All this began when I saw a FB post quoting Jane Goodall:
“How is it possible that the most intellectual creature to ever walk the planet Earth is destroying its only home?”
When we learn that Greenhouse Gasses get trapped in our atmosphere, the implications aren’t immediately apparent … but some time later, when the reality sinks in, it quickly becomes apparent that ‘We’re seriously screwed!’
Our Climate Crisis is a ticking time bomb, and unless we do something, we’re doomed.
During the nineties I was designing concentrating solar collectors that follow the sun. I was experimenting, at the same time, with Wind and Biogas energy generation, studying Permaculture, and exploring sustainable building techniques. Years later, while driving my daughter to elementary school in one of Vancouver’s first electric cars, I was still desperately seeking an answer the question that Jane asks.
Not just any answer, but THE answer — because that information could prolong my daughter’s life.
Knowing, definitively, “WHY we do what we’re doing”, creates a narrow window of opportunity for appropriate action.
My hard work finally bore fruits when Behavioural Loop Theory led me to discover the invisible behavioural DYNAMIC that I’d been searching for.
To understand this dynamic, one needs to feel comfortable with these three premises:
Since they’re easily observable, they’re easy to confirm.
- PREMISE 1: Individual human beings experience pain when they’re EXCLUDED. (Think of any situations in which you were made to go away because you don’t belong)
- PREMISE 2: The greater the EXCLUSION the greater the intensity of their pain. (Think of a person in solitary-confinement; the thought of dying alone; or being trapped, alone on Mars, with no way of returning to earth)
- PREMISE 3: A person’s ability to EXCLUDE someone or to threaten that person with EXCLUSION is a form of POWER
Inclusion/exclusion is an unspoken aspect of our everyday existence and many of the cultural battles that we’ve fought have been about INCLUSION, and about ending the pain resulting from EXCLUSION.
Here are some examples:
- Women’s fight for equal rights
- Slaves’ fight for personhood and enfranchisement
- Fight to live openly gay lifestyles and to marry a same-sex partners
Let’s take a closer look:
Over the course of an average day, most people are unconsciously responding to the same fundamental question framed in a variety of ways: “Are you with us or against us?”
Here’s what I mean:
- Would you rather colour your hair and wear make-up like everyone else, or risk exclusion by being the only one with natural coloured hair?
- “Would you rather dress the same as everyone else, or risk exclusion by wearing the same style of clothing that your ancestors wore in the twelfth century?”
- “Would you rather generate income for your family alone, or risk exclusion by collaborating with other families (the way members of an Israeli kibbutz do), to pool your collective resources and to collectively generate a surplus?”
- “Would you rather fly as often as you can afford to, or risk exclusion by limiting your air travel to family emergencies?”
- “Would you rather support industrial agriculture, or risk exclusion by eating locally grown, organic food whenever that’s an option?”
- “Would you rather contribute to climate chaos by continuing to consume as much as you do, or risk exclusion by urgently embracing a more sustainable, low-energy lifestyle?”
Fear of exclusion OVERRIDES our, often sincere, desire to change.
An individual’s relationship with EXCLUSION has its genesis in the terror that the individual experiences at one-week old when their cries for help from a parent went unanswered for longer than their nervous system was able to tolerate, before escalating into a state of alarm. This traumatic experience repeated itself every time a caregiver was preoccupied, taking care of someone else’s competing needs.
Infants lack an adult’s ability to visualise the future. Their immature brains are not developed enough to imagine scenarios in which their caregivers return. When a parent is unavailable, from the perspective of a one-week old, their caregiver may never return, and there’s nothing that the can do about it. From an infant’s perspective: Loss of connection is a full-blown life-or-death crisis.
As adults we carry this PREVERBAL trauma in our cells (rather than in our brains like other memories) and whenever a person finds himself/herself in a situation where the threat of prolonged, involuntary isolation or EXCLUSION becomes imminent, the awful emotions associated with this trauma return.
Given what happens to us when we’re presented with situations that could lead to EXCLUSION, it’s no wonder that we avoid situations like these, like a plague. We prefer to lose our lives to the forest fires, famines, floods, and climate-related nuclear meltdowns that are coming down the pipeline, than that feel as terrified and as powerless as we did as unattended infants.
Take a look at how this plays out in our daily lives (It’s best to do this without projecting any judgement if you’re able to):
- When we elect to ride in a car, our nervous system is favoring INCLUSION and immediate individual ‘survival’ over long-term planetary survival.
- When we choose to ready-to-eat, prepared meals over home-cooked meals, there’s a strong likelihood that our nervous system is favoring INCLUSION and immediate individual ‘survival’ over long-term planetary survival.
- When we GO TO WORK rather than collectively cultivating food in the neighbourhood commons, there’s a strong likelihood that our nervous system is favoring INCLUSION and immediate individual ‘survival’ over long-term planetary survival.
Shifting the Paradigm
For voluntary change to occur, it needs to happen collectively:
- To avoid feeling EXCLUDED, we need millions of people, like us, to also avoid flying, except in emergency. (What’s going to happen to Vancouver’s economy when it becomes increasingly shameful to fly?)
- We need millions of other families, like us, to source their food locally and sustainably and we need to become personally involved in the cultivation of their food. (‘The Fields Are Washing Away:’ Midwest Flooding Is Wreaking Havoc on Farmers) (‘No way to stop it’: millions of pigs culled across Asia as swine fever spreads)
- We need millions of citizens, like us, to take the $0.54* of every dollar that’s being ‘mis’allocated to so-called ‘defense’, and to use this collective wealth to address the imminent threats posed by climate chaos and social decay. (Some of Australia’s Military raise alarm over climate emergency in new climate change short film Home Front. The film documents the existential threat of climate change from a uniquely Australian economic and national security perspective. A powerful and eye-opening analysis that presents some of Australia’s former security, defence and political leaders who all warn us that climate change is ‘a catalyst for conflict’ and a ‘threat multiplier’ as it fuels instability in the world’s most vulnerable regions. http://climatestate.com/2019/06/05/home-front-the-existential-national-security-gamble)
* This number reflects a reality in the USA
EXCLUSION is not the enemy
This graphic shows us that eating and drinking are possible responses to hunger and thirst.
- We can imagine a person who feels hungry, putting a spoonful of food into their mouth and swallowing the food. We can also imagine signals in their nervous system instructing the person to continue eating if they’re still hungry, or to stop eating if their hunger is satisfied.
- We can picture a person with motor oil on their hands, applying soap, rubbing their hands together and rinsing way the soap. Their decision to repeat this process depends on whether or not any of the motor oil remains on their skin.
Unless the person is suffering from a psychological condition like Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour, they stop eating, drinking or washing once the desired emotional or sensory outcome has been achieved.
Among its list of actions, the graphic includes “Build a coal mine”.
This begs the following questions:
- “What is the emotion or sensation that a person building a coal mine wants to feel?”
- What’s motivating that person to expand our coal-extraction potential when they know that coal is killing us?
Most large scale projects like coal mines are initiated and driven by individuals seeking wealth, power and respect. (Still not judging.)
When the Yellow column contains the words ‘wealth’, ‘power’ and ‘respect’, that allows us to infer that the corresponding blue column contains some version of: “insufficient wealth”, “insufficient power” and “insufficient respect”. In other words, INSUFFICIENT SENSE OF LOVE-WORTHINESS, since ‘wealth’, ‘power’ and ‘respect’ are culturally acceptable-placebos for love-worthiness.
When an emotionally-healthy person feels sufficiently worthy, like the person who stopped washing their hands once they were clean, they STOP acquiring additional wealth, power and respect. They’ve no use for more than what they have.
Individuals who never receive that signal from their nervous systems to STOP acquiring wealth, power and respect, and those who receive the signal but nevertheless CONTINUE destroying forests, polluting rivers, selling non-defensive weapons and concentrating wealth are sick.
Like crack addicts, they’re UNABLE to stop what they’re doing, even if they destroy themselves, and every other living being. No matter what they do, they’ll never feel worthy.
If we want to survive, then these sick individuals and families need SOMEONE ELSE TO INTERVENE.
Sick individuals who can’t stop themselves need others to stop them and to isolate them from society so that they can’t cause further damage.
Once they’ve healed and their dysfunction no longer poses a dire threat to our collective wellbeing there’s nothing to prevent them from being reintegrated in society without any prejudice.
Utah Phillips used to say: “The Earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”
When millions of people, like us, neutralise and shun those individuals, and families, who:
- participate in activities that are systematically harming our planet;
- benefit from the exploitation of others;
- take more than their fair share;
- fail to contribute to our survival and to the common good,
… by ensuring that they are unwelcome in our homes, our businesses, our governance, our institutions and our social gatherings, then our use of EXCLUSION will be improving collective chances of survival.