The Seventh Generation Event
In the broadest terms, our era is being referred to as “the sixth extinction event”, or the Holocene extinction. It also happens to correspond to what some are calling the Anthropocene Era in recognition of the significant impact of the human species and its activities on the Earth System. That influence was again highlighted recently by a report of the Stockholm Resilience Centre suggesting that this present, existing Earth had entered a danger zone (“Climate change, extinctions signal Earth in danger zone — study“, Reuters).
That the Anthropocene Era should be concurrent with the Sixth Extinction Event is due to a single truth — the human species is, in the main, a super-predator, and a not very responsible super-predator. I was reading somewhere that 40 million turkeys were slaughtered to satisfy this year’s Christmas market in North America alone. That’s a lot of killing and devouring. It’s a number that gives pause for thought.
The human super-predator is sometimes considered as the most “successful” species of all time in terms of the struggle for survival. But given the situation, “success” begins to look an awful lot like failure. Winning and losing become one and the same thing. It is certainly an Age of Ironies.
Earlier Extinction Events have been followed by Generation or Regeneration Events. One can only hope that the Sixth Extinction Event, however tragic it turns out to be, might also be succeeded by a Seventh Generation Event — the Seventh Day of Creation, as it were. And since the Sixth Extinction Event is anthropogenic — that is to say, human-driven — it is to a reformation or transformation of this “anthropos” that we must look for a solution. As Rumi puts it, “the cure for the disease is in the disease”.
Previous Extinction Events have been succeeded by life-affirming, life-enhancing mutations. Life outran the conditions and circumstances that had become hostile to it. The deformation was also a transformation.
It is the conviction of thinkers like Jean Gebser that such a “mutation” of the anthropos — the human form — is already underway. He calls it the “irruption” of “the integral consciousness”, and it belongs also to Nietzsche’s anticipation of the emergence of the transhuman or “overman”. If so, it must be considered as part of the promise of a prospective Seventh Generation Event. So, even the great evils and dangers of our time — the manifestations of nihilism — may serve as pressures and stresses towards effectuating a mutation or metamorphosis.
Goethe has his Mephistopheles respond to Faust’s inquiry as to who he is: ” Part of that Power which would
The Evil ever do, and ever does the Good. ”
I might suggest that the current Extinction Event intensified with the First World War, and that the world is still far from having returned to sanity. And while it is de rigueur to speak of “globalisation” as world “integration”, World War and the Sixth Extinction Event proves the paradox of the process as being also and simultaneously global dis-integration and nihilism, where short-term “success” may well be accompanied by long-term failure.
If there is to be a Seventh Generation Event, it begins with overcoming the deficiencies of our cognition and perception that have become formalised as the human self-understanding — our self-image. If that self-image and self-understanding is false and without foundation, our activities will be perverse and destructive regardless of our intentions.