Sunday, January 31, 2010

The New Psychophysical Complex by Harry Schwarzlander

Now that we have a New Environment blog I thought I should explain what, in the New Environment Association, we mean by “New Environment.”
I introduced that term in my manuscript, “Toward a New Environment,” as simplified wording for “New Psychophysical Complex.” That means I’ll have to explain what’s meant by “Psychophysical Complex.” My essay on the Psychophysical Complex contains a detailed introduction. Here I can only provide a sketchy outline.

1. Motivation. When trying to address an enormously complicated matter such as changing the dominant cultural patterns in a fundamental way in order to achieve a sustainable society, we need some new thinking tools. Our ways of thinking and talking about things are rooted in ancient times when everything encountered in daily life could be considered separately -- as a thing upon itself. An important feature of today’s world is that everything strongly interconnected. We need to be able to look at, and talk about, the totality -- without loss of meaning and clarity.
2. Every person’s immediate experience occurs in the mind, or consciousness. This includes thoughts, memories, knowledge, beliefs and insights, as mediated by language, feelings, hopes, wishes, desires, fears, anger, bodily sensations, subconscious promptings, etc., as well as meditative experiences, and so on. I call this the person’s "mental world." We each live in our individual mental world.
3. Beyond one’s mental world is the physical world, beginning with one’s own body. Through our senses and bodily motions, we are able to perceive and interact with the external physical world -- that part of the physical world that extends beyond our own body -- including other human beings. However, the physical world also includes many features that we do not perceive. Some of these have become known through scientific exploration.
4. Through interaction with another person (speech, observation, joint activities and so on) we are able to find out a little bit about that other person’s mental world.
5. The totality of the physical world, along with the mental worlds of all living human beings, constitutes the "psychophysical complex." Of course, the psychophysical complex is constantly changing and evolving -- as a result of changes in the physical world and changes in people’s mental worlds, and as a result of some people dying and others being born. It is a process.
6. It appears that the direction in which the existing psychophysical complex is evolving (we call it The Old Environment) is leading to very unpleasant conditions on the planet, and possibly a collapse of human societies.
7. The direction in which the psychophysical complex is evolving cannot be changed significantly by admonitions, good deeds, laws and regulations, and so on. Why not? Human beings and their activities have by now to a significant extent become structured into vast “feedback loops” (sequences of cause-effect relationships that close back upon themselves) that have become “rampant phenomena.” By this I mean arrangements that were initially created because they were seen as beneficial (or came about by chance), but by now we have become locked into them even though their detrimental effects greatly outweigh their benefits. Furthermore, these feedback loops weave in and out of people’s mental worlds. There are many "rampant technologies," and "rampant organizational structures," as well as "rampant phenomena of the mind" (ideologies and belief systems). Furthermore, because of the vastness of these feedback loops, we tend not to be aware of the extent to which we do their bidding.

Now, if we look at the world in this way, a vast new imperative emerges that is entirely different from all the ongoing chit-chat and hullabaloo about sustainability. If the existing psychophysical complex is a sinking ship, so to speak, and we can’t repair it, shouldn’t all hands on deck start getting busy with the life boats? What that means in practical terms is that the beginnings of a new and different psychophysical complex -- a "New Environment" -- need to get created while that is still possible. And so the New Environment Association was born in 1974.
The idea was that people need to come together in small and gradually expanding groups, not governed by existing affiliations, to develop trust and caring, and work together cooperatively with mutual support, sharing and creativity in order to evolve -- or re-invent -- a way of life that is satisfying and enjoyable, spiritually uplifting, peaceful, human scale, in harmony with natural systems, and with vastly reduced use of non-renewable resources: the New Environment. This involves, first of all, changes in people’s mental worlds. That in itself is very challenging, but can be worked on through group activities and small group interaction in a supportive setting, as well as two-way sharing and listening. However, it is through a new kind of schooling for the children that a more solid basis for the New Environment can be created. The young people emerging from such schooling can then more effectively carry forward the expansion the New Environment.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Schools for Ecological Education

Please take note of the links to the right under "Groups" for two sites I found that relate to Bob Newman's reminders to us of the need to educate our children in cooperative values for ecological living and creativity.

The Center for Ecoliteracy has many programs for educating children, including "Schooling for Sustainability" and a discussion guide for the movie "Food, Inc."

Eco-Schools are educational programs where the children help to create, administer, and evaluate the content and progress of the environmental program.

Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI) has adult-oriented thematic group-study courses in the areas of food, healthy children, voluntary simplicity, sustainable living, climate change, and more. The New Environment Association has facilitated the Voluntary Simplicity course and will use the NWEI model in a book study on David Gershon's "Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World."

Please add other web sites to our lists by contacting Susan Adair, You may also request to be an author for this blog and post information and opinions that you'd like to share. Namaste

Sunday, January 24, 2010


It seems to me that a lot of progressive rhetoric about environmental-climate crises is framed in terms of human beings destroying the planet, as well as the people, with a lot of suffering in between. But my insight is that the Earth will not die, at least not for a few more million years. In fact, such a view is audacious and full of hubris, carried over from the medieval Roman Catholic Church and the Enlightenment. This view still, to this day, sees human beings (specifically, homo sapiens) as the center of the Universe, the purpose of Creation, and the species with the power to destroy Life on Earth. “Man” has “dominion” over the Earth. At least that’s what Western mythology imagines.

No, this Planet is much bigger than all the human beings put together, no matter how prolific. In fact, we ARE the Planet! From where else have we come? Is the tomato something other than the whole plant expressing itself in reproductive form? Perhaps, as David Bohm suggests, lifeforms are the unfoldment of an energetic pattern in the quantum field. The seed does not mysteriously multiply into a huge oak tree, manifesting substance out of nothing. Rather, the seed is a portal of seepage, an aperture through which a tree gradually emerges. In any case, there is not separation, even if we believe there is. Don’t believe everything you think!

The Planet births us daily – and the Planet absorbs the decay – and regenerates in a cycle that will last until the sun goes nova. And Earth has TIME! What is another 500,000 years or a million years to the Earth? In fact, one million years for a species to survive is not so bad for a constantly evolving Life system! So we’ve served our time on Earth. Maybe it is time for us to die off, like everything else must do, sooner or later. That’s the way Life goes . . .

So maybe our* struggles to save the Planet, and to save our children’s children from the deteriorating standard of living in a declining empire stopped by the Limits to Growth, is really about Western culture’s denial of death in an insane quest for the Fountain of Youth and technological immortality.

And what a glorious thing to see in my lifetime!

Life and Death in the same frame!

Savor the moment.

It will change.


* My next essay will unpack this “we” we keep talking about. :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Value of Nothing

Raj Patel took the title of his new book from an Oscar Wilde quote:

"Nowadays, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Wilde said that in 1891. Funny how while everything changes, somehow nothing changes...

Anyway, here's Patel talking about his book.

I haven't had the opportunity to read this yet (the local library doesn't yet have a copy, and I've been spending way too much money on books lately to buy a copy right now), but all the reviews I've heard and read have been positive.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010



Hank Stone October 25, 2009

The sustainability of our civilization is in question. If humankind is to have a successful future, unsustainable behaviors must cease. Everything unsustainable about our way of life WILL change.

What can we do to help bring about a successful human future? We were brought up to believe in “projects.” If something is broken, we do fix-up projects, like reattaching a loose rain gutter. We know about dividing big jobs into small ones, and delegating the parts to different people. Our problem we is that projects we have done in the past are what have brought us to our unsustainable present. New methods are required.

We got here by DOING, and now look for better things to DO. And there is work to do, but it is not mainly scientific discovery, individual virtue, or political activism. It is neither hard work nor heroic.

We are now called on not so much to DO, as to BE, to BELIEVE, and to ENVISION.

Consider these Ten Principles:

BEING: Two Personal Principles

Principle 1: Be at peace. Fear, anger, distress and blame can distract from work on the human future. This isn’t escape through denial or addictive behaviors. It’s important to be in touch with our emotions, which can damage us if suppressed, and harm others if acted out inappropriately. Religious belief, meditation, gratitude, contemplating nature and helping others can be ways to inner peace.

Principle 2: Be kind and good. Trustworthy and considerate behaviors make us peaceful and enable large-scale cooperation. Attending to our own virtue is important precisely because all of us humans are flawed and make mistakes.

BELIEVING: Four Belief Principles

Principle 3: It Ain’t Necessarily So. Communication with people in other societies shows us that things we were all brought up to believe, our cultural stories, may not be true. While societies were relatively isolated, cultural stories about outsiders being enemies enhanced security. But this is a time of transition, and our security requires us to reexamine our most basic beliefs.

Principle 4: It Ain’t Necessarily False. Human societies have discovered amazing information, capabilities, and resources. The idea is to create a sustainable human future that respects the past. Like a multi-stage rocket, we accept the need to jettison the used booster stages.

Principle 5: Thoughts attract. Reality itself tends to mold itself to the thoughts we think, and (at least potentially) we get to choose what to think and believe. Therefore, getting the story right in our own heads is not denial or wishful thinking, but real work that the world requires.

Principle 6: Change cultural stories. The only way to change the institutions and behaviors of society is to change the cultural stories on which they rely. The stories we tell ourselves are interconnected, and stabilized by the many benefits they give both to decision-makers and ordinary people. We must create an interconnected set of NEW stories in which to live.

ENVISIONING: Four World Principles

Principle 7: Oneness of humanity. Getting the future right can only be done cooperatively. Prejudice of all sorts will have to go: racism, extreme patriotism, intolerance of gays, gender discrimination—all of it. We must guarantee basic human rights for everyone on earth.

Principle 8: Protect the planet. Population must be brought into balance with available energy, fresh water and food. This must be done using non-coercive incentives and disincentives, so that people are encouraged to act in the interest of the human future. If we’re not living sustainably, human numbers will crash.

Principle 9: World peace system. Military competition among sovereign states has become too dangerous in the nuclear age. The world needs ways to guarantee the safety of people in every country, something the war system of dispute settlement can no longer do. A world peace system will not change human nature and will not eliminate all violence, but will require nonviolent conflict resolution and will hold every person, including state leaders, liable for criminal behavior.

Principle 10: Human success. The world’s population and lifestyle have become unsustainable, so things WILL change. But if we’re not preparing to live “happily ever after,” our work is not finished. In religious terms, we have no reasonable alternative to trying to bring about “the kingdom of heaven on earth.”

Welcome to The New Environment Blog-World!

This is a “virtual café” for the purpose of dialogue among members of the New Environment Association. As a blog, this site has it’s own tone and purpose that is more interactive than a website, something like a listserv or email discussion list, except you go to the blog page instead of clogging your inbox. Let us see if we can add another dimension of support, engagement, and mutual growth by using the convenience of this venue for sharing ideas.

You can start a whole new discussion thread by posting a blog, or continuing a discussion by making a comment to a posted blog. I imagine we can continue discussions started at pot lucks and General Meetings. We can share things we find on the web or elsewhere that others may benefit from. Only members of N.E.A. can read, post, or comment on this blog. Let’s see what happens!

This page is under construction! If you are reading this page, you can help construct this page! I am working on some instructions to follow unless you can figure it out on your own. Bear with me on this. Your feedback is welcome.

Susan Adair 378-0353