The Earth Blog is a collection of personal thoughts, ideas and solutions in search of a future for this planet.
It only contains original work. These essays provide many of the tools needed to allow people to make a better world for the future - a world worth living in. Please take some time to read them.
We only have one world - let's treat it well.
Keith Farnish, Earth.
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How do I summarise something consisting of 100,000 words, 17 chapters, four self-contained and entirely different sections, and containing the solution to most of the world’s ills? More than that, though, how can I make you understand that A Matter Of Scale may be the most important book ever written?
A hollow claim, much like everything that includes the phrase, “This book could change your life”, but the difference here is I am not trying to make a penny out of the work I have put into it – in fact I have spent years of my life, an awful lot of money and the last 12 months writing as though my life depended on it, in order to produce something that now has to stand up on its own merits. So please forgive me if I take a few words explaining myself.
It was a couple of years ago that I conceived the idea of writing a book, while I was still working for a financial organisation, but growing more disillusioned with everything except for the few things that kept me sane: my family, my friends and the brief times I had had the chance to connect with something other than the consumer culture. By January 2007, I had made up my mind to ditch paid work for something I realised was far more important – it sounds desperately cheesy, but I realised there was a sense of destiny in doing what I was about to do.
By the time I left work I had pages upon pages of ideas, notes and references; most of them scribbled down during sleepless nights, idle periods at my desk and on the train travelling to and from London. I also had a very simple idea – something so simple that it just had to be right:
“What matters is what matters to us.”
It seems almost meaningless, but it was the first of many links and connections that were to come about as I delved further into writing. In essence, it means that unless we are (as humans) able to consciously experience something, then it doesn’t matter. That seems reckless, at best, but there was a mirror to this: because – and it became increasingly clear as I was writing the first part of the book – humans are being adversely affected, directly and indirectly by the actions of humanity. If it could be made clear that it really was ourselves who matter most of all to us, it would be incontrovertible that we have to do something about the problems we have created. It would entirely go against what it means to be human if we knowingly ignored what was happening.
In order to make it totally obvious that there was a lot more unsettling stuff going on than most of us realised, I then had to look into all sorts of different areas for evidence of the effects of our activities upon human beings: forget, for a moment, that species are being wiped out every day and that habitats are being destroyed; what was most astonishing of all was that almost everything we were doing was affecting something else at some scale or another, and it was coming back to bite us. Whatever I read about, at every scale imaginable – bacteria, insects, birds, fish, trees, entire global ecosystems – it kept coming back with the same answer: we were causing our own demise.
The title was born: A Matter Of Scale.
Then I went on holiday with my family and gave myself time to think. Six weeks of thinking about the thing I had committed myself to: a book covering everything from problems to solutions, to be written in four months. “It’ll all be over by Christmas!” I foolishly thought.
By Christmas, I had finished Part Two: Why It Matters, and was halfway through Part One: The Scale Of The Problem. By this time I had already confused my “Readers Panel” (a group of volunteers who bravely offered to nit-pick their way through my writing) by sending them Part Two before any chapters in Part One; despite my claims that it didn’t matter which way round you read them. Part Two came easy – a background in philosophy helped, and being a human, it was relatively easy to write about my own species. On the other hand, I am not a virus, a nematode or a spruce tree: in fact, I spent most of my time in Part One learning about the subjects from scratch, and using that learning experience to try and make the subject as interesting and readable as possible. From what I have been told, I may, at least, have succeeded in writing a very nice ecological textbook!
Then came The Connection. Part Three was extremely difficult to write. Now I was exploring things that I had never gone into in much depth before, and to say my eyes were opened as I delved further into the subject, and my own developing ideas, would be a serious understatement. I’m not going to spoil things for you: simply to say that many people reading the book will end up in places they didn’t realise existed. Some of the places are beautiful, tranquil, deeply personal and moving; some of the places are truly horrible – because that is the difference between a connected life and the disconnected lives we are forced to lead.
By the time Spring emerged in the Northern Hemisphere, Part Three was being wrapped up, for the time being, and I was revisiting earlier parts of the book, clarifying, correcting and making some major changes in places where things hadn’t worked the first time. I was ready to write the final section, and yet I still wasn’t ready: what was the solution?
I knew it would come to me eventually, but I had no way of knowing when, and like all solutions, forcing it could make it worse. So I started writing: first about Anger, its place in the solution, and why it became part of the problem; then about civilization itself – the problem I knew by this time, was not humanity, it was the way Industrial Civilization had created a monster, a fake, disconnected humanity to serve its own ends – our place in it, and why it was so vulnerable; then I realised what the solution was and where it had to lead us. Those last two chapters were the most thrilling, and overwhelming pieces of writing I had ever done; and possibly ever likely to do.
At the time of writing, Part Four still needed a couple of days work: it’s a hell of a solution, and I wanted to make sure everyone truly understood why it has to be that way, and how to carry it through. Oh, and also why so many other “solutions” are utterly useless. There is a web site which contains the entire book, readable online entirely for free. Remember at the beginning of this piece I said that I didn’t intend to make any money from this work? I am risking the wrath, and rejection, of any potential publisher, by insisting that the entire book will be online for anyone to read, regardless of what happens to the print edition – because, as far as A Matter Of Scale is concerned, what matters is that as many people as possible get the chance to find out the truth behind humanity, civilization, the state of the world and, most of all, themselves.
You can read it now at www.amatterofscale.com.