A Question of the Sanities: Ecology and the Human Conundrum of Remorse


Michael Charles Tobias, PhD – Author, Ecologist, Filmmaker
Jane Gray Morrison – Author, Ecologist, Filmmaker

Series: Human Evolution, Biological and Cultural Domains
BISAC: PHI000000; PHI006000; NAT010000
DOI: https://doi.org/10.52305/AXIS4068

“Every new work (both fiction and nonfiction) by Tobias and Morrison is a cause for gratitude and celebration. Their latest book, A Question of the Sanities: Ecology and the Human Conundrum of Remorse, is a penetrating treatise of essential, perennial ideas, and insightful new ones. Grounded in the heartbreaking realties that the biosphere is unraveling with unrelenting speed, each of the 31 essays illuminate an aspect of human biophilia and biophobia, our confoundingly mixed relationships with the greater world of other living beings. This work is unique because it dares to ask the questions that might save us, such as: “In the persistent struggle between violence and unconditional love … what can we actually manifest that is something new and thoroughly refreshed?”  … To read this indispensable book is to be at once educated, delighted, and transformed — not only intellectually but also in our heart of hearts that calls for a deeper and more meaningful existence.” – Michael Pastore, Author, Publisher of Zorba Press, https://ZorbaMedia.com

“In a time when human proclivities are entwined with, and overwhelming natural systems, we seem to be lurching towards Armageddon. We wonder if there is a safe harbor still in sight. This book – A Question of the Sanities – provides an unblinking view of the future, but gives a philosophical understanding that hope is possible.  It should be read by all those of us trying to make sense of our world.” – Dr. G. Wayne Clough, PhD, 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, President Emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology

“Michael Tobias and Jane Morrison are more attuned to what’s happening on our planet right now than anyone I know. Surrounded by insanity, they bring sanity. Enveloped in darkness like the rest of us, they have found a unique and profound way to bring light.” – David Rothenberg, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, New Jersey Institute of Technology

“In this collection of essays, Tobias and Morrison illustrate two human conditions. The collective (population level) where groups of humans exhibit greed, stupidity, short-sightedness, and distancing from the Natural World. The other is the individual condition, where individuals show love, compassion, and respect for other humans and the Natural World. The question is how to reconcile the two before we make ourselves irrelevant by going extinct and taking much of Nature with us. Tobias and Morrison address this question brilliantly with their characteristic insights and erudition.” – Con Slobodchikoff, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Northern Arizona University, CEO of Zoolingua, CEO of Animal Communications Ltd, Director, Animal Language Institute

“As ever, Michael Charles Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison can be counted on to confront the big questions of our time, in this case the survival of the human psyche – meaning soul in the deepest sense – at a time of unprecedented ecological violence and emotional chaos.  The authors draw on a vast range of scientific, sociological, and literary/philosophical reference points to make their argument for endurance in the face of catastrophe. There is bravery here, brilliance, and a willingness to push against the usual boundaries of thought.” – Jay Parini, Author of “The Last Station” and “Borges and Me,” D.E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College

“It is a sublime, consoling vision, a landmark work that takes the age-old discussion of good and evil, of far more recent deliberation across the natural sciences and genetics regarding evolutionary purpose or design, as well as the theory of random homeostasis (the title of their previous book) and places these critical wellsprings of research into a startling new context: The survival of pragmatic idealism as an evolutionary foundation. For optimists and pessimists, young and older, fatalists and exhausted Utopians, scientists and theologians, philosophers and quantum physicists, Tobias and Morrison’s latest book is essential reading.” – William Shatner, Actor, Writer, Producer, Director

“An incredible book, profound and unprecedented investigation. Such philosophical courage and analysis are deemed highly necessary for this very lonely earth – ravaged by conflicts and war, greed, exploitation and mindless hunger for wealth and power. Through this outstanding book, Jane and Michael provide extensive discussions and key areas of research solutions towards protection of the planet in its ongoing challenges. An exhaustive and rare study, this study will prove to be a critical reference in this current epoch of an uncertain world.” – Ugyen Tshewang, PhD, Former Environment Secretary of Bhutan, Founder of Bhutan’s National Biodiversity Center, and Bhutan’s National Gene Bank, Co-Author of Bhutan: Conservation and Environmental Protection in the Himalayas, and Bionomics in the Dragon Kingdom: Ecology, Economics and Ethics in Bhutan (Springer Nature Publishing Group, 2021 and 2018)

“This remarkable original treatise explores and probes vast new wild territory of ecological understanding few have ever ventured or articulated. An absolutely astonishing, wide ranging, truly sobering first-hand account of our “insane” trajectory in a devastated world, sadly bereft of human conscience.  Tobias and Morrison are some of the deepest thinkers of our time. This book is a serious wake-up call as well as sanctuary for the soul!” – Michael S. Bostick is an Environmental Professional, Artist, and Freelance Writer

“Violence towards one’s own species is not uncommon in nature… Not only do we harm one another, we harm the planet we share and have the intelligence and awareness to recognize the causes, effects, and consequences of such violence. But do we have any remorse for any of our actions responsible for destroying our species, and every other species on the planet?  Questioning sanity is commonplace in our times. Tobias and Morrison provide a thoughtful, transformational perspective that makes us question why we conduct ideological warfare while our existence, and that of all Others, hangs in the balance.” – Melanie L. DeVore, PhD, Georgia College & State University Professor, Department of Biology & Environmental Sciences; Arizona State University, Adjunct Faculty Member, Center for Biology & Society and School of Life Sciences; University of Washington, Research Associate in Paleobotany, Burke Museum; University of Rwanda, Honorary Research Fellow in the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management (CoEB-UR, CST)

“Fascinating, frightening, and bursting with historical context and the wisdom of past visionaries, if a book can change the readers’ perspective, this is it.  Tobias and Morrison call on us to take our hands from our ears and hear what Edward Munch called “The scream of nature”; to remember that, even as we destroy the natural world for the most frivolous of reasons, we must see that we are part of, not apart from, it. Is there time? Be brave, read this book, perhaps aloud from the rooftops.” – Ingrid Newkirk, Founder and President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). A Forbes Person of the Year, and Author of 14 books on animals, their abilities, language, and sentience, and the subject of the HBO documentary, “I Am an Animal.” 

“Michael and Jane have produced a book that makes us all question our sanity.  The population of our planet has increased four times during the last 85 years.  All economies are exponentially fueled by the finite realities of gas, oil and coal, which will peak and decline to zero. Against this backdrop, the Authors have mobilized a comprehensive understanding of the physics, chemistry and mathematics that define our biological sphere. They frame each chapter with a psychological, philosophical and ethical underpinning.  Their prose is flavored with music, art, literature and poetry.  Each of the 30 chapters layers an assessment of the human conundrum….” – Bob Gillespie, President and Chairman of the Board, Population Communication

A Question of the Sanities is a critical reflection on the condition of humans and other species, an earnest call for ecological redemption, and a vision for a peaceful and sustainable future.  Drawing upon their global field research, dozens of disciplines, and the lived wisdom of humans across cultures and religions, the Authors challenge us to act in the spirit of ahimsa to mitigate the biospheric violence. That is, to make choices that are rooted in reverence for nature, compassion for all living beings, and conscious consumption. A must read for all who care about the wellbeing of our planet and its habitants.” – Tara Sethia, PhD, Founding Director of the Ahimsa Center, Emerita Professor of History, California Polytechnic State University Pomona. Author of Gandhi: Pioneer of Nonviolent Social Change (The Library of World Biography, 2011) 

A Question of the Sanities – Ecology and the Human Conundrum of Remorse by Michael Charles Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison engages crucial ecological, philosophical, and social issues of our times. Our lives are witnesses and participants in mass extinction and ecological pillage… A Question of the Sanities is a philosophically wide-ranging work that explores the social context and deep history of the way we all live in the 21st century. A highly recommended and challenging book; an enlightening opportunity to explore and help humanity confront the essential pursuit of ecological renewal.” – Roy Morrison, Author of Ecological Democracy, Sustainability Sutra: An Ecological Investigation and The New Green Republic. Managing Partner of Sun Partners Solar and Fellow at the Center for Ecozoic Societies, and has coordinated China’s International Working Groups (CIWG). Founding Director of the Office for Sustainability at the Southern New Hampshire University

A Question of the Sanities is a poignant elegy to our beautiful and bountiful earth. We humans have known for ages about the environmental catastrophes facing us all, but have largely ignored them, hoping for scientific breakthroughs or some kind of miracle. Now, it is the alarming speed and scale of environmental crises that is finally getting our attention. Each year there are more and more unimaginable “natural” events converging with disastrous political and economic policies. In the face of this turmoil, Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison invite us to stop for just a short time in the midst of our comfortable lives and ponder how we got to this point and how we might unravel all the issues and ethical considerations involved…” – Anne and William Frej, Authors of Travels Across the Roof of the World: A Himalayan Memoir. William is a Photographer and Career Diplomat, Author of Maya Ruins Revisited: In the Footsteps of Teobert Maler, Blurred Boundaries: Perspectives on Rock Art of the Greater Southwest, and Seasons of Ceremonies: Rites and Rituals in Guatemala. Anne is an Urban Planner, early advocate of the “Design with Nature” Movement, and Author of Green Office Buildings: A Practical Guide to Development

“Is there hope for humanity? For a humanity that has abandoned its birth mother and forgotten where it came from and where it is going? The Authors of A Question of the Sanities seek answers to the most critical questions of our time, while holding up a mirror to take us through millennia of forgetting. For centuries, we have glorified our actions, proclaimed our own superiority, while forgetting the rights of nature, the greatness of simplicity and cooperation, and our responsibility to our world. We have forgotten the bond that binds us to Mother Nature and all her inhabitants. I thank the Authors for inspiring us all!” – Maria Sagi, PhD in Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest. Creator of the Sagi Method of Informational Healing and Diagnosis; Author of 12 books and the Science Director for the Club of Budapest 

“Tobias and Morrison are those rare trans-disciplinary souls who endeavor to give the Universe a language of compassion, hope and transcendence in an Anthropocene of unfathomable pain and violence. Their research spans history, art, species legacies, activism, the voices of the voiceless, tribal heritages and imaginations to shine light on what we can and must do to avert a planetary catastrophe. The voice in these chapters is authoritative, and its wisdom timeless.” – Atul K. Shah, PhD, Professor of Economics at City University of London; Author. 

“This book is a round-the-world tour (de force) through a systemic epidemic; disconnection from Self and Other. It’s as if the pathos of every current and ancestral expression of life to ever grace this planet has contributed to authoring these pages. A tree is not just some ‘noun’ over there. Nor is water, air, soil, species … and earth in relation to cosmos. Nature and Human Nature: that’s our forgotten love story. Michael Tobias and Jane Morrison: this is our blessed reminder.” – Alison Goldwyn, Writer, Podcaster, Music Composer and Founder & Creative Director for Synchronistory®

“Tobias and Morrison’s A Question of The Sanities begs the central questions: Why are Homo sapiens so destructive? Is there hope for humanity in a world which has entered a sixth, global-extinction Anthropocene? Anyone already familiar with their writing will immediately recognize the Thomas Pynchonesque complex literary style that explores the dilemmas of being human. They interpret the fate of the world through a multifaceted prism: history, science, ethics, the arts and humanities, as well as by personal anecdotes. It would be difficult to overstate the breadth and depth of the thinking and writing of Tobias and Morrison. They are without equal, and this, their latest, will give pause to any reader with an ounce of compassion if not concern. A Question of the Sanities is an intellectual and artistic achievement. I highly recommend it.” – David J. Wagner, PhD, Former Museum Director, Author of American Wildlife Art (2008), Independent Curator of Travelling Environmental Exhibitions

“At the heart of this seminal book, A Question of the Sanities, is a crucial, and singular message: We desperately need to stop imparting pain to not only our own species, but all others; by restoring our traditional interspecies relationships that are so critical for every biome.” – Dr. Tarun Chhabra, Botanist, Anthropologist, Head of the EBR Trust in the Nilgiris, India, and Author of The Toda Landscape – Explorations in Cultural Ecology, Orient BlackSwan, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 2015. Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge Centre Trust – Nature Needs Half

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This book is an in-depth examination of the long-looming crisis of ecological consciousness afflicting our species world-wide. While many have addressed the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, inequities between human nations and communities, this may well be the first work to seek out the psychoanalytic roots of that global set of debacles. By examining history, paleontology, ecosystem dynamics, the mathematical and quantum modeling utilized by biologists, biochemists, demographers and ecologists, the Authors examine with clinical and unstinting clarity the complex of self-destruction comprising ecological psychology and the natural sciences, philosophy and the humanities, to ask and answer the question: Is our species destined to survive or fail?

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Table of Contents

Niki Stavrou
CEO of The Nikos Kazantzakis Estate, Webster University Athens Campus Hellenic Studies Director, and Founder of the Eleni N. Kazantzakis Heritage Museum

Thomas A. Marks, PhD
Distinguished Professor and MG Edward G. Lansdale Chair of Irregular Warfighting Strategy; College of International Security Affairs (CISA); National Defense University (NDU), Washington, DC, USA

Michael Charles Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison

Chapter 1. The Tumult

Chapter 2.
Windows on the Netherlands

Chapter 3. Entangled Perception

Chapter 4. Fabled Ethologies

Chapter 5. Imagination in the City

Chapter 6. Political Discourse

Chapter 7. Intersections

Chapter 8. To Begin Anew

Chapter 9. The Paradox of False Consciousness

Chapter 10 The Ecology of Insanity

Chapter 11. Allemansrätten

Chapter 12. Systemic Improbabilities

Chapter 13. “Wir Setzen Uns mit Tränen Nieder”

Chapter 14. The Conflicted

Chapter 15. Proxies of Continuation

Chapter 16 The Incongruity after the Fact

Chapter 17. The Pendulum of Proverbs and Quodlibets

Chapter 18. Causality or Correlation?

Chapter 19. A Posteriori Analytics

Chapter 20. Amor Fati and The Semipelagianist Logic

Chapter 21. The Quantum Physics of Free Will

Chapter 22. Mathematical and Ethical Transition Zones

Chapter 23. New Nature Composites

Chapter 24. Differentiating the Translations

Chapter 25. The Evolution and Future of Lunacy

Chapter 26. In the Presence of Their Tombs

Chapter 27. Impossible Worlds?

Chapter 28. Deconstructing Modernist Ecology

Chapter 29. The Final Days of the Systemic

Chapter 30. The Innocence that Lagged Behind


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