somaliaLast week in my article A Sacred Earth Culture I outlined my environmental philosophy, and expressed hope that, with a concerted effort by a lot of people on initiatives like those in my How to Save the World Roadmap, my ‘Plan A’, we can prevent ‘eco-tastrophe’ occurring in this century. I also indicated that, in case that doesn’t suffice, sometime in this century we will need a ‘Plan B’. These are my early thoughts on the unthinkable — what Plan B might entail.

The late 21st century scenario that would/will require this plan is extremely bleak:

  • A world of 10-15 billion people, twice today’s number, consuming the resources of six or eight sustainable Earths.
  • Constant warring over scarce oil and water, and, as population sprawls, scarce land, meat & dairy products, and, eventually, scarce everything.
  • A world of staggering inequality, where a tiny minority desperately hoards the majority of the world’s resources, and protects these resources and themselves with huge, technologically advanced armies and private militias.
  • A global collapse of economic systems and infrastructure: stock markets, currencies, education systems, health systems, law enforcement systems, democratic governments, all abandoned because there is no money or will to sustain them.
  • Ubiquitous, grinding poverty, epidemic diseases of overcrowding, and universal despair, strife, hopelessness, anger and fear.

Without a radical, global, and improbably fast change in human culture and behaviour, this scenario is inevitable. This is not Malthusian hysterics. It is already the reality in most of the third world, and, contrary to what the corporatists would have you believe, it is getting worse, not better, with globalization and ‘free’ trade. There is no evidence, despite the fact that we are already living well beyond our planet’s means, of any political will to replace our unsustainable economy with one that will allow us to survive. There is no evidence that human population will stop growing at 8-9 billion, as we optimistically predicted a generation ago.

As countries like China attempt to emulate the Western economic model, massively depleting their supply of water and arable land, producing pollution in volumes not seen even during the coal era of the industrial revolution, and increasing the demand for already scarce energy resources at a staggering rate, the human ‘footprint’, measured in number of Earths’ sustainable supply of resources, is accelerating even as population growth is decelerating. Economic disparity is growing at a phenomenal rate, both between rich and poor countries, and between the tiny elite and the increasingly destitute masses of people within each country. Biodiversity is shrinking at a rate not seen in 65 million years, and we are increasingly dependent on a few, unsustainable technologies (like the automobile and ‘energy deficit’ agriculture), a few increasingly scarce natural resources (oil, wood and water) and a few highly inbred, chemically-laden, and hence vulnerable and unresilient food sources (the number of varieties of plant and animal species eaten by man in commercial quantities has dropped by over 80% in a generation).

And for those who believe technology and innovation will come to our rescue, there is no precedent for the kind of massive, ubiquitous, instantly-deployed human invention and ingenuity that would be needed to transform not only our economy, but more critically its distribution mechanisms, sufficiently to even begin to offset the crises of scarcity and environmental devastation we are obliviously headed for today.

(The red lines above show sustainable levels of population and consumption, with no provision for survival of any other living species. They show we are already living well beyond the Earth’s sustainable capacity. The green lines show the sustainable levels of population and consumption if we want to share a modest part of our planet with other species). More information on this chart here.)

Even those who believe in Armageddon always thought it would be Someone Else’s Job to solve the crisis. No matter how much we try to deny it, we are careening out of control, on an icy road going too fast towards a wall we can yet hardly see. Stopping, if it is not already too late, is our job. Those in the driver’s seat are accelerating and looking in the rear-view mirror. And even those who want to stop have forgotten where the brake is, or aren’t in a position to reach it.

If we find it is too late to stop, we must have a Plan B, a way to derail the vehicle of of our culture, our civilization, before it hits the wall. It will not be pretty, but for all those who do not romaticize our world ending in apocalypse, it could be our only alternative.

To continue the metaphor of the out-of-control vehicle headed for the wall, Plan B involves turning off the motor of civilization, and steering off the road without flipping over. Sabotage without suffering. Unlike almost every other revolution in our history, this one involves killing no one, and saving everyone.

The objective of Plan B is to do the following:

  • End the ‘growth’ economy quickly, putting a stop to the increased destruction of our environment and increased consumption of scarce resources. The vehicle careening out of control would then no longer accelerate.
  • Drastically cut the disparity of wealth and power between rich and poor, so that the means of control of our future would return to all of us. We would elbow the wealthy and powerful elites out of the driver’s seat of our careening vehicle, and seize the wheel.
  • Increase our self-sufficiency, resiliency and readiness to make the rapid transition to a new and radically different human culture. If the vehicle ends up in the ditch in the middle of nowhere when we steer it away from the wall, at least we won’t be helpless.

Here is the ugly part, the unthinkable, obviously illegal, and hopefully unnecessary, Plan B:

  • Sabotage the energy and transportation systems — Skilfully but irreparably (and if necessary, repeatedly) dismantle dams, pipelines, transformers, tankers, refineries, drilling platforms, so that they can’t function. But do so without causing pollution or death in the process. Intercept and block the flow of weapons from rich countries to poor, and the export of locally-needed and slave-labour-produced resources from poor countries to rich. Monkey-wrench the engine and transmission system of our culture.
  • Seize control of the communication system — Jam, hack and occupy the broadcast facilities of the complicitous and compliant major media, and then transmit anti-growth, anti-consumption messages — warnings about the dangers of corporatism, consumerism, commercialism, power and wealth concentration, privatization, big families, environmental degradation, unreported family violence, factory farm abuses hidden from public view, illegal incarceration, suppression and removal of civil rights and freedoms, two-tier health, education and transportation systems — all the programs and practices that sustain the fervent ‘perpetual growth’ mantra that is accelerating us towards the crash. Turn off the blaring radio and tell the six billion passengers of the vehicle that we’re out of control and need their cooperation and help.
  • Boycott the corporatist economic system — Opt out of investing in governments, corporations and institutions that keep us addicted to consumption and debt, and that provide corporatists with the capital they need to further concentrate their power and control over us and sustain the irrational belief in ‘perpetual growth’. Starve the carburetor of the air that keeps the vehicle firing on all cylinders.
  • Destroy confidence in the food system — Use viral marketing, industrial sabotage and biological agents to undermine public confidence in the foods produced in factory farms and owned or ‘stolen’ from the third world by the global food oligopoly, without harming farmed animals or seriously jeopardizing public health. Replace the system with community-owned, local food systems that ensure self-sufficiency. Teach the passengers how to survive once the vehicle is derailed.
  • End human population growth — Use evenly, globally dispersed biological agents to reduce human fertility without discrimination and without causing human suffering. No more riders in this vehicle — it’s overloaded already.
  • Seize control of the education system — To end the dumbing down of citizens to mere consumers, end the social, cultural, political and economic indoctrination of our children, and re-educate people about what is really happening in the world, and the need for radical change. Make sure all the passengers understand that we cannot survive a crash, and doing nothing to stop it is irresponsible and not an option.

It is not yet the time to launch Plan B. To move forward with these extreme measures now would be seen, understandably, as immoral and irrational, and be labeled terrorism. But in twenty, fifty, seventy years, if we haven’t replaced our culture with a new sustainable culture, there will be billions ready, desperate to implement Plan B, and sympathetic to its cause. If it comes to that, and you find Plan B too distasteful, too radical, you are welcome to teach your grandchildren, whose legacy this catastrophic world will be, to pray. I’m going to teach mine to do something. Because the alternative by then will clearly be death. If and when that time comes, we will know. In the meantime, we can only be ready, and keep working like hell on Plan A.

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4 Responses to PLAN B

  1. george says:

    Though I think you’re absolutely right, I think that if anyone in government read this, you’d be locked up for sure.

  2. Philip says:

    “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.”Guess who?

  3. Kevin says:

    I’m interested to hear your thoughts as to at what point you feel Plan B might need to be implemented. Not a specific date, but rather, when the current condition reaches point X. For example, if population reaches XXX by the year 2020 and renewable energy sources only account for XX% of total energy consumed, etc…Your Plan B seems to assume that that point is very soon. I only say this because it is designed to sabotage the current system, as opposed to what system might exist twenty or thirty years from now, after Plan A has had some, but not enough effect.I guess I have always assumed that if it came to the point where I am ready to implement a Plan B, then probably the majority of people, who are now ignoring the problems, will have acknowledged the them (because they are more personally effected by them), and they will be making more drastic efforts to fix it. Perhaps by that time it may already be too late, or perhaps there will be less need (or use) for the drastic measures of Plan B as you have outlined them. Perhaps, at the least, in the context of the times, your Plan B will no longer be considered “drastic”.

  4. Ken Hirsch says:

    When you say “There is no evidence that human population will stop growing at 8-9 billion, as we optimistically predicted a generation ago,” what population forecasts are you talking about? I was a teen a generation ago and read lots of scary forecasts then. Instead, the world population has grown a lot slower than anyone expected and seems set to level off at a lower level than was forecast a generation ago.Also, when you say “it is getting worse, not better, with globalization and ‘free’ trade,” could you specify what “it” is. A lot of things are improving in large parts of the world. Some things are getting worse and some places (mostly Africa) are worse in a lot of things. But in places where trade is taking place–most of Europe (except former USSR states, but including most of Eastern Europe), much of Asia, North America, to a lesser extent Central and South America–things are better. Measurable things like clean water, malnutrition, infant mortality, longevity are improving. So you need to be specific when you say “it” is getting worse.

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