A few months ago I was introduced to the idea of the " 100th monkey phenomena ." This phenomenon, first put forth by Lyall Watson in the late 1970s, is based on five respected articles published by Japanese primatologists reporting their observations of macaque populations on the island of Koshima (Imanishi 1963; Kawai 1963 and 1965; Kawamura 1963; and Tsumori 1967). As far as I can tell, this is based on verified research, but the interpretation offered by Watson is, I believe, vastly overstated.
flickr image By Peter Garnhum
Short version: at some point, one of the adolescent monkeys began washing its food. Others picked up this behavior, but it grew slowly, one monkey at a time over years, spreading among the young and only a few adults. The story goes that when a certain critical mass (the number 100 was used as an arbitrary example) was reached, most of the population was suddenly doing it. It spread like wildfire once that threshold was crossed. Nearly the whole population had learned an entirely new behavior. While many new-agers have spun this tale to the level of a mystical phenomena by which a group of believers could transform the planet by will, that is taking it way too far, in my opinion. I ascribe to this tale more of a motivating idea than any scientific statement, but the underlying concept seems to have some merit. Shortly after being exposed to this idea, I read an article on the transmission of beliefs through our culture, and it echoed this phenomena. What the researchers posited is that while new beliefs are very slow to catch on at first, once 10 percent of a group holds a new belief, the likelihood that a majority will adopt that belief increases dramatically.
This got me thinking about how our political leaders, with the collusion of the (for-profit) media, play upon irrational fears and beliefs to influence the attitudes and votes of the people. The tactic seems to be enjoying unmitigated success. It astounds me as I begin to understand the massive volume of disinformation and outright lies told by our politicians and news outlets, which are so often taken as truth by the populace. By way of this misdirection, we, the citizenry of the United States of America, have largely been set against each other, divided by issues and contentions that have little real consequence when compared to the challenges we face. While there is wide disagreement about when and how, many sage and erudite individuals have made foreboding statements about the near future: We are on the brink of crisis on multiple fronts and our civilization may well collapse cataclysmically within this century.
So, like Michael Ruppert , I'm searching for the 100th monkey: the critical mass of people that need to wake up to this reality so that all of us may begin to see. If enough of us start talking about it, everyone will talk about it. The truth will be undeniable. Now, before you define me as preachy, paranoid, lone nut, please hear me out on some points I believe are salient within this discussion.
The population of planet Earth has surpassed seven billion. At present rates of growth, that number will rise to 14 billion by 2100. Imagine double the demand on every resource there is. This will likely cause wars over resources and food in the near future. Our world civilization is utterly dependent upon oil. One barrel of oil represents approximately 23,000 man hours of labor insofar as the contribution it makes to our economies. It is not only used as fuel but in myriad other ways, from production of pesticides to plastics to electronics components. I have seen estimates that 80 percent of everything we do is dependent on crude oil. If we are unable to replace this effectively free energy source before it is gone, nearly every aspect of our civilization and economy will no longer be feasible. Our entire way of life will end if we cannot replace oil with something as rich in its ratio of energy output versus its cost to harvest. This is not a question, but a fact.
We will soon, if we have not already done so, pass peak oil production on a global scale. This means the supply will only diminish from now on. Put a different way, it is likely that we have already used up half or more of the total usable oil that exists on planet Earth. In examining the reserve statistics published by some of the oil-producing nations, one notices that stated reserves either remain steady or were increased dramatically in the 1980s. Also note that what the OPEC nations are allowed to produce per their agreements is limited by the size of their reserves. Does it not seem highly unlikely that while crude oil consumption is higher then ever, reserves are growing?
Emerging economies--populations that dwarf that of the United States--are coming into their own as oil consumers. These economies are late to the game and are not taking no for an answer when reckoning their oil use against the rest of the world. Why should they not do as was done by the Western nations? Why should they not also get a slice of the great oil pie? Right now, we are consuming more than anyone. Soon, our use could be as a drop in the bucket compared to the sum of the rest of the world. Now, our insane military budget begins to make sense--we will have to fight the rest of the world over the last scraps of oil very soon. It will take a LOT of military technology and hardware to fend off several billion oil consumers who want to drive their own cars just like we do.
The United States continually wages war and exports imperialism in the name of democracy and freedom. But, do any of us believe that these wars are not being fought for control of oil ? If the democratic ideal and humanitarianism are the main concerns, why are we not in Darfur, or Somalia, or any of the other countries where citizens are butchered by their governments? Because they don't have large reserves of natural resources that we need, that's why. Or, at least that's my opinion.
Our entire culture operates on massive energy consumption . Unless we take actions everyday which society at large still considers extraordinary, each individual in our industrialized society is consuming energy and resources at an alarming rate by simply sitting in their home. This is true unless every single utility-driven device and fixture (lights, heat, refrigerator, stereo, etc.) has been unplugged, deactivated, or disconnected. The average American home, based on environmental footprint, is consuming enough resources in a single day to sustain an average domicile in Puerto Rico for about 200 days under their average rates of use. Note that this is my own uninformed math based on global resource usage statistics quantified by hectares of land required to sustain that usage. Each U.S. citizen consumes, on average, eight hectares worth of resources, whereas our nation only contains about four productive hectares per person, leaving a deficit of about four hectares each--for every single one of us. This deficit represents other peoples' resources we are consuming.
The West's profligate squandering of resources will soon force other countries to cease sharing their "excess" resources with us. Many are beginning to understand that they actually cannot afford to let us have what is rightfully theirs, and, that Western businesses have been selling them a lie that they are backward and regressive while demanding their resources in exchange for fiat currency with no actual underlying value. They will eventually realize that, just like the Native Americans, they are giving away what is extremely precious in exchange for gewgaws and baubles. When the emerging economies have all reached the inevitable truth that the West's current path is one of absolute global ruin, what will we do then? Will we steal their resources by force? Will we wage war on the entire world? Will we make others our slaves?
What idea am I really selling here? The awareness of what we are doing, that's all. If we, as a society, are going to decide that short-term pleasure and convenience is worth squandering the future of the entire human race within a few generations, then we should be making this decision with full awareness of what we are doing. At present, I believe most know, at some level, these things are true. However, many of us downplay or refuse to acknowledge these facts because doing so means dealing with the deep shame and regret that comes with accepting the consequences of our actions. We all need to be talking about these realities instead of the breathtaking fallacy of unlimited economic growth and unlimited resources. If we can all be okay with living our lives aboard a train that is speeding toward a cliff, dragging the entire planet over the precipice with us, then so be it. However, and perhaps this is naive hope on my part, but, I believe that only the most abjectly selfish and egotistical individuals would make that decision with full knowledge of the consequences.
All I ask of you, the reader of this piece, is this: do not simply believe or deny what I have written here. Investigate my assertions. Find out the truth for yourself, then share it with others. Don't get angry and confrontational when others disagree, but instead talk to them calmly and treat information as what it is--a neutral quantity to be examined and perhaps learned from. Share your beliefs and opinions, and never be afraid to admit you are wrong or to recast your ideas in light of new information. In other words, don't forget to always grow, and as you grow, re-examine your ideas from each new plateau. This is what I am trying to promote. If we as individuals can all begin to approach life in this way, we can negate the lies and manipulations of those whose agendas demand we remain asleep, and we will finally see the truth of the dark, murderous reality behind our collective pursuit of hedonistic comfort and self-aggrandizement. Don't let fear, regret and guilt stop you. Healing these scars requires only that you reach out and communicate with others. Show them that what makes people truly happy is to live in a way they know is right and just, not to live a life of mindless consumption, comfortable ignorance, and complacence misidentified as happiness.
I have tired of wandering lazily down that primrose path. That way lies ruin. There shall we find dragons and monsters and the realization that the servants of the dragons and monsters have always been you and me and anyone else who sleepwalks through the American Dream not understanding the basis upon which it is built.
Are you the 100th monkey? There's only one way to find out--speak your mind and see what happens. Some day, the fire will catch. There is plenty of tinder--if enough of us strike a match, the divisive, extinguishing force of ignorance will be overcome, and, together, we can move on into a future based on truth and sustainability.