Is a Metamorphosis Possible?

Is it possible for human civilization to undergo a metamorphosis? Can we reorient the paradigm of civilization so that it heals and nurtures the planet while also providing food, clothing, and shelter for everyone? Might we alter or optimize how we live and work to create synergy between ecology and economy? What happens when we imagine a world designed differently? Better still, what happens if we actually create that world?

Monarch butterfly on tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) in my backyard. Photo by Tim Wardell ©2012.

These are the things I think about. I’ve been thinking about them for a long time. A lot of other people, far smarter and more learned than I, have been thinking about these things as well, and for many, many years. And not just thinking, but actual doing – trying new things to determine if they actually work, if there are indeed better ways. The result of all that thinking, contemplating, and experimenting has been the discovery of solutions.

 

There Are Solutions to Our Problems

We face a lot of problems as a species. If you stop to enumerate all of them it can leave you powerless and depressed. I know because I, like many of you, have been mired in the insanity for most of my adult life. Living in our “modern” world provides one with a front row seat to the numerous failings and shortcomings of our species and our social constructs. Like an empathetic field researcher observing a species actively destroying itself, I found the study of humanity deeply troubling. I gave up a few years back because the challenges we face seemed too daunting and the odds against success felt overwhelming. I tried very hard to think about anything but this. But for all that effort, here I am.

Why? Optimism. A lot of bad things are happening, that’s true. But there’s also a lot of great ideas and technology out there. We are making progress albeit far too slowly in many cases. Nonetheless, it might still be possible for humanity to avoid totally calamity. There are real and practical solutions to the myriad of problems confronting us in the 21st Century. I intend to highlight those solutions here.

But the central question remains. Is a metamorphosis possible? Can human civilization change for the better, even if it has to completely break down before it can do so?

“There is nothing about a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
– Buckminster Fuller

If we could read the mind of a caterpillar while it’s inside its cocoon, we might sense fear, panic, and possibly abject terror. (And yes, I’m aware that’s the very definition of anthropomorphism, but go with me on this.) Unless the caterpillar knows it’s going to become a butterfly, it must be scary as hell. Its entire body dissolves and reconstitutes itself into something completely different.

What if our current state as a species is the beginning of a metamorphosis, one that we don’t fully understand, and one that is equally scary as hell? For over a century we humans have acted like a hungry caterpillar, consuming our planet the way a caterpillar devours a plant. We feed, consume, use, and repeat day after day, year after year, generation after generation. As a result, our civilization seems to be coming apart at the seams. Our politicians, institutions, and long-held worldviews are failing us like never before. Our planet seems to be in open rebellion against us. Whether we wish to or not, we’ll soon be forced to rethink everything and change our way of being.

What might we become if we survive the process? What does humanity look like from the other end of the 21st Century, a century that may very well make or break us as a species? Can we navigate the many and varied obstacles that confront and confound us? Do we make it through these challenging times more enlightened, evolved, or even transformed?

So many questions.

My intent is that this blog becomes a repository of answers, a font of knowledge for those seeking hope amongst the chaos we’re collectively experiencing. So, please read on. –Tim