Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Future of The World... Illustrated.

Today and recently the blogosphere is dripping with blog producers and blog consumers lathering about - The Future.  And if there is one.

This is entirely understandable, and believe me, I'm not smirking at all those silly people.

We are, indeed, standing on the edge of the cliff here.  Read Sharon; read Ilargi and Stoneleigh.  

The thing is, I've known this for a long long time.  I do believe in physics, I do, I do.  And if you do- this collapse of industrial insanity has been inevitable for a very long time.

But how, forsooth, to explain that?  Lucidly, and convincingly, to folks who have not spent decades looking and listening, and studying.  What we are all taught, growing up, is that "progress" is glorious, inevitable, and endless- and good.  They pound that in hard.  It's not easy getting folks to the point where they can see it's a dogma based on fallacies and illusions.  And it's not fun. 

Luckily for us, California has produced several years of completely clear data.  It isn't necessary for you to understand "the science of economics" (ROTFL!); or physics, or the chemistry of global warming.  You just need 4th grade arithmatic.

California is burning, yes?  Badly.  Happened last year; and the year before.  And what are they doing about it all?

Not planning, that's for sure.  Here it is: the reaction to the entire state burning down- the reaction of the wealthiest, most forward looking people on the planet.

Cost of firefighting in California; by year:

Can you say "impotent"?

The fact is; our world governments are all in this state at the moment; utterly unable to cope with reality.  The various forces at work are able, time and again, to prevent action.

Manifestly- California needs to agree- fires are more costly than they used to be; we must budget more for dealing with them.

Manifestly- the state of California has failed to do anything about the problem, year after year.

Reality, physics, will prevail; every time.  Which is why California is on fire again.

Another litany of years of inaction is here; NYT: Asleep At The Spigot.

This is perhaps the largest problem I see for humanity at the moment- regardless of how or why we got here- our joint decision making processes are universally paralyzed.


Universally paralyzed.

Pick a disaster; any disaster- as the pundits are sifting through the rubble, you will find this phrase, over and over: "repeated warnings were ignored..."

How we got here; why; and what happens next- is tome material; cannot be crammed into a blog.

What do you need to do about this?  Realize- you're on your own.

Technology will not save us.  Because any truly revolutionary technology will be fought tooth and nail; and subverted, and co-opted; by the same forces that have paralyzed our states.

Policy will not save us.  Ditto.  They'll be holding policy discussions at our funerals.

What might save us is- us.

Communities, working to stick together, and face realities.  

The best initiative I know of there is Rob Hopkins' "Transition Towns" - 

Tons more on his website; and in video/audio.  

There's hope there; if you're willing to roll up your sleeves.


Leila Abu-Saba said...

I read a philosopher's critique of the concept of "progress" in college for a seminar course. We chewed over his ideas thoroughly. All I remember is that progress ain't always the best answer for the planet and its human & other residents. Hans Jonas was the guy.

We are all spirit - flesh and earth are spirit - and our technologies are part of spirit - and we have to throw ourselves upon the Great Source and then see what's the next thing to do in front of us. For me it's go to chemo every week and care for my children.

I also got an intuitive message recently that I can hire somebody to plan a permaculture garden for our urban lot, and that working in my garden at the level I can handle is part of healing for me. Two days after my 25th infusion I was raking up fallen plums and leaves for the compost pile. I did half an hour's worth of cleanup, all the yard work I have managed in a year since diagnosis, and I felt terrific.

One thing about having such a scary form of cancer is that it forces me to live in the moment. I am very aware of all these looming nightmarish possibilities for the planet; my own nightmarish possibilities are much more generally accepted by society so they are "more real" and yet I refuse to entertain them, for my own peace of mind. I am not dying today, I am living today, and that's what I've got.

Planning and planting a garden requires thinking about tomorrow and next year and beyond. However when you do the work, all you have is the work you do for that day - raking leaves or harvesting plums or whatever. And every gardener knows that time passes and all things die and are composted and reborn.

I take great comfort these days in looking at videos about permaculture. I am choosing to focus my future projecting mind on positive possible scenarios. Why not?

Even California's fires, a half dozen years of them in a row, can be viewed as a positive development. Maybe our government isn't "doing enough" to fight them. But maybe the fires will cause people to change their ways: quit building in remote, waterless hilltops; quit expecting to have luxury homes in the California chaparral. Maybe high fuel prices and peak oil will force us to cut back consumption where Sharon's arguments can't. (fine arguments but appeals to morality don't make people quit driving).

Change usually happens under duress. I only make major changes when I'm in pain. It took cancer recurring to get me organized on what I think my life's work is, my novel and fiction writing. Also it took that to get me to address seriously my cranky, angry, sometimes too negative personality. I don't really want to have this illness and the treatment but OTOH it has forced me to change my ways so that I have more peace of mind than I did a year ago, when I didn't know there was an illness inside me.

Big crises bring about big transformation. There may be big pain and suffering as well. But on the other hand, pain and suffering get us to reach out and comfort each other, and that, too, is a blessing.

Melissa said...

unfortunately, I don't think it's just governments who aren't learning - I heard a guy on NPR last week talking about re-building his home in Tahoe after last years fires. He had rushed to submit his building permit application before Jan 1 of this year because that was when the new, more "fire safe" building codes went into effect, and he didn't want to have to abide by the new codes (I think he said it would be too expensive). I listened to the whole thing, not too surprised at all...until they announced after all this that this guys job was actually dealing with trying to prevent fires! Somebody I knew once remarked that humanity deserves what's coming to it. I think this is a little harsh and a little cynical...but only a little some days, when I hear things like this.

Greenpa said...

Melissa- absolutely. I didn't mean to say it's only governments. Somehow all segments of society have absorbed the concept that real experts are there to be ignored, and we deserve what ever we can get away with. sigh.

Anonymous said...

A very short time ago the Ilargi site {Automatic Earth} and Sharon's site and Kunstler's site, as well as others {Michael Shedlock, Mike Morgan, Nouriel Roubini, many others} seemed alarmist and questionable in intent and factuality. Now this type of story appears on the front page of the Times. Long ago I recognized that the facts were fairly accurate and I wondered why the MSM was not picking this up. Now that they are, I am more anxious than ever!

Greenpa said...

RC- hey, maybe this will cheer you up! The NYT is still selling thesame ole happy advice for surviving the bear market "stay the course!" Keep investing! Another "hilarious if not sad" thing. BTW- have you moved to higher ground yet?

Hannah said...

I was lucky enough to hear Hopkins present at a conference (via video) and it has really changed my life. Community has always been an important concept for me, but it was not until his work that I realized how effective it could be as a way to face not just real life but also the unknown future.

Anonymous said...

I have been told and told and told (mostly by overweight guys who are expecting a Mad Max future staring them -- magically transformed into slim yet muscular babe magnets -- happily running the world with big guns) that we aren't going to get any where by turning to community becuase nothing gets done by a bunch of being singing around the campfire. God only knows where that comcept of community came from. For me,community is a bunch of people who might not agree on much, but agree that if the don't help each other out, the end of the world is coming a heck of a lot sooner and nastier.

It's possible by that neck of the woods will be overrun by hordes of hungery TV deprived ex-CEO zombies who can't tell that the green stuff growing all over what was once lawn (I used the word losely as IMO, crab grass is a great grass subsitute) is what shows of pre-french fries, and all my efforts at teaching (and learning from) my neighbors about gardening, and hard sharpen tools and solar ovens and composting loos will be for naught. But you know, I'd feel so much worse if those zombie CEO never turned up, but I'd been so afraid of being considered a campfire singing sissy that I'd never planted a garden, receieve and passed hand me down along, brought a file, or made an effort to keep on good terms with the neighbors who taste in music is terrible, vote the wrong way in all the elections, and whose gifts of homemade soup are not seasoned to my taste.

I realize there a lot of things I can't do much about -- but what's the point of not doing what we can?


WILDBLUESbysus said...

Checked out Rob Hopkins stuff. Very interesting. Thinking about purchasing his info and seeing what I can put into practice here. Thanks.

Hank Roberts said...

One comment from living here; what California needs, aside from better decisions made in the 1940s and 1950s, is not just budget for more summer firefighting (even the governor has said there's no 'fire season' any longer, it's year-round) but rather work to bring forests back to where they can burn gently and gracefully every decade or so as they did while the earlier residents were managing them.

Here's a good letter on the subject:

I know this works; I took on a 40-acre parcel that was toast and gravel a few years after its first fire in 40 years, back in the lage 1980s, and managed it for the next fire (which happened late in 2004). It came through well, but that's with a lot of work on the ground in between moving and removing brush and 'fire ladders' and discouraging the invasive annuals and encouraging the slower-recovering deep-rooted native perennials to hold the soil.

Every location is different. Even topsoil will burn if a fire has enough fuel and burns long enough.

The hydrologist who got me kickstarted (I was clueless and asked agency people to come visit) told me my site had had about a foot of soil a century ago from the lichen on the rocks, and had about 2/3 of an inch the day he visited. I did the math and started a 200-year project, hoping I can hand it off gracefully to someone else eventually.

Fun, though. As the letter-writer linked above notes, it could keep people busy year-round doing that with the whole of at least Northern California forests for the next century or two. If we wanted to be smart.

Anonymous said...

Greenpa, perhaps you have me confused with another person. I do live on an island, but it is all hills, with a few exceptions. I've always been located on higher ground. My shortcoming, and a serious one, is that I am not so sure of continuing fresh water reliability.

Lee said...

Brilliant. Someone else aware of the Transition Towns movement.

Hopkins is a genius. I'm going to nominate him for a Right Livelihood award. Right after I figure out a way to make him Prime Minister.

Seriously, PLEASE get people reading the Transition Towns handbook. As you say, the only people who can save us is us.