Speaking in Paris on December 7, 2015 – the only morning after the landslide victory of the far-right French political party, the UN Secretary-General again reminded the world leaders that: “More than 1 billion people worldwide live without electricity. Nearly 3 billion people depend on smoky, dangerous traditional fuels for cooking and heating. Access to modern, reliable, affordable, clean energy is equally important for ending extreme poverty and reducing inequality…The clock is ticking toward climate catastrophe.” Politely ignoring the French domestic politics, as much as the climate change hard-evidence, all international nihilists, professional optimists and other status quo conservators would call it ‘environmental alarmism’…alternatively, political alarmism – the same… What is really the state of our planet?
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Galileo famously said: “The universe is a grand book written in the language of mathe-matics.“ However, what we now know is that revealing the cosmic Esperanto is not the fascinating part. This magnificent book of the universe, we are reading and writing at the same time…
Back in the 1990s, there was a legendary debate between two eminent scientists; Carl Sagan, astrophysicist and Ernst Mayr, an evolutionary biologist. The issue was the question of all questions – is there any intelligent life out there? Sagan – closer to mathematics, and the counting of starts and worlds attached to it – argued that out of all the many planets like ours, life must flourish at many of them. Quite a few of them, he claimed, must have developed advanced forms of living beings. Mayr – on the other hand – argued the opposite. His pessimism was coming from his profession, not from his character that was as vivid and optimistic as Sagan’s: What biology is for the natural sciences, that is what history is for human sciences – a spacetime-lined story of the past with a predicament, or sometimes an inevitable consequences, for our future. As prof. Naom Chomsky beautifully reminds us of this great episode, Ernst Mayr took our mother planet as an example to illustrate his claim.
All organisms share the same evolutionary mandate: to promulgate their own life. No wonder, as similar codes reside within all species – the intricate self-actualizing chemo-electrical tapestry, known as genes.1 However, the so-called ultimate biological success of species could be measure by their number, configuration, and durability. Hence, by all three parameters, prof. Mayr stressed the most adaptive systems are those conducting fast (non-cognitive) mutations caused/triggered by any environmental stress (e.g., varieties of bacteria, creatures stuck in fixed ecological niches, like beetles or some sea biotas), and surviving even more massive crisis including the cataclysmic events. However, as we go up the scale of what we assume as intelligence, the systems become less adaptive and scarcer by number, configuration, and durability. Arriving at the top (as we classified a tip of the intelligence pyramid), from low mammals to higher primates, apes and Homo sapiens, the species tend to image a rarifying picture – by all three biological success parameters. By Mayr’s account, the average lifespan of upper-intelligence echelons is only around 100,000 years. Out of billions of spices that have inhabited (and quite some still inhabiting) our planet, we – along with other higher primates – are the late arrival and temporal ‘accidents.’ He attributes this to our intelligence, labeling it as a ‘lethal mutation’ – not a blessing but a curse. Mayr’s finding is intriguing: The higher the intelligence, the more likely to end up in self-destruction, past the transitioning on a curve of initial development. If so, that would mean that humans are unable to deploy their vast neuroplasticity and that the mechanical solidarity of non-cognitive creatures gives far better results in preservation (even enhancement) of the environmental equilibrium.
Indeed, our environmental, financial and politico-economic policies and practices are creating the global stress for us and all other species. Deep and structural, this must be a crisis of our cognitivity. Do we want to prove Mayr right with our global Jihad against a cognitive mind?
Cognitive deficit crisis
From Copenhagen, Durban, Rio+20 to the Paris COP 21 and beyond, our conclusion remains the same: We need principles and accorded actions, as this is the only way to tackle the grave problems of this planet. We lack the elementary consensus in/on the Bretton Woods institutions, on the Tobin tax initiative, in the WTO Doha Development round, on nuclear non-proliferation (and NPT), on migrations, on the Middle East and ‘regime change mantra’, in the IPCC, on the post-Kyoto negotiations, and finally on the alarming state of environment. Ergo, on a global scale, we fundamentally disagree on the realities of this planet and the ways we can address them. 2
I am neither moralizing, idealizing nor agonizing. The world based on agreed principles and commonly willing actions is not a better place. It is the only way for the human race to survive.
We have decoupled human development from the economic one, well so a demographic growth from our energy consumption. Thus, we center all our business models on (extracting fast, manufacturing cheap and) selling more stuff to more people. While doing so, we hope that the new ‘middle-class boom’ – of escalating purchasing power for the fast fashion in clothing driving phoning and traveling – will soon affect rest of ASEAN and Africa, past its zenith in the BRICS and SCO. If so, we would be in need of three times as many natural resources by 2050 compared to what we extracted in 2010. Our ecological footprint of today has already excided planetary boundaries.
Clearly, our crisis is real but neither sudden nor recent. , our much-celebrated globalization deprived of environmental concerns can only cage us into the ecological globalistan.
Climate Change – a brutal terror against nature
We place ourselves in the centre of the materialistic world – this, of what we perceive as a universe of dead (and linear) matter. Therefore, what we euphemistically call (anthropogenic) Climate Change is actually a brutal war against (living) nature. It is a covert armed conflict since we are predominantly using the so-called monetizing-potent ‘technologies,’ instead of firearms in our hands. (For this purpose hereby, the army units are replaced by the demolition-man of another name; ‘transnational corporations.’) This armed regime-change insurgency is waged against most of what is beautiful and unique on Earth – on the planet that gave us time and space enough to survive as species and to evolve as cognitive life. Thus, the known sustainability matrix of 3 maximums (of good, of species, and of time) becomes the minimum species, minimum time with maximum harm.
Intentionally or not, it is a synchronized attack: We are steadily and passionately polluting our public sphere with the diverting banalities manufactured by the so-call social networks, reality shows, ‘celebrities’ and the like – trivializing the contents of our lives. At the same time, we are massively contaminating our biosphere (waters, lands, air and near outer space) with non-degradable and/or toxic, solid or aerosol, particles radiation and noise – irreversibly harming our habitat. We pollute the time as well, turning it into cross-generation warfare’s battlefield: Our dangerous patterns might seal off the fate for an untold number of generations and sorts of species to come. 3 No wonder, our corrosive assertiveness has (time-space) parallels: acidifying of oceans and brutalization of our human interactions, as well as over-noising both of them, are just two sides of the same coin. What is the social sphere for the society that is the biosphere for the very life on earth: the (space/time – content/form) frame we all live in.
It seems we pay our space (linear possessions) by our time (future). Therefore, our crisis cannot be environmental, as it was never a financial or security (war on terror) – our crisis must be a moral one. This is a cognitive deficit crisis, which we eagerly tend to spend in a limbo of denial!
Πάντα ρει (panta rhei)
Nature does not change. Change (as a cosmic constant) is nature itself. Still, even Heraclitus understood, this force is never eruptive or destructive (explosive, combusting and polarising), but eternally gradual and constructive (holistic, inclusive and implosive). Look up the skies, that will be the exact way how entire universe works. 4
We are drifting, dissolving and retreating on all levels and within every organic (marine and continental biota) or inorganic (soil, glaciers, water, polar caps, etc.) system. For the grave, burning (hydrocarbon) planetary problems, our human race needs an urgent and lasting consensus which presupposes bravery, virtue, vision, and creativity. All this will not result from fear of coercion (social haircut, austerity, financial straitjacket), from a further militarization of our societies caused by the accelerated confrontations called ‘war on terror,’ but from the universally shared willingness to accord our common planetary cause. A cognitive mind can do it all.
Let’s start our global war on terror – but this time – on the terror of a global environmental holocaust caused by our cognitive deficit crisis.
Anis H. Bajrektarevic
Vienna, 22 AUG 2016
The author is chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, Vienna, Austria. He authored three books: FB – Geopolitics of Technology (published by the New York’s Addleton Academic Publishers); Geopolitics – Europe 100 years later (DB, Europe), and the recently released Geopolitics – Energy – Technology by the German publisher LAP. No Asian century is his forthcoming book, scheduled for later this year.
1,Still, this recipe book for life – genes, are not performing in a strict chemical determinism. Self-actualization is a core of the process. Even if applying a strict Darwinian stance, the evolution of species was not (solely) a selection through competition, but rather a well-calibrated interplay of both – cooperation and competition. Much like the universe itself: (re-)creation and its maintenance.
2, Additionally, we fundamentally disagree on a role to be played by technology, even on a very definition of what should be considered as technology. Technology is not a state-of-art of science; technology is a state of mind! It is not a linear progression in mastering the natural science disciplines, but a cognitive, emphatic cluster–mastering of the critical insight.
3, In his highly intriguing but illuminating findings, Stephen Jay Gould reveals than in other mammalian species, the ‘murder’ rate is considerably higher than in human communities. If evidence of this historian of science and evolutionary biologist is accurate, that would mean that humans are genetically better off, but that is civilizationally wrong. No other but human species has ever represented a global threat on entire planetary life!!
4, (Anthropo-) Biology is only the outer layer in our comprehensive scientific grasp. In its core, resides physics. Also, the backbone of physics is mathematics – this universal language of cosmos.
- Ki-moon, B. (2015), Remarks to the opening of the High-Level session of the COP21, December 7, 2015, UNIS (Office of the Spokesperson of the UN SG)
- Chomsky, N. (2010), Human Intelligence and the Environment, University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill (Paper)
- Sagan, C. (1980), Cosmos Random House, NY /Carl Sagan Productions Inc. (page: 109)
- Dresner, S. (2002), The Principle of Sustainability, EarthScan London
- Smith, L.C. (2010), The World in 2050 – Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future, Dutton (by Penguin group)