Floods, drought, natural fires, hurricanes, violent storms, massive species extinction, infrastructure collapse, terrorist attacks, starvation, economic disaster, climate change, water shortages, food shortages, soil depletion, war, pestilence and a lack of preparedness for geologic events like tsunamis and earthquakes.
What in the world is going on?
"We've lost sight of the fact that the non-living systems we've created and the natural ones we didn't create share the same planet...and on Earth, Life rules, we don't," says Ellen LaConte, author of the new book, Life Rules .
What she is describing is Critical Mass, a term borrowed from nuclear physics, which identifies "a point in time when enough of something has been literally amassed that a spontaneous transformation occurs."
Already we are seeing five symptoms of Critical Mass occurring in both rich and poor countries, including our own: hyper-urbanization, joblessness, poverty, dislocation and disease.
As we emerge from Critical Mass, says LaConte, we will either be on the path to our own extinction or we will evolve to a new consciousness where we conceive ourselves as a part of Life rather than as separate beings above it.
The culprit in this whole process, she says, is the global economy where humans have "seriously compromised Life's primary safeguard: the natural communities and ecosystems that comprise Earth's self-protective, self-healing equivalent of an immune system."
As a result, we have unwittingly imposed a disease-like syndrome on ourselves that she compares to HIV/AIDS where all life on earth has the potential of being extinguished-- including our own.
This is sobering stuff to read and it may remind some of James Lovelock's The Revenge of Gaia, one of many authoritative sources LaConte summons in her book.
So, if you are like me, you might be outdoors on a very lovely day enjoying the beauty and wonder of Nature. Suddenly, you feel a great sadness that it could all gradually disappear not just in our grandchildren's lifetime but in ours!
Thus arises the question: why do we continue to act so stupidly in the face of impending doom?
LaConte's answer is that "the Powers" (the top one percent of the economic pyramid) who are directing and making money on the global economy, are enticing the rest of us to enter the rat race, indulge in "conspicuous consumption," and use every last resource on Earth.
To operate the global economy "the Powers" have devised various "funny-money" tools and schemes that delude us into thinking (through the help of the mass media and advertising) we have a bottomless cornucopia of resources available to us--and no negative consequences. However, in looking at the past 10 years there is enough evidence for us to suspect that this belief is false and misleading: the 2008 financial crash, the fall of Enron, the huckstering of Madoff, food riots, famine in Somalia, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and 9/11 and other terrorist activities.
LaConte's account reminds me of Dr. Seuss' classic, The Lorax where Once-ler's workers cut down every last tree of the Trufulla Forest and used the foliage to knit Thneeds, a garment that, of course, everyone needed. Unfortunately, the forest-dwelling Bar-ba-Loots not only lost their food supply but they contracted a disease called "the Crummies because of gas and no food in their tummies." The Lorax tried in vain to warn the Once-ler of impending disaster to the community. He showed little remorse and then continued to expand his business until all the trees were gone.
The book, written in 1971--the heyday of the environmental movement--is actually based on the story of the overexploitation of Easter Island where the early Rapanui people cut down all the trees in order to transport 887 moai monuments (roll the monolithic human figures carved from rock on logs), into position. Their small island of Rapa Nui, the easternmost Polynesian island off the coast of Chile, was considered the "end of the world of the living" by the Europeans who discovered it in 1722.