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Biophile Magazine -- » The Space We Are In

"One of the greatest surprises you'll experience, is when you discover that you can do what you were afraid you couldn't do.
Your obstacles will melt away, if instead of cowering before them, you make up your mind to walk boldly through them." Daily Guru

The Space We Are In

by Glenn Ashton

FILED IN: Activism · Issue 1


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We live in a time of Hope, of change and of a new dawning of consciousness. Biophile aims to facilitate this change in our lives, our hearts and our welfare of our planet.


All around us we see our planet under assault; there is war, poverty and loss of habitat. We are threatened by climate change, HIV and AIDS, deforestation, ozone holes, overpopulation, chemical overload and water and food shortages. The gap between the rich and poor grows despite promises to reduce the wealth deficit. Spaceship earth is under siege.

Food is becoming a patented commodity. Individual thoughts, beliefs and rights are being assaulted by the power of corporate owned media. International rules are made by the haves on behalf of the have nots in exclusive, chummy first world forums like the World Bank, the Word Trade Organisation, The World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund.

The leaders of the free world meet behind barriers while the people who supposedly mandated them vocally protest their exclusion.

At the end of the cold war most of us assumed we were on the cusp of a better world; no more nukes, no more east versus west, no more profligate militarisation. The wealth of the world could now go where it was most needed. Instead it went the other way.
The industrial-military complex has its triffid-like tendrils far too deeply inserted into the corridors of international power and has now, of necessity for its survival, invented and created new enemies. Those whose faith and worldview differs have become their new enemies. Terrorism is the new bogeyman – let’s not forget that our very own government was supposedly a terrorist organisation, just over a decade ago! The world daily becomes increasingly polarised on religious, fundamentalist and wealth fault-lines.

The global media is controlled by a clique of self-interested powers that align more with corporate interests, than the sustainability of life on earth and human society. We are informed that we cannot change the way things are and that we must trust those in power, as only they know how to run the world. Our autonomy and ability to act is directly and indirectly undermined. 1984 has arrived. War is peace, plenty is poverty, enemies are friends.

Against this background of centralised power, we in so-called western, democratic society have become individualised. We live in nuclear families and appear unable – as individuals – to reverse the hopeless onslaught on both our social structures and our environment. Social cohesion is undermined and the cult of greed and ‘me first’. Our lower, basic instincts have become the drivers of society.

But we can and must move off this self-destructive treadmill.

Only a fool keeps digging when stuck in a hole. We must change for ourselves and our children’s children, seven generations hence. What we must do, and what this magazine aims to facilitate, is for us to share the ways that we can become the change we want to see, individually and collectively – nationally and internationally. Like we say; think global, act local!

It is no good bemoaning the fact that we are in trouble. We know it and we are not alone. We are legion. We have to take responsibility. As this is a South African magazine, we must act as South Africans, each and every one of us privileged (but not necessarily yet empowered) by our decade old gift of democracy, one of the freest, most inclusive and tolerant in the world.

Those of us conscious of our predicament must share the emerging vision of our freedom and manifest it, with and within the world.

As South Africans have much to share with and learn from the rest of the world

But without democracy, a true global democracy, we cannot succeed. Democracy is not perfect but it is the least bad system, to paraphrase Churchill. In order to make progress we must harness the benefits of democracy to enable the changes we have to make. We must regain our own power not only for the people but also for the planetary ecosystems that sustain and support us. We cannot allow international democracy to be undermined by a cabal of rich nations.

To make ourselves heard we have to become active. Democracy comes with a massive responsibility to partake and to make it function. Within our communities, towns and cities, hundreds of thousands of people work to build a better country. The numbers may be high but the percentage is low. We need more involvement, more activism.

But what is activism?

Activism is defined in the Concise Oxford dictionary as “a policy of vigorous action in a cause, especially in politics.” The opposite of activism is passivity or inaction. We are constantly told, from our parents to our teachers to our bosses to our leaders and media, “you cannot change the system, you cannot change the world.” But the reality is that it is only individual and collective action that has ever changed anything in this world.


We have an unsustainable economic system headed inevitably towards entropy. This system creates knock-on effects on our ecosystems, support systems and on fairness and equity; it forms the core of challenges to the sustainability that has enabled us to evolve to where we now are. Earth has been around for about 5 Billion years; humans, in our present form, for not much more than a few million. It is a criminal shame a few advanced primates consider it okay to trash 5 billion years of evolution.

While our problems are political in nature, they too have evolved and adapted to the present reality. We can see how some political systems have atrophied and collapsed upon themselves through inertia, through in-built redundancy, through non-sustainability or sometimes through plain and simple sheer stupidity. Easter Island is a good illustration of such a systemic collapse.

The Chiefs on that tiny island vied against each other for the greatest prestige, glory and power by investing extravagantly in the manufacture of the massive stone heads that adorn the slopes of that island. In fact they diverted more resources – both human and natural – than their small island home could sustain. This civilisation collapsed as a direct consequence of this imbalance. The story of Easter Island can be taken as a allegorical parable, as a microcosm of what can and will happen to our planet if we do not heed the warning signs all around us.

Many of us are informed

The warning signals come from science, from observation and from our personal experiences. We can glimpse the impending collapse of our global spaceship earth if we do not change our habits. We cannot continue to soil our nest, overexploit our support systems beyond their capacity or overindulge in wasteful islands of personal excess amongst oceans of poverty.

The gluttony is evinced by our materialism; motor cars, frivolous clothes, exotic foods flown halfway around the world, fads and fashions with no advantage to our species. Our myopia in pandering to largely irrelevant short-term desires shows us just how we have lost sight of reality.

How has this all come to pass?

We cannot blame anybody but ourselves for stupidly being deceived that what is presented as ‘democracy’ and the ‘common good’ are nothing of the sort.

Democracy has been undermined by corporate greed, spawned in the colonial ages of discovery. Political power was divested into mercantile corporations like the Dutch East India Company and The British East India Trading Company.

More recent corporations gained legal rights that were previously only granted to individuals. Early mega-corporations included those like Standard Oil, United Fruit Company and in Europe, Unilever. Now we have McDonalds, Monsanto and Mitsubishi.
The exploitation in which states and corporations have engaged have followed three major waves. The first is that of human exploitation; slavery, indentured labour, wage slavery, fascism, Apartheid; each of these was and remains a major reason for feudal corporate ascendancy and partially explains how capital was concentrated by those who controlled labour.

Second, is the exploitation of natural resources. Mining, forestry, plunder of the gold of the Inca and Aztec, the wealth of India and China, all relied on the exploitation of the natural capital. Modern agriculture, oil and food industries represent the continuance of this exploitation. Of course the exploitation of humans and natural resources are intimately interconnected and are purely capital and profit-driven.

The third wave of exploitation is just beginning; the exploitation of life itself. This has happened in lesser forms for hundreds of years, as explorers shared the bounty of far-off lands around the world, so that maize and rice have now become primary African crops, with no benefits granted to either native Americans or Asians. But the real exploitation of life comes from our increasing use and knowledge of exploiting the genome, the code of life, of genetics. Just as the first two waves of exploitation benefited only a few, so too with the third.

All of the tricks in the book are being thrown at exploiting our expanding genetic knowledge. Using patents and increasingly restrictive international rules for intellectual property, corporations are now patenting crops, trees, oils, flowers, bacteria, animals, fish, humans and even the very elements that make life, in the new speculative gold rush.

We are told that this is good, it is progress. The problem is that profit is a poor long-term planning tool. The historic consequences of human exploitation remain present in our society. The environmental impacts of resource exploitation are obvious, like the effects that of fossil fuels have on our atmosphere. Now corporations aim to control life, to own it and to exploit it for profit.

The driver of this exploitation is advertising

Corporations and the advertising industry – together with its sinister cousin, public relations – all operate in a manner that is pathologically destructive and that is comparable to psychotic or even psychopathic tendency in humans. They create wants where none existed before. Advertising uses scientific profiling to trigger individual insecurities by using manipulative propaganda, coercive psychology and the tools of brainwashing. Hedonistic values rule; self-indulgence dominates the need of the collective, all with no thought to consequences.

But advertising can also be a force for good. We can use its power to inform people of the immediate and real challenges that face us as we rush headlong towards ecological Armageddon.

How do we tap into the sources of change?

By activism, by insisting that sanity prevail against an insane system. By word of mouth, by using magazines such as this. By sharing information that will enhance our chances of survival.
By making it possible to create a better world for all. We must focus on the positive and remember that those who exploit the world are people, just like us, but with misplaced value systems.
We must help them in a positive way to see the change that we must all become.

In the coming issues of this magazine we will gradually explore and reveal the many ways we can look at the challenges we face. We will present concrete suggestions on how to make the changes we intend to manifest in the world. I look forward to sharing these with all of you, my dear readers.
And I trust that you too will share your thoughts and ideas with me.

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