Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
The Politics and Ethics of the Solar Age
Given at Berkeley, California, March 3, 1982
Today our planetary environment is threatened on a scale unprecedented in human history. We have witnessed the extinction of various species and loss of genetic diversity, the build-up of toxic and radioactive wastes, deforestation, desertification and massive alteration of the global climate.1 As this environmental devastation continues and threatens ever more dangerous confrontations between nations over dwindling oil resources, minerals, water and food, we witness our own government withdrawing support from international co-operative efforts such as the United Nations Environment Program, and stalling progress on treaties for managing global common heritage resources of the oceans, air, outer space and the moon. In place of such support we see a retreat to the laissez-faire policies of the past, the politics of the Last Hurrah of the frontier - the cowboy economics which led to these problems in the first place.
I shall try to explore today's paradoxes in terms of the global breakdown of our now clearly - unsustainable industrial order. This is the industrialism of competitive, expansionist, militaristic, patriarchal "macho" nation states. It reflects paradigm shifts occurring in industrial culture itself. But I also will try to show growing evidence of a breakthrough, occurring as a new planetary culture struggles to be born, with ethics and politics more fitted for human survival in the rising Solar Age.
We are now well into the second year of what New York Times former editor John Oaks termed "Ronald Reagan's vicious and radical assault on America's environmental protection system... and the most profligate squandering of America's publicly-owned natural resources since Teapot Dome."2 The picture is now clear. It can be seen in the administration's attempt to over-ride Congress by diverting funds for adding Sweeney Ridge to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area; the opening up of the Rockies and Alaska to developers; the speeding up of oil and gas leasing offshore; the drastic reversal of energy priorities toward the non-renewable past of nuclear power, oil, coal, synfuels, shale, and the decimation of solar, renewable and conservation options.3 If all this were not appalling enough, we must add the attempted gutting of the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency itself, which constitutes the dismantling of enforcement power over water quality, noise control and toxic substances, and worst of all, the insane buildup of nuclear power, and weapons - the ultimate environment threat.
Ironically, even many of the industries these policies are designed to appease are becoming alarmed. Ford Motor Company Vice President H.L. Misch warns that "industry must not risk a backlash or gross indignation because the whole social regulatory process has been interrupted"4 and Breck Arrington of Atlantic Richfield adds "The idea that all of business views everything the Reagan Administration does as benign is simply not the situation. We don't want to jeopardize the value system these regulations represent."5 But the real issue is that giant corporations need national regulations, centralization of government, even international uniformity of regulations, in order to rationalize global markets, production and technology. Or as Mr. Arrington put it, voicing concern over the New Federalism, "It means a Tower of Babel... a welter of confusing thrusts from government, a myriad of jurisdictions. If there was one thing that business could rely on in previous years, it was that there was at least a thrust from one central government in most of these areas."6 In off-shore leasing the story is similar. Michael Savage, President of Sohio Petroleum Co. told Business Week recently, "Our resources would be used more efficiently if previous schedules were left intact,"7 and other oil executives now complain that "pressure from Washington" for more rapid leasing will lead to waste.8 Other industries are also becoming dubious about the indiscriminate spree of deregulation, even though many have been urging it relentlessly for years. Bruce Smart of the Continental Group now seeks intervention because "Businessmen need to concede that the guiding hand of the marketplace doesn't always consider the impact of its actions on third parties or future generations. Nature can't correct toxic wastes, destruction of agricultural land and species extinction - these demand government control."9
Businessmen have been reading the polls, it seems, and they have been forced to face up to many of the social costs they have been externalizing to the rest of us and the environment for so long. A recent Roper poll for the American Enterprise Institute,10 (a business-funded think tank) showed that a majority of Americans think government should play a major role in protecting the environment, assuring good health care, assuring civil rights and caring for the poor. In addition it found that Americans think total government and private spending is already too low for the needs of the elderly, job training and education and basic research. And by a two to one margin, Americans approve of the idea of a business sector with a social conscience, and feel "business should undertake to solve social problems and improve the quality of life at its own expense - holding profits to a modest level." They reject the notion that business should confine itself to making goods and services at maximum profits, making its contribution by maximizing tax dollars and permitting others to deal with social problems." Milton Friedman please take note! Similarly, a recent Harris Poll found that by a 65% to 32% majority, Americans oppose relaxing environmental health standards no matter what the resulting costs may be. In California 72% feet this way.11
More and more, industrialists are realizing that these externalized costs of many of their projects are now flooding back directly onto their own corporate balance sheets, no longer falling only on taxpayers, consumers and our children. These social bills which are now coming due are a large factor in the current flap over "declining productivity."12 Of course, "productivity" is declining! Economists have simply overstated it for decades! Today, companies often have to clean up water before they can even use it for their industrial processes, defend themselves against law suits for causing sickness and deaths of workers over the past quarter century (as in the case of asbestos-related cancers) and pay some of their share of cleaning up decades of toxic waste dumping. The near-bankruptcy of many electric utilities due to decades of mismanagement is another example. Their disastrous escapade into nuclear power has bogged down in various areas: erroneous demand forecasting (they did not even take into account the demand fall-off that their own Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) assessments would cause!);13 faulty design, construction and engineering snafus; overestimated capacity factor ratings14 and operational breakdowns - not to mention high interest rates and the pall cast by Three Mile Island.15 With 28 nukes cancelled since 1978, the issue according to Jim Harding of Friends of the Earth, is now whether the 20 still under construction will ever be finished or operate. Much credit for revealing the scandal of nuclear power and its mismanagement and the misleading of investors and the public must go to the brave citizens of California, particularly for their stand at Diablo Canyon. Now, Californians are leading the nation again, with the Nuclear Freeze Initiative. Courageous business people such as Harold Willens are now warning investors, taxpayers and voters that we cannot buy "national security" by destroying our economy with colossal inflationary military budgets for low-performance, unreliable high-technology and nuclear weapons, which only increase the perils of accidental war.16
Just as the business community is re-assessing its support of Mr. Reagan's wholesale deregulation (the investment community is becoming convinced that the military budget must be cut) we also find the nation's governors and mayors (of both parties) in full-scale revolt against the "New Federalism." My own view of this latest Reagan rhetoric of "decentralism" is that it is only a ruse for decentralizing the social costs and problems, while centralizing the profits and opportunities for the private sector. In fact that has been my assessment of Reaganomics from the start: supply-side economics is only the flip side of the coin of Keynesianism, through which the economists and policymakers in Washington try to hype up "supply" (with tax breaks to business and investors) in order to meet credit-inflated "demand. " This is to be accomplished by further cannibalizing the social and public sector, the resource-base and the environment in order to make the funny-money GNP numbers look better. David Stockman is right, of course. It is just more "trickledown" in disguise. In fact the best definition of supply-side economics is that when one gives a tax break to David Rockefeller, it eventually trickles down to Jay Rockefeller!
Increasingly, it is Mr. Reagan's former allies that are now defecting. The editors of Business Week discovered late in 1981 that one can't have a "private sector" without a "public sector" to underpin it, a fact I have been reiterating for over a decade. At the same time, I have pointed out the conceptual idiocy of imagining that one can divide the seamless web of our socio-technical-economic system into two neat little boxes marked "public sector" and "private sector" and then pretend that the latter is "productive" and the private sector is an expendable nuisance! In fact, there are two indivisible aspects to the production process: 1) all those products: buildings, cars, chairs, space rockets, all the tangible, physical hardware this culture so values, and 2) the maintenance of plant, equipment and social infrastructures that provides the conditions and means of producing that hardware. Now, in the real world you cannot have any production without support and upkeep of this basic underlying maintenance structure. Physicists and engineers know this. It is basic thermodynamics, the law of entropy: factories wear out; so do roads, subways, bridges, dams and airports, and you can't produce things with 100% efficiency (you are lucky to get away with 50% - friction, heat loss, oxidation, accidents, disagreement over goals and so forth will get the other 50%). But economists are eternal children, naively dreaming of perpetual motion. They imagine that if you mentally put all those annoying maintenance functions, (including, of course, the really big one like education of the labor force, parenting the next generation, maintaining viable communities and habitats and health care and feeding of the wage-earning "competitors") outside of their magic circle of the "private sector," then those social costs can be "externalized," and ignored. It's just a matter of where you put those imaginary boundaries, and who you designate as the winners to be paid in cash and accounted for, and who you draw outside that magic, cash-denominated, GNP-measured, private sector circle, and designate as losers. Losers then become those "unproductive" maintenance functions, and workers, whom the trick is to pay as little as possible, or nothing at all like nurses, women who toil in the home and community as volunteers, gardeners, sweepers, cooks, those who maintain public facilities, teachers, librarians, social workers, public defenders and so on. You can make any abstracted, money-denominated, GNP-measured economy look successful depending where you draw your imaginary boundaries! Now businessmen are waking up to this kind of naivete of economic models and realizing that commerce cannot proceed without all these support and maintenance functions and that now even Mother Nature is demanding to be paid, as are women, minorities and every other part of the society that has been providing a hidden subsidy to the businesses of the "private sector. "
Business leaders are forced to acknowledge that the care and feeding of that much vaunted private sector "golden goose" requires huge public investments, as well as all the familiar tax holidays, subsidies, investment tax credits, rebates, bail-outs, and all the rest. Economists can no longer pull the wool over our eyes on all this; the social costs are too visible. We know the golden goose is excreting all right, but we are no longer sure whether it is golden eggs!17 Besides, we are hearing it complain about how delicate its health is, demanding a special "business climate" or threatening to move to the sun-belt or off-shore. It needs a special diet of tax credits and subsidies and won't even risk its capital any more. In fact, it now seems to be on a government and taxpayers life-support system. If we must all now make social investments in this golden goose to keep it afloat, perhaps we would rather make our social investments directly and buy a different menu of public services and private goods. Some of us would like to buy healthier, better-educated children, the upgrading of human skills and creativity, a renewable-resource production system that is sustainable, clean air and water, reforestation, green-belts, parks, better care for our handicapped, elderly and empowerment of our poor and disadvantaged toward self-reliance. We are paying any way. Citizens, school-board members, public service employees, local officials, as well as mayors and governors are much closer to these realities than economists and Washington politicians, and bureaucrats. Governor Hugh Carey of New York, commenting on the "New Federalism"18 likened the program to a man who walks into a restaurant, orders a big meal, eats it and refuses to pay the bill, and then has the gall to claim that he is helping reduce the price of food. Unfortunately, the multi-national banks and corporations control the politics in Washington and it is their priorities that are served by the New Federalism, as we can see in the Reagan tax and spending cuts.
I have dubbed the Reagan programs "the Politics of the Last Hurrah," which is also appropriate for Thatchernomics in Britain, where there is a refusal to recognize rapid change and the transformation occurring in all industrial societies and culture, as well as in their technical-economic structures as they shift from non-renewable to renewable resource bases. Their only response is redoubling their efforts to apply past remedies that have failed, rather than reconceptualizing the situation. Mr. Reagan is also trying to replace the New Deal with the Raw Deal. Lane Kirkland of the AFL-CIO has called it "Jonestown Economic Koolaid," and Berkeley's own Ron Dellums' prophetic critique at the outset labeled Reaganomics "economic lunacy. " Even the Western Governors Conference, in November 1981, called for "No more budget-cutting without consultation," demanded broad-based shared decision making on all federal mineral leasing and land-use decisions and decried the releasing of federal land in the West as "not now a feasible solution to the problem of management."19 They voiced skepticism about the wholesale transfer of title to the states. All this proves that decentralism is a tricky concept too, and Americans are realizing that the 1980's will be an era of paradigm shift and will require a politics of reconceptualization, or redefining the basics.
Ironically, this is the good news about the Reagan Administration.
Consider the following:
1) Not since the New Deal have a President's actions raised so many fundamental issues and informed so many citizens of them via direct experience of their impacts.
2) Never has a President been able to expose the bankruptcy of economics and the simple truth that it is not, and never was a science. The debate and hardships created by Reaganomics have defrocked the whole discipline of economics itself and all its schools of thought from the "free market" ideology of Milton Friedman and his clones, to Keynesianism, post-Keynesianism and socialism, something that I have been trying to do for ten years. Now it is clear for all to see that economics is merely politics in disguise! The most fundamental error of economics is in dealing only with monetized transactions, (never mind whether denominated in dollars, yen, francs, zlotys or rubles). Thus it has created a map of only half the territory, a pale abstraction of socio-technical production and resource-allocation systems that it calls "the economy." This done, these one-eyed economists take this narrow, abstract map and try to use it to make social policy. This is the failure of macro-economic management. Economics then compounds this error through heroic levels of data aggregation, nationally averaging such insane abstractions as "unemployment," "inflation," "productivity," "supply" and "demand, " and manipulating from Washington (or Brussels, Moscow or London) these statistical illusions which do not fit one real-world case anywhere. Similarly, a cost/benefit analysis averages out those costs and benefits that it counts, so that it obscures who are the winners and who are the losers, who will bear the costs and who will get the benefits and the profits. I have often speculated on whether there is really any such thing as "profit" without some equal and unrecorded debit entered in some social or environmental ledger or passed on to future generations. I am still puzzling. Perhaps "profit" exists when two people exchange good quality information and deeply communicated insight or even wisdom. Perhaps profit is when we really learn how to do more with less and meet our needs (not greeds) with minimal use of resources and disturbances of each other and the ecosystem of which we are a part. Perhaps it is when two species learn to live and co-evolve symbolically, enjoying each other's entropy as much as "production." For production and entropy are two sides of the same coin. Detritus and decay have as much potential as temporarily-structured forms. Order and disorder are in the eye of the beholder. When will we learn that there's no such thing as "waste" - only unappreciated resources? A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg. Likewise, plants and trees invented people and animals to be their waste-disposal units for excess oxygen and their manufacturers Of C02 and nutrients. That's cosmic economics, nature's economics. But humans had better learn it soon, and the biggest lesson is that we are not in charge of it and cannot manage it or be its stewards. We are its servants and its beneficiaries.
3) More good news in Reagonomics is that it will help clarify the fuzzy concept of "decentralism," which is like all those other slogan words that confuse us: "freedom" (my freedom may be your bondage) "efficiency" (for whom?), "supply" (my supply may be your deprivation) "demand" (the needs, desires whims, greeds or addictions of someone who has money), "innovation" (junk food, new brands of cigarettes, protein-enriched dog-shampoo, micro-processors, genetic engineering, neutron bombs, chemical warfare), "productivity" (of what-labor, capital, management, bio-productivity, and over what time span?). So, when people ask me if I approve of the New Federalism because it will "decentralize government," I must answer, "It all depends what is decentralized and to which power blocs and political forces that operate in each state. Some functions must remain central and national: assuring human rights, equal justice under the same law, minimum standards for welfare, medical care, professional services, and in environmental hazard regulations that are uniform for toxic substances. How standards and broad principles are met after they have been nationally agreed upon can vary a lot. We know that if a state's political processes are controlled by one or two big industries or special interests, (for example as in a coal state like Kentucky) that the New Federalism will mean more mine accidents and black lung disease. Political power goes hand in hand with economic power, and poor states will end up getting poorer and more polluted and depleted, with less public health safety and education, while rich states will tend to get richer. Generous states will get more in-migrating unemployed and welfare clients; less generous states will provide them with bus fare. All this is why we had the New Deal in the first place.
If a state is democratically controlled by many grass-roots interests and coalitions of citizens with fewer vested economic interests, it may end up with a superior educational and health system, a cleaner environment, and an evolving post-industrial production system and public infrastructure based on renewable resource-use, companies in solar and wind energy, recycling, conservation, communications, software, research, a diverse, ecologically-oriented architecture and cooperative lifestyles and community enterprises. The New Federalism seeks to change some of the rules. There will be new ranks of winners and losers, but we need to remember that right now it is easier for the rich and powerful to change the rules than for the weak at all levels of government. This is why many have come to see how much we need a change of values as well, an expansion of awareness and a planetary consciousness that reveals that in reality all our individual self-interests are interlocked and that in the world of today, zero-sum games cannot work. Only win-win games work and in our increasing awareness of planetary interdependence, we see at last that morality is both scientific and pragmatic.
4) Lastly, not all budget cuts at the federal level are bad and at least Mr. Reagan has put the matter on top of the agenda. As well as cutting the military waste and subsidies to nuclear power, solar space satellites and other such dangerous nonsense, we could cut billions from unnecessary water projects or divert them to water conservation and recycling. We could switch funds from highways to public transportation,20 cut subsidies to speculative construction and developers, end tobacco and sugar price-supports while reaping a huge saving in health care and suffering. Biggest of all we could repeal all across-the-board investment tax credits. Such credits only push society further toward energy, resource and capital intensity and further automation and joblessness while penalizing employment of people.21 In fact, IF we could ever get the FORTUNE 500 of welfare and stop our politicians from bailing out the past (for example, Chrysler and the electric utilities) we could invest in creating and capitalizing the future and a renewable-resource based production system for the long term. We could invest in our greatest asset, people, and developing their fullest potential, while restoring and conserving our natural environmental wealth.
So let's lay to rest the old economic formula. Inputs to production are wrongly stated as land, labor and capital. The future formula is that of a minimum-entropy society where the inputs are capital, resources and knowledge and the output is healthy people and healthy bio-regions on a peaceful, healthy, equitable, ecologically-viable Planet. All this will require no harder striving than our current striving to destroy ourselves. It probably will be easier and more laid-back. In fact, it must be, because we will need to lay many of our fears to rest, since they produce all that counter-productive striving that underpins all industrial economies and has now led to their mutual checkmate.
Pieces of the new planetary agenda are popping up all over the place everywhere in the world. Why should we be surprised at this or at the fact that they are in the process of coalescing into a new healthy critical mass? The planet, Gaia, and the universe are now teaching us humans directly, nudging us along in the direction we must change, reconnecting us with the most fundamental living force, the urge to become all we can be, to evolve and to love it. We have this optimal program encoded in the proteins of our DNA. We know how to be healthy, how to co-operate as well as compete. These are older, deeper programs than our cultural programming. We are learning to tune back into them and to Nature, our surest teacher.
We do not yet know enough about our lovely, mysterious larger body, the planet Gaia, to be pessimistic. So it is unrealistic not to have faith. Today, the idealists and visionaries are truly pragmatic. The reality of the realists has vanished into history. Even economists admit that the economy has entered a new and unfamiliar domain. That's why I subtitled my book Creating Alternative Futures, "The End of Economics." Reductionist science has become dogma and religion. We have moved beyond both creationism and Darwinian evolution.22
Meanwhile the teeming richness of our whole exquisite biosphere has become our best textbook, as has the uncharted reaches of ourselves. New scientific research and theories (so many of them lovingly collected and offered to us by Marilyn Ferguson in Brain-Mind Bulletin23 and The Aquarian Conspiracy) are giving us a new basis for understanding our own power and shared responsibilities, particularly in the newly published theories of biologist Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake writes of the possibility of "morphogenetic fields" and of research which can be interpreted to imply that a species as a whole can learn from the isolated innovation of any small group.24 Imagine the new potentialities if learning is proven to be contagious. We would have a new scientific basis for believing in ourselves and in our collective power to pull back from the disastrous brink. To chart a whole new course with new leadership based on "sapiential authority"25 wherever it emerges, and shared power and information in networks of autonomous people and communities sharing a similar vision of the human family on our precious little planet. Similarly heady implications are inherent in the Nobel Prize-winning chemistry research of Ilya Prigogine, who in 1977 showed how living systems operating far from equilibrium can create more ordered structuring through fluctuations. While he does not claim, as some think, to have repealed the Second Law of Thermodynamics and overcome entropy,26 Prigogine showed that living systems also operate as a complementary ordering, evolutionary force in nature. We need no longer bind our imagination with the dismal deterministic view of a universe winding down like a closed system. Since Prigogine, we know that the universe is full of surprises, innovation and evolutionary potential. In fact, Cartesian science's search for certainty, equilibrium, predictability and control is a good definition of death. We should happily embrace the new view that uncertainty is fundamental, since it also implies that everything can change - for the better - in a twinkle of an eye. As we move on to post-Cartesian science, we can acknowledge the earlier period of the Scientific Enlightenment, of Descartes and Newton, of Liebniz and Galileo, with its instrumental rationality and manipulation of Nature, which did lead to that I greatest outpouring of technological hardware and managerial virtuosity we call the Industrial Revolution.
Today, not surprisingly, the rich new yeast of alternative ideas - cultural, spiritual and action alternatives - are coming from "wild card" scientists not intimidated by their peers, and precisely those groups suppressed or subordinated during the industrial era, which demands more and more conformity. Every culture is a system of expressions and repressions of the full spectrum of human ways of being and behaving. Today we see these alternatives emerging from the world's ethnic and indigenous peoples, subsistence cultures and from traditional wisdom, from the world's women and from the rising female principle and its nutrient energies seen in the new breed of gentlemen. They are throwing off the shackles of industrial "macho," the need to compete with each other and the fearful need to control, dominate and "own" not only each other, but women, children, animals, plants and all of Mother Nature. Psychologists know that these unhealthy drives are rooted in the fear of death, the sense of alienation from the natural world produced at the breakdown of the bi-cameral mind27 and reinforced by Western, dualistic culture. As Ken Wilber notes in Up From Eden, Anchor Books, N.Y., (1981), "Whenever there is other, there is fear." Any separate, egoistic consciousness, to the extent that it feels separated from all life, will fear its individual death as a final extinction, a total loss of meaning that must lead to existential anxiety. This fear has underlain thousands of years of dualism in human cultures. It has shaped Western art, literature and scholarship from Aristotle and his either/or logical axiom - the Law of Excluded Middle (A cannot be equal to not-A). These same fears of death and loss of meaning led to the neurotic notion of scientific objectivity, eventually laid to rest, if not taken to heart, by the physics of Werner Heisenberg and his Uncertainty Principle. We see it in the long saga of patriarchal literature, from the Greek myths of the hero and the hero's journey to the angst and alienation from Nature echoed from Hegel, Marx and the Frankfurt School to Herman Hesse, the existentialists and Sigmund Freud and his followers.
My belief is that this kind of scholarship and mode of experience, together with reductionist Cartesian science is now becoming another cul-de-sac: mental games of infinite regress terminating in a logical double-bind. This may be one more aspect of the dilemma of patriarchy. For this anxiety about "alienation" is, I venture, a somewhat more masculine experience. Since biologically, humans do come in two asymmetrical bodily forms and it is obviously different to experience life in a male and a female body. Biologically, most women in the world do still vividly experience their embeddedness in Nature, and can harbor few illusions concerning their freedom and separateness from the cycles of birth and death. Men's experience may give them a sense of having somewhat more freedom and individualism, and for the past 6, 000 years this sense, together with the alienation it brings, has been amplified. All patriarchal culture, scholarship, institutions and history have reflected and amplified male experiencing and then universalized it as if it were human experience. Of course, it is not. But women, until quite recently have been relatively silent about their own experience, and history, which as we know from feminist literature and art is radically different. In precisely this area, women's spirituality affirms and celebrates human embeddedness in Nature and confirms it by researching the early matrifocal cultures and humanity's great universal religion, that of the Great Mother I Goddess.28
Today's eco-feminism is restoring this earlier pre-history, and its art and rituals celebrating Nature as an order that is, in principle, not fully-knowable because humans are a part of it. Eco-feminism resacralizes Nature. It understands the heuristic value of uncertainty, which allows each generation to reformulate its experience, cognition, epistemology and value-systems in light of new conditions. Uncertainty is valuable because it keeps us awake and aware, whereas certainty and exactitude allow us to "hard-program" our responses to our environment, become rigid or mentally fall asleep. Eco-feminism also values motherhood and the parenting and raising of children and the maintaining of comfortable habitats and cohesive communities as the most highly productive work of society rather than the most devalued, as under patriarchal values and economics, where these tasks are ignored and unpaid.
Patriarchal scholarship is now arriving at an understanding of many of these more subtle patterns of society, sometimes experientially, as many of these support-systems provided by women break down. In traditional science, it is also arriving at the understanding that alienation and the ego-individualist, dualistic view may have been a trick of the mind. Amazingly these new insights of holism now being reached through the anomalies and paradigm shifts in science itself as intellectual exercises, in such new theories embracing these subtle indeterminacies. They include concerns as expressed by physicist, David Bohm, with the implicate order rather than the explicate, and the new, open view of a surprising, living, autopoetic, evolving universe, as in the work of Sheldrake and Prigogine already mentioned, as well as that of David Bohm, Karl Pribram, Gregory Bateson, Erich Jantsch, E. F. Schumacher, Fritjof Capra, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz von Foerster, James Lovelock, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Ken Wilber, Rene Thom, Manfred Eigen, C.H. Waddington, Kenneth Boulding, and others.
This new stream of scholarship, together with the enormously rich body of knowledge grounded in ecology can be summed up as ecophilosophy, and it represents the simultaneous culmination, miniaturization, compression and transcending of Cartesian forms of representation and intellectual discourse. The separate but parallel stream of scholarship represented by eco-feminism documents precisely the same set of insights, but, as in Oriental modes of cognition and representation, eco-feminism has arrived at them experientially. Thus, there has been up to now, almost no communication between eco-physiology and eco-feminism, because they have approached the same phenomena, but from different directions. Eco-feminism has considered the glittering cathedrals abstract, mathematical, rational, patriarchal exposition of this human oneness with the creation of heroic intellectual labor about the banal and almost trivial ("what's all the fuss and debate about? Doesn't everybody know/feel that in their bones?"). On the other hand, eco-philosophy senses this disinterest, and assumes that women are just not up for such heroic scientific strivings ("after all, the hero's journey is a male trip"). Besides those feminist books are so "fuzzy" and unreadable, not to mention threatening, with their celebration of goddesses, trees, orgies, circles, vibrations, dances, sexuality, analogy, songs, witches, spirits, fertility, baals, devas, mystery, hedonism, and letting-go, in acceptance of our bodies, pain, decay, entropy and the endless cycles of birth and death.
I believe that these two separate streams of scholarship and world views are now beginning to flow together and augur a new cultural synthesis, as well as a more androgynized consciousness flowering in men and women. The communication is still halting and fraught with old fears, resentments and insecurities, but if we are to prescribe for today's almost terminal illness of human societies, we must dig deeply for our diagnoses. We can no longer skate around observing surface manifestations, such as those offered by economists: "unemployment"; "inflation"; "declining productivity"; "the need for national security"; "stopping communism"; "restoring the free market"; "more innovation," "supply" to meet "demand," and all the rest of the psychotic language of alienation, fear and insecurity.
The most enduring tensions in the human psyche have concerned this alienation and fear of death of the ego, and the conflict these feelings generated between the perceived individual will and the requirements of the group or society. These fears not only led to what I have called the "Kilroy Was Here" syndrome, where immortality is attempted via leaving one's mark on the environment, whether the urge to create monuments or clear-out a forest. They also led to this fundamental conflict that has pre-occupied all political science, social control theories and governance, as well as views of what constituted "Human Nature," its goodness or evil, and what mixes around the spectrum of anarchy and authoritarianism.
I believe there is a deeper layer underlying this old issue of the individual versus the state that may shed more light on why matrifocal cultures and religions were overthrown and led to the rise of patriarchal culture, itself now collapsing. Perhaps the deeper and biologically irreconcilable conflict is that of the individual human phenotype versus the species genotype. Nature is always profligate with phenotypes, since diversity and range of experimentation requires a profusion of these fresh generations of finite forms interacting with every successive set of unique environmental conditions. Only a statistically insignificant number of phenotypes ever produce a genetically useful innovation of form or function that survives and is incorporated into the human gene pool. From the perspective of the genotype (the species as a whole) the fate of each individual phenotype is irrelevant. Now for other species, this ignominious fate may not produce a psychological conflict in the phenotype. At least, we have not sufficiently learned to communicate with other life forms (such as whales, dolphins or chimpanzees) to know, one way or the other. But we do know that humans possess this destabilized bicameral mind, which is now aware of being aware of ourselves. We live as phenotypes with will and purposes beyond that of our species genotype and move beyond the pre-human embedded consciousness of our ontological experience as well as the phylogenetic infant experience of oneness with the mother and the world.
I believe that the matrifocal period of human development may have had at its core a value-system tilted toward the genotype, in its celebration of the processes of life, its changes cycles, seasons, subtle forces, as well as the positive value of decay, entropy and death, which allows the grand experiment of evolution to unfold. Phenotypes must die if each new generation, our children, are to have their chance. But the dying of the body on the material plane of existence is also one more transition (if we have a larger view of ourselves as an integral part of the creation, temporarily constituted as a sensory cell of the body of Gaia) and also has a transcendent dimension, as all our spiritual traditions describe. I believe that the early patriarchal revolt against the Mother Goddess-worshipping societies was partly the agonized scream of the phenotypes newly-individuated, ego-awareness rebelling against the great implacable Goddess/Mother/Earth - the genotype's metaphor, that decreed its sacrifice and death-sentence. If there is any response in this hypothesis, it may explain the very deeply-buried fear of women, mother and earth and its mythic connection with decay, entropy and death, which has preoccupied mythology and recently has been examined in male psychology.29
We may now be entering from this period of the revolt of the individuated ego-awareness the Age of the Phenotype, which has become amplified into untenable forms of dualism by the patriarchal epoch, together with its brilliant creativity in manipulating Nature and human culture and biology, culminating in the explosion of Cartesian science, technology, explicitly managed institutions and governance and the global spread of industrialism. The human species learned much in this extraordinary period - almost too much in this individuated ego/mental/manipulative mode for our own good, as we now face the possibility of accidentally annihilating ourselves.
Thus, the emerging culture is rebalancing by including repressed ways of being, based on the heart as well as the mind: feeling, sharing, intuition, acceptance of uncertainty, decay as well as growth, and transcendence of ego-death fears and letting go of the need to control and "own" each other and the world around us. This emerging culture seems also to be rebalancing toward concern for the genotype and evolution (for example, in the concern over nuclear radiation, mutagenic chemicals and other inter-generational transfers of risk about which economics and political science can say little). Therefore, there seems to be no going back to rugged decentralism, or the frontier self-sufficient lifestyle of which the survivalists dream, with their shelters, dried food, geiger counters and guns. Nor can we return to the individualistic, private property-based security promised by the Libertarians, who would repeal government, but do not seem to notice that the FORTUNE 500 would still be there to take over our government overtly.
However, many Libertarian proposals for repealing oppressive, bureaucratic restrictions and laws on personal behavior of and between consenting adults are very useful, whether in facing down the Moral Majority's efforts to control our private sex lives and lifestyle preferences, or the Catholic church's anti-abortion campaigns and their far-out definition of when human life begins, which if enacted, would mean the risk of jail for millions of Americans. But all this too, smacks of the same fears of the old patriarchs who still lead most of the world's nations, corporations, churches, labor unions and other civilian and military institutions. They still send their sons to fight and die for them and seek to "own" their women and children in male-authoritarian families (now revealed as rife with violence, repression, wife-battering, incest and child-abuse). The patriarchs also want to continue dominating the earth, exploiting its forests, minerals and land. They are also correct in being fearful of the rising, ecologically-aware, androgynized, planetary culture, because it will overwhelm them and their rear guard actions. Fear underlies the Politics of the Last Hurrah, the Reaganomics of deregulation, the strip-mining and exploitation of James Watt, the mean-spirited, sexist economics of George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty (1980) so admired by the President, and the regarded actions of the Moral Majority as it attempts to put the totalled women back in the kitchen, the gay people back in the closet and the blacks and hispanics back at the end of the line. Yet the genie will not go back in the bottle - the cultural revolution has already occurred. Politics only ratifies social change after at least a ten-year lag. Even more terrifying for the old patriarchs and their female dupes is the knowledge that the whole culture is "up for grabs." For example, it could shift fundamentally in less than a generation IF women simply took back their reproductive rights, endowed by biology and Nature. All that women would need to do to create a quiet revolution is to resume the old practice of keeping the paternity of their children a secret. As Margaret Mead always stressed, motherhood is a biological fact - fatherhood is a social convention. In one stroke, the male-dominated family, the institutions of inheritance, of property rights in wives and children would be undermined. Accumulation of great land-holdings and estates would be less likely and land trusts and different, more consensual democratized families and social groups might emerge. Children, in whatever group settings they were raised would have rights as persons, rather than being "legitimized" by a marriage contract. Indeed, we now have to face up to the fact that the traditional nuclear family with bread-winner father, home-making mothers and two children now only comprises 12% of all U.S. families, and that 85% of welfare payments to support children in Aid to Dependent Families goes to women and children of divorced fathers, who refuse to pay their child support payments ordered by courts.30 Already the case for defending the nuclear family is becoming a lost cause. Indeed, it is this explosion of the nuclear family that is now ripping through our society with megaton force - another dimension of change that we are forced to face, along with the build-up of C02 in our atmosphere, the destruction of the planet's great equatoral forests, the sacrificing of the Amazonian basin to Brazil's desperate need to pay its foreign debts, and the instabilities in the global monetary system.
Only a biological, morphogenetic model of change can encompass and help us see the planetary transformation now occurring in so many dimensions simultaneously. This change model, familiar to biologists as that by which a chrysalis turns into a butterfly, states that it is characterized by acceleration, and by the inability to infer from any of the existing states of the system its future state. Both eco-philosophy and eco-feminism have shown the capacity to deal with such dimensions of breakdown and breakthrough. Their synthesis, together with insights from ecology and general systems theory, as well as many of the spiritual traditions and the perennial philosophy they share, may provide the ethics and the value-systems for the Solar Age. I have tried to spell these out in detail in the last chapter of The Politics of the Solar Age, as well as some of the evidence signifying the rise of this new planetary culture. The logic of the post-Cartesian science will at last transcend "objec-tivity" and dualism. It will be based on self-referential, autopoetic logic, where the observer must account for his or her logical position in the system he or she seeks to describe.31 This will produce a more honest science where the role and impact of the observer is clearly acknowledged as affecting the phenomenon or experiment. If will also provide "full disclosure" of the personal reasons and motivations of the scientist for studying this phenomenon rather than another, since the first normative decision of any scientist is to decide what to pay attention to, among the infinite numbers of sets of data "out there." Post-Cartesian science will be a science with reverence, gently descriptive and exploratory without the compulsion to intervene. It will produce a revolution in technology from "hardware" to "software," where we will think more carefully before intervening, and a problem of production will not always conjure up visions of factories and machines in our minds. Instead, we will scan eco-systems for signs of redundant potential or where natural eco-system production can be augmented, as I have described in more detail in my books. This post-Cartesian science is based on a fundamentally heterarchial view implied by its positional logics. Hierarchy is an illusion generated by a fixed observer. The syntheses of eco-philosophy and eco-feminism as I have tried to show, is now being midwived both by women and by many men, in works such as William Irwin Thompson's new synthesis, The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light, St. Martins Press NY (1981), Fritjof Capra's The Turning Point, Simon & Schuster NY (1982), James Robertson's The Sane Alternative, River Basin Press, St. Paul, MN (1980), Philip Slater's Wealth Addiction (1981), Theodore Roszak's Person/ Planet (1979) and Kirkpatrick Sale's Human Scale, Coward McCann & Geo Lagan NY (1981) all of whom I am honored to call my friends.
Thus in general terms, we are quite aware of the basic principles on which the New World Order must be built. Fundamentally, these principles are becoming enumerated in some of the new indices of development that go beyond the growth of GNP, for example PQLI (Physical Quality of Life), BHN (Basic Human Needs).
- the value of all human beings
- the right to satisfaction of basic human needs (physical, psychological
and meta-physical) of all human beings
- equality of opportunity for self-development for all human beings
- recognition that these principles and goals must be achieved
within ecological tolerances of lands, seas, air, forests and
the total carrying capacity of the biosphere
- recognition that all these principles apply with equal emphasis
to future generations of humans and their biospheric life-support
systems, and thus include respect for all other life forms, and
the Earth itself
Historically, human development can be viewed as many I local experiments at creating social orders of many varieties, but usually based on partial concepts, that is, these social orders worked for some people, at the expense of other people, and based on the exploitation of nature. Furthermore, they worked in the short-term, but appear to have failed in the long-term. Today, all these experiments of local and partial human development, when seen in a planetary perspective, have been failures in one way or another, based on some form of short-term exploitation (destabilization).
Today, we know that such societies are impossible to maintain and that the destabilization on which they have built themselves are now affecting their internal governmental stability and the global stability of the planet. Interestingly, these instabilities can all be stated in scientific terms:
- in classical equilibrium thermodynamics, in terms of the First
and Second Laws: the Law of Conservation and the Entropy Law,
that all human societies (and all living systems) take negentropy
(available forms of energy and concentrated materials) and transform
them into entropic waste at various rates, and that we can measure
and observe these ordering activities and the disorder they create
elsewhere (for example, the structuring of European countries
in their colonial periods at the price of the concomitant disordering
of their colonies, culturally and in terms of indigenous resources);
- in terms of biology and the evolutionary principle, "Nothing
Fails Like Success," that is, the trade-offs between short-term
and long-term stability and structure, adaptation versus adaptability;
- in terms of general systems theory, the phenomenon of suboptimization,
i.e. optimizing some systems at the expense of their enfolding
- in terms of ecology, as violations of the general principle of interconnectedness of ecosystems and the total biosphere, that is, the continual cycling of all resources, elements, materials, energy and structures. This interconnectedness of all sub-systems on planet Earth is much more fundamental than the inter-dependence of people, nations, cultures, technologies, and so forth.
Thus, the aspirations for a new World Order are not only based on ethical and moral principles, important as these emerging planetary values will be for our species' survival. The need for a new World Order can now be scientifically demonstrated. We see the principle of interconnectedness emerging out of reductionist science itself as a basis, and the concomitant ecological reality that redistribution is also a basic principle of nature. Since all eco-systems periodically redistribute energy, material and structures through bio-chemical and geophysical processes and cycles, all human species' social systems must also conform to principles of redistribution of these same resources that they use and transform, whether primary energy and materials or derived "wealth," (capital, money, structures, means of production) and "power" as well as continually changing institutions.
- We can see six principles emerging in Westernized science itself, implying human behavioral adaptation of the kind now emerging, as I have described:
(planetary cooperation of human societies)
(justice, equality, balance, reciprocity)
(redesign of institutions, perfecting means of production, changing paradigms and values)
(unity and diversity, from "either/or" to "both/and" logics)
(many models, viewpoints, compromise, humility, openness, evolution, "learning societies").
Will it be breakdown or breakthrough? Stress is evolution's tool and today we are being stressed to change and evolve as never before. In this sense, the new resource limits and challenges we face are good news. They are stressing us to grow up - to become all that we can be - to discover "the possible humans" that we are.
1 See for example Global 2000 Report (1980) and Global Future: Time To Act, Gus Speth, Chm. President's council on Environmental Quality, Jan. 1981.
2 New York Times, May 1, 1981. "Reaganvironmentalism", John B. Oakes.
3 Solar Age, June 198 1. " Reaganomics: The Future Through a Rearview Mirror", Hazel Henderson.
4 Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 18, 1982. "Deregulation: Some Corporate Leaders Cheer, Others Urge Caution".
7 Business Week, June 8, 1981. "No Bonanza in Offshore Oil."
9 Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 17, 1982. "Businessmen See New Modera-tion in National Debate on Environment."
10 Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 11, 1981. "Despite Reagan Revolution, Public Looks To Washington."
11 Milwaukee Journal, Oct. 15, 1981. "Pollution Standards Supported by Public. "
12 H. Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age, Ch. 10, "Dissecting The Declining Productivity Flap," p. 283.
13 Ibid. p. 133.
14 Charles Komanoff, Power Plant Cost Escalation. 1981 Komanoff Energy Associates, 333 West Ave., New York, NY 10023.
15 Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 15, 1981. "Financial Doubts Loom over Nuclear Industry".
16 Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 18, 1982. Contact: Californians for the Nuclear Freeze. 7250 Franklin Ave. #103, Los Angeles, CA. 90046.
17 H. Henderson, Creating Alternative Futures, G.P. Putnams (1978), Ch. 12, "Autopsying the Golden Goose".
18 Business Week, Special Report: "State and Local Government in Trouble," Oct. 24, 1981, p. 135.
19 Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 19, 198 1. "Cry from West".
20 See for example, Alternative Budget Proposals for the Environment, Fiscal 1983, Conservation Organizations, Washington, DC, Mar. 1982.
21 H. Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age, Ch. 6, "The Transition to Renewable Resource Societies," p. 128-143, Fig. 5.
22 See for example, Erich Jantsch, The Self Organizing Universe, Pergamon, NY: 1980.
23 Brain-Mind Bulletin, P.O. Box 4211, Los Angeles, CA. 90042, $15 per yr.
24 Rupert Sheldrake, A New Science of Life, J.P. Tarcher, 9100 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 90069, $11.95, (1982).
25 A term coined by Robert Theobald to denote a leadership of wisdom which is recognized and operates by attraction and loyalty.
26 Ilya Prigogine, From Being to Becoming, W.H. Freeman, San Francisco: 1981.
27 Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bi-Cameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1976.
28 A comprehensive guide to this literature is contained in The
Politics of Women's Spirituality, by Charlene Spretnak, Doubleday,
29 See for example, Wolfgang Lederer, The Fear of Women, Harcourt, Bruce, NY: 1968.
30 Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 18, 1982, "Catching up With Parents Who Don't Pay Child Support."
31 H. Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age, Ch. 13.
32 See for example, H. Maturana and F. Varela Autopoiesis and Cognition, Boston Univ. Studies in Philosophy of Science, Reidel, Dordrecht, Holland, 1980.
Introducing: Helen Henderson
Hazel Henderson, the 23rd Albright Lecturer, is a self-educated, self-employed futurist and author, who since 1964 has worked as an activist in promoting environmental protection, corporate accountability, and appropriate technology. Born in Bristol, England, she was graduated at the age of 16 from private British schools. She then entered (in her own words) the "Great University of Life." Her first job as salesperson in a ladies dress shop had little to do with her present occupation. Later she worked in many different hotel jobs in England and in the Caribbean, where she lived for about two years, learning first-hand about "counter-economy" as an established alternative way of making a living.
Ms. Henderson came to the United States in 1956, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1962. She lived in New York from 1956-1971, and it was there that she became actively involved in environmental issues. In 1964 she helped organize "Citizens for Clean Air," one of the first environmental groups in New York City. This experience led to the realization that the resolution of environmental issues must involve the business and corporate community. She became a student of political economy and business, and friend of E.F. Schumacher. In 1968 she joined the corporate accountability movement with two young Nader associates, participating in "Campaign GM - the Campaign to make General Motors responsible." Dissatisfied with established economic doctrine, she began writing articles advocating alternative ways of producing and distributing resources. Her first article, titled "Should Business Tackle Social Problems," was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1967. Since then, she has published numerous articles and two books, Creating Alternative Futures and Politics of the Solar Age.
Ms. Henderson is a director of the Council on Economic Priorities, the Worldwatch Institute, the World Social Prospects Study Association (Geneva) and a member of the World Future Studies Federation (Stockholm). She serves on the editorial boards of Technological Forecasting and Social Change, The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, and Alternative Futures. She has served as a member of the Advisory Council of the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment and on advisory committees of the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering. She has lectured widely at numerous universities, national organizations, business groups, and citizen organizations.
Ms. Henderson received the Citizen of the Year Award from the New
York Medical Society in 1967 for her volunteer work in air pollution
control. In 1977, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Worcester
Polytechnic Institute for her work in alternative economics and
technology. She currently lives and works in Gainesville, Florida.