Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows
We can see it coming, feel it working, approve our genius in harnessing it to do work, especially now as the cold northern winter or the (increasingly) warm southern summer approaches. In our general theory of evolution, energy efficiency and the power to command are leading natural selection criteria. One might even assume that life came about simply because the laws of the system required a more efficient dispersal of that bombardment from the sun, life freed energy.
So, energetic forms, life as coded individuals which group together in colonies, alike although incapable of conscious realisation. These overcome all regulatory rules until they degrade their environment to the point that it no longer supports the scale at which they want to do work. The colony either dies off completely or re-establishes at equilibrium and encodes the understanding. Over eons of time one might presuppose that life has fully experienced and encoded an infinity of Olduvian cliffs. Nah, can’t go that way mate, dead end! Imagine, colonies of individuals committing environmental suicide, lemmings following the groundhogs, since time immemorial. Either you go insane and call off the whole thing or you code towards self-awareness. Where life is assumed to be an emergent property of energy, and is encoded to use energy, then the conscious realisation of this is an obvious step.
It is indeed probable that the metabolically optimal brains in humans are evolved simply to realise the principles of life stability and implement them into culture, the brain bringing sanity to life. We know the abyss is there and we can self-regulate through culture, including gods or other beliefs. We do not need to be re-coded as a dead end. Many cultures have practiced these principles intuitively and modified their culture thus. The daoists point out that life accumulates in the dark, the “quiet mysterious receptacle of stillness”, seeing it as something invisible that rains down, the ‘prana’ of hinduism, the ‘mana from heaven’ in the jewish tradition, the ‘itz’ of the mayans.
But self-regulation is fraught, whatever the argument for guns, germs and steel. Cultures that have embraced individual risk taking and competition have harnessed more energy and power across generations. Civilisation, when the cost and benefit can be deferred by more than the average 3 score and ten, has triumphed over, and generally savagely subjugated, other cultures. This civilisation assumes that power, technology and wealth will ensure future prosperity. They cry out ceteris paribus and cannot see that nothing is alike in the harmonious oneness.
And so we find ourselves, in very temporary state of energy abundance, where the message in the dominant cultural narrative is that accumulation, the pursuit of individual human gain, must trump the life supporting aspects of the biosphere. The accumulators of wealth and power send out a constantly evolving message that reinforces their power; worship ye private property and consumption, and above all, do not ye think upon the consequences. The lawmakers have already been convinced that “there is no other way”, that the milk and honey is just a little further down the same path. Even as the collective sees in the evidence of their own eyes that the message is almost entirely false, they are threatened with their own extinction if they wander off.
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Where a civilisation is not interested in other than self, even a scientific recognition of the danger of excess and the degradation of life has little impact. In developing a theory to explain the ice ages, Svante Arrhenius, in 1896, was the first to use basic principles of physical chemistry to calculate estimates of the extent to which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) will increase Earth’s surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. Consumption of concentrated life energy increases the energy in the system.
In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of energy use led to the increased consumption of energy in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological progress will increase fuel consumption. Saving energy does not reduce demand any more than green technology does, increased availability actually drives demand. Civilisation has brought us to the point where we are literally consuming technology and energy in order to store digital wealth, while starving other cultures.
And it is foolish to ignore technological progress has created positive feedback, civilisation is enormously propitious, at least for some. But technological progress is, at least so far, a product of energy not a producer of energy. Science, like a post-modern Cassandra, has been sidelined to narrative, despite the general recognition of its observational truth. The implications of unlimited growth within a finite system are well known, but it is as if our energetic consciousness is both a little bit terrified of not existing today and a little bit curious what is over the edge of the abyss.
As James Lovelock postulated “we reject the evidence that our world is changing because we are still, as that wonderfully wise biologist E. O. Wilson reminded us, tribal carnivores. We are programmed by our inheritance to see other living things as mainly something to eat, and we care more about our national tribe than anything else. We still find alien the concept that we and the rest of life, from bacteria to whales, are parts of the much larger and diverse entity, the living Earth.”
Imagine the collective relief, if we simply stopped making something as wholly useless as weapons, we would meet the Paris targets the very next day! You do not defeat weapons with greater weapons but with a greater cultural understanding that using energy for the destruction of life is a bad thing, a cultural dead end. We need to stop getting an F in ethics and demand that the Masters of War step away from the edge. We can quickly find out if it is already to late to make rational collective demands if the FN bans all weapon production.
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
And to be quite honest, it probably doesn’t matter, life is the absurd and this here and now is almost certainly just a small finite step in this semi-infinite repetitive loop. The same rules apply to everything on this planet, even conscious self-regulating colonies. You either die off or you establish an energetic equilibrium and encode the understanding. The only difference is, since we have the illusion of choice, we might just as well choose life.