The real trouble with understanding your own accumulative effects on the world is that the human theory of cause and effect, like pool balls bouncing around transmitting effects from elsewhere, isn’t the way nature accumulates effects. Bouncing balls is not the glue nature uses, you might say.
The effects of pressures and forces are real and all, but they nearly all dissipate as they bounce around, rather than accumulate. So…our usual idea of “cause and effect” simply does not apply. That’s a key reason for why good intentions often don’t have their intended effect…
the human theory of effects isn’t the way nature accumulates effects
Lasting cause and effect in nature is about how things that are organized from the inside develop on their own, make use of their environments as they develop. They may capitalize on the crumbs of opportunity you leave lying around, perhaps, as if the systems of nature, cultures and ecologies, were organisms engaged in foraging and dodging as their way of learning and growing.
Most things in nature which are organized and animated from the inside seem to respond to finding limits in one direction by poking around in other directions near bye. Complex human societies, one after another in history, seem to have collapsed because human cultures get stuck on directions of exploration that run out.
To me it looks like they just find themselves unable to look around and change with the times. It appears to be caused physiologically by our way of defining our realities as independent social agreements on what to believe, and treating those cultural realities as if they were the world we live in.
Today it seems new cultural realities are multiplying furiously, as if we were responding to a need to replace ones that had run out. They don’t seem to be leading the main culture anywhere, though, but developing more and more separate little cells, and just breaking the main culture apart. That we have a common physical world that physically determines our choices makes that one quite reliable universal connection we could develop.
– from What To Do