Empathy: Is Essential For Human Survival

Chuck Burr
10 min readNov 1, 2020

Freedom gives us rights. Rights come with responsibilities. Responsibility requires empathy. Empathy is selflessly changing your life for another; also known as love.

Freedom’s Deception

A long time ago in a place right here; land was free, food was free, knowledge was free, and all life was equal. Then along came the slave trader Columbus with the civilization mind-disease which spread across this land. Sad, but true story.

Where have we landed today? All is locked up; food, housing, healthcare, and now we yearn for freedom from drudgery and boredom. We hear ourselves speaking into social media echo chambers. We are born into fortunate or unfortunate ranks.

To perpetuate monopoly wealth and government, society tells us that we are free. The Control System ensures that we stay in our ranks, and don’t question government and economic monopolies. Who would dare say, “I am starting a competing government and anyone in town can join.” Or say, “I will decide where my tax dollars are spent.”

When all is free, we put no thought to freedom. When imprisoned, we yearn to be free.

We are so deceived by the illusion, that we will die in the streets to maintain our imprisoned freedom. We are prisoners in our homes, to our debt, jobs, limited education, and nationalism. We are given no alternatives. We can’t say, “screw it, I’m going over to the free land and join those people who know how to live sustainably in small numbers.”

Like Rome’s free grain and games; today’s society is made to keep us participating in the system and not rioting. Lock up the food, so everyone has to work not to starve. We build our prison generation after generation.

Rights keep us working and not rioting

Most rights are given to us through civilized freedom are false. What rights do we really have; speech is a placebo. What good is a right if it is not really a choice? We give away our power to someone else when we vote. All of our food is from industrialized sources that destroy the Earth. Few have access to or money to shop at the farmer’s market. Housing is a debt / rent prison. Land is not free. Education only teaches us how to work in society. School does not teach us how to leave society or create a new.

Freedom Has Responsibilities

The great challenge of our age is to re-mold society so that most of what we can do, we no longer do or take. We must sacrifice much of our family size and consumption to honor the right to non-human life.

The greatness of a culture is measured not by what it takes, but by what it leaves. We are a poor culture.

Once we accept our responsibilities to all voiceless life, we will finally be free. We have the responsibility to reduce our population to end domestication of plants and animals; to not farm, not log, and not dam.

No matter our cause, it is a lost cause if we do not peacefully reduce human population below 1 billion, yes below 1 billion. One-child families is our only alternative. Otherwise, we must destroy non-human life on this planet to maintain 8 billion people. It is our responsibility to honor all life. The problem is civilization, it is not humans. Indigenized humans have lived in harmony on Earth for millions of years.

Because We Can, Is Not A Right

Truly free people living in harmony with all life need no rights. All other non-human species are free until they are attacked by humans. Humans have the right to destroy all non-human life because we are told we can by both civilization and religion.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

Yvon Chouinard

To tell one group they have the unfettered right to live a lifestyle that it requires destroying Earth is madness.

Rights given to us by the creator are not: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Living on a joy-ride, blind to externalized causes is nuts. All living beings have an equal right to live in peace with a home, food, land, resources, skills, without being attacked by humans. A mushroom has as much right to life as any human. Sorry humans, we must drastically reduce your numbers and dump our industrialized, hierarchy, commodity, taker lifestyle.

The circular thought pattern causing humans to destroy the world in the blink of a geological eye: Because I can, it’s ok. Because it’s ok, I can do it. Our entire society is built around this meme.

This taking rights without responsibility is a great evil. This justifies the control system, war, inequity, injustice, and ecocide beyond measure. How can we heal our souls when we cannot even love each other? The great evil hidden within Abrahamic religions is Genesis giving humanity dominion to destroy the world.

Without responsibility humans are over-populating the world into oblivion. Our mother culture is so strong, we can’t even see that our population is at least 10x larger than can live in harmony with other life. Our exuberance to the human cause has blinded us from being the destroyers. Who needs an alien invasion when we have already become one. Our numbers are now so great, that human feeding viruses, are uncontrollable. Wait for Covid 27. Look around, we all have to wear masks now. There are too many of us and the world is dying mostly because of large human families. Sure we can drive to the store, but the world that lived here before our roads, suburbs and farms is dying and it’s our fault because of lack of empathy.

Why Is This False? Do As You wish Without Infringing On Others.

Most people in western society firmly believe that we may do whatever we wish as long as it doesn’t infringe on anybody. The problem with this belief is the scope of the infringement. What if costs of our actions are externalized and we never see what, where or whom is affected? What if others are affected no today, but are in the future? What if we do not care about what is affected; does our lack of empathy justify our actions? If I sell the timber on my land but not my neighbors, are my actions justified because it just does not affect the neighbor? What about the species lost in the clear-cut and the increased fire danger; why aren’t they considered? Lack of empathy is the flaw of independence.

Empathy Is Essential

I chose the cowboy as the featured image for this writing, because he is the symbol of independence and exploitation. What do you feel when you see this photo? A cowboy is paid minimum wage to lack empathy for other life. Eating domesticated meat is immoral, ecologically destructive, wasteful and ruins our health — in my opinion. Read, Vegans Can Save The World.

The ATV-riding cowboy is paid to destroy sensitive landscapes with grazing. They breed the cows to be killed. The cowboy, rancher and usually obese consumer care little about the destroyed land, other species, waste, and their health. Cities have created a culture for rural areas to despoil their own landscape to resource and feed urban areas. This is encouraged by God and country.

Bankers have no care that families are limited to housing by their income. Open-carry gun owners have no care for children they pass on the street. Clergy do not care that The Book of Genesis tells people to go destroy the world. Giant pickup or RV owners do not care about their squandering of resources. Landlords do not care about the wage slavery of their tents to pay the rent. A home owner does not care that a forest was cut for their lumber, that acres of wild land is taken to feed their family, and that wild fisheries killed by dams, that their pollution is measured in tons.

Indigenous people thrive with Earth. Civilized people destroy the Earth to Live. Empathy has become our essential survival skill.

State of Empathy in America Today

It is difficult to give empathy to someone who has never had it. Exuberance, creates privilege. Desperation creates blindness. Narrow-education removes alternatives.

How does one make a wealthy person feel empathy for a poor person, other than that’s too bad, or here’s a little money? How can a meat eater or a hunter care for the life that we share Earth with? The task is to mend the divide between self and other.

Maybe one has to be born with empathy? Or, is everyone born with empathy and modern culture extinguishes it within us? How many people truly have whole-system eyes to care for all life and see the charade of civilization? Who can see ecosystems, social systems and economic systems as one? Almost zero.

Much of life’s view comes down to education and experience. Wild, roadless, public lands are an essential place for place for humans to learn about the world we live it. Such areas must be preserved and expanded on parts of our country. Whole sections of farm and forest land must be taken out of production and restored to their wild state in areas of the country that lack open space. An army of land stewards and interpretive rangers must be created to educate the masses. Visiting and camping in such places must become part of elementary and middle school education. Without understanding there can be no empathy.

Almost no living human can see the landscape as it has before it was damaged. People see the desert as the desert with lots of sage brush. They do not see that most species between the sage have been grazed off by cattle. People see a forest fire as just a fire. They do not see that the fireproof old-growth forests have been replaced by densely packed, mono-aged, tinderbox tree farms. Our landscape is artificial. People do not know what the prairie looked like before the farm field; they don’t even know what a forb or phorb is. Even trained ecologists believe an ecosystem is a food-chain, wrong. An ecosystem is energy bank within a species-bank. Lastly, people do not know what industrial farming chemicals are doing to them. Two out of three of my best friends have died young from cancer. They do not know that R*undup for example, is mostly a corrosive detergent needed to burst the plant cell wall to let the active ingredient, glyphosate, in to kill the plant. And, that glyphosate and the detergent are in the plant cells and cannot be washed off.

As it stands today, nearly half of Americans cheerfully voted for the orange disaster in the White House. But, almost no one can explain the true reason the climate is changing but they can use the self checkout at Wally World.

Humans will naturally love where we live and defend what we love.[1] But, we cannot do that if we do not understand where we live and what life we live with. Seeing the world with whole-system eyes does help us hold space for all life.

The old-growth forest is what Earth really looks like.

We live in an amusement park of civilization. The best advice I can give someone is to spend a day in the old-growth redwoods. Then as you drive out of the forest, pause, slow down, and look at the change in the forest. What is outside is completely different than what is inside the old-growth. The memory of what the Americas really looks like has been lost for 15–20 generations.

4 Steps to An Empathic Society

  1. Born with empathy. We are all born with empathy but it is educated out of us as a child. Biases, exclusivity, language are added by culture. So we have to undo our culture and education.
  2. Learn to see and know something about everything. Our education reveals a narrow civilized human-centric view of the world. Civilized humans are generally taught just what we need to know: work, consume, entertain. Instead we must teach: ecology, natural history, archeology, permaculture, indigenous culture, and horticulture. We live in a world of 30 million other species the average person knows little to nothing about. We can’t empathize with something we do know about.
  3. Shift from being Takers to Leavers. This divide was developed by Daniel Quinn in his book Ishmael. Takers are generally civilized people who have been educated to view the world as resources to be consumed and some fragments of open or wild spaces left for recreation. Takers have large static populations fed by domesticated plants and animals. Domestication reinforces the view of the world as resources. Takers also believe there is only one right way to live and that civilization must continue at any cost. Leavers are generally indigenous peoples who maintain small populations fed and housed by the wild. Because Leavers make their living from the wild, they depend on the health of all wild plants and animals for their own. In a nutshell, humans must evolve beyond civilization for humans to have the empathy Leavers again. Our first post-civilization evolutionary step will be to accept alternatives that were previously not considered such as all plant-based diets and one-child families.
  4. Change the world. Start with education and followup with public policy. Initially, educating youth to be more aware people is essential. The United States has gotten itself in this political mess through of poor education. People who are taught a Taker view of the world grow up to as addicted consumers. Once there is enough political will, public policy must start limiting the damage such as incentives for one-child families, end the practice of eating fish and meat, taking dams down, etc.

Our Responsibility

Our responsibility is to educate ourselves to see with whole-systems eyes. Native America peoples knew the food, housing, medicine, and cultural use of every wild plant and animal. They knew what grew when and where. In short, we have to re-indigenize ourselves. First, we must learn to live and love one-child families. Having 10x fewer people will give our children the alternatives that we do not have today. We must give back most of what we have taken. It’s time we live like we care — with great reverence, empathy, and respect for all life, for the voiceless.

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Chuck Burr is author of Culturequake: The Restoration Revolution. Revised Fourth Edition. 10th Anniversary.

[1] KS Wild. www.kswild.org

Originally published at http://culturequake.com on November 1, 2020.



Chuck Burr

Chuck Burr is a philosopher, entrepreneur, horticulturist, rock climber, trail runner and full-time father. He is author of Culturequake.com