Living in the Future's Past (2018) Movie Script

This Earth was here before us,
Every living thing on it has evolved together, over eons of time.
And although we are part of the web of life,
because we see it,
we think we stand above it.
From all that nature gave us,
we have made a new world out of wilderness,
Built great civilizations.
It seemed there was nothing we could not do.
Even the sky itself was not the limit.
We see the symptoms of a reality we didn't expect.
Have we reached the limitations of our human nature?
Is this the end of the line for us?
It's hard to tell from our current point of view,
living here in the future's past.
The world that we live in
when you see it in space,
you understand there's a planet that's bowling around the sun,
turning on its axis.
The oceans, clouds, mountains, forests.
You see it all from up there.
You can see over a thousand miles
and it's all moving underneath you at five miles per second.
When you look at the horizon,
you see a very, very thin
little blue ribbon of atmosphere
and it really brings home to you
it was a shock to me and I'm a scientist, okay,
I thought I had all the scales worked out, intellectually,
but it was a shock to me to see how thin the atmosphere is
and how obviously it's easily affected by what we do.
And how obviously it's easily affected by what we do.
This is the great challenge of our time
dealing with the
human impact on the environment
and what it means in terms of our civilization going forward.
We cut all the trees.
We kill all the fish.
We consume and consume.
So much ecological writing,
you know, just open the paper,
is about the end of the world.
Is about the end of the world.
It's starting! Like, when's it going to start?
And, the concept world It's starting!
And, the concept world
as a sort of way of distinguishing between
as a sort of way of distinguishing between
human beings and everything else, has evaporated.
This is the only place that we know,
out of this whole universe, that we can live.
Life is messy.
We are changing multiple aspects of the
Predicting all the effects of it
What do we do?
We've been standing back and watching nature
It's on everyone's mind:
Why are why not doing more in response?
We've used our abilities to build a huge,
technological society that's very advanced.
But, in our essence, we're still animals.
And one of the problems is that, as animals,
And one of the problems is that, as animals,
we have certain emotions and certain tendencies
that are counter-productive in our great, complex society.
That are counter-productive in our great, complex society.
Spinoza, the philosopher, has said,
Man doesn't understand the unconscious processes
which actually really control their conscious behaviors and thoughts.
Perhaps the solutions
in our genes,
our subconscious motivations, in our genes,
our subconscious motivations,
our most primal instincts.
We are the most flexible species
ever evolved, I would think.
And when you see people thriving in the arctic,
and you see people thriving in the Kalahari Desert,
and you see people thriving in the Amazon Rainforest,
we also have the ability to destroy all of those habitats,
and everything in between.
Can looking at evolution help us understand
and the future of humanity?
and the future of humanity?
And the future of humanity?
From an evolutionary perspective,
another species.
We're unique, but
evolutionary biology sees every species as unique.
Every species, everywhere, is a genius at survival,
otherwise it wouldn't be here.
Every species can teach us something.
The plants and animals,
they just seem so different to each other.
But, we're all made of the same stuff.
The atoms, which make the molecules,
And the diversity started this process
So, we know that natural selection has allowed diversity to appear
as a process of winning out those who
are most suited to the environments.
Natural selection
Natural selection
different lineages of organisms,
and we are at the top of one of those lineages.
That underneath our sophisticated civilization
we are these utilitarian lumps. It's exactly the opposite.
It means that being sophisticated and artistic
and leads to the level of beetles with iridescent wing cases.
And leads to the level of beetles with iridescent wing cases.
Because there's something intrinsically non-utilitarian and playful
about evolution.
We're part of the system. We're nature.
We're part of the Earth, and we're
We're part of the Earth, and we're
fundamentally dependent
on its good graces.
Very symbiotic relationship
to everything on this Earth.
I understand some people that if they say,
'No, no, this is a science thing.'
That's the province of God.
I can hear that view, but I, I really don't think it's
what I see in scripture. What I see in scripture is, 'C'mon',
I want to show it to you. I want to reveal myself to you.'
I don't see science as challenging my faith.
In fact, I see it as affirming my faith.
We are new on the planet.
We are the most newly
We are a trial run.
In terms of evolution, We are a trial run.
In terms of evolution,
animals adapt to their
ecological conditions. But as humans,
we have been able to control our ecological conditions.
Evolution itself is a process by which
organisms become more efficient at
extracting resources from their environment.
Humans are unique,
and what makes us so different from all other animals
is our mastery of technology.
We're uniquely able to transform our
environment in ways no other animals can.
We humans are really
that lucked out by becoming bi-pedal,
and discovering how to coerce other animals from a distance,
by being able to throw.
We figured out how to tame fire
and use it to our advantage.
Our evolving technology allowed us to expand into new territories
and manipulate the environment in ways that gave us an edge.
Places like this remind me about
We're so used to living in air conditioning
We're so used to living in air conditioning
and having the comfort of the modern world.
But when you go out into nature, and experience it firsthand,
you're reminded very powerfully about how weak we are as an animal.
You're reminded very powerfully about how weak we are as an animal.
And this is because we are
Culture is our life support system.
Our cumulative culture allows us to cushion ourselves
against the harsh realities of the environment
and to reshape the environment.
Our culture is an integral part of our ecology.
We can trace human ancestors back over 4 million years,
and anatomically modern humans for more than 200,000 years.
Snd we have inherited their successful survival traits.
These traits are in all of us, to some extent,
traits like optimizing time, These traits are in all of us,
traits like optimizing time,
really caring about what other people think about us,
and comparing ourselves to others.
And comparing ourselves to others.
We are still trying to attain
the same daily emotional state as our successful ancestors.
We carry the same neurotransmitters in our brains
that created the exhilarating feeling
our ancient ancestors got when they had the unexpected reward
of finding a berry, or a nut,
or were looking forward to a successful hunt.
But in a culture of amazing technology,
we are surrounded by ready-made stimuli,
pushing us to reward ourselves.
Our evolutionary impulses can be easily hijacked.
Irrespective of where you grew up,
it's in our DNA to copy those around us.
For humans,
imitation is part and parcel of what it is to be a member of a tribe.
Now our adaptations are primarily to the
cultural environment we created around us.
If we don't fit into our culture, Now our adaptations are primarily
If we don't fit into our culture,
we're not going to reproduce, we're not going to survive very well.
We're going to be ostracized,
and being ostracized in a social species like ours,
and being ostracized in a social species like ours,
can feel like a death sentence.
Do we have a human brain mismatched
between how we evolved to be here,
and the modern circumstances we find ourselves in?
Are our needs any different from our ancestors?
Are our needs any different from our ancestors?
Need, the word,
like, 'I really need a bar of chocolate.'
that from my point of view,
I'm sure Neanderthals would have totally loved Coca Cola Zero.
They looked really good and pure because they didn't have it,
you know, it's us poor saps,
but presumably they got the same nervous system.
If it's true that Neanderthals would have
also become addicted to Angry Birds,
there's something true in contemporary society,
it's saying something true
about ancient people.
This is a modern human brain.
It's identical to the brain of individuals
But the information which is stored in the modern brain is very different
to that of our ancestors.
The brain basically encodes information
and that information changes from one generation to the next.
So, you can see the course of human evolution as the
uh, accumulation of wisdom and knowledge
that we pass on from one generation to the next.
Our perceptual system isn't attuned to
the massive changes that
are happening on the planet,
nor are they attuned to the very fine-grained details of those changes.
Our brain's nor are they attuned to
Our brain's
alarm system for threat, the amygdala, the emotional centers
are very tuned to these earlier dangers
from a time when that rustle in the bushes
might be a tiger that was about to eat you
'I'm not being treated fair,
or, 'Honey, we have to talk,' or whatever it is that triggers you.
We have a very quick system
that is dealing with gut reactions,
with, uh, an instant response to danger.
And on the other hand, we have a slower,
which takes time to engage, and which is slow and ponderous,
that we should keep engaged
when we're looking at complex issues in the world around us.
We are physical and biological beings
That sounds pretty trippy, and it is.
Where every part contains information about the whole.
The long view is both forward and back.
For 99.9 % of our evolutionary history,
hunting and gathering people,
living in small kin groups
where everybody was related
and therefore, had a vested interest
in taking care of each other.
We also lived off of the land in such a way that
we did not live beyond the carrying capacity of the environment.
There was no way to store food for long period of time,
and therefore, there was no ability to acquire surplus.
This resulted in a very egalitarian social system where
women had autonomy,
there was no real rigid dominance hierarchy among men,
and it was only after the invention of agriculture
and the domestication of plants and animals
that humans were faced with the situation
of what to do with these surplus resources.
This was the beginning of
We started farming for the first time.
Everything took off from there.
And that's only been around 12,000 years.
That's a blink of an eye, in evolutionary terms.
Controlling the production and distribution of these surplus resources
led to a change in human cultural and social organization.
Cultural evolution is a
It has all the properties of an evolving system.
Since we found agriculture, things changed.
And we,
We started to act like a larger entity
just like an ant colony, or a termite colony,
Bees and ants are individual organisms
They rush about to feed or defend the colony
and collectively they create a super-organism.
Of course, humans are not social insects,
but if you were able to watch a village
or a city from a distance over time,
it looks a lot like a growing interdependent super-organism.
A reorganization
of material existence with far reaching implications.
Today we live in a world of material abundance
And this leads us to think
that this is normal for humans, that it's the normal human condition.
Early societies, even through the middle ages,
and up until almost the modern era
had 90 % of their economies devoted to the production of energy,
primarily in the form of food. Had 90 % of their economies
primarily in the form of food.
That meant that 90 % of what people did involved producing energy.
In other words, just getting by.
Our lives
Sunlight hit the earth,
photosynthesis grew the plants,
rain and soil with the nutrients grew crops,
animals ate the crops,
and we ate the animals.
Energy transforms from one state to another.
Our bodies were product of the current sunlight of the day.
And we are just transient entities,
move a little bit, and then disappear.
That's the way the system works.
And, we have this chance
to be alive,
to move on this planet, to do things on this planet,
to create things on this planet, because we have this
gigantic flux of energy coming from the sun.
The whole universe is a giant machine
for dispersing energy potential.
Energy is everything in the sense that
nothing moves in the universe without
an energy potential available.
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We have been also
already very large amount of energy
by means of using ancient processes
below the ground in the Earth's crust
in the form of what we call fossil fuels.
Fossil sunlight is so powerful
it's indistinguishable from magic.
And we're mining this ancient sunlight
in a very brief period of human history.
A chemical composition of 50 %
of the protein in our bodies, and 80 % of the nitrogen in our bodies
indirectly comes from the chemical signature
of this fossil sunlight that we're mining.
So, we are different than our ancestors.
They were made of sunlight,
we are made of fossil fuels.
In hunting and gathering societies,
can provide enough food to support maybe one person
Basic subsistence agriculture can support more people,
but nowhere near the population densities that we have today.
The way we live is an anomaly.
So, there's really no way for anyone
to know at a, sort of, visceral level
that there are problems with the system,
and if you look around, it all works.
We know historically, to the extent that we pay attention to it,
we used to use wood.
We're aware that our predecessors used wood
and they used so much of it they had to switch to something else.
They switched to coal.
And then they switched to oil.
Eighty years ago,
the oil in America was just under the surface.
We would need very little machinery to get these gusher wells
and we would get out over 100 times
the energy that we put in.
Suddenly this whole new world of transportation opened up,
and with that, this entirely new model for how we fed ourselves,
how we clothed ourselves and built shelter,
and it totally changed the way we live.
It made it possible for us to move away from the country.
Throughout human history, we had to live sort of scattered
in order to not tax any particular resource too greatly.
As we began to be able to import food,
or import energy,
we could live where we wanted to,
and we wanted to live in the cities.
So, we have this massive migration, and we empty the countryside.
We all move to the city because we grow food in the country
and we can just transport it to the city,
and once you're in the city then you can do all these other things.
You can create all this knowledge, create technologies,
you can create this massive economic growth,
and the longer you live that way,
the harder it is to remember what allowed it to start in the first place,
and that was this idea of cheap energy.
Humans gradually became a functional super-organism.
At first, we would maximize grain surplus.
We would grow more grain and store it,
and that would allow our population to
increase and our territory to expand.
But now we're maximizing surplus value.
We're maximizing financial, digital, electronic
representations of surplus.
But all money really effectively is,
is a claim on some energy services.
And so what happens,
is money,
are all in service of the super-organism.
It's nearly impossible for individuals
We contribute to and rely on a growing super-organism
to feed us, clothe us,
power our sophisticated communications,
even protect our societies from each other
through highly organized warfare.
We live within a mesh of energy-eating interdependence
and we never really see the big picture.
A state of plenty can have unintended consequences.
It is the paradox of our times.
Running in the background
whether we consider ourselves to be capitalist, soviet, or feudal,
everything is a kind of program,
a kind of recipe, a kind of algorithm,
the logistical functioning
of Neolithic society, which started all over the world.
The trouble is that when you wash, rinse, repeat,
eventually, when you do it enough times, it starts to reveal its flaws.
For example, me starting my car
is statistically meaningless from a global warming point of view.
Billions and billions of car ignition turnings
has a meaning, and that's the paradox.
All of a sudden, we realize that we're part of a super-organism.
We are enmeshed in systems of production,
systems of manufacture, systems of use.
It's incredibly important to recognize that we're all
part of the system. It's incredibly important
part of the system.
As social organisms,
Our signals that we exchange
than the simple chemical signals
but we do exchange signals, and as humans,
we take individual actions that, on the whole, cause emergent behavior.
The problem happening today is that
is growing very complex and detrimental
to ourselves, and to many
Emergent behavior
It could be fast moving and unpredictable.
No one could see our patterns of interaction would lead to the internet,
the smart phone,
the disappearance of phone booths,
and the rise of server farms.
Who knows what will happen next?
We're all in this together.
Maybe if you're off the grid
maybe then you have the right
We're tiny little microbes on the surface of this huge planet.
We can actually affect the planet and cause it to respond.
Emitting carbon dioxide at these rates,
pretty soon we're going to be in trouble.
We're going to have massive climatic disruption.
The rainfall belts will move.
People in the hundreds of millions, maybe a billion and a half people
have problems getting access to fresh water and food.
The issue is not what the world is like
or when it's warm.
We are in a time of change.
What is interesting is how the world changes
when you dramatically, in our case, increase
the concentration of carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Or, when it suffers mammoth biodiversity
loss caused by our own behavior.
If there's a big change coming,
and we want to know what it might do in the future, what do we do?
We look at what's happened in the past.
Geological history largely reinforces the lessons from the climate models.
The doubling of carbon dioxide will
lead to about 2.5 degrees to 3 degrees of warming.
And the history of the Earth is broadly in agreement with that.
So, a lot of my own research is focused
on the reconstruction of past climate.
We look at dramatic transitions
And, there's not a lot of those,
because in Earth history, things change gradually.
Three years ago, I started on a project.
It was to look at an event that was about 120 million years ago.
And it was to explore exactly this:
it was what we generally consider a rapid ocean acidification event,
a rapid warming event,
and we thought, 'Let's look at this, and see what happened.'
And as we studied it more and more,
and we got better and better at age models,
we got better and better reconstructions of the climate change.
It became apparent that this event that
happened about 100 million years ago,
the climate change happened
over about 40,000 years.
This is the same degree of climate change
that we think might happen over the next 100 years.
There's much more energy in the system.
We have very little knowledge
of how Earth's biological life support systems
will respond to dramatic and rapid change.
We have extraordinary
that all are individual pieces of a jigsaw.
The picture is clear
But start picking those
and you can no longer see, really, what that picture looks like
and the functionality of the entire system
is out of whack.
The Greenland ice mass is being lost at 300 gigatons per year.
Three hundred cubic kilometers of ice per year is disappearing.
The ocean is changing, sea level rise,
we're seeing significant sea level rise.
We're expecting a couple of feet, maybe more
before the end of the century.
So, all these things are facts.
It's not so much
but it's how fast it's happening.
The faster the change comes,
the less time we have to adapt.
The faster the change comes,
the trees have to adapt, or plankton living in the ocean.
The faster the change comes, the less time ecosystems have to adapt.
And the more complex these are,
the harder it is to actually predict what
the consequences of that change will be.
Huge stress
on societies that are already under internal political stress
and, stress induced by lack of resources.
And, stress induced by lack of resources.
Like, food availability,
water availability,
dramatic events associated with climate change,
all of which potentially will exacerbate the divisions within society.
Access to wealth creates divisions.
Access to food and water makes the divisions very pronounced.
It's going to impact the way humans live on the planet.
And when that impacts, then people move.
People are angry. And when that impacts,
People are angry.
Land becomes less valuable, or more valuable.
Populations shifts, and those shifts
Populations shifts, and those shifts
destabilize governments.
We might look up at night
as if we were in a pristine crystal snow globe.
But our problems can no longer be pushed
into the back yard of the less powerful,
the less fortunate among us.
No. Here we are,
and here we were made.
Where everything from farmers, dogs, LED lights, flower, pencils,
politicians, microwaves, and penguins,
the past, present, and future
are all interrelated.
In the next ten years,
we shall increase our wealth by fifty percent.
We shall increase our wealth by fifty percent.
The profound question is
Does this mean we will be fifty percent richer,
In a real sense,
fifty percent better off,
fifty percent happier?
And so, to just get more facts
about climate change or about oil depletion
or about environmental destruction,
people don't know what to do, because they're part of this
organism trying to get more feel-good brain chemicals.
And, the number of people who want to be on the treadmill,
is getting bigger and bigger
And eventually, there's going to be no room to run.
And so, people will fall off.
Many people
will fall off.
We are profoundly motivated
by having purpose.
We're motivated by having a sense of autonomy, efficacy, and control.
Where it seems that our gifts, our energy, our life force
is not going to have some impact, we will simply withdraw
and we will very likely redirect that energy
into where we can feel we have most impact.
And where is that in our culture right now?
It's in consumption.
The economist Immanuel Wallerstein has
talked about world systems theory, in which all things are connected
talked about world systems theory, in which all things are connected
for better, and often for worse.
So, living here in the most industrialized part of the industrialized world,
our tentacles reach everywhere.
Efficacy is the ability to produce a desired result.
But are the results we're achieving, the ones we intend?
Wild animals are disappearing forever.
Our intelligence is remaking the world before our eyes.
Today we can just click on a link somewhere
and have something appear at our doorstep
without having any idea
of what went into getting it there.
All we know about what got it there is the price.
We get more and more detached from the actual cost
of creating and transporting what we're using.
Energy is really at the center of physics, but
for the lay person, the easiest way to explain it
is that energy is the ability to do work.
Work is force through distance.
So, every time you move something,
from China to the U.S.
or from the floor to the ceiling,
that takes energy.
When you drive to work, it takes energy.
To boil one quart of water,
takes up the equivalent of 500 calories of food.
Any kind of transformation requires energy.
We are powerful creatures on this planet,
but we still need the ecosystem to survive.
So we don't want to destroy
the ecosystem, because it would be rather bad.
And this is a transition,
you can call it also a revolution,
you can call it whatever you'd like.
The point is that there have been such
revolutions, such transitions in the past,
but these transitions have a cost.
An energy transition must be paid in energy.
Energy is the currency of life.
Energy creates movement and food.
All life taps energy flows.
We used to measure units of energy in terms of horsepower.
One horse could do the work of ten men.
A small tractor could do the work of forty horses.
It would take 450 horses or more
to get the same work done as just one semi-truck.
And unlike horses,
trucks can work day and night, in any weather.
The flow of fossil fuel has turbo-charged our society.
So, to just say,
We have the science now to realize that these fossil slaves,
they don't complain, they don't sleep,
they're tireless, they're super strong,
but they poop and they breathe,
and their breath is causing our biosphere to warm up,
and our oceans to acidify.
Let's keep them in the ground'? It's not quite so simple.
If you consider the power that's in fossil fuels,
Ninety percent of the work done in human economies
is done by fossil slaves.
The average American consumes 220,000
kilocalories, every day.
We don't think about that, we only think about the 3,000
or 3,500 of food that we eat.
But our energy footprint is almost 100 times more than that,
if you consider
our buses, and our airplanes,
and all the hospitals, and the Disney Lands, and the NASCARs,
and in all the various things that we buy
that are imported around the world.
t's what people invest in,
and a lot of pension funds, and a lot of
the institutions that humanity depends on -
of course they gravitate toward oil.
Of course they gravitate toward oil.
Renewable energy, although it's mature and it's getting very cheap,
it's not going to replace this
infrastructure, and this civilization.
We have a very limited amount of time to
transition to a low-carbon economy,
but it's very naive to just say, let's keep it in the ground
and keep everything else running.
'Can solar energy power our society
as it is today?'
then you already have the answer.
It is not possible.
If you want to switch from
oil and gas and coal
and to move to solar energy, then you have to change a lot of things.
Our food system right now is an energy sink.
We use 10 to 12 fossil-calories to produce 1 food-calorie.
Uh right now,
we have around 100 trillion dollars worth of machinery on the planet
that uses gasoline or diesel fuel.
So, for one barrel of oil, which we pay $50 for,
we have thousands of fossil slaves standing behind us.
The American inventory
of automobiles,
250, 270 million cars and light trucks on the road,
you're talking about more than a decade
and about more wealth
than the gross domestic product in a year to replace it.
So, you're not going do these, make these changes over night.
You see, there is a parameter
in evaluating these kinds of things,
which is called energy return on energy invested.
Energy doesn't cost dollars.
I mean, it does, but it really costs energy.
Oil's the biggest industry on the planet.
So, it sets the pace, in terms of inflation.
So, if you raise the price of oil, all the other prices go up, until
people have accommodated, and they can still afford to buy,
pay the extraction cost for oil.
So, it's not like we're running out of oil,
or coal or gas,
it's that it's getting more costly, in energy terms,
Because it's more costly, it has less benefits
to the rest of society.
The 1930's, the Beverly Hillbilly oil just bubbling under the ground?
We've used all that.
Net energy, which is the energy left after we've paid the energy cost
of finding and extracting it,
that energy is declining now.
We don't realize the scale and the stakes of what's happening.
When we take on debt,
we are promising to repay it, with future energy.
The fossil fuels will not last forever,
they cannot last forever.
The energy potential in one barrel of oil
is equal to a human being
working 40 hours a week or four and a half years.
You have to think to the future,
in order to have a harvest of renewable energy.
'Do not eat your seed corn,' is an old saying.
'Do not eat your seed corn,'
Wise farmers know
there will be nothing left to plant for future harvest.
Will future generations look back at today
and view much of the energy we're burning to have been wasted?
Are we eating our seed corn?
So many of us have come to expect the level of comfort and convenience
unprecedented in our biological past.
We need to redefine our expectations.
Not as what we will lose,
but what we might gain, by preparing for something different.
But what we might gain,
'Oh, fossil fuels are bad? We need to keep them in the ground.'
So, we've got this big divestment campaign
where we stop investing in coal and oil and natural gas.
But if we stop investing in the stocks,
as long as we continue to fly and drive and have infrastructure
built around cheap transportation
and global connectivity of supply chains,
then some hedge fund will just buy those stocks back, 5 cents cheaper.
We can very easily
for example when we think about oil,
of addiction speech.
'I'm leaving this bottle of whiskey in the cupboard,
and I'm not going to touch a drop of it.'
Which means that I'm still fixated on this whiskey, paradoxically.
This is actually, of course, not really thinking differently.
There's a bit of a hangover from this myth that
things should be functioning smoothly
and that smooth functioning is something real.
If you find yourself
in a world where energy isn't cheap,
you're going to have to unwind, somehow
this massive global city system.
You look back in history to when this happened before,
I mean, the Roman Empire,
one of the reasons it fell was it was no longer able to bring in
food and supplies to Rome and the other big city states,
and cities no longer were habitable. They just didn't function anymore.
So, what happens this time around?
shwoo, shwoo... shwoo
And in the past, it's been conflict
that has brought human progress,
at a tremendous cost of slaughter.
World War I brought forth radio and airplanes.
World War II gave us nuclear energy.
Space race between the United States and the Soviet Union
and the Cold War that gave us
uh, communication satellites and
global positioning and many other things, and
now we're where we have to work collectively.
We can't work against each other, we have to work with each other,
we have to work with each other with the view of the future,
not against each other in the present.
The trouble is not so much in
it's in terms of how we think about the world we live in.
Well here we have a human brain.
When you see it in reality, it seems a bit disappointing, doesn't it?
It's very small for what it does,
what we're capable of, and to think it all comes out of
it's quite remarkable.
Let's take a moment to imagine
where everything in existence, at all scales, has equal value.
From skyscrapers and trees, to humans,
Cola, cups, and orangutans,
shoes, and suitcases,
vessels, water,
diamonds, and dragonflies,
even time itself.
If we can imagine everything is intrinsically equal,
then we'd know that what we perceive as reality
comes from the value judgements that exist in our minds.
Comes from the value judgements
If everything exists in the same way,
If it's true that
even just by existing I am killing a huge
then I have to figure out what kinds of life forms I'd like to kill
and I have to be rather conscious and explicit about it,
and being conscious and explicit about stuff is an incredible drag.
There's always an unintended consequence of what you're doing,
for example.
Reality is happening on a number of different scales, all at once.
You can never get it completely right.
So, we're confronted again with the notion of exploring
various different shades of hypocrisy.
You know the famous study,
Oh yeah.
You know the famous study,
or I can give you $50 in a week's time,
you've always, people just kind of are almost,
kind of, compelled to go for the short term.
T-to go for the short term. Kind of, compelled
Yeah, if you think about it, up to a point
Yeah, if you think about it, up to a point
Hm. Yeah, if you think about it,
Because you could be dead.
That's right, you don't know who's gonna
Right, so, uh, th-the
Right, so, uh, th-the
bird in the hand, worth two in the bush.
Absolutely, so there is some rationality
Absolutely, so there is some rationality
Organisms that worried about 50 years from now
were outcompeted by organisms that worried about 5 minutes from now.
Our fate is in our own hands.
No one, no one else.
No one,
How will we shape the future,
What defines our identity?
Are we our urges?
Are we our urges?
Are we our principles?
Who are we?
Who I am is really
of my experiences with other people,
Babies don't have a self concept, they don't
have an idea of who they are.
But as they interact with other people,
they begin to create an image of themselves
and a feeling of who they are, and thoughts about who they are
that's really picked up from
the views and responses of other people
In this modern society, people spend
objects and possessions and sometimes these have
But it's almost as if we have to acquire things around us
We use objects as an extension of our self.
Desire is inevitable.
Um, the kind of plastic products that consumerism makes
out of desire might be optional, but desire is inevitable.
That same drive is what makes it easy for Apple
I mean, I guarantee you, you don't need the next iPhone.
You don't even know what new features it will to have.
And you won't know,
until you see them. But you're pretty sure
you'll like them when you see them.
And that was the whole point of this notion of dynamic obsolescence.
You would be allowed to feel, to achieve a certain emotional state,
for a short period of time, and then almost as
quickly as you'd achieved it, it would begin fading,
and you'd have to have something else.
We have a real love for
a way to feel how we want to feel, faster.
We may have a very developed
with a lot of knowledge, cultural knowledge,
but the way we think is still very much influenced
that we developed millions of years ago.
We humans aren't just like animals,
we are animals.
And as animals, we compete for mates.
Organisms in the wild that have extra resources to display
like flashy tails, or large antlers
are advertising to their mates that, My genes are so good,
I don't need to skimp and save, because,
'I'm so strong, I have these amazing attributes.'
The same phenomenon happens in human societies
to impress members of the opposite sex.
A lot of these displays require spending extra energy
and natural resources that we don't really need to be genetically fit.
But we respond to those cultural signals,
as if those things really do matter.
This question of status and of showing our status,
I do believe that
that's one of the most fundamental determinants of our behavior.
Those who know this best of all,
Those who know this best of all,
and advertising people. Because when they sell us stuff,
and it's designer, or,
what they're tapping into is this
preoccupation with what other people think.
Because they understand, intuitively,
that we're all animals seeking social status.
Because they understand, intuitively,
We like things to be convenient,
and, we like bags that have names on it.
We like to drink out of bottles that we can throw away.
We like styrofoam containers for our fast food.
Plastic itself is something that is persistent through time.
It gets recycled, it gets recycled, it gets smaller, it gets smaller,
and now it's right back to us and detectable in our blood stream.
We are out of alignment
with what we hear and we understand,
and the life that I am leading,
including all the things I love, that might be really
ecologically problematic,
but that I loved them anyways.
So, we have this
and we try to maintain that characterization
only pay attention to information which confirms that bias.
We'll deliberately reframe things that we've done
in order to keep the coherence of who we are.
Our brains are always creating these distortions.
We have no direct contact with reality.
One of the important qualities that we developed
that helped us survive was group identity.
One of the important qualities that we developed
that helped us survive was group identity.
And today, group identity still plays an important role in our life.
It has an important unconscious effect on our attitudes and our actions.
So, we have this tendency always
rather than accepting it ourselves.
And this is part of the bias which creates
or keeps us this coherence of this being a good person.
So, we're all capable of
of what is really going on in our world.
And, there's no mechanism or voice inside us
to signal the artificiality of that.
We don't want to live in a state of anxiety,
we want to believe that the things we enjoy doing will never change.
Do we confuse what we need with what we desire,
and what we desire, with what we need?
Desire is logically prior to need, actually.
And need is really, just, like
stabilized desire that's been turned,
into something seemingly necessary.
And so, I think we need to be a little bit careful when we talk about
being in an ecological society,
meaning our needs matching up with what we want.
So, there's this constant dance between the inhibitory centers, that
know what's good for us in the top of the brain,
and the mid-brain area, for emotional impulse,
which just wants to grab that yummy thing and have it now.
So, let's say we're in a bakery. Everything looks so good, and our brain,
which during evolution was designed to crave fat and sugar
is going nuts. It just really wants one of those yummy things.
But then, our pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that learns,
the part of the brain that understands,
says to us, 'You know, this is fattening,
and you have that blood sugar problem, it's not so great for you.'
And, the pre-frontal cortex has the ability
to inhibit emotional impulse.
And once we understand the true cost of
the things we use and the things we do to the environment,
the very same mechanism applies,
and lets us pull back to the balcony of the mind,
where we see everything is going on.
Then we can make a better decision.
This is the first step in changing our habits
because without mindfulness, we don't even notice the choice points.
We just blindly, spontaneously, automatically
do that thing we've always done.
Our old habits take us over.
When there's uncertainty,
when there's a sense of precarity,
when there's a feeling of vulnerability and confusion,
that's exactly when we are most susceptible, obviously
to adhering to a message, a voice, a person
who comes along and is able to meet
those anxieties and those uncertainties
with such confidence and certainty.
And so, that's what we've seen replaying over and over again in politics.
I don't need to mention the obvious examples of what happens
when the, you know, larger public's sense of fear
is coopted.
About half the wealth in the country is held by
and there are a lot of us out there,
my parents were certainly one of them,
and there are a lot of us out there,
my parents were certainly one of them,
who were rambling from day to day to survive.
And they, in their lifetimes, in the 1930s, had actually
because they couldn't earn a living.
And so, most Americans haven't seen that,
but some Americans still feel that way.
And they feel the threat and the fear of unemployment,
so they're focused near-term.
In any symbiotic relationship,
and this could collapse at any moment.
The desire to be rescued is based on a profound
and deep sense of powerlessness.
Open up a paper, or watch a conventional ecological documentary,
and what you'll see are all kinds of facts designed
to make you feel scared, and upset, and guilty.
This is how we talk to ourselves about ecological disaster.
Now the trouble is, that means that psychologically
we're still putting ourselves before a time when it happened,
somehow allowing ourselves the choice to go down that path or not.
And the point is, we're already down the path.
At first blush it sounds like a bit of a downer.
So, one's natural reaction, if you hear bad news
if someone else tells you, 'No, no, no, that's not true,'
is to at least, sort of say, hope
that the guy that is telling you that this is not going to happen, is right.
For six years in congress, I said that climate change
I really didn't know anything about it.
Since I represented the reddest district
in the reddest state in the nation,
I knew that I needed to be opposed to it.
And my son came to me.
Voting for the first time, and just turned 18,
he said, 'Dad, I'll vote for ya,'
'But you're going to clean up your act on the environment.'
Your child is sick.
Ninety-eight doctors say, 'Treat him this way.'
Two say, 'No, this other is the way to go.'
I'll go with the two.
You're taking a big risk for those kids.
Some people think that what we have here is an information deficit.
That if we just gave people more scientific information,
showed them the science, then they would come around.
We've got people that make a living and a lot of money
on talk radio and talk TV,
pronouncing all kinds of things.
They slept at Holiday Inn Express last night,
and they are now experts on climate. Pronouncing all kinds of things.
And they are now experts on climate.
It's an identification problem.
It's, 'It doesn't look like my tribe, doesn't sound like my tribe,'
'doesn't sound like our war cry, doesn't sound like our song.'
Too often it's presented,
climate science is presented
as if this is some kind of new religion,
and you gotta believe.
No, don't ask people to believe in climate science.
Just say, 'Here's some data. Now,'
'what does your faith tradition tell you about what to do with that data?'
In mine, it tells me that I'm a steward of this glorious creation.
Sometimes science turns out to be wrong.
But other times it turns out to be very right.
And the key to scientific endeavors,
what we're here to discuss today, is openness,
access to the data,
and full, um, challenging of the data.
That's how we advance science.
I look forward to...
Thank you.
There have been major revolutions
for thousands of years it was thought
that Earth was the center of the universe.
We now know that that's not true. And then of course,
there was also the idea the man is the pinnacle of the animal kingdom.
But now we discover,
through natural selection and Darwinism, that we are
just one of a number of species that have existed.
And finally, if you think about the self
and the idea that we are individuals,
in control of all our actions and behaviors
that has been eroded away as we come to discover that this is,
in fact, is also not entirely true.
So, I think that the science has revealed
the arrogance of the individualism,
the egocentrism that we have about our planet,
our species, and ourselves, is unwarranted.
It's a word derived from the Greek 'oikos', or 'household'.
It's the study of the relationships that interlink
all the members of the Earth's household.
We can't think of ecology as only existing over there, beyond,
because it has no boundaries and is in a state of constant flux.
Ecology is intimate,
coming right up to our skin, and through it.
It's permeable, and borderless.
It's permeable, and borderless.
And, chaotic.
The internal and the external
are always entwined.
So, when we speak about sustainability,
what is it that we hope to sustain?
Philosophy is everywhere.
Everything, in a way, was a dream in someone's head, in built space.
Thought isn't just something that's in here, thought is everywhere.
The story that we live in right now
is that we grow the economy by consuming goods
and in particular, consuming goods
that exist in limited quantities.
We have the tendency as meaning-making,
people, creatures, to have characters, to have protagonists who are
the villains, and who are
the heroes and the rescuers, and
that's deep in our human psyche,
and that's how we tend to make sense of the world.
And the tendency, very understandably, is to
create villains, such as corporations
or oil industries, and to create heroes, the eco-warriors.
While that's understandable, what it's actually doing
is it's creating a bit of an exemption story where we as individuals
are somewhat exempt or somewhat out of the story.
There's a lot of criticism in our culture right now
and that without capitalism, we wouldn't be impacting things.
And that's partially true.
Underpinning this system
is the optimal foraging instinct that resides in our animal natures.
Wolves, for instance,
they're better off running down an elk than
spending the same amount of time and energy
chasing a mouse, or a rabbit.
They're more evolutionarily fit
and have more calories to raise their offspring.
The same dynamic is in humans.
We like to invest a little and get more in return.
We do this in stock markets, when we get a 20 % discount on shoes,
a two-for-one cocktail at happy hour,
or a steal of a deal buying a house on some special foreclosure.
Capitalism isn't entirely good or bad.
Capitalism is in service of the super-organism.
Together we're functioning like a gigantic wolf pack,
hungry for more energy.
One of the many causes of war is actually the shortage of energy.
Energy is always flowing from,
a compacted stated to a less compacted state.
Entropy is how things are constantly running down to zero.
We can't actually create a machine that reverses entropy.
Entropy is why time seems to only be going in one direction.
Entropy is why you've never seen a broken
glass reassemble as a perfect glass.
And if you're looking for the perfect
ecological machine that will actually, fully
put the energy back in to the system
that the machine has sucked out of it,
you're going to be waiting until after the end of the universe.
So, you always have to leave room in your analysis
of animals, and animals in the broad sense -
of thinking that we're always going to do the right thing,
all of our actions, our foraging strategies and everything else,
and we can extrapolate from there because if we had everything right,
there wouldn't be any problems.
There'd be no poverty,
there'd be no climate change, there'd be no warfare.
Where you sit determines where you stand,
and if you're
if you're all tied up in any particular
and you see your future there,
There's no such thing as a free market. I hope
people can understand that, because if there were free markets,
you'd end up the way we ended up
in the late 1800s,
with a few very powerful trusts controlling all of America.
Without government helping us shape the market forces,
the market forces will be taken
by the very short-term requirements that are placed on them
by us.
By our need to go to the filling station and get the cheapest fuel.
By the need for the pension fund to get its 8 % return,
no matter what it's investing in.
Really tough to earn the six or seven percent, or eight percent, per year
that were in those actuarial calculations
when the pension funds were established.
So, it's not some foreign institution that makes us be short-term focused,
it's, it's us.
Why didn't the administration
anticipate the, uh, energy crisis several years ago?
Or formulate a positive action plan to do something about it?
Have to bring a different perspective to this.
A couple of years ago, I asked a member of congress.
'What's the toughest issue you're dealing with?
Right now?'
And she said,
Federal subsidies for seashore flood insurance,
because we've always subsidized it, and,
the cost of the subsidies is going way up,
and people insist on buying these homes
that are subject to tidal erosion and flooding,
'and to destruction, ultimately.'
There isn t transparent accountable pricing for all the impacts
of the burning of fossil fuels.
The markets aren't working right. And once those costs are revealed,
and put at the meter, and put on the pump,
then consumers will make choices that are in their self-interest.
We'll be making transportation fuel on our roofs.
Of course,
I'm not saying that we get to Nirvana and we don't have any war.
One of the causes of war would be less,
because energy would be more abundantly available
and more distributed around the world.
If we're going to live up to our name,
which means wise man,
we'll have to understand our subconscious motivations,
our unconscious desires and justifications,
and the true cost of energy.
Decisions about how to live in the world that people in the past made.
It may be technically true
that we don't know everything about where our food came from.
We tell ourselves it's difficult, but just read the back of the packet.
It tells you what it is, and you can figure out where it came from.
On Google.
From what countries do the raw materials
Hey there you go!
Oh here's... how 'bout this, the commodity chain.
Turn on certain parts of our brain,
or inspire certain kinds of attitude,
or inculcate certain kinds of response,
so however we want to talk about it,
we could think of the kind of fire that consumerism lights up in us
with all of the desires, as a kind of gateway to more desires
that might be actually more interesting
and more in sync with other life forms.
When you think about the universe
well that simply changes your whole
perspective about what it is to be alive.
All living systems require energy.
As individuals, if we think more strategically
about how we're using the planet's energy,
life would be better for every living thing.
You know, individual behavior can emerge
Emergence is, sort of, interactive.
We don't need 24/7 access to energy,
we need 24/7 access to feelings.
If we can just approach each other
that comes way too often when we come to environmental topics,
and say, 'Alright, we're looking for something to work.'
One of the important aspects of the evolution of cooperation
is the development of complex moral emotions.
So, sympathy, empathy, compassion, and these are the key.
I think this is vital to our understanding of the human condition.
The morphological adaptations that we have
are simply reflections of where our ancestors arose on the planet.
How much sun did they get? How much oxygen was in the air?
These determined the shapes of their skulls, the color of their skin.
But it has nothing to do with the inherent
essence of what it means to be human.
Because we're all the same species.
It's been a pretty wonderful journey for mankind, but
but boy, what a wonderful
set of issues to have to wrestle with, going forward.
We don't even have to get to Alpha Centauri
to find these issues and learn about ourselves.
It's about how do we look at long-term problems?
Can we embody the wisdom that we feel is inherent here,
and move into the future, wisely?
In our council at Onondaga,
when we look into the future,
we address ourselves and say, 'Swyonisu.'
Across the fire.
And I asked one of the old chiefs, my uncle, I said,
'What does that actually mean?'
He says, 'It means the leaders.' And I said,
'No, what's the real, literal translation?'
He says, 'It means, 'You Who Look Far in the Future."
We have a lift off.
The Eagle has landed.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong,
when he returned from one of mankind's
greatest engineering achievements, stated,
'I felt the successful lunar landing might inspire men around the world,'
to believe that impossible goals are possible.
'That there really is hope for the future of mankind.'
We are living in the future's past.
The relative odds of future outcomes change every second.
The world we all live in is not larger than the sum of its parts.
Each part is neither the center or the edge.
It's a bustling world, a household of beings,
colleagues, both human and non-human,
animate and inanimate,
over which we have influence,
but, in turn, influence us.
Physical realities exist, regardless of our desires.
Seemingly insignificant actions taken collectively
have led us to this moment.
Everything is a system of relationships.
And it's not easy to see the connections.
The connections between the paint on a barn,
the indifferent asphalt,
a press conference,
or to see the invisible links between human expectations,
human vulnerability,
human memory,
and the fragility of life itself.
No, it requires effort.
Energy comes in many forms.
It's both the means and the ends of all our pursuits.
All of us held in the arms of the atmosphere.
We don't have to be poets, scientists, superheroes, or saints.
Each of us can think about how we think.
Could the solution we're looking for be inside us?
We're humankind. Could the solution we're looking for
We're humankind.
Ingenuity is in our DNA, and we can visualize.
What kind of future would you like to see?
What are you willing to contribute towards creating that future?
What are you willing to contribute towards creating that future?
Ask yourself, 'What am I willing to do?'
And not something that requires more effort than you're willing to make,
and not some small contribution that just scratches the guilt itch
but doesn't get the job done.
No. Ask yourself,
What am I willing to contribute, that comes natural to me?
Something that I can sustain until the challenge has been met.
Something that fits into my life.
My profession, my hobbies.
Fits in with my relationships.
Something that's a part of who I am.
Yeah, you know, each of us is unique. Each of us has a gift.
A strength that we can direct towards creating
this world that we'd like to see in our future.
That we'd like to see in our kids' and descendants' future.
We love our kids, right?
A quote from the religious philosopher,
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, comes to mind:
'After mastering the winds,
'the waves, the tides, and gravity,
'we shall harness for God the energy of love.
'And then, for a second time in the History of the world,
man will have discovered fire.'