The New Society
A new perspective is urgently needed. As stated by John Holdren
The current situation of the world in relation to the climate problem is that we’re in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog, and the fog is the scientific uncertainty about the details that prevent us from knowing exactly where the cliff is. The climate change sceptics are telling us that the fog is a consolation and that we shouldn’t worry because we’re uncertain about the details, but of course any sane person driving a car toward a cliff in the fog and knowing that the brakes are bad, that it takes the car a long time to stop, will start putting on the brakes, trying to slow the car, without knowing exactly where the cliff is but just in the hope that by putting on the brakes we’ll be in time to keep from going over the cliff. You don’t have to be sure that you can still avoid going over the cliff to put on the brakes, you want to do it in any case. And that’s what the world should be doing with respect to the emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing this climate problem. There’s a chance we’ll go over the cliff anyway but prudence requires that we try to stop the car. (2008)
This is the responsible view. Going over the cliff means no more humans. Clearly, he is saying, as the senior scientific advisor to the President of the United States, we really ought to do something significant. Now it is nearly a decade further on, and again and again we do not. As George Monbiot summed up the result of the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris:
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. (2015)
The carbon content of the atmosphere continues to build, but in order for humankind to flourish, it needs to halt and then diminish. And the more effective measures are delayed, the more painful the cuts will need to be in order for our species to even survive. James Lovelock does not mince words:
Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable. (2006)
It could take longer, but it now appears the worst case scenario is that it could happen within a few decades. If global warming goes unchecked there will be mass extinctions, very likely humans included. A summary of the current situation is given in Global Warming. In a nutshell, as Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, explains, we cannot burn more than one fifth of the oil we have available without turning planet Earth into a wasteland.
There is a solution to this and the other self induced global catastrophic risks we have generated. The problem is it seems utterly unreachable. As stated by Alexander King, the pioneering environmentalist who co-founded the Club of Rome:
Any durable solution to [humanity’s] external and internal problems can only come from evolution beyond the egoism that motivates every individual. The wisdom we desperately require can only come through inner transformation. … This seems the only hope of breaking the impasse of both great danger and great promise, in which mankind is presently constrained. (2006, 22)
However, the new worldview brings about exactly the change he describes. We do not really have to evolve beyond the egoism. Just as well since that does seem to be impossible. We are still egoistic, but the egoism operates on a much wider agenda. Understanding that karma is a real phenomenon, the only sane and sensible approach to life is taking the other people in the world into consideration.
This is enlightened self-interest, acting to the benefit of others in order to serve one’s own self-interest. This is a purely selfish motivation – doing well by doing good – but it achieves exactly the effects the human race is so desperately in need of. At present self-interest trumps all other concerns. But in the new paradigm it is clear that an inherent morality operates, and this makes enlightened self-interest the only rational approach to life. The ground is shifted because the basis of egoism is redefined. We are still egoistic, but the egoism operates with respect to an identity that includes all the world. As a result the principle of the high moral rules, altruism, becomes the low moral rule, what one knows one has to conform to for one’s own good.
This seeds the vital change in human nature. We become selfish cooperators, selfishly altruistic. The logic of this is explained in Interactive Destiny and the subsidiary pages. With every member of the community, rich and poor, rooting for the success of all, there is a total transformation not only of the quality of life but also of the effectiveness of the community and of our race. This is Human Being 2.0.