Mahatma Gandhi said that the “earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”. He was right about the greed part. People will always want more.
Need-wise, though, Earth doesn’t provide enough for everyone, not if we’re talking the needs of a species that aims to transcend its limits and break through to new and unimaginable worlds, beyond the confines of this planet, into outer space.
Gandhi’s achievements are the prime example of this, and his own best rebuttal. He forged a nation out of civil – but fervent and uncompromising – initiative, hardly settling for less. Was he greedy? Many would disagree, but one thing’s clear. His needs were not met either. There’s not enough to go around, not in a system that keeps pushing the boundaries.
Let’s take heed from Gandhi’s actions and break through the boundaries, pushing back on other people’s greed, claiming a bigger world than the one we were given, staking our claim in this world of finite resources.
Perhaps I’m opening the piece too hard. The notion of not settling for less may be out of place. We’re just coming out of the great greed game – very much in crisis still – searching for saner, calmer ways of going about things. No one wants to hear how there’s danger in settling down, how things can get too calm, too bucolic and stagnant.
But words of caution are always useful.
Having preempted the reason why I take this contrarian, polemic stance, let me put it in context. In the previous article I spoke of the dangers behind the Green movement going off the rails. To drive the point home let me highlight one of its underlying mottoes, pointing out what it means, what it really says and represents. What we can learn from it.
“SAVE THE PLANET!”
Are you not laughing out loud? It’s funny, a ridiculous statement that can’t be taken seriously.
The reasons are many, starting with super-volcanoes, asteroid collisions, solar storms, mega-quakes, and the reversal of the poles – phenomena that threw the planet into states of total and utter mayhem over the eons, and which the planet survived.
How come the planet still lives? (The gazillion dollar question.) Was it fortuitously saved, time and time again, by salvador beings powerful enough to prevent every catastrophe? Or is it in fact a resilient, dynamic, regenerative system that’s more than capable of healing itself?
We know very well it’s the latter. The planet is an incredible organism, a system capable of withstanding the rarest of complications, restoring itself to capacity after every setback. It needs a few million years to do so, granted, but it gets the job done. A million years may sound like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. Earth-wise, it’s just days, months, tops.
So why the messianic drama? Why our call to “save the planet”? Are we implying that our impact on the earth is worse that the impact of all natural disasters combined? Are we so conceited to think that we’re capable of the greatest damage ever inflicted on this 4.3 billion-year-old planet – a damage from which it will supposedly never recover, and from which we need to save it? Are we for real?
Let’s get serious. How about we read between the lines and call things by their name, at least if we’re to make progress. Change – substantial change, that is – needs to solve and correct an immediate problem on the surface while focusing on the deeper levels, addressing not just the symptom but the cause of said problem. Failure to do so leads to more of the same old same old, giving rise to cleaner, polished, and more appealing versions of the same old so and so.
The Green movement, for example, promises the future on a carbon-free platter, nobly enough, yet what good is a carbon-free world if it’s forged on the backdrop of a moral righteousness that bases its movement and momentum on the notion of a planet that needs saving? We could do with a more realistic outlook, if we’re to make progress.
Bottom line, green is not the end point. It’s just the means to an end, a way to step out of the dirt we’ve buried ourselves in and get the system clean again, get it functional and working. Even though the green movement is closely connected to science and still quite rational, in relative terms, it may get afflicted with righteousness, like all well-meaning causes do, and borrow some spite from related causes whose fuel is anger, and whose aim is to destroy, dictate and dogmatize.
If history is anything to go by, the probabilities for this to happen are considerable. The only way to avoid a backlash – and keep the cause grounded in optimistic realism – is to set the movement on a track that addresses the problem at its roots. Keep the presumptuousness and self-importance – that got us in trouble in the first place – out of it. Let’s forge a truly new future that won’t fall prey to the same atavisms – and if it does, to do so on the backdrop of a monumental breakthrough that renders our world truly different, creating a well-founded future, not a green version of the same old history.
So let’s re-frame the issue… SAVE THE PLANET? I don’t think so.
The planet is capable of taking care of itself.
Save humanity? Yes, that’s more like it! It’s we who need saving, after all, good old humans in a bind. We need saving, right now, from the increasingly probable sixth mass extinction. Let’s face it and get serious about our future. Let’s change our motto to
SAVE OUR SELVES.
On second thought, (more twists), SOS sounds bleak and rather desperate. So let’s tweak it to something more inspiring, like:
Aren’t you tired of living like pigs, wallowing in the collective dirt and sewage of our civilization? Aren’t you disgusted from having to live in the toxic waste that we spew in the air we breathe and the water we swim in? Aren’t you tired of living like a technologically civilized hog?LET’S CLEAN UP OUR ACT! ENVISION A CLEANER WORLD! ENVISION A BIGGER WORLD! ESCAPE OUR PRISON!
Now there’s some catchy, realistic mottoes, putting things in perspective. I visualized them when visiting a dairy farm, then a zoo, then a planetarium, where I saw the earth for what it is: a floating glass cage, a luscious cave where we live in darkness and filth, immersed in solid, liquid and gaseous sewage, which we spread as thin as possible, pretending it’s not there. Over time the filth mounts up, permeating the infrastructure. Stay in this state long enough and we may start thinking that this is normal. We may forget what it means to live free, clean, and with the whole world at our fingertips. When I say “world”, I mean the billion light years of space that lie beyond our planet and not the cage dreams we’ve been bogged down with in this little corner in space, which we’ve turned from paradise to a garbage can.
Like I said, it’s time to get serious, face our situation with authority and honesty. No more jokes or denials, no more glossing our causes in glitzy presumptuousness and hiding behind them, staying prisoners to compromised minds. It’s time to come clean and break out. Let’s start with the movements that aim to get us there.