“We are living through a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial crisis, and a democratic crisis. Each would be historic on their own. All of them are connected. That they have struck together in this way just might be what compels our transformation.”
– Anand Giridharadas
This week’s episode is over three years in the making: my talk from Earth Frequency Festival 2017, about a revised narrative of prehistory from which we can grow new myths better suited for our times. I almost didn’t post this episode at all, even after nearly two full days of editing, because it felt tone deaf to zoom out so far and discuss topics like mass extinctions, the evolution of plant-pollinator symbiosis, my critiques of transhumanism and SpaceX, and how fish and clams represent complementary strategies for dealing with turbulent environments.
But this feature-length rant erupted from me at a time that rhymes intensely with our current moment: I was scheduled to present on futurism immediately following a heart-wrenching and visceral presentation on the (then ongoing) Standing Rock protests, and it felt right then as it does now to wield what I know in service of new stories that better serve the work of social justice. After all, it is only the alienated and colonized mind that sees climate change, racism, economic inequality, and ecological devastation as separate issues.
No: if we are to truly embrace our interbeing with the biosphere (and we must), then we cannot exclude other human beings — or even nonhuman sentient beings — from our maps and models of the nondual truth of who we are.
One more disclaimer: This is the last unpublished talk I gave before I started work at the Santa Fe Institute, where my poetic intuitions and armchair science scholarship have been challenged to rise to far greater rigor and discernment. I regard this two-hour screed as both one of my most inspired riffs, the closest that I ever got to a Terence McKenna sermon…but it’s also full of embryonic, raw ideas that have evolved A LOT since this recording happened. I share it with you not as a completed document but as a snapshot of a story in the weaving, and I hope you hear it as the work in progress that it was and is.
Thank you and I hope you’ll take a moment to read the supplementary materials below, and support the crucial social justice orgs helping protect the lives and freedom of your neighbors here on Earth, in this especially intense and pivotal moment.
For the next few weeks I am donating 100% of the sales of my original paintings and inventory of canvas prints to ACLU and Unicorn Riot. If you would like to put your money to a good cause and get some cool art for doing so, please visit https://instagram.com/michaelgarfield for details.
My embarrassingly white and male list of mentions from this talk:
Bruce Damer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ernst Haeckel, Proteus (documentary), Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, Diane Musho Hamilton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Kary Mullis, Francis Crick, The Bardo Thodol (book), Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, Biosphere 2, William Irwin Thompson, Marshall McLuhan, Alvin Toffler, Marie Toffler, Stewart Brand, Wall-E (film), Gregory Bateson, John Muir, Richard Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy (book), Thomas Henry Huxley, Gideon Mantell, Colin Elder, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days (book), Albert Einstein, John C. Wright, Timothy Leary, Elon Musk
Share these resources:
–––> Ally Tools <–––
“Whether or not you think you hold them, stereotypes shape the lives of everyone on Earth. As human beings, we lack the ability to judge each situation as unique and different…and how we group novel experiences by our past conditioning, as helpful as it often is, creates extraordinary complications in society. As modern life exposes us to an increasing number of encounters with the other in which we do not have time to form accurate models of someone or some place’s true identity, we find ourselves in a downward spiral of self-reinforcing biases — transforming how we practice law enforcement, justice, and life online. Our polarized, irrational world calls for an intense look at what it will take to humanize each other — at traffic stops, in court, on social media, and anywhere our doubt about an unfamiliar face can lead to tragic consequences.”
Science resources on algorithmic justice, moral economics, nonviolent policing, healing slums, countering hate on social media, and more:
“One can’t claim to be an ally if one’s agenda is to prevent his or her own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias. Indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present. This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against Indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing intergenerational traumas, and calling out all practices that erase Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences.”
“Racial and economic inequities need to be tackled as this country seeks to recalibrate its economic and social compass in the weeks and months to come. Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably. Here’s what three prominent environmental defenders had to say in interviews this week about how the climate movement can be anti-racist.”
Thank you for listening. Reach out any time.