Ecology, Capitalism and The State

Modern civilisation as we know it faces a number of major threats. Escalating economic inequality and an increasingly atomised society could lead to large-scale social breakdown. The depletion of natural resources is having a profound effect on the environment. As climate change continues to worsen, the ecosystems upon which human and non-human life depend are subjected to intolerable conditions. States across the globe have long since acquired the means by which to exterminate the species several times over, and given the continued plundering of natural resources in the pursuit of profit, the possibility of a nuclear war over what’s left doesn’t seem too unlikely.

These crises are often portrayed in the mass media as though they are separate from one another. They have different causes and thus, they can be dealt with in isolation. However, this approach is proving itself to be inadequate, given that these crises are continuing to deteriorate, and accumulating evidence suggests that, far from being separate, these crises are linked to one another, culminating in a ‘perfect storm’.

A study published in a journal called ‘Ecological Economics’ recently suggested that human civilisation is headed for an irreversible collapse as a result of unsustainable resource exploitation and the increasing stratification of society between the rich and the poor.[1] Equally alarming is a more recent study, which argued that a sixth mass extinction event is likely to occur due to human activities.[2] Furthermore,a widespread scientific consensus exists in support of the position that global climate change has been caused by human activities, as a result of fossil fuel-burning processes that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This position has endorsements from almost 200 scientific organisations worldwide.[3]

Finite fossil fuels are heavily relied upon as a source of energy across the globe, with coal, oil and natural gas accounting for 86.9% of world primary energy consumption in 2012, whereas hydroelectricity, renewables and nuclear energy only accounted for 13.1%.[4] Even methods of energy production that appear to be more ecologically sustainable often suffer from the same drawbacks, requiring the intensive use of fossil fuels in different parts of the production process.

Climate change and energy scarcity also have a direct impact on food production. Climate change creates harsh conditions for organisms to survive, resulting in more crop failures[5] due to extreme weather, while current methods of agricultural production are heavily reliant on fossil fuels for fertilisers, pesticides, and the maintenance of global supply chains. Conventional perspectives on industrial carbon emissions in general often fail to account for emissions that occur during distributive stages of production.

A possible way of dealing with this would be to establish decentralised, participatory forms of economic organisation, putting resource allocation under the democratic control of local communities. However, under the existing political and economic system, the vast majority of the population lack access to the world’s productive resources, which are instead held in the hands of a minority of statesmen and capitalists

Source: Ecology, Capitalism and The State

Contemplative Cognition

Mindfulness, whether distinguished as a state, trait, or training, is central to a growing wave of interest in meditation. Theoretical development has been called for in order to clarify confusion about mindfulness from a scientific perspective. Ideally, such development will allow ingress for more traditional perspectives and guide inclusive research on the wider range of meditation practices. To address this call, we outline a new approach for understanding mindfulness and related meditative experience that accommodates diverse perspectives. In accord with other integrative approaches, we employ foundational psychological constructs (namely, attention, intention, and awareness) to understand mindfulness. In contrast to other theoretical perspectives, however, we utilize this foundation to derive novel psychological constructs needed to better explain mindfulness and important features of meditative experience more widely. The contemplative cognition framework integrates three attention-related processes entailed by a variety of contemplative practices: intended attention, attention to intention, and awareness of transient information. After delineating this set of three processes, we explain how they can cooperate to promote a contemplative range of metacognition about attention, intention, and awareness, as well as enhanced regulation of cognition, emotion, and behavior. The contemplative cognition framework (a) overcomes discrepancies in mindfulness research; (b) accounts for contextual and motivational aspects of training; (c) supports investigation from phenomenological, information processing, neurophysiological, and clinical perspectives; and (d) enables investigations on various contemplative states, traits, and practices to inform one another. This new approach has potential for advancing a more inclusive, productive, and theory-driven science of mindfulness and meditation.

Source: Contemplative Cognition: A More Integrative Framework for Advancing Mindfulness and Meditation Research | SpringerLink

Aftermath 

I also think a turn to the personal realm, to cultivating deep friendships and family relations and the aesthetic and spiritual domains of life, can be a critically important way to stay sane, despite the apparent madness of the external world. This is a strategy intellectuals and other free-thinkers have adopted when living under oppressive regimes throughout history, sometimes creating masterpieces that emerged later on.

We should by all means all continue to work in whatever ways we can to nudge the external world in more positive directions, despite these now massive headwinds, so I’m not at all advocating withdrawal from collective affairs, but I think moving one’s center of gravity a little bit more inwards, in a quest for whatever long-lived, time-tested beauty, meaning and truths one can find, can bring some solace in hard times, and can actually help us in the very challenging struggles we are bound to be facing in the next few years.

Source: Aftermath – Medium