Sunday, August 07, 2011

Conscious Earth Closes

(visit my new site at

First and foremost, a huge thanks the thousands of visitors, commentators and followers that took part in this blog over the past years. As those still following know, the blog tailed off after my trip abroad. After a long dormancy I'm ready to turn the page.

I started the blog for a few reasons. I wanted a writing project, and environmental commentary was a natural fit with my work role at the time. More significantly, when I began The Conscious Earth in 2006 environmental awareness was in a much different place than it is today.

The idea of environmental responsibility and values was still largely a special interest. People cared, but environmental concerns were considered something separate from the the social, political, and most importantly economic, decisions of the day. In that context, this blog really targeted three specific issues:

  1. The tendency of "environmentalists" to frame the environment as an ultimate value: to this day, many environmentalists and conservationists place the natural world above human concerns. The stance is not only wrong, but counterproductive to the movement as a whole. The environment never needed saving because it will ultimately outlast us all. Human beings aren't clever enough to wipe life from this planet, and the earth itself has no qualms with spending a few millions years recovering from us in order to re-emerge in full bloom.

  2. Second, and related to the first, our place in the natural world is not as a tiny subset in the web of life. People grow out of the earth in the same way apples grow from trees and poppies grow from fields. We're an end product of the earth, not a subservient part. Wipe out people and the earth goes on. Wipe out the earth and everything goes with it. The environmental movement's failure to understand this has always left the majority of people alienated from the cause.

  3. The criminal undermining of the reality of climate change: In 2006, the so called debate of humanity's role in climate change was in full rage. The news industry had singularly abdicated its responsibility to factual reporting, and the environmental movement was helping them by failing to frame the issue in human terms.

The Conscious Earth sought to address each by framing the environment in human terms, and flipping the spin of those who advocated the ongoing destruction of the planet in the name of profit.

The project was successful, as far as it went. But far beyond these small posts, the world changed rapidly while I was traveling in 2008 and environmentalism moved forward from the back burner. Since then there has been little debate about the need for change, as well as the need to live in a relationship with the planet that is at least remotely sustainable. The economic strains of the last years have only punctuated that. Fewer and fewer people buy into the argument that the economy and the environment are opposed. People want solutions that take both into account.

That is the good news. The bad news is that while everyone understands the needs, far too few are taking action. Every level of society - from the meaningless state of politics, to corporate greed, through voter apathy - has been blamed. I don't think its any of these things.

Paralysis and stagnation has set in at all levels - government, business and citizen engagement. The world seems too complicated, and leaders in all parts of society function more from fear than vision. Everyone's afraid to act out of an anxiety of sending the whole system into a tailspin. There seems to be too much to know, too many facts, too many perspectives.

Knowledge, facts and perspectives - the raw quantity of everything around us, and we're stuck in the middle of it wondering how to cope with the growing volume of an ever more complicated world.

But we mis-framed the question once again. The problem isn't in the apparent complexity. It's in the fact that we have been busy focusing on quantity.

The problems of the world are ones of quality not quantity. They are about meaning and not facts. Their about purpose rather than progress. If you doubt that, look more closely at the rise of fundamentalism and extreme views in the world. This is a reaction to a world obsessed with quantity - doing more, having more, being more - for no conceivable purpose.

The road to quality and meaning is always simpler and more direct. And this is the reason The Conscious Earth has come to a close.

I'll be launching a new site shortly. It doesn't promise to solve the world's problems. But, with luck, it will give a small glimpse at meaning, for better or for worse, to some of the challenges and events of the world today.

Those interested are invited to join. You can find it at Stories and content will begin tomorrow.

Thank you again for every ounce of support along the way. I hope readers gained as much from reading The Conscious Earth as I did from writing it.

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