Is this how we got into this fix?
By “this fix,” I’m referring to the current cultural values and structures of the world: we’re clearly careering toward climate catastrophe, just for starters, never mind Peak Oil (may be self-correcting over the very long term, but rather hard on humanity and its coevals). At any rate, the issue came up in the comments threaded to this post, and I wrote there:
Where it started down the road to unsustainability—a one-way street once you enter it, given how one thing leads to another—may have been the invention of agriculture and the resulting class system, or the invention of money, or whatever: cultural evolution has steered us off the cliff, a path we apparently have freely chosen.And how can people so regularly make short-term choices with obvious disastrous long-term consequences? The reason, I think, is that people self-circumscribe their thinking to consider only the short term. And the reason for this is that, once people look at the long term and think of how (ideally) they would like to see it—what losses to curb, what innovations to encourage, and the like—they must inevitably face the fact that this “ideal” future is lacking in one important aspect: they won’t be there for they must one day die.
The evolved survival instinct is both strong and basic: there’s no escaping that instinct, and the pressure to live inevitably must produce a resistance to death-related issues, up to and including death itself: absolutely certain, terrible to contemplate.
So, utilizing a psychological mechanism well-described in Daniel Goleman’s excellent Vital Lies, Simple Truths, the result is a huge blind spot on one’s own death, and that blind spot makes it hard to view the future… so people look only at the short-term, to the extent possible. We have great difficulty, at the genetic level, to consider the future in any detail: we focus on the short term to resolve that problem.
And, of course, short-term thinking is also evolutionarily reinforced: those animals that best take care of short-term needs (like getting enough to eat, avoiding danger, and getting laid) pass along that focus on the short term.
So, stymied both ways (forced to be strong on short term, and forced as well to avoid looking at long term), we (as a species) are rapidly blundering our way—ever more efficiently—to our own deaths.
Steve explained why and the discussion continues. Interesting, at least to me.