Humans Have a Major Head-In-Sand Problem
It's human nature but we can do better
As we all well know, ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away. Indeed, quite the opposite, it allows the problems to persist and grow until such fateful day where the problems manifest themselves in our lives with no recourse but to face the consequences of our inaction.
Reality has a way of catching up to you —President Barack Obama
Nonetheless, it is human nature to focus on today’s needs and reality and put off the inconvenient things for another day. How will we pay our bills? What’s for dinner? What’s the price of gasoline? Today’s warm weather in January seems pleasant. Etc. Very few of us like to contemplate worst case scenarios or what will happen in 10 or 20 years if we continue down the same road. We use all sorts of psychological tricks to support our myopic views including:
- Procrastination—we’ll deal with it tomorrow
- Delusion—it doesn’t exist
- Blind Optimism—it will improve
- Can-do attitude—no problem can’t be solved
- Conspiracy—it’s all big setup by nefarious powers
- Religion—God will protect us or it’s God’s will
- Nihilism—it doesn’t matter
- Resignation—there’s nothing I can do to change it
- Localism—it’s someone else’s problem
To be more concrete, let me start with a list of looming problems that aren’t being addressed by societies fast enough:
- Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
- Climate Change
- Mass Extinction
- Encroachment on Wilderness
- Rampant Social Media
- Loss of Privacy
- Labor Injustices
- Drug Addiction
- Microplastics in Biosphere
- Water Shortage
- Melting Glaciers and Ice Caps (Sea Level Rise)
- Job Replacement with AI and Automation
- Unaffordable Rents
- Unaffordable Education
- Rampant Profiteering
- Healthcare Collapse
- Social Unrest
Yes, many of these things are related and intertwined, especially around Climate Change, which I prefer to call Biosphere Trauma because Climate Change happens naturally too so it’s not quite as urgent sounding as it actually is. Natural climate change is usually quite gradual, affording plenty of time to adapt to the changes, sometimes even by evolutionary changes in plants and animals. But manmade climate change is due to a continuous assault on the Biosphere, rapidly changing its delicate balance via industrial scale fossil fuel burning 24 hrs per day at the same time destroying Nature’s balancing mechanisms such as forests that produce the oxygen we breathe. We are relentless. We simply don’t give Nature a chance to keep up to do it’s age old magic to keep everything in balance.
But Nature doesn’t exactly care because Nature is MUCH bigger than we are. Nature is a planet in a solar system. Nature is an equal opportunity provider of sustenance and death. Work with Nature and she might just let you live for awhile. Work against Nature and she will coldly dispatch you like the millions of extinct species she’s left in the layers of sediment and dust. Nature is honest and pure, but not simple. She is exquisitely complex and we tinker with this ultimate Swiss watch at our great peril.
As such, this is our number one head-in-sand issue because it is upon the platform of Nature that all societies and life is built upon. Without a properly functioning Biosphere all other issues become moot like trying to arrange a tea party in a burning house. Indeed, I personally believe upon addressing our relationship with Nature we will solve many of our other problems because Nature is a great teacher. In other words, all of the above problems are in some way related to our relationship with Nature.
We have delusionally put ourselves outside and above Nature with our many systems of business, machines, chemistry and politics. We have mistaken dominion for domination and stewardship for exploitation. In so doing we have disrespected and dishonored the Giver of Life at every turn. It is only because of the scale of Nature that we are even here. That she can absorb so much of our crap and keep running is a testament to our temporary good fortune. But she has her limits. She can go full planetary on us at any time. She can easily wait another 100 million years for some new species to take a try at the brass ring. She can deem some other fish the evolutionary winner to set upon the land and redo a whole different evolutionary story should we do ourselves in.
Do Look Up!
The hit movie Don’t Look Up was a parody of today’s head-in-sand world. It showed how we use the media and politics to lull ourselves into thinking everything is just fine, even with a deadly asteroid careening toward the Earth. In the movie, certain people in power urged to public not to look up and see the brightly glowing asteroid at night, to simply ignore it. It didn’t work out and neither will our REAL situation if we don’t pull our heads out of the sand, look around and honestly appraise our situation.
In service of this aim we can employ a different set of psychological tools than the ones that got us where we are or use the same ones in a more positive way:
- Immediacy — start today, start now
- Lucidity —clarity of mind and honesty
- Willful Optimism — we can improve things if we try
- Must-do attitude — inaction is not an option
- Rationality — evidence-based and scientific thinking preferred
- Religion — God helps those that help themselves (and others)
- Purpose — everything matters very much
- Determination — never give up on doing what’s right no matter how long it takes or how hard you have to work at it
- Holism — everything and everyone is connected
Time is running out. Not the Earth’s time. Our time. We must no longer listen to kooks and conspiracy weirdos and get focused on tangible, concrete steps to repair our relationship with Nature and at the same time address the many other issues related and subservient to that. We MUST learn how to care for future generations as well as our own. This requires a less myopic approach, long-term thinking and above all, compassion. If we keep focusing only on today, at some point there will be no tomorrow. If we care only about ourselves then we will have failed ourselves, and our children, and their children, etc.
Creative type, entrepreneur, philosopher and futurist working on sustainable solutions we can all enjoy into the future.