From the 35,000+ tons of floating plastic trash in our oceans, to the current extinction rate which has been accelerated to over 1,000x the natural background trends, to the 46-58 thousand square miles of deforestation that occurs each year, to the worsening air pollution worldwide, to the 448 million acres (181.5 million hectares) of genetically modified crops grown worldwide in 2014, something is terribly wrong with human behavior and the effect it is having on the planet. All major life-support systems of Earth’s various ecosystems are in decline. Are corporations to blame? Or do we blame governments, the economy, or average citizens?
The 5 Great Extinction Events (That We Know Of)
There are estimated to have been 5 great extinction events in Earth’s “known” history. Chronologically, they are:
- Ordovician-Silurian ~ 439 million years ago
- Late Devonian ~ 364 million years ago
- Permian ~ 251 million years ago
- Triassic-Jurassic ~ 199 million years ago
- Cretaceous-Tertiary ~ 65 million years ago
- Holocene ~ present
Holocene means “recent.” The word shares the prefix holo- (meaning whole or entire) with “holocaust.” The Holocaust was the genocide of millions of Homo sapiens sapiens, whereas the Holocene Extinction is the genocide of millions of other species.
Why do millions of other species get sent to their graves while humans are rewarded for their unsustainability? Our current geopolitical/socioeconomic system is inherently anthropocentric. We humans are the center of the universe and our behavior and activity is prioritized over extinction rates and the long-term sustainability of the environment.
The current global paradigm boils down to 3 main unsustainable paradigms: a) petrofascism and the stifling of sustainable energy sources; b) a self-preserving military/industrial complex; and c) a fiat monetary market driven by cyclical consumption. These 3 examples epitomize detachment from the natural order.
De-Extinction & Human Redemption
In Michael Crichton’s 1990 sci-fi novel Jurassic Park, billionaire John Hammond opens an amusement park/zoo where scientists brought dinosaurs back from extinction using DNA extracted from mosquitoes containing dinosaur blood.
In Technology, whatever can be done will be done.
― Andrew S. Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive
Entirely possible yet far from a being widely adopted, this process called de-extinction or resurrection biology could be a way for humans to undo the damage they caused to the planetary genome. While Jurassic Park paints a gloomy future for de-extinction by bringing back dangerous man-eaters from the past, there could likely be a much more pragmatic use for the science. Actually, de-extinction can only revive species that were lost tens of thousands of years ago but not millions of years ago because DNA cannot survive that long.
Only one successful attempt of species resurrection has been made where the embryo survived the gestation process to birth. In 2003, scientists cloned a Pyrenean Ibex which died 7 minutes after birth from lung defects. In all other attempted species, the embryos have died in vitro.
Suppose man uses de-extinction to bring back heirloom crops that have been hybridized out of existence to revitalize agrobiodiversity. Suppose de-extinction is used only for species that man hunted out of existence or died directly from human behavior.
How Will This Affect the Pathology of Biological Life?
Michael Tsarion, in his book Disciples of the Mysterium, proposes that the ego arose as a result of a great planetary cataclysm that our ancestors faced which caused a schism in the collective unconscious. This planetary cataclysm permanently traumatized man’s psyche. Will the Holocene mass extinction and environmental destruction happening now traumatize the collective unconscious of animals?
It’s unlikely, because animals act spontaneously and are incapable of conceptual thought. This spontaneity and conceptual attachment to past/present is probably the reason man was traumatized by the cataclysm. However, this is an interesting subject because for every cause there is an effect. Hopefully, the flora and fauna of this planet will adapt effortlessly to the planetary changes man has caused.
“The Five Ages of Man”
Gerald Heard, in his 1963 magnum opus The Five Ages of Man, posits that man is in the fourth stage (humanic) of 5 developmental stages of consciousness. Upon reaching the final stage, after learning lessons in a cyclical manner, man’s integration into the “total individual” is completed. The humanic phase that man is currently in is dominated by mental acuity and autonomy.
…the basic humanic concept of a mankind that is completely self-seeking because it is completely individualized into separate physiques that can have direct knowledge of only their own private pain and pleasure, inferring but faintly the feelings of others. Such a race of ingenious animals, each able to see and to seek his own advantage, must be kept in combination with each other by appealing to their separate interests. (p. 226)
According to Heard, the fifth stage, which he called Leptoid Man (meaning “to leap” in Greek), was the transcendence of psychophysical pleasure and hyper-individualism and the “leap” into expanded consciousness where individuals resolve inner conflicts, heal from repression, and integrate the mind, body, and spirit into one.
A society that recognises this stage of development will honour and support individuals in a “second maturity” who wish to resolve their inner conflicts and dissolve their inner blockages and become the sages of the modern world. Further, instead of simply enjoying biological and psychological health, as Freud and other important psychiatric or psychological philosophers of the “total-individual” phase conceived, Leptoid man will not only have entered a meaningful “second maturity” recognised by his or her society, but can then become a human of developed spirituality, similar to the mystics of the past; and a person of wisdom.
Heard wrote both about the individual and about society, deciding that you cannot have either one without the other. On the contemporary transition man is wading through, he wrote,
…we are aware of our precarious imbalance: of our persistent and ever-increasing production of power and our inadequacy of purpose; of our critical analytic ability and our creative paucity; of our triumphantly efficient technical education and our ineffective, irrelevant education for values, for meaning, for the training of the will, the lifting of the heart, and the illumination of the mind.
Anthropocentrism & the Delusion of Evolutionary Error
The wrongness of assuming nature has the capacity to be mistaken should be attributed to anthropocentricism. Anthropocentrism is the assumption that humans are the final aim and end of the universe or the interpretation of everything in terms of human experience and values. To project our own fallibility onto the universe is foolish and naïve. This is a much bigger philosophical conundrum than can be explored in one paragraph, but it has a few essential components. This delusion of evolutionary error relies on the following criteria: 1) nature (the universe, god, etc.) has a separate consciousness independent from man; 2) nature has a specific endgame; 3) nature is fallible in its pursuit; 4) man knows what nature’s endgame is and is capable of detecting failure.
Tracing its origins back to the mind, anthropocentricism stems from the ego through which we perceive separation from nature. If Tsarion is correct in determining the causality of the ego as a historical planetary cataclysm, then it is ironic that the ego would perceive its own creation as an evolutionary mistake. In truth, the creation of the ego was the necessary next step in the evolution of Homo sapiens’ consciousness. Does this mean there are “Spock-like” extraterrestrials that lack an ego? Maybe some day we will meet them and find out.