“Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.”
–Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1964
Sea levels are rising, droughts are spreading, winter is colder, summer is hotter, the ice caps are melting, and climate has generally gone out of control. There are Bird flu, swine flu, bees are disappearing, and bugs are consuming entire forests. Indeed, Earth is tilting more and more out of balance.
President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology warned that if the U.S. and other countries do not act fast enough to halt the changing climate, changes that scientists refer to as a “tipping point” will occur:
- “Earth could be as close as six years away from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice, he said, and that has the potential of altering the climate in unforeseen ways.
- The release of frozen methane from thawing permafrost in Siberia.
- More and bigger wildfires worldwide.”
Obama’s advisors also warned of severe droughts and the rise of sea levels. The situation is so serious that John Holden, Obama’s chief science advisor, suggested considering “Shooting sulfur particles into the upper atmosphere,” to artificially cool off the atmosphere.
But how did Earth come to such a state? We would like to offer a different approach to answering that question, one that deals with the root of the problem rather than with its manifestations.
Balance and Reciprocity
To understand why earth is tilting off balance, let’s briefly look at the term “Nature.” The first image that comes to mind at the thought of the word “Nature” might be one of trees, landscapes, or animals. These are all parts of nature, but they are only elements of a much broader system. A wider-angle perspective reveals that Nature is far more than plants, animals, and mountains. Nature is a regulation system that is responsible for the proper functionality and well-being of all of its part. This regulatory system encompasses the whole of reality, and strives to bring all its elements into balance and harmony.
If we isolate elements in nature and examine them separately, they will seem to us as though they are functioning independently. But if we consider their functionality within the entire system, we will see that each element relinquishes self-benefit to contribute to the creation of a harmonious system in which all work for the common good.
A bird’s eye view of Nature reveals that this regulatory system applies to each of Nature’s elements. It is a body comprised of a myriad of organs, and the harmony among them enables the continuity of all life.
An ant colony, for instance, consists of millions of ants that act in perfect unison. But the colony is only a part of numerous other elements—which often seem competing—that together form a balanced ecosystem.
Examples of the fascinating co-relations in Nature abound: bees pollinating flowers, vultures eating carcasses left to rot by predators, dung beetles feeding off of other animals’ feces, etc..
Then there is man. Examples of how humans misuse Nature are so ubiquitous that it seems redundant to even mention them. In fact, it would be quite safe to say that there is not a single realm of human engagement in which we do not throw Nature off balance.
The Missing Link
While a lion preys on a Zebra only to fill its stomach, man enjoys his superiority over others. The human race is the only creature that wishes to exploit the environment for its own self-interest. We never settle for what we have; we take from the environment far more than what we really need, and we take pleasure in others’ pains.
At the base of human social behavior stands the ego, which always prefers self-interest to the shared common good. But whether or not we are aware of it, we are part of Nature, and the fact that we feel that we are “above” it places us in a precarious situation. If we want to help ourselves, we must begin with the only cause that breaches Nature’s balance: us.
1) In Relation to Earth
We must be more considerate of Earth, understand that we are living on a small planet, and that we are all interdependent. We have no other Earth to run to when we’ve exhausted and polluted this one beyond return, so we must behave now with the understanding that if we do not act responsibly, our children will have nowhere to live.
2) Human Relations
Curbing CO2 emissions and recycling to help Earth’s ecology are all important and worthy actions we must take. Yet, in our current self-centered frame of mind, they are as effective as aspirin to cancer. These measure might make us feel better momentarily but they do not resolve the true problem.
Only when we begin to change human relations will we begin to restore Nature’s overall balance. If we keep in mind that the only element in the world that is off balance is our egotism, we will not forget that it is also the only thing requiring mending.
To address that, we must cultivate educational programs that promote mutual consideration, equality, and most importantly—the understanding of Nature in general and human nature in particular. We should empower educational institutions to initiate these programs in each country and worldwide through a globally coordinated effort. The infrastructure and institutions to induce this change already exist; we must simply decide together that we want to make it happen.
When we create relationships of mutual consideration and care, we will be in unison with Nature, and thus invert the current downward path of humanity into a bright future of harmony and peace.