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The Way Forward with Dr. Andy Schmookler

George Grombacher February 24, 2023

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The Way Forward with Dr. Andy Schmookler

LifeBlood: We talked about the way forward and how to get past the many problems were facing, how and why we’ve found ourselves in this predicament, how history repeats itself, and how to think about the problem, with Dr. Andy Schmookler, author, columnist, speaker, and thought leader.  

Listen to learn about what can be done to move through this difficult time in our history!

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Andrew Schmookler

Dr. Andy Schmookler

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Well hello, this is George G and the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Dr. Andy smuggler. Dr. Andy, you’re ready to do this?

Andy Schmookler 0:10
I’m already all right.

george grombacher 0:12
Dr. Andrew Barbash. Moakler is a prize winning author, former Democratic candidate for Congress. He’s a former talk radio host and author, columnist, excited to have you on Doctor, tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do.

Andy Schmookler 0:31
Well, I don’t do it to get rich. It which is a good thing, because it wouldn’t, wouldn’t work. I have spent the last look, there was a day in 1970. And my personal story, where I saw something that seemed so important that I made a promise, I knew not to what to do my very best to develop what I had seen that picture of what had happened to our species, to to get it out to my fellow human beings, because it was clear to me that if more people understood what I had been, I would say shown that we as a species would be better off and have a better chance to survive for the long haul. So that was what launched me on my life’s work. And I have been developing a series of ideas that are integrated together into what I call an integrated picture of the human story that I I still feel convinced could have a beneficial impact on where we go from here.

george grombacher 1:41
What did you see?

Unknown Speaker 1:44
Well, I saw that there was more implications to species taking the step that we took 10 or 12,000 years ago, which was unprecedented in the history of life, a step onto the path of civilization. You know, we don’t look at civilization as the right way. For the most part, we don’t look at it in the context of the fact that this emerged out of out of the evolution of life that had been going on for three and a half billion years. We if you look at it in that context, you see that there are enormous implications that any creature that takes that step on any planet, anywhere in the cosmos, is going to unleash forces that are going to drive the way it civilization develops in a way that it could not avoid, and would never have chosen.

george grombacher 2:39
And how to how did you actually see it? Was it an image? Was it like a,

Unknown Speaker 2:46
it was a moment of visualizing. Let’s put it that way i i was thinking about things I had been for two or three years at that point. wrestling with the question, why is there so much destruction and torment in the world? This was launched in 1968, which was a year where America was in turmoil, where the Soviets and sent their tanks rumbling into Prague to crush the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. And where there was assassinations in the United States. And the Chicago convention was a police riot. It was it was a time where I felt as a young man I was I was 22 at the beginning of this in 24, in 1970. But I felt like I needed to understand what was going on in the world. And having spent, you know, two years sort of wrestling with this question, not apparently, getting any particular there were, I saw that there was something about what happens when, when a creature leaves the niche in which it evolved biologically. And by inventing its own way of life. Until that point, every other living form had evolved into a particular niche and was was in that niche and couldn’t get out of that niche and fit into the larger world in a way that had been selected for not just for that species, but for the synergies and viability of all the various ecosystems all the way up to the biosphere. But we not because there’s anything wrong with us, but because we had a level of creative intelligence that was unprecedented. We took a step starting to create a way of life. That was not what we had done during the eons that we had developed as, as vertebrates as mammals as primates. As apes, and eventually then as human beings, hunter gatherer societies still living in little bands like primates, still living off of what nature provides, but now domesticating, plants and animals, changing the rules, developing the ability to have different sizes and structures of society, living off of not what nature provides, but what domesticated nature would provide. There are implications to that, that I saw in that moment. And that I continue to see how it illuminates a lot of things about this, the dilemmas that our our species faces, including the dilemma that we face now in the United States, where the survival of democracy is jeopardized.

george grombacher 5:55
Even thinking about this for a long time.

Unknown Speaker 5:58
Yeah, I it is what thinking is what I was raised to do. And thinking about these things is something that I feel called to do. And for the last, just about 20 years, I’ve been sort of emergency mode, because I love this country. And I can see that there, I could see back in Well back in the early 90s. And but then much more profoundly is starting in 2004, I could see that there was a force rising. So the idea of a force is what has been central to my, my understanding, we tend to think about things in terms of what the parts are doing. So and so did this so and so did that. It’s all about human beings, making choices and doing things. But the the idea of a force is that the systems within which we operate, can develop a dynamic that takes things more or less out of our control, not entirely out of our control, thank God, but enough out of our control that we don’t understand what’s happening, unless we see the systemic forces at work. And that’s what my life has been about trying to expose that if we want a future of our own choosing, we need to understand what forces have been unleashed that needs to be brought under control, otherwise, we don’t get to choose our, our destiny. Are you hopeful? Ah, yeah, it’s sort of my nature to be hopeful. But, you know, it’s pretty clear that we need to make major changes, if we’re going to survive. We’re going now back from the level of will American democracy survive to the larger level of will human civilization survive? You know, there are two threats that in the course of well, not quite my lifetime, I was born in 1946, whereas the Atomic Age began, will depend on when you want to put it, whether it’s, you know, the droppings of the bombs on on Japan. But anyway, I was born near the beginning of an era where we have to start contemplating for the first time, whether we might destroy ourselves as a species and take much of the rest of the planet down with us. The other problem that with that could destroy us, is now evident in the way that there’s this gathering crisis of climate change, where a lot of difficulty is already baked in the cake, as it were. And we didn’t recognize, I would say, when I was a kid, that we might actually bring ourselves down all together by our recklessness as a species on on a planet. You know, a bull in a china shop is what what we’ve become. So those two things have have have just within living memory, have emerged as ways that we could destroy ourselves. And at the moment, we can see that either one of them remains a threat. If you look at what’s happened in the world, just in the last year, we’ve seen a a nation with a word run by a somewhat mad, certainly a human monster Vladimir Putin has has begun a war and brandish nuclear weapons to intimidate. And we have a potential crisis over Taiwan between two nuclear superpowers. So we still have a situation like we did in 1962 with the Cuban Missile A missile crisis, where if things had not gone the way they did, there was a danger that we could have blown up the whole planet. With 1000s of nuclear explosions and a massive nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, we’re still in that world. We need to create a different kind of world. And we’re not making obvious progress in that direction. Am I hopeful about how we’ll deal with finding a way to live on this planet without destroying the the processes of the rest of life on which we still depend for our survival? Well, we have not known about the problem of climate change. I wrote about it in 1976. Apparently, Exxon knew with considerable accuracy, what the dangers were, by about the same time, and to consider that more than 40 years have gone by, and we’ve not made more progress than we have. It’s not very impressive. But it’s clear, we need to develop a different kind of civilization, in terms of how it behaves, in terms of maintaining the viability of life on Earth, that we are still, despite our becoming civilized, we still depend on it for our survival. So am I hopeful? Yeah, we’re a creative species. But there are forces at work that we haven’t. We haven’t gotten clear enough on, we haven’t overcome enough. And there is, I’d say, I’d say it’s a toss up, whether in two centuries from now, we will have gotten our act together to survive for the long haul, or we will have destroyed ourselves. And a toss up means that anything that could have a beneficial impact is worth pursuing, because there could be a tipping point that could go either way. And I think that what I’ve put together could have a beneficial impact. And so at the age of 76, I am still committed to doing everything I can, to getting out that the picture that I’ve spent my life developing of what it is we need to do?

george grombacher 12:25
Is it an easy answer?

Unknown Speaker 12:28
No, no, I would say that, in terms of an easy answer I can give, I can say this, I can say we should be spending a meaningful amount of time on the question, What would our civilization have to look like for it to be pretty well safe for surviving for the long haul? And that’s a question of envisioning, and the answer. And the answer to it will be something that different people have different ideas. But we we need at least to have that conversation about these different ideas, and to do our best to envision where we need to get to. And meanwhile, to ask a second question, which is what? What can we wisely do now, that is best likely to get us to that destination? We don’t know exactly where we need to go. But we have ideas we can. I’ve just already presented some ideas about where we need to go. And what steps can we take now that have the best chance of getting us there, eventually, and meeting the central challenge that we face as a species, which is to put our civilization in order that’s good enough, and to do it soon enough that our civilization can survive for the long haul? Those are not those two questions, where do we need to get to? What steps can we take now? They’re not easy answers to to either of those questions. But I think if we spent a meaningful amount of time envisioning that we only have maybe a 5050 chance that two centuries from now, we will still be a going concern on this planet. I think that should motivate us to at least put some real creative energy in to those two questions.

george grombacher 14:41
Well, I certainly couldn’t agree more. What, what can I do as an individual?

Unknown Speaker 14:49
Well, you had me on your show so great. And you can have me back if you want to pursue these things further, and I’d be grateful for that. And you couldn’t tell all your viewers that if they hear anything in this conversation that makes them think that there’s something there that they would want to understand, if indeed I deliver the goods, I say I deliver, that they can find it on. On my website where I’ve tried to present this picture in various ways over the, over the years, sometimes just a part of it sometimes lately, I’m trying to present sort of the whole integrated thing. And I’ve just written in the last four or five months, a series of eight pieces that present a big picture that say that if you if you’re persuaded by it, and I think that the arguments for it are compelling, if you’re persuaded by it, it will give you a way of understanding the big picture in the United States for one thing, but in terms of our species story, that will illuminate some important things. Those, I’m particularly looking for those people who, for one thing, really do care about what happens on this planet. I know, it’s not clear to me how many people actually care about whether our grandchildren can survive and thrive. It’s not clear to me how many people care about whether our great great grandchildren can survive and thrive. But if people do, I’ve got something to offer. And it’s not clear to me how many people in this era really clearly care about having a coherent vision of the human story. whether, you know, when I was growing up, there were some big stories like from Freud and from remarks that people adopted a way of understanding some important dimensions of the human world, I have critiques of both of those. But there were people who, who wanted to have a big picture, I’m not clear how many people in our era intellectually care about having some big coherent perspective on the human story. But those who would want something that was valid, compelling and illuminating. I, I feel like I can promise in good faith, I’m delivering something that illuminates some important things. And those people who are willing to put in some intellectual work to see whether this all holds water should go to a better human And you’ll see a variety of things there that bear on what I’m saying I’m delivering. But the most recent effort, my best crack at it at this stage of my life, is up in the upper left hand corner of that page. It’s called my series on three quarks daily or three Q D, where I’ve just posted a series, and there’ll be eight pieces there that begin with the the fate of human civilization. And then it goes to the second piece, which is called the ugliness we see in human history is not human nature writ large, which is why I say any creature, anywhere that takes the step on to civilization will have to deal with a lot of the destruction and torment that we see in the pages of human history. And it goes on from there. That’s what I would suggest that people do. And if that changes people’s way of understanding, I think it’s going to change their, their way of addressing the problems that we face.

george grombacher 19:04
I love it. Well, Andy, thank you so much for coming on. Give us the website again, please.

Unknown Speaker 19:10
It’s called a better human story. One word. I don’t think it matters if it’s lowercase or not. And it’s, it’s a place where you can see a good portion of my life’s work. And including a book that I wrote in 2015 called, what we’re up against this destructive force at work in our world, and how we can defeat it. That’s, that’s 2015. And then it’s also got my 2017 series, which is called a better human story, and then it’s got this more recent series. It’s up in the upper left hand corner. This is all at the website, a better human

george grombacher 19:55
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did show Andy your appreciation and share it share with a friend who also appreciates good ideas and wants to see us human beings stick around for for for for a little while longer go to a better human and look up in the upper left hand corner for Andy’s three QD and dig in and engage with all the hard work and thinking that Andy has put into this and find out what we can be doing to move the conversation and humanity and everything forward. Thanks again, Andy.

Unknown Speaker 20:36
Thank you, George.

george grombacher 20:37
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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