Growing Collective Consciousness from the Voices for the Climate

Reflecting on what I learned at the COP 20 in LIMA, Peru


John D. Liu, Director, Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP) – Ecosystem Ambassador, COMMONLAND Foundation – Visiting Fellow, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

There are moments in history that are of enormous importance to human civilization and there are places where historic events occur that are forever associated with major achievements. If the data sets and the growing understandings gathered here are able to inform wise and effective policy choices on a planetary scale, then the 20th Convening of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima in December 2014, will be viewed as one of these extremely significant events.

I have had the extreme privilege over the last 20 years to personally investigate and document Earth Ecological systems throughout the world. I know firsthand that further climate changes will increase the ravages of extreme and erratic weather events, the very real impacts of biodiversity loss and the heartbreaking reality of food insecurity and loss of wellbeing for billions of people worldwide. Yet personally, Lima was a turning point where my understanding of certain things, which had been somewhat vaguely defined, came into very clear focus.

Thanks to the repeated efforts of Michael Wadleigh, an Oscar winning film director, physicist and impassioned volunteer, who presented graphic representations of the IPCC data of the negotiating stances of the countries in regards to limiting their national emissions, it became clear how far we are from a sustainable solution. Michael showed that at the current global emissions of 11 Gigatons per year we have only a little more than 20 years before we cross the 247 Gigaton point where the IPCC says the Earth’s climate will exceed 2 degrees of warming. This fact suggests that human civilization will be transformed either by consciously changing our society and our economy immediately or by collapsing our ecosystem and watching human civilization as we know it end in extreme disruptions that are simply too painful to describe.


Hearing Al Gore forcefully call the Coal and Oil reserves held as the asset base of global energy companies as the new “sub-prime assets” rang chillingly true, because they cannot be burned without pushing us far beyond the 2 degree limit. This suggests some very sobering thoughts about the current economic system. When this fact is well understood by a critical mass of the world’s population, then the economy will inevitably change, as the confidence in the existing economic order is lost. This means we will witness the end of the carbon economy within the next 2 decades! The critical thing we need to consider is what will replace the existing order.

Needless to say a managed transition of global human society and economy to a more fair and flourishing one is vastly preferable to continuing on a suicide course. Fortunately, the people who joined in the conversations called “Growing Collective Consciousness from the Voices for the Climate” that I co-hosted with Tiahoge Ruge of Mexico, showed that many people from all walks of life and diverse cultures are able and willing to embrace transformational change. Many people now realize that there is simply no way to avoid massively transforming our lifestyles. We need to process that this requires us to step into the unknown. In going “where no man has gone before”, we need to use all of our intelligence, all of our imagination, all of our compassion and all of the wisdom that has accrued to humanity throughout our history.

While at the COP20 in LIMA, through discussions with many people who were eager to grow collective consciousness and through continuous reflection and contemplation, I have begun to see a way forward that can lead away from fear to a joyful embrace of change, that is after all inevitable. We need to be concerned about the changes that are coming to the Earth’s NaturalSystems but we don’t need to be afraid of the changes that are coming to human society. Actually, I think we need to see the opportunity that exists now. We can right many wrongs if we have the courage and the foresight.

This is the moment where we are required to redefine our fundamental values. Do we; “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all human beings are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights”? Do we recognize that human beings emerged in paradise where the waters were clear and abundant, the soils fertile and renewable, the plants and animals were diverse and symbiotic? Do we see how valuing production and consumption above the natural systems that create air, water, food and energy and that naturally regulate the climate, have caused climate changes, biodiversity loss, poverty, inequality, deforestation, desertification and pollution of all kinds?

What if we viewed history through a completely different lens and instead of worshiping conquerors we saw the wisdom in peaceful and ecologically sound practices of ancient civilizations? What if we collectively understood that the Earth’s ecosystems are vastly more valuable than all of the products and services ever produced or that ever will be produced and we admitted that we have made a serious mistake? If we were to reach this level of collective understanding then we could take on a fundamental revaluation. We could naturalize the economy.

By telling the truth about the value of nature we would have to recognize some challenging facts about our current monetary system and our current definition of wealth. We would need to understand that we have inverted the economy by valuing as the basis of our currencies and economies, derivatives that are extracted and fashioned from functional ecological systems. We need to understand that the Earth’s Natural Systems are vastly more valuable than the derivatives. We need to acknowledge that the only way the existing system can work is to simply disappear all the negative outcomes by calling climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty, disparity, pollution, and war, externalities. If we had not removed these from the balance sheet the economy would have been below zero from day one. We need to admit that the current economic model simply cannot work because at its heart is a fundamental mistake.

Remarkably, by correcting this mistake and valuing natural systems higher than products and services derived from them, we have the answer. With a monetary system based on ecological function, growth would not include waste and pollution but would make the ecology and the economy consistently more resilient. In this way we can have both growth and ecological functionality. Instead of creating a perverse incentive to degrade the ecosystems we can reward those who conserve, protect and restore ecological systems. This is a profound change. By valuing life higher than material things we are coming much closer to the spiritual teachings of all of the world’s great religions. This understanding is the next level of evolution for human consciousness. But it is not simply a profound philosophical understanding, it is a practical way forward to rebalance the climate, to create meaningful employment, to fairly distribute affluence and create an abundant and sustainable human civilization.

In my opinion, the political processes and compromise are not the main features of the COP20 in LIMA. For me the realization that human civilization must change within the next 2 decades opens the door to designing a future that we can all embrace. Where we can strive for peace, equality, and we can celebrate and protect the wondrous Earth systems that we have so lately inherited and so badly stewarded. I’m expressing what I feel and think about these things but I’m not the only one. Growing Collective Consciousness from the Voices for the Climate began in LIMA but promises to be even more influential in Paris.

Learn more about John D. Liu in his writings and films



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