Finding Our Way Out of the Pit
Posted: February 7th, 2011 by: h2
I’ve been giving some thought to the way the discussion about our present and future are engaged in online especially, also of course in print. A few things have struck me after tracking the main authors and sites (see right sidebar for some fo the better representatives of this genre) for a few years, most started by a sneaking suspicion that there is something wrong in the mindset that is driving the discussion. Some of these problems are somewhat obvious, for example authors who benefit from attracting attention to themselves, which in turn sells books. Others are less obvious, and quite a bit more insideous, since they actually make it hard for us to even see what the problem is.
Given the degree of the problem, one thing is becoming more obvious: any changes to come are going to happen in totally unexpected ways. Why? Because we are entering into uncharted territories when it comes to how we believe the world works versus how the world actually works. The key word here of course is sustainability. If you can come to understand this word, you are pretty much most of the way home.
Near term it’s hard to see anything positive happening politically in the USA, unless you consider a non-stop barrage of instigation to violence from the neo-con far right, resulting in, surprise, violence, as a positive. That model is tried and true, admittedly, worked well for the brown shirts too. Personally I’d suggest anyone with any integrity distance themselves from such types, unless that’s the future you want of course.
Or the idea that force-feeding even more capital into large corporate systems (aka, health care ‘reform’ [pray tell, how is forcing more money into the HMO system, thus making it stronger, reform?], military outsourcing, etc) is somehow going to help actually solve our problems.
The main structural problem the EU will face is lack of domestically produced resources. The main positive the core European nations possess: a reasonably coherent political system, and reasonably rational voters who actually understand things when pushed, and of course, a sense of place, of history, mental, linguistic horizons broader than the local walmart parking lot or corporate funded tv/radio shows…
Almost the opposite of the US, oddly.
As a Greek friend of mine noted, Greece for instance, knows what fighting for ones rights means, they have done it in the 20th century, they know the stable can roll over almost instantly into civil war and chaos. Americans don’t. I score that US, 0, experience, 1.
But if we start climbing out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves, we might find that while Europe has had its ups and downs before, and has survived them, the US hasn’t, yet. So I give odds on Europe, still. Not at current populations, but it doesn’t take much to shrink a non-sustainable population, that’s what non sustainable means after all…
The USA has never seen or experienced any model that involves finite resources, and they simply do not have the mindset to understand what that is going to mean on every level of life, politics, everything. All the USA knows is consumption, and that’s the wrong model to get out of this pit we have dug ourselves. And that goes back to the very beginning, when the initial brit colonists stole already prepped farm land from the local Indians, since that was so much easier than doing it yourself…
I think the speed of change might catch people way off guard. Lots of scenarios out there, but nobody will know which one will appear in the real world.
Remember, the Roman Empire crumbled, moved, went East, but Italy was still there, in simpler form, and it came back, several times over the centuries. All without oil or steel, so I think it’s a bit over the top to insist on a future that resembles a non-sustainable present. Most euro towns are already built around non-car cores. Takes not so much to go back a bit, climb up a bit rather than dig further down. What’s, say, Phoenix going to do? LA? Dallas? Atlanta? Better think of something quick, they are running out of time, water, oil, and everything else required to sustain the non-sustainable.
I suggest that if we want to ‘advance’, we forget this ‘peak’ nonsense, and admit the truth. We have dug ourselves down deep into a hole, and digging deeper isn’t going to get us out of it. The first countries to understand this win long term.
The USA, as currently constituted, is NOT going to be one of those countries, not the way money and politics are now intertwined in a sick embrace, an embrace that won’t anything help when the time comes for rational decision making, and when social allocation of resources becomes a necessity, not something to debate about in online blog postings and chats.
In fact, looking at this from a persective of pits rather than peaks, I believe you can quite accurately summarize the political ‘choices’ offered to us as one of the following:
- Choice 1: Dig more, dig deeper, expand the mines, drill further. This choice would cover all the right, almost, in the US political system, and most of the so-called ‘left’. The most explicit form of this view is found in the: drill baby drill, dig more coal, now, make more power plants, now, form of discussion. China is also following this course, at near breakneck speeds. Maximal digging speed and intensity, get that hole as deep as possible as quickly as possible.
- Choice 2: Slow down the rate of digging and resource extraction. This would cover most of what we call ‘progressive’ thinking in the USA. Up to and including new Marxist type thought. This covers things like Priuses, ‘green’ consumption, ‘renewable’ energy, and so on.
- Choice 3: Stop the process. Almost nobody seriously argues this, since it involves an immediate cessation of growth (better termed: resource extraction). Growth is required for Capitalism to function, debt cannot be repaid unless the capital is grown to include the interest payments. This is a fundamental and core law of the functioning of Capitalism. No country in the world is viewing this as an option. Even people like Evo Morales, for example, refuse to even discuss population growth/planning when criticizing the industrial world, which makes their talk about capitalism and growth based systems somewhat absurd, since each new person added to an already stressed ecosystem, like Bolivia for example has now, has the same negative result, the hole has gotten deeper. But at least they are saying the words, if not actually engaging in the actions.
- Choice 4: this is not actually a choice, it’s necessity, and it is the actual meaning behind the word sustainable. Obviously, it’s getting out of the pit as quickly as possible. Nothing modern humans do is sustainable, with the exception of some very fringe remaining social groups (‘natives’) who still live sustainably, here and there across the planet, but their numbers are declining rapidly, and the forces confronting them are massive, powerful, ruthless, and uncompromising, since this way of life requires a fair amount of land. The forces pitted against these cultures have been engaging in such cultural destruction for centuries, possibly millenia now.
It’s important to note that choice 4 is not, as I noted, a choice. Sustainable living means living that can pass the 6 generation test (I think it was 6) that some Native Americans relied on when making core political and social decisions.
Choice 4 is the only option that actually would view us as doing what we are doing, digging ourselves deeper and deeper by the day despite all talk to the contrary. And thus, it’s the only choice that offers an actual solution, although due to certain limiting factors, this solution does not exist until we discover it, thus making endless polemics about ‘my solution is better than your solution’ largely irrelevant. This solution has to be found using different methods than we used to get to the bottom of the pit, there is no formula or trick to it.
Choice 3 could, if done properly, help lead to choice 4, but it could also simply keep us stuck at the bottom of the hole, as the walls begin to crumble down, rocks pelt us as small avalanches form on the unstable sides of the pit. In other words, choice 3 is not a very good one, although it’s better than 1 or 2.