“From caterpillar to butterfly, we are leaving behind old and severely limiting ways of being, living, and relating to our world”
After some time, Doc showed up carrying his beautiful natural-wood acoustic bass guitar. My work on the story would have to wait.
The breakfast crowd had already come and gone, so we took our instruments out front to practice some new tunes to a captive audience of fidgety curly-tail lizards and an occasional passer-by looking very lost.
My new friend, the inspiring young barista with the lovely smile, had stepped outside to collect empty coffee cups and wipe down tables just as we were wrapping up our jam session.
I had to collect my backpack and wanted to finish my coffee before loading up my bike and riding back home on a gorgeous South Florida day.
As I gathered my things, I asked her if she had a few moments to chat. I had noticed that the café was quite empty and perhaps I could learn a bit more from this inspiring young woman.
“I can take a break for a few minutes, sure.”
“Are there any encouraging trends you are seeing from your studies? Any good news out there?”
What she told me next brought to mind the insightful words of R. Buckminster Fuller: 'You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.'
She told me that we are slowly but convincingly moving away from a delusional, destabilizing, and rapidly deteriorating economic worldview of debt-created virtual-wealth, exploitative global markets, and obsessive GDP growth.
The current mainstream business culture that incentivizes short-term corporate profits, cheap throwaway products, and centralized and concentrated power, and the current global market economy with its irrational fixation of infinite GDP growth on our finite planet will soon give way to more distributed, regenerative, circular, small-scale, local, lean, learning economies that value healthy people, happy places, a habitable planet — in other words, a world worth inheriting.
A new interconnected and interdependent ecological civilization — a post-capitalist global EcoCulture — is emerging that prioritizes the health of living systems over short-term financial (virtual) wealth production and that properly values human and ecological well-being and intergenerational equity over any new re-branded form of mindless 'economic growth' and constant accumulation of capital.
In this emerging life-affirming EcoCulture, self-reliant and self-determining communities will become the goal and basic building blocks of society. These self-reliant communities, like self-reliant individuals, will prefer to rely on themselves first. To a large extent, they will solve their own problems and find their own unique ways of doing things, with a greater sense of pride, place, purpose, and autonomy.
They'll possess self-confidence, optimism, and a wide range of skills that will make them strong, agile, and resilient.
They will react to change with active and informed engagement — not denial, delusion, distraction, or despair.
Relationships in these lean local economies will be based on principles of mutual respect, learning, and reciprocity.
And technological innovation and efficiency improvements will be encouraged for their effectiveness in enhancing the vitality of living systems and supporting equitable human well-being not primarily as a means of expanding the rentier class (those who make money from money), boosting the wealth of the billionaire class, or speeding up our rates of concentrated resource extraction and centralized production.
The best EcoCulture technological innovations will be local, resilient, sustainable, and cheap.
Most importantly, the core driving principles of EcoCulture enterprises will be based on the fundamental and undeniable fact that we are all interconnected and interdependent in a grand, beautiful, mysterious, and fragile web of life — that long-term human prosperity is inextricably linked to a balanced, healthy, thriving planet-wide ecological system.
In fact, EcoCulture could also be described quite accurately as ‘island culture,’ she argued, because they are both characterized by the same broad and deep ecological intelligence and acknowledgement of clear environmental limits and boundaries. And both are cognizant of their embeddedness in Earth’s web of life and their direct connection to the natural world — and to its fate.
To an islander, after all, it is quite obvious that the human economy is fully embedded in the closed-loop energy and material flows of the land and surrounding ocean — the local ecosystem — and subject to the same chemical and physical laws of the universe.
A clearly bounded island ecosystem requires a more disciplined approach to ecology, where there can be no economic ideology of expansion. Island cultures require an economic ideology of integration.
The human economy is clearly a sub-system of the global ecology, not the other way around. So there are clear limits to biophysical throughput of resources from the ecosystem, through the economic subsystem, and back to the ecosystem as waste.
Most importantly, surrounding biophysical systems are not things we live off of — but places we live within with a spirit of mutual reciprocity. Not extraction, but exchange.
Mindful islanders recognize that they are not masters over Nature; they are Nature.
They hold on to ancient wisdom traditions that acknowledged and celebrated human embeddedness in Nature and don't accept superstitious cheap-energy-era beliefs that Nature can be ignored with impunity. (Nature always bats last!)
They maintain a proper balance between masculine and feminine leadership qualities where compassion and relationships are as highly valued as assertiveness and technical abilities.
An ecological civilization is a civilization the values fairness, justice, individual dignity, diversity, integration, balance, and symbiosis between humans and nonhuman nature.
She also described three axial shifts — in politics, in education, and in economics — that are quite literally re-aligning our current modes of thinking and operating quite dramatically:
Political battles around the world, she observed, are becoming less and less between left versus right — as they were in the last century — and more and more between open versus closed societies.
In education, the debate is no longer between public versus private schooling. It is now between factory-era, compartmentalized, mechanical learning models of static, passive, rote memorization versus dynamic, active, whole-child, engaged, information-age hands-on learning modes.
And our economic discussions are also shifting from large government versus free markets to GDP growth versus sustainable well-being.
Sustainable well-being is development and priorities that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It seeks to allow all living organisms to attain their full expected life spans. It emphatically rejects the perverse dominance-based logic that treats many ‘other’ people, things, and Earth's bounty as conveniently disposable resources.
She explained that ecological economics, her chosen area of study, speaks in the language of living systems using terms familiar to biologists and ecologists: balance, biodiversity, closed-cycle, coevolution, complex adaptive systems, interdependence, limits, organization, thresholds, tipping points, renewal, and resilience.
Ecological economics values community, compassion, and environmental stewardship. It heeds the ancestral wisdom of indigenous island cultures living in ecological balance with their local surroundings.
Ecological balance means harvesting renewable resources at a rate that does not exceed the rate of regeneration, controlling waste streams so that they do not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment, and — for nonrenewable resources — requiring development of comparable renewable substitutes for those resources as they are depleted.
She believed all countries and cultures will ultimately have a part to play in this grand EcoCulture metamorphosis that aspires to a future of broad wealth and well-being for humans and for the great diversity of marvelous creatures that inhabit this uniquely life-rich planet.
She insisted that a 'woke' civilization in one that understands one thing very clearly,
“With the gift of human intelligence comes the moral obligation of human responsibility.”
All of Nature, she asserted, has the right to to exist and to thrive, the right to be respected, the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue the vital cycles and processes that will nurture future generations.
“From caterpillar to butterfly, we are leaving behind old and severely limiting ways of being, living, and relating to our world and to each other and moving on to a higher level of consciousness and awareness that places greater value on truth, beauty, balance, play, connection, community, generosity, hospitality, warmth, and wisdom and that seeks a grander destiny for humanity on this good, beautiful, bountiful Earth,”
“So beautifully expressed.”
“Thank you, Mister Rico. But now you’ll have to excuse me as I need to get back to work. Perhaps I’ll see you at your next Community Music Circle over at the green market on Saturday. I’ll stay a little longer next time, if that’s okay.”
“Absolutely! I’d love to have you join us again with your adorable little blue ukulele. And I’ll have you know that I am now — as of this morning — a fellow ukulele player!”
“That's awesome! See you soon, then.”
She quickly wiped down my table and disappeared back into the kitchen.