I’ve spent much of my working life
exploring the controversial possibility
of a forgotten episode in human pre-history.
An advanced civilization of the ice age,
as yet unrecognized by archaeologists,
that collapsed and failed utterly
during a global cataclysm some twelve thousand years ago.
I’ve often wondered what it must have felt like
to be amongst the last citizens
of that lost civilization with no choice,
as chaos and darkness descended,
but to stand by and watch as everything they’d created –
their great prosperity, their cunning inventions,
their hope for the future and so much more
was reduced remorselessly to nothing.
But now, looking around the world today,
it occurs to me that we already know what it feels like.
For what are we ourselves if not the citizens of an advanced civilization on the brink of collapse?
Let that collapse come in a year, a decade or a century,
再过一年 十年 或是百年 文明崩塌总会到来
let it be driven by forces of nature or by human folly – or by both –
成因或是天灾 或是人祸 也可能两者都有
the end result will be the same.
When enough millennia have passed,
and our descendants have invented civilization again
after our fall into barbarism,
I suspect they will look back on us with much the same ribald skepticism
that we’ve been taught to view “Atlantis”.
We will have become “just a myth”, “just a story”,
and certainly not “true history”.
Several hundred “myths” concerning a global cataclysm
and the loss of an advanced prehistoric civilization
have come down to us from the remote past and from all parts of the world.
These myths are eerily consistent on many points,
and on one in particular:
the cataclysm was not a random accident, we’re told;
we brought it upon ourselves by our own behavior.
This may seem a nonsensical claim to those committed to the philosophy of scientific materialism
who see no cause and effect here,
merely projection and fantasy on the part of the myth-makers.
In summary, however – whether we react with scorn or choose to pay attention-
the shared message of the myths
is that our arrogance and our cruelty towards one another,
our noise and strife and the wickedness of our hearts angered the gods.
We ceased to nurture spirit.
We ceased to love and tend the earth
and no longer regarded the universe with reverent awe and wonder.
Dazzled by our own success,
we forgot how to carry our prosperity with moderation.
So it was, Plato tells us,
with the once generous and good citizens of the lost civilization of Atlantis
who in former times possessed a certain “greatness of mind,
and treated the vagaries of fortune and one another with wisdom and forbearance”
but who became swollen with over weaning pride in their own achievements
and fell into crass materialism, greed and violence.
“To the perceptive eye the depth of their degeneration
was clear enough [Plato writes]
but to those whose judgment of true happiness is defective
they seemed, in their pursuit of unbridled ambition and power,
to be at the height of their fame and fortune.
If ever a society could be said to meet
all the mythological criteria of the next lost civilization
– a society that ticks all the boxes –
is it not obvious that it is our own?
Our pollution and neglect of the majestic garden of the earth,
our rape of its resources, our abuse of the oceans and the rainforests,
our fear hatred and suspicion of one another
multiplied by a hundred bitter regional and sectarian conflicts,
our consistent track record of standing by and doing nothing while millions suffer,
our ignorant narrow-minded focus on skin color
and other trivial physical differences,
our forgetfulness that we are all brothers and sisters
our exclusivist religions
our bellicose chauvinism
the dreadful cruelties that we indulge in
我们打着国家 信仰的旗号 抑或纯粹就是贪婪
in the name of nation, or faith, or simple greed,
our obsessive competitive ego driven
production and consumption of material goods
and the growing conviction of many,
fueled by the triumphs of materialist science,
that matter is all there is,
that there’s no such thing as spirit
and that we are just accidents of chemistry and biology-
all these things, and many more,
in mythological terms at least,
do not look good for us.
Much as we may disbelieve in their gods,
perhaps the time has come for us to
listen to the broader message of the ancients?
Perhaps the time has come to damp down our pride,
douse the fires of our hatred with love,
summon the courage to replace cruelty with kindness,
embrace our shared humanity,
stand once again in awe of the universe
and show gratitude for every gift that mother earth provides…
Otherwise, who knows,
perhaps ours will be the next lost civilization?
If you live in one of the great technological cities of the modern world,
you almost never see the stars.
Light pollution cuts out the sky severs our connection with the universe,
but if you look down from a nasa satellite-
you can see here for example northern Europe,
lit up like a golden string of jewels.
But down here is the Sahara desert
inhabited by hunter-gatherers
it’s completely dark because there’s no electricity there.
and the Namibian desert again inhabited by hunter-gatherers are completely dark
because there’s no electricity there.
This is often taken as a symbol of the
technical advancement of the industrialized societies,
but let’s think about that a little bit.
Go west and there’s North America,
lit up like a string of jewels, but there’s the Amazon jungle,
completely dark because there’s so little electricity there.
And actually, in the state of acre in the southwestern amazon
where those geoglyphs have recently been found due to clearances,
there are still tribes who remain uncontacted by our civilization.
They don’t even know we exist.
Goodness knows what they think when they see a helicopter
circling overhead taking photographs of them.
They didn’t they never knew about our culture before and
suddenly there’s these strange beings in flying machines overhead.
But we have to ask ourselves,
who would survive
if something like the Younger Dryas cataclysm were to happen again in our day?
If those cosmic impacts were to strike the 21st century world
who would survive it?
I do not believe that it would be the inhabitants of the advanced industrialized civilizations.
We are the spoilt children of the earth.
We are used to having everything at our fingertips.
The supermarket shelves stuffed to overflowing with food,
roofs over our heads, clothes on our backs,
we consider ourselves to be the masters of the universe,
but you stop that food supply into the cities,
and it’s a just-in-time food supply right now,
there‘s only two or three days food supply in any city,
you stop that food supply into the cities and
I would suggest within a matter of weeks
our much vaunted civilization would begin to fall apart.
The psychological trauma would be massive.
People would not be prepared for it in any way and
very few of us, there are exceptions,
but very few of us know anything about survival at all.
Because we depend entirely on a complex interrelated network of skills.
Who would survive?
Who would survive would be the hunter-gatherers
in the Namibian deserts in the amazon rainforest
because they’re in the business of survival.
That’s what they do every day.
They are absolute masters of survival.
They would weather such an incident with very little damage
and it would be they and their descendants who would carry forward the human story.
And I like to imagine how it might be told 12 000 years from now,
how there might be a myth
that the archaeologists of that time would dismiss as complete nonsense,
how it was. There was a myth that that the told of a time
when there was an advanced civilization on this planet.
They were so advanced
they were almost gods.
They had supernatural powers, you know.
They could look at a little device
and speak to one another, even see one another, on opposite sides of the planet
. They could fly around the earth. They could send people to the moon.
But they became corrupt.
They became cruel.
They became conceited and big-headed.
They ceased to wear their prosperity with moderation.
They imposed their powers on other less powerful people around the world
and the universe wouldn’t put up with that. The universe struck them down.
It’s our choice.
Let’s make sure we’re not the next lost civilization.
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