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Photo by Tony Hirtenstein

The culture of civilization is a mass suicide pact this may seem a frivolous statement but let me hold your attention for a moment. There are 8 billion people on the planet almost all who are in favor of growth, progress, uplifting and such. Now this urge for growth has no upper limit. We could call this infinite growth. Thus we have a belief in infinite growth in a finite context a rather absurd notion, wouldn’t you say. Hereto for there has been enough topsoil, forest, fish and other resources to sustain this belief, now the earth is filled up and we are viewing the end.

Our species has endured for 200,000 years and 10,000 years ago the earth was still in pristine condition. This indicates that our species has lived in balance with the living earth. They lived mostly by gathering the fruits of the living world and not disrupting it. In that ancient culture they saw themselves as part of nature, as their cultural reality thus they had encyclopedic knowledge of the natural life. This was the spiritual grounding of our ancient human family

Civilization begins

8 to 10,000 years ago a seachange occurred on human in human reality and culture – agriculture, the man behind the plow. A few humans in Asia decided they could derive more from the earth by planting in controlled environments. Often they chose the most fertile soils sometimes by clearing forests. They produced surpluses by this method they could plant expanded areas.

This is the key point in the growth of civilization and Empire, exhaustion of the soil fertility, overgrazing and deforestation this is the fuel that powered the expansion of the masses, running a net deficit of the fertility of the earth. One half of China was a great forest before agriculture began. The Indus River Valley area was a thriving grassland ecosystem before the Indus Empire developed, never to return. Iraq now has one third of its possibly arable land still so salinized by Babylonian irrigation that it can’t be used. The Tigris- Euphrates river mouths have extended into the Gulf 180 miles with the erosion material generated by the overgrazing, agricultural practices, and deforestation of thousands of years of civilization. The Cedar Forest of Lebanon stretched from Lebanon to the Euphrates River according to the ancient story of Gilgamesh. Now only a few cedars exist in a monastery yard in Lebanon. North African grasslands ecosystems were considered the breadbasket of both the Greek and Roman empires. Now some of the ports from which they shipped the goodies – hides, dried meats and grain are now 10 and 15 miles from the ocean all filled in by erosion material from that destroyed ecosystem.

Next, civilization moved toward Europe where massive deforestation took place along with extinction of the salmon runs, extinction of many other species and exhaustion of the fertile soils. As the industrial revolution began this pattern then spread to the entire world with colonialism.

Koyaanisqatsi- World Out Of Balance

Civilization is obviously out of balance with the living earth, the civilized are also out of balance with reality. Civilized people identify themselves with their McMansions and pin striped suits rather than identify themselves as a constituent part of the living earth. The answer is very simple if one living out of balance, regaining balance is the answer.

Let me present the Inca civilization as an example. The Inca land stretched from the sea to the mountaintops. There was a vast complex of roadways in their communal system. As the seasons progress they could bring in products from each climate to distribute throughout the year as each harvest occurred in each ecosystem – a year-round food supply. Each village had their own local production. Also, the Inca required a few months work of each citizen, building roads, terraces and canals. Each village had a storehouse that the Inca filled. There were no homeless and no one starved.

We come up against this question of balance. There can be many solutions, as far as human ingenuity can devise. The core standard is the nurturance of life rather than death. At this time on earth the lines are drawn. As Woody Guthrie would say, which side are you on? Defending life or supporting that which pollutes and destroys the oceans and lands? We multitudes speak truth here. Everyone knows the earth is being ravaged and poisoned. Soon each one of us will have plastic nanoparticles racing through our bloodstream as the particles drift from the atmosphere, residing in the soils and are then picked up by our food plants.

Some answers

First we must create a culture of defense of life by restoring it. When one has a wound on the skin, first it is raw, then a scab forms and finally new skin is restored. This is normalcy. The earth also does the same it is called ecological succession. When damage happens through fire or flood the annuals, called the pioneer plants come in, as they prepare the soil, perennial grasses come in many then small bushes and then trees leading toward the final climax ecosystem. This climax condition existed all over the earth 10,000 years ago. This should be our aspiration as a responsible human species – to restore our home the earth to climax condition everywhere.

How do we get started?

One Viable Way which is growing around the world is the eco-village movement. The Global Eco-village Network has over 1000 eco-village members worldwide. An eco-village is usually a small land-based group who have the intention of self sufficiency and restoration of the land and ecology. A perfected model would mean a area of ecologically balanced earth life that can could endure into the infinite future, a standing state of stability. Because of this stability the earth defense culture could spread. Surrounding people could see that watersheds and underground aquifers can be restored as well is food production in a hungry world. The favored method is permaculture which is spreading worldwide. Permaculture is based on permanent perennial plants. It is designed to mimic the ecology of nature.
A preferred design is a food forest. This means planting useful trees for human use as well as trees for ecological soil buildup. Then guilds of associated bushes come in, then lower Forbes, then the earthbound smaller plants and the then the underground mycelium known as mushrooms. This is permanent food production using perrenial plants. In addition we have all the methods of creating shelter. Straw bale houses have been popular on the West Coast of the USA. There are also other local materials such as rammed earth, called, Adobe and logs. All of these materials have been developed by alternative people for many years. Here we have water, food and shelter. If someone tells you that there is no answer to the crisis of civilization, tell them of this.

The idea of progress

Certainly our forager hunter ancestors had no idea of progress as they lived in balance with the natural life. Navajo tribal culture for example is committed to the idea of harmony. Beauty before me, beauty around me, as they say. People of the industrial civilization are imbued with the idea of progress and this has allowed the release of human creativity resulting in the creation of much that must be saved.

Unfortunately in the industrial civilization much of the creativity has resulted in the creation of life killing devices and beliefs. That civilization which is now declining sees progress as material creation, bigger barns and broader acres and flights to the moon. We live in a society which is a death cult. When we raise generations of children who have no emotional injury we will see the release of great creativity. In our laboratory dedicated to the nurturing of life we can develop the intelligence of the heart. We need empathy rather than the uncaring of the present psychopathology.

One million dead in the in Iraq and no one even mentions it. In a culture that encourages individual freedom and in a culture where children are encouraged to grow every possible talent they possess, we will have a culture of growth and progress on a human scale. We will have a society of nurturance and love rather than isolation, conflict and death. This is progress in that huge creativity of humans can easily do this

Look up! Look around you, see what is happening on earth today. Each of us can make the change and get out of our role in industrial civilization and assist the flowering of the intelligence of the heart and the flowering of love and human creativity.

William Koethke is Author of the book The Final Empire the Collapse of Civilization and THE Seed of The Future

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