An Evolutionary Perspective on the Paris Agreements

Yes, a laudable historic agreement was reached in Paris by the leaders of 195 countries, who sat up long and exhausting nights to hammer out a complex and unprecedented document signed by all. Yet critics are right in pointing out that this agreement cannot stop global warming or most other disasters we face as a perfect storm of crises. To understand the real importance of the COP21 agreements, we need an evolutionary perspective.

For nearly four billion years, the great evolutionary leap for any species from primeval bacteria to nucleated cells and multi-celled creatures such as ourselves, has been a leap into maturity. These leaps have occurred countless times when the energy cost of youthful competitive expansion economies became prohibitive in reaching their payoff limits, often in the form of mortal crises.

Nature limits expansion on the part of any species to preserve its rich complexity and resilience. At the critical point, a species either goes extinct from inability to mature, or finds its way out of crisis through cooperative negotiations that ultimately lead to stable, cooperative mature economies within and among species—and that is what was happening in Paris on a global scale.

The politicians came through the arduous process with an agreement that our competitive fossil fuel age must give way to cooperative clean, green energy and that rich countries must help the poor ones to make this mature transition. We do not even have to agree on whether global warming is real, or on who caused it, to take this critical leap.

For those of us, now a global majority, who do believe in global warming, we know the agreement cannot stop it, but then, many scientists believe the tipping point has in any case already been crossed and that adaptation is our only option now. Clean, green energy and greater social equity are a core part of this adaptation. No one wants to cope with pollution or poverty on a hotter Earth! We will now have to expand our cooperation to cope with inevitable supply line interruptions and far more refugees, to green deserts, clean oceans, restore and protect what is left of Nature. We know now that clean energy is viable; the road ahead is clear.

The people’s agreements in Paris far exceeded the politicians’ agreements in terms of recognizing our Oneness with each other and all Nature, working for Climate Justice, Nature’s Rights, Indigenous Rights and many other ways of spelling out the need for a mature, caring, cooperative, just, 100% recycling and toxin-free human economy that fits itself gently into Nature’s greater living economy—into what I have long called a Living Economy, more recently an Ecosophy, a wise economy.

The more people such as those who made their way to Paris and made their voices heard, begin living this mature ecosophy NOW all over our world, the sooner all humanity will follow. Life triumphs, as symbolized by the final peaceful peoples’ march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Tour Eiffel, where the peoples’ spectacular light show of green trees growing endlessly up the rigid steel structure that until now symbolized human progress on its own, will long stay in my mind and heart! 

Eiffel Tower Lit with Green Trees

by Elisabet Sahtouris, PhD evolution biologist & futurist reporting on COP21