Just what have we done with the garden bequeathed to us? From outer space our beautiful blue planet has no divisions, pandemics or degradation. On the ground - the same blue planet is torn asunder by violence, greed and reckless disregard for planetary care. Can we fix the planet? That is the wrong question. Our present values and patterns of consumption are the architects of the present global ecological emergency. We remain ignorant to the consequences of the fact that everything interconnects. The right question is: can we fix ourselves? Can we change the mindset that has created the global ecological emergency? We must embark on a different kind of human journey – different to the crazed ego, greed and power traits that characterize our collective and presently mindless sojourn. We are neglectful of the fact that we depend on this tiny planet for everything. Nevertheless, I give the reader a promise - this slim volume provides understanding, issues a call for the adventure of changing the existing world order by arriving at a deep understanding of what needs to be done in terms of changing our minds. Then I provide guidelines for action.
Part One: Gaia, Science and the Teachings
For an opener I talk to you about Mother Earth – Gaia - from the perspective of science, with a dive into Dr. James Lovelock’s provocative findings. In The Revenge of Gaia (2006) Lovelock extends the impeccable logic that produced the Gaia Hypothesis to argue that the planetary control system, which has worked to maintain conditions suitable for human life, is now working against us. Temperature rise is presently a product of this control system. The interconnecting feedback loops that constitute Gaia so intensify global warming that it now appears to be beyond human control. Lovelock concludes that billions of us will die with only a few breeding pairs left in the Arctic Circle. The Earth itself is not in danger - we are. We have allowed the environment to become an extension of human egocentric needs and values an egosphere rather than an ecosphere. In this egosphere we consume mindlessly in the global economy without regard for ecosystem balance or concern about creating inequality and poverty between and within countries. To survive on Planet Earth, industrial civilization must wake up and no longer ignore its interconnectedness with the changing planetary web of life or disrupt the control functions of the biosphere. Our blue planet is already creating a new equilibrium that will not support a habitable eco-niche for a Western style industrialized world.
I move investigation into Gaia as Metaphor and Gaia as Social Movement. Not to dispute the science of Gaia Theory but to bring the ball into my park – Consciousness. The necessary inner work to change our mindset is to do an end run round Lovelock’s conclusions about human breeding pairs in the Arctic. I bring the reader’s attention to the Hero’s Journey – a favourite story told and retold in all cultures of the world – and honor the vision of Black Elk, the legendary Oglala Sioux medicine man. His vision of the hoops of all nations interconnecting in strength and harmony is the reality achieved once we tame our wild mind.
The Failsafe in Consciousness concept was created in my 2002 work The Essential Spiral to describe how consciousness expansion will be held back by a deliberately cultivated ignorance about better knowledge. That is until the global ecological situation deteriorates to a breaking point. This breaking point will then act as a catalyst, exposing such ignorance. At which point consciousness is propelled into expansion, deliberation and change. My vision is a positive one. I believe that humanity, drawing on a new consciousness, can create new structures and organizations out of which emerge the radical solutions to address the endemic environmental crises facing us. We have the knowledge to create this, but the obstacles that stand in the way are the attitudes, values and concepts that define the present dominance of corporate values. Rampantly consolidated through “turbo-capitalism.” The necessary clarity will emerge, once our thoughts, values and attitudes shift and no longer sustain and feed our internal pollution. This is the radical internal Climate Change necessary to engage intelligently with the external Climate Change.
Part Two: Failsafe in Consciousness
To make Failsafe
a robust concept I identify three major interconnected components:
of the 1992 Rio Conference on the environment simplified matters, as it
enabled a booming clarity to emerge. With irreversible changes in the planetary
web of life and the catastrophic environmental disasters that are ensuing,
there is now only one strategy available:
I look directly at the possibility that humanity is a failed genetic experiment. But once we clearly recognize this as a possibility, we know for sure that despair and denial will do us no good. Instead, a window opens in our mind for peace and steadiness to enter, which could then propel our species to live differently so that we may have a future on planet earth. This requires a mass awakening of attributes that run counter to the bottom line of turbo-capitalism and the ecology of greed. In Part One of Failsafe I conclude that we have ten years. That is a very long time for mindful behavior to take root. The methods for doing this rapidly are laid out in the following chapter – Part Three: This Moment Heals All Moments.
Part Three: This Moment Heals All Moments
Humanity has faced many crises – threats of hominid extinction in the early days of evolution, the Black Plague, Spanish Flu, and World Wars to end all wars. Today it is Global Warming and International Terrorism. Although time and space provide different defining contours, a similar human response is required for each crisis. What is required are mature, steady people who have done the internal work. Who are totally in the present moment. Not haunted by fears of the past or traumatised by anxieties about the future. Just steady, right here in the present moment. Capable of healing all moments.
Albert Einstein remarked that if there is a religion that could cope with modern societal crises it would be Buddhism. I examine this statement before expanding this chapter into the wisdom of the elders and the insights to be gleaned from world mythology. The Buddha’s teachings are about the mind and what to do when the mind is so overwhelmed by suffering that there seems to be no way out. I describe teachings and practices most relevant to the present historic crisis humanity is facing. We can see if they ring an authentic bell. I draw on teachings about humanity and nature being totally interconnected. That if we want to look after humans we have to look after Mother Earth. Just as important is that if we wish to take care of Mother Earth we must also take good care of ourselves. “The taking care of” is through meditation, the practice of mindfulness, realizing that interconnectedness is a fact of life and furthermore, being aware of the consequences of our actions. These aspects are to be found in many spiritual traditions, particularly aboriginal ones. Yet neglect, ignorance and exploitation of the earth are the present order of the day whatever the spiritual tradition.
The Buddha had a game plan. Similar insights are to be found in aboriginal and mythological wisdom. All provide practices and guidelines to re-train the mind and strongly throw away wrong perceptions. It is a matter of organic gardening in the mind in order to create a new consciousness. We must deal with our “stuff” – including our ridiculous consumption patterns. Driven by our most prominent cultural traits – watching TV and shopping. Here we are struggling with how to deal with terrorism, violence, environmental degradation and war while folk just shop until they drop and watch Reality TV! I bring mindfulness trainings about consumption to the fore and also focus on the cultivation of Right Speech. We cannot afford to be trapped by our ego narratives at this time of crisis and great transition. If the mind that runs the mouth is not trained there is sure to be strife. We re-train the mouth by retraining the mind that runs the mouth.
There is clear guidance from a body of myths worldwide that deal directly with human consciousness and the environment. The Tree of Life myths connect the planet, universe and human beings in a template of astonishing similarity in culture after culture. There are no accidents in these sacred narratives. Their motif is a simple message. The human commitment to be present at the center of one's being is what conjoins Mother Earth with the Universe and Humanity. The myths also graphically represent the alternative - chaos, destruction and breakdown. Yet always hold out the possibility of re-creation given the same human choice to be present at the center. Our global 21st century culture is in the midst of chaos, destruction and breakdown. The Tree of Life myths are fresh and current. They speak to us directly, guiding us to return to being fully present so we can transform the current global ecological emergency.
Several years ago at the beginning of spring after a severe winter in Canada, I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony with respected elders from the Ojibway, Dene and Mohawk First Nations. It took place in a remote part of Ontario and we camped close to a newly constructed Inipi, specially built for this sweat lodge ceremony. Inside the lodge the prayers offered were very moving. We made deeply personal and collective commitments to serve the Earth Mother, to do all that we could to heal her and ourselves. At the end of the final round of the ceremony we emerged into the pristine beauty of a late snowfall under a clear star studded sky. There had been a two-inch snowfall while the sweat lodge was in progress. We walked barefoot in silence to where we were camping. Quiet smiles, not thinking too much. My smile grew immense when looking back at our footprints in the snow. I gestured to my companions to stop and look. Words were not appropriate. We all smiled with the same recognition and looked at one another with new eyes. It was as though these were the first footprints witnessed on Mother Earth. Such a vision strengthened our commitment and resolve. Business as usual was no longer possible for us. Share the epiphany, as it is no longer possible for you either, dear reader. What can help us to truly serve the Earth Mother? We can use instruments of mindfulness with their effect of freeing the human mind from suffering. Another way is to remember the Wisdom of the Elders and what our myths have been telling us from time immemorial.
Part Four: Quantum Leap - The Big Morph
The present intolerable and non-sustainable global market rests on economic structures kept in place by very powerful cabals of international finance capitalists. Their power over financial markets operates with very little political control from national and international regulatory bodies. This is an extremely unusual cultural development – the overwhelming focus on the accumulation of wealth as an end in itself. Lacking in any awareness or responsibility for the societal and environmental consequences of highly organized greed. It should go without saying that a paradigm shift in values is essential - the point of this book about Failsafe in Consciousness. The structures that encase us at present create environmental degradation and must be replaced. It is clear that a new design structure is required for globalization. The 2003 World Trade Organization development round in Cancun hit a brick wall of opposition from developing member countries. The erosion of this powerful world body is imminent. Yet this crisis provides an opportunity for its radical restructuring with fresh new logic and novel methods of financial instrumentation. Fortunately, concerned scientists, scholars and politicians have gathered over the past decade in Europe to fashion a new structure to replace the market fundamentalism that has caused such devastation to the planet and its peoples. The new structure for economics, society, environment and world governance is the Global Marshall Plan – A Planetary Contract (Radermacher 2004). It can be summarized in three evolutionary quantum leaps:
One. Dr. James Tobin received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1981. He always held true to the notion that the science of economics was about improving the happiness of mankind. The Tobin Tax was an idea he came up with in 1972 to curtail currency speculation. He proposed a very modest tax of 0.01%, then 0.02% of value traded, be levied on all foreign exchange transactions in order to limit speculation. He was somewhat embarrassed at later becoming the darling of the anti-globalization movement, yet his suggested tax is a profound insight whose time has surely come, as it would generate over $40 billion per annum in funds. If the tax went directly to support the UN, then in a single stroke the UN would be free of corporate and political blackmail. Furthermore, it would have the power and ability to act on behalf of humanity – to at last carry out the mandate it was designed for. The Tobin Tax became the first of three financial initiatives proposed by the Global Marshall Plan. The second aspect of financially restructuring globalization is the Terra Tax on global trade to be used to fund development investments to the tune of a further $40 billion annually. The third aspect is the establishment of an IMF investment fund of $30 billion plus a further $40 billion in aid of developing countries for special drawing rights that would provide a new direction for money flow. So it actually reaches local people and enterprises rather than sticking to the fingers of corrupt intermediaries. These financial instruments, delivered through different mechanisms to those presently in place, will enable the necessary financial restructuring for an Eco-Social Market Economy. This is fundamental to the success of the Global Marshall Plan.
Two. The WTO takes on a new mandate for responsible globalization with equitable provisions for humanity and the environment. It becomes the instrument through which the Global Marshall Plan is implemented. In this way civil society reclaims political democracy through the Global Marshall Plan as the organizing paradigm to take care of the global ecosystem and usher in the era of an Eco-Social Market Economy. Such a market structure has responsibilities for human justice issues and the eradication of poverty. Corporate culture is no longer allowed to freely make and enforce the rules for global culture and planetary care. A new structure of global governance emerges, but interestingly is still deeply founded on free markets. Far from eroding profitable business enterprises, this orientation assures that the most balanced, resourceful and market-sensitive companies will be the most competitive. This calls for a radical breakthrough in the collective human consciousness to make these changes possible. That these measures are already incorporated in a well thought out Global Marshall Plan indicates that the Failsafe in Consciousness concept is no longer a notion – it has taken on concrete form.
Three. The UN oversees and regulates the newly restructured WTO, or takes steps to create the appropriate structure. Ultimately it is the UN that is given the mandate and resources to regulate world trade through a reformed WTO. It not only facilitates world trade based on a holistic economy but also mediates between corporate culture and the public interest of communities and ecosystems around the world.
Because of the already gathering forces of social pressure the WTO cannot remain as it is. It must change, particularly as there would be no “post environment economy” to exploit. That is the message to the present structure of globalization based on market fundamentalism. And to the powerful cabals that control it. The new structure encourages profits, yet within a framework of responsibility. The Global Marshall Plan is based on new concepts and financial instruments to structure world trade so that it is in synchronicity with humanitarian concerns and environmental protection. The goal is to produce an Eco-Social Market Economy that provides a new direction for globalization. It features new structures to co-finance and equalize development worldwide resting on novel taxes on international financial transactions, on world trade and providing special drawing rights on the IMF. This would provide the billions of dollars required to bring about a global economic miracle, which at the same time is environmentally responsible. This radical proposal has the support of prominent politicians, scholars and organisations in Europe as well as business leaders. Furthermore, it has the solid support of the European Union to implement such a Planetary Contract as the first step to creating a worldwide Eco-Social Market Economy by 2015. It is intended as a viable replacement for the present maladaptive world of free trade.
Part Five: Taming the Wild Mind
A farmer came across a wild horse in the mountains and captured it. Once the horse was tethered to a tree he placed a bridle round the noble creature’s nose and climbed up onto its powerful, broad back. The horse took off like a thunderbolt and exploded with speed, racing through villages and over the plains. One villager shouted out to the rider – “Where are you going so fast?” The farmer shouted back “I don’t know – better ask the horse!”
We are that farmer and the horse galloping away to unknown places is our wild mind. We have to restrain that wild mind, by putting ropes round the horse first to calm, then to tame the wild creature. That is what our practice of mindfulness does to the wild mind, whatever the tradition. We use instruments of breath, of ceremony, of being aware of our actions, speech and thought. Our life experiences are the laboratory where we can consciously choose to cultivate compassion and wholesomeness within our heart and mind. Then the wildness diminishes and the dark afflictions in our mind dissolve. The wild horse is transformed into a trusted companion.
I trace a particular journey in Part Five: Taming The Wild Mind – my own. Not to provide any formula or recipe but to bring home to the reader that there is internal work to do, with attention to our anger, fear, ignorance, discrimination and greed. It does not matter what spiritual, martial arts discipline or yoga practice is drawn upon. It just matters that we get on with the task of reining in and taming our wild mind.
Once the wild mind is reined in, then clarity and compassion are suddenly there to provide the basis for how we are with the planet and with one another. The account of one person’s journey – mine - is to demonstrate that my activism for peace, planetary care and social justice now comes from a very different place. Steadiness, clarity and compassion are there rather than ego posturing and anger from the lunatic fringe! Though there was certainly a “rush” from the latter, I now prefer a stillpoint that is not colored by the excesses of ego or the desire for control and kudos. Such a stillpoint permits me to be free in my own sovereignty - no matter what I am doing. It also permits me to serve the planet and humanity with joy, in a way of creating balance and harmony that makes sense. It is all so seemingly effortless. Nothing to do except be present with our mind, our consumption and the structures we create with our mind.
Appendix I: Simple Steps to Empowerment
Many years ago in India I had an audience with Sai Baba. I was visiting this sage’s ashram in Andra Pradesh with an Indian friend. As he slowly walked through the morning gathering, to my utter surprise Sai Baba stopped in front of me. He spoke to me for quite a while. Somehow he knew of my commitment to environmental concerns. I remember very little of what was said - except for one sentence that blazed into my mind and stayed there. Sai Baba said to me that a transformation in human consciousness required 2% of the population to meditate on a daily basis. I have no clue about the knowledge source for his pronouncement, but I do remember vividly the “buzz” of energy in my mind and body when I heard it. I translated this wisdom into a 2% option. If only I, and others, could encourage 2% of the people we knew to change their lifestyles to one of voluntary simplicity then the environmental crisis could be averted. If everybody did so, then the planet would indeed be safe. This would involve conserving energy usage, being aware of the knock-on effects of consumerism and doing one eco-friendly action every day. This may seem rather naïve, but to me the 2% option was readily do-able and within the grasp of everyone. The end result of a transformed consciousness would lead to different questions being asked and different solutions found. There would be a new mind-set to make the necessary decisions for change.
The obstacles preventing people taking wise action with regard to the Global Ecological Emergency are a mixture of fear, despair, sheer laziness, disempowerment and a sense of hopelessness. “What on earth can I do to make a difference?” is a phrase muttered all over the world in countless languages followed by “So why should I do anything?” There is global awareness, but also fear about our future place on planet earth. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable. Yet please take hold of the 2% option that creates the opportunity for ordinary citizens like you and me to make a radical difference. Mass awakening does not mean that everyone “wakes” up – just 2%. This spearhead would provide a catalyst, the strategic tipping point, to get things moving in the right direction.
The challenge is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness. Take small steps at first, then larger ones. We do not have to be caught by the fast pace of consumer madness and all that goes with it in terms of squandering energy. We just need to make some essential changes - be television free for several evenings, write in a journal, meditate, sort the clutter of the mind and cultivate a mindful approach to everyday living. Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place, being more aware of our consumerism, making deliberate choices about how we spend time and money rather than living on the automatic pilot of busyness. Supporting environmental causes with the stored goods in the basement, always thinking about whether we really “need” to buy. Enjoy being simple and living true by shifting our perceptions just a little bit. Not a big deal really. Let us all examine what we do with time, money, clutter and our choices. And change. Then see whether the consequences are peace and happiness.
Where do we
start? Of course we must think globally and step beyond the smaller pictures
of ourselves created out of fear and disempowerment. Yet we begin by acting
locally with great vigour in our families and communities, so that our
intentions spread as ripples from a pebble dropped in still water. In addition
to holding officials, politicians and corporate culture to account let
us begin with the small things that all of us can do. While at the same
time alerting the political and corporate decision makers that we do mean
business as voters and consumers deeply concerned about the planet and
our location on it. Our leaders are a manifestation of our collective will.
When the collective will changes, our leaders will act differently. Appendix
I has a few suggested guidelines. Browse your way through:
A massive global citizen response will elicit an equally massive government and corporate response, as the bottom-up movement and top-down strategies for drastic change meet and integrate. There is not room in this Global Ecological Emergency for separating into “US’ and “THEM” categories. We are totally interconnected whether we like it or not. We will all live together or we will all die together. An intelligent and all encompassing green ideology embedded in everything we produce and market is a means to bridge competing agendas. Our dependence on fossil fuels reduces because we are aware of the deadly consequences of our addiction to oil and coal. The transition to a carbon neutral global energy system over the next few decades will be costly and require a massive response from government and corporate leaders to initiate the second industrial revolution. This is necessary to blunt the impact of climate change. It is a huge global industrial project that governments and corporations can bring about because of citizen pressure to “Make It So!” On the stock market “eco-tech” is seen as the next big global industrial thing! Global warming has certainly entered public consciousness. All of these threads just have to penetrate the corridors of political and corporate power. As global citizens we must find the ways and means to support the shift in consciousness at all levels of global society to make this so – the Failsafe notion.
Our future existence, and the existence of other species on planet earth, depends on your making a new beginning for all of us.