The Curse of Abundance

The story of how Humans broke the Earth Machine

Photo by Andrea Leon on Unsplash

Earth is an incredibly rich planet. It is almost a mystery how a single celestial object can be host to an endless diversity of such different, diverse, contrasting landscapes, life forms and ecosystems. It is literally a “world of worlds”, all of which coexist within a barely noticeable lonely rock revolving around the sun in an otherwise dark, empty and silent vacuum. Our story, the story of Earth, couldn’t possibly be more surreal.

We often sit mesmerised for hours in front of our TVs, trying to learn more about these “worlds”, most of which we’ll never get to visit, through countless documentaries that can only capture, at best efforts, a tiny fraction of what goes on in our natural world. There is always more to discover, whether atop an isolated rock ecosystem, an unexplored ocean abyss, or under an iceberg. Earth is truly a collection of universes within the universe.

Even the biggest and smartest team of designers would fail to create a planet from scratch, using all their imagination and creativity, and supplied with all the elements in the periodic table. They would miss the mark by a long shot in coming up with anything even remotely as complex, imaginative and logic-defying as the miracles we witness on Earth on a daily basis.

Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

The planet “designers” would probably think that trees are impossible. How can these huge complex structures support their weight in the wind, tower over the landscape sometimes hundreds of feet tall, and grow, producing millions of bright green leafs that feed on just air (CO2) and water? It sounds too good to be possible. It sounds like someone’s acid trip.

They would also not even know where to begin when designing the planet’s climate machine and circular systems: a collection of interdependent (yet independent) systems that recirculate temperature, water, nutrients, magma, air, electrical charge, radiation and oxygen throughout the planet in ingenious ways that we are still uncovering. How can a planet be full of so many ever-changing, dynamic and often aggressive and antagonising processes, yet somehow manage to “keep it all together”? The level of complexity of the Earth Machine is so vast, so deep that it will never be fully understood by humans or even a deep mind AI. It is a Swiss watch with an infinite number of gears and feedback loops. And living beings are an active part of it.

One of the most wondrous things about this planet is that, despite its infinite complexity and chaos, it is a highly regulated system. In fact, this Swiss watch is able to self-tune. Climate change deniers miss out on this critical insight because they cannot see beyond a few centimetres from their face: they only see the chaos and the individual events and “gears” happening right in front of them, not how they connect with each other. In fact, they don’t see any connections. They just see their own reflection.

This is not surprising, because these people are part of the “rogue gear” in the Swiss watch: humans. Humans are the one gear that does not want to be regulated by the other gears. It wants to spin on its own, however it likes to and whenever it likes to. To continue with the watch metaphor, humans have broken the Swiss watch. They have broken the planet, and they are running down the clock.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Abundance is to blame. This planet was too good to us. Like a spoiled brat whose every single wish was granted since birth, humans ate their way through the unlimited buffet of nature without ever paying or saying thank you, not once. They are now putting the restaurant out of business. And they don’t even know what they have done wrong. This is the problem with spoiled brats. Until they have some rude awakening, they cannot even begin to understand why their behaviour is unacceptable. They’re just behaving how they’ve always behaved. They don’t know any better. Their behaviour is intrinsic to the brat’s very “world view” of owning the fridge. It drives the brat’s culture, state of mind, social view, personal self-esteem, need for consumption.

This brat is fat. It’s rude. It’s dumb. And at school it is a bully, and its gonna steal your lunch.

This is why our question is an existential one: humans are simply “made wrong” by evolution, as they have evolved in this abundant environment. They are nature’s latest “experiment” perhaps. A rogue gear, one that does not know when to stop, does not know how to give back. Capitalism, Growth and Profit- based economic systems go against not only the planet’s Circular Economy. They go against diversity, equality, freedom. Equality not only within humans, but across the diversity of millions of life forms on this planet that have an equal right to survival and follow diverse and unique lifestyles corresponding to their unique ecological niches. Anything that does not respect this is Fascism.

The Capitalist system we have followed has been fascist because it is a system that, without exception, has depended on exploitation, subjugation, discrimination, colonisation, resource appropriation, and genocide for its own survival. This is how great “economies” were built by humans. It’s the Brat way of doing things.

So how do brats become adults? Please put your parent hats on. The first thing you do is to make your brat know what deprivation is, how it feels, and how you should therefore not do it to someone else. You take things away from them for a while. You withhold their allowance. You teach them how to stop, and why.

Please don’t make me translate the metaphor into a real-world scenario. I think its pretty obvious. We need nothing less than a Revolution if we are to survive as a species. And Capitalism needs to come down not gradually, not by being replaced by Green New Deal- dressed Capitalism. It needs to come down spectacularly, and quickly. Because this is how you teach brats. You can’t change the brat if you don’t make the brat unhappy. It’s time for the brat to be grounded.

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Author, podcaster, scientist, documenting our system failure. Photographic Heart, Disposable Earth, Age of Separateness, Becoming Imperfect.

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