9. A philosophical view of climate change (3)

This is an extract from a discussion on the subject of climate change with a member of the audience at a talk Hlatky gave at the ABF Huset, an Adult Education Centre, in Stockholm, Sweden, on 10 February 1993. Hlatky argues, as in Post 8, that technology should always be at the service of, be relative to, biology. He also returns to the theme of identity as the underlying problem, as we discussed in our first Post on climate change (Post 7).

Stefan Hlatky: … You […] have to […] think about whether it makes sense to continue with a one-sided industrialism that isn’t adapted to biology ­– for it isn’t – waiting, in vain, for biology to gradually adapt to it, meanwhile just pushing ahead completely regardless.

Audience Member: It’s surely the use of fossil fuels – coal and oil – that are the most dangerous for us?

SH: Isn’t it that we don’t question how much energy we need, what we need energy for? Isn’t that the difficulty?

AM: Yes, you know that the world would go under in just a few weeks if you took out as much energy all over the world as we do in the Western world.

SH: Yes, and yet the market economy is spreading to the whole world now, so that the whole world is getting this craving to acquire just as many refrigerators and all sorts of things. And then refrigerators aren’t actually as important for Sweden as for warm countries. Sweden would cope better without refrigerators than they would.

AM: Who is responsible for this type of planning? Surely there should be a supranational body responsible for it which can control the development.

SH: You certainly could have one, but that’s what I am maintaining: that if we could get this other basic view out[1], the problem would solve itself. Because then people would realize that it’s Nature that organizes. So when someone comes and wants to organize something without reference to Nature, we should say to that person: ‘Leave off! First, you should recover your consciousness of Nature, and then you can talk!’

AM: What exactly should we be allowed to do? What if we set up a list of things we shouldn’t do – in order to rescue Nature. What action can we still take?

SH: As soon as you can talk with people, the problem of forbidding people doesn’t arise.

AM: Yes, but I have driven here by car, for example. I’ve driven fifty or sixty kilometres today, around a lot of places.

SH: Yes, since Sweden is set up for cars, you can’t drop the car just like that. People are right when they say ‘Without the car, Sweden will grind to a halt’. But for that reason we should be able to realize that now we shouldn’t build more unless it’s entirely with the idea of benefitting biology – and not toppling it. For there’s certainly also a biological benefit to be had from having a car.

AM: Why can’t humans provide for themselves – ‘dig where you stand’?

SH: Because of status… because everything humans experience is identity. And an identity that’s completely without perspective. For our [real] identity is Nature-determined, and then it is balanced. But a person can’t balance their [created] identity. They can’t stop at ‘Yes, I could become world champion, but I’m content with tenth place’. Or stop competing altogether – that would be even worse. Because, when it comes to identity, it’s a fight about everything, a fight that can’t be prevented. On the other hand, if you were to give people back their natural identity, then the fighting would stop. And people would end up laughing at the hunt for identity that they’d been engaged in before.

AM: But what is human identity then?

SH: A being with consciousness of the whole who can’t help loving the whole creation. And that you can rely on. But the condition for that is that the person changes the I-identity, which is the consequence of time-consciousness, to this space-based consciousness of the whole[2] …and, starting from that, they think about a creation that is valid for everyone in the same way.

AM: But you are brought up by this society to think…

SH: Yes, but imagine if a general discussion about that were to start and were to lead to an insight, so that as they bring children up people were to stop ruining every child-mind by indoctrinating it with this idea of ‘I’ [UR, pp.43-44] in this way. Then the whole problem would be done away with from the bottom.

AM: Is this the competition person?

SH: Yes, it’s the competition person, who absolutely must have an identity, because it [their real identity] has been taken away by the I-idea in childhood… through the illusion that you get your identity with the I-idea. It’s a tremendous force in this upbringing: that you get your identity through the I-idea.

AM: But if one could get people to do this, then people would become completely passive instead, perhaps, and just day-dream or something like that.

SH: That’s what people believe. Can one become passive through thinking this? It bears reflection… because it’s Nature that is active, and we have to relate to Nature. And one doesn’t have to create an identity for oneself, but one has consciousness as identity.
It’s undeniable that this hunt for identity makes people incredibly active. Just consider one sport, tennis: where everyone who’s identified with tennis is fighting and fighting and fighting. Or consider running in the forest or on the streets – because those are also identities. [Now addressing the group:] This is what Gunnar [the audience member] thinks, that it will be dull if one takes away from people this constant struggle for identity…. because it is a struggle for identity, a mutual struggle for identity. But think about it: would people then really become dull?


1. Hlatky is referring to his own view, which he had been presenting earlier in the talk.
2. Again Hlatky is referring to ideas elaborated earlier in the talk. They can be followed up in Understanding Reality [UR, p.40] (see not only the paragraph in black in this link, but also to the end of the section it is in, as well as the section headed ‘Time’ that follows it).

8. A philosophical view of climate change (2)

This article (already on our website) was written by Hlatky on the occasion of the very significant first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which took place in his home town, Stockholm, in 1972. Associated with the Conference was a People’s Forum, where any member of the public could make their views known. Hlatky’s own title for the article was: ‘The demands of common sense[1]on the eve of the forthcoming conference on the protection of the environment’.

Nature is absolute, technology is relative

The generally accepted idea that we can ‘improve’ Nature through technology is the basic cause of all destruction of the environment.

Nature sustains our needs. Technology comes into the picture through the fact that the needs that exist because of Nature require of us some action – a technological procedure – if we are to satisfy them.

The needs remain fundamentally unchanged (i.e. they are absolute), while the satisfaction of them is ongoing in a constant renewal, for better or worse (i.e. it is relative), in that we constantly, time and again, succeed or fail in the process.

When the technological process is faulty, the satisfaction diminishes or fails to be forthcoming; we become unsatisfied. We experience the lack of satisfaction as a fault, because it is a fault; it is not any fault in Nature, however, but in the process, thus in the technological. This means that all faults are technological; no biological faults can ever arise.

It might be thought that this is hair-splitting. So be it. But bear in mind that, even if it is, it is crucial to the whole development of our judgement[2]. For by attributing the fault to Nature, we automatically glorify technology; we give it an absolute value in its relationship to Nature. We then start looking for faults in Nature; we become dissatisfied with Nature instead of looking for the fault in our own action, in the technological. To value technology above Nature and then to look for and ‘establish’ the fault in Nature is the primary cause of all pollution of the environment.

Our[3] demands are therefore the following:

  1. To stop presenting technology as a doctrine of salvation 

This implies in practice:

(a)  To stop all the nonsensical talk about unintelligent Nature as against the intelligence of human beings who are supposed to rescue Nature with technological solutions. The absolute purpose of Nature is to endure, to go on. It does not destroy itself; nor can it be destroyed or rescued by humans. The idea of self-destruction is the speciality of human beings (war, suicide, substance abuse, environmental pollution, driving madly along the roads, and thousands of other perverse ways of risking one’s life) – all this because of the fact that, as the highest species on the Earth’s surface, humans can either choose to be more intelligent than animals, by using their ability to understand themselves as a part in the whole reality; or they can choose to misuse their intelligence by using it in the same limited way that animals use theirs: with regard only to themselves.

(b)  To stop all the nonsensical talk about nature-reserves[4]. For natural reasons every human being knows that Nature is one and indivisible, because all our experience supports this view. The research results of ecology have only lent a differentiated scientific corroboration to what common sense tells us.

By the encirclement and preservation here and there of Nature, we only create a misleading conception of it and a narrow, and therefore distorted, love of it, together with the deceptive belief that we have thereby done all that we can do. In practice these boundaries bring no protection for Nature, but only preserve the technological lunacy outside the nature-reserve.

  1. Never haggle at Nature’s cost

A doctor is not allowed to intervene and operate without a diagnosis, without there existing nature-determined causes for a technological intervention. To encourage and make propaganda for technological toys for children and grown-ups without a carefully thought-through and factually stated biological motivation is just as harmful as encouraging doctors to perform operations as ends in themselves, without regard for the patient’s health.

Technology has a decisive significance in our lives, and must under all circumstances be at the service of Nature. There is no such thing as an innocent or neutral technology, that is, a technology without any consequences. Any technology that is not biologically motivated is inevitably anti-biological. Technology as an end in itself is, firstly, the undoing of psychological (mental) health – through our identification with the technological, which automatically blinds people to the biological (the natural). And, secondly, it is the undoing of physical health and the environment. If we want to avoid the dangers of technology, we must create an insight for children into this question of principle while they are still young.

  1. An insight must be created into the paradox of discussing economics vs Nature.

Everyone knows that no one can express biological values in money or in any other unit of measurement. The practical consequence of this fact is that Nature cannot possibly come into our economic reckonings. Unconscious of this, we have fallen into the habit of immediately thinking about economics as soon as the subject of Nature comes up – as if we are convinced that we live from money and not from Nature. To place economics in relation to Nature is the gravest imaginable offence to human intelligence – to our own (when it amounts to self-deception), as much as to the intelligence of defenceless children, who thereby acquire from the very start a basic view of their situation in life that is inconsistent with reality. Economics can only go with economics, never with Nature!

A technology that cannot be pure is not worth having 

If we simply weigh up the economic pros and cons, then it is obvious that a rushed or botched job is cheaper than an intelligent construction. To use economics on the basis of faulty indoctrination and the prevailing disorientation about the basic questions of life as a way of getting people to accept botched jobs, while invoking the holy economy, requires an unnatural piece of intellectual acrobatics; it is therefore without basis and thus unintelligent, an unconscious self-destruction as we allow ourselves to be hypnotized by short-sighted gains.

If any technological solution proves to be anti-biological, that is because it has not been thought through and it must be developed further. The fact that a suicide weapon is cheap is no reason for destroying the whole of humanity.

Common sense tells us that there can never be an intelligent motive for setting anti-biological botched jobs in motion. Unfortunately we have so perfected intellectual acrobatics (unintelligence) that we are unable to come up with a natural thought, unless we happen to be sitting in front of our leisure cabin in the nature-reserve to which we have banished Nature. Nothing should be allowed other than an absolutely pure technology that Nature can absorb without being disturbed. To haggle over this demand is to chose the dirty over the pure, the unclear over the clear, the unintelligent over the intelligent, the unreasonable over the reasonable, and destruction over development.

That the demands put forward here cannot be carried out in the blink of an eye is self-evident, but if we do not define the principles unequivocally as they are in reality, then all our actions will remain confused.


1. Note that the subtitle of Hlatky’s and Booth’s book, Understanding Reality, is ‘A commonsense theory of the original cause’.
2. This is a generic term for the conclusion or set of conclusions that each person comes to in their efforts to understand reality, and what they come to value, the judgements they make, as a result of these conclusions.
3. This piece was written under the auspices of Action to Broaden the Dialogue.
4. The idea at the time was to contribute to the protection of Nature by establishing national parks.