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Reinventing Humanity

March 9, 2011

I hope the world takes note of Carl Safina, and his new book, The View From Lazy Point (NYT review is here; Mother Jones review here). Safina is an original and deep thinker, and The View From Lazy Point is both an homage to the natural world and a clarion call–that is remarkably gentle yet utterly persuasive–for reimagining how humans live and interact with our humble planet.

I was drawn to Safina’s work because I have long been troubled by the idea that humanity has been intelligent enough to achieve great technological triumphs, yet not wise enough to find harmony and balance in human affairs or our understanding of the finite nature of Earth. We are well past the need to try and arouse humanity from its material, consumptive ways with a deluge of depressing and enervating detail about environmental destruction. That’s been going on for decades, and people have either chosen to recognize reality, or blind themselves.

What’s needed now are pathfinders and prophets who can redefine what it means to be human, and what changes humanity should make to its behaviors, economies, and cultures. Safina is searching for those sorts of answers and that’s why he is worth reading and talking about. I have no doubt that a critical mass will eventually develop behind the need to reinvent humanity. The only question is what sort of planet we will be living on when it happens. I am pessimistic, even nihilistic, about the prospects for a reasonable transition to this new epoch. But all anyone who cares can do is put out a light and hope people are drawn to it. As Safina writes: “Just as we went from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists to civilized societies, now we must take the next great leap: from merely civilized to humanized.” Or wise. That would be nice.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 9, 2011 10:41 pm

    Tim, thank you for writing about Carl Safina’s new book. I just ordered one. Yes, the capitalists want to privatize profits and socialize the costs of externalities, like toxic chemicals, garbage, and carbon dioxide… which we pay for in various ways, most notably via healthcare dollars and taxes. I connected with this statement in your piece, “reimagining how humans live and interact with our humble planet.” The social (re-)engineering you describe is a significant aspect of the Burning Man Art Festival, in Nevada… which is the world’s largest “Leave No Trace Event.” The art theme this year is “Rites of Passage” and deals with human evolution. From BM website, “Changes of condition do not occur without disturbing the life of society and the individual, and it is the function of rites of passage to reduce their harmful effects.” Thanks again for your great writings.

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