Ervin László: If it's good for the biosphere, it's good for us too
2009. 06. 14.
Philosopher Ervin László (76) urges civilians and scientists to unite their efforts, saying that a global cataclysm can be still prevented, provided that those who are committed to a sustainable future and are capable of waiving their own interests prevail.

HVG: "Mankind has come to a crossroads, but we don't yet know whether the first decade of the 21st century is the last, fading decade of the old world, or the first decade of a completely new world" - this is what you write in your recently published book. According to your "colleague", British scientist James Lovelock, the father of the Gaia hypothesis, the world has already tilted over and is heading towards an irreversible collapse. How seriously should we take these theories when facts show that fears concerning the new millennium haven’t come true either?

E.L.: If Lovelock is right, then indeed there is nothing we can do. But it's not at all certain that we have moved into a final phase. Regardless, there are many people, including scientists and mystics, who consider that great changes will come in 2012. For instance, according to astronomers there will be strong solar activity, and even air traffic may have to be suspended for a few days in the autumn. What I am talking about is no more and no less than the fact that every society has to face sudden changes which entail some sort of critical instability in the wider community. For example, early in 1989 who could foresee the events that followed a few months later in Eastern Europe? It is highly irresponsible to believe that the global changes will somehow miraculously serve the best of mankind. There are no guarantees that humanity will survive any great changes that come.

HVG: Don't you feel that while it has become trendy among scientists to confer on climate changes and the global crisis, we are growing immune to this issue?

E.L.: Gandhi once wittily said that if someone says something new, first they are ignored, then contested, then they are told we always knew this. We are past the disputes and I think, I hope, that sensitivity will continue to grow. Humanity as a modern culture has been acting in a sustainable manner for at least ten thousand years. For some time now we have been able to correct our blunders with the help of modern technologies, but quite soon we are going to reach the stage where this is no longer possible. We used to think that if we threw rubbish in the river it would disappear; if we burned coal, it turned into smoke and disappeared. Then we realised that everything is interconnected, and whatever happens on this planet has repercussions for us too. Our generation must restore sustainability.

HVG: Do you think a radical change is conceivable in the direction of sustainability simply because society is simply permeated by this thought, or is a global crisis required?

E.L.: I fear the latter and hope for the former. If we wait until the crisis comes it shall be much more difficult to accomplish any changes than if we act right now.

HVG: In your writings and lectures, you often drift from exact science; we could say you place your views in a sort of a spiritual dimension. How do you explain that the scientific world still takes your work seriously and even recognises it?

E.L.: I can only say that there are processes in nature which are not driven by the logic of accidental mechanisms, even if they appear so. For that matter, I am not a professional philosopher. I don't care what others think about me, I only care about what I find to be true and real. I like to define myself as a homo who wishes to become a sapien.

HVG: Your theories almost imply that you have created a new religion based partially on natural sciences...

E.L.: I am not religious in the traditional sense, I don’t believe in the existence of a supernatural personal god; however, my theory can hardly be refuted as it is based on the most recent scientific discoveries. Non-locality was found in quantum physics for instance. It transpired that there was indeed a connection between one quantum state particle and another located even several thousands of kilometres apart. Well, in the past 10-15 years they have discovered similar effects in the living world, and even in the universe. For a long time psychology has been aware of the phenomenon that twins – even if they are far away from each other – feel what is happening to their brother or sister. I think that every human on earth is interconnected somehow, albeit with less intensity. Scientists generally label these things as accidental, or unexplainable. I say well let's find an explanation then. According to my hypothesis, humans are interconnected by an information field, something akin to gravitational force or an electromagnetic field which cannot be seen with the eye but we feel their effects.

HVG: Many in modern Western society do not believe in the supernatural, yet they think it is good to do ‘good’, even to strangers. Why do you feel it is your calling to somehow connect spirituality and environmental protection?

E.L.: The world can be perceived purely rationally, but it can also be perceived in a strongly intuitive manner. Interestingly, we reach the same conclusion by approaching from opposite directions. I don’t see an essential difference between the two views of the world: religions originally emerged from some spiritual outlook and – only today can we truly see this – a sort of a scientific discovery. As long as humans function according to Darwinist and Adam Smith principles that if I collect for myself others will automatically benefit too, no significant changes can be achieved. More and more people understand that the balance of our world is extremely fragile, can easily collapse, and everybody plays a role in the global system. More and more people do their best even if they are unsure whether their individual actions exert any major effect. They believe that if it’s good for the biosphere, it must be good for us too.

HVG: While in your writings you condemn the type of nationalism that thinks only in the direct interests of a nation, of a state, you called your global think tank – perhaps to emphasise your being Hungarian – the Club of Budapest. Isn’t there a contradiction here between theory and practice?

E.L.: Ever since the beginning I’ve been member of the Club of Rome, which studies humanity’s possibilities of survival, and I recommended creating an organisation which is able to address more people. I wanted to involve writers, artists and religious leaders in this joint thinking. The Antall government reacted quite positively to my proposal, and eventually, our organisation was born as part of the Hungarian Culture Foundation in 1993. The Club of Rome had its first meeting in Rome, hence the name, and we gathered first in Budapest, so we became the Club of Budapest. I don’t regret the choice of name also because worldwide Budapest stands for creativity.

HVG: Your name appears among the founders or supporters of numerous organisations with well-sounding names. If you weren’t an expert of system theories, would you still be able to understand the works of dozens of think tanks and their results?

E.L.: Recently we had to engage a German organisation to coordinate the activity of our workgroups. We consider it important to create an organisation which is able to address many different people because we do not know which "flapping butterfly wing" will launch the tornado that may trigger greater change. The Club of Budapest is present in at least 15 countries; we publish a bi-annual report but we have confidence in our budding university too.

HVG: Don’t you think the Club of Budapest can be accused of being politically biased? Ultimately, the founders of its support foundation – such as Iván Vitányi, Péter Zwack, Elemér Hankiss – are seen by many as representing the liberal left.

E.L.: Our establishment is now history. The persons you mentioned are my personal friends and three founders were required back then; I had no idea – nor any interest – in what political views they have. The right and left wing distinction itself is an expired theory which we intend to replace with something new.
Source: HVG.HU

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