Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
Human beings are all of one species. They share similar wants and needs. Among these, human beings desire life, fairness, and to pursue happiness. At the same time, human beings are often short-sighted and make disastrous choices that set them (and future generations) up for failure, suffering, and even death—very unfair and unhappy futures. Human beings, despite being social animals, are often selfish and greedy. Human beings, despite being biological (living) beings who should be seeking ways to assure their survival, are often self-destructive.
This, as best as we can describe it, is The Human Paradox covered by Gilbert Mulley.
This book covers multiple layers of this paradox including how people treat each other, how people view themselves, and how people view and treat the environment, nature, and the Earth. The latter takes up the largest chunk of the book and appears to be its primary focus. Logically, how can human beings who need nature—oxygen, water, and food—take it for granted and destroy it? Would you burn down your own home? Of course not.
However, a home is something very visible and tangible. The Earth to most people is something that exists, but it's huge, somewhat abstract, and seemingly infinite. In terms of the latter, nothing could be further from the truth. The Earth is actually quite finite, and as humanity progresses from year to year, decade to decade, century to century, we seem to be depleting its resources and ruining it more and more.
When was the last time you seriously worried about not having drinking water? Think about it. Yes, there are times of drought and sometimes contamination of the water in the west (as we saw in Michigan), but it's extremely rare for people in the western world in modern times to seriously concern themselves with when they'll get their next sip of water. But what happens when this seemingly infinite resource starts becoming more and more scarce? The same can be said for oil, top soil, or our ozone layer. What happens when these things that we take for granted today aren't here for us 50-100+ years from now? With politicians, especially Conservatives, against handcuffing big businesses to ensure they look after their emissions, carbon footprints, and pollution, the future looks quite bleak. Politicians, after all, have relatively short term limits in the grand scheme of things. And their main objective, sad to say, is usually to get elected or reelected and remain that way for as long as possible. After all, do you start a whole career with the thought of being fired or quitting in a few years? Of course not. But because of this desire to get from one election to the next/one term to the next, politicians are pre-programmed to be short-sighted. They need results now or within the next couple years, not 50-100+ years from now when someone else or some other party can take the credit. That, unfortunately, doesn't put issues like global warming/climate change at the forefront where the author advocates they should be.
Climate change is at the forefront of this book. It is impossible to ignore that as that point is hammered home continuously. Human beings since the industrial revolution have increased the depletion of our ozone layer and global warming. This may be responsible for the growing occurrence of natural disasters like hurricanes and perhaps the heatwaves we've been experiencing. Temperatures are reaching record-highs in areas around the globe, potentially leading to a snowballing series of disasters in the future. What's frightening is how pernicious this all is—we notice the climate changing little by little, just small enough so that it can be conveniently ignored as the problem grows little by little. This is a serious issue that we can't continue to ignore if we are to survive and future generations are to have a world to inhabit. The author cites this as being as big an issue if not bigger than things like social justice, which gets a lot more attention because it has a more human or emotional appeal. We experience it first-hand, where as global warming appears to be happening in the background.
This book can sometimes be incredibly heavy-handed, and at times the argument regarding humanity's destruction of the Earth can become redundant. At the same time, this is a serious enough issue to warrant that. There are a few little things in this book that can seem a little irritating or strange.
The first thing that comes to our minds is that human beings are repeatedly referred to as a “species” as opposed to a race or a group of people that lives, breathes, and thinks. This classification feels very cold and dry. Human beings are almost treated or viewed like pests, parasites, plagues or scourges, and this can be somewhat uncomfortable or troubling if you're like some of us who view human beings as made in the image of God and inherited the Earth and all its creatures.
The author outright argues against this way of thinking, and it's warranted. The author also grew up being urged to go to church and learn about God. He saw that it didn't seem to be helping the environment. In fact, he saw that that way of thinking was making people feel entitled to mistreat animals as livestock and to take the Earth for granted as some sort of gift that wasn't bought or had to be earned. That seems somewhat fair. It just becomes a bit disturbing when the author makes references to things like walking through nature and meditating on it as if in prayer. The argument almost seems to be that the God of our fathers should be replaced by Mother Earth for practical reasons, and that's not necessarily something we support or advocate. At least the author does list spiritual needs as something significant.
What's also somewhat interesting is that the author continuously makes reference to the universe and the Earth being unfeeling, uncaring, cold, and emotionless yet still wants us to venerate them. At the same time—and we are 100% not making this up—when capitalism is described as unfeeling, uncaring, cold, and emotionless, it is a bad, evil thing that shouldn't be venerated or be an example to be followed. That's kinda a double-standard don't you think? Yes, capitalism has its flaws, but America is the richest, most powerful nation in the world because of it not in spite of it. America is far and away the #1 contributor to charitable causes in the world because of capitalism not in spite of it.
And, yes, there's poverty and suffering, just like there's poverty and suffering in 100% of the countries on Earth, ironically more pronounced in socialist countries like North Korea and Venezuela. There will always be poverty and there will always be suffering. That's life, unfortunately.
You cannot force prosperity on people. You cannot force someone to accept a six-figure or seven-figure job if they simply do not want the stress or pain associated with it. For example, you cannot force someone to become a pro boxer by shoving $1 million in their face if they would prefer not to get their head caved in or to put in the work to be conditioned for the role. You cannot ethically force someone to work in the fields from 5 AM to 10 PM in exchange for free rent like one of us endured. You cannot force people to be happy. You cannot force people to work. That would be a denial of human nature—a desire to be able to choose. Forcing people to work and forcing people to be how everyone else is and to do what everyone else is doing would be a denial of their humanity. But what do we know?
Gilbert Mulley has really poured their heart and years of research into making this book as good as it is, and it's a solid book with a really important message that has real-life and future implications.
Check it out on Amazon!