Evolution is the underlying theme of my novel Free Ralph! An Evolutionary Fable.
This is the first in a series of essays exploring that theme, published in Sevananda's
Co-Options newsletter.

Evolution, Anyone?
"Going Green" Goes Mainstream – In the Nick of Time

by Stephen Wing

Remember when “saving the planet” was a cliché, mainly used to lampoon those comically sincere, fashion-challenged holdovers from the Sixties, the environmentalists?

Suddenly it’s the latest media catchphrase, appearing in one form or another on magazine covers from Time to Forbes to National Geographic. At work, where I write blurbs about new books for bookstore buyers, I see title after title from publishers big and small about how to “go green.”

If media corporations are investing real money in promoting ecological awareness, something real is going on out there. Real people must be buying and reading those books and magazines, and presumably acting on at least some of what they read. Supply and demand is the law, after all.

But is “saving the planet” a fad, or is it a trend?

I believe what we are witnessing is only the beginning. If we could stand back far enough to see the pattern formed by human bee-ings as they swarm their blue-green hive, I think we would see nothing less than evolution unfolding before our eyes.

The physical human body has not changed much in recent millennia; it’s consciousness that evolves, and only a major leap forward in human consciousness can prevent the worst-case scenarios projected by climate scientists.

In the Darwinian biological model, evolution is a response to necessity: a series of adaptations to changes in the environment. Consciousness, too, rarely takes a step unless bumped by some physical catalyst.

Isolated “mutations” have already appeared in the form of farmer’s markets, hybrid cars, wind farms, eco-villages, etc., motivated by breakthroughs in consciousness such as longing for community, idealistic fervor, and long-term thinking. What’s lacking is the change in our environment that suddenly transforms these random mutations into favorable adaptations, prompting true species-wide evolution.

In a social and economic order founded on a century of cheap fossil fuel, that catalyst could be something as simple as a hike in the price of gas. Rising temperatures and extreme weather are affecting more and more of us. But for a true leap of consciousness, how about something that affects all of us?

This is when it hits home how energy-dependent we are: when we discover that literally everything we buy has traveled thousands of miles, riding a river of petroleum, and is consequently going up in price. The approach of Peak Oil means it will keep going up, with no reprieve.

Consciousness isn’t in control, of course. Force of habit dictates that we invade and occupy petroleum-rich nations, drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for six months’ worth of oil, shift our economy to coal, and so on.

But since the world isn’t going back to the comfortable fantasy world we once considered “normal,” some form of natural selection will sooner or later push us in the direction of sanity. The question is whether that push will come from conscious choice or from a collision with ecological reality – from within or from without. In other words, can awareness grow faster than Earth’s resources are shrinking?

A population crash would be an effective way to save the planet, I imagine. But in evolutionary terms, such a catastrophe would favor the people with the hardiest physiques and immune systems, which could lead to a replay of the entire history of human domination over nature and one another.

If consciousness wins the race, on the other hand, human society could conceivably blossom into a cooperative enterprise based on stewarding, sharing and conserving the Earth’s natural wealth. Looking back at the long history of evolving human consciousness, I’d say that’s the direction we’ve been headed all along.


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