Its Time to Start Following the Earth’s Example
Recognizing the lead of kincentric cultures, the moment is nigh to follow the grand master of ecological enrichment
by Russell Maier & Irene Bakisan
OUR MODERN CULTURE is almost exclusively based the ways and wisdom of great human teachers. From philosophers to prophets, emperors to kings, scientists to seers, their insights, dictates and examples have developed the ways in which we discern good and bad, true from false, right from wrong — and, quite unconsciously, imbued our modern view of the world with a focus on human needs and human well-being. However practical this has been for making sense of human living, however successful it has been at achieving the prosperity of human civilization, it has utterly failed to achieve the ecological integration we so long for today. As we saw in our last chapter, this is particularly clear as we recognize the ecological integration of those cultures that were able to learn from non-human teachers. The contrast between the ecological enrichment wrought by such kincentric cultures and the ecological denigration wrought by human-centric society is as stark as it is revealing.
From the vantage of our the Earth’s four billion year story, it is now abundantly clear that humans are not in any way central-to or separate-from the biosphere. Rather, we are as interconnected and dependent as all our fellow earthen organisms. And likewise, it is also now clear: when it comes to enriching ecological integration, human-centric ideologies are fundamentally inadequate.1
However, just as our anthropocentricism begins its shatter, we can at last see that another great teacher awaits us!
And we have no further to look than our feet.
For too long we have assumed the Earth beneath us to be a static and stable constant. From our all-too-human view of the world, we have seen the Earth as an unmoved mover, a separate thing, an unconditioned solid and central constant.2 In fact, it is anything but! The coalescence of cosmic matter and energy that has become the Earth has in fact never ceased unfolding. The ongoing result of a vast stellar confluence, the Earth’s array of elements, solar distance, spin, orbit, moon and magnetosphere compose a pattern of process utterly unique in our solar system .
Indeed, in our entire galaxy we know of no other entity that has been so successful in managing its matter and energy to manifest the very ecological enrichment to which we so aspire today. Truly, the Earth’s transformation of our once barren planet into a thriving biosphere is the penultimate example of ecological contribution.
Just as ancient and ongoing kincentric societies observed and learned from the character of kindred creatures that mastered their ecological integration with particular magnificence, so too can we observe and learn from the Earth.
With our view of the world debugged of human-centric bias, we can at last begin to grasp the cosmological character of our common home. As our scientific and kincentric knowing come into resonate, we can begin to discern with confidence an underlying pattern in the Earth’s ways.1
In particular, by surveying the planet’s shift over the eons from grey to green we can observe six principles that underlie its pattern of processes:
- Observe how the Earth’s processes tend towards spiraling cycles.
- Observe how the Earth’s cycles tend towards the outwards dissipation of energy.
- Observe how the Earth’s cycles tend towards the inwards concentration of matter.
- Observe how the Earth’s cycles tend towards net-subtraction of matter into geological storage.
- Observe how the Earth’s cycles tend toward the net-addition of biological diversity.
- Observe how the Earth’s systems tend towards ever greater consciousness of their interconnection.
From organism to ecosystem, from biome to biosphere, we are surrounded with the verdant consequences of these Earthen principles applied. Whether the process is minute or massive, ancient or ongoing, in looking closely, we can see the same Earthen ways reflected and embodied — a microcosm of the macro within every organism and ecosystem. Within the the life-cycles of everything from a forest to a tree, a bird to a flea, we can observe the tendencies of the Earth’s character expressed in each and every one — together forming a vast symphony of a trillion instruments all tending their tune towards a more resilient, livable and abundant biosphere for all.3
While there are hints of these tendencies upon other planets — upon ours, they definitively incline the cycles of matter and energy, setting the Earth apart in their clarity of verdant expression and green consequence.
Yet, the Earth is not alone in the uniqueness of its planetary pattern. Around the solar system, the unique stellar confluence of each planet, has given each it’s own unique cosmological character. From the endless storms of Jupiter to the endemic volcanoes of Venus, to the color of Mars, each planet’s character tends towards its own unique expressions of surface, ocean and atmosphere.
Though, let us note that such planetary tendencies are not hard and fast rules. Not all storms on Jupiter turn to giant rusty spots, not all Venusian mountains erupt, nor are all Martian rocks red. Likewise, not all of the Earth’s cycles express Earthen tendencies with equal clarity and consequence4. In this way, over the eons, certain Earthen organisms and ecosystems have come to express the Earth’s tendencies more than others.
In the next six chapters, we shall examine six Earthen phenomena that have attained an exceptional magnificence in their expression of one of the six Earthen ways. With the assistance of kincentric insight, physics, biology and astronomy we will examine the ways of the Igorots, the cycles of the Salmon, the manner of Mollusks, the age of the Carboniferous, the biodiversity of ancient oceans and the consciousness of a mycorrhizal forest. Each shall aid us in discerning the essence of a particular Earthen principle, and together reveal the full character of ecological contribution.
What we call an Earthen ethics.
Using Earthen ethics, we can then confidently discern and define what is green (what is an ecological contribution) and what is grey (what is not). What is green is that which embodies the six Earthen principles and leads to a more hospitable, resilient, vibrant, abundant and conscious biosphere. What is grey is that which conflicts with any one of the Earthen principles, leading to the opposite — lowering consciousness, reducing biome abundance, vibrancy and hospitality, and decreasing resiliency.5
Then just as kincentric societies fast tracked their ecological integration, so too can we.
With the correlation between Earthen principles and consequences clear, we are availed a new and commanding clarity. We are assured that by embodying the Earth’s ways in our own processes, they will have like greening consequences.
With a humility born of despair delved and pride shattered, we can then move on from our modern grey ways. We can at long last align our longing to contribute to ecological enrichment with tried-and-tested parameters for its realization.
Then, with a renewed perspective of our planet and our place on it, we shall return to our plastic.
As the representative of our last century of carbon play and the embodiment of human-centric thinking, it has a key role to play. With the application of each and every Earthen principle to the processing of our plastic, Banayan and I have come to see that what was once an inevitable pollutant can be transmuted into an inexorable enrichment.
And in so doing, show the green way forward for our other processes, materials and enterprises.
Banayan Angway and Russell Maier, an Igorot wisdom keeper and a western philosopher, met ten years ago to protect the Chico River in the remote Northern Philippines from an inundation of plastic pollution. Ever since, their exploration of the modern relevance of kincentric wisdom has steadily unfolded. They are now publishing a treatise of their insights as a comprehensive theory of green and grey. The Full Story of the Tractatus Ayyew.
NEXT: Chapter 7 | Towards Cycles that Spiral
PREVIOUS: Chapter 4 | Another Knowing
1. Thomas Nail presents not only a profound critique of this notion, but a theory of the Earth’s ongoing dynamic unfolding. (2021), Theory of the Earth, Standford University Press.
1. We took a look at the problems with the human centric view of the world in our preface. We’ll be coming back to make an examination of the human-centricism a chapter of its own.
2. Much as a computer is upgraded with a new firmware to avail of new opportunities and fix old bugs, so too can we upgrade our view of the world. But the old board need not be discarded! The chips and processors of science and reason, can be repurposed accordingly.
3. It is important to note that the Earthen principles do not lay any claim to why or how the Earth came to its cosmological character. We are simply observing the net change of the planet from its barren state to its biosphere state. Whether the principles themselves were laid by coincidence, a divine being, many beings, or a sentient planet is a separate matter entirely. Likewise, the great plunges in diversity, stability and consciousness (i.e mass extinctions) that seem at odds with our principles — these are separate from our observation of net consequence of the singular Earthen process.
4. It is much the same way that a crystal grows. The particular chemistry and conditions of a crystal tend it toward a particular expression of geometry, color and clarity. In this way, most selenite crystals grow several centimeters in length. However, given the right conditions they have been found at over 10 meters in length. See: The Cave of Crystals in in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico.
5. As described in chapter 5, we view the Earth as a whole, self-contained, planetary system in which human system are subset. In this way, when we allude to “following the Earth’s example” we do so with particular mindfullness of the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ (“because it is natural to do things a certain way, we ought to do things that way”). While this fallacy certainly pertains to is/ought arguments between two different systems (i.e. ‘the human world’ and ‘the natural world’), the naturalistic fallacy loses in relevance when one system is acknowledged to be the subset of the first. In such a case, a three part is/ought/if” statement is possible: in order for the whole system to function in its characteristic way, its part ought to embody a certain characteristic of the whole if it is to work as it should. For example: we can observe the hands of a clock face go around in sequenced circles; and posit that so ought its gears if it is to keep time. Likewise we can observe that a tree removes carbon from the air; and posit that so ought its leaves if the leaf and tree are to thrive. Consequently, the careful reader of the will observe our categorical avoidance of the dichotomy of ‘natural’ systems and human systems (never once do we use the term ‘nature’ in this way). Instead, throughout the Tractatus we view human processes as an ecological subset of the Earth’s biosphere.