I see nothing in our environmental issues that does not originate in over-population. And dealing with that is going to be one of the great struggles of our species.
There is nothing harder than reprogramming instincts, beliefs, and patterns that are hooked into survival on a cultural, psychological, or biological basis. The default is “survive” and for most of our history that meant:
Make maximum babies. Sacrifice males, not females. Control the means of reproduction. Use everything in the environment you possibly can. Dump your refuse down-stream. As population rises, this stuff comes back to bite you.
On the psychological level, this can be “model your parents and grandparents: they survived, and if you do what they did, you will survive as well.” Do what you were told. Blend in. Find tribe. Learn a trade for which your tribe will exchange goods and services. Submit to authority.
And of course, these rules work to produce “survival.” At which point (according to Maslow and the Chakras) you automatically begin to seek self-expression and creativity, placing you in conflict with the more basic programming. This is the “war” between art and commerce, and only the strong (or persistent) survive.
It is the “war” that you must conquer if you would live a life of satisfaction, health (old memes of “eat all you can, move as little as possible to earn your way” are now destroying our bodies as industrialization and passive communication technologies cut the connection between calories in/calories out), love (it used to be enough just to reproduce and create family alliances that improved survival), and real joy.
The battle we are about to fight to reduce population to that the planet doesn’t need to kill us to survive is going to be a massive culture war (one suspects gender rights, reproductive control, global warming, gay rights, and a few other things are all fascinatingly tied together into a Gordian Knot right there).
But there is a comparable battle going on within you: to master the cultural rules sufficient to reach unconscious competence to become an “adult”, but then awaken to the components of that unconscious competence enough to unravel the knots, look at the conflicting values and beliefs, un-install the conflicting programs, enough to move to the next level without disrupting your foundation.
Personally, I’ve referred to this as re-building your car while still rolling down the street. Hella difficult. Most re-wiring can only be done in repose, or safe harbor. And this is probably why the Agricultural revolution was the beginning of the human race contemplating its own existence, as we finally had a post-harvest period where we could rest and consider existence…
That’s another speculation.
But no matter what side of the various debates you are on, what is critical is that you not merely be driven by that unconscious social programming. And no matter what your personal goals, it is critical that you not be driven by unexamined values handed to you in childhood, no matter the authority figure who did it, no matter how smart or successful they were, no matter how much you needed them or how terrifying or kind they were, no matter how much they loved you and how sincere their intent.
An unexamined mind is an unexamined life.
The only answer is to take a pause. A deep breath. Calm yourself. Find a gap between thoughts, words, actions. Place yourself in “neutral” and contemplate life and existence and actions and values and beliefs and emotions. All of it, one piece of the chain at a time. Would you have consciously accepted these values? Are these beliefs true? Do your attitudes serve you? Are your goals your own?
A little time for quiet, every day, to hear the quiet voices that can be so easily drowned out by the screaming survival demons.
It’s our planet. Protect it.
It’s our country. Heal it.
It’s your life. Own it.