This confluence of pandemic and Black Lives Matter is no accident. We created this through one common denominator: aggression towards what we view as “less than.”
In a way, we can’t help it. We constantly have to sort through the millions of things in our lives and decide, usually subconsciously, quickly and accurately, what is good and what is bad. Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel prize for his work on implicit bias, calls this fast thinking. The problem with fast thinking, according to Kahneman, is that we make many cognitive errors when we are not conscious of our biases and fail to take them into account in our decision-making process. Kahneman states that for our most important decisions, we should use slow thinking to make sure we’re making the best decisions.
It seems to me that we’ve used a lot of fast thinking on really important decisions regarding who and what are good/bad, deserving/undeserving. To make matters worse, we often then take the good/bad to the extremes. If this is good, then we need to eliminate or marginalize the bad as much as possible. Now we’re cultivating a uniformity and homogeneity which is not necessarily healthy or constructive, and possibly employing indifference, at best, or aggression and violence, at worst, in the process.
How does this apply to people and Earth?
In our natural world, Mother Nature has created a genius and intricate system of checks and balances to allow the natural world to be resilient, abundant, and to flourish. The checks and balances include a rich diversity of plant and animal species, supported by air, water, and land. The carbon cycle, water cycle, nitrogen cycle, and food chain allow for efficient and sustainable use of resources, and evolution and adaptation of all members of the ecosystem to co-exist in harmony in a way that’s synergistic.
Along comes fast thinking, which decides that we can improve upon nature by choosing winners, often non-native plants or animals, on our farms and property (think: a “good” homogenous fescue lawn or a field of corn). These homogenous scapes lack resilience, requiring frequent watering, fertilization, and pesticides and therefore, unnecessary environmental damage and pollution. Furthermore, homogeneity usually requires destruction of and aggression towards “bad” species… weeds and pests are things that inconvenience us, and which need to be removed or destroyed.
We’ve damaged the complex and intricate system that is the source of Earth’s natural abundance and resilience. As a result, Earth health is suffering and is possibly in jeopardy.
We’re suffering and in jeopardy too. According to scientists, environmental aggression has fostered conditions “for the spillover of disease” from bats to the humans in COVID-19 pandemic. Unless we take a more holistic view in caring for Earth health along with our own, we will be “subsidiz(ing) the emergence of future pandemics” (The Guardian, April 27, 2020).
In summary, because of fast thinking, we aggress against the chosen environmental losers, harming ourselves and Earth.
But in the case of the pandemic, pollution, and climate change, we all lose.
Similarly, in our country, our Founding Fathers have created a genius and intricate system of checks and balances to allow our country to be resilient, abundant, and to flourish. The checks and balances include the judicial, legislative, and executive branches at the national, state, and municipal levels. The system of checks and balances are there to support the pursuit of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all people, who are created equal (though their vision of who should benefit from this genius was tragically limited). When in place and functioning well, everyone in our country should be able to co-exist in prosperity and harmony.
Along comes fast thinking, which decides that we can improve our country by choosing human winners, in our case, certain non-native people, in our economy and communities (think: the rich get richer). The chosen winners have unsustainable needs, requiring an excessive amount of resources (both financial and environmental) to support endless economic growth and their lifestyle. Maintaining the relative homogeneity of the chosen winners has required marginalization of and aggression towards the chosen losers (segregation in communities, schools, jobs, and rank). Even more resources are needed to mitigate the downstream effects of our win/lose culture, including poverty, lost economic opportunity, disease, death, pollution, crime, and violence, which harms us all.
Like with Earth, we’ve picked human winners and losers. But in the end, we all lose by continuing to invest in an unstable, unhealthy system that relies on repression and aggression to maintain the status quo.
Is there really no option for a win-win on either front?
I don’t believe it. We have the best minds and technology in the history of humanity. We just need to put on our slow thinking hats and quit labeling good and bad.
We are all good and bad. Simultaneously, we are all neither good nor bad.
We just are.
And we need everyone and everything to be whole.
Imagine all of Earth and all of our communities thriving. That’s right. No losers, only winners.
It can only happen if we take care of the whole, with a great big synergistic win-win-win-win… across the board. It’s going to take some super slow thinking, but let’s live by the motto, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, and lift Earth’s non-human inhabitants too.
What do we have to lose?