The bard Robert Anton Wilson said, “Anybody who tells you that we’re running out of resources or that we’re in a terrible mess–they are idiots. We can’t run out of resources. Resources exist when the human mind sees how to use something. To say we are running out of resources is like saying we are running out of brain cells.(1)”

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If necessity is the mother of invention, it is safe to say she is finally giving birth. Despite the relative mismanagement of our “resources,” the growth of affordable green energy industries and countless prototypical inventions are arriving right on time. Moreover, these new inventions have the potential to single-handedly replace conventional methods for dealing with systemic environmental problems.(2)(3)

But what if our problems are not technological, but cultural? What if “the west” has been so blinded by abstraction that the first glimpse of hope offered in the form of a band-aid is immediately heralded as a cure, all without even recognizing that process is occurring?

After all, what good are solar panels on every house if we use them to power 500-channel televisions feeding you anxiety and smut and alienation?

…or electric cars if we don’t have to worry about paying for gas while being stuck in rush hour gridlock on the way to an uninspiring job?

… or cleaning the ocean of plastic just so we can dump more shit into it?

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… or drones that can replace treeplanters so that logging companies can survive into the future creating the same pulp?

… or vertical gardens and bamboo skyscrapers if we continue to build around the problem (literally) – the architecture of cubicle jobs and population concentration?

What good is building floating ocean cities or colonies on Mars if we simply live out the same destructive, age-old story on a different planet?

I am not saying these are not important and even crucial efforts, because they are. However they are inevitably patchwork solutions because they don’t approach the root of the problem, only the symptom. These innovations look only to the present and the future, and so are unlikely to change things if we don’t connect the dots to our past.

The western cultural paradigm tells us the amount of plastic in the ocean is an obvious problem, so the solution must be to clean the ocean of plastic, even when it is obvious that a deeper root suggests cultures of “waste” are the problem. It follows that the culture must change so that people stop wasting.(4) Likewise, people should change their thinking. Even if this is successful, changing one’s thinking within the same cultural framework that produced the problem reconstitutes a different fruit from the same tree.(5)

As Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house,” especially when one thinks they are free to do so.

An unrelenting feeling begs: what have we done to ourselves or what has been done to us, in and by a culture that leads us into a time where we have to consider leaving our home for another (uninhabitable) planet? As if the global western paradigm has become so clouded and wanton, that we only have time to fix the problems we can see, before the next one erupts, pushing us further away from the root cause of our fateful direction.

So, what is progress for a people that live in (and are often confined to) a short attention span?(6)

Never being able to consider or even imagine the effect of their actions on their distant descendents, and yet at the same time never being remotely present.(7)

There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, especially regenerative technologies, but part of the old story goes that we are just one invention away from paradise – free from work, free from war and violence, free from environmental destruction. Westerners need to understand that we are still living out an old story, and by that I mean some are living it out (seeing it faithfully to its place in our past), while some are still living in and by it. By not re-cognizing these diverging stories, we extend our infinite resources only to the limits of what is possible within the cultural framework (or the old story or the master’s house).

This is simply an invitation to consider our current state of being. As westerners, we are more informed by the past than by the present or the future, but without the prudence of knowing so. As a result we champion a future-centred culture, while every other culture on the planet is left imperilled by our unwillingness to look back. And even though young and prodigious innovators fill people with hope, the principle thing about hope is that it never quite touches reality. Hope is a prospect of the future, not the present.

So, if we take the time to consider how we got to where we are today, specifically as a culture, we might be able to tease out the aspects of our culture that are, perhaps, not so discernible as we would like to imagine. And maybe then, we can go from there.


[1] From the film “Maybe Logic.” Also

[2] …some of which problems there are no conventional methods for.

[3] Some examples include: |  |

[4] Western promotion of the 3 R’s is an example of this recognition (reduce, reuse, recycle).

[5] As Einstein is misquoted as saying, “A problem cannot be solved on the same conscious level it was created on.” This applies to our (mis)understanding of cultural consciousness – that cultural problems don’t effect westerners because western culture is somehow trans-cultural.

[6] The average video image scene edit produced by mainstream media is almost never more than 3 seconds.

[7] …because doing so would entail having an intimate relationship with one’s ancestral past. In other words, to be able to consider what the 7th generation even looks like, one would also have to have an idea what the 7th generation previously looked like. In short, where a person comes from, in no simple terms.

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