Industrial cleverness, empty plates and primal anxieties

How do you live comfortably with knowledge that terrifies you?


Lately I’ve been getting a bit overwhelmed by the world.

Nothing new.

It’s been nearly 8 years since my own personal awakening.

An uncomfortable and challenging realisation that I’m living on a planet which is being gradually globalised and destroyed largely by an industrial, capitalist, material growth machine fuelled by a consumerist monoculture.

Not a total breakdown, but close.

Since then, I’ve been trying to lead a more examined life, making conscious efforts to try and notice what is happening around me, trying to make regular space to step back from the frantic, mediated ‘modern’ life.

Trying to notice stuff, to reflect on things, to become more aware of my own behaviours, my role and impacts , what’s happening through me and my actions? How are things making me feel, what am I buying, why am I buying it?

It’s sometimes quite exhausting but I couldn’t imagine living without that consciousness and awareness now.

I’m also trying to be less distracted (internet/work) and be more present to those close to me, especially my family and failing often at that practice.

Critically I’ve been working on deepening my own connections and relationships with the natural world around me.

Working on the soul.

I tend to oscillate wildly between a beautiful hope, optimism and possibility for the future, imagining what could be, while regularly sinking into a dark sickening despair at the seemingly impossible shift away from a distracted, passive, materialistic culture, rapidly spreading across the world.

The main by-product of which (inequality, depression and poor health aside) is a terrifying, accelerating destruction of ecosystems and the biosphere which supports all life, humans too.

Along with a rapidly changing climate with implications beyond our limited understanding. A view seemingly supported by the worlds most brilliant scientists.

Though you’d never guess it through the dominant discourse of politics and mainstream media, which still see us humans as some sort of pinnacle species totally separate from ‘environment’. And oblivious to the impacts of our continual extraction, destruction and consumption of natural resources.

We are at war with nature.

Tuesday’s news that sent me into that dark place was of the overwhelming evidence of the toxic impacts on soils and life supporting biodiversity through our industrial use of the pesticides neonicotinoids.

This is beyond Bees, this is the sort of thing that might just cause an entire food system to collapse. Scientists say the evidence is ‘impossible to deny’

It appeared in a few newspapers and was buzzing around on twitter, but gone in a day, onto more important tales of vampire footballers.

Of course, we’re only talking about poisoning our air, water and soil. Just the fundamental elements of life.

Destruction of other wonderful species aside — we’re talking about a potential collapse in the food systems which support millions of people, this isn’t going to be something just for poor folks, when a food system goes down, shit hits the fan for everyone, even if you’re rich.

Empty plates I imagine would be a proper leveller in society.

I get so frustrated, upset and depressed, I want to scream, and cry .

I want to talk about it, but I don’t want to freak my kids out.

But I want them to totally understand what is wrong about how we view the natural world in highly industrialised, western, developed (what does that really mean??) societies.

I want them to know that things as they are right now are not acceptable or any way sustainable, I want them to have that awareness, it’s not something the national curriculum is going to deliver to them. But I don’t want to scare them either.

It’s hard being a parent sometimes.

Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson is a book I’d make required reading in the nation curriculum.

It was written 50 years ago.

An extraordinary woman she profoundly demonstrated the interconnectedness of all life and how the industrialised approach to agriculture is so destructive.

She highlighted how the use of the chemical pesticide DDT in intensive food production was wiping out ecosystems and even people which led to an eventual ban.

But what have we learnt from it? 50 years later, not much by the looks of things.

Is Neonicotinoids the DDT of our time?

We invent new pesticides like most things now days through industrial cleverness, with no real sense of the wholeness of their impact beyond the specific separate task they are designed to tackle, because we can , we have no real idea of their long term toxicity and systemic impacts on the wider web of life.

How can we?

Our sense of modern time is so short, because industry and corporations demand it, quick decisions, short-term goals, no sense of past or future impacts , we just need to be able to monetise it. So we do.

Most civilisational collapses in history point to a number of common themes and nature destruction features strongly — usually a breakdown in the ecological support systems especially those linked to resources, soil and food production as well as climatic changes.

Sound familiar?

What we do to nature we do to ourselves.

It’s made me think again of Jared Diamond and his work on Collapsing civilisations — his 10 minute TED talk is well worth a watch.

The thing that gets me, is that if we know all this from history, what is stopping us from doing something about it now?

Why can we not see the problem and see what is happening and respond to it by seeking better solutions? Which we know exist.

We have so much intelligence, so much technological capability, but wisdom and spiritual capacity needed to counter balance our cleverness seems tragically weak.

I don’t know what to do.

Do other people notice what is going on around us?

I’m curious.

What are others seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling as they go about their modern lives?

Because a lot of what I’m sensing in the ‘modern’ world, is fairly toxic.

Are people conscious of what’s happening?

When I talk openly about this stuff with people, I often get the impression that they are sensing something is fundamentally wrong at this moment in time in human evolution — though they struggle to articulate exactly what.

Llewellyn_Vaughan-Lee talks of a ‘primal anxiety beneath the surface of our western material abundance’

My primal anxieties are 100% present and active.