A Message to Environmentalists
by Erik Sutter-Kaye
Until you understand the nature of the unfolding environmental situation, your efforts to reverse its process will be in vain. There is no chance of undoing the damage to the environment perpetrated in the Industrial Age. It is too late for that; it has been too late for some time now. Which is not to say that things cannot get better; they can and will, but not before they get worse. But turning the clock back to the way the Earth was before the Industrial Revolution, that is not going to happen. Restoring the Earth isn’t about utilizing breaking science and technology.
It isn’t about engaging in a Global New Deal. It’s not about trading Carbon Credits. It’s not about replacing gasoline-fueled, tarmac- riding automobiles with ethanol- or electric– or hydrogen-fueled tarmac-riding automobiles. It’s not about reversing global warming. It’s not about being a White Knight in dazzling White Armor and riding in to untie Mother Nature tied on the train track.
It’s not possible to do these things. It’s too big for us. It’s too late. Some of us saw this destiny of planetary desertification coming thirty, forty years ago, perhaps longer. But we didn’t listen to us; we didn’t think clearly or well about how to warn ourselves. (Spiking trees? Tossing acid in whaling boats? What were we thinking?!) We might have stopped these self-destructive trends then if we understood the true nature of it; but we didn’t then and for the most part we still don’t.
It’s about admitting the mistakes of the past. Of History. And yes,I just used the word self-destructive. It’s our nature we have an opportunity, and responsibility, to correct, and not anything else. It’s about opening up our hearts to the grief. It’s about discovering that the grief– our personal grief, grief of lost species, lost habitats, grief oflost opportunities– although finite, appears to be infinite. It’s about deciding as a global society to stop escaping from the grief, and turning around to embrace it, without being consumed by it.
Above all, its about memory. We are on the verge, as a 7 billion-person-strong Global Village, of remembering the last Planetary Crisis, roughly 6 to 8 thousand years ago. When the vast grasslands from Morocco, in Africa, all the way to the great savanna in Mongolia in Central Asia, all wilted and died and turned against humanity, against all life, in a sandy inferno that still burns today.
Recorded history began in the aftermath of this great Old World famine that consumed the center of the populations in the Eastern Hemisphere. The record shows us a steady trend of migration, for 5 or more thousands of years, out of the bitter lands. Throughout the Old World (excluding Australia) the essential experience of epidemic starvation has been transmitted to every corner of the vast human expansion that began in Africa 7 million years ago.
Through war and scorched earth, through socialized traditions of violence to women and children, human slavery, and the apprehension of the reproductive process as a weapon of war to out-populate the enemy, the essential emotional conditions of the Great Old World Famine have been exported at present to the 7 continents and the Seven Seas.
Like the woman who was raped as a young girl, and maintains in her adult life a consistent pattern of self-destructive sexual relationships (with men who resemble her rapist) 20th and 21st Century human societies have been slowly and steadily replicating the moral values and conditions of desert survival into the abundance of the wooded, forested vastness of Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
We who carried this pain into Paradise are the walking wounded, surviving descendants of the Great Saharan-Asian Inferno circa 6000 BC -4000 BC. (“BCE”is for wussies!- E.S-K) Sworn to survive no matter how, we carry within our broken psyches a distorted sense of identity, like an Operating System in a software package that is riddled with glitches and bugs. Like a bad OS, we are neither straight nor true, yet we know how to boogie– we carry within us memories of our condition before the Saharan-Asian Inferno f___d us up.
How can anything good come of a technological fix, when we environmentalists who would do the fixing are carrying the same inherited distortions of history as any corporate robber baron or Warlord? I see a clear patterninso-called Post-Modern society, of modern institutions from the United Nations down to privately-runthink tanks, attempting to solve far-reaching problems with plans that don’t include a consideration of the planners’own completely human predilection for self-deception.
Modern historyis rife with examples of bigfixes that created biggerproblems that generated a quantum of large fixes that just keep on expanding exponentially, until the whole system collapses. (I think, for example, of the whole history of the CIA, who has a history of arming rebels against a mutual enemy until the enemy is defeated and the rebels become the new enemy.Andwhat does the CIA do? They go find a new group to arm!)
Our human survival at any level depends upon the emergence of a critical mass of women and men of all cultures who can reverse the societal trends of escapism and emotional suppression that keep buried the old racial memories.Then we canfully remember the buried memory of the Great Saharan-Asian Inferno. We must then all link up, all of us who remember, in order to maximize the practice of collective emotional support. This will be necessary since the emerging memories of our buried past will be devastating to us without a collective structure to anchor our healthy spirits onto. Then finally can we emerge simultaneously from the Two Deserts: the Desert of our buried past, and the Desert of ourpresent unfolding on every continent before us.
For those of you who read this, you need never again fault or blame yourselves oryour own species’ capacity for stupidity and greed. That would burden you unnecessarily with self-loathing. Rather, take pride on yourself for emerging, however incompletely, from the pastinfernos,and have compassion for the great wounds and trials you and your ancestors have incurred. Each and every one of us , scientist and terrorist, visionary and prostitute, are all a piece in the puzzle of getting over the current evolutionary challenge. For there is nothing we have ever done, or can do, that Nature hasn’t provided for. We are not separate from Nature; we are not separate from God. The coming crisis of Global Warming is exactly necessary to recalibrate the Gaiain Computer.
Note: Erik invites comments on this essay. He would like nothing better than to be either agreed or disagreed with. Given the current goings on with the aftermath of Gustav reminding us of the killing torrents of Katrina, this article as well as discussion of the environment in general seems more important now more than ever.
—–Bea Garth, editor
One Response to “Two Deserts”
Erik; I loved your two deserts piece. The passion you communicate seems appropriate to me. It reminds me of a TV documentary I saw some years back, wherein Egypt’s great Sphinx was revealed to be corroded by WATER. Which means that in its lifetime Egypt has had a dramatic alteration of climate. A question for you; My studies have shown me that around 5 or 6 thousand years ago the Goddess Archetype subsided in the mass psyche and was replaced by the patriarchal god principle. The Goddess represents the cornucopia of abundance. With her subsidence into the collective unconscious prior to the patriarchal era humanity has been in a five thousand year experience of being cast out of abundance. This seems to fit the scenario you have outlined. Do you yourself see any meaningful relation between the loss and return of the Goddess Gaia archetype and the history you have outlined? I completely agree with you that the issue is so all encompassing and so deep that only a cosmically invested spiritual renaissance is capable of adequately addressing this issue.
I would be interested to know the sources you use for this interpretation of prehistory. In the meantime please keep experimenting with your passionately emotional political expression. It appeals to me.
Do you enjoy living in the time of the death of capitalism?
Erik, I’m Erik;
I thank you for writing back and taking the time and care to think about the environment in the way with me.
I find I want to take back “The Two Deserts” and re-write it. Beginning it with the absolutist tone, “You can not succeed; it’s too late,” strikes me as absolutely the wrong way to introduce a concept that is so dear to me. But it is very hard to explain. Especially since I don’t believe it is hopeless at all. But I do believe that we the participants in this American Experiment must believe that our collective effort has been hopeless before we can adopt a better one.
There is an opportunity in the national dialogue about the BP oil spill to do just that; if only enough Americans who empathized with the photo of the pelican covered in red crude.)
The point of “Two Desserts” was that in order to confront a macro-problem directly, we must define it appropriately: there can be no lasting scientific fix without an accompanying emotional/moral fix.
As we watch docilely while the oil plums drift towards the Florida Keys where the will be swooped up by the Gulf Stream and deposited mere days later in the Grand Banks Fisheries of the North Atlantic, let me pose some non-scientific questions to you:
Why aren’t more good, uncorrupted people in positions of power? Is there something in the air that tends to reward the insane and irrational while punishing the rational and holistic?
I think the sign of this Age is that power goes to the neediest, the most frightened and immature of souls: Ken Lay and Robert Fastow of Enron; of BP, Bernie Madoff, of Goldman and Sachs, even Rush LImbaugh. they’ve lost there way, but we give them power. Why is this?
We cannot apply a technological fix to the environment if the Grinches of Industry constantly obstruct the clear path to resolution. These people are not Greedy. They are literally psychotic, plain and simple. Their heart-chakras have been damaged and paralyzed.
Greed itself is not a true emotion. It is merely the inversion of fear and terror. You show me a greedy man or woman, and I’ll show you a terrified human being. Greed has no cure, but fear and terror do. These people must be reconnected with the heart of the community. But believe, me they are terrified of that more than anything else.
The rest of us mostly have other impaired chakras. My third chakra, centered in the abdominal muscles and controls will power, is impaired. I am astonishingly vulnerable to people with damaged heart chakras. If we want others to be whole, we must become whole.
The real environmental fix is not one that only a few experts and leaders can implement. There will be no fraternity party in which the likes of Al Gore, Stewart Brand, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Billary and Hill Glinton, Bono and Yoko Ono, James Cameron, Kevin Costner and Sean Penn get to slap each other on the backs for saving the planet– a job well done!– while holding onto their market share of the Green Brand. No, This revolution will be live.
In summation, Eric, the chief problem to be solved in this desperate age is, why do the laws of science and nature disable the sane and enable the insane? I believe in Koyaanisquatsi– Life out of Balance. I believe in the teaching of Black Elk, who said, “.. the Hoop of the People has been broken and the Tree of Life is dead.” I believe his prophecy that it will be restored only after all hope is lost.
The idea in “The Two Deserts” is that these questions can be solved if we try to reconstruct our distant memories of very disturbing times. Very few people have heard this idea before. But all the ideas you have heard have been exhausted. We must look into our blind-spot, and our shadowside, because we have taken apart everything else.
But you have shown me that I need to do a better job explaining myself than with “the Two Deserts.” This is no surprise. News from our shadowside must take refinement to be conveyed.
Thanks and Blessings,
Graeme, old friend,
I’m writing this, oh, 4 plus 6 umm, 10 months after you wrote your comment. I read it at the time it first came out, but when I read it now, I swear its like the first time I’ve read it. Its useful to me at this phase of my life to notice that it takes me 10 months to recover the attention to return a ball hit straight to me. And to my surprise, this ball you hit is an easy one, a generous reply. Thank you.
The theory I’ve developed is based primarily on three sources, The Chalice and the Blade, (of course!) Rhiane Eisler; Ishmael, Daniel Quinn, and the writings of the less-known Harvey Jackins, (Dawn Horse Press), who I don’t want to go into here. (But in private, you and I have talked extensively about him. ) Another book that I found out later provides a lot of relevant ideas is The Garden of their Dreams, by the Canadian Brian Griffin. And of course, the grand masterpiece of this perspective, Saharasia by the Neo-Reichian James DeMeo, I discovered after my own speculation was pretty developed.
The shifting of society from Goddess/God-worshipping societies to exclusively God-worshipping societies is coincidental throughout Western Asia and Europe with the transformations of ancient towns from open-agrarian landscape to walled fortress structures. And this transformation fits the chronology of dispersions of so-called Kurgan invasions from Central Asia through the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas into the Mediterranean over thousands of years (Eisler.)
In other words, a civilization of warriors that had been re-forged and tempered by the horrific transformation of the grasslands of Central Asia into uninhabitable desert migrated across Western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa, plundering and destroying human settlements that they encountered. The settlements that survived became more warlike, both architecturally and spiritually. The implications from the writings of Jackins and Wilhelm Reich is that the European survivors of the Kurgan invasions never fully recovered emotionally from the devastation. According to Reich, complete emotional healing from a catastrophic event entails vigorous emotional catharsis or discharge followed by a return to a state of well-being and innocence.
When this cathartic process in any individual is arrested, cognitive processes occurring at the time are also arrested. The individual’s conclusions about the causative catastrophic event are incomplete and remain that way until the cathartic process, in suspension, is completed. The distress, suspended in the body/mind of the individual, can be passed onto their offspring through oppressive parenting, including abuse, caused by the suppression of the cathartic process.
In other words, the psycho-physical effects of the catastrophic event are invariably passed on both tooffspring, and to victims of violence, including war.
Without catharsis of the catastrophic events, sensitivity to the intimacy of the feminine creative principal in nature is constricted, and replaced by a sense of blame to and resentment of the Feminine as the cause of the Desertification Crisis. The Grasslands of Central Asia, and Northern Africa, both began to die off around 5,000 BC, probably due both to natural climactic change, and to artificially caused over-grazing, -deforestation and -harvesting. Throughout the entire band of catastrophic droughts from Morocco across Africa to Egypt into the Arabian Peninsula and all the way Northeast into Mongolia, human cultures turned away from Goddess worship to solely worship dispassionate Male deities and war gods.
So, yes, Graham, in answer to your question, the turning away from the Goddess is absolutely connected to the desertification of Sahara-Asia.
I won’t go into it now but superficially, but the subject of religion in this matter is very convoluted and complicated. Although a large branch of the New Age spiritual movement considers the Judeo-Christian Axis to be in aggressive denial of Feminine Spirituality, I conclude differently. Historically, between the pantheistic cultures and monotheistic cultures are a wide swath of gynophobic polytheistic cultures, from Ba’al worship to the Olympic Pantheon lead by rapists like Zeus and Hades. (Now we’re getting into your astrological neck of the woods.) Judaism was spawned from cultures immersed in anti-feminine spirituality, yet the Abrahamites separated themselves tentatively from the mainstream. Christianity and Islam of course both spun off from there. All represent, I believe, incomplete attempts to found an ethical foundation for community in reaction against gynophobic polytheism, but in a desert climate in which return to pantheism (Paradise) was not really possible.
The metaphor of the Moses leading the Israelites for 40 years in the desert, before settling in Canaan, sums up where Judeo-Christian-Islamo culture is right now.
The human heart is ever searching for an internal Paradise.
Thanks for asking, Graeme,
And thanks for waiting.
Now I’m afraid to re-read your question, and so don’t know if I answered it correctly. However, I probably over-answered. Creativity is always difficult, except when its not.
Hi Erik this is Eric!
I don’t know if I like your essay or not. Certainly well-written! I don’t know if the Saharan famine and exodus occured or not. I know Terrance McKenna spoke of it often, and also to what Graeme mentioned about the return today of the Gaia consciousness. My preference is for historical evidence to back up any deep past-life memories people may have. I feel the same about Atlantis. So I dunno. Personally I think we carry some of the lingering effects psychologically of our experience of the first civilizations. That’s when we began a “dominator” culture of hierarchy, punishment, class structure and eventually patriarchal society; of division of labor, separation from and domination of nature, wars among cities, etc. The place where most of this happened is ironic, since in this time of global warming and species death, the most powerful descendant of this civilization (the USA) went back there in 1991 and 2003 to try to continue its legacy of war and domination and return America to the “Mars phase” of empire and war.
Yes, the issue is psychological as well as technological, but to say we need to give up I disagree with. Sometime problems can be solved, and as you say, we can’t go back to a time when we didn’t try to solve problems or use technology. Certainly electric cars will go a long way to deal with this problem. The issue there is mainly what drives some people to hang on to the past– the oil business primarily– and to say “drill baby drill.” What is the psyche of the Sarah Palins of the world that drive this reactionary materialism? Is it what you or I have stated or something else? Many species will die if we for any reason fail to act or give up. Do we have the right to kill them?