I am here, in Ocho Rios. I have not known a more savage and compulsive beauty; Jamaica, how you have won my heart. Kant wrote much on the relativity of perspective to beauty, and he was not wrong. The majesty and potency of Mother Nature invites humility. I feel a radical aliveness here. I am free of expectation or critique, finding comfort in all that’s elemental. An entire field of theory exists on this very subject: Spiritual Ecology. We rest upon a clifftop, at Te Moana, which steeps down to the Caribbean Sea below. There is a broad-horizon view. Vast tropical storms have been an excellent reminder of the scale of one’s own life, both the magnitude of its potential and its minutiae, all vying for attention. It is a stark reality check, as you strip away the constructed, and instead are left with your ‘self’. I love to be in Nature for myriad reasons, but mostly for its tangibility, being overtly sensorial. Especially in tropical places, there is an otherness, which adds to already heady charms. As a creative, curiosity is never sated, and newness equals childlike wonder.
Nature is dignified, generative, harmonious and rhythmic, only seeking to create. It offers bounty wilfully, which we can harness and harvest freely. Unlike men, It has no intention to intrude, exploit or plunder. It is innately benevolent, visionary and humane.
The supreme technology of Nature is readily apparent. As I write outside, the tiny hummingbirds dip and weave through the blooming hibiscus, such is my delight. There is magic, and, doubtless, divinity. The festival of colours, patterns and cycles are expressions of advanced systems. The splendour of Nature is unquestionable.
In 2016 David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II was one of the highest rated titles on the BBC, capturing a viewership of 13 million for its first episode. So, are we keen to get back to basics, go native, regress to the primitive? There’s a growing desire to arrest development, and delay gratification, it seems. Sigh. Relief.
Nokia have just bucked this trend, but re-issuing the iconic 3310 mobile handset, 17 years post-debut. There is an increasing need to slow the pace and reject digital acceleration. Modernity is so fluid and overwhelming, and its lack of concreteness is disorientating. Really, it’s no wonder we are experiencing a mass existential crisis, and in turn a mental health epidemic. We are over-stimulated, distracted and alienated (from self and other). We have lost our connection to the Earth, and the ability to deeply commune with one another. We’ve become too sentimental, and our minds can be likened to matter. We must reclaim our capacity for independent thought. Exponential growth is not an evolution. My mind is at critical mass most of the time, and I for one am keen to regain control, and to recover an acceptable, more mitigable realism.
I have the fortune of being well-travelled, and I find that islanders have a certain quality of attitude that is unique. Given the density and scale of both landmass and oceans, positive or negative environmental impacts are highlighted. Typically, they have an acute awareness of the duality of self and environment, being interdependent, as they are. There is an understanding for the need to nurture, cultivate and steward, an appreciation for the relativism of the micro to the macro, and the simultaneity of cause and effect. Islands, therefore, are often leaders in the field of conservation.
Hawaii for example, features multiple eco-systems, from volcanoes to reef, deserts to jungle. There are eight different climate zones in total, including polar, tropical, arid and temperate ones. In an act of self-preservation, external industrial or commercial interests, are not so welcome here. There is a blanket intolerance to potential contaminates. However, three municipalities in Hawaii have been unsuccessful in the banning of GMO crops, some difficulty with regulation apparently. The Fukushima disaster in 2011 compromised sea-foods and marine life, a clear reminder of the need to protect fragile and finite natural resources. Islands are required to be self-sustaining.
The Orcabessa Bay (JA.) Fish Sanctuary initiative, now the model standard, est. 2010, has had a significant impact to reverse decline. Coral coverage has now been increased by 147% in less than 5 years, and there has been a 500% increase in fish stocks in that same time. A combination of coral nurseries and the diversification of fishermen’s roles to include caretaking, enforcement and management have contributed. Foundations of education, innovation, wisdom transmission, and the integration of ideas, have all informed prosperity.
It seems community driven co-ops are largely successful, being motivated by reward-feedback. They have positive social and economic implications.
Somehow, ultimate truths exist starkly in Nature, yet they seem to elude the realm of Man. One of the greatest challenges of this age is questionable truth. Climate Change, for example, is peddled as ‘concept’, yet I believe it to absolute. We are fed so much spin, rhetoric, and anecdote, yet none of these are ‘real’ in the empirical sense. We’d do well to both acknowledge and honour incontrovertible truths, for they may steer us towards redemption, not just dead ahead to self-annihilation.
If we are to deny global warming, with the overwhelming evidence (scientific and experiential proof) presented by eminent specialists, who share collectively a staggering body of knowledge, then we are most foolish; there is always a price paid for ignorance. For the most part Science conveys factual observations, is neutral and non-partisan in its motivation and the representation of its findings. It does not serve political agenda, nor have a bias towards fiction. Science, by definition, is all about facts, being evidence-based, and is essentially well-intentioned.
Science by no means has all the answers, which we should accept, but in the absence of evidence there is otherwise, only faith. I have faith in Nature, but less and less so in man, and certainly none in politicians.
A facet of contemporary politics is the inclination to mis-inform for political advantage and personal gain. It’s truly devastating, how environmental concerns have become politicized, setting the most disastrous precedent for an amplification of collective denial. We must return to the classical appreciation of truth as a matter of urgency.
It calls to my mind the burning of the books by the Nazis (1933), in a surreal act of state censorship. Since everything is perceived, and both doctrine and opinion exist, the truth is getting harder to come by. We must be more rigorous in our attunement to the origins of truth, seeking credible sources, to counter the narcissism of the ruling class.
In a post-truth age, what’s required is a radical sanity to challenge retrograde thinking and ways of being. We should transcend dogma and replace it with a more enlightened form of Realpolitik. After all, there’s a hairs-breadth between post-truth and all-out delusion.
Recently, at UC Berkeley, a group of self-delegated computer coders and hackers gathered to collect and archive historic climate data from both NASA and the Department of Environment, to be stored outside of governmental servers, for safe-keeping. This mass collation was a response to grave concerns over the discovery that entire sections of evidence were found to be missing or wiped, inferring political administrations had been party to it. Anything’s possible, recall Watergate. How have we come to this? We like to think we are civilized, but we are not. Whatever has happened to integrity, to Democracy?
They say ‘knowledge is power’, but we must guard against the keeper of knowledge being corruptible, as man so often is, motivated by greed, seeking short-term gains (over long-term, universal, prospects) Power and ignorance, are the most dangerous of bedfellows.
To avoid dystopian reality, I’m inclined to ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’, which, in Leary’s intended message, meant to become engaged, conscious, and activated, to challenge mainstream cultural assumptions, and offer compelling alternatives to status quo.
Personal responsibility should be the prime point now, lest we become overly existential. We should choose action over passivity, a spirit of contribution over self-interest.
We have a duty to learn, so that we can become the protectorate of knowledge, then teach our learnings for value-creation. Let our legacy not be that we leave our children with a rotten Earth.
Is knowledge the derivative of wisdom, or the other way around? Wisdom must be transmitted, and knowledge applied, for either to have any meaningful purpose.
Perhaps we ought to borrow the guiding principles of Mother Nature, and apply them to the revision of the human condition. We simply must become more sophisticated; a very human revolution is necessary now. We should cultivate higher emotional intelligence, to invite the dawn of a new age of enlightenment sooner.
To reconcile ourselves with a communal, universal ideology, that considers the whole, such as the reciprocal altruism eco-systems exemplify, would be the ideal. We must devise sustainable futures ahead.
Mostly, we must concern ourselves with a common causality towards peace, and the recovery of the natural world. Doesn’t all Life, just want for more Life?.