Climax Social Evolution Theory
I knew they were very wrong to try to convert the Capitalist world by force. True socialist society cannot be dominated by militarists. Militarists are always willing to sacrifice naive young men and women and their own society's economic support system to do battle with the enemy whatever it is. It was clear to me that capitalists would not only win the wars against militant socialist societies but would make money doing so. War is a very lucrative capitalist enterprise. The various communitarian experiments in the last century and in the 1960's communes didn't have any answers either as their experiments in social change either died within a few years or lasted only through totalitarian-like commitment to the group's leader or leaders and the group or cult lifestyle, e.g. the Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish, and the farther out cults today. Actually, Marx had already co-opted the communitarian movement in the 1800's when he labeled his state socialist system "Communism" and proceeded to ridicule communitarian social theories and groups as "unscientific". But one thing I did admire in Marxist-Leninism was the commitment to practice what you preach and then learn from your mistakes: Theory-Praxis-Theory. In 1968 I had proposed a new intentional cooperative community model--the Communiversity, which combined a new type of community college-government-economic production center as the main organizing and administrative system for a surrounding cooperative community of diverse communes. In the early '70's I and my wife and another communitarian organized a small commune with a primary goal of organizing a larger cooperative community. We were an activist commune, really a collective, unlike the more numerous spiritual and flat-out hippie communes. We worked hard and built our own small cabins surrounding a main communal farm house. We became proficient in the French Intensive-Biodynamic organic gardening technique and produced abundant crops using very little water, very little arable land, and no machines. We started a nationwide communal information magazine that is still going today--Communities magazine. We held communal information living conferences, we had communal enterprises, we authored the Communitarian Village proposal which though written in 1973 is still relevant today as if focuses on forming an ecologically sound and democratically run cooperative community, a model of human community harmoniously interfacing the natural world. But like most all the communal experiments in the 1960's and '70's, we were all haunted by our childhood conditioning learning how to be individualistic in a society where money and/or power rule. Communitarian ideals or not, we couldn't cope with the reality of sharing everything, including our emotional baggage and ego trips, and we bailed out of the communal movement one by one. Theory-Praxis-Theory. Back to the drawing board.. In 1975 I discovered the Climax Civilization social evolutionary pattern. Such a simple concept really- plant and animal species survive and evolve in natural interspecies balancing acts biologists have labeled "Climax Communities" because these balancing acts go through a series of configurations and re-alignments before stabilizing in a final formation. Well, human beings are animals, so the Climax succession pattern must somehow apply to our species as well. Sure enough, the anthropological record shows that prehistoric and the few remaining wild tribal societies today live a universally similar lifestyle, the hunting and gathering lifestyle, that physically and psychologically connects each member of these human groups directly to the supporting natural environment. What then of human civilization since the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago? This is where the Human Climax evolutionary succession pattern comes into the picture. "Climax Civilization 101" was a treatise I first published in 1977. The treatise was presented as a lecture to students enrolled in the then fantasy Mateel University which later briefly actually existed as the Mateel Communiversity. In the treatise I give a generalized overall view of the basic idea of human history following an unseen biological succession pattern with a definite goal: the re-establishment of a new human Climax lifestyle which will give human communities survival capacity while carrying the best fruits of civilization forward into the only future possible- one where human civilization and the supporting natural environment co-exist in lasting harmony.
Climax Civilization 101
Welcome to the birth of the New Earth. In this first of an indefinite series we will be discussing a new universal social and environmental perspective which may at some point be of major significance. We will be using the phrase "Climax Social Evolution Theory" to describe this new worldview. Before going further, however, let's take a look at some handy Climax terms: From the American College Dictionary we note the ecological definition of "Climax": "that stage in the ecological succession or evolution of a plant-animal community which is stable and self-perpetuating". From Hanson's Dictionary of Ecology:
"Climax: the kind of community capable of perpetuation under prevailing climatic and edaphic (soil) conditions. The terminal stage of a sere under prevailing conditions.
Sere: the series of stages that follow one another in ecological succession.
Succession: the replacement of one kind of community by another. The progressive changes in vegetation and in animal life which may culminate in the Climax.
Climax Community: See Climax.
Besides having at least some acquaintance with these dictionary definitions of the ecological Climax, most of us living here in the Mateel have a continuous firsthand experience with the pattern as we live in the midst of ravaged forests struggling to re-establish themselves. Most of us have some awareness of the succession pattern on logged-over land. First, the various types of brush establish themselves on the open ground along with young hardwood trees such as tanoaks and madrones. These trees in turn grow up and give needed shade for the young softwood trees. Finally, the forest climax is re-established with redwoods dominating the lower elevations and Douglas firs and mixed hardwoods dominant in the hills above them. This is a comparatively short term Climax sequence.
For a longer term perspective let's consider a late Pleistocene plant-animal community experiencing the transition from an Ice Age environment to a warmer, drier one. What happens to those plants and animals in their previously stable climax? The ones that can will evolve in whatever ways and forms that are naturally selected over the transition period which allow for survival in the changed environment. Some species will lose most of their dense fur or thick bark which has become a hindrance to temperature regulation in the new warmer climate. Some species will simply switch diets to survive while others will miss out altogether by not evolving any necessary changes in structure or lifestyle or by evolving some new form suitable for, let's say, the first stage of the transition period but not for later stages. In any event, after a lot of evolutionary trial and error, a whole new improved set of plants and animals will have established themselves in a new climax succession pattern which matches the new environmental conditions.
Now we're ready for the main hypothesis of the Climax Social Evolution Theory. Of course it's obvious that human beings as an evolving species have successfully adjusted to changes in the environment during the past geological epochs, otherwise we wouldn't be here today. But now watch what happens when we consider human history and the rise of civilization during the past 10,000 years as the logical social extension of the ecological Climax pattern. A previously well hidden pattern emerges: What we refer to as the "history of civilization" may in biological reality be an evolutionary succession pattern of human community lifestyle changes that progress, each one conditioning the development of the next as in any proper sere sequence, towards the re-establishment of a stable and self-perpetuating, a human community dominant Climax. Perhaps we have become so removed from our own biological past by this journey in technological and social development which is "history" that to consider it in these simple biological terms may at first seem foreign. But let's continue with the argument and see where it leads.
From a Climax Social Evolutionary Theory perspective, what has happened through history is that our species has paid and is still paying an enormous price for technological breakthroughs and subsequent social re-organizations beginning with the discovery of agriculture. These discoveries during the past 10,000 years or so have progressively pushed human communities out of balance with one another and with the surrounding life-supporting environment. Before the advent of agriculture human communities had managed fairly well to live and evolve in ecological harmony with the natural communities of life. The hunting and gathering lifestyle humans led was a successful Climax lifestyle for several million years. But then it happened, although not overnight by any means, that gradually the seeds of discontent with the natural food delivery system were sown and human society has never been the same since. The nearly universal myth of a previous Golden Age and the subsequent Fall of humanity may refer directly to the passage of most human communities from the relatively stable and therefore secure hunting and gathering lifestyle into the progressively estrangement and alienation from the natural world which parallels the rise of civilization.
The rise and fall of successive civilizations and the changing lifestyle patterns with each civilization's lifespan mark our species unconscious homeostatic mechanisms at work: human beings as biological creatures attempting to stabilize each new disruptive technological or social innovation and never quite succeeding because of the irreversible chain reaction effect each new innovation sets in motion- (i.e., the Chaos Theory factor which means every climax community, even though stabilized for years or millennia, is still subject to radical transformation because our planetary climate systems are not permanently stable, especially these days. "Why work for stability then if it may be disrupted at any time by unforeseen events?" Because we humans, as a living species, follow the Climax pattern, which is probably embedded in our genes and hardwired into our brains directing us to stabilize the human relationship with the environment regardless of potential radical changes disrupting that effort.)
So there's the heart of the matter according to Climax Social Evolution Theory. To survive as a species human beings need a stable relationship with their environment. We know the hunting and gathering lifestyle has been a proven winner for the greater part of our species existence in the natural ecology of the Biosphere. And we know that thus far we haven't had much luck finding the answer to civilization and its discontents with still more civilization alienated from the rest of Nature. Are we to follow the Mayan example and solve the problem of civilization by giving it up and fading back into the forest for a return to the original Climax lifestyle? What is to be done?
Well, not to worry! As someone once said, "It's inevitable! Climax Social Evolution Consciousness or Climax Consciousness for short, is coming and in more ways than two. Not Marxism's "economic necessity", although economics plays a big part, but the Biosphere's reaction to human overpopulation and over-production of environmentally toxic substances is the irresistible force behind the coming universalization of Climax Consciousness. Nothing short of this type of perspective on human development will allow us to discover holistic ecology patterns and lifestyles now vitally necessary for our species' continued survival. One way or another, we are all going to return to a Climax relationship with the rest of Nature. It is just our choice at this point whether that return is to the previous hunting and gathering lifestyle falling on the heels of the collapse of civilization by one or more of the Big Boogies or to a new human-plant-animal Climax, a new Climax Civilization. Climax Social Evolution Theory optimistically predicts the latter and acts to facilitate its development.
Climax Consciousness facilitates the development of a new Climax Civilization. A simple aim on the face of it but one that is infinitely complex in scope. This is because this perspective must necessarily be a holistic ecological consciousness concerned with just about everything having to do with human communities and lifestyles, their relationships with each other and with the biological life-support systems of the planet. Environmental, social, political, economic, cultural, technological, spiritual, and personal factors must all be taken in consideration to bring about a new ecologically balanced human society. Climax Consciousness is nothing if not full of wholes.
The Amazing Threefold Utility of Climax Consciousness
(Written for the Mateel Greens in 1986)
Climax Consciousness is above all a useful tool for describing what we need in terms of ecological analysis of social structuring and necessary social change.
The first utility of Climax Consciousness is that it describes the dominant social change process underlying all major social transformations during the past 10,000 years. In the grand march of History, civilizations rise and fall in a complex sequential pattern leading to a final goal of establishing a new universal human Climax lifestyle to replace the old one of hunting and gathering. This human Climax goal isn't the establishment of a glorious worker's paradise or a free enterprise Monopoly game world. It is basic biology in action. It is simply the manner by which human communities will evolve into stable and self-perpetuating Climax Communities that "fit" into the biological networks that give lasting support to these communities of human animals.
"Progress" in past usage referred to expanding human power to impact the natural and social environments human beings dominated at the expense of weaker or silent elements within these societies and natural habitats. "Progress" then was a term for human aggression turned inward and outward in transitory or unsustainable cycles of conquest that usually could only temporarily benefit a very small portion of the "progressive" societies involved. "Progress" in Climax Consciousness becomes an ecological definition describing the manner in which human communities evolve into Climax Communities and into a worldwide cooperative network of such communities which will constitute Climax Civilization. This brings us to the second utility of Climax Consciousness- its automatic imposition of an "ecological wisdom" value system. If the now conscious social goal is participating in the development of human Climax Communities linked together in a worldwide Climax Civilization, then all major social structures, social activities, and technology will be analyzed, valued, used or discarded depending whether they work for or against Climax Community building. One can now use Climax Consciousness a synonym for the highest stage of ecological wisdom in reference to human social activity, social structuring, and technology.
As we saw with the difference in definitions of "progress" in light of Climax Community values, so too can we apply "Climax" as a means of instantly conveying an ecological wisdom system to a broad range of categories, e.g., "Climax technology" describing ecologically wise techniques and tools as opposed to "modern technology" which signifies no positive or negative value or real worth to the long range survival needs of human communities. We can continue to use "Climax" to focus in on specific areas of Climax technology, e.g., development of a Climax Silvaculture that promotes both human community and bioregional stability as opposed to anti-Climax forestry practices such as massive clearcutting and herbicide spraying which wreaks havoc on all involved ecological systems. Still focusing in we can even consider Climax tools like the hammer, the axe, and the shovel. Most Climax tools are easy to spot: They are simple efficient designs that have been around for centuries and that will always be needed. How long will the gas powered chainsaw, car, or Bic lighter be around before these eco-destructive products of our present "modern" technological myopia are replaced forever by Climax alternative technology?
The third aspect of utility for the Climax Consciousness concept is its inherent holistic unification capability. Just as the Biosphere is a unity of diversity composed of countless communities of plants and animals, each uniquely adapted to its particular environment yet harmoniously interacting with the biodynamic ecology of surrounding biological communities (extinction being the ultimate price of non-harmony), so too with Human Climax Communities. Regions differ producing differing sets of plants and animal species. Human Climax Communities will adapt to their local environments producing endless variety within a universal Climax Civilization pattern of cooperative integration. After (now 31) years I still know of no other social evolution paradigm that can surpass the Climax Social Evolution Theory in clarifying human social evolution or for providing an ecological value system for guidance in these critical times.