Earth will survive. Shall we? – Some Science, Spirit and Song

This morning an astrophysicist’s essay brought up for me my long-time suspicion that “saving the world” is more about saving ourselves than saving our living planet whose resilience has been tested and developed repeatedly for over four billion years. It reminded me of a song I wrote more than twenty years ago and a book I wrote nine years ago and my life-changing realization that the work we do now for “saving the planet” could be redirected to our learning to be wise collective agents of the evolutionary force becoming conscious of itself in human form, thus creatively re-immersing ourselves into the flow of life with all our unique gifts intact, evolving along with everything else…

This morning I received a remarkable essay by astrophysicist Dr. Adam Frank “Earth Will Survive. We May Not”.

Dr Frank argues that “Our planet does not need our saving. The biosphere has endured cataclysms far worse than us — and after millions of years thrived again…. In the long term, the biosphere will handle pretty much anything we throw at it”. This was the point of a song I wrote back in the early 1990s when I was writing songs. You can read my “Mother Earth’s Message” below as a poem.

But Dr Frank also says “This recognition — that in the long term the Earth will abide without us — does not absolve us from the need for urgent action…. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment of the true scale of our planetary responsibilities. It means we must become the agent for something the Earth has not seen before — a biosphere that is also awake to itself and can act for its future with both compassion and wisdom.”

Now, that is the message of my 2009 book Reflections on Evolutionary Activism: Essays, Poems, and Prayers from an Emerging Field of Sacred Social Change.  As I look back at it this morning after reading Dr Frank’s essay, I find in its seventh chapter “Learning to Be Evolution” the seeds of my 2017 wise democracy pattern language. In its eighth chapter “Becoming Evolution’s Conscious Weaver” I find the suggestion that “these times call us… to become that aspect of evolution that is conscious of itself – for evolution is the Master Weaver, and we only do our weaving as part of that.”


Summarizing its reflections on the evolutionary dynamics of competition and cooperation, Chapter 8 concludes: “In evolution, both competition and cooperation ultimately serve the wellbeing of the whole. We are called to do both consciously and wisely, thereby becoming the evolutionary vehicle that will carry us through the next century.” It then invites the reader to realize that the phrase “We are all in this together” “is now more than an exhortation or a static fact. It is a dynamic evolutionary reality that we will all be living out, one way or another…”

If you are interested in Reflections on Evolutionary Activism, you can download a free pdf of it at If you prefer, you can buy the paperback version from Amazon. (The book’s website offers discounts for bulk purchases.)

Dr Frank says “if we don’t take the right kind of action soon the biosphere will simply move on without us, creating new versions of itself in the changing climate we’re generating now. So we must be honest. The problem is not saving the Earth or life writ large, but saving our cherished civilization…. We, and our project of civilization, are not a plague on the planet. We are just what the biosphere is doing now. The question then becomes what changes must we make to still be ‘what it’s doing’ many millenniums from now?… We must come into some as-yet-unimagined, cooperative relationship with the biosphere where all boats rise. This means understanding what makes the biosphere — with us still in it — more robust, innovative and resilient.”

Dr Frank has named the challenge in evolutionary terms, as I’ve tried to do in my work. What I’ve tried to add to that is practical insights into how our responsive, collaborative intelligence works its wonders in the space between us and our environment, in that ever-shifting realm that evolution calls “fit”, where an appropriate, responsive fit enables organisms – and civilizations – to survive and where a lack of fit-ness and responsiveness results in “natural selection” removing organisms – and civilizations – from the planet-sized game of co-responsiveness we experience as our living world. There are many ways we can upgrade our intelligent responsiveness into well-informed wisdom. And that’s been the focus of my work, even as my poetry calls up the need for it.

So this comes with blessings for the Immense Journey we are all on together, the journey whose path we make together as we travel together.



I went to Mother Earth last night,
a tear within my eye.
I said I feared that she was through;
I asked her please what we could do
to make it so she would never die.
She shrugged and asked me why.
And then she said to me….
to me….

She said
Don’t you worry ’bout me, boy.
I’ been ’round four billion years.
You humans, you just come and go
with all your mess and blessedness,
your shopping mall Apocalypses;
killing fields and beers,
all your hopes and fears,
all your dreams and tears….
and tears….

But I’m mom to more than you, boy.
I’m mom to life itself.
And me and life will still be here
if you’re no more than a drying tear….
a trace on Nature’s face
that I’ll somehow replace,
replace with someone else
my dear….

So save your own sweet sassafras.
Save your home and town.
But while you do it, don’t forget
that you are part of a bigger net
that gives you everything you get.
And every time you cut another down,
the spring it gets more tightly wound.
Each cut will one day come around
to you….

So don’t you worry ’bout me, boy.
I’ been ’round four billion years.
It’s your soul you gotta look out for.
It’s caught inside a closing door,
a heavy door of greed and fear,
of deadly smiling gold veneer.
You’re trapped within a room
with the lives that you consume.
You will know the timber’s tears
and the plans of profiteers.
Do not shrink from what you hear
or you shall disappear
my dear…..

For as you prosper now, my boy,
you drag the others down:
the eagles and the antelope,
the dolphins and the buffalo,
the billions that you’ll never know
in the falling jungle domino.
The poisoned places grow,
up above and down below….
hurricane and undertow….
the Storm begins to blow….
Soon you’ll have to go,
you know…..

There are so many of you, boy,
you’ve gotten out of hand.
You never stop when there’s enough.
Each year you’re into bigger stuff.
Your big boys like to play it rough.
You’re bulls in nature’s shop.
You know it’s gonna stop.
Your towers all will topple down
on you…..

You see the end of everything,
I see the end of you.
The pity of it is that you
could be with me as I am with you
and see that I am always new
and always very old…
and always hot and cold…
and always everything
that sings….

So don’t you worry ’bout me, boy.
I’m mom to life itself.
And me and life will still be here
if you’re no more than a drying tear,
a trace on Nature’s face
that I’ll somehow replace,
replace with someone else…
replace with someone else…
so many more to come,
my dear…..

I went to Mother Earth last night,
a tear within my eye.
I said I feared that she was through;
I asked her please what we could do
to make it so she would never die.
She shrugged and asked me why.
And then she said to me…. to me….
don’t you worry ’bout me, boy…..
[humming, music fades]

* * * * * * *

I always look where Tom Atlee points. His passion for our collective evolution makes him a towering receiver for new possibilities and he serves us all through his brave exploration of powerful ideas and processes.

—Vicki Robin, co-author of Your Money or Your Life

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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
Calling forth the wisdom of the whole for the wellbeing of the whole

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