Critical Mass

I was talking with a friend recently about the climate crisis. He’s one of the creators of Apocadocs, every day curating news of the major fix(es) we are in, so he’s understandably gloomy much of the time. But for a moment, his usual despairing tone took a different bent.

“I take comfort in flocking behavior,” he said, stating that a flock of birds doesn’t depend on some alpha male to make a decision about which way everyone will move. No: The flock flies in concert, each bird maintaining alignment with each other as they wheel across the sky.

Chris Upson, via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Upson, via Wikimedia Commons

My friend takes this as a hopeful sign that perhaps humans can make a much-needed shift by simply reaching critical mass. “And maybe it’s just 51 percent of us who need to get it, rather than 80 or 90 percent of us.”

Gaining critical mass at 51 percent certainly sounds possible. And perhaps we’re at 50.99 right now.

I’m further encouraged after reading EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want, by the incomparable Frances Moore Lappe. This intensely inspiring (and mindblowing) book deserves its own post. But for now let me just quote this passage that jumped out at me, as it reinforces my friend’s view:

“While animal-behavior experts used to think that it was the dominant leader who made decisions for the whole herd, they’re discovering that it doesn’t always work that way. For instance, red deer, native to Britain, move only when 60 percent of the adults stand up. Whooper swans of northern Europe ‘vote’ by moving their heads, and African buffalo do so by the direction of the females’ gaze.”

By Stefan Ehrbar (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

By Stefan Ehrbar (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

How about it? Which way are we looking?

9 thoughts on “Critical Mass

  1. Thanks for the encouraging word. It’s helpful to think that each of us individuals are working toward that critical mass with respect to climate change. One person at a time, each of us taking one step at a time.

    • And in EcoMind she talks about the power of modeling behavior for others. So it’s exponential each time we take a step. Thanks for letting me know that this post was helpful, Darren.

  2. yes, the power of one, multiplied…as far as where we’re gazing – toward greener pastures – toward hope – toward building community – toward what is possible.

  3. nice post, I’ld love to read that book if you would want to allow me to borrow it.


  4. Pingback: Their Courage Becomes our Courage | Shawndra Miller

    • Hi Rob, thanks for your comment! I am still digesting EcoMind but one of the things Frances Moore Lappe talks about is transcending this idea that we must somehow overcome human nature to save the planet. Because that is a pretty overwhelming prospect and we actually have a lot going for us that will work in our favor. It’s interesting to consider.

      • Hi Shawndra,

        Good thoughts. Human nature is has two aspects: (1) governance by the laws of Nature, and (2) governance within the structure of the Creating Force. What overcoming Human nature really means is that we transcend governance by the laws of Nature. The laws of Nature apply only to the Human Species. Meaning, the function of the laws of Nature is to maintain the balance within Creation. The only threat to the balance of Creation is the Human Species, i.e. the Human Species is the only aspect of Creation with the capacity to inject chaos into the flow of energy, or fiber optic, which binds all of existence. To maintain balance the laws of Nature will always move to mitigate the source of the chaos. To evolve from the source of chaos, to the role of the balancing force within Creation, the Human Species must transcend the egoistic dominance that instigates the chaos. We are compelled to seek governance beyond the laws of Nature, and enter into a direct relationship with the Creating Force. We do have a lot going for us in the form of potential capacities.

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