Is Our Wasteful Lifestyle Just a Repeating, Instinctual Pattern?

in #philosophy2 years ago (edited)

People are reaching a crisis point when it comes to waste. As what we discard pollutes the land, the oceans and turns third world countries into garbage disposals I wonder what brought us to this point. I often wonder if the things we do that have detrimental effects have instinctual roots that at one point in our ancestry were part of the way we survived. What I'm about to say might upset a few people, because I see a lot of reflections of our behaviours in communal animal species and I know some people don't like the idea of mankind being compared to animals. Is this because we're supposed to be a cut above them and have more intelligence and forward thinking? Maybe, but I'll come back to that later.

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If we go back in time, way back in time, to before so called civilised societies, then people would have been in nomadic groups or tribes. Have you ever seen meerkat manor? I sometimes think of these tribes as being similar to how those meerkats live. Their survival depended on being a cohesive group and they would each take on roles as and when needed. There would have been a chief who led them, made consequential decisions and would have most likely done so in the best interests of the tribe, because he or she would have needed their support to survive. They were usually someone who proved to be the strongest or the best at guiding the tribe. A bad chief could easily be challenged and replaced either by a single challenger who felt they were better for the position or by consensus of the whole tribe.

Because this chief was so important to the survival of the tribe, they would likely have had first choice when it came to any food that was foraged or hunted, rather like the lion in his pride. Then once the leaders had their fill the rest would go to the others in order of importance of their place in that tribe (This isn't to say that they wouldn't have eaten together, but the parts that the chief wanted most would have been separated off). The same would probably go with clothing, tools and weapons. The best would go where they were most needed, with the most competent and when they were no longer good enough they would be used by those who could still use them, but didn't necessarily need them to be of the same standard. Or maybe as practice weapons and tools for the youngsters. Once things reached a point where they were beyond repair they returned to the earth.

It makes sense that everyone would strive to be higher up in the hierarchy, because those at the bottom are going to be the ones that lose out when resources dwindle. The more important you are, the more likely you are to be protected by the rest of the tribe and be prioritised when it comes to food and drink. It also explains why squabbling is more likely to occur at the bottom as they fight for the last scraps and try to get one up on each other. If you've ever kept chickens in a large enough flock you'll have seen this behaviour. It's rather like playground squabbles.

Fast forward to feudal times and small tribes had evolved to two classes; a large peasant class supporting a small ruling class. Expanding like this meant that the ruling class could benefit not just from what its own tribe could have provided, but what other tribes would have provided too. Again, things would flow down from the ruling class to their immediate employees and on to the families of those employees back in the villages. Things would be re-used, fixed, reinvented or remade into other items. Nothing would go to waste when there were people who had no choice, but to use what others discarded, if they were available. Again, items beyond repair would return harmlessly to the earth.

Fast forward a bit more and we come to the industrial era where a new structure appears in what we now call the western world. Production started to be done on mass and a new middle class appeared. New things started to come within the reach of many more people. As things progressed, oil was discovered in quantities large enough to provide cheap production and that amazing material, plastic, was created as a by-product. Western countries became wealthier and more and more people were able to live at a level of comfort previously only afforded to the leaders. The classes could now be divided into a multitude of levels, from lower working, to upper working, lower middle, upper middle and upper class. As more and more people could be picky about what they chose to have, less and less people were available to take the leftovers. As more of those who used to take the leftovers demanded cheaper things and higher wages so they too could enjoy the comforts others had, the poor class to provide this lifestyle had to come from somewhere else. Today we have the situation where that supporting poor class is still there, just in another part of the world; out of sight and out of mind. They are also still the ones that take the leftovers. Unfortunately the items which can't be fixed or reused are now of a material which won't return to the earth safely.

Much of our, so called, recycling, ends up in third world countries where it causes both land and air pollution as the people try to process it and a lot is burnt. The air pollution undoubtedly causes health issues for the people living in the area.

It seems to me that the pattern of human behaviour has repeated itself throughout the ages and the results of it have merely altered with the change in human interaction and lifestyles.

What separates us from animals is supposed to be our ability to foresee when our basic instincts are causing or will cause harm and to be able to control or rise above them. Many people can, sometimes. Few people can do it consistently, especially in the face of all those who appear to be benefiting more from not doing it.

We are reaching some real crisis points at the moment and our intelligence has the potential to deal with them in a way that allows everyone to benefit. However, it can't only be done if enough of the population can rise above their basic instincts. When so many are busy pointing fingers and blaming other groups of people for all their problems, it's hard to imagine we can reach that point soon enough to make a difference. Do you believe we can or do you think those who advocate depopulation are correct in that it's the only real solution?

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Sadly, I think there are too many humans on this planet to continue to operate the way we have been - All life is precious and deserves a chance, so why do humans think we deserve so much, to the point that there is no room left for other forms of life (unless they serve us).

I agree its natural for us 'humans' to want more, but we must make a choice - we either move to a simpler life and consume less (allowing resources to spread further and more quality life for less or reduce our numbers so the natural systems can recover)

Keep operating the same way, the decision will be made for us and humans will face the challenges of the dino.

Keep operating the same way, the decision will be made for us

That's how mother nature addresses balance.

Human's are a plague on this world. Our greed is insatiable.

Now that's off my chest...Good post @minismallholding. I'm afraid I am one of those who don't hold much hope that things will change. They have been talking about global warming, pollution in the oceans, cutting down rain forests and the like since I can remember, 40 years and more and yet here we are, same issues, only worse. A whole generation has grown up and we have just made it that much worse; Brought us that little bit closer to the brink. Still throwing cigarette butts on the ground, buying endless plastic bottles of water, consuming more fossil fuels and generally being assholes. Bring on extinction.

One side of me is in total agreement with you, but the other side says we're not all destructive and we're a part of the eco system. Often it's those who realise the ecosystem would be better off without us that are the ones we could do with keeping around.

Yes, I get it...I just see excess everywhere I turn and just don't see anyone letting up...Its just more, more, more...I hope things change. My wife and I put some effort into consuming less where we can, having a lighter footprint on the planet but I can't shake the feeling it's too little too late.

I can't shake the feeling it's too little too late.

Ditto. Hopefully we're just being pessimists.

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it's almost impossible to have different sects working in coherence to solve issues when one or more sects are benefiting from the ruins cost by the problem.

humans are narcissistic. If they cannot benefit from a thing they rather not do it. when it come to the issue of pollution in third world countries like mine, there is so much indifference. it seems the masses and even the government are unaware of the health implication these toxins can cause--are causing. we do not expect first world countries to be benevolent enough to assume our problem even if they have contributed significantly to it.

Africa has been the dumping ground for many toxic waste since we are bottom of the pyramid, and though there are international laws prohibiting such, it is done covertly.
Even some foreign countries who come to do business here, pollute the environment. Like we have the oil spillage in the delta region of Nigeria, which billions will be spent to reclaim the rivers and lands polluted. Still there is an indifference towards the task of cleaning up the areas involved.

though there are international laws prohibiting such, it is done covertly.

So I've recently discovered. Waste going there under the guise of "second hand goods." This is globalisation. Dump responsibility somewhere else.

All animals are narcissistic and we are just being more so if we try to deny we are any better. It's a basic, survival instinct. We don't do anything if we can't gain something from it, even of its just a feeling of having done something nice.

it's almost impossible to have different sects working in coherence to solve issues when one or more sects are benefiting from the ruins cost by the problem.

The first line of that is probably true even without the second line. Communities, or sects, work because everyone within them has the same values. However, different sects can often have opposing values, which makes it hard for them to work together. Hope that makes sense.

Thank you for a thought provoking response.

You're welcome.

good meditation on these themes. i also wonder if this is instinctual and habitual.. something that we need to evolve out of... but we also see people groups that did manage to live very well in alignment with their natural world.. sadly other ones lived beyond their carrying capacity and did not get the feedback in time.. and collapsed.

this is very clearly happening now on earth. will we get the message in time?

i'm not sure. but it always brings me more hope when i see others like yourself speaking out about it and raising awareness. thanks <3

We do seem to have gone through many cycles of self destruction like this. It would be nice to think that each one leads use closer to enlightenment. Sadly it's not looking like it will be this time around.

i agree. what makes you or i see it and others not (will to?)?
i genuinely wonder at that.
thoughts?

I often wonder if it's a state of mind. Willingness to be open to new thoughts and information. We had the situation many years ago where people who put forward what was considered a radical idea would be imprisoned or certainly ridiculed. Yet today we have proved many of those theories correct. Many people resist information that makes them uncomfortable or could force change. They would certainly resist information that they believe would make life harder for them.

We are also very much conditioned to immeditate reward. Another basic instinct (because who knows when the next meal will come in nature) which is very pandered to today. So having foresight to realise that going without now will reap larger reward later is something some people struggle with. There is probably also the fact that some feel they don't need to sacrifice when others can do it instead and they can benefit alongside. That probably feeds back to the poor sacrificing so the ruling class can benefit. This only works when the ruling class is small and the poor class large.


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Very doubtful

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Great post as usual.

Humans do learn from their tragic mistakes in retrospect to past events, I think it just takes way too long sometimes. First World War? It took a second, even more tragic one for us to learn the extent of our actions. Sure, we still have wars but they're less deadly (statistically, at least).

Perhaps the underlying factor in these changes are the few people who step back and realise oh shit, it's almost too late. Let's stop using nukes... let's stop polluting the earth.

It takes the few outliers who care to realise something is off and (at least attempt) to make a change. Whether or not that change in our behaviour is made is a different story. Some geniuses at the UN realised that nukes were bad and attempted to denuclearise the earth but we still have countries like USA, Russia, and China who have those weapons just in case.

We can attempt to recycle and reduce waste as much as we want, but who is to say our future solutions won't cause more waste? It's a vicious cycle. Evolution is painfully slow. If our instincts are shifting, let's just hope its in the right direction.

Great post as usual.

Thank you.

We seem to learn better from recent mistakes than older ones. Take the wars. The generation that went through it learnt all too well and the generation born at the end grew up with the aftermath and rationing for many countries. Subsequent generations have known nothing like it, so it's been any easy life and they can only really imagine the impacts of it, but never really feel it. Each generation has become materially more spoilt. Now suddenly the teenagers and young adults of today are entering an environment where, after growing up so well provided for, they are struggling to get work and they've got a polluted world to look forward to. I think they will be the generation on the biggest learning curve and I hope they can rise to the challenge.