We seldom see the history we ourselves are making. It isn’t visible to us, and the long-term implications of current actions are unknown. And yet with global warming, climate change, and the once again growing threat of nuclear war, we do indeed seem at a historic moment in human development.
The oft quoted Aldo Leopold perhaps foresaw this long ago in his classic, “A Sand County Almanac,” when he wrote of the human paradox: “man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the search-light on his universe; land the slave and servant versus land the collective organism.”
Leopold was speaking of our vision of ourselves: egocentric users in a game of “survival of the fittest” and “every man for himself,” or responsible members of a biotic community upon whose health and wellbeing we all depend.
Climate change and the threat of nuclear war are reminding us that, like it or not, we are all citizens of the world. It is not an option – it is a fact. We are all part of the human community, members of the collective organism we named Earth. We are alone on a tiny, fragile sphere, drifting through space. There is no one to save us. If we can begin to grasp the enormity of this, all of our “beliefs,” all of our manmade isms and ideologies, become meaningless. All that matters are profoundly moral values; truth and integrity, a deep concern for our fellow man and for our planet.
Mankind now has the option to be universally successful. The knowledge accumulated by millions of humans over thousands of years has given us this choice. But we are not going to realize this astounding possibility if we continue down our current personal, national, and international path of “you or me,” “survival of the fittest,” “every man for himself.” Earth is a “collective organism” and we must be responsible – and universal – “biotic citizens,” seeking the good of all.
While it may seem unrelated, a dangerous economic reality sets the tone for any future actions. As stated in the 2014 OXFAM report “Working for the Few,” the world’s richest 85 people – they could fit snuggly on a large school bus – now lay claim to as much wealth as the bottom half of all humanity. The wealthiest 1 percent has a net worth ($110 trillion) greater than the combined Gross Domestic Product of the entire planet ($73 trillion). The health and prosperity of all humanity is held hostage to this unimaginable inequality.
We must soon understand that all of our liberal – conservative arguments about government debt and spending, taxes and regulations, social safety nets and healthcare, and a host of other divisive issues, are almost farcical in light of the concentrated wealth that now owns our government and that of most countries around the globe. Continuing to allow ourselves to be manipulated into these divisive squabbles keeps us from recognizing the true forces attacking our nations and communities.
Man the conqueror, survival of the fittest, and every man for himself may have served an ancient purpose, but they now are recipes for human heartbreak and planetary failure. Even the “victors” lose in the end.
Dave Svetlik of Kronenwetter
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