Sign up to receive occasional updates.

The Bad Human

That modern industrial practices are destructive to the environment, our social fabric, and human creativity was evident early on.

In the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, factories were so destructive and polluting that they had to be controlled in order to prevent immediate sickness and death.

The manufacturing practices of today are a vast improvement over factories of the past. But because most manufacturing is still based on the old assumptions, we are still perpetuating a process that is based on turning the resources of the planet into profits, rather than based on sustaining life.

The environmental movement arose as a response to industrialization. At its roots, the environmental movement is about protecting nature from the destructive actions of human industry. Given the existence of destructive industry, it only makes sense to set aside land that cannot be destroyed for profit, and to fight against the destroyer to protect that which is pristine and pure. It is our human nature to do so.

But the environmental movement has also produced a serious side effect. It has firmly established in our minds the idea that humans are inherently separate from and destructive to nature, and that nature needs to be protected from harmful humans. Solutions to environmental problems developed by environmentalists have therefore been based on controlling the behavior of the "bad humans." And so, much of what is recommended as being "better for the environment" are actually ways to make us "bad humans" less bad.

To be fair, I have to say that the idea that humans are bad did not originate in the environmental movement. Our whole culture is based on "humans are bad" in one form or another. We have religion that says "man is a sinner" and he has to be saved from his sins. We have a system of law and order that basically says humans are violent and everyone would kill each other if it weren't for the police and the threat of law. It's basically a viewpoint that says humans by nature are destructive and need some outside force to control them.

It could be argued that we have "rightfully" come to these conclusions because some humans have demonstrated sin and violent plunder and environmental pollution. And so, because of this, our human culture is filled with restraints. If we are "bad" and "destructive" it only makes sense that our bad activities should be curtailed if we wish to sustain life.

But I don't agree that humans are bad. Despite the underpinnings of our culture, I believe that humans are basically good and can—from their own consciences—act in ways that encompass good for their own lives and all life. I believe our natural state is to love ourselves and one another and act in fellowship for the good of all. Humans can interact positively for the ongoing existence of ecosystems just as effectively as any other species.

Yes, industrialization (a human activity) and consumerism (a human activity) are destructive to the ecosystems of our Earth, but these activities need to be considered separately from our humanity.

In fact, we humans are a species of the Earth. We are beings of nature. We cannot be separated from nature any more than a tree can be separated from a forest. If we humans have lost our way—and we have—the answer is not to separate us from life, but rather to restore our awareness that we are inherently threads in the great web of life and rehabilitate our native abilities to live in ways that are beneficial to all life.

So now we are faced with a question: How can those of us of good conscience improve our industrialized consumer society?

There are two paths that benefit nature:

  • the contraction of human activity that is destructive to life or
  • the expansion of human activity that contributes positively to life.

Currently, most of what is being recommended is to lessen negative human activity. Assuming all current human activity is negative, the "best" is then no human activity at all.

If we instead focus the expansion of positive human behavior, the "best" results in life, health, happiness, and abundance for both humans and all of life.

Larry and I were talking about this the other night while we were waiting for our dinner to be served in a restaurant. We had an empty table in front of us and a knife and a fork. I laid the knife on the table and began to move my hand away from it.

“If I move away from this knife,” I said,” my hand goes nowhere.” That was plain to see on the empty table.

Then I put the fork on the opposite end of the table and moved my hand toward the fork until I touched it.

“See,” I said, “If you are moving toward something, eventually you get there.”

This is the one big thing that has been missing in our thinking: Our intention needs to be to expand those "good human" activities that lead to the ongoing regeneration of life, rather than trying to limit or minimize our "bad human" activities. When we focus on the good-result actions the bad-result actions fall away.

I know this sounds good in theory, but how do we put it into practice? Changing my mind about something that is so ingrained in our culture made even my own mind twist! But I got through it.

Here is an example.

Our current energy system is based in nonrenewable fossil fuels that take an enormous amount of energy to mine and process, and create pollution during mining, processing and burning. To save energy or use it more efficiently is to simply use less of the same polluting energy. We're still doing the same destructive energy system, just doing it slower. We'll still get to a point where there are no more fossil fuels, it will just be a few years later. I'm not saying we shouldn't save energy or use it efficiently, but doing that and nothing else only slows destruction. When we install energy-efficient lighting in our homes and offices, we follow the "slow destruction" model. I really want to emphasize this is not a bad or ineffective thing to do, but it still acting to minimize our "bad human" actions.

Renewable energy systems take advantage of existing natural energy flows in a given place that cannot be exhausted and are free (except for the equipment needed to harness or collect it). Once that equipment is installed, it can collect and direct an "unlimited" amount of energy—usually more than is needed and enough to flow back into the grid and turn into money.

Some uses of natural energy flows require no special equipment at all. Cool autumn breezes wafting though open windows and doors cost nothing and require no special equipment. All you need to do is open the window or door.

It's easy to see from this example that the act of efficiency alone while still using grid energy is based on limitation of resources and user contraction whereas renewable energy is based on resources abundance and user expansion.

Yes, it takes resources to make those solar panels, but the point is that it makes more sense to work on finding ways to make renewable energy more sustainable than it does to find more ways to be energy-efficient. Because energy efficiency, taken to its maximum is nothing, whereas renewable energy taken to its maximum is abundant energy for all. Sun and wind and water are provided by Life for free.

We could, of course, go through every type of product or activity and make a scale from worst-bad to best-good.

The question then becomes, where are we as individuals? Are we still becoming less bad or have we crossed the line to becoming more good? (And the answer might be different for different parts of our lives.)

The important shift for me has been to have the intent to be in the zone of good—to state that intent clearly and make decisions around it.

To me, this is the next step of awareness that needs to be taken:

  • to break out of the social conditioning imposed on us by industrialism
  • to see ourselves and our activities as inherently life-supporting and regenerative instead of struggling to be less bad, and
  • to view ourselves as "good humans," able to support life in every action we take.

Read The Good Human