Our Biophilic Future

Raman Frey
4 min readApr 1, 2024


At Camp Earnest, our home and retreat center in the Sierras near Yosemite

In 2018, I experienced a significant shift in my worldview, what a philosopher might call an “ontological shift.” It made a huge emotional impact, both unsettling and energizing.

After this unveiling of how our world works, I could not unsee it. I couldn’t joyfully and obliviously return to pursuing aspirations in the old ways again.

That unveiling was the realization that our economies currently and inexorably function to concentrate greater and greater wealth in fewer and fewer hands. All restraints to this hoarding have degraded across my 5 decades of life. My life experience has confirmed for me hundreds of times, as it did for the founders of my country of birth, “that power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Every one of us must be vigilant, lest we become less moral and less pro-social under the many influences of greater and greater power. This is why democracies attempt to curtail and render temporary such power. But we do not have democratic economies. And most of us land in desperate hand to mouth lives, running a hedonic treadmill that provides little to no time for learning and reflection.

That same unveiling was also a revelation that human civilization was degrading our biosphere and heating our planet. We are on a self-terminating course for most life on earth. The converging pressures to produce and consume ever more in the fictional pursuit of a “growing economy,” will cause the termination of our civilization, a Riddley Walker future (see Russell Hoban).

It’s been a kind of torture since, to have everything I could ever want or hope for in my personal life (absolute privilege) and at the same time to live in a world where we’re all going along to get along and ruining so much for the people and fellow earth beings that will follow us. You might call this feeling “intense moral dissonance.”

The imperfect analogy I use to explain how I feel is of an abolitionist in the southern United States in say the 1850s. All around me are people encouraging me to still work within the plantation system and simply be the kindest slave owner possible, because the economy cannot operate without slavery and look at how good our lives are (for white wealthy American men). They all importune me to alter what we have rather than abandon it for something different.

I have sought out and found fellow abolitionists here in the 2020s, people and organizations who feel the same sense of overwhelming moral urgency to dramatically alter how our species operates in the world. Amongst these have been the Doughnut Economics (Kate Raworth) community, the Capital Institute (John Fullerton) and a few others.

Amongst the dozens of authors and thinkers I’ve discovered in this quest to understand the pickle we’re in and what might be done to prevent a cascade of collapses is Californian Kim Stanley Robinson. I read his Ministry For the Future and The High Sierra: A Love Story simultaneously and have now moved on to his Mars Trilogy.

Chief amongst his virtues as a writer is his commitment to optimism around change, particularly as an economic and political theorist. Most of the way through the second book, Green Mars, a congress comes together on Mars and attempts to write something new for that planet. Keep in mind that what follows was published in 1994! Robinson was that prescient!

One. Martian society will be composed of many different cultures. It is better to think of it as a world rather than a nation. Freedom of religion and cultural practice must be guaranteed. No one culture or group of cultures should be able to dominate the rest.

Two. Within this framework of diversity, it still must be guaranteed that all individuals on Mars have certain inalienable rights, including the material basics of existence, health care, education and legal equality.

Three. The land, air and water of Mars are in the common stewardship of the human family, and cannot be owned by any individual or group.

Four. The fruits of an individual’s labor belong to the individual, and cannot be appropriated by another individual or group. At the same time, human labor on Mars is part of a communal enterprise, given to the common good. The Martian economic system must reflect both of these facts, balancing self-interest with the interests of society at large.

Five. The metanational [corporate] order ruling Earth is currently incapable of incorporating the previous two principles, and cannot be applied here. In its place we must enact an economics based on ecological science. The goal of Martian economics is not ‘sustainable development’ but a sustainable prosperity for its entire biosphere.

Six. The Martian landscape itself has certain ‘rights of place’ which must be honored. The goal of our environmental alterations should therefore be minimalist and ecopoetic, reflecting the values of the areophany. It is suggested that the goal of environmental alterations be to make only that portion of Mars lower than the five-kilometer contour human-viable. Higher elevations, constituting some thirty percent of the planet, would then remain in something resembling their primeval conditions, existing as natural wilderness zones.

Seven. The habitation of Mars is a unique historical process, as it is the first inhabitation of another planet by humanity. As such it should be undertaken in a spirit of reverence for this planet and for the scarcity of life in the universe. What we do here will set precedents for further human habitation of the solar system, and will suggest models for the human relationship to Earth’s environment as well. Thus Mars occupies a special place in history, and this should be remembered when we make the necessary decisions concerning life here.