It is clear to anyone able to rise above the cacophony of modern daily life that the overriding vision of the dominant society, civilization if you will, is dysfunctional. Life based on continually increasing consumption of the components of the natural world is maladaptive, unrealistic and ultimately impossible. Those who die with the most toys not only do not win, they contribute to the overall failure of our species.
Eastern philosophies such as Taoism, Buddhism and Vedanta call this vision a “Way.” The Western Way is exploitation of all ecological niches, as quickly as possible, for the exclusive benefit of one species, Homo sapiens.
An alternative Way, perhaps the Nature Way, would be a vision of humans living as fully cooperative, supportive and contributing members of viable ecosystems, taking no more than our share, such that all species have sufficient resources to lead a full and satisfying life.
Humans have a handicap in this regard. We call it self-awareness, the ability to know who we are, to remember the past and imagine the future. Many humans constantly plan for a future that never arrives, based on memories of the past. Many don’t experience the present moment as the only reality, unaware that the past and the future do not exist.
In reality, the present is the constantly moving interface between what was and what is yet to be.
Many plants and animals store up food sources that are used in times when food is less readily available. This is not done as a result of imagining a future when food might not be available and storing more resources for that eventuality. Instead, plants and animals store food, internally or externally, as an adaptive strategy worked out over millennia of natural selection and evolution.
In this way, plants and animals (except humans) accommodate changing environmental conditions in a complex adaptive process, in concert with all other species in their ecosystem. The success of any one species is dependent on the success of all other species. The failure of any single species affects all other species, as well.
The failure of Homo sapiens to live in a Way that includes other species is already affecting all species, reducing biodiversity world wide, resulting in permanent species loss and disruption of complex ecosystems. Even if the human species does not absolutely fail and go extinct, our present Way is negatively affecting all other species and cannot long continue.
For humans to continue on this Earth, we must develop a vision of ourselves as fully functioning members of viable ecosystems, a part of Nature, not apart from the natural world. We must stop killing the golden goose that bears the source of our species well-being and viability.
This is not an easy task, as our current Way has overwhelming momentum toward the cliff edge overlooking the abyss of extinction. As we stand with our naked toes dangling in the breeze over the edge, we have two choices if we wish to survive: either take a step backwards, or turn around and take a step forward.
We make this change one set of toes at a time. We become the change we wish to see in the world.
We build a new vision that makes the existing vision obsolete.
It’s a long process, and sure.
It’s the Way of Nature.