a process that involves negotiating several stages and levels, from simple to increasingly more complex. The process is referred to as a holarchy, a bottoms-up, horizontal evolution that includes all former levels and stages. Holarchy is the opposite of hierarchy, which refers to a top-down, vertical system of control.
Here’s a brief overview: As children we viewed the world mostly through egocentric lenses. When we became adolescents, our peers began exerting greater influences, causing us to view life mostly through ethnocentric (tribal) lenses. Unfortunately, a large portion of humanity gets stuck at this stage, typically satisfied with following their tribe’s beliefs and behaviors, right or wrong. We have been experiencing this phenomenon in the accelerating polarization of American society, with at least a third of the population apparently centered solidly in the ethnocentric stage.
The principle that connects each evolving stage level is “transcend and include.”
For example, when evolving from egocentric to ethnocentric stages, an individual transcends the former egocentric stage, which also includes the qualities and characteristics of the previous stage, in this case egocentrism. Thus, the childlike wonder, curiosity, and innocence of egocentrism is retained in various ways as one attains the next stage level of ethnocentrism; and it continues evolving to and through subsequent, more enlightened stages and levels.
For persons who think critically, pursue enriching life experiences, and remain eager to expand and deepen their intellectual and emotional horizons, the enlightening process—and our brains—continue evolving. For instance, in the search for expanding understanding and meaning, devoted learners are capable of cultivating an ability to view life through a broad worldcentric lens. Liberally educated individuals who travel widely (virtually or actually), associate with people of different races and socio-ethnic backgrounds, and display positive personal characteristics and qualities, such as curiosity, morality, empathy, and creativity, may be considered world-centric citizens.
Finally, a smaller segment of humanity develops the capacity to view existence through a cosmocentric lens, a worldview that involves developing a big-picture, deep-time, systemic, integral approach to life, and fostering a profound appreciation and love for all that exists. Right or wrong, I like to think I’m in the process of inhabiting the beginning aspects of a cosmocentric worldview. But, realistically speaking, I’ll likely not attain the advanced mystical state claimed by those who use deep meditation in attaining the lofty state described as “oneness.”
There’s yet another “centric” worldview worthy of consideration. In the past few years, global warming, the catalyst of climate change, has continued gaining attention in media reporting. Unfortunately, in previous decades the general public warnings of climate experts weren’t taken seriously. However, when an accelerating number of unprecedented record-breaking global weather-related disasters began appearing, the mainstream media no longer could ignore the mounting evidence of humankind’s ecospheric onslaught.
One positive outcome of such widespread concern and activism is the concept of ecocentrism, a term conceived by eco-philosopher Aldo Leopold. Ecocentrism acknowledges that all of Earth’s lifeforms are the products of ongoing evolutionary and interrelated life processes. According to ecological writer Stan Rowe, “The ecocentric argument is grounded in the belief that, compared to the undoubted importance of the human part, the whole ecosphere is even more significant and consequential: more inclusive, more complex, more integrated, more creative, more beautiful, more mysterious, and older than time.” I think it’s accurate to claim that Bettye and I are eco-centric humans, in spirit and practice.
Around 2009, son Alan once again presented us with another valuable source of sustainability information when he introduced us to Chris Martenson, founder-director of Peak Prosperity and author of The Crash Course, a popular book explaining the systemic connections between the three big E’s: Economy, Energy, and Environment. Other E’s might also be added, including Equality-Equity, which connects social concerns with the other three areas. I also think Existence (evolution) and Enlightenment (belief, education) are areas deserving inclusion in forming a comprehensive big-picture perspective.
After a year of studying and discussing related topics, Alan and I co-moderated a community-education class based on Martenson’s Crash Course. I also created three YouTube slide-show presentations titled Insight Forum based on the general content of the Crash Course but with additional information. I subsequently gave live presentations for a few organizations, including the University of Minnesota Retirees Association (UMRA).
The next ecologically oriented project called for our combined music skills. In 2009 Bet and I co-created Eco Songs, 13 original songs and texts plus explanatory dialogue. We performed them several times with various vocal ensembles, either using a few solo selections or all 13 songs. In 2012, when I was teaching at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, my eight assigned undergraduate voice students performed the complete work. A couple of years later a quartet of singers, including Alan (tenor), performed all songs at Plymouth Congregational Church. Since then, the songs have been dormant, the exception being occasional viewer hits of four songs on YouTube.
A major initiative occurred in January 2013, with the founding of Citizens for Sustainability in our city of St. Anthony Village. A year later we formed Sustainability Education Forum, which featured monthly meetings for exploring various sustainability topics, with occasional guest presenters.
The next initiative involved my writing and publishing Sustainability News + Views, a sustainability e-newsletter we published from 2013 to 2019. The project required my spending 15-20 hours weekly on the project, including considerable research and compilation of current information, plus a written commentary. Although circulation included 750 email contacts, the project’s overall effect seemed minimal, with scant responses from readers. I eventually realized that most people are overwhelmed with the deluge of information, services, and requests flowing from worthy organizations. In short, it was time to accept this reality, and let another well-intentioned sustainability project fade away.
Synthesizing a Personal Spirituality and Worldview
Having presented an overview of my philosophical quest to make sense of life, I think it’s time to explain my current thinking. Although I expect to continue evolving and refining my worldview as new information is presented and examined critically, I feel comfortable explaining what I’ve learned and consolidated in recent months and years. Previously, the principal sources influencing my current eco-philosophical-spiritual worldview received only a passing consideration, possibly because I connected it with animism and paganism, terms used in a derogatory manner by some Christians when referencing “godless nonbelievers.” Well, I was mistaken.
So, what is this rediscovered belief system? (Drum roll!) It’s . . . Pantheism, or more precisely, Naturalistic or Scientific Pantheism. It finally occurred to me that the central tenets of Pantheism align compatibly with views I’ve adopted over the past decade in seeking to understand the systemic interconnections responsible for the multiple converging crises experienced by every biophysical lifeform.
Disclosure: When discussing this detection with Bettye, she politely reminded me that, at least two years earlier, she had mentioned identifying with pantheistic beliefs. I suppose I didn’t know enough at the time to investigate further. Definitely my loss, but better later than never.
So far, my main source of information has been Paul A. Harrison’s 1999 book, Elements of Pantheism, which provides an overview of Pantheism and its various forms, including physical (scientific), religious (monotheistic), spiritual (mystic), and non-religious (atheistic, agnostic). Harrison, an English environmental writer, has authored several books, and reported on environmental topics and Third-World development. He’s also served as president of the World Pantheist Movement.
The central unifying concept of Pantheism is based on having deep appreciation and reverence for all of Nature. The prefix “pan” means “all”, and “theism” means “God”; therefore, Nature is God (and God is Nature). Nature may also be thought of as the Universe, containing all existing matter.
Harrison provides a condensed description of Pantheism at the beginning of his book:
The statement “Nature is my god” is perhaps the simplest way of summarizing the core pantheist belief, with the word “god” here meaning not a supernatural being but the object of deepest personal reverence. Pantheism is a spiritual path that reveres and cares for nature. A spiritual path that joyously accepts this life as our only life, and this earth as our only paradise, if we look after it. Pantheism revels in the beauty of nature and the night sky, and is full of wonder at their mystery and power.
Pantheism believes that all things are linked in a profound unity. All things have a common origin and a common destiny. All things are interconnected and interdependent. In life, and in death we humans are an inseparable part of this unity, and in realizing this we can find our joy and our peace.
According to Harrison, other principles of Scientific Pantheism include the following:
- As part of Nature, we humans acknowledge the inherent value of all lifeforms, flora and fauna, and that all should be treated with compassion, equal dignity, and respect.
- Since body and mind are indivisibly united, there is a vibrant energy-matter that is a part of the evolutionary process and creative in all of its forms.
- In death our elements return to Nature, and continue existing in other forms.
- We honor reality (truth) when joining science’s unending quest for deeper understanding of reality, which requires keeping open minds, by using both critical thinking and our senses when seeking any evidence.
- Every individual has direct access to ultimate reality (Nature), by means of intentional perceptions, positive emotions, and focused meditation (thought, prayer).
- The universal right to freedom of religion requires the separation of religion and state.
Dr. Edward O. Wilson, who was quoted earlier, introduced the term biophilia to describe what he understood as humanity’s love, affinity, and craving for all aspects of the natural world, and a deep desire to understand life and lifelike processes. We modern humans, especially those of us in the developed countries, spend more time sitting indoors rather than moving about outdoors. Even when venturing outside into natural areas, people often have their attention riveted on their smart phones rather than being attuned to their surrounding environment. This is especially the case with younger folk, who have grown up using cell phones.
Avoidance in spending time outdoors belies the observation that, when shown photos of nature scenes of peaceful rural landscapes, lush vegetation, or wild and domestic animals, most people express a preference for nature scenes over big-city scenes showing heavy traffic, pollution, dilapidated neighborhoods, and crowds of busy shoppers.
The catalyst that caused me to investigate Pantheism occurred sometime in the fall of ‘21, when I read an article that mentioned Alfred Einstein’s response to an interviewer’s question regarding his religious beliefs. Einstein replied that he believed in “Spinoza’s God” . . . “who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” He was referring to Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza, a significant 17th-Century Dutch philosopher, who, like Einstein, was also a Jew with pantheistic beliefs.
According to Harrison, there are three identifiable forms of Pantheism: Physical, the belief that the main substance of reality is physical matter; Idealistic, the belief that the material world is an illusion, a common Buddhist belief; and Dualistic, a belief in two basic substances, spirit (soul) and body. At this point I concur with Harrison that the most realistic form is Physical Pantheism, but remain receptive to learning more about both body (material) and spirit (nonmaterial) realities.
World religions and beliefs that have pantheistic concepts include the early Greek philosophers, from Thales of Miletus to Heraclitus, and the Stoics, led by Zeno, founder of Stoicism. The early monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (especially Sufism), also hold beliefs that are pantheistic in nature, if not in doctrine. The Dominican theologian, Meister Eckart (1260-1327) was probably the most pantheistic-inclined of Christian mystics.
When science began to emerge at the end of the 16th Century, religious beliefs were challenged by scientific discoveries, notably the Copernican theory suggesting the Earth rotated around the Sun. After the Reformation, non-monotheistic beliefs began to surface and be promoted. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was the first truly-post Christian pantheist in Europe, a position that resulted in his execution. And even Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), the influential early pantheist who inspired Einstein, was excommunicated for expressing his pantheistic-slanted beliefs.
The person credited for coining the word “pantheist” was the Irish writer, John Toland (1670-1721). In his book, Christianity Not Mysterious, he argues that theology is fully understandable based on rationality, and not dependent on scriptural revelation. The book was condemned by the Grand Jury of Middlesex and burned by Dublin’s hangman. Negative responses led Toland to an insecure life, with a livelihood dependent on his hack writing of political tracts. Although he refrained from promoting his pantheistic beliefs for most of his life, in 1720, when living in extreme poverty and having nothing to lose, he boldly stated his beliefs in writing The Pantheistikon. In responding to a request for his credo, he replied, “The Sun is my father, the Earth my mother, the World is my country, and all men [people] are my Family.”
In the 19th Century, Pantheism was the unofficial spiritual heart of the Romantic poets. Germany produced several nature-centered poets and philosophers, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), who believed that God was the World Spirit. Pantheism also surfaced in Richard Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde (1865), and later in Gustav Mahler’s Song of the Earth (1908).
England produced several notable Romantic nature-loving (pantheistic) poets, including William Blake (1757-1827), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), Samuel Coleridge Taylor (1792-1850), and Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). In America there was best-loved poet, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and favorite essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).
At the turn of the 20th Century, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) represented a form of Pantheism similar to that of Toland and Lucretius, a God identical with the physical universe. In 1906 he formed the Monist League to help spread his pantheistic ideas. Unfortunately, the naturalism of Pantheism was deemed too positive and optimistic for the more pessimistic mood prevalent in the first-half of the 20th Century. Mounting geopolitical tensions and conflicts created public unrest in coping with the growing threats of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, ultimately resulting in a global depression and WWII.
Nevertheless, some prominent Pantheists emerged, notably U.S. architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), who claimed the principles of Nature as the inspiration for his creations. U.S. poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) also held pantheistic beliefs, with Nature figuring prominently in his poems, as an elemental force that is both beautiful and brutal. One prominent English Pantheist, D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), was considered the greatest novelist of the 20th Century. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who was globally acknowledged as the greatest scientist of the 20th Century, claimed pantheistic beliefs based on the order, harmony, and law of the universe, and he considered science as a form of religious quest.
Finally, I hasten to add notable environmentalists John Muir (1838-1914) and Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) to this list of pantheistic-leaning notables. Both men were acknowledged as America’s most well-known and beloved naturalists. Muir is known for his extended strenuous treks in some of America’s wildest areas, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where his explorations resulted in saving Yosemite Valley and Sequoia from development, and, subsequently, his founding the Sierra Club. Leopold’s combined interests—as philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, environmentalist—suited him well as a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Most of his land-ethic concepts and practices are explained in his best-known book, A Sand County Almanac (1949).
I think it’s reasonable to assume that a large number of modern-day environmentalists (nature lovers) may be considered pantheists, whether acknowledging it or not. I now realize that I’ve been one for several years without having an appropriate label to express it, even though it’s been present all along. Why this belief system hasn’t caught on among those who share similar beliefs deserves a simple explanation.
The combined socio-cultural, religious, political, philosophical, and economic global culture that dominated most of the 20th Century into the 21st Century militated against the widespread development of Pantheism. Post-modernism, a worldview that departs from modernism and fosters a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies, gained a significant foothold in society, particularly in academia. With characterizations that include broad skepticism and subjectivism (relativism), post-modernism is generally distrustful of rationality, and is acutely sensitive to ideological influences in maintaining political and economic power.
Thankfully, in the past two decades of this century, a growing environmental movement has begun making inroads into the public consciousness, and subsequently into global awareness that the central-to-life role of Nature has been minimized and ignored, chiefly due to anthropocentrism, the long-held paradigm constructed on the belief that the destiny of humans is to dominate every aspect and sphere in life—all natural resources, including non-human flora and fauna species.
In recent years I’ve observed an increase in the numbers of individuals and organizations dedicated to developing and promoting big-picture, systemic, moral and ethical approaches. It seems that making sense of our human condition on a planet under siege—by us—is finally being implanted in the public’s consciousness.
Some of my favorites sources include: Post Carbon Institute, which includes Richard Heinberg and his prolific eco-centric publications; Citizens Powered Media (Growth Busters), headed by Dave Gardner; Population Balance, headed by Nandita Bajaj (assisted by son, Alan); Institute for Environment and the Future (The Great Simplification), headed by Nate Hagens; The Consilience Project, headed by Daniel Schmachtenberger; The REAL Green New Deal, headed by Megan Seibert and William Rees; Earth Overshoot, headed by founder Terry Spahr, and the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE), headed by Brian Czech.
In addition, I also highly endorse two educational weekly podcast programs, the Jim Rutt Show, featuring Rutt interviewing equally enlightened guest experts; and Radio Eco-Shock, with Alex Smith and featured experts, usually scientists discussing recent research related to climate change. I also find NPR’s Living on Earth program an informative source of relevant, up-to-date news and information.
Whether or not these individuals and organizations officially endorse pantheistic beliefs, they most certainly represent them in their work. Like a few others have suggested, maybe the time is ripe for promoting Pantheism as a world religion or belief system for the future, a concept I expect to continue exploring.
As indicated earlier, this year was a turning point of sorts, when I finally accepted the fact that I had entered old age, possibly the last decade of my life. As documented in previous annual chronicle-memoirs, when retiring from UMN in 2007, I spent years several intense years exploring various interests, with a central focus on sustainability issues.
With the aging process and slowly declining mind-body energies, my motivational impetus has been gradually diminishing. Significantly, this normal aging reality has occurred since reaching my early 80s, which also happens to have coincided with the pandemic period. In short, as most aging citizens experience, my overall mind-body energy-zest level is slowly fading. As I explained earlier, the “go-go” years of my 70s have become the “go-slow” years in my mid 80s.
The most unfortunate aspect of my aging process is a gradual decline in contributing to the admirable collective efforts of sustainability activists dedicated to addressing worldwide challenges. As the sustainability community of activists understands, each year that passes means less time available for averting a potential global collapse of civilization—along with our planet’s ecosphere, the primary source for sustaining life.
So, aging conditions partially explain why I’ve decided to reduce my level of activism, especially in taking on leadership roles. To date, this has included reducing participation in Citizens for Sustainability (CFS) meetings, chairing our condo association’s Green Committee, and researching, writing, and publishing the Sustainability Forums and News + Views newsletter, which I relinquished in 2019. Moreover, I also decided in May of ‘22 not to renew my website domain.
Last year I wrote about my long-term search to discover and formulate a belief system that makes sense, a worldview based on the three fundamental existential spheres of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Combined, these three spheres represent a natural form of spirituality that some eco-minded thinkers associate with two contemporary Nature-based systems: Scientific Pantheism and Gaianism. Buddhism and Hinduism also share some similar eco-oriented concepts and practices, but as is the case with other traditional historical religions, they have accumulated complex cultural traditions and bureaucratic systems.
More recently, there’s been another terminology that’s gaining attention: ecotheology. A Wikipedia entry defines Ecotheology as “a form of constructive theology that focuses on the interrelationships of religion and nature, particularly in the light of environmental concerns. Ecotheology generally starts from the premise that a relationship exists between human religious/spiritual worldviews and the degradation or restoration and preservation of nature. It explores the interaction between ecological values, such as sustainability, and the human domination of nature. The movement has produced numerous religious-environmental projects around the world.”
In relation to ecotheology, the Reverend Michael Dowd, a leading ecological theologian, has coined the term ecotheism, which he addresses in a sermon titled “EcoTheism Sermon: Ecology as the Heart of Theology. To me, this is yet another term referencing the precepts presented by Pantheism and Gaianism.
For certain, it seems that current and future world citizens could benefit from an updated spiritual interpretation of existence, one that gleans pertinent information from all relevant historical and current sources. This will require, in addition to exploring existing religious and spiritual traditions, being openly receptive when encountering new information, conditions, and experiences.
At some point in the process of writing this statement, it occurred to me that it might work well to combine the two compatible systems of Pantheism and Gaianism into a single name that integrates both systems. For instance, if the prefix “pan” (all) is wedded with “gaia” (creation), the integrated term forms Pangaia (all creation), thereby representing the central object of worship and devotion: the whole or oneness of reality (existence). A devotee of Pangaia might be referred to as a Pangaian or a Pangaianist. And the entire belief system would become Pangaianism. I’ll continue thinking about this, perhaps sharing the idea with some sustainability colleagues for helpful feedback.
Also, how about ecotheism? One objection voiced by some religious-weary truth seekers might be the use of “theism,” which connotes a belief in God. Ostensibly, some secular-oriented folk find any reference to “God” offensive, primarily because of the negative interpretation of God by the world’s major religions. In conventional terms, God is conceived as an anthropological super-being, the lord, master, and somewhat capricious ruler-judge of the universe who rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior.
However, if God is simply conceptualized as an object of devotion for which we express our profoundest love, including respect, faith, trust, and gratitude, then God might be interpreted as the causal manifestation of innate evolutionary processes. Thinking of God as a non-material entity to which we proffer profound devotion makes sense to me.
For example, based on observations of extremely wealthy celebrities, those claiming adherence to a particular religious tradition may actually be more devoted to achieving great wealth, prestige, and power. For these types church membership and participation provides ample opportunities for social networking, politicking, and self-promotion, which may include philanthropy.
In addition to the foregoing discussion, I’ve discovered another writer’s relevant religious views. Octavia E. Butler was a notable black female author (1947-2006) who published two notable dystopian fiction books, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, both based on a California family’s survival experiences in the late 2020s to early 2030s. The leading character, Lauren Olamina, develops a belief system—”a network of truths”—that’s compatible with Pantheism and Gaianism.
The credo of Olamina’s belief system, Earthseed, is founded on the concept that “God is Change.” For her, aspects or truths of God are found in biological evolution, chaos theory, relativity theory, the uncertainty principle, and the law of thermodynamics. She explains: “We [humans] are Earthseed,” the figurative “children of God, as all fractions of the universe are the children (aspects) of God. But more immediately, we are the children of our particular Earth.” I find these beliefs solidly grounded in evolutionary biophysical systems, and closely aligned with mine, in addition to the concepts previously discussed.
In a world experiencing ongoing devastation of all ecosystems, negatively affecting most lifeforms, the swelling tide of the human superorganism seems incapable of reducing its quantitative demands in exploiting Nature’s finite, depleting resources. The political gridlock of extreme left-and-right factions, especially in formulating mutually agreeable solutions, continues to obstruct our undertaking collective constructive action. The abysmal result is a mega-series of multiple converging crises, including crucial planetary tipping points in the process of either being breached or threatened.
In sum, it’s getting more difficult to be optimistic or hopeful that humanity will awaken to existential realities in time to take sufficient requisite action in averting global collapse. Indeed, some thinkers have referred to humanity’s tendency to cultivate and perpetuate an irrational, unwarranted sense of optimism as “hopium”, a term that combines “hope” with “opium.” Simply put, hopium is an addiction to false hopes.
Transitioning from Grief to Acceptance and Meaning
In referencing the five steps of grieving—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance— as proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, I think I might have arrived at the last stage of acceptance. Of course, like most people I occasionally revert to short-term bouts of subdued anger (frustration) and depression (sadness). But thankfully, I can’t recall ever having had a serious case of depression.
Actually, the sequence of experiencing each psycho-emotional state may vary for each individual. It’s also possible that some people may never experience all states, depending on their developmental stage at a given time. For instance, a young person might engage in more stages than an elderly guy like me. So far, I seem to have largely moved beyond experiencing the stages of denial and bargaining.
Understandably, I don’t recall having any such concerns as a young fellow, when my worldview was considerably different, and the world’s overall state appeared in better shape, at least ecologically. In reflecting on my youth (1940s-1950s), the Earth’s biosphere and ecosphere appeared relatively stable.
Most post-WWII problems were associated with economic, social, and geopolitical issues. Grave concerns about the long-term survival of civilization and all lifeforms were minimized, with the major exception being the threat of nuclear war between Russia and the U.S., the two major nuclear powers (who happen to be clashing currently, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). Also, beginning mostly in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, there were a few prescient individuals voicing warnings about the negative impacts of overpopulation and overconsumption in degrading our planet’s ecosphere. One prominent warning shock was sounded with the impact of Rachel Carson’s famous publication, Silent Spring.
According to an individual’s mind-body responses when encountering a set of situations, conditions, and circumstances, it’s normal behavior to fluctuate among the five stages of grieving. Also, it helps to bear in mind that the difference between stages and states may exist mostly in degrees of time, scope, and scale. The intensity levels and effects experienced may last anywhere from minutes to hours, perhaps days, but when individuals who have settled into the acceptance stage temporarily transition to other stages, they typically find it easier returning to the baseline of acceptance. Obviously, many eco-minded activists, myself included, experience the grieving process when trying to understand and cope with the direful ecological predicament we are experiencing.
Death-and-grieving expert David Kessler has since added a sixth stage: meaning. His book—Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief—delves deeply into the topic. In pondering the role of meaning in life, I’ve concluded that meaning provides a human-created coping mechanism for helping us make sense of life, especially regarding our role as interactive players in the grand scheme of all that exists—past, present, and future. A purpose-based life centered on developing and attaining higher-consciousness might provide a significant evolutionary life-survival advantage.
One concept that helps make sense in my eco-grieving process is a growing awareness that, like all species within the vast expanse of evolutionary time and space, we will likely experience a limited existence. It’s humbling to realize that, in our current evolutionary form, we homo sapiens have existed for only around 300-thousand years, a very brief time in a universe that’s existed for around 13.7-billion years. What’s even more astounding is the realization that, because of our life-giving sun’s limited lifetime, our 4.6-billion-year-old home planet is estimated to be approximately halfway through its projected lifespan. This suggests a good chance that our species, as well as all species currently existing, will at some point be terminated—unless future humans manage to escape Earth to compatibly habitable planets in the far reaches of an expanding universe.
Moreover, in realizing that our planet’s long-lived flora and fauna species rarely exceed lifetimes lasting millions of years, it’s hard to imagine homo sapiens existing more than millions of years. Indeed, in the grand scheme of universal time, our presence on Earth appears as a mere speck or blip. It seems reasonable that, despite the prominent mythological belief of human exceptionalism, in the eternal scheme of evolutionary processes we may actually be insignificant.
For certain, when considering the innumerable lifeforms that may exist in the long-distant future, very few will miss our presence. Possible exceptions may include the unique parasitic lifeforms that mostly survive within and on our bodies, primarily in service to themselves, but also to us.
Playing down our importance as a species is not meant to overlook our positive capacities as a highly developed, intelligent, and creative species. But neither does it offer justification for claiming special status within the evolutionary processes that affect our planet, the solar system, galaxy, and universe. We now know the universe is populated with billions of stars and planets, all of which are subject to natural forces existing within a state of flux (change), the one thing proven constant.
We need to remind ourselves that, like all living and nonliving entities, we are the products of stardust, the entirety of elements generated in the so-called “Big Bang,” when 13.7-billion years ago a single highly-dense event of basic elements exploded into being, and continues hurling and expanding throughout space-time. To what ultimate purpose or outcome this phenomenon exists no one knows, or will ever know.
The Evolutionary Schema and Process
It bears repeating that, within the space-time continuum of 13.7-billion years, we homo sapiens only began evolving in Africa as recently as 300-thousand years ago. However, it also helps to bear in mind that pre-existing primate species were evolving millions of years earlier. Our recent 300-thousand-year evolutionary passage included five intermediary stages (most recently homo erectus, homo sapiens, and homo neanderthalensis) before settling into our current form.
So, we’re relatively late comers, an especially significant fact when realizing we owe our existence largely to the huge asteroid that struck Earth near the Yucatan peninsula 66-million years ago. The resultant radical climatic changes and toxic conditions caused most living species to go extinct, including dinosaurs.
From that time until the evolution of early human species, mammals became the most adaptable fauna species, and most were very large, like the legendary Wooly Mammoth, Sloth, and Beaver. As early humans discovered and developed the survival benefits provided through collective cooperation and collaboration, they gradually assumed the ecological species role of apex predator. The development of fire, language, and various tools made humans very efficient at killing big-game species for material sustenance, the long-term outcome being the extinction of many large species. Unfortunately, our modern superorganism’s growing numbers continue placing a heavy burden on the biosphere’s flora, fauna, and fungi, progressivly driving the extinction and endangerment of many lifeforms.
Again, what I’m trying to convey is that, it helps to understand how we humans fit into the overall schema of evolutionary processes. What we believe to be true and how we frame and construct our worldview might help us cope more effectively in facing life’s many challenges.
Last year, in Eco-Philosophizing 2021, I described my spiritual journey as a search for information that helps make sense of all we experience in life. After undertaking considerable research and study—all the while trying to view existence through big-picture, multi-colored lenses focused on developing a deep-time perspective—I think I’ve developed a more coherently functional worldview. Although the sense-making puzzle is not fully formed (and probably never will be), I like to think I’ve attained an elevated awareness and deeper understanding that allows for ongoing refinements.
In pursuing a deep-time perspective, I’ve come to accept a more realistic, practical approach to life, a spiritual semi-religious view suggesting that we humans—in company with all life forms—are entities formed by a somewhat random evolutionary process that’s in a constant state of flux. Nature’s modus operandi may be thought of as a creative causal response to whatever occurs, as when encountering a combined set of specific material conditions, states, and stages.
This concept infers that Nature’s evolutionary trajectory may be viewed as a creative life-promoting modality. Furthermore, any material entity within any ecosystem that manages to adjust and cope effectively when responding to existing and long-term conditions usually has a better chance to survive, develop, and perhaps flourish, as long as living conditions remain somewhat stable.
Whether or not this evolutionary process is motivated by some unknown force-driven process, such as a cosmic mind, is a topic for ongoing exploration. Presently, I suspect that cosmic mind could be a teleological force that continues evolving towards ever-higher levels of consciousness, as illustrated with the theory of Spiral Dynamics.
When pondering the potential demise of humanity on this planet, some prominent deep-time thinkers consider the loss of higher consciousness as a primary concern. They fear that the decline or extinction of our species could well portend the loss of higher consciousness, not only on Earth but within the universe. Of course, there may well be sentient beings elsewhere in the universe, as some astrophysicists imagine. This is the point where techno-optimists proudly proclaim that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is capable of carrying on the evolution of consciousness. Personally, I don’t think so; or at least I hope not.
Comprehending how long it has taken for all of the living species on Earth to evolve and adapt to changing world conditions presents an awesome revelation. Fortunately for us, the majority of current species have flourished only within a relatively short geological time span known as the Holocene era, which began approximately 12-thousand years ago with the retreat of expansive global glaciers. Throughout this period of warming, the ongoing stabilization of climate conditions allowed most existing flora, fauna, and fungi species to flourish. Unfortunately, our shameful profligate consumption of carbon-based fuels continues poisoning all life-supporting systems and hastening the endangerment and extinction of many lifeforms.
In contrast to our moral and ethical transgressions, which are particularly harmful to natural systems, we are also obliged to acknowledge, respect, and appreciate humanity’s many exceptional achievements. Moreover, there are ample indications of our evolutionary potential for becoming a highly conscious moral species. However, professing human “exceptionalism” presents a major challenge in overcoming the conventional religious belief that it is humanity’s destiny and God-ordained right to exert dominion over all other species and aspects of our planet. This anthropocentric perspective is the principal driving force contributing to a potentially uninhabitable world for most forms of life, including our super-intelligent species.
Reputable authorities attribute our domination of Nature to the patriarchal beliefs embedded in the ethos of traditional human cultures and religions. According to modern anthropologists, when humans survived as eco-centric, hunter-gatherer bands and tribes, social cohesion was maintained by means of altruism, cooperation, collaboration, and egalitarianism. However, as populations continued growing—to the point when a diminishing number of formerly fertile ecosystems no longer provided life-sustaining resources—the mobile lifestyle of hunter-gatherers grew ever more impractical.
Gradually, our distant ancestors began forming human settlements that helped create favorable conditions for cultivating agriculture and domesticating animals, including the use of large-animal power to produce food surpluses. Eventually, small settlements grew in population and size, forming a succession of villages, towns, cities and empires.
Because farming required the use of muscle power for plowing, managing large animals, construction, and all heavy-duty work, men began to gain more sociopolitical authority. Meanwhile, women were mostly responsible for managing domestic work, including child and health care, food preparation, and clothing. It was a significant social-role change for women in transitioning from the hunter-gatherer egalitarian role-sharing of most life-supporting tasks, with the possible exception of hunting, for which men were more adapted.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of transitioning from hunter-gather bands to form stable communities was humanity’s gradual loss of a deep, symbiotic connection with the natural world. In the process of becoming settled, humans began exploiting their natural environments for essential life resources, especially energy, food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. The most eco-destructive behavior might have been the clearing of forests for materials to construct dwellings, as well as land for agriculture and domesticated animals. Over time, expanding human populations and socio-economic-political complexity also created a need for hierarchical bureaucracies and institutions, effectively multiplying the extent and damages of ecosystems caused by human expansion and domination.
As historic records show, some religions developed into powerful institutions, ostensibly managed by men instituting law-and-order strategies for controlling large populations. One noticeable Western development was the institution of influential Western religions, notably Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
One commonality shared by these three religions was the concept of a judgmental, anthropological God maintaining constant surveillance over the populace, with the implied threat of punishment and spending eternity in Hell for egregious offenders of established religious doctrines. In contrast, those who behaved favorably according to religious tenets and laws were promised salvation from their sins—plus the coveted reward of spending eternal life in a Heavenly paradise.
Along with the rise of organized religions, most nature-based spiritual traditions, such as animism, were gradually discarded, except for a diminishing number of isolated indigenous tribes. I should reiterate here that the ancient Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism were more Nature oriented, in beliefs and practices.
It’s widely acknowledged that the discovery and use of coal in the 18th Century became the principal driver of humanity’s expansion and power. In the 19th Century the emerging First Industrial Age created a pattern of high-energy use that became further “energized” with the discovery of carbon-based oil and gas. Ever since then we’ve continued discovering and producing other sources of energy to do our bidding, chief among them nuclear power, and with hydrogen-fusion power on the drawing boards.
The irrefutable conclusion is that modern society is only possible because of the mega-power sources provided by carbon-based fuels, all of which are rapidly depleting due to a growing world population and excessive consumption. I agree with experts suggesting that a major reckoning and awakening lie ahead for our ill-informed, unwise species.
Humans in Nature: My Perspective
What I’m trying to communicate is my search for an appropriate mental framing in developing a viable perspective about our specie’s role within the scheme and scope of existence, and more specifically, my role. It’s possible the conclusions discussed may be interpreted as being too rational, perhaps even unemotional, but that’s how I’ve developed over my lifetime. Ever since I was an undergraduate philosophy major, I’ve been developing an analytical strategy for studying and responding to various issues and concerns. This personal characteristic has been reinforced by researching, discussing, learning, and pondering the existence of humankind, not only on planet Earth but also within the framework of an expanding universe.
The entire process has been a salutary, humbling search focused primarily on the three transcendental cosmic domains of Truth (Logos = reality), Goodness (Ethos = morality), and Beauty (Pathos = beauty or quality). Transcendental refers to a universal reality that exists beyond the time-space-matter world.
Over time and the ongoing aging process, I’ve sought to subdue my culturally-influenced but self-imposed egoism, eventually adopting a more go-with-the-flow, life-coping strategy. I still tend to be analytical and goal oriented, but the drive to be a “significant somebody” has quietened down considerably from my former go-go years—as I continue moving through more “go-slow” years. Remarkably, I no longer feel compelled to change the world. It’s actually self-permissible to slow down, all the while continuing to be content with managing a lower level of activism in supporting worthwhile causes.
I’m better equipped now, largely because of my understanding and accepting the possibility that civilization might eventually collapse, possibly within the next few decades. As accumulating evidence indicates, several nations and regions continue experiencing partial stages of collapse and appear to be failing fast, while others are in decline or threatened, including some so-called “developed nations.”
The truth is that entropy is a natural, inevitable evolutionary process applicable to all material entities, includes all monumental edifices of modern civilization. Indeed, some believe that the sooner civilization collapses, the better off the planet will be—before we humans lay waste to the planet’s life-supporting ecosphere. With a major slowdown or reduction of the human enterprise due to economic and environmental collapse, the greater the chances that Earth’s endangered lifeforms will be able to regenerate. I know this is an extreme position, but one founded on considerable thought and study, and reluctantly expressed.
In recent years I’ve occasionally raised this question: How have humans improved the planet? In other words, what contributions has our species made? Alas, to date, with the exception of our evolutionary role as one predator among many on this planet, plus positive efforts by many humans to protect, restore, and rejuvenate human-damaged ecosystems, I haven’t been able to conjure up any significant positive contributions.
The most probable evolutionary exception might be our ability to achieve a highly developed mental consciousness, which I like to think also includes the capacity for gaining wisdom. Our combined psycho-physical ability, which enables us to seek answers and solutions, has proven truly remarkable, effectively empowering our ability to survive and even flourish. However, when considering the plethora of disastrous externalities associated with our awesome discoveries, creations, inventions, and technological wizardry, legitimate concerns arise.
For instance, it seems that every time our brightest minds have discovered and applied concepts that resulted in extraordinarily innovative technologies, almost all applications have produced externalities marked by both positive and negative outcomes. Apparently, our main blind spot has been the inability to successfully limit and tame our extravagant desires, interests, and intentions when exploring and using advanced technologies. In most cases, we appear to be incapable of restraining an impulse to exploit our awesome discoveries, including for personal gain. There are plentiful examples of improper and unwise applications of new technologies, especially those associated with carbon-based energy sources, precious minerals, and chemicals proven to be toxic. Our technical “reach” has definitely exceeded our psycho-emotional “grasp.”
Some may say that our most distinguished intellectual luminaries (artists, architects, research scientists, engineers, et al.) have created a more beautiful, functional world with human-designed and fashioned creations, an opinion best described as being homocentric. The most artfully creative examples of human domination over Nature are evidenced in human-designed formal gardens, as the formalized palaces gardens of Versailles illustrate, with the natural landscape reshaped and formed to comply with an idealized human vision of orderly perfection. It may be said that highly formalized, stylized artworks are related in character and style to hierarchical (vertical) top-down human social conventions.
A stark contrast to formal garden design can be experienced in visiting traditional Japanese-style gardens, which are designed to reflect the aesthetic qualities of Nature, with an integral design that enhances the symbiotic relationships of natural elements, patterns, forms, and structures. The overall esthetic objective of Japanese garden design is to provide a place infused with the serenity only nature can provide, symbolizing renewal, calmness, wonder, and balance. Rather than featuring formal fountains, water sources in Japanese gardens represent the life-giving force, as presented with small water falls, streams, and pools.
Beauty Viewed as Innate Patterns and Designs in Nature
Art historians acknowledge the presence of semi-formal designs in Nature, as observed in the human body and most life forms. There are no perfect forms, although cursory visual observations and impressions may lead one to think so. This is especially the case when assessing the physical appearance of people, male or female, based on commonly accepted social criteria about qualities associated with beauty.
Assessing or evaluating any material object requires referencing the seven fundamental elements of art—line, color, value, shape, form, space, and texture, as well as the seven principles of design—balance (symmetrical, asymmetrical, etc.), scale (size), contrast, pattern, movement/rhythm, emphasis, and unity. Some sources I’ve found valuable in addressing the components of critical art theory include Jeremy Lent’s book, The Web of Meaning, in which he explains the multifold fractal “patterns of meaning” that occur in Nature.
One relevant pattern-oriented phenomenon is known as the golden ratio, described as the ratio1.618. It is represented by the Greek letter ‘phi’, and claimed to be a mathematical connection between two aspects of an object. It is also referred to as the Fibonacci sequence, whereby each number is the sum of the two numbers that precede it (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.). I find this concept helpful in explaining the many aspects of beauty seen across all of nature, as observed in plants, animals, inanimate physical structures (mountains, cloud formations, etc.), and also in cosmic systems.
All of the information provided to this point is meant to emphasize that Nature holds the key to understanding our specie’s role in the scheme of everything that exists in the realm of human consciousness. Evolution is an awesome creative process, appearing in both linear and circular patterns in nature. Linear in terms of expanding time and space, and circular in terms of observable patterns on planets and among cosmic bodies that rotate or revolve around other bodies. As we experience on our wonderful planet, circular patterns are experienced in 24-hour cycles of day and night, annual cycles of four seasons, and periodic cycles in geographical and biophysical eras.
Historically, geographical and biophysical fluctuations on Earth have occurred in response to major cataclysmic events. I again refer to the gigantic asteroid that struck our planet in the vicinity of present-day Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago succeeded in wiping out most life forms, including dinosaurs. As it turns out, this cataclysmic event was la major stroke of luck for homo sapiens. Millions of years later mammals began evolving, eventually culminating with primates, from which we homo sapiens evolved within the past 300,000 years. And here we are, thanks purely to a random cataclysmic natural event.
Given this information, how can we assume our marvelous species is destined to last forever? Indeed, because we continue destroying Earth’s life-sustaining resources and conditions, the likelihood of surviving in our presently evolved forms may prove impossible. Moreover, if future humans do manage to survive, they will probably continue evolving as they adapt to a radically different ecosphere, all the while developing the physical means to manage the accumulating toxins in all body parts, including nanoparticles from thousands of human-made chemicals that have saturated every inch of the planet.
Sadly, we need to accept the hard truth that, within a short time span—an era now thought of as the Anthropocene—we humans have helped accelerate the evolutionary processes of Earth by thousands of years, and even more rapidly since WWII. In sum, for a species that has such great potential for doing good, we fall far short, especially when it comes to emotional maturity. A more gracious way of expressing our conundrum is to acknowledge that, although we may be a very smart species, we’re certainly not very wise.
Future Prospects for Human Civilization and Planet Earth
Based on extensive reading, listening, and thinking over the past fifteen years, I think I’ve developed a fairly well-formed opinion regarding the future prospects for humans and the planet. Sadly, it’s not a very optimistic vision. As mentioned earlier, our long-ago ancestors spent thousands of years as hunter-gatherers, primarily focused on meeting each day’s survival needs, which partially explains our innate inability to understand the importance of long-term thinking and planning.
Despite this unfortunate evolutionary handicap, we have managed to survive and flourish quite well, thanks to our having developed superior survival skills. The four most significant early-human evolutionary skills are: 1) the communication skills of language (speaking, reading and writing); 2) the social skills of cooperation, collaboration, and altruism; 3) the innovative skills for creating and using tools (especially fire) to facilitate all of life’s needs, including making objects, obtaining food, and providing protection; and, most importantly, 4) the mental capacity and skills in using abstract thought for learning, planning, organizing, and managing survival needs.
Even though cultural evolution has played an important role in determining our successful advancement, it has not sufficiently helped us cope effectively in all areas of life. For instance, at times we seem incapable of avoiding—and correcting—the problems we create, especially those that culminate in a super predicament, as evidenced currently by a series of human-caused, cascading crises. To restate a paraphrased quote of the late biologist E.O. Wilson: Our evolved human nature—and current predicament—is the complex manifestation of our paleolithic emotions, medieval (outdated) institutions, and godlike technologies.
The evidence supporting such a disparaging perspective grows more obvious every day. Our profligate burning of carbon-based energy sources has provided the means for our population to increase exponentially, along with our consumption of finite natural resources. Together, these two dynamic forces—overpopulation and overconsumption—have artificially contributed to the ongoing deleterious effects of global warming (climate change) on what was originally a flourishing planetary ecosphere. In sum, we are gradually destroying our planet home, laying waste to formerly flourishing ecosystems and endangering the future prospects for most lifeforms.
It’s particularly frustrating to acknowledge that the community of humans within the global population owning a big-picture, systemic, deep-time perspective is rather miniscule. Equally discouraging is knowing that oligarchical elites are exerting inordinate powerful influences throughout all areas of society, especially in determining economic, political, and societal-governing policies. Endowed with exceedingly great wealth, they command undue influence over the thoughts and actions of public servants, leaders of corporations, and politicians worldwide. The result is a powerful oligarchy of global elites supporting a hierarchical, top-down, neoliberal economic system that perversely affects a general public that is largely uninformed, misinformed, intentionally misguided, and blindly receptive.
I remain hopeful that a large body of humanity will awaken soon to the reality of our civilization’s death march, and urgently undertake the drastic steps needed in addressing all facets of the increasingly dire predicament confronting us. Yet, I suspect it’s too late. It appears that the political will needed for initiating radically constructive measures might be impossible to muster. We simply have minimal time available for mitigating (forget reversing) multiple crises. The best we might be able to accomplish rests with initiating strategic, long-term adaptive measures that can help humanity survive a future world beset with cascading cataclysmic conditions.
Our darkest fears concern the potential collapse of both civilization and the ecosphere. It’s sobering to realize that a majority of reputable scientists and sustainability experts collectively estimate the next two decades will determine how successful humanity will be in averting a descent into what will likely produce greater numbers of collapsed societies and ecosystems, particularly in the global south. Indeed, some nations and geographical regions are already experiencing various stages of collapse, largely the result of climate-driven crises. Situations and circumstances are particularly dire in regions where prolonged hot-and-dry conditions create shortages of water and food sources.
Pondering and Accepting a Post-Doom Future
In seeking a conclusion to my philosophical exploration, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve attained what might be termed a post-doom, psycho-emotional state. Do I believe that the planet is doomed? No, I do not. The science suggests that planet Earth will likely exist for another 4.5-billion years. Throughout this remaining timespan, it’s likely the evolutionary process will transition through many stages, including various catastrophic events. It seems probable that, should human civilization eventually collapse, any harm imposed on the planet will eventually be transformed over time into other forms of matter, perhaps rock, or molten lava, or soil. In the meantime, an ongoing inestimable variety and number of species will be extinguished, while others will evolve and new species arise.
Nevertheless, should such a bleak scenario come to pass, what will be lost and forgotten will be the extraordinary contributions of humankind, especially our capacity for developing higher consciousness. Yes, we are a truly remarkable, unique species—highly intelligent, creative, and socially adept. But it may be said that the major flaw of our species—at least so far—appears to be a failure in achieving sufficient collective wisdom. Altogether, we simply haven’t developed a realistic understanding of our role within Nature; nor have we grasped a comprehensive, in-depth understanding and appreciation for the multiple life-and-death challenges we’re facing. Finally, what might prove to be the proverbial final nail in humanity’s coffin is a collective failure to urgently undertake the essential measures needed for creating a harmoniously sustainable way of living within a ravaged ecosphere in need of restoration and regeneration.
So, do I think the human race will survive? Perhaps, depending on humanity’s collective will for undertaking urgently constructive mitigative and adaptive measures over the next few decades. However, based on our historical patterns of thoughts and behaviors, I fear we will not act within the limited available time frame to make the radical life-survival changes needed. It seems that our arcane devotion to the existing and unstoppable neoliberal material-growth paradigm, coupled with a preponderance of ingrained ideologically naïve worldviews, provides too much of an incentive to maintain the status quo. This deadly combination probably indicates that humanity will continue kicking the proverbial can down the road—until the road is no longer passable or comes to a dead end at the edge of a cliff. The most hopeful long-term scenario might be one whereby pockets of humans are able to find livable regions where ecological conditions remain relatively intact.
I think I’ve reached a stage in the grieving process where I have mostly accepted the prospect of a dire future outlook, a stage that eco-philosopher Michael Dowd terms post-doom. In other words, I accept the strong possibility that our species may encounter a bleak future, possibly even a die-off at some point, a historical evolutionary pattern applicable to all life forms.
Although deep-time is a difficult concept to fathom, the most advanced scientific knowledge about the universe and the evolutionary process informs us that, while matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it is capable of being transformed. So, assuming our science is correct, everything will continue existing in some form throughout time and space. Whether or not everything exists forever no one knows—and most likely no being will ever know. However, as far as life on Earth is concerned, existential and future lifeforms will continue experiencing the phenomenal cycles of birth, growth, decline, and death.
In wrapping up this eco-philosophical outpouring, I’m growing more comfortable with the idea that death is nothing to be feared, perhaps even welcomed given certain circumstances and conditions. While I don’t easily welcome death, at least not in the near-to-intermediate term, it’s possible that ongoing decline in mind-body health will make death easier to accept, especially if experiencing persistent pain.
In conclusion, my philosophical pilgrimage, an ongoing process of seeking and pondering various ideas about life, is helping me make sense of existence in this world, at this particular time and place. I remain extremely fortunate and deeply grateful for having enjoyed such a rewarding, productive, and especially meaningful life, thanks significantly to all persons with whom I’ve lived, commiserated, cooperated, collaborated, and loved. Of course, the most important “other” in my life remains my beloved “Bet,” life partner par excellence.
In closing, I share my profoundest thoughts and hopes for the future of humanity and our planet home: May the three ageless transcendental properties of being—Truth, Goodness, and Beauty—dwell in our minds and hearts throughout our lives, providing moral guidance in seeking a sense of purpose and meaning, individually and collectively. In learning how to cope effectively with life’s many challenges, may we continue cultivating a sense of deep gratitude and appreciation for life, especially for our cherished planet’s abundant yet finite life-sustaining resources, as we willfully do whatever we can to live harmoniously and holistically integrated in the systemic evolutionary processes that enable our human civilization and planetary ecosphere to survive and exist sustainably.
So, may it be!