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Blog item: Responding to the Crisis

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2 comments, last: Apr-12-2009   Add a comment   Author:  chefurka (Feb-20-2009)
Categories: Philosophical & Quality of Life, Sustainable Living

You need a lot of converging failures to crash an airplane, let alone to cause what we're seeing in the world right now. Unfortunately for many of us, what we're seeing is a collapse.

The main reason we don't yet recognize what's happening to us as a collapse is because the true nature of what is waiting for us just around the corner is still only visible to a very few. Most of us view the situation as though we were peeking into a tiny keyhole, through which we can see only a small section of the vast room beyond.  Those pieces that are out of our field of view complicate the situation rather dramatically.

Only a small number of people have the breadth of background and understanding needed to widen their view and encompass the full scope of our predicament.  That range of knowledge goes beyond simple economics or environmentalism to include ecology, energy analysis, history, anthropology, biology, politics and maybe a bit of evolutionary psychology. Fortunately, just a smattering of knowledge in those other fields will suffice, so long as one has the inclination to weave the disparate threads into a full picture.

Focusing on just one field will not reveal our full situation (though ecology comes closer than most). I know people in the alternative energy business, for instance, who simply cannot believe that the financial crisis has dashed their dreams of a solar-powered civilization. Most of us prefer to believe that a few simple reforms affecting our chosen field of interest is all that is required. Most of us are tragically wrong.

We are standing on the threshold of the collapse of this version of human civilization.

Recognizing that fact radically changes your assessment of the oughts and shoulds that might be useful in addressing any aspect of the crisis. And it completely changes your ideas about what approach might be useful in addressing the whole thundering avalanche.

All change carries with it both challenge and opportunity. The greater the change, the greater both the challenge and the opportunity become. We are now face to face with the greatest opportunity for human growth that has ever existed, if we can only summon up the courage to seize it. Remember that courage is not fearlessness, but the ability to act even in the presence of fear.

My recommendations for preparations all revolve around changes in attitude. We need to understand that what humans have experienced for the last 500 years is not a birthright but a singularity. We need to remember that people are fully capable of feeling joy even in the absence of computers, flat panel TVs and MRI machines. Most importantly, we need to come to terms with the idea that all change – even death itself – is both inevitable and necessary.

This approach may sound pretty esoteric in comparison to developing wind turbines and solar panels. However, in the end those are just more shiny, ephemeral baubles of the intellect when what we need is the solid rock of the human spirit – the spirit that has been with us since we became human hundreds of millennia ago.

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Comment by: Steven Earl Salmony (Apr-12-2009)   Web site

Wonderful discussion, Paul. The ideas generated here appear vital to me. While I agree with everyone who says no one can predict the future, I also believe we can likely agree that if the human community keep doing precisely what we are doing now, we will keep getting what we are getting now.

One indication of faulty reasoning and extreme foolishness, I suppose, would be for us to believe that we can keep overconsuming, overproducing and overpopulating as we are doing now and somehow achieve different results from the ones in existence now.

If, for example, by doing "more of the same business-as-usual activities" that we are doing now, we could be leading our children down a "primrose path" to a recognizably horrendous fate of some unknowable kind, would reason and common sense not suggest a change in behavior?

We have self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us who are recommending to the children that all of us can live large and long; that we can conspicuously consume limited resources, pollute the frangible environment, overpopulate the finite planet and ravage the Earth......just the way they are insisting all of us do now. These arrogant and avaricious leaders are living examples of patently unsustainable lives and, yes, they take pride in their gigantic ecological 'footprints' and lifestyles based upon excessive consumption and unbridled hoarding. If our children were to keep doing what my not-so-great generation of elders are adamantly advocating and doing now, what is likely to become of them?

My growing sense of frustration results from a realization that remarkably clear, intellectually honest and morally courageous reports from so many responsible and duty-bound scientists show us that the Masters of the Universe are determined to deny what could somehow be real and not to speak publicly about what they believe to be true regarding the predicament in which the family of humanity finds itself in these early years of Century XXI. Even worse, their minions with leadership responsibilities and duties in environmental organizations have collusively been enjoined from speaking about whatsoever they believe to be true. As a consequence, a conspiracy of silence has been established among all these leaders and the absurdly enriched talking heads in the mass media who eschew intellectual honesty and moral courage in favor of reporting repetitively about whatsoever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable and religiously tolerated.

The silence of so many leaders is deafening, while the duplicitous, disinformational chatter of the talking heads is morally outrageous. What is much worse, sad to say, is that the determination of these leaders and the talking heads to live large and long in such stupendously unsustainable ways -- come what may for the children -- is not only grossly irresponsible, it is a profound dereliction of their duty to warn, I believe.

Perhaps change is in the offing.

Sincerely yours,

Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Feb-20-2009)   Web site

Thanks Paul for continuing to bang the drum. I would like to add my own view, that we may be seeing only an early-warning indicator, and we could partially recover in the next 5 years. However, I think the unavoidable energy squeeze and more awareness of warming will start to grow in 5 to 10 years tops, and after that, all bets are off. So if things do recover a bit (not fully), that does not imply we were dead wrong about the current crisis. It is more a question of parsing the timing and how to talk about it. A slight recovery and then continued collapse could be interpreted as an ongoing trend, but others may be able and willing to look at a short span of recovery and say, "See, the alarmists were wrong".

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About author/contributor Member: chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka)
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Member: chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) I am a Canadian ecologist with a passionate interest in outside the box responses to the converging crisis of industrial civilization.

The crisis of civilization is not simply a convergence of technical, environmental and organizational problems.  These are symptoms that are themselves being driven by a philosophical and perceptual disconnection so deep that it is best understood as a spiritual breakdown.  The disconnection goes by the name of Separation.

Our sense of separation is what allows us to see ourselves as different from and superior to the rest of the apparently non-rational universe we live in.  In this worldview the complex mutual interdependence of all the elements of the universe is replaced by a simple dualistic categorization:  there are human beings, and everything else in the universe—without exception—is a resource for us to use.

The only way to keep this planet, our one and only home in the universe, from being ultimately ravaged and devastated is to change our worldview and heal our sense of separateness.  Unless we can manage that breathtaking feat all the careful application of technology, all the well-intentioned regulations, all the unbridled cleverness of which we are so proud will do little to delay the final outcome, and nothing whatever to prevent it.

My desire is to find ways to heal that sense of separation, with the goal of helping us prepare for ecological adulthood.

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