A caterpillar is a eating machine, focused exclusively on consumption, much like a capitalist enterprise. But unlike a business, a caterpillar is a living organism, part of a larger process. At some point, it stops consuming, forms a protective chrysalis and completely dissolves, giving way to the emergence of a butterfly. The butterfly begins to form around several “imaginal buds” in the dissolved goop. The immune system of the caterpillar attacks these growing buds as enemies, which speeds up the assembly of the butterfly. A similar process may be at work within humanity.
Modern humans first appeared around 300,000 years ago, slowly increasing the population to 20 million 10,000 years ago when agriculture began. Increased food productivity allowed for faster population growth, and we reached one billion in 1800, at the start of the fossil fuel age. Then the population grew exponentially faster. Humans reached 2 billion in 1930, rising to nearly 8 billion today, with another billion over the next 12 years. Not only are there more of us, but the technological revolution has amplified our impact, so we each consume more in terms of food, resources and energy. Exponential growth on a finite planet is unsustainable. We are consuming the Earth to death.
This situation has been written, with growing concern, for decades, but like a stupid caterpillar, relentless consumption and economic growth prevailed. We are currently living at the forefront of the collapse of our fundamental biosphere.
As I write these lines, the Midwest is starting to assess the damage caused by a widespread extreme weather event, including an F5 tornado that has remained on the ground for over 200 miles, tearing the hearts of every community it has. affected. Climate change is increasingly difficult to deny, as the impact and costs increase every year. Species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. But maybe there’s a butterfly waiting in the dissolving goop of what we used to call normal. What could this butterfly look like?
The root of the dysfunction of our old civilization is the belief in the separation between people and nature: to act as if the exclusive gain at the expense of others and nature is progress. The consequences of this flawed model are now increasingly evident around the world. This suggests an alternative: a new civilization that embraces the deep and sacred connectivity of reality, an ancient perspective still honored by indigenous cultures. If we apply the technical knowledge we have gained over the past thousands of years to feeding all life on the planet, imagine what we could accomplish!
There is no model in human history for this type of massively conscious and cooperative society, but we can take inspiration from living systems, as life has dealt with these same issues for billions of years. Getting inspiration from life is called biomimicry. Our own body, a large multicellular organism, is a wonderful example of the kind of collective that could be born on Earth: to become a self-aware planet. In such a connected system, killing the other is tantamount to committing suicide, so we could eliminate all the resources, anxiety, and energy currently spent on “defense”, and these organized systems could instead work to cleanse them. damage that we have created, improve the quality of life of all beings. In a connected world, extreme wealth inequity would be recognized as a dangerous form of disease, like gangrene in the body, and not something to be envied or praised. Mankind has grown to the point of driving all other species to extinction, disrupting the larger order in the same way obesity causes other bodily systems to fail.
This vision requires a shift within our dominant human consciousness, which may seem impossible. But this message has been taught for thousands of years. Next Saturday it is Christmas, in honor of the birth of Christ, who declared that the most important commandments were: “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30 and 31 ). It is an affirmation of the unity of life, which is found in all the spiritual traditions of the Earth.
We each have the power to choose to live from this perspective of unity. It is the butterfly that emerges. All the people who hate and work to prevent this from happening, trying to preserve the old exclusive order, are like the dying caterpillar’s immune system. But this system has disappeared. The future is the butterfly.
Crispin B. Hollinshead lives in Ukiah. This article and previous articles are available at cbhollinshead.blogspot.com.