12,000 years ago a crisis ended millions of years of Hunter Gatherer society. We did not happily chose a new way of life. A crisis forced it upon us and our brilliance at using our minds to solve problems lead to us inventing new technology that took us down a path that created the modern world as we know it.
I can see that such a crisis is upon us again and that once more we will have to use our ingenuity to find a new way. This series will be my sketch book as to what that might entail.
Let's start with what happened to us the last time and then I will go on to look at why we face a crisis of similar scale today and then what we might to to get us out of it.
The Crisis that Ended Hunter Gathering
Who better than James Burke to show us what happend
The crisis was a change in climate in the middle east that destroyed the wild habitat that the large population of Hunter Gatherers needed to sustain themselves.
The big new idea was domestication of plants and and animals. The core tool would be the plow. The core new food would be grain. A food that you could store. And so a food that you could control. A process of control that lead top the idea of property, of kings and their great tool for control - the written word.
It meant nothing that this food was a poor substitute for what we had eaten before. We lost a foot in mean height. We developed the diseases of modern civilization. It was eat this or starve.
This was a food that could also expand the population exponentially. Farmer/herder societies could field armies and then take over lands of Hunter Gatherers who had no defence. The grain produced the population, the king, the army and then the conquest.
Our world view is shaped by this history. The normal of centralized control. Of power concentration and the use of the word to control us. Of cheap and easy food.
By 100 AD and the rise of Rome, the end of the Hunter Gatherer world was certain.
Our modern crisis
So what's the crisis? It had better be a big one for our current system is so well entrenched!
I think that these are the elements of the crisis that will force us to change as our Hunter Gatherer ancestors were forced to change.
Our food system today depends utterly on the availability of cheap oil. This is what has made available the expansion of world population from 2 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today. This expansion coincides with the oil age. Some time soon this will no longer be available.
This is Timgad in North Africa - the Capital of the Prairies of the Roman World. If you want to know where the top soil is look here in Ephesus across the Mediterranean.
The great port of Ephesus silted up from topsoil blown from North Africa. Constant plowing destroys the topsoil. Just as constant irrigation destroys it from salt build up
Our focus on grains and the plow and inputs to feed and to defend a concentrated row crop ALWAYS destroys the land.
The clock is ticking for the prairies and California.
Making corn and sugar the centre of the modern diet and the agribusiness, we are also driving a health problem that is overwhelming us. Not just a health crisis but a financial crisis. The costs of dealing with this are too much for any of us to bear or any society.
We are starting to understand now that the very core crop, grains, that saved us all that time back will now destroy us.
We have reached the limits of what the agricultural revolution can offer.
This feels like a crisis to me that cannot be undone by working harder to do what we have always done.
In the middle east back in the day, you could not hunt harder either.
And, I nearly forgot. Nature is also doing her thing. Weather instability is making crop growing a very hard thing to do and it is getting worse. With 7 billion people to feed, we cannot miss a beat but we are.
So in my next post I want to explore how a new diet may drive a new food system. A new food system as radically different as the one that the plow created and with all the ramification for human society and power that a real revolution implies.
Are you frustrated by how our politicians cannot seem to get anything done anymore? I am mad as hell! I hate how they just seem to score political points off each other? Don't you?
Does it worry you, as a consequence, that we cannot seem to make any progress on important issues such as energy, education, health, global conflict and now immigration? Does it seem to you as it does to me that each issue seems to about only competing slogans and yelling and name calling?
If you share my concerns, do you wonder why our political process is so polarized into conflict?
I suspect that the answer is that how our media works is big part of this. They live by headlines and by circulation. This is their model. So fear making and conflict is how they make their money. Conflict sells papers and pulls in eyeballs and ears. So they offer all of us - politicians and us - a view of what is going on that is binary - Us against them - Me against You.
Maybe this worked better in a simpler world where our problems were in our community and we could all experience the context. Then a headline was OK because we we the local experts. We knew and experienced what was going on.
But now we live in a such a hyper connected world many of our problems are outside of our experience. How could you know that the noble idea of "Bringing democracy to Afghanistan" is an insane idea? What do you know of the place - you have no context. No we can have a furious debate about this with no one knowing anything real about the context. Such debates can never end.
What do you know about the pressures that have driven millions to risk their lives to cross the border to work in terrible conditions? You and I don't and we can't - so instead we can take sides in an artificial debate about legal or not - secure border or not - racist or not - and never come close to understanding enough to make a valid decision about what to do.
What do you and I really know about oil reserves and how much time we really have before there never will be cheap oil again. What do you and I really know about how our food supply depends utterly on cheap oil and how we might starve if this is not available? We cannot - so we engage instead in a furious and futile debate about whether there us global warming or not.
So if the media only gives us headlines - if it always drops a story when there is no "News" - if it never helps us find the context what then?
Don't we need to find a better way that can help us understand the complex issues?
What would this mean? What would better mean?
This is a "no-context" storm - this image shows us how it feels to be In the storm of "no-context". We just get tossed about. We are helpless. We get scared.
But this is the Pattern - all hurricanes look like this if we can find the right perspective. As you can see from this POV there is structure, order and meaning. We can't stop them but we can work with them because we know how they work.
We can also know the tracks that they take - not precisely - but we can mitigate the damage that they do.
No meteorologist will ever tell you that she can predict the precise actions of a complex system like a hurricane but we can learn how to live with them. We can do a lot to redice our risks because we do understand their pattern and their habits.
Now imagine if your media could help you see the patterns in our complex challenges? Surely we would do better than we do now? Would that be a project that would excite you?
THIS is what we are trying to do at KETC in our project on the most binary topic of our time right now - Immigration. A topic that gets us all easily into name calling and so into a dead end where NO progress is possible.
Immigration is a topic that the media don't even pretend to offer us a pattern. Here is the Pattern of Patterns that will show you the nature of a problem and how you solve them.
The curent media is stuck in the Simple. It pretends that we and they live in the "Known Realm" The Simple Realm (Laying Bricks or Stacking Wood) where cause and effect are directly linked. They don't even go to the "Knowable" or Complicated Realm (Designing a Jet Engine)
They operate in the Simple Realm when nearly all that confronts us is Complex or Chaotic. Using the rules of the Simple to deal with Complex and Chaotic leads to confusion and disaster.
Nearly all our challenges are in the Complex or Chaotic realm. These are the realms nature herself. So for example this is how Hurricanes are structured. They are Complex. In the Complex Realm we have to get enough perspective to find the hidden and inevitable order in the patterns. These patterns are the same but different. They are predictable in how they operate but only in a general sense. For instance all turbulence of a certain type for instance looks like a hurricane. The water going down your plughole and a galaxy all share the same pattern. They have internal rules that are consistent that enables us at least to understand them. Whereas if you are in a storm, all you can do is hang on and hope.
Chaos is even harder to "see" but it too has patterns and order that have structure but they are very hard to "see" as a lot of time has to pass before the pattern emerges.
In Chaotic Realms, small things have to iterate over time until a shape is settled. So, think of a seed becoming a small shoot, then a plant then a sapling then a tree and then a copse and then a wood and then the full ecosystem of a forest. At each stage the shape changes but you can only see the complete pattern at the end.
That is how Chaos evolves into a knowable pattern. All acorns have the potential to become not just a tree but a forest.
If you only saw an acorn and did not know it could become a forest, you would have to wait for a thousand years to see the connection. You still might never see this. Most only see the obvious end state as a tree. But that is not the real end state. The Climax Forest is the end state.
But now we know the pattern, it will always do its best to reach its potential. We can help an acorn become a forest by helping it have the best environment for each stage of its development along its trajectory. So we cannot control it. We cannot be assured that it will reach its potential but we can give it a very good chance. It is like this with our children.
Seeing the patterns then is the way to understand Complex and Chaotic system.
So then how can a media organization do this? Well first of all it has to know that this is the work. Not itself a small thing when all the real media lives in a different mindset!
This is what we have decided to do at KETC. Call us mad! Most called Columbus mad. No one would finance his voyage to the west for decades. Everyone knew that the world was flat! It took a Queen to make the investment. Columbus also did not have a lot of fun along the way either. This is not fun being out there on a limb with everything at risk. But it is maybe our destiny. We sure can't turn back now.
So sorry about the lecture but I don't know how else to show you our context.
I would like to show you an example of how we are using "pattern seeking" to make sense of immigration. If we can do this then maybe we can make sense of a lot of other things.
Mea Culpa - We have not cracked this.
We are very much still finding our way and do not claim to have solved this. We feel like Columbus must have felt weeks into his voyage as the supplies were running out and the crew getting scared. I think we have seen the odd gull and a few logs in the water. We sense we are close to land but not sure. And we still don't know what to do if we get to land.
You can help us by telling me more about how we might improve this process. You will see things that we can't - please pile in and help!
Here is the process that has emerged from our work - with no prior plan. It has just emerged into our own vision this week! It is offering us a pattern for rooting an issue into pattern of its own that has structure and so meaning.
We go out to an expert - who does know a lot about what ever is the issue - in this case an immigration lawyer in St Louis - she provides her professional opinion of what is the context. We find out the facts from a person who knows a lot more than we coud ever know. We let her speak not us.
A friend made the point yesterday that the very warm weather we have been having here on PEI - warms our waters and opens up a pathway for hurricanes.
Nothing is harder to predict than weather - But we might get hit harder than usual at some point this fall - fingers crossed and get your store of water in as Cynthia Dennis posted the other day - "Noah built the Ark before it rained"
Hurricane Earl, now a powerful Category 4 storm, barreled toward the U.S. coast early Tuesday after battering tiny islands across the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and winds that damaged homes and toppled power lines.
Earl is forecast to potentially brush the U.S. East Coast late Thursday, before curving back out to sea, possibly swiping New England or far-eastern Canada. The U.S. National Hurricane Center warned coastal residents from North Carolina to Maine to watch the storm closely.
“Any small shift in the track could dramatically alter whether it makes landfall or whether it remains over the open ocean,” said Wallace Hogsett, a meteorologist at the centre. “I can't urge enough to just stay tuned.”
In the Caribbean, Earl caused flooding in low-lying areas and damaged homes on islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and St. Maarten. Several countries and territories reported power outages. Cruise ships were diverted and flights cancelled across the region.