An article by Sha'Tara, local writer and friend.
The Law of the Maximum
[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha'Tara]
The planet Arrakis, more commonly known as "Dune" by its native inhabitants, the Fremen, is a desert world. There are no clouds in the skies, no rain ever falls; no open water to be found anywhere. Yet people live there, even in the deep desert: a hellish place of violent temperature changes; of blowing sandstorms whose winds can spin to a rate of over 350 kilometers per hour throwing sand with such violence that metal is pitted; flesh is stripped from living creatures, leaving only bone skeletons buried in ever-shifting dunes. Also the deep desert is the home of the terrible roaming sandworms, giant creatures that can grow to a length of 400 meters and even more: the mighty Shai-hulud, the quasi-god of the desert, honored and even worshipped by the Fremen because Shai-hulud protects them from spice hunting space invaders or Outworlders. Shai-hulud also provides the spice by transforming sand and trace elements within its internal fires, then belching out the results onto the sands. The spice is the most precious and valuable substance in the entire universe; a substance known to extend life and give limited prescient vision. Addiction to spice mélange makes it possible for the Spacing Guild to train navigators to fold space, to travel to any part of the universe literally without moving.
But nothing grows on Arrakis. Or so it seemed until a "mad" imperial ecologist (or rather, planetologist), a Dr. Pardot Kynes, began to question the assumption that there was no water on Arrakis. His efforts are mentioned in the Dune book, of course, but what I am about to quote is from his son, Dr. Liet Kynes. "Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount. The least favorable condition controls the rate of growth."
The Law of the Minimum—From "Lessons of Arrakis"
For those of you who have never read Dune or the following five manuscripts by Frank Herbert that comprise the Dune series, you will have to be satisfied with my short introduction above to understand this analogy. And what is the least favorable condition for growth on Arrakis? The total lack of water accessible to plants so they can anchor themselves to the shifting surface of sand dunes with deep water-seeking roots.
Switching abruptly now from that long, long ago future Dune to today's earth.
Every world is dominated by a "law of the minimum." Something must create a "braking effect" to control growth and prevent entropy; some mechanism must be present within the planet's ecological system to keep life from destroying or engulfing itself. Earth, of course, has such a law as well, and it is in effect. But something happened to the planet a few hundred thousand years ago that changed everything, setting the planet upon an accelerated course to entropy. A new creature was loosed upon its surface, a creature whose mind was not bound to the patterns of its adoptive world, a predatory and competitive alien mind that expressed itself through what I call the "law of the maximum," violating the natural cycle of its world and destroying it wherever it became successful.
Note: This week (of October 30, 2011) marked the official birth of the 7 billionth Earthian. There's a fine number for those who love to play with statistics.
Quote from a bumper sticker seen recently on the back of one of those modern over-sized shiny-black crew-cab pickups with the thrumming-rumbling illegal (but officially ignored) exhaust systems: "Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it." Now that's stating the "law of the maximum" with bald face hubris; with total disregard for any conflicting interests anyone or anything other than the owner/operator of that vehicle may have. And that speaks volumes about the reason earth is currently undergoing so many crises in living space, resources, social unrest, and of course, financial meltdown. I think that bumper sticker should be preserved as man's epitaph.
It doesn't matter who you are: god, demon or man, you cannot, with impunity, violate natural laws, whether such laws are stated as such or sensed through logic and observation. Earth is a finite organism, an ecological system, a living entity and also a machine, a factory. For such a machine to function properly there must exist a working balance between giver and taker. Can anyone find such a balance today? Again quoting from Dune, "There is in each of us an ancient force that takes and an ancient force that gives. A man finds little difficulty facing that place within himself where the taking force dwells, but it's almost impossible for him to see into the giving force without changing into something other than man."
Man's nature is to take. His roots on this world are tenuous. He accepts earth as his world, not because his instinct tells him it's his world but because he is stranded here with no map, no remembered route and as yet no access to the space lanes that could take him away from this adoptive world and out in space where he may find his way back to his place of origins, or places of his origins or perhaps find other worlds more resilient than earth, more able to counter his impulsive, competitive nature. Perhaps... but I cannot see this possibility.
Man therefore, having decided that he could live by the "law of the maximum,"—that he could take and take and take without dire long-term consequences despite all evidence to the contrary, chose to ignore warning signs arising from his depredations and trespasses upon planetary life, and upon his own species. By living this "law of the maximum"—a necessary belief if the current ruling elites are to hold on to their power—man becomes more than a taker, more than an insatiable predator, he becomes an egocentric genocidal madman. His desires rule the day and woe to those who object. They are invaded, blown away, crushed, suppressed, driven into submission and enslaved. Nothing is permitted to stand against his wishes; his believed entitlement to what the world must give; what can be extracted; what can be exploited. The very planet is increasingly subjected to violence for possession of its depleted resources. Where fields have died due to over-cropping, chemical fertilizers and poisons are spread and sprayed to force new crops to grow. Where forests were replanted, ever younger trees are harvested to satisfy the profit machine. Mountains are stripped of their growth to make way for new housing developments and others are blown up, their rocks crushed to make aggregates for building materials. In marginal places where too much was taken too fast, the dead land disappears under an ever-spreading desert. Sand covers green fields and fills ravines where rivers once flowed. And the greatest rivers become little more than vast open sewers taking their poisoned sludge to a dying sea.
It does not take a college or university degree to see this. But the earth is caught in a juggernaut between corporate greed, a dwindling consumer middle class and the necessity of survival for the dispossessed billions. There is no place left for either to grow, man having far exceeded his limits to growth. And yet, this drive to destruction will not stop; it cannot stop. The System, that mindless machine that drives man's thinking cannot see because it cannot care; cannot understand what it is doing. And the man creature is bound, body and soul, to this machine: his sacrosanct System.
With current computer technology as the upstart global dictator it becomes evident that the madcap drive to eat up what's left will only speed up exponentially. Recently I sent out a short article about individuals called "Quants"—financial geeks who use computer technology to quantify everything on the planet, reducing it all to a numbered balance sheet and moving those numbers across the world at the speed of light. And what's wrong with that, some may ask? Just this: that these numbers bear less and less resemblance to the real world. The speculated price of a ton of wheat may go from New York to Peking in less than a heartbeat but the real wheat whose beautiful heads of unripened grain still wave in the winds of vast prairie lands continues to grow at its own pace. Nature continues to play a role over those fields. Late rains, early snows, early frosts or an unexpected blight can wipe out entire crops, especially where the same crop covers thousands of acres.
But the financial wizards and their greedy employers no longer can wait to find out if their investments will produce their grain. They want the profit now so they make it happen by disconnecting the rules of their game from the actual natural base that provided its reality, its actual value. The game played by the money traders is entirely based on the "law of the maximum" whose arbiter is man's greed whereas the value that would legitimize the game is based on the "law of the minimum" and the arbiter of that law is nature, not man.
Before I close this essay, I want to relate an incident of a few days ago. A friend of mine sent me a link to a You Tube video describing the destruction of foreshore riparian habitat on the Fraser River by hordes of mindless off-roaders. I was annoyed at this because the email I received gave no indication what the "video" would be about. All I received was a single sentence saying, "What do you think of this." and the Internet link. What annoyed me most was the lack of personal involvement by the sender, as if just making a video and posting the problem somehow constituted a solution of sorts.
I've been involved in many an issue during my sixty-five plus years on this stupid world and I know that "advertising" is not how you solve crises: it's how you cleverly veil them while making yourself feel better about it all. Crises are tackled by total, individual, personal involvement. You get your hands dirty. You lose nights of sleep preparing and organizing –whatever! –be it media appearances or demonstrations, or spending week-ends on the homemade "cardboard recycling" project, or you do the door-to-door thing and you run for office and offer workable alternatives to your community. You do research and you teach yourself how to communicate with the people you hope to reach. If necessary, you go to jail. Well, that was our way. Sometimes it even worked. Sometimes we saw a bit of success, if only to see it all overturned for those of us who lived long enough to see it.
I made my friend aware of my annoyance and the reply was so typical of today's attitude, I use it to make a point: "I wrote a letter to the mayor and I made the local paper aware of this problem. Also I posted this on Facebook and I don't need to tell you how much exposure that gives it."
Have we all become "Quants" that exposure to numbers is synonymous to education and commitment to a cause? Will a million Facebook members be miraculously moved by my friend's little YT video lost among millions of others, and spontaneously organize to raise hell against the hell-raisers on his river frontage? Of course not. People are swimming in a sea of YT videos. You could spend a lifetime going through that miasma and come out of it dumber and more confused than when you went in. This is a case of the "law of the maximum" – those who believe they can do whatever they want even when it is illegal – and the "law of the minimum"—the naturally controlled and operated machine—coming face to face.
Man will not win this game because the middle ground (time, space, natural resources) between the two conflicting forces necessary for a meaningful truce has been conquered and annexed (absorbed) by the "law of the maximum" faction. The war of man versus the planet will, of necessity, be waged to its bitter end. There are no innocents anymore and there will be no reprieve for anyone.
During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. (Revelation 9:6)