Where Is That Hundredth Monkey?

Eleven years ago, when I was a student at the California Institute of Integral Studies, people there were talking avidly about a phenomenon known as the "Hundredth Monkey Effect." Apparently, a group of researchers were observing patterns of transmission of learned behavior amongst monkeys inhabiting an archipelago of remote islands in Indonesia, islands that had no human population.

In the largest group of monkeys, individuals were passing on a skill (I think it was a novel method for breaking open coconuts), one monkey to the next, and the human observers were documenting the rate at which this education propagated through the monkey society on that island. Then, something very interesting happened.

The people were simultaneously monitoring monkey populations on each of the islands in the archipelago, and they documented that monkeys on different islands were not in contact with each other physically. However, when the number of monkeys who had learned this coconut skill crossed a certain threshold (about 100 monkeys), suddenly the rate of transmission of the knowledge increased dramatically. Not only that, but monkeys on other islands picked up the skill spontaneously, and the knowledge of this skill rippled through the new monkey population at the same increased rate as was being found on the first island.

The researchers dubbed it the "Hundredth Monkey Effect," and hypothesized that there was some sort of long-distance behavioral entrainment occuring, and that perhaps  they were witnessing a window into some non-local reality, where, when a certain threshhold if consciousness is reached, events happen simultaneously in all spatial dimensions.

Bear in mind the Hundredth Monkey Effect as you read the rest of this article. Clearly, if we are to succeed in averting the course we're on for changing the climate, we need such a phenomenon to galvanize our awareness of the true information about this situation, and quickly.

Now, Google's analytics tell me that this blog has had some 500 page views since its inception. That breaks down to a little less than 100 views per new post. I don't know who most of you are, because you are lurking, and not saying anything. I am guessing that most of you are navigating to this blog from Facebook, because that is primarily where we've been announcing developments on Pacing the Planet. Most of the people I know on Facebook are progressive -- not liberal, necessarily -- but people I woukd consider educated, critical thinkers, and willing to change your minds based on new, relevant information. I am about to employ the technique that actors call "breaking the fourth wall," and speak directly to you. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing, and I know that I am skillful at it, but I'm not trying to mimic a blog for general digestion and consideration, like Slate Magazine. I am trying to start a revolution.

A handful of you have contributed money, attention, and encouragement to Pacing the Planet, and I thank you. We are trying to make a difference, together. I know that some of you are praying for us, and that is deeply valued by me, also.

I am now writing to the rest of you, who are reading here, and not saying anything, not contacting us, just moving on, moving on. I am not here to shame you, but I need to understand what your resistance is to taking part.

When Gandhi, who was a thoroughly unassuming man, by all accounts, initiated an action of social change, the eminent relevance and rightfulness of what he was doing inspired millions of others to follow suit with their own lives. For instance, throngs of people joined in the Salt March to the sea, because they clearly needed salt for their daily lives, and the British government was holding the available salt for ransom.

We are putting the final nails in the coffin of god-forsaken denial of climate change, and it is clear that the scale upon which we must move to address this is vast (as one commentator on MSNBC says, it will require a reworking of society every bit equal to the change wrought by the industrial revolution). Yet I am having trouble even starting an active conversation here, on blogger. Why?

Why are friends, why is my family, even, remaining silent? Do you think we're nuts? Are you thinking: "Global Warming can't possibly be that perilous and imminent?" Are you thinking, "At least my family is safe where we are?"

When we started writing about climate change last month, and when we began to plan our walk, I expected that we would encounter resistance...but from denialists. I didn't expect indifference. I didn't expect that friends who routinely posted to my Facebook profile, and followed up on my life, would not say anything, delicately ignore the obvious, as if I'd wet my pants in public.

Again, this is not shaming, this is bewilderment. I know life is complicated. I had a (naive?) hope that my friends and acquaintances from the last ten years would be joining us in this walk, that we would lay down our jobs, our meetings, our appointments, our vacations, and -- like Francis of Assisi -- give all, when all was required. I thought we would eat leaves from trees and drink from puddles before we would participate in the cut-and-dried outcome of the degree of global warming that the experts are forecasting to arrive soon, the consequences being global suicide and genocide. Perhaps we are too embarrassed to stick our necks out? I can understand that: I have a shy demeanor.

Perhaps, you are hopeful that there are things we can do to change this situation without a mass movement. Honestly, I've been combing the research and tracking down the remediation ideas, and I don't think we can make enough difference if we just act from within the scope of our own lives. Consider, for example, the effect that the U.S. is having on Chinese carbon pollution, when we import goods that are made with coal electricity. I wrote about this in the last article. Every day that people pour into Walmarts across this land, we are giving responsibility for the future of our planet to the wisdom (or folly) of the Chinese leaders.

Perhaps, it is just too scary. After all, if you leave your job and your home, how will you take care of yourself. We're so oriented toward thinking that we need to solve that problem ourselves, individually, that if I say to you, "If we join together in this action, the Universe will provide for us," you may think that trust is hopelessly mystical, impractical, and unwarranted. But it's true, nonetheless.

Maybe you already were aware of the deadly serious implications contained in the papers and presentations on our links page. If you weren't, if I happen to be the first person to tell you that this is how it really, really stands, then you have just graduated into a very small world of people who know that, for example, the U.S. has to cut carbon emissions not just by 17% by 2020, but by 40%. You are in possession of detailed information about where the climate is going in the next 50 years, barring human mitigation of our previous impact. It is like knowing that the atomic bomb is going to drop over Hiroshima, before it happens. Except, there is no enemy that makes catastrophe worth it. We are in the Enola Gay, and we are folding 1000 paper cranes. There is only ourselves.


  1. I feel skeptical about the hundredth monkey making a psychic connect with monkeys on other islands! But I would encourage anyone who thinks they might be able to do such a thing, to infiltrate the other "monkey's" brains. If any time is a good time for that skill, it is now! :) At any rate, we have to strive to reach what I think of as "critical mass"!


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