Carbon dioxide removal: a silver bullet to stop climate change

a climate change silver bullet

Energy transition and land-use reform will someday contain greenhouse gas pollution. Meanwhile, it’s time to clean up the mess.

The earth’s protective atmosphere is a marvel. Oxygen and ozone absorb high-energy gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet light, preventing them from reaching the earth’s surface. However, life-sustaining visible radiation from the sun reaches the surface unhindered. Nitrogen and oxygen block fast-moving cosmic rays.

Atmospheric gases also maintain ideal temperatures. Carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane trap and disperse heat radiation given off by the earth’s surface, thereby producing the so-called greenhouse effect. Without it, average surface temperatures would be more than 30 °C colder than they are now.

Inconveniently, greenhouse gases are also produced by industrial activity. And most people now realize that those gases are intensifying the atmosphere’s capacity to trap heat. We therefore regard these anthropogenic greenhouse gases as pollution. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion accounts for roughly 75 percent of this pollution.

So we are now collectively dealing with a warming atmosphere, more extreme weather, melting glaciation and rising sea levels. In recent decades, the situation has escalated, driven by rapid population growth and industrial development worldwide. As both a planetary event and a pan-cultural narrative, the scale and scope of the situation has become so incomprehensible that many people now wonder what, if anything, can be done about it.

silver bullet aimed at climate change

As it turns out, economic activity is beginning to adjust. The transportation, electricity generation, heavy industry, and building sectors worldwide have begun to reduce carbon dioxide pollution by replacing fossil fuels as their source of mechanical and heat energy. The agriculture and forestry sectors are making incremental moves toward land use reform – that is, reducing destructive human impact on natural habitat and cultivated land – in order to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide. Steel and cement producers have begun to employ low carbon manufacturing processes, and manufacturers have begun the phase-out of certain fluorine-based chemicals. For its part, the general public recognizes the importance of taking public transit, eating less meat, and making homes more energy efficient.

Nevertheless, climate action remains a nebulous and sometimes contentious affair. Solutions seem too distant to address the immediacy of catastrophic drought, wildfires and flooding worldwide. Practical climate solutions are almost entirely dependent on structural changes in the competitive world economy and constrained by the appetite governments may or may not have to use policy instruments to expedite those changes. Most challenging, perhaps, is the fact that the electricity, transportation, industrial, building and land use sectors of the world economy must, to some degree, overcome path dependence. This means that in order to cut pollution, familiar ways of doing things must be put aside or dismantled at significant cost. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to let these otherwise normal transition processes work themselves out.

Just as cultural narratives frame how we think and act in general, the prevailing climate narrative frames the way think and act regarding climate action. The political version of the narrative, rooted in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, calls for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, in a way that doesn’t involve undue economic hardship. This framework has been overtaken by events.

An estimated 1.5 trillion tonnes of anthropogenic carbon dioxide have accumulated in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, although some of it has, over time, been absorbed by the oceans, land surface and vegetation. The rate of the pollution has accelerated sharply in recent decades with an estimated 35 billion tonnes being emitted annually worldwide. The destructive effects can be stated in stark terms: greenhouse gas pollution is dangerously warming the planet. The solution is correspondingly direct and urgent. Stop greenhouse gas pollution. Clean it up. All hands on deck.

Ways and means

In practical terms, stopping greenhouse gas pollution and cleaning it up are two distinct action pathways. The first pathway, stopping the pollution, involves ending the use of energy conversion devices that burn fossil fuels, ending the use of certain industrial chemicals containing fluorine, and revising land use practices. This has proven to be a complex international undertaking. System change and countless individual actions are required within these spheres of economic activity. Getting all the players in the affected sectors to cooperate in the context of a competitive, bottom line-oriented world economy is a challenge in itself; ergo, exceedingly time consuming.

In contrast, cleaning up GHG pollution is relatively simple and straightforward, both conceptually and in practice. Remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Permanently and safely store it. Use some of the CO2 as an valuable industrial material. Conceivably, one technology deployed globally would do the job.

Cleaning up GHG pollution is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Note that it is distinct from the removal of concentrated CO2 from the flue gas of an industrial plant which, strictly speaking, is a form of pollution prevention. With CDR, accumulated CO2 is removed directly from the atmosphere at a practical and convenient geographical location. Removal may occur in two ways: by direct air capture (DAC) technologies, and by the enhancement of natural carbon sinks such as soils and surface geology. The captured CO2 may be dealt with in two ways as well: sequestered, or converted into a valuable industrial material such as graphene.

Carbon dioxide removal directly addresses accumulated greenhouse gas pollution and represents a conceptual shift in climate change avoidance tactics. In an article published in Issues in Science and Technology in 2017, Dr. Klaus Lackner and Christophe Jospe re-framed climate change as a waste management problem. “Carbon dioxide emissions represent the metabolic by-product of industrial activities on which billions of people depend to survive and thrive. Now we must learn to safely dispose of this by-product,” they write. While Lackner and Jospe don’t regard CDR as a panacea, they do identify its crucial role in eliminating greenhouse gas pollution.

“Direct air capture will not be a silver bullet that all by itself stops climate change, but it has many assets that can directly address some of the key obstacles to technical, political, and economic progress on climate change,” they continue. The scalability and relative simplicity of DAC, coupled with storage and utilization (DACSU) could ensure that “whatever goes into the atmosphere also comes out, no matter how difficult it is to reduce emissions from particular technologies or sectors, such as transportation. Direct air capture with carbon storage can also, if necessary, lower the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere much faster than natural processes would.”

Klaus Lackner is the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. Since 1995, he has been a pioneer in developing DAC. Christophe Jospe is Chief Development Officer at Nori, a Seattle-based company that treats CO2 as raw material, connecting COsuppliers with CO2 buyers. 

Treating COas a raw material – either for sequestration or as the basis of an industrial product – is the key concept behind the development and deployment DACSU technologies. Valuable products, derived from captured CO2, would offset the high costs of deploying the critically important global cleanup operation.

Diverse pathways, a single purpose

A number of forward-looking organizations are beginning to make carbon dioxide removal a reality using enhanced natural processes and direct air capture. Some techniques find immediate use for captured CO2 in concrete, ultra strong carbon materials or synthetic fuels. Other developers are finding ways to permanently sequester the gas.

Silicon Kingdom Holdings, based in Dublin, Ireland, is planning to build mechanical tree farms using the capture technology developed by Dr. Lackner. Thousands of times more efficient than natural trees, mechanical trees use anion exchange membranes to remove CO2 from air flowing through them. Sodium carbonate solutions and heat further separate and purify the gas. The CO2 is then pressurized and made available for sequestration or for use in a variety of industrial applications such as synthetic fuels and high strength materials.

In Squamish, Canada, Carbon Engineering uses modular devices that blow air over a liquid capture solution. A closed loop series of chemical processes fixes the CO2 and then release it in concentrated form. Carbon Engineering plans to build full-scale modular plants that capture a million tonnes of CO2 annually. The CO2 will be permanently stored underground or combined with hydrogen to make synthetic transportation fuel.

Climeworks of Switzerland is operating a demonstration plant near Zurich that can remove 900 metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere yearly. Similar to Carbon Engineering, fans blow CO2 through modular capture units roughly the size of shipping containers. Filters in the units capture the gas, then release it for collection when heated. A smaller demonstration plant in Troia, Italy, will collect 150 tonnes of CO2 per year. Again, similar to Carbon Engineering’s process, the CO2 is combined with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuel.

Climeworks also permanently sequesters carbon dioxide underground. In 2019, the organization introduced a public removal and sequestration scheme in partnership with Reykjavik Energy of Iceland. Through its subsidiary CarbFix, Reykjavik Energy injects CO2 from a 303 MW geothermal power plant into subsurface basalt rock. In less than two years, the injected CO2 mineralizes into solid carbonate rock. The Climeworks website invites individuals and organizations to pay a monthly subscription – in amounts up to €2,000 per month – to help fund the project. For example, €5 per month will sponsor the sequestration of 61 kilograms of CO2 yearly. Globally, the storage potential of basalt is immense. The rock composes about 10 percent of the earth’s continental surface area and underlies most of the planet’s ocean floor. Globally, the potential mineral uptake of basalt formations is estimated at between 100 and 250 trillion tons – in theory enough to absorb all the excess CO2 in the atmosphere a hundred times over.

In Halifax, Canada, CarbonCure injects recycled CO2 into cement during the mixing process. The carbon dioxide mineralizes into calcium carbonate and actually strengthens the concrete as it cures. The process permanently fixes CO2 at relatively low cost, and if scaled to the global concrete market, could sequester over 500 megatons of CO2 annually. CarbonCure presently derives most of its CO2 from industrial emitters such as ethanol, fertilizer, or other cement plants. In the future it expects to use CO2 from DAC technologies as they become available.

In San Francisco, USA, Charm Industrial has a patent pending for a process that produces bio-oil for storage deep underground. Fast pyrolysis converts the carbohydrate compounds in scrap wood, sawdust, and agricultural waste into a stable liquid similar to crude oil. In effect, the company is reversing crude oil extraction and returning carbon to its geological source.

Also in San Francisco, Project Vesta, a non-profit venture, captures CO2 by accelerating the natural weathering of rock. Small grains of olivine, an abundant green volcanic mineral, are spread like sand on shallow beach environments. Wave action abrades the olivine, increasing its surface area. In the process, the mineral reacts to atmospheric CO2 and ocean water – the same silicate-to-carbonate chemical reaction as natural weathering. The olivine becomes limestone which collects on the seafloor. Research suggest that applying olivine on just 2 percent of the world’s shallow ocean shelves would remove one year’s worth of annual global CO2 emissions at low cost. A pilot project is underway on a Caribbean beach, but more testing is required to answer questions about safety and viability.

In Calgary, Canada, a team of researchers led by Dr. Stuart Licht of George Washington University is running a demonstration project that uses electrolysis to capture CO2 from flue gas to produce carbon nanotubes (C2CNT). The CO2 is split into pure oxygen and pure carbon fibres. The fibres can take different forms for different applications. Graphene would be suitable for safe, stable sequestration. Carbon nanotubes, a hi-tech industrial material, are now used to make aircraft bodies, tennis rackets and other strong lightweight products. The highest quality nanotubes can fetch up to $100,000 per kilogram. Direct air capture versions of the process would be self-powered using solar thermal and photovoltaic energy. According to Licht’s calculations, full scale deployment in an area less than 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to preindustrial levels in 10 years.

At present, capturing, using and sequestering carbon dioxide by any means is expensive, costing up to $600 per tonne and more. However, and as with any new technology, economies of scale could put the cost below $100 per tonne.

Normally, fishing around in the turbulent waters of the world economy for a silver bullet to stop climate change would be a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, the global application of CDR is a potentially decisive pathway to ending the now-manifest effects of greenhouse gas pollution. As we fret about the deepening climate crisis, it helps to remember that the climate crisis is a greenhouse gas pollution crisis, or perhaps less dramatically, a waste management challenge. It is both reasonable and scientific to expect the spectre of climate change to vanish when we remove all anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It can be done.

Some things to remember about racism

mask-skyline

Fear, mistrust and outrage has a habit of periodically poisoning humanity’s deep well of cultural diversity and achievement. The latest example is the renewed outcry regarding systemic racism swirling around the media universe. But the media universe has a habit of provoking despair by racking up the failures of society. Media literacy – an awareness of how the media universe sells its wares – is perhaps the most effective defence. But media literacy requires working inside the whale, so to speak – working as a journalist, for example – which of course not everyone can do. Suffice to say that news events, the product of the media universe, are the most banal record of human existence. They tell us nothing and everything at the same time.

In our electronic world, where information travels at great speed, news reporters have little or no time to probe the meaning and source of the events they encounter. Pattern recognition is left to the bewildered audience. It is up to all of us, as Herbert Marshall McLuhan suggests from a reclining position, to take a harder look at culturally perpetuated banalities about phenomena like racism, and their origin. For that, we need to look inward. For anyone with a taste for introspection, there are few things to remember:

Bottom line, there is only one human race. We all know that, right? The term “racism” is a misnomer. It sets the stage for divisive and accusatory dialogue at the outset.

When we look at what unites us, in contrast, we understand that the human species (a.k.a. the human race) possesses a discriminatory mind. So when “racism” erupts, or becomes apparent in some awkward social situation, we are seeing how our discriminatory minds work. However, we are also seeing how our discriminatory minds are struggling with unexamined ideas. We have been colonized by ideas that have accumulated in the cultural narrative. For all intents and purposes, those ideas make us react in fearful, hostile or guilt-ridden ways.

In current social discourse, whether face-to-face or curated through electronic media, we are dealing with cultural ideas about race far more than we are dealing with the realities of the moment. When we have a real life encounter with a person of another so-called “race”, our minds supply a corresponding construct of ideas based the cultural narrative regarding that person. This happens as matter of course in our general encounters with the space-time continuum. In any case, the immediate experience and the ideas can clash, occasionally in spectacular fashion. The situation is resolved when we examine the source and validity of the ideas. The guilt, fear and hostility around “race” that has accumulated like rubbish in the cultural narrative is examined and accounted for. We clear the decks. It so happens that there are many who know how to do this with humour and compassion.

Discriminatory thinking – discernment – is a human attribute, so discriminatory thinking is therefore naturally systemic to all societies. However, all human societies have historically been susceptible to hearsay, conflict, fear, and misinformation. Ergo, so-called racism is systemic in all societies. Some people, and some institutions within a given society manage the issue better than others.

We cannot effectively “fight racism” unless we think of it as a failure of the individual and collective mind to evaluate and process experience. Denying experience does not help. If we attack racism through censorship or legislation, the fear-based ideas that support it simply retreat into a dark corner and lie in wait for the next crisis of faith.

Seth speaks about viruses and epidemics

by Seth
(channeled by Jane Roberts, 1977, 1979 & 1980)

As we deal with the covid-19 pandemic, we are driven and guided by partial understanding of viruses and their role in the natural world. Medical science may be able to observe viral structure, but its ability to observe viral behavior is limited. The following material, originating from outside our day-to-day world – and the conventional framework of scientific inquiry – fills in some of the gaps, and suggests that we are not under some kind of random attack from a malignant entity.


Viruses as part of the body’s overall health system
and viruses as biological statements

Viruses serve many purposes, as 1 have said before. The body contains all kinds of viruses, including those considered deadly, but those are usually not only harmless, or inactive, but beneficial to the body’s overall balance.

The body maintains its vitality not only through the physical motion and agility that you perceive, but by microscopic agility, and actions within microseconds, that you do not perceive. There is as much motion, stimulation, and reaction in the interior bodily environment as the body meets through its encounters with the exterior environment. The body must now and then “flush its systems out,” run through its repertoire, raise its temperature, activate its hormonal actions more strongly. In such ways it keeps its system of immunities clear. That system operates always. To some extent, it is a way that the body distinguishes between self and non-self.

In certain fashions, that system also keeps the body from squandering its energies, preserving biological integrity. Otherwise it would be as if you did not know where your own house began or ended, and so tried to heat the entire neighbourhood. So some indispositions “caused by viruses” are accepted by the body as welcome triggers, to clean out that system, and this applies to your present indispositions.

More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.

When a skunk is frightened, it throws-off a foul odour indeed, and when people are frightened they react in somewhat the same fashion at times, biologically reacting to stimuli in the environment that they consider alarming. They throw off a barrage of “foul viruses” – that is, they actually collect and mobilize from within their own bodies viruses that are potentially harmful, biologically trigger these, or activate them, and send them out into the environment in self protection, to ward off the enemy.

In a fashion this is a kind of biological aggression. The viruses, however, also represent tensions that the person involved is getting rid of. That is one kind of statement. It is often used in a very strong manner in times of war, or great social upheaval, when people feel frightened.

(Addressing transcriber Robert F. Butts: Now, your friend had been to the [Lake Placid] Olympics, and he was charged by the great physical vitality that he felt watching that athletic panorama. [Because of that, and for other personal reasons], he could find no release for the intense energy he felt, so he got rid of it, protected himself, and threw out his threatening biological posture: the viruses.

Your bodies had not received any such goodies in some time, so they exuberantly used them as triggers to regenerate the immune systems.

Many people had such reactions as your friend’s, coming from the Olympics, in that they did not know how to use and release their own energies-as if they themselves felt put in an inferior position in comparison to such achievements.)

There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses – in a fashion – again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient – but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.

All of this has to do with [mankind’s] intent and understanding. The same relationships, however, do not only exist between human bodies, of course, but between man and the animals and the plants in the environment, and is part of the unending biological communication that overall produces the vitality of physical experience.

. . .

Certain “diseases” are protections against other diseases, and the body on its own is its own excellent regulator.

Obviously those abilities operate best when you trust them. The body’s systems know what diseases are in the air, so to speak, and will often set up countermeasures ahead of time, giving you what you experience as an indisposition of one kind or another – but an indisposition that is actually a statement of prevention against another condition.

There is great traffic flow in a city: A body knows how to leap out of the way in a moment’s time from an approaching car. In the interior physical environment there is far greater traffic flow. There are decisions made in periods of time so brief you cannot imagine them – reactions that are almost over before they begin, reactions so fast you cannot perceive them as the body responds to its inner reality, and to all the stimuli from the exterior environment. The body is an open system. As solid as it seems to you, there are constant chemical reactions between it and the world, electromagnetic adjustments, alterations of balance, changes of relationships – alterations that occur between the body and its relationship with every other physical event, from the position of the planets and moon and the sun, to the position of the smallest grain of sand, to the tiniest microbe in anyone’s intestine.

All of those adjustments are made without your conscious notice, and yet fit in with your overall purposes and intents.

From Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, by Jane Roberts, 1986, Amber-Allen Publishing


Viruses and their responses

You could not live without viruses, nor could your biological reality as you know it now exist.

Viruses appear to be “the bad guys”, and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These – and I am putting it as simply as possible – take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.

As an example from another field, consider poisons. Belladonna can be quite deadly, yet small doses of it were known to aid the body in disease conditions.

The viruses in the body have a social, cooperative existence. Their effects become deadly only under certain conditions. The viruses must be triggered into destructive activity, and this happens only at a certain point, when the individual involved is actively seeking either death or a crisis situation biologically.

The initial contagion in such cases is always emotional and mental. Social conditions are usually involved, so that an individual is, say, at the lower end of a poor social environment, a seeming victim of it, or in a situation where his individual value as a social member is severely weakened.

Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive – though it does – as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.

I told you that viruses mutate. Such is often the case. It seems quite scientific to believe in inoculations against such dangerous diseases – and certainly, scientifically, inoculations seem to work: People in your time right now are not plagued by smallpox, for example. Some cultures have believed that illnesses were caused by demons. Medicine men, through certain ceremonies, would try to rid the body of the demons – and those methods worked also. The belief system was tight and accepted, and it only began to fail when those societies encountered “civilized views”.

If you call the demons “negative beliefs”, however, then you have taken strides forward. People continue to die of diseases. Many of your scientific procedures, including inoculations, of themselves “cause” new diseases. It does not help a patient inoculated against smallpox and polio if [eventually] he dies of cancer as a result of his negative beliefs.

What I have said about viruses applies to all biological life. Viruses are “highly intelligent” – meaning that they react quickly to stimuli. They are responsive to emotional states. They are social. Their scale of life varies considerably, and some can be inactive for centuries, and revive. They have extensive memory patterns, biologically imprinted. Some can multiply in the tens of thousands within seconds. They are in many ways the basis of biological life, but you are aware of them only when they show “a deadly face”.

You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.

From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing


About epidemics

In the following passages, Seth refers both to the “days of the great plagues in England” and to virus epidemics. The plagues that ravaged England and Europe are believed to have been infections not of viruses but of the Yersinia pestis coccobacillus bacterium spread by fleas.

To a certain extent, epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time – but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.

On one level the deaths are a protest against the time in which they occur. Those involved have private reasons, however. The reasons, of course, vary from one individual to another, yet all involved “want their death to serve a purpose” beyond private concerns. Partially, then, such deaths are meant to make the survivors question the conditions – for unconsciously the species well knows there are reasons for such mass deaths that go beyond accepted beliefs.

In some historical periods the plight of the poor was so horrible, so unendurable, that outbreaks of the plague occurred, literally resulting in a complete destruction of large areas of the environment in which such social, political, and economic conditions existed. [Those] plagues took rich and poor alike, however, so the complacent well-to-do could see quite clearly, for example, that to some extent sanitary conditions, privacy, peace of mind, had to be granted to the poor alike, for the results of their dissatisfaction would have quite practical results. Those were deaths of protest.

Individually, each “victim” was to one extent or another a “victim” of apathy, despair, or hopelessness, which automatically lowered bodily defenses.

Not only do such states of mind lower the defenses, however, but they activate and change the body’s chemistries, alter its balances, and initiate disease conditions. Many viruses inherently capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.

If [certain viruses] are triggered, however, to higher activity or overproduction by mental states, they then become “deadly”. Physically they may be passed on in whatever manner is peculiar to a specific strain. Literally, individual mental problems of sufficient severity emerge as social, mass diseases.

The environment in which an outbreak occurs points at the political, sociological, and economic conditions that have evolved, causing such disorder. Often such outbreaks take place after ineffective political or social action – that is, after some unified mass social protest – has failed, or is considered hopeless. They often occur also in wartime on the part of a populace [that] is against a given war in which [its] country is involved.

Initially there is a psychic contagion: Despair moves faster than a mosquito, or any outward carrier of a given disease. The mental state brings about the activation of a virus that is, in those terms, passive. Despair may seem passive only because it feels that exterior action is hopeless – but its fires rage inwardly, and that kind of contagion can leap from bed to bed and from heart to heart. It touches those, however, who are in the same state only, and to some extent it brings about an acceleration in which something can indeed be done in terms of group action.

Now if you believe in one life only, then such conditions will seem most disastrous, and in your terms they clearly are not pretty. Yet, though each victim in an epidemic may die his or her own death, that death becomes part of a mass social protest. The lives of intimate survivors are shaken, and according to the extent of the epidemic the various elements of social life itself are disturbed, altered, rearranged. Sometimes such epidemics are eventually responsible for the overthrow of governments, the loss of wars.

There are also even deeper biological connections with the heart of nature. You are biological creatures. Your proud human consciousness rests on the vast “unconscious” integrity of your physical being. In that regard your consciousness is as natural as your toe. In terms of the species’ integrity your mental states are, then, highly important. Despair or apathy is a biological “enemy”. Social conditions, political states, economic policies, and even religious or philosophical frameworks that foster such mental states, bring about a biological retaliation. They act like fire applied to a plant.

The epidemics then serve many purposes – warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.

Even in the days of the great plagues in England there were those smitten who did not die, and there were those untouched by the disease who dealt with the sick and dying. Those survivors, who were actively involved, saw themselves in a completely different light than those who succumbed, however: They were those, untouched by despair, who saw themselves as effective rather than ineffective. Often they roused themselves from lives of previously unheroic situations, and then performed with great bravery. The horror of the conditions overwhelmed them where earlier they were not involved.

The sight of the dying gave them visions of the meaning of life, and stirred new [ideas] of sociological, political, and spiritual natures, so that in your terms the dead did not die in vain. Epidemics by their public nature speak of public problems – problems that sociologically threaten to sweep the individual to psychic disaster as the physical materialization does biologically.

These are the reasons also for the range or the limits of various epidemics – why they sweep through one area and leave another clear. Why one in the family will die and another survive – for in this mass venture, the individual still forms his or her private reality.

In your society scientific medical beliefs operate, and a kind of preventative medicine, mentioned earlier, in which procedures [of inoculation] are taken, bringing about in healthy individuals a minute disease condition that then gives immunity against a more massive visitation. In the case of any given disease this procedure might work quite well for those who believe in it. It is, however, the belief, and not the procedure, that works.

I am not recommending that you abandon the procedure when it obviously works for so many – yet you should understand why it brings about the desired results.

Such medical technology is highly specific, however. You cannot be inoculated with the desire to live, or with the zest, delight, or contentment of the healthy animal. If you have decided to die, protected from one disease in such a manner, you will promptly come down with another, or have an accident. The immunization, while specifically effective, may only reinforce prior beliefs about the body’s ineffectiveness. It may appear that left alone the body would surely develop whatever disease might be “fashionable” at the time, so that the specific victory might result in the ultimate defeat as far as your beliefs are concerned.

You have your own medical systems, however. I do not mean to undermine them, since they are undermining themselves. Some of my statements clearly cannot be proven, in your terms, and appear almost sacrilegious. Yet, throughout your history no man or woman has died who did not want to die, regardless of the state of medical technology. Specific diseases have certain symbolic meanings, varying with the times and the places.

There has been great discussion in past years about the survival of the fittest, in Darwinian terms, but little emphasis is placed upon the quality of life, or of survival itself; or in human terms, [there has been] little probing into the question of what makes life worthwhile. Quite simply, if life is not worthwhile, no species will have a reason to continue.

Civilizations are literally social species. They die when they see no reason to live, yet they seed other civilizations. Your private mental states en masse bring about the mass cultural stance of your civilization. To some extent, then, the survival of your civilization is quite literally dependent upon the condition of each individual; and that condition is initially a spiritual, psychic state that gives birth to the physical organism. That organism is intimately connected to the natural biological state of each other person, and to each other living thing, or entity, however minute.

Despite all “realistic” pragmatic tales to the contrary, the natural state of life itself is one of joy, acquiescence with itself – a state in which action is effective, and the power to act is a natural right. You would see this quite clearly with plants, animals, and all other life if you were not so blinded by beliefs to the contrary. You would feel it in the activity of your bodies, in which the vital individual affirmation of your cells brings about the mass, immensely complicated achievement of your physical being. That activity naturally promotes health and vitality.

I am not speaking of some romanticized, “passive,” floppy, spiritual world, but of a clear reality without impediments, in which the opposite of despair and apathy reigns.

From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing