Photo Ronak Valabobhai, Unsplash.
Hope: the feeling that events will turn out for the best (dictionary.com)
How do you feel about the future of humans on this planet? That things will turn out for the best? Or that it’s all downhill from here? Or maybe you don’t ponder the future all – you live in the moment. Be Here Now, right? Or maybe life is so damn hard it’s a struggle just to deal with today.
I have been interested in the future of humans on this planet for a long time and by the end of this blog I’ll share with you why I remain hopeful, and at the same time heart broken and scared. It’s complicated. But there are two things about hope we can be sure of. First, if you lose hope – if you are hopeless – it’s really bad. It saps your energy and motivation. It’s depressing. It ruins your life. And, secondly, you can’t fake hope. You can’t make it appear from nowhere. Genuine hope comes from an accurate and realistic assessment of the situation. Otherwise, it’s just hopium. So, what is the accurate and realistic assessment of our situation on the planet today? Answering that completely would result in a very long list of crises and impending disasters, so I’ll spare you that and share just some of my top few concerns.
Reasons to be Hopeless
I am heart-broken over what Putin is doing to the people of Ukraine, and what women experience in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban men. It breaks my heart that African American parents must have “the talk” with their children about being stopped by police, and that elephants are slaughtered just for their tusks. I want to cry when I see pictures of dead marine animals tangled in discarded fishing nets, or engorged with plastics.
Near the top of my list of the scariest things in the world today is the power of our electronic technologies to influence and control people. Tens of millions of people now believe provably false and patently absurd claims, and some are armed and ready to kill those who see things differently. Truth is up for grabs – it’s whatever you want to make it – and the ancient sin of lying has been normalized. And with recent developments in software, reality can now be fabricated. A totally realistic photo or video can be made of you or me saying or doing abhorrent things we would never say or do. The implications of this are mind-boggling.
Consider the video showing the murder of George Floyd, captured on the phone of a bystander. This video showed the world what happened, and it became important evidence in the trial of the police officers. But soon, video evidence like this will have no validity in a court of law, or the court of public opinion, because there will be no way to determine if it’s real or fake. This will also apply to security cameras, body cams, or any electronic evidence, because it will all be fakeable. Unscrupulous politicians will have a heyday with this, producing videos of their opponent beating up little old ladies (or worse). This has the potential to obliterate civil society, leaving us with anarchy, chaos, and insanity. Back in the sixties and seventies the one big fear was nuclear war, but somehow we’ve dodged that (so far). Today we need to wake up and see the misuse of electronic technology as the slow nuclear war. Is anyone noticing the slowly-boiling pot of water we are lounging in?
Another crisis that screams out to me is the mass extinction event now underway. In 2018 scientists from Cal Tech and the Weitzmann Institute of Science in Israel estimated that humans have now annihilated 83 per cent of all wild mammals and half of all plants. Of the birds left in the world, 70 per cent are poultry chickens and other farmed birds. And of all mammals on Earth today, 60 per cent are livestock (cattle and pigs), 36 percent are humans, and only 4 per cent are wild. And things are just as bad in aquatic ecosystems. Paleontologists have identified five great extinction events in the last 500 million years, with the most recent being the asteroid impact 65 million years ago that eliminated the dinosaurs. What’s happening now is widely acknowledged to be the 6th mass extinction event, but the only one directly caused by a single species – us!
We are profoundly altering the atmosphere, the oceans, the climate, and the entire biosphere, mainly through our use of fossil fuels, and humans are now just beginning to see and believe what scientists have warned about for decades: more extreme weather events, increased wildfires, rising sea levels, and wholesale species extinction. Yet we continue to blast CO2 into the atmosphere like a giant firehose at the rate of 1,600 tons every second, and it’s still increasing. We seem so short-sighted and … stupid!
So, where’s the hope? Anyone can be forgiven if they have become hopeless in light of our unfolding meta-crisis, or if they just want to stick their head in the sand.
Grasping for Hope
And yet there are people who are still hopeful that humanity can have a positive future. Here are a few reasons for hope you might hear or read about (or maybe you subscribe to one of these):
- Techno-hope: Science and technology will save us. Just invest in technology and we will innovate ourselves out of any crisis. It could be artificial intelligence as an “upgrade” to humans. Or maybe bio-tech, nano-tech, or nuclear fusion supplying unlimited clean energy. How about special boxes that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, or gene-splicing to remedy all our human flaws? And, if none of that works, we’ll colonize Mars.
- Free market-hope: Human ingenuity and innovations in the marketplace can solve any problem.
- Political-hope: Putting particular political leaders or parties in power will make things right.
- God’s chosen-hope: Civilization is going down the tubes and the apocalypse is coming but I am among the chosen who will be saved to live in a better world.
- It’s not that bad-hope: Statistics can easily be cherry-picked to show that humans are better off now than ever before, so forget the gloom and doom.
- Blind-hope – I’m naturally optimistic and just think things will turn out OK. Think positive!
- Someone else will take care of it-hope: Self-explanatory.
There are probably more, but none of these quite do it for me. None of these are the reason I think humanity could have a very bright future on the planet.
Photo Greg Rakozy, Unsplash.
What does give me hope is evolution, because humans are evolving. But doesn’t evolution take millions of years? We don’t have time for that, you might say. I’m talking about the evolution of consciousness, the very thing that has separated humans from all other life on Earth, and it’s happening today, very rapidly. A planetary perspective and worldview is emerging on an ever-larger scale, whose primary feature is the felt experience of connectedness and wholeness. More and more people are understanding and feeling that we are all in this together. It’s more than a cliche.
When we begin to see and feel the wholeness and connectedness of humanity and the planetary system of which we are a part, we can no longer treat other people as objects and the natural world as something for us to exploit. When we understand Evolution (with a big-E) as the epic unfolding of cosmogenesis that began with the Big Bang, we gain a whole new perspective on “the phenomenon of man” and our meta-crisis today. We can see that planetary consciousness is the natural and inevitable next chapter in our magnificent Big Story (see our February 2023 blog). The question of our times is, how can we support and accelerate the evolution of planetary consciousness so that it becomes the predominant operating paradigm of humanity?
I am hopeful because it’s happening – planetary consciousness is emerging. I see incredible, inspiring work going on all over the world to advance the planetary perspective (by many different names). The Inner Foundation based in Sweden has been leading a global collaboration among hundreds of organizations and people to create the Inner Development Goals as the path to achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. One of the most successful venture investors in the world, Bo Shao, gave $100 million to co-found Evolve whose mission is to advance the evolution of consciousness. Their website states,
All are capable of evolving their consciousness and thriving. All of us can make a shift from ignorance and prejudice to truth and wisdom, from fear and pain to love and joy. As our consciousness evolves we naturally feel deep compassion for the suffering of others and a desire to take action to address it.
I get real hope from the phenomenal young people – especially young women – stepping into leadership and disrupting entrenched power structures. And when a country music star like Brad Paisley releases a song about how we are all the same, it’s a sign of hope in the so-called culture wars raging across America. These are just a few examples of the hopeful things happening today. You can see many more in the Planet Project data bases of Positive Culture and Change Agents.
More than anything I have hope for the future because, for the first time on Earth, one form of life – humans – can know the Big Story of Evolution, and recognize our own ongoing evolution, and realize that we can influence it. We have the unprecedented opportunity to be the ones who help shift our course away from the cliff and towards a just and sustainable future. Our evolution into planetary consciousness on a large scale will be the determining factor – not technology, not politics, not religion – in the quality of our future on Earth.
We started the Planet Project to raise awareness, to have the conversations, and to be one of the many voices nurturing humanity’s shift to the planetary culture and consciousness. It’s happening. We can see it. We can feel it. And that’s why I have hope for the future.