Ten thousand years ago there were five million humans on planet Earth. We now total 7,5 billion, all descendants of those who competed and won from others either by climbing the totem pole of dominance or skill.[i] We expanded our world through force, and justified it by claiming those we dominated were not worthy. Both colonialism and capitalism are premised on this false narrative: you are insufficient so you need to spend your time becoming someone else. Along the journey this approach has not only inhibited the minds of others, but also contracted our own environment. Before the human species came along, annually less than one species per million went extinct. It is now at 100 – 1000 species per million[ii]. We have expanded agricultural land so we can eat, but contracted forests we need to breath at a rate of 20 football fields every second.[iii] Because scarce land becomes expensive, we have turned to factory farming, genetically modified foods and artificial ones. Along the journey we emit 2.4 million pounds of CO2 every second into the atmosphere[iv], produce 8.3 billion tons of plastic that we can’t dispose of, and discard 8 million tons of it into the oceans annually[v]. We continue to justify this expansion through the narrative of economic growth yet never question why such growth is necessary in the first place. Our minds justify this by deferring our problem to anonymous others in power or simply repressing the negative consequences: “Somebody else will clean it up for me. Chances of environmental damage are not that bad anyway.”
Why do we defer responsibility? Because like with colonialism, capitalism has also kept us submissive and deferent. In a system that is based on anxiety of our own survival, it becomes about the protection of Self, car, home and an identity borrowed from television. The narrative that one person can’t make a difference leads to learned helplessness, disengagement, and deference. Imprisoned by our own minds we all seem to be seeking parole, hostages of our anger, fear and desire. It is a thin line that separates “Us” from “Them” who stare at us from their cage when we are in our own. Yet we are all alike.