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Enriching the sustainability paradigm.

1. Introduction: In search of the truth, "I want to believe" (1)

Sustainability can be seen through a number of paradigms but it is most commonly associated with the environment and issue of global warming. This association has appeared to hijack the agenda, leaving the notion of sustainability undefined. Thus the sustainability (climate change) debate has been dominated by three main groups. To the left are the 'doomsayers' (2) originating back to the Club of Rome (3) forecasts of the 1960s and the evangelists like Al Gore and his Inconvenient Truth. In the middle are once fringe organizations like Friends of the Earth (4) who have become the respectable centered 'middle-class' organizations and causes, (5) while to the right are the 'redneck GOP reactionaries' who espouse the whole saga as a myth. (6)

They say 'truth is the first casualty of war' and certainly the truth has gone out of the sustainability debate. Sustainability means many things to many people, and has been turned into a hollow meaning like 'the concept of motherhood'. The term is now one of the most commonly used words in contemporary English (and others for that matter), but has lost much of its discernible meaning. (7)

The meaning of sustainability has also altered over time, depending upon the specific issues of importance of the day. In hunter-gatherer times the concept of sustainability would have been orientated towards security of sources of food, i.e., hunting game, fish, and edible flora. In the agrarian societies like the Anasazi, Easter Islanders, Greeks, Maya, Mesopotamian, and Romans, the management of the eco-system, particularly resources like water, soil fertility, and forestation were of paramount importance. In more recent times sustainability in the industrial revolution referred to continuous supplies of raw materials, and in the 1970s the concept of sustainability was associated with the available reserves of non-renewable fossil fuels. Only in very recent times has the concept of sustainability been associated with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Although sustainability is a complex issue, many shallow and positivist approaches have been devised in the name of solving sustainable problems. The general belief in the capitalist free market economic agenda postulated that through putting a price on carbon, the market mechanism will solve increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than eliminate emissions, one can buy the solution from someone else to be abstained from 'wrong doing'. Another approach is a carbon tax, conveniently supported by some governments as it coincidently provides a new source of revenue. (8) Innovative private organizations have developed carbon footprint certifications. Many major firms have engaged sustainability through investing in renewable resource materials, waste recycling, and CSR programs. Academics espouse corporate approaches to sustainability as a new source of competitive advantage. (9)

Sustainability has become a franchise where humankind has been practicing tokenism fooling many into believing they are helping to solve the problem. Practicing tokenism helps to create a sense of security, reinforcing the belief that we have the problem under control, when in fact the truth is that we do know what to do. The illusion of certainty leads to the upholding of the status quo, where we become rigid in a dynamic environment.

Sustainability has become a single dimensional idea where in fact it is a rich and complex multi-dimensional concept, rarely given this understanding by the general and academic communities. Sustainability has fallen victim to reductionism where biologists see one aspect, atmospheric scientists see another, and soil scientists see yet another. Most definitions of sustainability are paradigm based. Definitions need to be wider otherwise we won't understand the problem. (10) People are not using the same language and sharing the same meanings in the sustainability debate.

A relook at the sustainability paradigm is necessary to redefine what sustainability really means. The debate needs to be widened from the issues of the physical environment and climate change. The current paradigm of sustainability needs to be humanized, giving direct relevance to both individuals and communities. The definition needs to be wider than what has been rationalized by scientists in their reductionist disciplines. Then one can move forward from the tokenism that has developed.

2. Our Shifting Beliefs

Humankind's beliefs were dominated by the paradigm of Newtonian order where the universe was perceived to operate like clockwork in a very predictable manner. The universe was deemed to have a finite life according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics stating that heat dissipates outwards from heat sources towards colder mediums, inferring that stars would gradually dissipate their energies out to the far reaches of the universe until becoming exhausted of energy and bringing the universe to an eventual end. The notion of the Newtonian order also extended to our society, which is supposed to operate on reason, clockwork precision timetables, precise economic and management formulas, where everything is measured and quantified. Students pass or fail at school based on a score, driving licenses are maintained upon scores, and in psychology, even our intelligence is given a numeric score. Our world resembles the left hemisphere of the brain where we are focused upon control, clarity, familiarity, certainty, and the explicit, rather than the right side of the brain which comprehends a world that is continuously changing, evolving, incarnated, implicit, and interconnected environment of emergence. (11) Consequently our organizations and institutions resemble the rational being hierarchical, rule and regulation based with information flowing up and commands flowing down. Everything is reduced to the simplistic because of our cognitive limitations for the complex. Our science is divided, countries are divided, society is divided, and our routines are divided. The trade union system is based on division, armies, and the public service are divided through ranking systems, and even political philosophies like Marxism, apartheid in South Africa and the New Economic Plan (NEP) in Malaysia are based on division.

3. We Are Path Driven down 'the Yellow Brick Road' (12)

Our society's evolution over the last century has been along a linear path within a single paradigm. We are a hydrocarbon based society, dependent upon non-renewable resources - the J. D. Rockefeller legacy. Our manufacturing, agriculture, transport, utilities, and service industries are almost completely dependent upon hydrocarbon fuel. All subsequent technology emerging since the Rockefeller days is hydrocarbon orientated; the automobile, the airplane, power production, and other public utilities. Technology has failed (or as yet been unconvincing) to date in providing new trajectories for society to escape the hydrocarbon paradigm, preventing humanity from adapting to the changing conditions of our eco-system and resource depletion; Conditions we have changed due to our habitual activities. Technology is not emancipating us but imprisoning us within the hydrocarbon paradigm.

Oil is the metaphoric lifeblood of the Homosapienphere. Even the advent and adoption of an electric automobile will not change our dependence on hydrocarbons. Carbon based fuels are still required to generate the bulk of electricity, so rather than changing the resources we utilize the electric car will only achieve a redistribution of resources under the current status quo. Without a change in the way we generate electricity our dependence on hydrocarbon fuels will still remain.

Our choices are restricted by what has been invented beforehand and what society will consider as acceptable. In addition, our reductionist disciplines has tended to keep technical evolution at an incremental rather than breakthrough pace. Our society is still living on technology invented almost 50 years ago. Except for new materials, electronics, and ascetics, the automobile still remains much the same as it did decades ago. The Boeing 747 after almost 40 years of service is still the major means of international air transportation, and our stoves, heaters, coolers, and other household items remain much the same today as they were decades ago. Most new technologies come from outside these respective industries. It is only where domains have become trans-disciplinary like communications, electronics and biotechnology that breakthroughs occur. Our range of choice for advancement hasn't been as wide as we think.

Isolationist approaches to sustainability aren't advancing our position. They are just placating our own ego, and deluding us into believing that we are doing something positive. Sustainability involves a complex eco-system which can really only be approached in a holistic manner. Manipulation of single variables within the eco-system can lead to the most disastrous of results. For example the introduction of rabbits into Australia from England in the 18th century has caused mammoth destruction to the eco-system, species ecology, and crops within the farmscape. (13) Eco-systems do not behave in linear entropy, they are complex systems where any one of thousands of factors can cause disequilibrium and move the system away from homeostasis. Therefore sustainability must be looked at as a whole and not through the parts if disaster is to be avoided.

Many activities humans undertake will never be sustainable in isolation. The eco-system we work within is part of a larger system, which is part of a larger system. Humankind's aggregate influence upon the Earth must be sustainable to ensure survival in the long term. This is a complex proposition that is extremely difficult to comprehend, yet be acted upon. However this is the way sustainability must be defined and understood.

4. Towards a Paradigm of Sustainability - "Darwin's Reefs"

Charles Darwin's first monograph The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs meticulously explained a theory of reef development that he postulated while on a voyage of the 'HMS Beagle' during 1832-36. Darwin saw reefs evolving from fringe reefs that existed just under sea level along coast lines, which grew out to become large barrier reefs which encircled islands, turning into atolls when the island in the middle sank below sea level. (14), (15) Darwin disagreed with accepted theory postulated by his much senior mentor Charles Lyell that reefs formed out of the craters of extinct and sunken volcanoes. (16), (17)

The whole process of reef formation is the product of minutely sized polyps that thrive on the clean seas and red algae of the tropical waters. Polyps would grow where waves frequently break and water levels were reasonable steady around the sides of islands as fringe reefs, and would eventually grow outwards to form barrier reefs. When any coral rises above sea level the polyps die off and the coral turns into limestone. More coral grows off the limestone until a lagoon is formed around the island. (18)

In essence Darwin saw coral reefs as a perfect example of evolution. Darwin wrote in his diary that the massive coral structures had been the work of millions of tiny polyps that have been able to thrive at the tops of undersea mountains and peaks in perfect conditions. (19) These simple organisms operated independently without any central direction or control. (20) The formation of coral reefs relied upon the clustering of polyps where life and activity, enabled more life and activity. Although there were coral eating fish and invertebrates like the Holothuroidea species (sea cucumber) controlling growth of the reefs and competition for dominance by the various coral species themselves, the reefs made up of minutely sized individual organisms were able to form massive bulwarks against the seas. (21) The coral eaters were the reason that finely ground mud can be found around reefs.

Darwin described a co-dependent system of arising, where tiny organisms could without any central control build enormous structures that went for miles. Darwin's coral reef theory along with his last piece of work on earthworms showed how evolution is a slow process. However it can also be seen that extremely small organisms could have such a dramatic effect on the eco-system, literally changing the face of the Earth. Evolution according to Darwin is not a planned process and outcomes are based on complex interactions between all the elements within an ecosystem. (22) There is no predetermined phenomenon, and the elements yet appear to be integrated within some form of self organizing system. Darwin's later work The Origin of Species showed that these processes exist throughout the whole history of life on Earth.

We have failed until very recently to recognize the great contribution Darwin had made in seeing the eco-system as a self regulatory system. It is the eco-system itself that regulates climate in the region, and to some degree across the whole Earth as well. (23) The Earth is an evolving system, made up of smaller systems, which are made up of smaller systems. All elements, the oceans, atmosphere, land masses, the constituents upon land masses, and life itself are all coupled together within an emergent domain and cannot be made divisible. The Earth is a product of the reciprocal evolution of the Earth itself and organisms upon it. Climate, physical states, and chemical compositions are the result of emergence, with no foresight, planning or divine or esoteric connections. (24), (25) Thus sustainability cannot be seen from any single perspective, it must be seen as a whole.

5. The Myth of Our Own Wisdom

During every age humanity has lived with the belief in their wisdom and knowledge. Science has been explained through metaphor, and as metaphors have changed so has our knowledge. Knowledge makes up part of our consciousness through the archetypes humankind has used to make sense of the world. Entities in the sky and the Earth were once seen as gods, where natural disasters reflected their displeasure. Ptolemy viewed the world as the centre of the universe. Centuries later Copernicus postulated that the Earth and other planets of the solar system revolved around the Sun, a view that the Church persecuted him for because at the time it was believed to contravene the Bible. Galileo (26) and Newton brought order to the universe and defined our existence as a world of clockwork precision, bringing the certainty that humanity was looking for.

Nations had been conquered for their different beliefs as humankind has progressed through various archetypes of knowledge and meaning. Through each of these ages humankind has impressed itself with its own wisdom, often blinding itself to deeper understandings.

We are now in a transition from a world of mathematics, arcs, degrees, and logic towards a new archetype of wisdom - the quantum paradigm. Scientists and thinkers like Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli, Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac, John von Neumann, Abdus Salam, Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, among many others have been the vanguard contributing towards a theory of everything (TOE) that will explain all physical phenomena from the smallest particle to the cosmos itself. This is changing our whole perception of knowledge into something almost completely paradoxical to the 'laws of order' that we have known as the bedrock of our truth. We do not live in the only solar system in the cosmos. Our Sun is only a tiny star, and we exist along one of the dead-end arms of the Milky Way Galaxy with no special significance at all. The Milky Way Galaxy is only one of many billions of other galaxies in existence. As a galaxy it is not significant, even in our own cluster of galaxies in the intergalactic neighborhood we reside. Our wisdom over the last century has had a wakeup call; just about everything we knew about our own existence has been challenged.

Sustainability is the heart of the 'law of nature'. Thus to understand sustainability, one by definition must understand the 'law of nature'. This is a problem because what constitutes the law of nature as we have seen has been in dispute by philosophers and scientists for centuries. One of the great problems is that we are part of the system (something that is just dawning upon us), which does not allow us to acquire any objective view. Our view of the world isn't much different from a fish in a round fishbowl looking out and seeing a distorted world around the fishbowl. Of course the fish can make up descriptive theories that explain people, objects, and events outside, just as humankind has tried to do over the centuries with the world surrounding us. Our theories therefore can only be what we believe at the time on the observations and information we have. The simple fact is that any 'law of nature' can only be a product of what we see and our imagination. (27) Consequently the concept of sustainability itself can only be a social construction. We can have no independent view of reality and any view will be value laden. Any definition of sustainability will therefore be based upon our values.

The next question is whether there is actually any independent set of rules to find that can constitute the 'law of nature'? We can only look at the physical properties of what is around us and observe the interactions to see if any patterns exist. This has to be unbiased but we can't be unbiased as we can only see through the vantage point of humanity. The ultimate empathy is therefore our empathy for nature, the ability to see the world from the point of view of the 'law of nature' itself. This is one of the greatest scientific and spiritual challenges facing humankind today.

We therefore need to seek a description of nature from within nature itself that creates a vision of reality beyond what we currently understand while anchored to the archetype of humanity. The Earth and Cosmos has seen humanity arise and will no doubt see humanity demise.

This provides a number of practical problems. First, we cannot observe everything in nature; in many cases we can only observe the effects. We cannot see gravity but we can feel the effects. We cannot see wind but we can feel the effects. We cannot see radiation but know there will be effects, which may not be uniform. We cannot see many forms of money (M12, etc) which are virtual but have effects. Many things don't visually exist, only the effects.

Secondly, time is important in the issue of sustainability, but time is a human invention. What is the time frame that makes things sustainable is a question no one has answered. In the long run nothing is sustainable because nothing is static. The dinosaurs existed and became extinct, the Earth exists and will become extinct, and the Sun exists and will become extinct. Sustainability depends upon our view of time.

Another difficulty is measurement. Models need parameters that can be measured. However the parameters of the environment cannot all be measured. In fact we don't really know all the parameters that need measuring and even if we could measure them, what could we do with the data? The sheer number of elements within the environment makes quantitative measurement an impossible task. Any quantitative model of the environment would be horrendously complex to manage. Understanding what are the causes and what are the effects would be extremely difficult.

Any model of the 'law of nature' should be conceptual and as simplistic as possible to reflect that there is no mathematical precision within the environment, just motion and trajectories. The only model that humanity can cognitively cope with is a heuristic.

6. You Never Know What You May Find under a Rock at the Beach - "Heuristics Exist in Some of the Most Unexpected Places"

Such a heuristic does exist and it has been known to humankind for more than 2,500 years. The concept of dependent origination (paticcasamuppada) (28) was developed by the spiritual teacher Siddhartha Gautama who became known as the Buddha upon enlightenment. (29) The Buddha used the concept to explain a causal relationship between worldly experiences and suffering or dukkha of people through everyday life phenomenon. The Buddha's straight forward teaching was in stark contrast to the practices of society in India at the time where people worshipped 'sacred' objects, 'supernatural' beings, and performed rites and rituals based on superstitious beliefs. Buddha's teachings did not contain the mystical or concern themselves with metaphysical issues, although he stretched the meanings that people already knew to create new meanings. (30) Others superimposed esoteric teachings after his death. (31) However the presence of the esoteric is part of the poetry of teachings that assists in conveying meaning within the paradigm of human consciousness at the time. (32)

The Buddha's revelations came at a time when his contemporaries were influenced by astronomy, where the universe was seen and explained as a linear and regular entity, with consciousness separated from the universe and the universe separated from consciousness. (33) This mechanistic view of the world was expounded upon by Descartes, Newton, Weber and later Frederick Taylor in the management arena with influence lasting well into the 20th century. Since the end of the European renaissance the metaphor of science has been that of the machine with the universe being described as 'grand clockwork' where the planets spin around the sun in a predictable fashion, described by the precision of mathematics. Science reduced everything to the smallest part in the belief that if one understood the parts one would understand the whole system. Reductionism is the standard of science. (34) This thinking still prevails through the means of how we live and organize ourselves, where organizational charts, job descriptions, policies, strategies, budgets, and operational plans are utilized as a means to control of the organization and environment like a machine. This has been adequate where a stable equilibrium exists, but this itself is only a myth. The predominating theories were observer based where predictable order, stability, separation from the individual, and grounded 'fixedness' are the major characteristics.

In contrast, dependent origination presented an alternative view to the world to what Descartes and company espoused. Dependent origination postulated a co-evolutionary interrelated world based on co-dependency, built upon dynamic cause and effect to create aggregate conditions, rather than the accepted 'Newtonian order' of existence.

Although the philosophy of dependent origination, which is considered 'the heart' of Buddhism, (35) can be applied widely, the Buddha restricted his application of the principles to the development of human nature and explanation of suffering. On metaphysical and matters of the hereafter, he was silent, thus the concepts are very vague for application for other domains. Nevertheless, the concept of dependent origination can be closely aligned with many aspects of quantum mechanics, (36) systems (37) and chaos theory, (38) Darwinian natural selection extrapolated to a cosmic scale, (39) Dawkins views about evolutionary biology, (40) the Gaia hypothesis, (41) and cognitive science. (42) The concept of dependent origination distinguishes Buddhism from religion (43) as according to dependent origination a creator is not necessary in forming the cosmos which has been postulated to evolve through causal dependence in a similar view taken by Hawking and Mlodinow. (44)

The general principle of dependent origination concerns the fundamental structure of nature and how the elements within it interrelate. The doctrine of dependent origination looks upon the universe as a continuous succession of action, reaction, and effect within a state of dynamic flux and transformation. Max Brown postulated that the occurrence of entity "A" relies upon the occurrence of entity "B", i.e., "B" is the cause of "A". This implies antecedence where causes must precede or at least simultaneously exist for something else to exist. These phenomena must be spatially connected by a chain of immediate things in conduit. (45) However this is abandoned by dependent origination where mutual arising with entities co-depending upon each other for existence. Dependent origination is not a sequential linear process; it is a cycle with no beginning and no end.

Charles Darwin in the last paragraph of The Origin of Species wrote: "It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us." (46)

This gives us a perspective of his sense of wonderment about the complexity (47) and interrelationships within the biological system of life and evolution that the concept of dependent origination postulates. Thus only through interrelatedness can we see meaning:

Paper without a tree

A tree without soil

Soil without water

Water without clouds

Clouds without an atmosphere

An atmosphere without oceans.

This according to Winnicott is also relevant to human relationships, the family and the outside world: (48)

A child and a parent

A parent and a partner

Partners and family

Family and friends

Friends and humanity

Humanity and nature.

Everything in the realms of nature and humanity are dependent upon each other for existence. Things only exist through relatedness. (49) We can only exist through relatedness. Nothing can exist in isolation as it all depends upon numerous determinants which are all interrelated. If one doesn't exist then the rest can't exist. This continually changes, therefore entities change all the time.

This can be clearly demonstrated with a plant where the plant relies upon the soil as a medium, minerals and nutrients to grow, moisture as carrier for the nutrients and a building block for cellular structures and the sun to enable photosynthesis for the building to occur. Without any of these, the plant cannot exist. The determinants that enable a plant to grow do not influence the plant in any sequential order of time. They must exist together, interdependent of each other. The plant contributes to maintaining the system through the shedding of leaves and other foliage, which decays, adding to the humus and trace minerals in the soil. In theory for anything to exist in isolation, it must be self-sustaining and stable. However within the laws of nature that is impossible, thus as a consequence everything is only transient with no intrinsic properties of its own. All entities are created and sustained through interrelationship. There is no beginning or end as the question of what came first cannot be answered: "the seed or the plant, or the chicken or the egg?"

There is no such thing as chance. Every event is a result of the consequences of previous events, cumulating as multiple influences upon what is. Therefore the notion of chance depends upon preconditions. As nothing exists in isolation, everything depends upon pre-determinants that are not sequential or required to arise in any particular order. This is in great contrast to the classical paradigm where the universe was deemed to be predictable like billiard balls rolling upon a table. Quantum behavior is also attuned to human behavior which is much less predictable and impossible to measure through mathematics; where only probability can be predicted through heuristics. This is partly why artificial intelligence and robotics failed to live up to the expectation many had in the 1960s because mathematical algorithms could not replace heuristics.

Dependent origination as a universal heuristic may look something like Figure 2. The lines represent and interplay of two causal factors, one linear and the other synchronic that contribute to a non-linear pattern. Lines (2) and (4) are linear and connect past events overtime to the present and ground the future. Lines (1) and (3) are synchronic and connect objects and events to the present moment. These two basic principles intersect representing that all events are influenced by the two sets of conditions. Structurally this divides a system into parts, connecting the past, present and future together. The past and present circumstances determine the present which creates consequences for the future. However don't confuse time itself as a determinant, as time is itself a 'manmade' invention. (51) Time itself does not directly influence events. What happens occurs within the framework of time.

Every event takes place in a context determined by the combined influence of past events and present circumstances. Every event has repercussions in the present with reverberations extending into the future. The strength of the influence will depend upon the intensity of the event. Sometimes events reverberate and amplify an effect and sometimes events may suppress an event. (52) However this is not the result of a chain of causes leading to effects strung over time. Any event may be affected by a past event and present circumstances which may lead to unexpected feedback loops during the causal process. (53) Due to this possibility of any event happening at any time, the causation or arising process is extremely fluid and complex. (54) The Pali explains the phenomena using the metaphor of water rather than the wheel of samsara, thus metaphors such as ebb and flow are much more suitable than "sequencity." (55)

If everything existed in linear relationships, everything would be totally predictable and deterministic and the future would be unable to change from the present and past. If everything was totally in synchronic relationships there would be no relationships from on period to another and all events would be totally random and completely unpredictable. Everything would just break down and change without reason and connection. The two modes work in concurrence where past events and present circumstances create a potential, but not completely determined path.

Critical to the continuality of the processes of dependent origination is feedback. Feedback is one of the energies (along with momentum) that enable the system to operate continuously as a self organizing system. To understand how particular feedback occurs is to understand the manifestations of dependent origination. It is this feedback which defines interdependency. However this understanding may be beyond our cognitive abilities and is thus one of the challenges for mankind to overcome in the future. (56)

Closed feedback loops are responsible for linearity of the system and open feedback loops are responsible for non-linearity of the system. Closed feedback loops influence quantitative rates within a system, such as a thermostat regulating temperature in a room. Open feedback systems are more dynamic and allow for changes in the state of a system, like the change in direction of wind within a weather system that brings a change in the state of weather.

Simple closed loop feedback systems can be responsible for counter-intuitive behavior. (57) For example, we usually over correct heater thermostat systems which lead to oscillations in room temperature until we find a stable range. This is very similar in a free market pricing mechanism in economics where an increase in price leads to the entry of new producers until supply outstrips demand and the price decreases to a level where producers leave the industry, leading to supply shortages and increases in prices once again, in a continuous cycle.

Open systems tend to operate with multi-loop non-linear feedback systems where many variables provide for unpredictable results. It is the interaction of counter-reactive feedback loops that provide the unpredictability and chaos within the system. Mathematical formulas are centered on linearity and cannot predict the outcome of a system that is both emergent and a self organizing system. As the number of feedback loops increase the complexity of the system increases exponentially. (58)

If one traces back the stream of events, no root causes can be found for anything. Events are an emergence, a natural evolution where there is a mutually arising. (59) Open systems are just too complex to determine any single cause, and selecting single causes to explain phenomena would just delude reality. Consequently there is no beginning and end, just a continuous flow of events.

The doctrine of dependent origination applies to all things and subsequently all things are influenced by cause and effect, Kammaniyama the law of karma determines future behavior. All events and phenomena produce karma. Karma is the 'potential' generated by 'cause and effect' or the interrelationships between dynamic entities. (60) Karma can have a positive or negative consequence upon the future. Karma being a 'potential' (61) is what keeps the universe transient across time dimensions. To some degree karma actually provides the substance to time, as without karma there would be no change in the universe and thus no time. (62) Karma is regularly mistaken for something psychic that acts upon the soul, more attuned to the romantic narrative of a humanized religious version of Buddhism, (63) or the mythology of reincarnation based on past deeds done upon the Earth. Other misinterpretations describe karma as a form of fate.

7. Anybody for Tennis? - It's as Simple as a Game

The way we think is counter to the way the world operates. Our thinking is linear and sequential where we prefer routine and predictable approaches that differ greatly from the complex self organizing systems that operate around us. We think in terms of cause and effect where phenomena is often much more complex than that. For example our body is a self organizing system where there is no centralized control of body temperature. Instead there is some form of 'automatic consensus' between our major organs about what the correct body temperature should be. If our body gets too hot or cold, we begin to sweat or shiver, burn fat to maintain temperature, and either reduce or increase blood flow to the skin. Our body temperature regulatory system operates in sheer brilliance and complexity where no reductionist mathematical formula can explain.

A game of tennis exhibits the dynamics of dependent origination. As the ball is hit from one side of the court to the other, we may know the general trajectories but not the precise path or reaction by the other player. Consequently there cannot be any mathematical precision in any prediction as the where the ball may land in future. Prediction can only occur through making heuristic based guesses, as there are too many variables to consider. The tennis game also shows human involvement in the environment. Our minds drive the movements of our eyes and coordinate our limbs so we can hit the ball with a racket in an unconscious manner. Without human involvement there can be no game, no action, and no reaction. The kinesthetic movements cannot be explained by mathematics. There is precision, but there is also random action without much, if any planning at all. All action is regulated through feedback - a cybernetic system.

The reality is that systems usually exist most of the time in disequilibrium. If we look at how the human body functions, it operates as a system in disequilibrium, always requiring regulation and adjustment, i.e., human glucose and temperature regulation. The earth is continually in disequilibrium just like living organisms are.

James Lovelock developed a computer simulation model which he called Daisyworld to demonstrate the above phenomenon. The principles of lovelock's Daisyworld model are not unsimilar to how the human body regulates temperature. Benzinger et al. found that the human body decides upon body temperature levels through the brain making decisions based on data received through the nervous system from major organs, i.e., there is no central decision making mechanism. (64) When the ambient body temperate is too hot or cold, the body responds by sweating, dilating blood vessels to regulate blood flow, shivering, and/or burning fat to produce heat.

Lovelock and Andrew Watson utilized the same approach to understand the dynamics of the earth. (65) The computer simulation of Daisyworld represents an earth like planet revolving around a Sun like star to our own. The surface temperature on the planet is affected by the color due to the albedo effect. (66) In the case of Daisyworld is mid-toned with a moist fertile grey soil that is fertile allowing seeds to germinate above 5[degrees]C. Optimal growth occurs at 22[degrees]C but declines as it gets hotter. When the star has grown large enough to raise the surface temperature above 5[degrees]C, daisy seeds begin germinating and growing. In this initial cold stage, dark daisies are encouraged as they absorb heat and warm the surface, and light daisies discouraged as they reflect heat away and cool the surface. Therefore during this early stage dark daisies vastly outnumber the light daisies.

Over time the expanse of black daisies raises the surface temperature of the planet until it rises above the optimal growing temperature of 22[degrees]C. This encourages light daisies to grow and compete with the dark daises for space. Eventually the cooling effect of the light daisies will adversely affect surface temperatures until a steady ratio of dark to light daisies are established. The mean albedo ratio will be close to the level needed to maintain an optimal growing surface temperature for daisies. This ratio will vary seasonally as the planet is at the perigee of its orbit around the sun where light daisies will be encouraged and when the planet is at the apogee of its orbit around the sun where dark daisy growth will be encouraged.

The complexity of the model was increased with the introduction of herbivores (rabbits) and predators (foxes). (67) This only added to an improved state of homeostasis. Plagues and disasters were introduced where up to 70% of the daisy population was destroyed bringing temperature changes as a consequence. However the system showed its robustness quickly returning to previous levels of affluence. Many other layers of complexity have been added to the model showing the system to be very adaptive.

The Daisyworld model shows that biological foresight is not necessary for regulation of the Earth, which can develop "without any guiding hand of a creator". Daisyworld also shows the cyclic nature of evolution that brings emergence and transformation. The model also demonstrates co-evolution or co-arising rather than the concept of "survival of the fittest" paradigm. Daisyworld is a holistic model operating along a heuristic that reductionism could not have determined, giving new perspectives about the evolution of systems.

The Daisyworld hypothesis offers a new way to look at the Earth as a whole without divisions into single disciplines, enabling new insights into the behavior of the biosphere, atmosphere, and physical aspects of the planet. The model may be a better way of understanding global warming rather than considering the problem through narrow sets of variables like temperature and greenhouse gas relationships. The Daisyworld perspective takes into account a much larger set of variables like the atmosphere, oceans, forests, and human settlement, etc., although it may not be as predictive as single and double variable models.

Our current understanding of the environment is still in its infancy, where we are still trying to develop better understandings of phenomena occurring across the Earth. The Pine Island glacier in Antarctic has thinned over 3 metres per year and has been retreating more than 1 km per year from 1992 to 1996 and continues at that rate. (68) Initially it was believed that the decline of the glacier was caused by instability caused by melting surface ice during the Antarctic summer leading to the formation of shallow pools of water on the surface. However it has been found that the glacier thinning is due to slightly warmer sea water due to changing currents in the region, itself driven by changes in climate could be the cause. (69) This melting alone could subject to a 3cm rise in sea level. However the melting will expose the stationary ice behind it to melt potentially raising sea levels by another 25 cm which would cause havoc in many Pacific and Asian locations. (70) Mathematical models have not been able to pick this up. Models have been focused on predicting the macro-flow of ice sheets but ignored the microstructure of ice crystals which have a massive influence upon the macrodynamics of ice flows, (71) i.e., Darwin's coral polyps.

8. Sustainability 'as if People Mattered' (72)

If dependent origination is a heuristic basis for the 'law of nature' and thus defines sustainability, it is just as relevant to humanity. Although the philosophy of dependent origination, which is considered 'the heart' of Buddhism, (73) can be applied widely, the Buddha restricted his application of the principles to the development of human nature and explanation of suffering. In Buddhism dependent origination or paticcasamuppada is applied to the arising and cessation of human suffering. (74) Paticcasamuppada explains how suffering arises and how suffering ceases as a matter of natural interdependence, i.e., everything arises, exists, and passes away in a transitory manner. (75) According to the principle of dependent origination all human thoughts and feelings are grounded in ignorance which deludes one to a false sense of self which we call "I' or "me", when in fact there is really no self in existence, just the illusion of a self based on emotions. Only a deluded self can be part of the cause and effect that occurs within dependent origination as karma, where all intentions, thoughts, feelings, and actions have consequences. The teaching of paticcasamuppada attempts to clarify the events of nature as they actually occur in order to highlight the causes and correct them. Dependent origination occurs within the context of flowing through a number of states of ignorance and types of attachment.

The principle of dependent origination applies to all things: Dhammaniyama the natural law of cause and effect; Utuniyama the natural law pertaining to physical objects (physical laws); Bijaniyama the natural law pertaining to living things and heredity (biological laws); Cittaniyama the natural law governing the workings of the mind; and Kammaniyama the law of karma which is of particular importance in determining human wellbeing and is directly related to behavior from an ethical perspective. Metaphorically we all have the same mother and father, namely the interconnection of the aggregate which are made up of soil, water, energy, and wind. In this universe everything is a blood relative and we are all born from the same womb of mother Earth. If we look at the Gaia hypothesis and dependent origination, (76) we see that ethics from the environmental point of view is about nothing more than survival. Ethics are about how to survive as a human species. The implied ethical argument from dependent origination: Dependent origination is NOT about causality, it is about interdependent relationships. Therefore our sense of ethics comes out of interdependent relationships - i.e., the need to co-exist.

Our ethics is thus conditional to our awareness. Without other entities and this 'knowing' we cannot exist as an identity. The need to co-exist and the need to survive are at the root of all choices. This is coupled with awareness where there are higher order ethics of compassion and humility, which are greater than the self. The meaning of life exists through our inter-connectiveness with those around us, our community and the world. All entities exist because of mutual independent relationships.

Dependent origination highlights the paradox between our free will and our social/cognitive conditioning. There is action, there is consequence. Ethics through a dependent origination framework can be seen more as a process rather than a code or set of rules to follow.

Due to our interconnection with everything and powerlessness to control (not destroy however) requires solutions that work in harmony with the environment. This applies to everything. Our appreciation of scientific knowledge to date has only been to serve our own interests - i.e., our relationship with the environment has been concerned with trying to derive as many resources as possible with little regard for the consequences. From the dependent origination viewpoint, worldly goodness is embedded in the ego and the teaching of morality requires the existence of a person. The existence of a person will have some motivations (ego) and cannot be purely altruistic, i.e., even religion treats blessing afterlife as a motivation. Therefore most people adhere to morality because of habit and lack of intention. Morality is situational upon ego and the assumption of continuing existence. A person can be ethical but at the same time not be free of suffering and delusion. (77) Morality doesn't necessarily eliminate greed, hatred and delusion. (78)

Morality is an outward expression and doesn't necessary reflect inward on the true person, thus we have morality without spirituality, thus not developing the person. One must have a mind above good and bad, pleasure and pain, merit and demerit; in this way it is possible to eliminate dissatisfaction or suffering. Consequently dependent origination is in no way associated with morality which infers eternalism, which depends upon a theory of existence of the self. (79)

Humans cling to humanity itself and society's beliefs as protection from fear and anxiety. This is where unethical practices develop from, i.e., desire and greed etc. Usually people cling to morality in order to have minds that are peaceful because of the goodness they do. This can last as long as causes and conditions of their goodness do not change - but where change underlying selflessness causes suffering because one clings to the action of goodness. Therefore knowledge of morality is not enough to serve as a refuge. Sensual attachment is a powerful force in the world and bonds families and even nations together. (80) Views form through society and religion where we are become attached to rituals, rites and beliefs, etc. Furthermore we are attached to the idea of self where we believe in a separate self. Attachment to opinions requires introspection to detect. For this reason necessary to continually amend our views making them more correct - changing false views into closer views to the truth. This differs from religion which teaches the dominance of man. (81) From the perspective of dependent origination, doing good is not enough. We must be free of desire, (82) free of our urge to dominate.

One of the greater causes of karma is the human race's belief in itself which leads to various forms of action and consequences, environmentally, socially, politically, entrepreneurially. Ignorance is connected to so many actions. Many of the models we act upon are deluded in the assumptions they employ leading to consequences like the 2008 economic crisis, the Iraq and Vietnam wars, the First and Second World Wars, and degradation of the environment, etc. From the dependent origination perspective this is at the center of the world's problems. In fact looking from this perspective we see that little human behavior is based upon rational foundations. The power of primal instinctive belief in self is with us from birth and the basis of all our politics. (83)

Descartes and later Locke moved away from the centrality of God in making moral decisions to emphasize the freedom of the individual for managing their own decisions rather than looking for outside guidance. This reflected a person's freedom from bonding to traditional beliefs and superstition. (84) Most great thinkers have relied upon thinking and reasoning to conceive various principles for wellbeing and humanity. All these principles based on speculations which don't help anybody gain insights. Morality became acceptable behavior according to generally accepted social standards during each time and place. As this is a cultural phenomenon acceptable behavior would cause no stress to others and self. People who seek pleasures and power are generally those that have no higher sense of values and can easily disregard community accepted standards.

Our religions may have let humanity down badly. There appears to be such a large gap between what various religious doctrines espouse and what is practiced upon the Earth. Religion has been ritualistic, dogmatic, righteous, and even militant but failed to inspire society to behave according to what is espoused. There is little evidence that society has heeded the message in the various forms and metaphors religion has delivered. As we are witnessing in places like Egypt, leaders and potential leaders seem to have little sense of purpose to inspire the people potentially leaving a vacuum for militant viewed leaders to take advantage of. (85) Arising crises throughout the world are being approached with little sense of ethics and philosophy. Any sense of direction has gone, unlike past periods in history. Religion has a major role to play in upholding the 'law of nature' and humankind's role within it. (86)

9. Pac Man May Have Eaten the Cosmic Unconsciousness (87)

If we accept the concepts of interconnections, interrelationships, and interdependencies, at the psychic level we have a collective unconscious. Jung went further and posed that there is a collective unconscious as a prehistoric collection of information, instincts, myths, stories, images, universal symbols that are universally understood across all cultures. The 'collective unconscious' embeds all our ancestral experience and concepts of religion and morality. This inherited content is passed from generation to generation and is part of a transcendental reality, linking mind to mind and mind to nature. All people are born with this reservoir of our experience as a species. Although we are not conscious of it, this collective past influences our present behavior. Some experiences that may come from the 'collective unconscious' include, love at first sight, deja vu experiences, immediate recognition of some symbols, reactions to music (like the drum beat), and near death experiences.

To Jung this proved some connection with all nature through the 'collective unconscious'. Jung likens the external world to one of illusion, something similar to the world of Maya in Hindu theology. (88) Our egos (jivatman) are individual souls which are actually extensions of the one and only Atman, universal energy or God who allows an independent identity to manifest itself in part of himself. Through this we are all connected, independent, but interdependent. When we die we realize the illusion that we actually existed as we are part of God. These ideas were considered esoteric at the time but are becoming integrated into the concepts of quantum mechanics today, (89) or are they?

Our connection to the collective unconscious, which Jung posed as a collection of information, including myths, stories, images, universal symbols that are understood across all cultures, and within this collective unconscious many philosophers postulate are universal principles that are common across cultures and consistent through time. Anthropologist Donald Brown postulates that all cultures and societies have common universals which include the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. (90) Kinnier et al. analyzed the tenants of moral codes across religions and came up with a common list, (91) and Peterson et al. identified six universal values common across all cultures, wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. (92) This could be more a metaphoric collective unconscious which is the sum of all our social learning and genetic inheritance within our prior knowledge.

If we are connected through the fairytales, folklore, stories about heroism and virtue within our culture, (93) then this is not a static occurrence. The traditional fairy tales and stories that the baby-boomers and generation X were brought up upon have been interchanged with new narratives from the cloud based on the Pac Man culture. Although there are some early signs of ego-centric tendencies in the emerging culture, it's still too early to tell how culture will evolve in the near future.

Ethics are bounded by society's values, culture, history, at the society level, and personal values, experience and upbringing at the personal level. As we have seen with the banking crisis, externally imposed ethics through laws and regulations cannot foresee the ambiguity of interpretation. There are always ways and means to get around law and regulation and many industries are good at this. Ethics must be internalized within us like the Freudian metaphor of the superego, keeping the id and ego in check. This is why we pay our taxes, don't speed and stop at red lights when there are no other cars or pedestrians around, and return lost property to owners without the need of a reward.

10. Knowing the Consequences - "I Think I Better Think It out Again" (94)

Traditional societies have endured in all sorts of conditions and those that have followed ecological ethics have survived, (95) while those that chose to ignore and flaunt these ethics disappeared, becoming extinct civilizations. (96) Failed civilizations throughout human history have shown the consequences of what we collectively do eventually will come back and overwhelm society. (97) Everything interrelates, where changes influence other parts of the eco-system in ways that are difficult to determine in advance. Deforestation in Africa has enabled malaria carrying mosquitoes to breed in open sun-drenched land, where some people survive because of the make-up of their blood. (98) It's human behavior which tips the eco-system into directions that carry grave consequences for society.

Everything that occurs has consequences. Most are unintended which may lead to unexpected benefits, drawbacks, or perverse consequences. Any action within a complex system is likely to create unintended consequences that bring undesirable outcomes. According to Robert K. Merton this occurs because of ignorance, error in analysis, considering short term over long term interests, possible actions are contrary to held values and believes, or there is a self defeating prophecy where preemptive action is taken to solve a problem before it occurs. (99)

Jared Diamond in his book Collapse looked at the consequences of conservation and the influx of retirees to Montana. (100) Diamond described how the beautiful scenery of the Montana plains attracted retiree settlers who wanted to maintain the pristine scenery through conservation. This lead to less land being available for farming and drove up land prices and taxation, which made it very difficult for locals to make a living through farming. The demographic changes occurring through new retirees settling in Montana led to community conflicts. Overall increased conservation led to lower economic activity where locals struggled to survive, and eventually many locals had to emigrate from Montana to find new livelihoods elsewhere.

Much of what occurs in the world is the result of unintended consequences. For example, the no-man's land along the border between East and West Germany during the cold war and the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas has produced a large natural habitat. (101) Aspirin was found to have therapeutic benefits as an anticoagulant that can help prevent heart attacks and severity of strokes. The outlawing of narcotics has produced a massive multi-billion dollar industry outside of the economy which is difficult to control. The CIA assisted Mujahideen in Afghanistan contributed to the formation and rise of Al-Qaeda. The introduction of new species in eco-systems on many occasions has led to disastrous results, as discussed with the introduction of rabbits in Australia, the banning of books, media and other articles usually promotes that article's popularity.

Our whole economy is based on desire and greed. It is a means of satisfying our desires which are in many cases contrary to the spirit of sustainability. This translates into selfishness and greed where natural resources are harvested and used wastefully, often in the most uncreative ways. Likewise technology increases productivity and enables the production of surpluses which can benefit many. If this waste did not exist and our resources were distributed fairly, poverty would no longer exist today. The problems of the world can be fixed by a matter of redistribution. In addition, through proper practices more than double the population of today can be fed through agriculture. By definition there can be no sustainability without equity. Schumpeter's concept of creative destruction has provided much meaningless innovation solving problems consumers didn't know they had.

The ego-centric focus on "I" and "me" prevents humanity even understanding what the true problems really are. Current liberal ethics that most societies are based upon have little room for personal enlightenment. Institutionalized religion sees personal enlightenment as an affront to traditional theology and is therefore not condoned. Our personal sense of sustainability is confused with the myths that religion has given us, deeming ourselves as the master of all species, where in fact we are just one of the species and caretaker of the earth for the next generation. Through our technical progress we feel that we can control nature, which we can't, so when we realize that we are not immortal and don't control nature, we either become spiritual beings, work hard to build a legacy to surpass our own death, or become psychotic trying to deny the truth.

Environmental destruction simply continues because it creates profits for those in control of the resources and the global markets that demand them. Powerful organizations both control and depend upon this. As we saw with the 2008 bail outs of US corporations, they are a protected species, not just embedded within the fabric of capitalism, but they are capitalism itself. We have also seen that central planning does no better of a job than the capitalist model, (102) and the capitalist model itself is under threat. (103)

The capitalist system, although providing growth, has failed in providing wellbeing and equity in most national scenarios and on a global basis. Economies are facing grave macroeconomic imbalances that are reflected in high rates of unemployment, massive budgeting deficits, highly unstable currencies, balance of payments imbalances, and highly volatile resource, commodity, and equity markets. In addition most country's resources have been exploited at rates that will see their depletion within a relatively short time span. A by-product of the current capitalist system is the increase of carbon and other 'greenhouse' gases released into the atmosphere and waterways to the extent never seen before in the history of world evolution. This has been accompanied by high rates of urbanization, the loss of traditional ways of life, the declining rate of biodiversity on the planet, stress, frustration, crime, mental illness and suicide. Absolute poverty in the underdeveloped world is still in mammoth numbers and relative poverty is on the rise in the developed world.

The prevailing nature of ego-centric organizations and the geo-political divide and their conquering mentality is driving this destruction even further. Our unsustainable practices are linked to the myths that humankind has created to cope with our mortality and powerlessness. We live with a "scorched Earth mentality", with little concern for the coming generations after us. Current solutions on the table for solving climate, food, population, resource, and sustainability issues are like what Ulrich Beck called "a bicycle brake on an international jet." (104)

The restriction of plastic shopping bags, reduction of air conditioning temperatures, and the use of biodiesel are measures that won't make a significant difference. These measures look and sound good on the surface, and are measures governments and corporations are employing as a fallacy to save the world. For every plastic shopping bag saved, a tree is being illegally chopped down in a tropical rainforest somewhere without any hesitation at all. More ecological problems are caused by the primitive rather than industrialized practices. (105)

The current ecological crisis is primarily a crisis of our own ideas and approaches to the human-nature nexus. We have measured success and wealth by what we have, therefore a new definition of wealth and success is required. Our development must take account of both the present and the future to meet our entire needs and keep the environment in equilibrium. This means redefining the goals of humanity which would result in new cultural and social traditions that can form the foundations of a new society. This will involve replacing technological dominating, reductionist, mechanistic orientation with an anti-mechanistic orientation that promotes a new social order. (106) Anything else would be superficial, appeasing, and stopgap. Ethics and sustainability cannot be treated as being independent of everything else within our lives. These concerns must be integrated into the person before they can be integrated into the organization. To think otherwise would be a big mistake.

The world is always changing according to the doctrine of natural selection. Natural selection is the basis of competition through the Schumpeterian concept of creative destruction that has driven our evolution and development. (107) According to the doctrine of natural selection the species struggle for survival culminates with only the fittest surviving. However we are finding out plants, animals, and even the biosphere works in cooperation rather than competition with other entities to survive. We still live in a state of blissful ignorance; the metaphor of "Adam and Eve taking the forbidden fruit of sustainability." (108) Our current practices as a species have evolved out of our lack of awareness and cultural ignorance of the consequences for survival. We still have not developed the correct practices required for survival in our global situation today. The shifting balance of power between humankind and the Earth is a question of great importance. Natural selection is about trial and error until a species determines the current practices that are necessary for survival. (109) Our constructed human paradigms need to change.

11. Finding a Useful Paradigm Is Part of the Meaning

The universe of our existence can be seen in layers from the cosmos to the self. Each domain has implications about sustainability, where sustainability should be simply seen as the perpetuation of the self organizing system involved. Such a simple definition implies that sustainability has little to do with a static environment. Sustainability is about emergence and evolution on a continual basis. Thus sustainability is more a process than a state, so sustainability doesn't necessarily mean 'in equilibrium'. The reality is that we are not sure what elements of any system are sustainable in isolation. There is great chance that individual actions may not necessarily be sustainable but the system as a whole is. For example commercial jet liners make a large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and in isolation can be considered an activity that is not sustainable when using the atmosphere as a paradigm. However when aggregate emission is considered, humankind's greenhouse gas emissions can be made sustainable. Other considerations can come from different paradigm considerations. Commercial airline traffic plays a role in the social eco-system and maybe desirable being worth the greenhouse emission factor it contributes. These types of value judgments bring great complexity in dividing up the responsibilities of different groups in society. The various systems that need to be considered in issues of sustainability are described below. Each system has completely different time frames, i.e., from billions of years in the cosmos and years and 'here and now' for the self. As such, looking at sustainability as a process, the element of time is not important.

12. The Cosmos

The universe can be defined as everything that exists and this is the ultimate environment that we and the Earth exist within. The universe consists of space-time, energy, and physical matter. Due to the vast expanse of the universe many parts of it will never interact with the Earth. To comprehend this expanse, the Earth exists along one arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, orbiting our Sun which is one of 100-200 billion stars in the galaxy. The Milky Way may be 100,000-120,000 light years across and 2.5 million light years away from our nearest neighboring galaxy Andromeda. The Milky Way and Andromeda are a binary system of spiral galaxies with a number of smaller galaxies in orbit. The Milky Way is one of about 50 galaxies in our local group which is part of the Virgo Supercluster. There are probably about 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, i.e., a sphere of about 46 billion light years around the Earth. (110)

Matter is clustered throughout the universe where atoms form stars, stars form galaxies, galaxies form clusters, and then clusters form super clusters. The universe appears to be a smooth space-time continuum. It behaves according to a set of physical laws where all matter is comprised of leptons and quarks. These interact through electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces, and gravity, according to the laws of general relativity, whereas the universe acts according to the laws of special relativity. (111)

What is important in our discussion about sustainability is where the universe interacts with the Earth. In the distant future the ultimate limit on life is what some scientists have called the 'big crunch'. The 'big crunch' is when the universe is hypothesized to collapse back on its origin from the 'big bang' generating great heat that will eliminate conditions of life. In 5 billion years the Sun will exhaust its hydrogen fuel and become a red giant many hundreds of times more luminous than the present, which would cause life on Earth to cease to exist. The orbit of the Earth is slowly being dragged towards the Sun where in a couple of billion years time, the intensity of the Sun will burn away the Earth's atmosphere.

Many rouge asteroids exist in the universe. One asteroid known as 1950DA is given a very high probability of colliding with the Earth in the year 2880. Any impact could kill 100s of millions of people or even trigger a catastrophic chain of events that eliminate life on the planet. There are still a great number of unknown asteroids that could be heading straight for Earth. Probably more immediate is the potential for gamma ray bursts from space to bombard the Earth. This could occur from the explosion of a hypernova sending radiation across light-years of space which would be catastrophic for Earth.

13. The Solar System

Over the last 30 years our views have drastically changed from seeing the solar system as an empty and orderly system of planets orbiting the sun, to seeing the solar system as a dynamic environment. (112) The solar system behaves very differently to the Newtonian order (113) we once thought and is a much more chaotic, but at the same time is an interrelated and integrated environment. The actual physical properties and behavior of objects within the solar system are not so much determined by the intrinsic nature of the objects themselves, but more by their interrelationships and interconnections with other objects and dynamics within the solar system.

There are a number of hypotheses about the formation of the solar system. However observation of a number of young stars that had debris discs of dust surrounding them (114) has led to the wide acceptance of the nebular theory, originally espoused by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1734 in explaining the formation of the solar system. (115) This has since widened to apply to how the universe formed. (116)

According to estimates the solar system began forming approximately 4.6 billion years ago as a giant molecular cloud which spanned light-years across. (117) The Sun formed as a result of gravity forcing gases and debris to clump together at the center. Based on observation of protostellar nebula in other parts of the universe, the Sun formed inside a giant molecular cloud which collapsed. This formed a small dense core gradually growing from accumulating hydrogen which eventually turns into the sun. (118) The high inner temperatures drive out all volatile materials like water and some rocks, leaving behind only the elements like iron. This was surrounded by a hot gaseous nebula that undergoes a compression due to gravity into an equatorial disk full of debris which slowly rotates around the Sun. (119) At this stage the force of gravitational collapse creates energy. Once the Sun becomes sufficiently large enough, hydrogen fusion begins. Through further collapses the clouds form rings and combine into small planetesimals of dust and ice that eventually to form the surrounding planetary system. (120) Some of the mergers of these planetesimals are extremely violent forming terrestrial planets close to the sun while in the other part of the solar system gases and ices combine to form the large gas planets. (121)

Rocky planets tend to be formed in the inner part of the gaseous disk due to gravity pulling the denser materials inwards at a faster rate than the gases. Small planetesimals quickly gather mass by collecting other rocky material on their orbit around the Sun. (122) These growing bodies tend to dominate the inner planetary system, absorbing smaller planetesimals. Once the mass of these inner plantetesimals grows large enough to disturb the orbits of other plantetesimals, orbital eccentricities occur where conditions may become chaotic. (123) At this stage collisions may occur where only a few planets may survive. Tens of planetesimals may form a single planet with an equal number being thrown out into the far parts of the planetary system. (124) Many of the planetesimals from the asteroid belt may have brought water to the earth. (125) Richard Hoover of NASA postulates that life also came to earth with a meteorite. (126)

Our observation of other solar system formations indicates that these gas planets are caused by viscous dissipation of turbulence (127) and the collection and subsequent inflow of gas into the forming planet. (128) Because these planetesimals are outside the planetary snow line and consist of ice, these bodies are able to trap gases and particles quicker and thus grow much larger than the inner planets. (129) The outer planets like Neptune and Uranus may have been in the vicinity of Jupiter and Saturn during formation, and started forming too late to collect large quantities of gas. These planets somehow drifted outwards to their present orbits over time. (130)

The ultimate transformation of nebulae into planetary disks and later planets depends upon many different factors and mechanisms. If the gas giants form too early, they may prevent the inner planets forming by negating inner planet accretion. (131) If they form late the inner planet dynamic will be more violent maybe resulting in fewer but larger inner planets, leaving a larger asteroid belt. (132) If the large gas planets are close to the inner solar system, their force of gravity may eject planetesimals from the system completely. (133) In the case of our solar system Jupiter had minimal influence upon the inner planets because of the distance from the inner solar system. (134) In addition, if the star ejects materials through bipolar jets and powerful UV radiation ejects gas from the surrounding disks, and powerful radiation ejects dust from the disks, a planetary system may fail to form leaving just a remnant disk of dust and debris without any planets. (135) After the formation of the planets many planetesimals remain in the form of asteroids spread throughout the planetary system. Comets are usually remnants of planetesimals from the far reaches of the solar system that track close to the Sun on their orbit through the planetary system.

The Earth's distance from the Sun provides ideal conditions for life as we know it. A number of situations and forces assist in preventing dangerous threats to life on life. The size of the Earth is not too small as to have inadequate gravity to prevent the atmosphere escaping and not too large where the gravity would trap a large atmosphere composed of poisonous gases to life. (136) The atmosphere itself acts as protection against most meteorites that burn up due to friction when entering the atmosphere. The Earth's magnetic field generated by the movement of molten iron inside the Earth's core protects the Earth from solar flare and cosmic radiation. (137) The ozone layer at the edge of the atmosphere protects us from UV radiation. The outer planets, particularly Jupiter acts as a trap to capture comets traveling from the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system inwards towards the Sun, just as Jupiter did in 1994 when it captured Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet. (138) The heliosheath is a bubble of charged particles where the Sun's solar wind that meets the solar wind from interstellar space that forms a bubble of charged particles at the edge of our solar system. This forms a shield which prevents cosmic rays from outer space entering our solar system.

The formation of the solar system is similar to the process of cosmic natural selection like Darwin's reefs. (139) The solar system developed through arising and cause and effect, resulting in an 'existence' built upon karma (action and reaction). As such the solar system is a self organizing system in continual non-equilibrium. This maintains a state of change and transformation within the guidance of a heuristic rather than any predictable mathematical formula.

14. The Earth

The Earth is the system that relates the cosmos and solar system to the other systems. What happens in the cosmos and solar system affects the Earth which in turn affects other systems. How the Earth operates as a self organizing system was described through analogy with James Lovelock's Daisyworld example earlier in this paper. Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis is probably the most integrated way to describe the interdependencies of the Earth's systems.

James Lovelock was a British inventor and scientist became interested in the atmospheric parameters on Mars when he worked with NASA on the Viking project in the 1960s. In finding that the Martian atmosphere was stable in chemical equilibrium with an abundance in carbon dioxide, where little oxygen, methane, or hydrogen existed, Lovelock hypothesized that any life would have to make use of, and thus alter the atmosphere to exist. This was in great contrast to the Earth's atmosphere which had abundant oxygen that could sustain life. (140) This contrast led Lovelock to hypothesize the Gaia hypothesis that the Earth behaves as a single self regulating system made up of physical, chemical, biological, and human components. (141)

According to the Gaia hypothesis all physical surroundings, features of the Earth, pedosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere are totally interdependent and act as a single physiological system. Everything within the earth's ecosystem is of equal value and is necessary for other features to operate as systems. Every phenomenon and process is reliant and in-turn relies upon other systems and phenomenon to react upon to exist. Conditions on Earth thus rely upon a physical and chemical homeostasis which is the result of interacting systems and the systems within the systems, within the systems. Consequently Gaia is an arising system that operates according to heuristics rather than linearity. Thus total predictability does not exist where phenomenon cannot be necessarily explained through mathematics. (142) The Earth 'acts' without any purposeful design, but is at the same time an emergent entity. One of the most important aspects of the Gaia hypothesis is the cybernetic feedback loops that regulate the Earth.

The Gaia hypothesis offers a new way to look at the Earth as a whole without divisions into single disciplines, enabling new insights into the behavior of the biosphere, atmosphere, and physical aspects of the planet. The Gaia model may be a better way of understanding global warming rather than considering the problem through narrow sets of variables like temperature and greenhouse gas relationships. The Gaia perspective takes into account a much larger set of variables like the atmosphere, oceans, forests, and human settlement, etc., although it may not be as predictive as single and double variable models. Thus the heuristic of dependent origination seems to superficially fit the concept of Gaia.

15. The Social Systems

The economy, countries, national identities, legal systems and other manmade eco-systems provide the social environment that humankind exists within. All these social systems, some with physical elements, others virtual and abstract, are almost totally interrelated. The social systems are also totally integrated with the Earth on one side and define our culture, community and self on the other side. The social systems although humanly constructed are extremely complex and not well understood. It's the aggregate products of our economic systems which extend from our desires that have so much influence upon the earth today which we are seeing through climate change and global warming, water management, topography change through deforestation and urbanization, etc. It is through our political systems that humankind both organizes and destroys itself through wars. A very simplified view of these integrated social systems is portrayed in figure 5.


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Title Annotation:p. 53-82
Author:Hunter, Murray
Publication:Economics, Management, and Financial Markets
Geographic Code:9MALA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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