Why We Step on the Gas, Thinking It’s the Brake, Wanting Congratulations

December 12, 2023 by Joshua
in Blog

Many people opposed slavery. Even slaveholders acknowledged their feelings of guilt, but nearly everyone within our polluting, depleting, imperialist, addictive culture supports it even as we suffer from its growing damages. We blind ourselves to the downsides of polluting and depleting. Even residents of Cancer Alley fly and drive, funding their own cancer. Japan built a nuclear reactor forty miles from Hiroshima. We cover parks with plastic AstroTurf and still call them “green spaces.” Amid growing headlines of credible predictions of population collapse, we keep taking resources from and committing genocide of Sustainable, Free, Abundant cultures—the best examples of humans living sustainably. Instead of learning from them with humility, we call them Stone Age, impose on them our polluting, depleting, imperialist, addictive ways, and congratulate ourselves for what we call educating and developing them.


Is it because we’re addicted and love our pleasures as heroin users love theirs? No, they know their love is based on a chemical interaction. We’ve changed our values to embrace bringing about our demise. We grow our culture, to the destruction of others (and of wildlife, and therefore our future sustenance) with glee and pride.

When two sustainable cultures interact, they may conflict over some issues, but they aren’t forced to conflict over resources. Anthropology tells us that for hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived in small groups that valued freedom, equality, and mutual support. Two unsustainable cultures must keep growing to find resources to make up for ones they run out of. If they don’t first collapse, they must eventually collide and fight.

Consider two unsustainable cultures warring and battling over resources. They will develop weaponry and politics for their group to band together to fight other groups. Their cultures will evolve away from freedom, equality, and mutual support to value dominating others.

Now imagine in the middle of a war, or even a battle, suddenly manna falls from the heavens, providing the sustenance the cultures were fighting for the resource to provide. Let’s say it takes work to gather and prepare the manna, so the more you work, the more manna arrives. If the manna comes consistently and predictably enough that they conclude it not only won’t run out, but that the more they work, the more they’ll get. Both sides will stop seeing a point in risking their lives fighting for no benefit when they could work to get more manna. They’ll stop fighting and start working, maybe even collaborating so their combined efforts will yield yet more manna.

What will happen if this situation continues for years, generations, and centuries? The cultures will evolve to the new material conditions. How? They will evolve away from dominating others to value work, collaboration, and growth. People and cultures will collaborate and cooperate more than ever. They will use having more manna to grow the population to collaborate to create yet more manna, fueling growth, fueling manna, in what in their values becomes a virtuous cycle of growth. They may see their work as “improving” the Earth for producing more than would have grown without it.

Those new values combined with a material surplus replacing a deficit will lead to flowering of culture of architecture, music, visual arts, literature, education, and abundance. Values of fighting and war will become archaic. Those of stewardship and sustainability will look positively stupid, ignorant of nature’s ever-growing abundance. They will lose old skills related to stewardship as just holding them back.

In time they will come to take for granted the perpetual existence of manna. Taking the manna for given, they will take credit for what they did with it, conveniently forgetting they didn’t create the manna, they just found ways to use it. They will lose the ability to conceive of life without manna. They will become dependent on it.

Their arts, culture, and surpluses will fuel their ethnocentrism to conclude their combined culture is the best, especially compared to the sustainable cultures that lack them. “They aren’t ‘improving’ the Earth. We are,” they might think. They might use their surpluses as tools to conquer, for example, destroying the flora, fauna, and land fertility the sustainable cultures rely on, destroying their ways of life, forcing them to depend on them. They’d see themselves as helping and “developing” them by assimilating or conquering them.

We don’t have to imagine manna. This situation occurred when unsustainable cultures discovered two types of stored energy that appeared infinite. One was Europeans reaching the Americas. The other was discovering how to use fossil fuels and their abundance underground (nuclear energy would accelerate the process, fusion yet more ). Two new continents they could plunder appeared to provide infinite supplies. Fossil fuels’ unprecedented concentration of energy provided more than manna. Harnessing their energy could provide more food, labor, transportation, and much of what you see around you. They created the material conditions that led to the cultural changes manna would have that I just described.

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