A metamorphosis of the human mind far surpassing others seen throughout history will be occurring. Humans finally will have come to an understanding of a harsh reality; by their own actions and inactions they have brought on the beginning of their end. A painful lesson will have been learned, one forcing them to accept the fact that their continued existence on Planet Earth is dependent on their ability to live in consonance with its natural rhythm, even broken as that rhythm has become.
Recent global temperatures these last two years have been the highest in recorded history. CO2 ppm has now reached the 400 level. It is estimated that the 450 level will be reached by 2030 and will continue to rise. Then, far higher temperatures leading to events such as a methane hydrate feedback loop could occur.
Given this dismal futuristic scenario, two questions arise: Will Homo sapiens survive on Planet Earth? And if it does survive, how?
Here I will make the case for survival; however, only after pain and suffering of enormous proportion. Also I will describe how this pain and suffering will bring about change. I will also describe how this change will result in a planetary/cosmic interdependency far removed from the interdependency that brought human civilization to the present religious philosophical economic scientific industrial Age we live in today.
Pain and suffering among humans is not new. As we moved forward past the hunter/gatherer stage, at each step along the way our species endured pain and suffering. After that pain and suffering there always followed adjustments in political, economic, social and religious thought and the institutions that supported that thought.
After disintegration, there always follows a “transition” leading to a new period. At first the transition moves slowly. Then it gathers steam and builds in intensity. There is never a sudden epiphany, no visitation from god or the gods above, no sudden global understanding that brings on sudden normalcy.
As the ecological events begin to unfold for our civilization and powerful planetary forces begin to cascade, tipping points being reached, we can conclude that the same process will unfold.
We are about to enter a period of such change as a result of our present abuse of the planet. A short description of the 100/200 year scenario follows:
Temperatures will be far higher than now. Weather patterns and over-use will be extremely damaging to agricultural production. The coastal cities will all be gone. Acidification in the oceans will have destroyed much of the fish and crustacean food stock. Population size at the 8/9 billion level will be pressing on all available resources. In order for humans to exist away from harsh climatic and atmospheric conditions, self-contained enclosed structures will be needed in parts of the planet.
Following is a capsule description of the transition leading to the end of the scenario. Reaching it will take time:
As the above scenario is unfolding, a global body politic will begin to find empowerment through a revision of collective world consciousness on an intellectual level. Groups of rational individuals will gain power and begin to institute meaningful change. This will be preceded by successive waves of anxiety reverberating throughout the general population. All levels of society will finally come to the realization that Homo sapiens may be facing its end. Ecological tipping points will be the stimulus bringing on a new form of human consciousness and willingness to adapt and accept social, political, economic and religious change. Expressed in metaphysical terms; there will be a change in human consciousness that will forge a new form of human life perspective.
The obstinacy and lack of desire to understand, being witnessed today, will slowly give way to a world-wide understanding of both ecological and human planetary/cosmic reality. This will begin to form in 25/50 years. High speed internet will be one of the reasons to make this so. Almost every human being will be interconnected by way of the internet through visual imaging and simultaneous language translation. Scientists will be disseminating information on the internet detailing the ecological breakdown and offering “reality” explanations for the ecological disturbances. Realization that society must recognize the ecological forces working against species survival will be entering the public mind on a universal scale.
As “panic” stages build, political leaders will be taking steps to maintain power by making their countries habitable for themselves and their constituents. A political/financial elite in each advanced country will attempt to preserve its status quo by maintaining self-serving law and order internally through existing institutions. Ecological matters will be made important, but not all important. At the same time a broad range of internal fixes will come into play. International institutions will take on an key role. At the global political level, climate and other forms of ecological treaties will be signed. Humanitarian organizations will also play an active role. What is important to understand here is that all of these 21st century “fixes” will be coming out of past institutional and cultural frameworks and as such they will not be capable of solving the underlying ecological problems; any more than would those institutional and cultural frameworks from past ages such as a transplanted 3000 BCE Egyptian framework or a 400 BCE Greek framework or a 100 BCE Roman framework or a 1776 AD American framework. The point here is that an entirely new societal architecture will be required.
As seen today, quasi political organizations will attempt to have their say. They will want to dominate the conversation in order to protect their private their interests. They will use every means of coercion available to them to exercise power over the masses so as to achieve their objectives, including methods such as marginalizing data. These organizations will include Army Brass, political and religious groupings, unions, corporations and individuals with extreme privilege and wealth. In the face of the ecological downturn taking place, they will go to extraordinary ends to preserve their power in society. However; more often than not, their objectives will not coincide with the public interest or human survival, and they will ultimately fail, if for no other reason than that they will not be able to offer lasting solutions to the ecological catastrophe clearly and visibly unfolding before all humanity.
As the suffering for billions continues, there will be attempts in most countries—at least those not in complete chaos, to implement some form of internal societal architecture. Spearheading this will be a new generation of enlightened individuals following new and radically advanced political, religious, social and economic formulae designed for sustainability. After prolonged and bitter challenges from traditionalists and deniers of all sorts, these new movements country by country will at some stage take on a universal force of their own. Internet communication and educational institutions will play a large role.
The planet will see the beginning of the dominance of a new human ethic. It will come from an intellectual elite who will place value on not only human life but all life lived in consonance with the energies of the planet. This intellectual elite will remove value from any form of human behavior that destroys the regeneration of planet. The ethic will penetrate all human thought and action. It will do more than just add appendages to existing ethics.
As this change is building, a new form of ecologically congruent authoritative leadership will be given extraordinary political power. The central organizing principal will be the setting out of rules of conduct that can assure the survival of human life on Planet Earth. Political, social and economic changes that would not have been acceptable in years past will be readily accepted. There will be broad consensus. Opposition will be muted.
The adjustment over a 100/200 year period will be brought on by extreme pain and suffering. Overpopulation and rapidly deteriorating living conditions will persist throughout much of the planet. Billions will be caught in the storm. Change will occur organically in the more advanced countries. In some it will come by way of top down beneficent authoritarianism.
Even those “privileged” elite who first gamed the system by isolating themselves and their families and friends from the contagion will be impacted by the scarcity of available resources. Additionally, outbursts of violent civil conflict will be reaching them wherever they are.
Many of the collective archetypal symbols; religious, social, political, economic and other, grounded at the deepest level of human anthropological consciousness; symbols that had since the Sumerian period propelled humans over the many generations to think and to act as they did, that have now become antithetical to human survival will begin to see their end, if for no reason other than from the collapse of those societies in which they have had their presence. The fear of extinction will be blotting old archetypal symbols out of the collective psyche. A feeling of desperation will be driving them out.
At this stage in our discussion an important question must be addressed. Will this inevitably lead to repressive Orwellian police states or even a single world police state? The answer is No. Humans have come a long way intellectually. Cooperative action among a critical mass of the population will bring about a collective determination to foster needed changes without the violent authoritarian rule of yesteryear. At the same time one would be naïve to assume that order will come about without some forms of violent authoritarianism exercised in spasmodic fashion. Human innate behavior has always leaned toward this.
It must be acknowledged that even beneficent authoritarian change is fraught with the risk of failure. There is unpredictability in human affairs. The desire for more and more power is deeply ingrained in the human psyche; in combination with deception and egoistic behavior to attain and preserve that power. Sigmund Freud and his accurate analysis of human nature showed this to be true. History has proved Freud right. Given this observation, we can conclude that as environmental tipping points are reached and humanity enters into an age of ecological collapse, violent counterproductive patterns of egoistic authoritarian behavior will come to the surface. Those in authority following the path of non-violence and reason will again and again lose control. Charismatic power-seeking individuals in nation states will take control. Counter forces will build and then erupt beyond the ability of existing beneficent authority to contain them. As this is occurring, the carnage throughout the planet could become very “ugly.” Cyber, atomic, chemical warfare could make use of that word an understatement.
We should note however that the overall planetary trauma will nevertheless be forcing constructive solutions very broadly. At the same time, as noted above, the internet and educational facilities will be working to propagate constructive information. There will be an increasing educational level of the world population overall. International organizations also will be playing a positive role in this regard.
As a result, there is a strong likelihood that out of the confusion a new form of global governance will evolve. Its primary function, as we see in much of governance today, will be to provide citizens with protection against themselves. Human strength and determination at some point along the way will trump chaos. People will come to understand that the past has been too horrific to be repeated.
This new form of governance will not find its power in the broadly based democratic process that had become a part of many advanced Nations. Nor will it follow any particular Eastern model. It will find its power within the confines of a sensitized public conversation among an informed powerful global intellectual elite centered on the care of mind, body and spirit of Homo sapiens, as well as all other life and all non life on the planet. This cadre will be heavily populated by scientists from all fields. Social theorists will assume a key role. Economic theory will take on an entirely new form. The physical sciences will become an all important part of the decision making process. Their aim will be to assure planetary preservation and continuation.
On a personal level the elite governing group will necessarily be without special privilege materially. This is an important point. We have already seen such behavior in isolated pockets of our civilization; Jesus, Gandhi, the Buddha for example. And there have been very many others. Human society will have recognized that Kleptocracy must be a thing of the past.
The population on the planet will allow these empowered persons broad powers, but only as long as they demonstrate an understanding of the need for planetary survival. Yet, the process will not be democratic as we define that term today. The masses will have come to understand that the stakes will be too high to return governance to them in the Western democratic model of the past, with its bent toward dominance of special interests among the economically and politically privileged.
A new form of jurisprudence will arise based on penalties for crimes against Planet Earth and human society. The good of the planet and every life form on it will take precedence over all else. It will be grounded on an empirically formulated global ethic. The long term survival and welfare of the human species will set the foundation for this jurisprudence. Crimes against misuse of the planet and harm to society will take on a far more clear definition than is seen today. These crimes will take center stage and make the individual personally responsible. To illustrate; expressed in today’s framework of today’s corporate structure, (The corporate form as we know it will cease to exist.) this new form of jurisprudence will take away protection of executives and employees who knowingly deceive the public and cause harm.
This reinvention of the powers of the state will grow out of past lessons learned. Ultimately, they will be accepted by a critical mass of the global population, if for no other reason than that people will see no other way to escape from the unfolding pain and suffering caused by a broken ecological and political/judicial system. They will be powers giving meaning to the actions of the state in a way that transcends today’s democratic and judicial powers and directs humans to acknowledge that they live in a finite world and only by living in consonance with all of Nature, and each other, can they survive. As such, the changes will be accepted universally.
Some of these futuristic ideas may seem improbable and even unthinkable to the reader in the context of the relative instability of today’s world and its political systems; however, it must be kept in mind that the veil of death will be fast closing in on all corners of human civilization and a critical mass of the population will have become very much aware of that frightening reality. Also, one should recognize that abrupt shifts in political systems and social cohesion have occurred throughout history. For example, Alexander in his conquests forced cultural change on those in the Persian Empire. Communism in 1917 very quickly overwhelmed an ancient and solidified hierarchal Russian state. We must also keep in mind though that in almost all cases abrupt change was accompanied by extreme suffering. However, it should be recognized that change also can come without violence. Certainly the Swedish political model today is far different from what it was one hundred years ago. This was accomplished without violence. With each new generation comes an advanced perspective and understanding of the world, at least among the educated.
The road, unfortunately, will not be a Swedish one. As outlined here, there will be enormous pain and suffering. However; after the obstacles been overcome, the understanding of each and every individual in society will be far elevated. It will be molded into a new understanding of common purpose; by which each person becomes an integral part of planetary human societal unity. This common purpose and planetary unity can be broadly defined as one where every person has the opportunity to achieve his or her societal goals within the confines/constraints of ecological balance. This concept of balance will replace the western emphasis on the singularity and freedom of the human. Nature will no longer be seen as the servant of humanity to be used and abused at will. An understanding of the “oneness” of all life on Planet Earth will take its place. Accordingly, many concepts built on our Western Abrahamic Greco-Roman past will be redefined. This will call for a new understanding and definition not only of the “personhood” of each human life but also the sacredness of all other life on the planet.
This redefined definition of common purpose and planetary unity will be spreading throughout the human population. With transformation will emerge belief in shared responsibility for broad societal planetary goals. A critical mass will come to realize that the more shared is this responsibility, the more stable becomes the society, and the greater the chance for the individual to achieve his or her “personhood.” Over time this understanding will become part of the fabric of governance. Out of this transformation a human/planetary interdependency will arise, as well as recognition of cosmic interdependency.
Humans finally will have come to an understanding of a harsh reality; by their own actions and inactions they have brought on the beginning of their end. A painful lesson will have been learned, one forcing them to accept the fact that their continued existence on Planet Earth is dependent on their ability to live in consonance with its natural rhythm, even broken as that rhythm has now become.
A metamorphosis of the human mind far surpassing others seen throughout history will be occurring. It will be grounded on a deeper understanding of the complexity of human life as well as its planetary and cosmic purpose. Humans will see themselves as a form of intelligence able to participate in the unfolding mystery of the universe. Secular naturalistic humanism in some form will open itself to this new form of cosmic determinative thought. Many past philosophical and religious beliefs will be recast into this new perspective.
All matter (substance) in the cosmos will be seen as having a complementary purpose. The desire of every person to find within him and her that complementary purpose will be the new religious force taking the place of the old. This vision of purpose will manifest itself in each person as an intense desire to fill his and her unique role—and share responsibility for the survival of not just him or her life but for all other life on the planet.
Not that the dark side of human nature will suddenly be “lobotomized.” Deviant behavior will continue as an interactive self-destructive part of the human psyche. And it will remain a serious social problem. However, the vast majority of humans will learn to live their lives within a narrow band of acceptable behavior supported by rules designed to check their primitive impulses. The evolutionary drives that are the worst part of their nature and have led to consumptive abuse of the planet—and each other, will be brought under control. As generations pass, these antisocial behavioral patterns will only be noticeable as random psychotic outbursts.
A new form of economics will take on an important role. It will not be like any form from the past; communist central planning or free-market laissez-faire. The resource-exploitive capital market system as it exists today will be transformed into a constrained algorithmic driven, yet incentive directed, market system emphasizing the equitable provision of both the material and psychological needs of all humanity. The ecological long term functionality of all the earth’s resources will take on the highest priority. Today’s energy intensive market driven consumerism will end. Croplands, grasslands, forests, fisheries and inorganic resources will be subject to strict surveillance and control so as to be able to meet human population needs while at the same time preventing exploitation.
As the environmental collapse becomes worse, past economic experiments such as the one that began with the Enlightenment and then the Industrial Revolution will be exposed for those parts that have become social as well as planetary failures. As an example; in the search for new economic theories, the concept of negative externalities in pricing will take on far broader meaning. That meaning will be used to measure every human economic activity. Economic outcomes with negative social and/or ecological value will not be tolerated. The world will have learned the importance of making incorrect judgments for resource allocation. It will have learned that neither free-markets nor central planning can be trusted. It will have learned that every investment decision must lead to a socially and ecologically constructive outcome. Questions such as; is it delivering real worth to society and to the health of the planet will be intensely debated. The conclusions will determine the ultimate value and external cost of every good and service that enters the marketplace. Investment decisions that do not recognize negative externalities will not be tolerated, nor will speculation without social usefulness, nor will transactions that simply shift money and privilege around in the financial markets. An entirely new form of economic/monetary theory will emerge.
Population control will also play an important role. Family and end of life planning will assure a population size able to live within the balance of planetary sustainability.
Since many “tipping” points will already have been reached, the general population will have come to understand that as the end of the human species hangs in the balance and a return to the old way of thought is not an option, those who refuse to accept this and become a social and ecological threat to human civilization will be incarcerated or eliminated. Preventive wars against nations both failed and functioning that will not accept the new world order will be rationalized by way of an ecological justification. Individuals who are caught “cheating” the system will be removed from the system. Those with uncontrollable psychotic problems will be institutionalized.
There will be no compromises, nor can there be. The capacity of the human species to destroy the planet and its own existence on it will be well understood. Finally after many years of denial, a new Age will have begun. Fear of extinction will drive humans to accept a new form of behavior.
We leave this on a cautionary note. The fact is; science has not been able to determine conclusively how far climatic tipping points could take us. Global temperatures could rise to the range of 66 Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit) and beyond in vast areas of the planet bringing on ocean water rise by 61 meters (200 feet) thus inundating land mass now inhabited by over half of the world’s population and destroying vast agricultural land.
We are living in dangerous times.
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics.
He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. It is about a necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival.
David is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program. Over his career he was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions.