If youth want a future, they must tear down the poisoned worldview of our civilisation and create a new one for themselves
As civilisation moves towards an ecological catastrophe consisting of dozens of components, adults split into naïve optimists and tearful pessimists. By means of helpless discussions, they dance around themselves and move towards the final apocalypse, unable to act. The last chance lies in a fundamental reset: a new youth movement would have to tear down the previous world view of civilisation, like an old, poisoned factory building, and replace it with a radical realism. The material for this is lying ready in a variety of ways: On the shelves of the natural sciences as well as in nature itself.
On the internet, on the book market and in the mass media, many bizarre phenomena are becoming visible in the face of growing public uncertainty. In addition to all kinds of flattening and silliness to the point of debility, these include a strong polarisation around a drastic question: namely, whether the system of civilisation is on the great path to a golden future or whether it is on the brink of a self-induced apocalypse that can no longer be prevented. On the intellectual level, these two opposing camps are predominantly led by people of advanced age with a strong sense of mission, who vie for the attention of the insecure masses. In the process, they are both only mutually driving forces in a fatal spiral of naivety and inability to act.
Among the most exposed representatives of the optimists, and quoted thousands of times every day, are the 64-year-old Harvard professor Steven Pinker and the professor of international health Hans Rosling, who died in 2017 at the age of 68. Their world bestsellers “Enlightenment Now” and “Factfulness”, published in 2018, are praised by many influential celebrities such as Bill Gates.
Citing numerous sources and statistics, the two authors explain that despite enormous increases in population, the situation of humanity has steadily improved, especially in recent decades. In the present, therefore, everything is as good as it has never been before: prosperity, including the availability of food, is breaking all records, infant mortality is at an all-time low, as is the number of deaths from hunger, infectious diseases and wars.
Education and democratisation are reaching new highs every year, people are getting older and healthier, while a steadily growing proportion of the world’s population has access to the blessings of increasingly diverse modern technologies. And civilisation will manage to solve all problems that arise in the future, mainly through new technologies and advances in science and research.
The naïve optimists do not realise the absurd speed of the celebrated developments
A look at the works of Pinker and Rosling, however, reveals a striking naivety. The two authors obviously do not perceive the speeds and dynamics of the celebrated developments, which are far beyond any regular ecological processes, so that their prognoses for the future also degenerate into windy speculation. Above all, almost everything in their theses refers to improvements that exclusively benefit humans.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, which is largely ignored by the two professors, namely where it is not about humans themselves but about other life forms and the entire non-human nature of the planet, a process of destruction has taken place that can already be defined without exaggeration as a rapidly accelerating catastrophe. It consists of many different intertwined components, all of which are expensive prices of the rapid increases in the material standard of living of human beings.
By far the best known, but in fact only one among the many components of the catastrophe, lies in the changes in the global climate triggered by humans through gas emissions as well as through interference with the earth’s vegetation cover. Many experts already see the beginning of a spiral of self-reinforcement, mainly because the previous heating has caused the northern permafrost soils to melt, releasing very large amounts of CO2 and methane (1).
The destruction of nature is now proceeding at breakneck speed
The destruction of the most species-rich natural areas in the temperate and tropical zones is also taking place at a rapid pace. For example, within 30 years, far more than half of the virgin forest on the 1,700-kilometre-long island of Sumatra, which has grown over millions of years, has been destroyed, and the destruction of what remains is proceeding apace (2). Meanwhile, deforestation in the Amazon basin, the largest contiguous rainforest area on earth, is also steadily reaching new records (3).
Other direct consequences of escalating consumer affluence are sharply increasing contamination of the earth’s surface, including water bodies, with pesticides (4, 5), microplastics (6), salts (7) and medicines (8), for example, as well as massive reductions in surface and groundwater (9, 10). In aggregate, over 75 per cent of the global land area is degraded, according to a 2018 European Commission publication, and degradation could increase to 90 per cent of soils by 2050 (11).
And then, as a causal consequence of all this, there is a drastic decimation of free-living animals and plants, the dimensions of which, however, cannot even be surveyed for lack of data material. The first widely recognised empirical survey on the development of the global biomass of insects, published in 2019, came to a current annual decline of 2.5 per cent – which would mean that the largest and most important part of the animal kingdom in the ecological structure would already be in a real collapse situation (12).
In addition to the still fairly well-known components of the catastrophe listed here, there are many others, including those that are hardly or not at all perceived by the wider public. These include the destruction of the deeper structures of the global ecological fabric by agriculture – including a foreseeable collapse of the basis of civilisation’s food supply. Because large amounts of money can be generated from food production, a network of corporations has led large parts of the sector into intensive agriculture. And what has been happening there for a few decades could be compared to the swift squeezing of a lemon half.
Intensive agriculture resembles squeezing a half of a lemon
The parameters are, for example, the drastic genetic erosion of practically all important “useful plants” (13, 14) and the increasing dependence of all highly cultivated “useful organisms” on pesticides and medicines, which can be seen, among other things, in their global sales volumes (15).
For several decades, this squeezing did indeed cause a huge increase in the amount of food generated globally. In the meantime, however, despite increasing intensification, production volumes have flattened out. According to the statistics of the International Grains Council IGCS, 2019 will be the fifth year in a row in which the total global grain harvest will stagnate (16). The decline in hunger that Pinker and Rosling put forward is already no more – in the last four years, global hunger levels have risen again, with climatic dislocations, soil degradation and other components also playing a role (17).
And while the squeezed-out ” useful organisms” are losing their genetic diversity and stability, their ancient parasitic opponents are also pushing their way into the newly created niches with ever new extreme forms. In the process, they are developing resistance ever faster both to the remaining resilience of the “useful organisms” and to the chemicals used to support them. The current descriptions range from unusually strong rust fungi (18) to equally strong soil fungi in the case of “useful plants” and from influenza viruses to numerous multi-resistant bacteria in the case of “useful animals”, which exchange their new properties across species boundaries.
This time-lapse evolution of parasites, which has so far been discussed almost exclusively in specialist circles (19), could very soon prove to be the most underestimated topic of all – with consequences that far outstrip those of climate change.
Identifying the ongoing ecological catastrophe has nothing to do with pessimism. Such pessimism would look like what the camp of actual pessimists on the internet is displaying en masse: namely, propagating that there is no longer any chance of averting the final collapse.
In other words, a situation that could be compared to one in which a hitherto overlooked, gigantic comet is suddenly discovered, which is hurtling straight towards the Earth and will soon destroy the local ecosystem together with all the people, without there being even the slightest chance of preventing it.
There is a difference between the looming self-inflicted apocalypse and the scenario of a coming comet impact.
In such a scenario, stating the inevitability of the final apocalypse would not be pessimism. The comet will strike and destroy everything, the chance of averting this is zero. In the actual situation, however, it is not about a huge comet. It is about the causal consequences of our own decisions and actions. And despite the enormous dynamics and the far advanced stage of events, it can be solidly argued that even now there must still be chances to prevent the final apocalypse.
The reason is simple: the comet’s orbit could in fact no longer be influenced and changed at all. The spirit of human beings, on the other hand, is undoubtedly capable of bringing about a gradual change in its actions and thus, so to speak, in the course of the “artificial comet”. And because, in purely theoretical terms, all people could even decide to make such far-reaching renunciations, for example with regard to consumption and reproduction, that the impact would not take place or would at least be greatly delayed and weakened, there must also be the corresponding theoretical chances.
The present situation is that demand in all areas of harmful mass consumption is increasing ever faster, while the total population continues to grow. The majority of humanity is striving with increasing force for that luxury, or at least that material standard, which for decades has been set as the sun-like goal of human existence, especially by the “highly developed” countries of Europe and the USA. And there, further limits to consumption are falling every year. While the last intellectual resources whirl senselessly in the naïve dance of optimists and pessimists, the huge supermarkets burst at the seams, flights and shoes become dirt cheap , the flat-screen TVs ever bigger, one needs a new smartphone every year and so on and so forth.
So it can be summarised that, on the one hand, the last chances in the physical sense must indeed exist, but that, on the other hand, humanity is moving away from the possible seizure of them at a very high speed and even accelerating further and further in the opposite direction.
If there are last chances, then they can only lie in the minds of the people.
Thus it can be concluded that if there are now still practically realisable chances of a turnaround, they must lie in the minds of the people and that they can now only exist in the sense of a very radical mental emergency braking. Moreover, the most likely position of the most effective brake lever can be identified: Namely, where the causal starting point of the catastrophe lies, that is in Europe and the USA.
This is in no way meant to imply that these countries have the greatest intellectual resources or that the people in the other regions are less capable. Rather, the imprints of violent and economic colonialism from Europe and the USA still have a firm grip on most other regions of the planet. This applies to the education sector, for example. The schools and universities of all continents have in fact submitted to the dominance of Western knowledge geared to the all-grinding money mill. The old traditional and often much greater and deeper knowledge of other cultures about the interconnections of nature, on the other hand, has mostly been severely eroded or even wiped out in the process. And it is similar with the further physical and psychological effects of modern colonialism of the last decades.
Intensive plant-based agriculture, industrial mass animal husbandry, excessive eating habits, the turning away of young people from the natural, materially modest rural life and the striving towards chaotic consumerism – all this has its origins in the USA and Europe. This is not changed by the fact that many copies of these processes are currently taking on greater dimensions in China than in the countries of origin.
But how could such a radical mental emergency brake work? It cannot be an effort of the collective mind to produce revolutionary technical answers. Admittedly, there are projects that are useful in counteracting individual components of the catastrophe. But this can only concern symptomatic effects in sub-areas, which in the overall process would be overtaken by the other components like a huge tsunami wave. This would even apply, for example, to revolutionary inventions for obtaining clean energy. And above all, the belief in technology was and is even a main part of the destructive overall process.
A real spiritual emergency braking can only work in one very different way: First, the entire old world view of civilising humanity would have to be torn to the ground, just as one does with an old factory building contaminated by poisons.
And immediately afterwards, a completely new world view, this time in line with reality, would have to be built on the cleaned-up site. The steps necessary for implementation are so drastic and far-reaching that most of today’s decision-makers – who are firmly on the rails of the old world view – in the mass media and politics, for example, would be far too overwhelmed by them.
For cognitive, even for neurological reasons, only very young people can be capable of such a radical mental caesura. For this reason, as well as because of a will to survive that is still burning particularly strongly in them, the last chances of humanity and also of the other forms of life lie in a new youth movement that would have to put everything in the shade that there has been so far in terms of spiritual revolutions.
The arrogance of “civilised” man towards the other forms of life falls back on him
To illustrate the necessity of tearing down the old, poisoned world view, it is best to take a look at its cornerstones. These were built during the past centuries on even older civilisational foundations and then expanded mainly in Europe and the USA. The different parts can be identified by the same common denominator: It is always about an abysmal, gravely ill arrogance of civilised man towards all other living beings and the whole of nature – that is, the real world. This psychopathic arrogance expresses itself in a vast structure of bizarre distortions of reality in order to present himself as something above all other things.
He, the civilised human being, is thus all grand, even chosen by a precisely bent God to subjugate and dominate the entire world. Only he has an “I-consciousness”, “free will” and “reason”, and only he can be truly free. He is noble and ethically far above all other living beings, which is also called “humane”. The other “beasts” are created only for him and consist of an assembly of unconscious, instinct-driven creatures struggling for naked survival in the “cruel nature” of mere “eating and being eaten”.
This extreme arrogance and degradation of all non-human life is the real poison and core mechanism of a very serious mental illness that has grown cancerously into the entire collective mind of humanity to this day, and from there strangles any physical ability to survive.
The escalating components of the ongoing catastrophe listed above, however, whether climate change, soil degradation or species extinction, are only symptoms of the final stage of this disease. This is comparable to an equally seriously ill individual who, revolving only around himself, has completely lost the realistic perception of his situation and thus his ability to survive. It can no longer feed itself, does not engage in personal hygiene, blindly destroys itself with all tangible substances to stimulate its neuronal reward system, no longer pays attention to the dangers of its environment and finally perishes from a multi-causal combination of these components.
The poor learning content of the present schools and universities
In order to completely tear down the old, poisoned world view and replace it with a realistic picture, the new youth movement would have to equip itself as deeply as possible with fields of knowledge that are not taught to it in schools, although the material is available in the fund of natural sciences.
They consist of knowledge from, for example, palaeontology, biological ecology, evolutionary biology, the cognitive sciences, as well as documentation of the ancient knowledge of the earlier hunting and gathering cultures that were wiped out by force of arms in the course of European colonialism. In the unused parts of the potential knowledge, which are many times larger than the puny learning contents of the present schools and universities, everything is ready that is needed to rebuild a really stable and healthy world view – including a natural ethic that makes all civilisational religions, philosophies and ideologies meaningless.
A very central and, on the psychological level, very important area of the demolition process would lie in exposing the falsity of alleged human cognitive exclusivities constructed around such concepts as “reason” and “ego-consciousness”. There was no such thing in the knowledge of hunter-gatherer cultures that had often been accumulated over many millennia and had been destroyed by civilisation. Instead, the fundamental equality of one’s own spirit to that of the other animals always crystallised there across the continents. And great care was taken to ensure that young people in particular did not fall into the dangerous fallacy of their own sublimity because of their superficial human strengths. In the real world, such arrogance quickly leads to death.
The earth has been a place of freedom, adventure and enjoyment of it all for hundreds of millions of years.
If we now reflect the constructs of civilisation against the current state of neuroscience, they really do collapse like punctured balloons – while the image of hunter-gatherers proves to be correct. It has been empirically reconstructed many times and in a stable manner that all vertebrates have possessed the fundamentally same end brains, intermediate brains, midbrains, hindbrains and afterbrains as we humans do today for almost half a billion years, thus encompassing the known organic foundations of what is generally regarded as consciousness (20). And the sameness is particularly extensive in the mesolimbic reward system (21), which produces feelings of happiness.
Moreover, most species possessed and still possess much finer senses and much higher proportions of those brain regions that are responsible for the conscious perception and processing of sensory stimuli. Humans do have a relatively high degree of abstraction, which on the organic level – with the relatively strongly developed cerebral cortex – is responsible for our writings and technologies like a larger hard drive. Otherwise, however, everything points to a relatively weak intensity of consciousness compared to many other animal species and thus to a low awareness of experience.
With the demolition of the artificial constructions around the supposed cognitive exclusivities, the new youth movement would now already be in a position to recognise the equality of the other animals. And next would come a very hard chunk that is in the middle of the arrogant world view and immediately forms large parts of the core cause: Namely, the fact that the entire agriculture and thus the foundation of civilisation is based on a fundamental unnaturalness.
Charles Darwin had already stated very clearly that there can be no such thing as breeding in the sense of directing evolution for the primary benefit of the manipulator in nature. Since these central parts of his statements were too inconvenient, they were excluded from the canon of the civilisational education system in the same way as was done with the very diverse knowledge of hunter-gatherers and also that of earlier agricultural cultures. This knowledge basically revolved around a whole structure of natural laws that were ignored by civilisation and thus not included in the curricula. Only if one wants to, one finds their mechanisms also in findings of ecological sciences on symbiosis and parasitism. So the knowledge is still catchable even now.
With the demolition of the invented cognitive exclusivities of civilised man, the recognition of the hitherto disregarded laws of animate nature and the open acknowledgement of one’s own unnaturalness, the confused constructs of “cruel nature” immediately collapse. And then reality emerges: the earth has always been a place of free development, of great adventure and conscious enjoyment of all this. Civilisation, on the other hand, was built from the beginning on the basis of the lifelong enslavement of other animals and plants. In order to be able to hide or compensate for this quasi profoundly dishonourable fact, all the psychopathic ideas of one’s own greatness and goodness were brought forth and concocted into an ever more confused and toxic world view.
Young people who have understood these connections after a genuine enlightenment, who therefore now know that the planet Earth has been a place of free development of living beings for hundreds of millions of years, which had just as much a consciousness as they themselves have one, and which developed freely according to their evolutionary characteristics, no longer have to ponder about the meaning of life. Their new view of the world is not only dimensions larger than that of their parents, in which only mathematics played an important role alongside arrogant pseudo-knowledge from religion and philosophy. It is also stable and unshakably positive.
The new guideline will lie in a deep modesty, because the innermost endeavour will be to disturb as little as possible the now recognisable, magnificent and beautiful nature as its own basis of existence and to adapt to its laws.
All of the components of the catastrophe listed above will recede through this healthy attitude just as rapidly and eventually dry up as the symptoms of the once seriously ill individual when he regains his viability by removing the core cause of the psychosis.
(21) The vertebrate mesolimbic reward system and social behavior network: a comparative synthesis. O’Connell LA1, Hofmann HA, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, USA. PMID: 21800319 DOI: 10.1002/cne.22735