From various altercations I've had on the Internet I've come to the realization that people who "speak" ecology and people who "speak" economics are operating in orthogonal (i.e. mutually perpendicular) frameworks.
As a result, each side's position appears religious to the other. I've often been accused of operating from a "faith-based" perspective, but from the ecological side of the fence I see their position as being at least as faith-based as they see mine. (OK, OK, their position is much more religious than mine, but I'm going for politeness points here.)
The difference between the two positions has little to do with classical intelligence. Nobody with a normal-range intelligence is cognitively incapable of understanding ecological issues. It's more a matter that people have an internal narrative that they use to describe and give meaning to the world they live in. People have a neuro-psychological need to believe their perceptions are correct, so they reflexively discount, discard or block out any evidence that contradicts their narrative.
Shifting that narrative requires a psychological quantum leap that usually comes in a flash of insight. The person's intelligence remains unchanged in the process of course, but the way they understand the world can change dramatically in moments. It's not a case of there being a "secret knowledge" that is only available to an elite. It's that our internal narratives are reinforced from within (by our own brain development and psychology) and without (by the stories our culture tells us) to such an extent that radical shifts in narrative are rare.
The jump from an economic to an ecological consciousness (from "homo economicus" to "homo ecologicus") can be triggered by new information that is so dramatic that it breaks through our psychological protective mechanisms. However, the two modes of perception are so different in the way they analyze the world that a heavy investment in one point of view can preclude the possibility of change even in the face of physical evidence.
Since the ecological perspective is so recent, the world at large still reinforces only the well-entrenched economic world-view. We all have close at hand an endlessly varied, socially reinforced series of convenient post-hoc justifications for the economically-framed decisions rendered by our unconscious minds. This makes the transition to the ecological paradigm very difficult – the shift requires a person to assimilate new information, process old information in a new and radically different way, and do it all in the face of constant negative reinforcement from the media (including people on the Internet), educational systems, political power structures and even the legal system.
I'll never forget the day about four years ago when I suddenly understood the implications of Peak Oil. I felt like I'd taken the red pill and abruptly awoke in a completely new and unsuspected reality. From that point on almost all the information I uncovered about the state of the natural world, the way we humans live in it and the reasons we behave as we do painted the outlines of a system that was very near the breaking point. As time went on, I came to understand that we were not just near the breaking point, we were already at it.
The truth of my new perception proved impossible to communicate to those who had not undergone a similar epiphany – while for those who had, no explanation was necessary. To those who didn't get it, I was speaking pure defeatism. For those who did, it was simple realism. Those who get it understand that to respond to a great crisis you need to understand it fully in order not to waste time pursuing avenues that are unworkable or counterproductive. Those who don't get it look on any such critique as obstructionism that doesn't recognize the boundless inventiveness of the human mind. Those who don't get it think every problem has a solution. Those who do get it understand that we are not facing a problem, but rather a predicament, with the obvious distinction that while problems have solutions, predicaments may not. Those who get it tend to think in terms of adaptations or mitigations, rather than solutions.
People who make this jump move their worldview into a frame of reference that is largely incomprehensible to those still working from the old story. As a result their new perceptions tend to be derided as "faith-based" because the inner logic of the new frame is not derivable from the old.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Dec-25-2008)
You are probably correct aboot the effects of peak oil on the System of systems, but I think you give humans too much credit for their actions.
We do things. We have reasons for doing things. In that order. The left brain works very hard to make us believe that we acted with forethought and intent, when the reality is that most people behave more like yeast; consuming and reacting to environmental conditions (intense, coercive marketing is an environment) with their brain stem and gonads. Logic and reasoning power is used to justify after the fact how stupid we really are. The best methods of government and action are the moderating systems which we build with this in mind. As soon as we 'reduce regulation' or allow 'free thinking initiative' in the masses, things are consumed until they fall apart. Homo Foolselficus
I am a Canadian ecologist with a passionate interest in outside the box responses to the converging crisis of industrial civilization.
The crisis of civilization is not simply a convergence of technical, environmental and organizational problems. These are symptoms that are themselves being driven by a philosophical and perceptual disconnection so deep that it is best understood as a spiritual breakdown. The disconnection goes by the name of Separation.
Our sense of separation is what allows us to see ourselves as different from and superior to the rest of the apparently non-rational universe we live in. In this worldview the complex mutual interdependence of all the elements of the universe is replaced by a simple dualistic categorization: there are human beings, and everything else in the universe—without exception—is a resource for us to use.
The only way to keep this planet, our one and only home in the universe, from being ultimately ravaged and devastated is to change our worldview and heal our sense of separateness. Unless we can manage that breathtaking feat all the careful application of technology, all the well-intentioned regulations, all the unbridled cleverness of which we are so proud will do little to delay the final outcome, and nothing whatever to prevent it.
My desire is to find ways to heal that sense of separation, with the goal of helping us prepare for ecological adulthood.