Welcome to the very first episode of the Mangu.tv podcast, Rory Spowers joins us today. We wanted to bring you this conversation with Rory for episode one because he encapsulates all of Mangu.tv's themes through his work as a writer, campaigner, and event curator. Rory has been specializing in ecological and consciousness issues for over 25 years, and he's always working towards a change in systems.
Today we dive into regenerative agriculture, food health, the current paradigm, the possible shift in paradigm, and the wider theme of psychedelics and the community they create. Rory is a close friend and contributor to Mangu.tv.
If you have not been to our platform yet, and you enjoy today's episode, please hit subscribe and head over to our library of documentaries and see what else we have to offer. But first, we begin with Rory Spowers. Rory, welcome to today's show.
Thank you, Giancarlo. And thank you so much for inviting me to join you for the first of these.
Why don't we start with the challenges of the current paradigm? Why do you think we have a problem?
I suppose for me, it goes right back to when I was 18 and I was lucky enough to go traveling in India and Southeast Asia. A few years later when I left university I cycled the length of Africa with some friends and wrote my first book.
Those two trips forced me to reevaluate my notions around progress and development and all of these things that we've been conditioned and educated to believe in. That ultimately led me to try to work out what it was that had led a supposedly intelligent species so far down the road of destroying the very systems that support biological life and our species as well. I would say the ecological crisis is an extension of a much deeper ideological crisis. This is what has been my fascination. Ultimately when we refer to scientific paradigms, what we are fed at the moment, in terms of we must follow the science, and listen to the science, etc. Well sure, but the science we're being told to follow is a particular type of science. It's a particular methodology and approach to science, which is known as materialism reductionism, and essentially what it's doing is trying to explain the world by reducing it to its component parts. And it's this notion of the sort of clockwork Newtonian universe and anything that can't be empirically quantified and measured is removed from the equation because it's dismissed as not being relevant.
Absolutely. This is very clear to me also. But so what can be a practical example where this type of methodology of reduction is more of a linear solution to a complex problem, that is clearly not working?
I believe Goethe the German polymath hundreds of years ago said that this was when we first deviated from true science. Because we took living biological cells out of their living context and studied them in isolation. Now of course this opens up all sorts of fascinating avenues and has led to all sorts of incredible breakthroughs medically and scientifically on a number of levels.
But of course, the characteristics that a cell in isolation from its original context exhibits, is very different from what it might exhibit in its biological domain. I would say that in a nutshell, we're taking complex biological systems and reducing them and making some rather simplistic and potentially erroneous conclusions as a consequence. A good example is what we've done to topsoil. We got so carried away with the excitement of the chemical industry “better living through chemistry” and this notion that somehow we were going to conquer and control nature using this arsenal of toxic compounds. But of course what we've done in the process is completely toxify our environment and everything within it, including ourselves.
Only recently did I discover the degree of how big a problem DDT was before it was banned. It was realized if this was left unchecked, it was really going to decimate the global ecology. But of course, only two years before that people from chemical companies were drinking DDT on camera, to try to prove how safe they thought it was.
Other examples which have led to some very simplistic and erroneous conclusions about nutrition and diets… We were told that saturated fat for decades was the real culprit, now we know that certain saturated fats are absolutely essential for optimal health. We were told that we should use all of these hydrogenated cooking oils, which we now know to be probably the most toxic thing we can put in our diets of all.
Antibiotics, of course, is an incredible development but because it's one of the only tools in the cupboard for addressing complex systemic chronic diseases, we've relied on them too much and created MRSA. This paradigm needs an enemy. We made it in the age of bacteria, this led to over sterilization of the home environment which is implicated in rising asthma rates, etc. I think we might potentially be making some similar irradiance conclusions about viruses now, but that's something for another time.
In essence, this paradigm doesn't like to deal with complexity and uncertainty and biological life is very, very complex and uncertain. We can talk a bit later about the left/right brain hypothesis. I think it's quite a useful lens for understanding this because this very masculine, analytical, rational, left-brain way of processing information is very much at the crux of this scientific paradigm and at the expense of this more intuitive feminine right brain that is looking much more at context rather than content.
Science is not a database that holds the truth, it's a process. How science radically changed when they discovered telescopes, now science is changing as we create more and more powerful microscopes. More specifically you mentioned topsoil, how is a tomato coming from a monoculture farm different in nature and different in its impact to us than a tomato that comes from a bio-diverse permaculture farm?
One way of looking at this is; what we understand about topsoil now compared to just 30 years ago is really redefining so much, and certainly redefining our understanding of soil carbon. And the ability for photosynthesis to draw carbon down from the atmosphere and put it back into the soil.
But also the 84 trace minerals that should be in healthy topsoil, we've reduced to just three primary applications of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus at the expense of 81 other trace minerals. Something which has been grown in topsoil which is devoid of all of this biological life, compared to one teaspoon of topsoil which is thought to contain more microorganisms than all the human beings that ever lived - is one of these unbelievably extraordinary statistics.
But when that complexity is there you can see the plant growing in soil with that sort of thriving biota, which also increases the metabolism of all of these nutrients within the soil and then within the plant.
Also, when you use multiple applications not just of fertilizers but insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides, etc, you're constantly killing all of microbial life. And it's this microbial life, whether it's in our microbiomes or in the oceans, it is really the immune system for the human being in the case of the microbiome, but also the immune system for Gaia. James Lovelock who originated Gaia's theory, a lot of his research was around the role that microorganisms played within the oceans, and also on land in terms of modulating local climate and performing these self-regulating actions. As we deplete all of that, it's depleting the microbiome which 80% of our immune systems are dependent on.
Likewise, we've vilified carbon, in the way we've vilified bacteria, and we have vilified saturated fat, we're now vilifying viruses. Carbon, of course, is the basic building block of all organic life.
The problem is where we've put it and what nature has taken a million years to safely sequester into the Earth's crust, we're putting up in the atmosphere in the course of a year. It's amplified here because of our technologies, this is one of the ways we've stepped outside of the system because the rate at which we can interfere with these processes is so amplified compared to any other species and natural planetary evolution can't keep up. In the process, we become the only species to generate waste.
This is very interesting. I wonder when I listen to you talking, it seems that there are more and more scientific papers, more and more experts like Zach Bush, for example, who have made very compelling cases; that not only is the tomato from the monoculture farm depleted in microbiota, but a tomato from a permaculture biodiverse environment has all the macronutrients that boost your immune system to the microbiota.
This is a knowledge that seems to be emerging, but how do you think we're going to be able to implement it? What is the disconnect? There is almost a scientific consensus around it but what are the practical things that we can do to help this bio-diverse revolution in agriculture.
Very interesting question and I think it's very fascinating to look at how scientific paradigms change. I suppose the really significant one we often go back to is Galileo and the Copernican Revolution basically completely redefining our collective understanding of our position within the universe.
Of course, it took a long time for that paradigm to shift. After a number of influential, important people looking through the telescope, they realized that actually, he was onto something. Eventually, the weight of empirical evidence becomes so great that it's impossible for the prevailing paradigm, not to go through some kind of shift to integrate it.
What I think is very alarming right now, and a lot of people refer to this dominant scientific ideology now as scientism, because it has essentially replaced religion as our core belief system. So we turn to this particular approach to science as being our source of truth. But of course, true science is constantly evolving, and constantly updating, and constantly integrating the new insights. The electron microscopy of the last few decades has opened up all these incredible new domains around our understanding of soil biology, the microbiome, epigenetics, neuroplasticity, all of these incredibly exciting emerging sciences which really challenged some fundamental assumptions within the scientism paradigm.
That is why this is terribly alarming because these Galileo's of our time are now starting to get vilified as being anti-science or quacks and pseudo-scientists.
Anything that deviates or challenges this dominant ideology is now being regarded as extremist and dangerous. And this is very, very worrying because of course this dominant scientific ideology is being used as the underpinning for very powerful, political and economic forces, which are now changing our world so incredibly rapidly.
Yes. I hear you. In scientific circles, they say that the only way to change a paradigm is when all the scientists of the old paradigm die. (laughing) Although I have to say, within my lifetime, talking about scientific paradigm change, I remember looking at psychedelics like magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, mescaline, the family of the tryptamines. 20 years ago the research was completely shut down from the ’60s and ’70s as the current paradigm felt that this compound had no medical value. They were actually made schedule one, like heroin. I've seen in the last twenty to fifteen years, some brave scientists risking their careers applying for grants and also receiving grants.
Science with the discovery of a functional MRI has now proven that these compounds, not only have medical value, but they can be the future for psychiatry, like the New York Times titles: ‘The Psychedelic Revolution Is Coming. Psychiatry May Never Be the Same’ published June 2021 & ‘Can Psychedelics Be Therapy? Allow Research to Find Out’ published July 2021.
Since we are talking about psychedelics, what was your experience with this compound? What is the link between this medicine and what they call biophilia, this deep connection with nature?
Biophilia is a term coined by the biologist E.O Wilson, to describe an innate sense of connection to the natural world. Which I'd say is the thing that we've really lost as a species, so dramatically in which we so urgently need to regain, if we're going to have a chance of getting out of the pickle we've made for ourselves.
There is ever-increasing evidence now of the role that these plants and substances have played through millennia and in the origin of all the world's religions from the Hindu Vedas onwards.
But often in the contemporary discussion around psychedelics, quite understandably the focus is on their medical application in terms of dealing with depression and addiction and these incredibly important issues. I wholeheartedly endorse that and I can see how miraculous these compounds can be.
Of course, the interesting thing is the prevailing forces within the medical establishment are not necessarily very keen on a substance that makes you well after one dose, rather than taking a pill for the rest of your life. That is a whole other discussion, but seeing how the dominant paradigm co-opts and integrates some of these things and then subverts them.
For me personally, I suppose that the defining characteristic of my early psychedelic experiences was a reframing of my understanding of consciousness. That consciousness may actually be primary rather than secondary. I.e we are so conditioned to believe that consciousness is this emergent property. An epiphenomenon of the brain, that somehow a complex neural firing inside our skulls produces consciousness rather than the possibility that the extraordinary complexity of the human brain is the most sophisticated biological instrument on the planet, through which a more universal consciousness functions.
This was Aldous Huxley's great fascination too, he wrote ‘The Perennial Philosophy’ in 1945, trying to hone down on what was this single strand of sacred truth that ran through all the world's mystical and religious traditions.
I think it comes down to what's now referred to collectively as the non-duality teachings, or The Perennial Philosophy and it's particularly aligned in the modern spiritual marketplace as it were with Advaita Vedanta. Which is the ancient Vedic Indian tradition, but it's also there in Zen Buddhism, it's there in the Old, and New Testament ‘I am that I am, be still and know that I am God’.
Essentially I think what psychedelics can do is because of this extraordinary neuro connectivity they promote, and the suppression of what the scientists now call the default mode network, which is a really fancy scientific term, I would say for the egoic construct.
We've made this individual identification with consciousness and created these separate identities at the obfuscation, without recognizing what is behind that or what is prior to that, is this oneness, this pure awareness. As soon as language comes into the equation, as soon as the mind comes in, it becomes dualistic because the mind only operates.
Your dualism is an incredibly important construct for us to make sense of the world, but we fail to look at what proceeds that. Then we end up in these interminable mental ramblings, using the language of twoness to understand oneness, which it simply can't do. That of course leads to all sorts of cognitive dissonance within this kind of area.
I think what has really come into focus for me in the last year with all of the confusion we feel about what's going on in the world. If looked at through different lenses, things that can appear to be completely contrasting, could actually both be true at the same time. It just depends on the lens.
The physicist Niels Bohr, said ‘the opposite of one great truth is often another great truth’. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer, said ‘the definition of a real artist was being able to hold two completely opposing points of view at the same time.'
I think a lot of the confusion and dissonance that people feel at the moment is that we are encouraged to look at everything through the same lens, forgetting that actually you can look at what's going on through an esoteric lens through, a reductionist lens, through a holistic lens, through a metaphysical lens and all of these things are valuable. However, they might appear to be extremely dissonant when arranged together.
The model I like to use to really illustrate this is the square or the cube. If you're looking at a square in two dimensions or in front of you, it looks like a square, but of course, if it's actually a cube in three dimensions and you move 45 degrees to different parts of the room, you recognize that what you thought was a square is actually a cube. Now it doesn't mean that it's still not a square. when you look at it from over there, but once you've seen that it's a cube, you have a more evolved and integrated understanding.
Many of your listeners I'm sure are aware of Ken Wilber's work, transpersonal psychologist, he has written voluminously about the spectrum of consciousness or the evolution of consciousness. From a purely non-dualistic lens, you'd have to say the apparent evolution within consciousness, this single defining feature of all of those evolutionary stages is the integration and transcendence of which came before.
For me, I think from a metaphysical lens, the really exciting thing is the process we're in now, where Wilbur's projection of the next stage in the evolution is to this transpersonal non-dual perspective.
Now that doesn't mean that we all disappear as a oneness, this sort of nothingness. I think it's this recognition of seeing the cube as a cube rather than just as a square.
We have covered a lot of ground, I just now want to clarify/repeat, how we go from psychedelics and default mode network, into the perennial philosophy and the need to transcend.
I want to quote Michael Pollan, in his book he says ‘the default mode network is circuitry in the brain, which is three keys: the prefrontal cortex, the medial cortex and the thalamus, which are hubs from other parts of the brain. And what happens when you ingest these tryptamines you reduce the blood supply in those areas.'
Michael Pollan used this example, ‘This circuitry is like the conductor of the orchestra of your brain. And with less blood supply, the conductor gets subdued/goes to bed. Meaning your egoic brain is not conducted, and in that anarchy, you can emerge a part of who you are, that you are not aware of. You can go behind the conceptual, and the thinking mind that prevents transcendence.
I think this is important because there is part of our existence, which cannot be understood through reason. I think that in the enlightenment, the sobriety of reason was important to get out of the middle age view of superstition. I feel now if we want to make sense of the world, how we want to live in the world, I think it's important to try to explore this non-dual approach to life.
These are complicated topics. Maybe you would like to talk about Ramana Maharshi a little bit, that would be for me the closest spiritual teacher that explained this non-dual philosophy.
Ramana Maharshi was a great Indian Sage who died in 1950, and was very much aligned with this Advaita Vedanta philosophy and lived in south India. What was very extraordinary about Ramana was he had no spiritual inclinations at all and had this spontaneous enlightenment/liberation that when he was a schoolboy. He was then silent for many years, and eventually, people started to gather around him and he was visited by the great and the good from across the globe until 1950. He was also accredited as being at the top of the lineages of many of the modern Advaita teachers. Most of what people refer to as Neo Advaita, now a lot of the modern teachers say, there is no practice, and there is nothing that you could do to bring this about, because the you that's tried to bring you about is the very thing that needs to disappear.
Ramana did have a technique which he called Vichar, self-inquiry and it was really this internal examination of asking ‘who am I?’. Not to be repeated just mindlessly, like an internal mantra, but actively pursued as an intellectual inquiry.
Because of course, when we go in search of any evidence of this individual egoic entity, we just can't find it. It's really just a construct and going back to what you were saying, I know I didn't properly answer the biophilia aspect, but I think the problem is, the thing we're trying to transcend, is that we're so identified with this three-dimensional body, mind, organism, and believe so vehemently that that is all that we are. Whereas what these teachings are pointing to is what is it that precedes that, what the Zen talks about, what was the original face, or who were you before you were given a name or before you were even born, or where are you in deep and dreamless sleep?
The divine tragic irony, I suppose of a lot of this is that the seeking for this mysterious enlightenment usually takes people through years and years of agonizing, spiritual search, multiple teachers, and meditations, and all sorts of different techniques. Often to find that these are the very things preventing the very thing they're looking for from happening.
You'd mentioned the thinking mind and within these teachings is yes, this egoic conceptualizing mind, it's the source of all negative human emotion. It is the anxiety and fear, about projection into the future, it's guilt and suffering about the past and it's that, which is constantly removing us from the pure presence of, here and now.
I think often people extrapolate onto the state of the Sage, is to think the Sage is just like a sort of blancmange; is completely without personality and attributes, etc, in fact, the working mind is always there. If a Sage needs to catch a train at a certain time he'll know he has to get to the station by a certain time to catch the train.
These can become complex issues, I think all of those different traditions, all pointing to the same thing, ultimately suggesting you couldn't not be it, but we are so seduced by this egoic identified thinking mind that we've limited ourselves.
This ties the idea of consciousness being not something you experience, but being one of the building blocks of reality. Can you talk a little bit about what, in science, they call the hard problem of consciousness?
What these teachings are ultimately saying is that all there is consciousness. Sometimes it's worth bringing in within the discussion these terms which were first used by the philosopher Immanuel Kant, are ‘noumenon or noumenal as opposed to phenomenon or phenomenal’.
The phenomenal manifest world, that we perceive as reality in this tradition, is just one side of the coin, or it's that which appears within the plenum or the matrix, or the noumenon of pure consciousness.
The origins of Daoism: first of all, the dao that can be named is not the true dao. So any attempt to use language to articulate this is doomed to failure from the start. But that doesn't mean we don't try to use languages as pointers towards it.
The hard problem of consciousness, which has many different definitions now, was first developed by a man called David Chalmers, a consciousness researcher in Australia. Essentially what it's saying is that this subjective quality of consciousness is very mysterious and we're really stuck trying to explain it, because we're using consciousness to explain consciousness.
As one of my teachers used to say, ‘a created object cannot understand the pure subjectivity of the creator, of which it came from.’
There is a double bind going on here; of course, there are plenty of reductionists out there who still believe that we can explain consciousness through reductionism.
I don't see how we can explain this pure subjectivity, essentially through objective means. It couldn't not be present. We find it really hard in that journey, and the analysis to recognize the pure state. Ramana talked about the ‘I’ ‘I’, where the English language has this distinction between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’. The, ‘I’ I’, the indwelling, the sense of Amness before you've even articulated it as I Amness, because as soon as you've articulated it, you've introduced duality and the possibility of not being.
You have been working very hard in the last few years on a program under regeneration.me where you've been dividing our life into six major chapters or silos.
Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think it's something like food, health, economy, consciousness, community, and culture.
What I really like about you is your practical solution, you have designed a way to get out of this mess into something more sustainable, more harmonious.
Let's get into these six chapters and then I'd love to leave our audience with some practical steps into this new Rory paradigm.
For me, the journey begins with food.
For those of us living in urban situations, this can be a huge challenge. However, I think there are amazing opportunities opening up with rooftop gardening, allotment schemes, vertically integrated indoor farming, and all sorts of interesting possibilities.
A couple of years ago when I was getting increasingly fascinated by the capacity for regenerative agriculture, to really play this pivotal role in correcting the climate crisis and carbon cycle. I noticed you could apply that same terminology to all sorts of other areas from human health, to economics, and the circular economy, to cultural and community regeneration. And also to consciousness itself, and the role that things like psychedelics, and our new understandings about consciousness could play in terms of turning the ship around.
I think you can then use that criterion to look at any human activity, in any human industry and establish whether it is linear and degenerative. We have economics built on an extractive growth paradigm. We're taking resources and turning them into waste, at an ever-accelerating speed.
The way out of this (potentially) is to close those loops and turn these linear systems back into cyclical systems. One great analogy around this is like the introduction of the linear sewage system initially in the UK, which was exported and adopted around the globe through colonialism. Essentially all of the biomass and nutrient load from the land is going through the human digestive processes, being mixed with drinkable water, and flushed back to the sea. Whereas it should be going back to the soil, to keep a circular process going in perpetuity.
Going back to the six silos, it's quite clear to me now, and I think too many that probably the single most effective way out of our current pickle is actually by reforming the food system. And it's about how we deconstruct this modern industrial agribusiness into millions of small and medium scale diversified farms.
Because of the systemic impact, we can not only re-correct the carbon cycle very, very quickly (according to many), you would only need to increase the average organic soil/carbon content of most of the world's arable land, by something like 0.2% to bring carbon back to pre-industrial levels.
We have become so fixated on carbon as being this sort of enemy but in fact, what we've done to the world's soils, through industrial agriculture and the application of all these chemicals has so severely compromised the ability of the part of the soil to sequester carbon.
It's only relatively recently, we recognized the degree to which the world's oceans have absorbed all of this excess carbon and in the process acidified. Meaning the oceans have become this enormous carbon sink. Now the ocean has reached its overload, the knock-on effects on other global ecosystems are really alarming.
Through reforming the food system, we can then also recorrect human health. We can bring people back towards the land, and to nature. Revive local economies, local communities, so every single level has positive systemic impacts.
Now from a conventional economic perspective, these things might not make sense. But the irony is of course that industrial modern agriculture is phenomenally inefficient using something like 10 units of energy to produce one unit of food.
It is calorific in terms of energy, it's massively dependent on fossil fuels and chemical inputs. But see, within the context of our flawed current economic system, it's regarded as being efficient. Because we've externalized all of those social and environmental costs as being irrelevant.
I noticed that actually a lot of younger people I meet are really excited about going into this kind of area. I think the notion that farming and working the land is something so backward and is deeply erroneous.
If we can rectify the food system, we ipso facto recorrect health, at all levels, soil health, human health, ecosystem health, and global ecological health.
I'm looking at preventative upstream medicine, and I think what's incredibly important on the health issue is to recognize that the advances within medical science for acute intervention are miraculous and no one is denying that or that antibiotics have saved millions and millions of lives.
I think the really important thing is when treating chronic systemic disease with a complex organism, these approaches based on synthetic pharmaceutical medicines are fundamentally flawed and usually just create more problems in the process. I think the average 60 year old in America, who suddenly has to take 10 different medications, as each medication is dealing with the side effects of the previous.
A really enlightened future healthcare system would integrate preventative, upstream, biological medicine, functional medicine, for treating chronic systemic illness. It certainly wouldn't discard the extraordinary advances within acute interventions, meds, antibiotics which all have a role to play.
Vaccinations of certain kinds, in certain places and people I'm sure make a lot of sense. The problem is we've polarized everything, into just it's this or that, and lost all complexity and nuance within the process.
There's an amazing book, ‘Doughnut Economics’ by a British academic Kate Raworth. I'm far from being an economist, but I find that book unbelievably accessible.
It is essentially talking about the circular economy. A lot of this work was laid out by people like Paul Hawken who wrote a book called ‘The Ecology Of Commerce’ back in the early nineties, which is still an incredibly important book in my view.
Herman Daily, in the 1950s, first drew this distinction between growth and development. We are so fixated on growth for the sake of growth; ‘it is the philosophy of the cancer cell’ as Edward Abbey said. ‘Something that's growing is just getting bigger, something that's developing is getting better.’ Yes, all biological organisms have a period of growth, but then the growth stabilizes and then turns to development. What we need to do now, to get out of this pickle is almost go into a degrowth paradigm. If we incentivize our economic aspirations with different parameters and different goalposts, then we could step back inside the system.
For example, at the moment, we tax all the things that are supposed to be good for us, like income, jobs and we don't tax the things that are destroying the planet. I don't know if it's changed now, but there was no tax on aviation fuel, and there might still not be. This is why ridiculously butter from New Zealand is cheaper in Devon than the butter which is produced at the farm down the road etc. etc.
Certainly ‘Doughnut Economics’, Kate Raworth's term, ‘what is the sweet spot? The ring of the doughnut that lies between ecological boundaries, and parameters, and human wellbeing.’
Essentially, yes, it's about the metabolic pathways within an economy. We could look at industrial ecologies in clusters and say the waste product for one industry becomes the raw product for another industry. Therefore you eliminate waste from the system at all levels.
You'll put the environment at the center of the system rather than externalities.
Exactly. The indicators that we have to assess economic prosperity bear no real relevance to the actual reality. GDP goes up every time there's an accident, a divorce, a hospital bill, an environmental disaster. So all sorts of things that we would conventionally regard as being negative; ‘we're doing our sums on a computer with no minus’ sign as Paul Hawkins said.
There were numerous economic mechanisms that evolved over the last few decades that could feed into this process, but of course, the step change that is required is so dramatic and like so many of these things, what I see happening now, which is so frightening it is what happened with sustainability 20 or 30 years ago.
That's now become a sort of dirty word in the areas I work in because it's become so co-opted and you see that happening now with the circular economy and the regenerative landscape. Suddenly all of these CEOs at Davos are using this kind of language, and much of what is being presented within these new green deals, etc, relate to much of what people like myself have been banging on about for 30 years. However, once you sort of dig a bit deeper and scratch the surface, you see that actually it's been compromised and corrupted along the way and what we're seeing is just a further iteration of the same thing.
I don't believe that we can reform these systems in the way that is necessary. One of my great mentors, a wonderful biologist, and writer in the UK called Colin Tudge, who's written wonderful books about food and farming over the last few decades, talks about reform, revolution, and renaissance.
Reform is incremental optimization and will never produce the sort of sustenance change that is required.
Revolution is generally a messy business and usually replaces one corrupted system with another corrupted system.
Whereas really deep, genuine, systemic change has this Renaissance quality about it. It's a rebirthing, I believe it is happening, and it's happening from the grassroots, from the bottom up. This is the only way it can happen.
What is slightly alarming, but is a reality, is the momentum within the dominant ideology is so great, rather than like the momentum in the climate system. It's hard to see that slowing down or stopping and it has now of course got its added acceleration with all of these exponential technologies and this convergence of artificial intelligence with nanotechnology and biotechnology and transhumanism. Which in a way is like there's a final iteration of this reductionist perspective, and is seemingly intent on trying to overcome death and transcend biology altogether. That somehow these biological organisms are just rather messy and yes, it would be much easier if we reduced everything to binary ones and zeros.
New economics would then inform a new sense of community, and a new culture. I think the role of art, and artists, and music, and everything within all of this is absolutely fundamental. I think we need to have much wider, bigger public discussions around your technology and applications of technologies. We're always just sold one particular aspect of technology. And then consciousness, which arguably could come at the beginning, but I put it at the end because it's in a way the most esoteric and the role that things like psychedelics and ancient spiritual teachings can have on giving us a sort of new metaphysical understanding of our place in the universe.
And what about community? There's big talk now about Yuval Harari. He is very popular right now. People accuse Yuval Harari of being pessimistic about human nature. Yuval says ‘I'm not pessimistic about human nature. I agree that man can be perfectly generous and beautiful people. But when you try to organize hundreds of thousands or millions of people in cities, then you have to introduce hierarchy and power. That's why now you hear more and more people wanting to live in communities.’
It is said 150 - 200 is the right number for you to know everybody intimately. But more than that inevitably you get into a power structure. What's your view on that? Do you think it's even realistic to have a movement of people leaving the cities? How, what does the silos community in your future Rory paradigm look like?
That's a very good question. I think that one thing to bear in mind here, is that much of what I might be trying to illustrate, is often seen as naive, and utopian, and idealistic, yes, maybe it could be described as such, but I think this term protopian, if we don't have a collective vision of what we're aspiring towards as we can't begin to take any steps towards it, and that we're never going to have the perfect situation.
I think what has propelled me for the last 20, 30 years is if there were to be a human civilization that was in step with biological systems and ecological parameters, these are the features it would have to embody because otherwise, we're just going to repeat the same mistakes.
To be able for that to flourish and take form, it's almost dependent upon the crumbling or collapse of the dominant ideology, which I feel is already leading to its own demise. The real question is how that's going to happen, when it's going to happen, how long, what sort of form that will take. It's probably not going to be a very comfortable process.
If there is going to be a future for humanity, it will probably appear in sort of nodal pockets around the globe, and create this new bottom-up decentralized distributed systems, which you can't do from a top-down sort of technocratic position. Which is, I think what we see unfolding now really is the severity of the ecological crisis is what's really driving this global agenda.
We're in for a bumpy ride for sure. We can talk about online communities, which is obviously a huge thing. There is a lot of emphasis going in that direction now, but there are so many dehumanizing trends at work now that are really, really terrifying. For those of us who are able to create resilience and solidarity within our local communities, this is fundamental. It only needs two or three people or two or three families within an area, who've got a shared aspiration to come together and start incubating some of these ideas and working out what's relevant for them.
That is how you kick start that process. It's almost impossible to do it on your own sitting at home or even as a family. Often I think these experiments of alternative living, historically have been doomed to failure because they've separated or isolated themselves from the outside world. As we know, all life and living are based on reciprocal exchange and connections with the wider world.
The challenge is to create resilient communities that have as much control as possible over their essential human needs. Particularly food and water, a bed, shelter and transport, and communications. I love Bill Mollison the permaculture founder in Australia saying ‘the reason why permaculture is seen as so seditious, is that it's very hard to control someone who's not dependent upon you for anything’.
We're at this place now where we've abnegated or divested our responsibility and control over so many of these systems to centralized corporations and the state. What is so urgent now and is increasingly being made difficult for us is to regain as much control as possible over those fundamental aspects. I agree that urban living is problematic on the scale that we have, but actually, I think what you see within the dominant paradigm is actually a notion of increasing urbanization and actually removing people from the land. Because this vision is all about synthetic meat and food, that's basically been grown without any kind of interaction with biology at all.
Yes, yes! We’ve put a lot of meat on the fire. I think we're going to wrap it up here.
We'd love Rory to come back, and go deeper into some of these ideas. In conclusion, if you had to recommend two or three things for our listeners that they can do today? They have listened to you talking, they feel inspired about contributing to a new paradigm. What would be two or three practical things that they can do today?
I'm particularly taken with a book I'm reading at the moment, which I'd have to say is one of the most important books I think I've read in a long time and it's called ‘A Small farm future’ by Chris Smaje published by Chelsea Green Publishing. It's a really, very fascinating analysis of the role of small farms and local economies and all of these things we've just been touching on, it’s really compelling stuff. Start to really look at these possibilities within your local community. Wherever you are, whether it's rural or urban if you can find people close by who are resonant with this stuff and if you can just start getting together. It could be a community composting initiative, or a community orchard, or a local food buying group; where you pull together your resources to buy your food from local suppliers and producers.
This is critical, really getting on top of your local food system as much as possible or engaged with it as much as possible. The human health issue is obviously just so important at the moment, there are so many things we can all be doing, for free to boost our immune systems and to deal with what's going on and what might be coming down the line.
For instance, the other day somebody pointed out to me that there's now research to suggest that just 20 minutes of walking barefoot on the ground reduces cellular inflammation by 20% in 20 minutes. There's now all this research to show that the extraordinary positive impacts on our physiology by just walking in the woods.
All of these things that we intuitively know are good for us but have not been previously validated by the conventional scientific method, they are now by the new biology.
Thank you very much, Rory, for your time. We covered a lot of ground, lots of dense ideas. We'll have other opportunities to go deeper. Thank you very much for following. Anything else you want to conclude with Rory?
Thank you very much indeed, Giancarlo. It was a lovely opportunity and I'd love to do more of it in the future, if possible. The regeneration.me is my website, anybody can get in touch with me through that if they so desire, and thank you very much.
You will also find some of Rory's audio files, and some of his articles on Mangu.tv. Thank you for following. See you next time.
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