TimeLine - Signs of the Times
Denial ... Disregarded Global Change Still Comes
Concerning global change, the world is in denial. Certainly, when conditions are urgent and beyond our control, we can choose to live in a state of denial. In a war zone, for example, it's easier to deny the worst aspects of conflict all around while trying simply to stay alive. How else does a society function with suicide bombers appearing at any place at any time?
We can flee a war zone, but where does one go to escape worldwide change? But too, we recognize there is a subtle nature to certain types of change. Denial can be engaged simply due to a lack of perception of change. Overall, denial might seem a last resort, but would anyone say we are in the last stages of a global decline leading to an environment in crisis?
Global change is driven by human behaviors. Energy consumption, bigger vehicles, larger homes, longer commutes, technology upgrades and a broad spectrum of material comforts are desired. What rich nations have the poor expect in the future. But the desires grow into a force driven further by marketing pressure—not by necessity.
Many industries take for granted for example, that there's money to be made from human addictions (to sugar, trucks, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, sex, gambling, TV, or even shopping), but few have any interest in what addiction is, or how it works, except to learn how it might be made still more profitable. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 186
Corporations act to obtain marketing objectives. If you are in the right business, consumers want what you have to offer. If a fad or obsession drives sales, people become addicted! Why analyze the driving force behind sales if business is brisk! Why would marketers want this behavior to stop?
DENIAL vs. CORPORATE SUCCESS
But what if the goods and services in question contribute to problems associated with global change? And what if national or regional economies only measure their success based on increasing production and growing consumption over time?
One answer to these questions of mass addictive and self-destructive behavior is that a staggering number of us have fled or slipped into denial; we don't try to stop the addictive behavior because even when the barriers of obfuscation are pointed out to us—even when we have the scales removed from our eyes—we still don't truly believe we're putting our whole world at risk. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 187
So, while we are addicted to consuming, consuming more (consumption spike) because there are more of us (population spike), which in turn uses nonrenewable resources and boosts carbon dioxide emissions (carbon spike), as well as drive other forms of change (e.g., extinction spike), our behavior is wrapped up in every aspect of the global changes that promise big problems in the (near?) future.
... The question of denial has primacy, because denial is what blocks our ability to make progress on all other fronts. It's what locks us into those patterns of addiction and self destruction, which become more menacing the longer we remain locked in. Denial is the flip side of sentience, and sentience is what has to separate us from the ants that sink with the log.
The pervasive information laundering described earlier, which washes the content out of most messages and leaves them stimulating us like the mental equivalence of empty calories, is dangerous enough in its own right. Even those who know the manipulation is happening have to work hard to see the process with any kind of clarity—and they may have to do frequent reality checks to assure themselves that they are not delusional. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 188
Part of the problem is certainly short sightedness. There is a lack of long term cost to the short term boost in production and sales. But change concerns long term costs not short term return on investments.
In the language of evolution, we now have to adapt extremely rapidly to the changes we have wrought—our adaptation necessarily coming as quickly as the changes we have made in our environment. In the language of religion, God has given us an offer: to see the consequences of our actions and assume a moral responsibility for them, or to be consumed by them. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 188, 189
As noted in the Science Area of WindowView, evolution is a term that requires critical thinking and further review than what the text books say. But as special as the appearance of life is, the point is well made, if global changes bring us past unexpected thresholds that alter the state of the environment, there may be no room for adaptation—in any terms as you may wish to express them! From a biblical perspective, humans were intended to be Earth's stewards, that was an initial role and not an offer. Either way, what is God given is being altered by humanity as if there were no consequences.
The conscientiousness that distinguishes Homo sapiens from other animals (though perhaps some other species are more sapient then we yet realize) can be more specifically characterized as the ability to conceptualize, imagine, or foresee, as well as to remember—in other words to have mental experience outside the immediate physical environment. What makes us human is the ability, then, to see from the eyes of someone in the past or in the future, or in another place, or someone who has different tools or abilities than the ones we have at the moment. In other words, to be human is to be able to envision, as well as to see literally, and to empathized, as well as to feel one's own needs.
What addiction does is to cut off this envisioning and empathizing—to cut it short and keep the addicted person focused on immediate experience. ... It cuts attention off from long-term consequences— ... So, one answer to the question of why people become self-destructive is that when they give up the capacities to envision and empathize, they also give up the remarkable ability to survive that our evolving consciousness gave us. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 189
Humans can think. But we can also be compromised by temptation, we can use our thought tools to get us into and out of all kinds of scenarios.
The stupefying fact that tens of millions of people have actually chosen to deny themselves the experience (and accompanying responsibility) of looking back and ahead, in so much of their activity, means—regardless of how it came about—that a huge market for denial has developed. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 190
Mr. Ayers, referring to a 1998 article in Wired magazine, considers the impacts of an ever increasing economy:
... The trouble is, for the world economy to double would be neither good nor news. The authors seem unaware that the global economy has already been busy doubling and doubling again for the past half-century (from $4.9 trillion in 1950 to around $36 trillion in 1998), as the graph of the consumption spike shows; yet the gap between rich and poor has only widened in that time. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 193
As noted earlier on this page, increasing production and sales looks good to the corporate bottom line, but from our perspective on denial: Can one continue this trend without recognizing consequences to come?
Does technology give us the fix?
The modern era has brought a new sense of confidence ... accordingly, we may freely boast: technology will be our savior. But is this blind faith and an artifact of so many successful technologies? We are not suggesting technology provides no helpful solutions, but technology tends to be proprietary (i.e., by and for the rich) and not so global in deployment.
... The faith it has promulgated is so prevalent now that it's hard to see it is a faith, and not a system of planning based on fact. It gained currency years ago, after the Apollo space program, with the often-heard comment, "If we can put a man on the moon, we can solve the problems of poverty or pollution." It glosses over the reality that building rockets and building livable communities are two fundamentally different endeavors: the former required uncanny narrow focus; the latter must engage a holistic view. Building a livable world isn't rocket science; it's far more complex than that. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 195
There are no technologies that can reconstitute the soils and tropical rain forests once altered by the slash-and-burn method of clearing land for agriculture. Ecology eclipses technology when it comes to complexity and uniqueness—one is life, the other machine.
What is reality?
The most sobering exercise is to visit the scene of a crime instead of watching the same on a television or computer monitor. To say deforestation is a problem based on articles and aerial photos is one matter. To see first hand the smoldering ash of rain forest trees and watch tropical soils run into streams during a warm season rain is another matter all together. But in the age of the moderns we see it all in real time on TV. Is that reality?
... Now, for many, the main content of consciousness is sports, games, fashion, movies, TV, "virtual" reality, and vicarious interest in the lives of celebrities—and the rest, including work or school, is only a means of financing the consumption of entertainment. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 198
The fact remains, that even entertainment educates us to some degree. The reality difference is being able to differentiate fact from fantasy.
... Instead of hiding, therefore, one of their most effective techniques—beyond the marginalization and other obfuscations described earlier—is to blur the borders between reality and fantasy, so that in time we are able to react to the "real" with the same detachment we have toward fantasy. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 199
Too many issues in life are slipping into the mix.
... Even the mundane excitement of conventional war, urban violence, the breakdown of the family, and the betrayal of the young by their elders who have consumed too much, are all conveyed with this sense of being in a theater and thus not really threatened. Movies have always been an escape, but the difference now is that entertainment has become the center of our lives rather than a peripheral amusement. For many, the escape has become the reality. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 200
Global change breaks in on many fronts. We watch it happen, even marvel at the dimensions of growing change. Still, change progresses unabated… when does the world wake up from it's deep denial? Or is that the point, we don't wake up until the marvel of it all turns into a horrific nightmare.
The importance to global change is in looking at how social, biological, and physical sciences all reveal data and signs for more ominous changes in the near future. This is change in every aspect of human and earthly affairs ... globally. The Window looks further to see change as a backdrop to a biblical timeline. Driving forces for change force us to ask the most important questions about our true origin, who we are, why we are here, and what the Scriptures tell us about the future. Change forces us to look deeper to face choice or crisis. Life is an opportunity to look for the answers.
Please Note! We are presenting a number of quotations in the "Signs of the Times" series that are taken from their original context. So Be Aware ... the impact of these statements is only heightened and intensified by a reading of the original text cited below. WindowView serves to reflect many original sources and in this case we highly recommend a reading of the entire book used as a source here! The 'Signs' are woefully important to revealing humanity's future, reading these quotations in their original context makes this point all the more clear!
Quotations attributed to 'Ayers' are from: Ed Ayers. 1999. God's Last Offer - Negotiating for a Sustainable Future. Published by: Four Walls Eight Windows (www.fourwallseightwindows.com)
Mr. Ayers is the Editor of World Watch magazine, a product of the Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C. The institute is a 'think tank' that often puts out publications that note change in the world theater from the perspectives of economics, policy, resource uses, and the potential for global trends based on past and current human activity. This is a secular institution and the title of Mr. Ayers' book makes no special reference to a particular theological framework.
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