Most of us grew up in a family. Maybe as a single child of a single mother, or as one of many children and a mother and father, or as children of a mother and a father who left and a new father who appeared, and so on. But probably all children everywhere start life thinking that all people are as we are, whoever that we is.
Growing up is finding out that many, most, other people are not like we are. I, and millions of other children, grew up in two worlds. From the time I could talk, I talked two languages, knowing that I must talk one way to my parents and a few others, talk another way to everybody else. Soon enough learned that everybody else was not a homogenous group either, they spoke many languages, had different customs, behaved differently.
Humankind has become a chaos of differences. All the same in that we have two arms, two legs, a head. We all eat, but we eat different kinds of food, at different times of day, in very different quantities. We dress differ- ently, we adorn ourselves differently. But most important, we think different- ly about almost everything. So different that all over the world people kill each other because... Well, because lots of reasons, none of them rational.
I am very old, have lived and worked in several very different parts of the world with very different people. The 20 th century was a time of expansion, what we called progress, endless number of inventions, changes, mixing of peoples and cultures.
Now almost half a century ago I happened to get to know a tribe of people who were different from all the differences; they were remnants of how we all were a few thousand years ago. They had none of the things that define modern humans: no money, no weapons, no country, no government, not even clothes or shoes. They did not have those things and did not want them. They might use an iron pot to cook in occasionally. Sometimes there was a knife or machete. They did not know the concept of "owning."
Of course they also thought very differently than we do. They had grown up in a kind of family that was "flexible." No father and mother but seven or eight men, women, adults and children, that changed. Someone left, another person came. But always tight with each other; affectionate, loving. Babies were held by everyone 24 hours a day for the first few years. Babies often nursed by more than one woman. They avoided conflict of any kind by intense awareness of their environment, hiding. They grew up thinking of themselves as "we." And from an early age that We included animals and plants. They knew themselves as part of nature. As Native Americans said in many different ways "the four footed, the feathered, are my brothers, plants my cousins."
The first thing we, civilized humans, learn is that I am a unique individual, I have a name, a family, a world that is apart from nature. As an "I" it is difficult to imagine another kind of thinking, although that ancient thinking iswhat all humans knew only a few thousand years ago. We lived like that the first many thousands of years of being human.
The greatest and most important difference between the two kinds of human is that one lived sustainably, within nature; the other apart from nature and therefore unsustainably.
It should be clear to us now after some major events this year and last that climate change is here and that it is the greatest threat humans have ever had to face. The fact that the richest and most powerful country on earth does not face this challenge is a national shame and probably will have extreme consequences for all humans everywhere.
In addition to making the planet warmer, much warmer, we have also for a few hundred years systematically and thoughtlessly eradicated thousands of plant and animal species. The planetary ecology needs variety to be bal- anced. It should be obvious by now that we, humans, have allowed to make our own human world, as well as the natural world, utterly unequal. One single species dominating all of nature without a thought for consequences. Our illusionary thinking that we can control Life is cutting our own roots.
How can we not accept climate change? We who are proud of and benefit from the sciences that make our life style possible deny other sciences that keep telling us that what we are doing to the planet is causing climate change. We knew about global warming 40 years ago; we knew that we were the cause of it. But our leaders and their media decided that other things were more important. What I see today is an addiction to money and to violence. Both modern inventions and both making ever more grossly unequal societies.
For almost half my life I have studied and wondered what made us change from non-violent joyful people who owned nothing to warring, immensely unequal, unthinking destroyers of their own planet. It seems more possible every day that if we continue to change the planet, we may well effect the survival of our own species.
I learned from an ancient kind of human how we all lived in order to survive for so long. Living in the middle of an ecology, stronger than some and weaker than others. Knowing ourselves an integral part of all Life. Living in small groups, close to each other, relying on the environment for food and shelter. What I read about other First People confirmed my observations. It was unthinkable for them to kill for sport, to eradicate whole species. We would not have survived for more than a hundred thousand years if we had been as warlike, intolerant, destructive, as we are now.
Recently read A Green History of the World; the Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations, by Clive Ponting, - 1991. Green and environment are my passion. Hard to read, the type is small, the lines close together. A mass of facts, numbers, statistics, which must have taken the author a life time to find and organize. It is so full of detail that it is hard to find the theme. The theme is that Europeans have systematically erased thousands of plant and animal
species for maybe six centuries. Recorded in great detail: what species of bird went extinct in what year and why. And that for thousands of plants and animals.
The first 18 pages are devoted to a fairly detailed story of Easter Island which has become the iconic example of humans cutting all trees on their island and so making their own survival impossible without the help of others. But if we indeed destroy enough species on our planet there are no others outside to rescue us. From page 19 the book is pages and pages of the species of plants we considered weeds, or unpleasant to look at, and systematically killed. Local and regional governments paying for the eradication of an unending list of trees we didn't like. Bounties paid for the eradication of animals. Killing entire species for sport.