The end times: we can save ourselves—but we won’t
© Part 2 of 2
Reality as we know it is collapsing. Over-consumption leading to climate change and environmental destruction is pushing us over the edge. Agricultural soil is dead. Species are going extinct at a rate not seen in 65 million years. The living oceans are acidifying and dying. The polar icecaps are melting and sea levels are rising. And it’s happening fast.
We’re out of time. Yet, here we are with a Liberal prime minister green-lighting pipelines while foot-dragging on fighting climate change.
Meanwhile, both CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, and the RCMP are targeting green activists as the enemy—but enemy of what? The status quo? But protecting the status quo is the actual logic of our modern system.
It isn’t only the system. I am the problem. As in, I just bought a new-old gas-guzzling truck for our farm. I know it’s not right, but there are no easy alternatives. This is the only system I have ever known, though I vaguely remember horse-drawn milk delivery and a time before a television in every home. And even in my short lifetime the change has been breathtaking. So, given where we are and who we are, what do we need to do? Here’s a brief ‘to-do’ list:
- separating corporations and wealth from the state
- forgiving all debt and socializing banks
- legislating reverse-growth economics
- energy transitioning from fossil fuels
- reducing consumption
- reducing income inequality
- refocusing on planet-wide health, not wealth
- redirecting science and technology to low impact solutions
- demilitarizing the world economy
- fostering a new era of regional cooperation.
A few years ago a leader of a political party told me that what he looked for in advisors was competency and compliance. What about intelligence and innovation, I asked. Annoying distractions, he countered. That reaction told me more about our future prospects than any policy he and I discussed.
Before she died, Jane Jacobs, the visionary urban design critic, wrote The Dark Age Ahead (2004), predicting the collapse of civilization, citing our obsession with profits over collective wellbeing as the primary reason.
In her early years, she lived in Higgins, NC, a backward town that had gone from prosperity in the 1700s to poverty—losing along the way most of its local skills including spinning and weaving, loom construction, cabinetmaking, corn milling, house and water-mill construction, dairying, poultry and hog raising, gardening, whiskey distilling, hound breeding, basket weaving, biscuit baking, music making with violins and more.
She realized, more than most of us, the fragility of an ideologically-driven, globalized economy. Think of an inverted pyramid. If one thing lets go, the whole thing collapses into dust. She even predicted the appearance of imbecilic leaders bent on smashing the system.
None of this is new. Almost 50 years ago Ian McHarg wrote Design With Nature, which basically characterized human activity as a cancer on the planet. Joseph Tainter wrote about the threat of overly complex societies in 1984. In John Ralston Saul’s 1993 epic, Voltaire’s Bastards, he documented the irrational effects of a society deluded by its own rationality. Jacques Barzun wrote From Dawn to Decadence in 2000, charting our spectacular 500-year rise and inexorable decline. And researchers, Wilkinson and Pickett warned us in 2009 about the global dangers of inequality. Not to mention all the environmental information available. We know the problems.
Given the problems, the short time frame, and the rigid behaviour of the people operating the power structures, we’re done. Collapse is now inevitable. The only common sense answer is preparedness. It’s time to relocalize, re-skill and retool close to home. Trouble is, like Jane Jacobs’ folks in Higgins, we’ve lost those skills. The question becomes, how do we get them back? Perhaps having fully-functioning, resourceful communities might help, but most of those disappeared long ago.
As for me, this is the last time I’ll write in this space about the Big Bad Picture. After all, who am I? Just another guy with a bunch of kids and a pickup truck. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying about my kids. And by extension, worrying about the rest of us.