Japan Nuclear: Edge of Chaos and Common Interest
London, UK - 13th March 2011, 15:20 GMT
Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]
Japan Earthquake >> Pacific Tsunami >> Nuclear Repercussions >> Edge of Chaos >> Global Evolution to Common Interest?
"Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice!" concluded the American historian, William Durant. It is worth contemplating this: The magnitude 9.0 Richter earthquake in Japan -- 4th largest ever recorded in the world -- triggered a devastating Tsunami not just in Japan but also across the Pacific with substantial damage along many Pacific basin coastlines thousands of miles away. As a result, the nuclear power plant in Fukushima also had a partial meltdown within one reactor and another one is on the brink of collapse. Will the radioactivity spread not just within Japan, as more than 200,000 people are evacuated within a 20km radius, but much further afield? More importantly, do the events in Japan herald a challenge to the deployment of nuclear power worldwide? Remember:
1. Chernobyl's impact in 1986 on Eastern Europe that accelerated the collapse of the USSR; and
Edge of Chaos and Common Interest: Butterfly Effect
2. Three Mile Island's impact in 1979 on stopping the build of new nuclear power stations in the US.
Why do we have crises?
Do we only change when we are pushed to the brink by unpredictable events that threaten our way of life and survival? Alas, we have built our socio-economic and power systems on confrontation, competition and scarcity that require severe crises to dissolve and to shape unity from duality. Now as we stare at the abyss in the 21st century, if we want, we can begin to build our relationships on harmony, co-operation and abundance! Mahatma Gandhi said, "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world -- that is the myth of the atomic age -- as in being able to remake ourselves!" In some ways, we are back to the same questions ATCA posed at the time of the Gulf oil gusher catastrophe last year:
"Does the flap of a Butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas? How we strive for predictability, which eludes us more than ever before, yet we don't often stop to ask ourselves: Why? According to the Butterfly Effect, the slightest disturbance in one part of the world can trigger a chain of events that create a hurricane in another part of the world. Let us just think about how fragile the earth is: from volcanoes to earthquakes and from sinkholes to an uncontrollable gusher spewing crude oil and gas at the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes people can joke, laugh and be dismissive of the Butterfly Effect and Chaos Theory. However, they are critical in shaping our thinking and our values. They predicate and have the capacity to modify our insatiable consumption. Given the amounts of [toxins] polluting many parts of the world right now -- from the Niger Delta to the Gulf of Mexico -- we are all in for some heavy-duty Butterfly Effects, whether we like it or not!" [ATCA: Butterfly Effect, Oil Gusher & Edge of Chaos: World Wide Summit? 25th June 2010]
Humans, driven by financial markets, appear to think in terms of "profits" every quarter in the short term, years in the medium term, and when wiser, decades in the long term. Nature appears to think in terms of restoring energy balance over centuries in the short term, millennia in the medium term and aeons in the long term. Here lies the fundamental difference.
Would be worlds
Possible worlds, chaos theory and alternative reality scenarios are normally the exclusive domain of philosophers and quantum physicists, but such tricky concepts also often lend themselves well to the accessible narrative of what is happening with increasing frequency in our globalised world. As we push at the boundary conditions of our natural resource limits -- consuming as if there were 2.4 planets at our disposal as opposed to one -- we inevitably have to go farther and deeper to exploit the earth's resources. The Roman philosopher Cicero observed more than two thousand years ago, "Everything is alive; everything is interconnected!" or "Omnia vivunt, omnia inter se conexa!" If so, every action has the potential to change the infinite play's next scene! Mahatma Gandhi said, "Our beliefs become our thoughts. Our thoughts become our words. Our words become our actions. Our actions become our habits. Our habits become our values. Our values become our destiny!" If so, what are we doing to change our beliefs so that we may influence our one world destiny for a more harmonious outcome?
Butterfly effect and Edge of chaos
It is clear that the disturbance to the natural environment caused by the earthquake in Japan is more than the flapping of the butterfly's wing, which represents but a small change in the initial condition of the system. Given the change that the unprecedented earthquake and potential nuclear catastrophe may bring about in the global land-sea-air ecosystem, this is likely to cause a chain of events leading to substantial large-scale phenomena. Had this butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different. It leads to the possibility of "Chaos", that whatever is the most unexpected thing at the time happens, ie, a true "Black Swan" from the human perspective. As a result, nothing is predictable and even the slightest action can have the most complex reactions. According to the Upanishads, some of which date back nearly 3,000 years, "As is the human body, so is the cosmic body. As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm. As is the atom, so is the universe!"
The views of the "Father of Chaos Theory" -- Edward Lorenz (1917-2008), who was a Meteorologist and Professor at MIT -- are worth noting. Among some of Lorenz's famous findings:
1. Typical characteristic of chaos? Step by step manifestation of complexity out of simplicity;
2. The Butterfly Effect, the scientific concept that small effects lead to big changes, is illustrated by the Lorenz attractor, which is relatively simple with complex behaviour; and
3. Every day things are chaotic, chaos leads to creativity and life. The "Edge of Chaos" is where creativity happens!
Chaos and balance
Lorenz's discovery continues to influence our scientific world, which has yet to grasp its implications fully. If we did, we would dismantle our linear thinking industrial age models immediately and move on to non-linear "chaos based" sustainable thinking more suited to the 21st century. Chaotic systems have been recognised in all branches of science. As mathematicians started to unravel its mysteries, science reeled before the implications of an uncertain world intricately bound up with chance. The human heartbeat is chaotic, as indeed are the stock market, the solar system and of course the weather. In fact the more we learn about chaos, which has fractal properties, the more closely it seems to be bound up with nature. Fractal structures seem to be everywhere we look: in ferns, cauliflowers, the coral reef, kidneys... Rather than turn its back on chaos, nature appears to use it and science is beginning to do the same. When will large scale corporate capitalism and government structures metamorphose to embrace the butterfly effect and make us live sustainably as opposed to pushing us ever closer to the edge of chaos? While it is convenient to blame corporations and governments, the truth is that when each one of us changes to embrace sustainability in every thought, word and deed, balance will automatically come!
It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity, as Einstein said. Thinking about it during this latest Japan crisis, one is reminded of the ancient Hermetic axiom, from about 2,300 years ago, "As is the inner, so is the outer; as is the great, so is the small; as it is above, so it is below; there is but One Life and Law; and He, that is worth it, is One. Nothing is inner, nothing is outer; nothing is great, nothing is small; nothing is high, nothing is low; in the Divine Economy." We have allowed our faith in free market economics to bring us to this mess. How about humanity trying something different for a change? Instead of self interest, we promote common interest, recognising that in common good lies our own good. First mover advantage suggests that the sooner we do this, the better of we will be!
We and our planet are an exquisitely arranged and interconnected system within the universe. What changes in one way for this complex non-linear dynamical system is going to have consequences for all of us in so many unknown ways. Chaos theory is not about disorder, it is about very complicated systems of order. The very connection, contact, or interconnections between the earth, nature, all living beings including people, societal structures and man-made machines create conditions where even the smallest point of interaction can have non-linear or seemingly chaotic and very large outcomes!
Our challenge as nearly seven billion inhabitants on one planet is to try and to figure out that our small actions have a consequence, no matter how small our allotted space might be. Discipline ought to be the watchword for our controlling levers in terms of what we desire and what we consume. Consumption and demand affect procurement and supply, which means extracting more and more resources without thinking of the global eco-system as a unified habitat for other living creatures beyond ourselves!
Benefits of chaos
We still have a lot to learn about how nature uses chaos, but perhaps unpredictable behaviour is not altogether undesirable! As Henry Adams, the famous American historian, once said "Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit!" "I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in!" observed the American scientist, George Washington Carver.
Will the world wide chaos unleashed by the Japan Butterfly Effect lead to more sustainable patterns of consumption and production? That is the key question of the 21st century, which holds the potential to metamorphose our civilisation towards redemption or annihilation as we progress towards higher consciousness of the world wide commons. We are at the tipping point in the dawning of this awareness.
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