David Ulansey -- Mass Extinction

topic posted Wed, April 12, 2006 - 1:16 PM by  Digital Be-In
Mp3 interview:

Ulansey letter to NYTimes:


About David:

David Ulansey is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University, and has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Boston University, Barnard College (Columbia University), the University of Vermont, and Princeton University. He is the author of a book published by Oxford University Press (and is now completing a second book which will also be published by Oxford), and has published articles in Scientific American and numerous other scholarly journals.
posted by:
Digital Be-In
SF Bay Area
  • Re: David Ulansey -- Mass Extinction

    Wed, April 12, 2006 - 6:34 PM

    The subject heading for this should have been "The Impending Mass Extinction AND HOW TO STOP IT"! My talk at the Be-In will be about the fact that the world's biologists and ecologists have reached a consensus that UNLESS humanity immediately halts its dismantling of the natural world-- through habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and climate change-- half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years. In fact, as scientists are learning more about climate change, the expected time frame of the mass extinction is rapidly shrinking, and estimates are now coming in that half of all species will be extinct in 35 to 50 years.

    This means that WE DON'T HAVE 35 YEARS to solve the problem, since by then it will be FAR past the point of no return. The reality is that to prevent the looming mass extinction, a critical mass of humanity must undergo a radical transformation in its behavior within the next 5 TO 10 YEARS. Of course this sounds impossible-- but so in their time did the fall of the Soviet Union, or the birth of new religions like Christianity or Buddhism!

    Think about it this way: to someone who had never witnessed or heard about the phenomenon of "boiling," the idea that at a certain precise temperature water should suddenly begin to bubble and turn into a gas would also sound impossible! Or this way: to someone who had never seen or heard about "flowers," the idea that at a certain particular moment a simple green stem would suddenly start to bulge and then explode with dazzling colors would also sound impossible! But boiling and blooming are not impossible supernatural interventions! They-- and countless processes like them-- happen all the time in the natural world, and are nothing more than examples of the universal phenomenon of "emergence" in complex systems (i.e., "tipping points," "phase changes," "critical masses," etc.).

    Our task is NOT impossible-- the world's best scientists say we still have a brief window to halt the mass extinction. It will require sacrifice and hard work. But it is also the most exciting, adventurous, and ecstatic opportunity that human beings have ever been offered! If we succeed, all future generations of life will thank and bless us eternally. This is an absolutely unprecedented moment. It is a moment to boil and bloom. The time is right, so let's unite!!!

    By the way, I'm here on tribe at , and my personal home page is .

    David Ulansey

    • Re: David Ulansey -- Mass Extinction

      Thu, April 13, 2006 - 12:12 PM
      Thanks for the crucial correction, David!

      I've been trying to formulate some provocative questions to generate discussion on this tribe. All the questions converge on how we (humanity) can overcome our collective inertia to change our habits. . . almost overnight, in historical terms. There are so many different reasons why. Where do we find the energy, the spiritual resources, the will to break out of our routine, our conditioning? Is it only further catastrophes that will push our face up against the wall? Unfortunately, judging from personal experience, that is usually the main way we make radical changes in our lives, especiallly going up against deep dysfunction or neurosis.
      • Re: David Ulansey -- Mass Extinction

        Thu, April 13, 2006 - 1:12 PM

        I don't think it's at ALL true that only further catastrophes will cause us to change our habits! That's why I mentioned phenomena like the origins of new religions such as Christianity and Buddhism. Rapid and dramatic changes in culture occur constantly in human history, and the catalysts are just as often positive as negative. For example, look at how radically our deepest habits of communication, work, social interaction, thought, and even spirituality have been transformed overnight by the sudden emergence of the Internet! The same thing happened 60,000 years ago with the origins of language, 6,000 years ago with the origins of writing, and later with the printing press, steam engine, automobile, telephone, television, etc., etc. And it's not just technology driving the positive catalytic process: it's ideas of every sort, art, visions, and dreams (hence the new religions I mentioned!). And-- most importantly of all-- the catalytic process is driven by the passion, hard work, painful sacrifice, and rigorous honesty that are necessary to transform ideas, visions, and dreams into EFFECTIVE and LIBERATING cultural forces.

        I actually think that perpetuating the meme that "only catastrophes will do it" is a subtle, unconscious, and insidious form of denial, laziness and escapism from our responsibility to be energetically pro-active. It's a way of deceiving ourselves into thinking that we're powerless to change, so that we can go on uninterrupted with our suicidally addictive (indeed, GEOCIDALLY addictive) lifestyles!

        We must-- and we can!-- do alot better than that! ;-)


        • Re: David Ulansey -- Mass Extinction

          Thu, April 13, 2006 - 1:28 PM
          Thanks, David, I was hoping that would instigate you to delve further into the HOW part:

          As you say: "And -- most importantly of all-- the catalytic process is driven by the passion, hard work, painful sacrifice, and rigorous honesty that are necessary to transform ideas, visions, and dreams into EFFECTIVE and LIBERATING cultural forces."

          Obviously it won't happen without sacrifice, and all these other ingredients. A tiny fraction of humanity has been/is on this path. . . but those of us already on it are always strapped for resources, support, . . . often seemingly crying in the wild. The vast majority of people muddle on, dealing mainly with all the day to day necessities that command their "attention units."

          And emergence is by definition unpredictable in its scope and effects, as a natural phenomenon, maybe even more so as a social and cultural one.

          But what else can be done that isn't being done? How can we intentionally assist whatever emergent shift might be wanting to happen?

          What are the emergent vehicles/forms by which this mass shift can take place? (correction: Is already taking place. . . )

          Obviously the media is starting to respond to climate change. Katrina and all the other hurricanes last year clearly had an effect driving the point home in many people who may not have given these things much due before.
          • Re: David Ulansey -- Mass Extinction

            Fri, April 14, 2006 - 9:46 PM
            Hi Twist,
            Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

            I've been thinking about this very topic for many years (and in particular lately). My conclusion is this:

            The essence of the problem is that we are perpetuating a 'Taker' culture (for those who've read Ishmael), rather than a Leaver culture. In other words the unwritten rules of our culture (and pretty much every dominant culture on the earth today) is that:

            - the world belongs to man to do with as he sees fit.

            -nature is hostile to us because we are the weakest animal, therefore we must exterminate nature.

            -the Gods have made us into beings in their own image, and have given us the power to determine what is 'right' and 'wrong', and therefore who gets to live or who dies.

            There's just no way we can revert to a strictly 'leaver' culture at this point in the game, since all leaver cultures have been exterminated by the takers (few remain, but they won't hold out for long).

            What we need is a synthesis of the two; something that takes the best of both worlds and unites them into a cohesive whole.

            But the fact of the matter is, right now our way of living is so out of balance that it's destroying our souls and this planet. So, in order to get people back into a way of living that has true value, we really need to create a tribe that emulates the essential teachings of the Leaver cultures, and updates it with our current knowledge.

            I'm not talking about buying a ticket to Burning Man. What I'm proposing is something much more akin to Fight Club, but without the violence, and with a Native American / Tribal / Shamanic core.

            If in every city a group of people were to start retreats within their community that took place in nature over the weekends, that would be a great beginning: just think about how you feel when you come out of a sweat lodge. Now imagine you are part of a tribe, where ever member has been initiated into it, and sworn to live by the code of that tribe; those people would effectively be your brothers and sisters.

            The retreats would be for the core stuff: de-programming, shamanic work, defining how we want to live our new lives, self-sustaining community planning, eco and earth based survival workshops, initiations, rituals, teachings, ceremonies, etc. The return to the challenges of the daily urban grind would be to test our knowledge, inspire others, encourage our brothers and sisters in their struggle, and welcome new potential members to the ceremonies and teachings that form the essence of the tribe.

            Paradoxically, many of us experience loneliness amongst the myriad of people and possibilities in our urban lives. We also experience feelings of frustration and low-self esteem as we know we came here for a spiritual mission and are subconsciously confused as to why we have not yet kicked it into full gear. What I am suggesting could help on both points.

            Enough of us know people who practice Native based ceremonies, shamanism, sustainability and earth based practices to make such a retreat a reality.

            Eventually it may be possible to purchase land and build an alternative community on it as well. We could then connect the dots with other likeminded communities, to share resources and support.

            We're not going to solve the world’s problems by more scientific developments (as is abundantly clear by now), nor by reading or writing books (how many have you read in your life, and you still haven't gotten off your ass?!), nor by politics. NO. The ONLY way we are going to change things is by changing the way we relate to ourselves, each other, and the earth, and that CAN ONLY HAPPEN BY ERASING THE BRAINWASHING OF OUR CULTURE AND REPLACING IT WITH A WAY OF LIVING THAT MOVES FORWARD WITH LIFE (instead of backwards against it).

            Start today. Organize a tribal council in your own living room or backyard as a launching point if you have to. Define how you want to live your lives with your brothers and sisters. Speak your truth. Stand up for it, and for Pachamama. Give people of taste of what they are missing, of what they are all longing for, and the flood gates will burst open, bringing much needed healing waters to the spiritual desert and madness of our society.

            At this point we have everything to gain by acting, or everything to lose by not. We need something that gives us a sense of hope and empowerment. What I've proposed is merely one of many potential keys.

            May Peace Be on Earth,


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