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?