The End of Civilization as a ‘Software Crash’

Four concepts have been spinning around in my mind lately. I instinctively feel that they go together somehow, but until today I wasn’t quite sure how. Now I think I know. The four concepts are:

  • What has allowed human civilization to evolve so quickly in recent millennia has been the gradual switch-over from reliance on instinctive knowledge embedded in our DNA and transmitted genetically (“hardware”) to reliance on ‘rational’ knowledge transmitted through language and communication culturally (“software”). Cultures can adapt to changing circumstances much more rapidly than genes, so evolution has encouraged this switch-over, to the point that we are, in a very real sense, more what our culture has made us than what our genes have made us.
  • Our civilization has a very thin veneer. What keeps the six and a half billion of us ‘behaving’ in a way that allows our now-global civilization to struggle on optimistically is extremely fragile, and when it breaks down even slightly, when our culture fails to tell us what to do and our instincts are no longer listened to, we quickly show we are capable of staggering atrocities, that we are capable of anything.
  • There is some compelling evidence that some of the most ‘advanced’ human civilizations of the past, like those of the Incas and the Anasazi, ended when en masse the people of those civilizations quite suddenly gave up on their ‘civilized’ way of life, concluding that it no longer worked for them, and just walked away, returning to an ‘uncivilized’ gatherer-hunter society.
  • Thanks to reader Martin-Šric Racine, I became aware of this remarkable post by Kai Krause in response to the Edge “what’s your dangerous idea?” question, in which Krause suggests that our civilization may already be falling apart. He says:
On every scale, the closer I observe it, the more the creeping realization haunts me: individuals, families, groups, neighborhoods, cities, states, countries… they all just barely hang in there, between debt and dysfunction. The whole planet looks like Any town with mini malls cutting up the landscape and just down the road it’s all white trash with rusty car wrecks in the back yard…Now: I am no longer confident that [continued conformity of the majority to the behaviours needed to sustain our civilization] will continue…Seeing scenes of desperate youths in South American slums watching “Kill Bill” makes me think: this is just oxygen thrown into the fire… The ants will not play along much longer. The anthill will not survive if even a small fraction of the system is falling apart…

Couple that inane drive for “Super Individualism” with the scarily simple realization of how effective even a small set of desperate people can become… and you have an ugly picture of the long term future…So many curves that grow upwards towards limits, so many statistics that show increases and no way to turn around…While we look at the horizon, it is the very ground beneath us that may be crumbling.

Krause is almost apologetic about this “realistic pessimism”, but his point (that I completely missed in my earlier review of responses to the Edge question) is important, perhaps electrifying: Will civilization end, not with a bang but with a whimper, not by terrorist inferno or nuclear or bio-catastrophe or economic collapse, but when people just realize that the intricate software program that is civilization just doesn’t work for them anymore, and rather than fighting it, just walk away? What if en masse our grandchildren just refuse to accept any longer the grossly inequitable private ‘ownership’ of land and resources, or even the concept that humans or anyone owns the land and the life on it? What if, perhaps like many of the homeless people on our affluent nations’ streets today, billions conclude that participating in the horrifically skewed ‘market’ economy, in the broken, mind-numbing education system, in the dysfunctional and privileged political system, as consumers, as citizens, just isn’t worth the stress and effort anymore — that there’s just not enough in it for them?

Derrick Jensen talks about “the fear of not having enough” being the anchor that holds us, despite our doubts and misgivings, and its constant disappointments and failures, to this one, global, fragile civilization. What if, as they learn more and more about it, many in the affluent nations decide that that fear is no longer sufficient to keep them supporting an increasingly incompetent, haywire civilization, and, at the same time, many in the struggling nations decide that the never-ending promise of having enough, if they will just stick with civilization a little longer, is a fraud? Imagine an alliance of the informed and the disenfranchised, together, helping each other walk away from civilization, to stop acknowledging the legitimacy of its predatory, ruinous political elites, to stop acknowledging the legitimacy of laws that allow huge, irresponsible corporations to despoil the Earth and steal from the poor and from future generations and which allow the rich to get away with murder and the poor to get away with nothing, to stop acknowledging the value of an economic system that threatens us with starvation and scarcity if we don’t obey its soul-destroying rules of arbitrary hierarchy and wage slavery and which treats every person as a mere consumer to be addicted to the insatiable demand for more and newer stuff?

The software program of human civilization was written 30 millennia ago, when we were persuaded by the (then very real) fear of scarcity to trade in our freedom as gatherer-hunters for tedious, grueling lives as malnourished (‘better underfed than dead’) wage slaves stooped in uncooperative and fragile fields of monoculture grain. That program was modified only slightly when, in the most recent millennium, a minority were given back a small say in how their own lives were governed, and the right to ‘own’ a small amount of ‘property’ instead of being property themselves, and more recently still were given some machines to make some of the daily toil of their lives less physically exhausting. But the last century has shown this software to be subject to spectacular failures, and all the furious work to patch it seems merely to have made it more messy and vulnerable and inflexible, kind of like Windows, precisely when huge changes seem to be desperately needed. Is our civilization, this ‘proprietary’ software, the only program we still have available for our 6.5 billion humans, about to crash  — a global cultural analogue to the Blue Screen of Death? And, by walking away from civilization soon en masse, might our most informed and most disenfranchised be recognizing this impending crash and looking, hopefully in time, for another, ‘open source’ program, another way to live?

I’ve already described a bit what this ‘walking away’ would mean — the rejection of the legitimacy of, and refusal to recognize the authority of, existing political and economic and other systems, laws, rights and claims. Think of it as analogous to the seizure and occupation by its workers of a manufacturing plant previously run by tyrants. The laws giving the tyrants absolute ownership of the plant, and the right to the profits from it, and the right to hire and fire and treat ’employees’ as they want, would no longer be recognized. The authority of the police to eject the workers would not be recognized, and would be resisted at all costs. The workers would treat the plant as shared property and do whatever they agreed communally to do with it — tear out the machines and make shared housing for their families, sell off or give away its ‘assets’, or operate it as a commons for the benefit of the workers. This is to some extent what happened in Argentina during the recent economic collapse.

Now imagine that several billion people agree and announce that they no longer recognize the laws, the rights, or the property of anyone, and consider that everything in the world is a shared resource. It has usually been much easier to walk away from civilizations that had become dysfunctional past the point of no return — there were ‘uninhabited’ frontiers, usually not too far away, where you could ‘restart’ (to continue the software analogy) the society. In fact there’s some interesting new speculation by anthropologists that the Great Wall of China was built not to keep out the ‘Mongol hordes’, but rather to keep in the suffering slaves of the Chinese empire working in horrific poverty and disease and misery in the rice paddies that were the hallmark of our civilization’s early days. To keep them from walking away.

We no longer have any habitable frontiers, despite the longing looks at outer space by the technophiles enraptured of the new religion of technology-as-saviour. So even if we were to decide to escape this bankrupt monolithic civilization culture while we could, where would we walk away to? How do you plan a prison break when the whole world is your prison? You can escape into alcohol, drugs, other addictions, mindless violence, insanity, abuse of others and other self-destructive behaviour, and there’s lots of evidence that that’s a pretty popular path these days. But the alternative is, while difficult, still quite simple:

  • Form small Intentional Communities of people and learn the essential life skills for community self-management and self-sufficiency.
  • Establish egalitarian, community-based ‘subsistence’, not-for-profit ‘Natural’ enterprises that provide one or more essentials of life (food, shelter, clothing, learning, recreation, communication, transportation). That requires re-learning how to provide those life essentials first, as few of us today have ever acquired these skills. Our culture has deliberately made most of what we learn in school useless, to keep us dependent on it.
  • Trade, without using currency, any surplus essentials produced by the community for those surplus essentials produced by other ‘Natural’ enterprises of other nearby Intentional Communities. Never let your community become dependent on such trade, and never buy the pretty trinkets or the dangerous, poisoned foods produced by corporations in civilization culture — they’ll only get you addicted to that culture again.
  • To the extent you need resources (especially land) that your Intentional Community does not have, follow the honourable tradition of the squatter — occupy and claim it, liberate it from those who see it as their right to ‘own’ (and to preclude others from accessing) property vastly in excess of what they need. This is the hard part, even harder than it was for the Argentine factory-workers (the plants they occupied in Argentina had been largely abandoned). It is the community-based equivalent of nationalization — returning the resources of the Earth to the Earth, to be equally shared by all. To do this will require a great deal of courage and passive resistance. It will be violently opposed by the rich and powerful, and by the sniveling lawyers and politicians and law-enforcers at their beck and call. But every act of liberation that is opposed by brutal violence will merely show more people the moral bankruptcy, unsustainability, inequity and dysfunction of civilization culture. There is a reason why the neocon corporatist ideologues are currently obsessed with trying to sell the concept of the Ownership Society. Just as they would have you believe that the Ponzi Scheme stock ‘market’ and housing ‘market’ are opportunities for everyone to participate in the obscene redistribution of wealth from poor to rich (but they will both crash soon, and it won’t be the rich who will suffer), they would now have you believe that the process of sticking ownership title on everything — every piece of intangible property, every idea, every seed that is planted, every new form of life — and charging rentals for every ‘use’ of such ‘property’, is something more than another rapacious grab by those with the power to patent and enforce such ownership from those without such power. It would be much easier if we could create another society without having to confront the oligopolies of power and ‘ownership’ over the Earth’s resources. But if it were easy it would have already been done. It is only when enough informed and disenfranchised people are ready to take this step, only when the fear of civilization’s Blue Screen of Death becomes greater than today’s fear of not having enough, that the trickle of those walking away will turn into a torrent. But at some point the coming depression, the end of oil, bioterrorism, desperate nuclear attacks from the growing ecological cesspools and deserts of horrifically overpopulated Asia, waves of epidemic disease attacking us and our fragile, undifferentiated global foods, will combine to push us to the other side of this equilibrium point. 
  • As civilization culture and its economic and political artifacts collapse (more due to their own unsustainability and the impact of the above crises than to the growing numbers opting out), we will find ourselves in a world of chaos that is analogous to what the Internet is today — a world of millions of (hopefully connected and Intentional rather than isolated and despotic) communities and millions of (hopefully Natural) community-based enterprises  that will be self-organizing and redistributing wealth and power much more equitably. It is then and only then that we will come face-to-face, like the hero at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the ultimate reality: the unsustainability of our human numbers. There is simply no way that our planet, under any system, can support and sustain 6.5 billion humans — even living a radically simpler lifestyle. There are not enough resources to go around, let alone enough to pass on to future generations. And by the time we reach this state, if past death tolls of wars and disease are any indication, we will not have just 6.5 billion people but somewhere between 9 and 14 billion people. Then what? Here is where I become an optimist. Most of the more complex creatures on this planet, when they appreciate instinctively and see personally evidence that their numbers are too great to be sustainable, quickly and automatically reduce their birth rate to restore their numbers to a sustainable level. We have ‘forgotten’ how to do this because we have been taught to ignore and suppress our instincts and because the evidence of our numbers’ unsustainability has been deliberately suppressed by the rich and powerful in their self-interest, so we do not see it. As soon as we see it — as soon as waves and waves of destitute people from ruined struggling nations come pounding on our doors telling us that they are squatting on, occupying and claiming the modest amount of land we had claimed for our subsistence Intentional Community, we will have to face the truth at last that there are not enough resources to go around. And we will stop breeding, instinctively and voluntarily, by community consensus, just as most other creatures on this planet do, until there are enough resources to go around comfortably.

Messy, eh? I’d love to lay out a scenario that was neater, cleaner, less bloody and less difficult, easier to sell, but that’s not how life works on this planet when one species gets wildly out of balance. We fool ourselves when we think that our software programming, our culture, makes us somehow exempt from the rules of nature, and the laws gravity and thermodynamics. We need to get past the “magical thinking” that there is a better, neater, more peaceful way out of our current situation, through the Rapture or technology or social self-transformation or escape to distant planets. We have managed to survive as well as we have since our relatively recent arrival on this planet because of our adaptability, and that is why I believe we will not just plunge headlong the way we are headed now, into the civilizational Blue Screen of Death. At some point we will bail out, messily, in something like the scenario I have laid out above. To me the only question mark is whether the last bullet will play out the way I suggest, or whether instead some set of natural and man-made disasters will sufficiently cull our numbers that we’ll avoid having to face and adjust to this final, grim reality. Looking at the death rates from the worst wars and plagues in the past, would suggest that these would not be enough to do the job for us. But perhaps I underestimate the ability of nature and of human technology to make this part of our job, at least, a little easier.

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23 Responses to The End of Civilization as a ‘Software Crash’

  1. Chris says:

    I think I’m going to come up to canada and just take your house to start this revolution. Everybody else can just go read Marx to see the overall point Dave is trying to make here.

  2. Rob Paterson says:

    DaveBang on! I have been having the same feelings become more clear. We are using a rational dogma that violates our nature. You and I have walked awy and are we not also forming our own little tribes and finding our tribes work and love?best wishes as I leave the campfire for another hunting expedition with a few of my friends at NPRRob

  3. cindy says:

    Quote from Krause: “”And what if 2 billion Chinese and Indians raise a generation of kids staring 6+ hours a day into All American values they can never attain…”Actually it is already happening…the illegal immigrants that would risk lives crossing mountains, oceans and deserts to find ‘a better life’in Europe or the US… they saw all those ‘wonderful’ images on the TV screens. Without TV images, their numbers would not have been so alarmingly large…and at times so senseless.

  4. Paul Hunt says:

    Dave,Are you starting or joining an intentional community?Are you raising your own food, or fuel?Are you bartering your surplus?I’m trying to learn how to evolve my own habits in those directions, and I’m wondering if you are having any luck in that department.

  5. laodan says:

    Your post of today addresses one pole of the existential contradiction that I mentionned in my last comment on your post “What Makes a People Commit Mass Atrocities?”. Here are some rapid reactions about your description of this particular pole (the drop-out option or is it the rats leaving the ship option?):1. To my knowledge societal change does not occur as a consequence of voluntary action. I can’t recall one historical exemple of voluntarism leading to fundamental societal change… Even the Bolshevik revolution has not been driven by voluntarism at its inception and while voluntarism was later the engine of its practice we can’t but observe how its outcome collapsed any further dream of voluntarism… (the initial dream was beautifull but the outcome was sheer folly)You write that “…there is some compelling evidence that some of the most ‘advanced’ human civilizations of the past, … , ended when en masse the people of those civilizations quite suddenly gave up on their ‘civilized’ way of life…”. This is simply not the case. No study that I’m aware of makes such a leap of faith in voluntarism. You further write that “Most of the more complex creatures on this planet, when they appreciate instinctively and see personally evidence that their numbers are too great to be sustainable, quickly and automatically reduce their birth rates to restore their numbers to a sustainable level.” It is true that in some conditions some species see their numbers be restored to more sustainable levels but it is wrong to assume that this is done conscientiously and in a voluntary fashion. (do you really believe that the reproduction of a specie is done as a consequence of the individuals wanting to make children? No, all species have children as a consequence of the search for the pleasure that is bestowed in making love. The software of nature tricks us to do certain things… and it could well be that human demography is already on the road of its rebalancing to more sustainable levels. Recent demographic projections of global population include scenarios of dramatic population decline (without any meteorite impacts, new epidemics, nor famines). See here:- EUROSTATSALL 10 MILLION EUROPEANSThe End of World Population Growth in the 21st Century. New Challenges for Human Capital Formation and Sustainable Development.2. “The End of Civilization as a ‘Software Crash'”, while suggesting a visual image of what could happen in the Western Christian world, this analogy does not hold. Western modernity has been imposed by the force of “steel, canons and germs” and at this contact cultures and languages certainly rarefied but, as of today, remain nonetheless not one civilization as you seem to suggest (“our now-global civilization”) but a small cluster of civilizations (White Christian, Chinese, Indian, Arab,…) that have taken over from the Western civilization some of its functional particularities (the logic of capital, rationality, science and technology, …) 3. You write “The software program of human civilization was written 30 millennia ago, when we were persuaded by the (then very real) fear of scarcity to trade in our freedom as gatherer-hunters for tedious, grueling lives as malnourished (‘better underfed than dead’) wage slaves stooped in uncooperative and fragile fields of monoculture grain.” In reality the first trials at agricultural activities appeared as a consequence of the last great climate change that took place some 11,000 years ago and the road to agriculture has been a process that took some 5-6,000 years and was ultimately responsible for the assembling by force of tribes in kingdoms and later in empires.Civilizations find their roots at that junction of history. Assembling people was one thing but keeping them under the roof of a kingdom that spread its borders far away from the center was altogether another affair. A glue was necessary to keep the subjects assembled under the banner of their leader and the stories vehiculated by religions and philosophies have been that glue. All such stories were based on foundational axioms… and the stories that survive today are anchered into their foundational axioms but we are unfortunately not aware of what those axioms are all about. What I mean to say here is that if the crash of our civilization’ software, really took place as you imply… well we still would be under the spell of the axioms of our civilization and as such even if our cultures came to crash (I guess that’s what you mean by software) we would nevertheless always be agitating the content of the same civilizational pot, ours, and as such our civilization would continue to spread down the road. Only our culture would eventually change…I think that we here reached the substance of the discussion that you started in this post: civilization versus culture. Our culture changed drastically along the last century and it is fast moving away from modernity towards a post-modern reality that we just can’t grasp… only the future will show us what is this post-modernity; if gaia’s fewer permits.What we can do today is trying to understand our situation and where the waves of reality are floating us…I believe that you are right to point to the tensions that our world (Gaia) is undergoing under the assault of our human imbecility. As Lovelock writes: Gaia has a fewer that could last 100,000 years… But I don’t think that this can help us to SEE what’s really going on and where we are going. This can only lead us to short-sut answers such as forming “small Intentional Communities of people and learn the essential life skills for community self-management and self-sufficiency”. Don’t mis-understand me I have nothing against such communities but I just don’t think that this will change anything in the macro-reality of human life on Gaia.By post-modernity I mean that our view of the world (worldview) is going to be drastically shaken and that a new paradigm is in the offing. How? Well through the crash-encounter of science and rationality, on one side, with what will be the result of the interaction between the remaining civilizations, cultures, religions and philosophies over the next decades.What I mean is that science, left on itself, can’t offer us a worldview that all the citizens of the earth could possibly be sharing. Science is a tunnelling vision towards tiny points of observation into the macroscopic or the microscopic and as such it can’t give us an all encompassing view that we could share. But science will bring a large body of knowings to the table where the interaction between civilizations, cultures, religions and philosophies will take place and this will act as a catalyst on the reactions between scientific knowings and philosophic understandings that in the future will result in the shared foundational axioms of humanity’s future civilizational road… if Gaia’s fewer does not kill her before.What I meant to say in this long post is that “when people just realize that the intricate software program that is civilization just doesn’t work for them anymore” … rather than fighting it they will just be happy to adapt new ideas, values and models. What’s thus important now is to try to understand how those new ideas, values and models are taking shape. After that we can eventually give a hand to the movement…

  6. I think Kai Krause has something there, and “which treats every person as a mere consumer to be addicted to the insatiable demand for more and newer stuff” rings true as well.It’s become more that way, so much more that even the consumers talk about this while they spend. Eventually they may talk about it, and not spend.It’s possible the “software crash” will happen one holiday season when everyone decides to stay home from the end of November through the end of December, and not buy gasoline or spend money. I’ve thought for years there was something wrong with retail businesses relying so much on one month of buying unnessary things to ensure their success. There’s something terribly fragile about that, like a person on life support. How long can that last?

  7. James Samuel says:

    Great timing Dave: I am nearing completion of “my yurt”: and yesterday was thinking about where to erect it – as I sat on some land adjacent to where my partner and I are renting. I have already written to the owner of the land to suggest a trade of “we live here free” and you get “land cared for, noxious weeds removed and a food garden established.” I thought that if I get no reply I will simply put it up there and accept the consequences – a good thing about a yurt is its ability to move easily. I have also been seeing how far I can push the move to step outside the currency exchange model – trading time and goods for things I need. I will probably make a table for a guy who has a sewing machine I want in order to make the cover for the yurt. Meanwhile I am learning more about growing food, fishing, building shelter, eating healthy and staying happy, and communicating – listening and sharing – as the world spins about me. As for population growth, I am going to be a (first time) father in about six months.

  8. Martin-Eric says:

    To me, the scary part of Krause’s statement was, in comparison to the Paris riots: <cite>”what if any really smart set of people really set their mind to it…how utterly and scarily trivial it would be, to disrupt the very fabric of life, to bring society to a dead stop?”</cite>.I’ll throw in a dangerous idea of my own:

    What if denatality, epidemics, wars and the various ordeals humanity currently suffers were Mother Nature’s way of ridding itself of an unsustainable quantity of human animals and to bring the headcount to more reasonable levels?

    Never mind that superpowers are going to war for selfish reasons and arbitrarily target small countries that just happen to have a different culture and religion than them; never mind that epidemics are mostly decimating 3rd-world countries where the average life expectancy is already significantly lower that the northern-occidental average; never mind that denatality’s most severe consequences mainly affect the ethnic fabric of the smallest 1st-world countries; never mind that androcentric reproductive customs combined with one-child policies deplete whole 2nd-world countries of their females, resulting in a missing generation whose absence will make the economy of those countries collapse. Never mind the conjuncture. What if, regardless of how we get there, the end result will nonetheless be exactly what Mother Nature intended: a reduction of the human headcount. What do you make of that?

  9. Raging Bee says:

    Our civilization has a very thin veneer. What keeps the six and a half billion of us ‘behaving’ in a way that allows our now-global civilization to struggle on optimistically is extremely fragile, and when it breaks down even slightly, when our culture fails to tell us what to do and our instincts are no longer listened to, we quickly show we are capable of staggering atrocities, that we are capable of anything.Whatever happened to the “wisdom of crowds?”

  10. Great post, good thoughts. I fleshed out some of my ideas here; hopefully more discussion along these lines will take place. Of course, we’re still dealing with the generations before us and their policy, but if people start thinking about it more… well, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

  11. James Samuel says:

    NEEDS WANTS ESSENTIALS: I was curious about your list of “ESSENTIALS of life” being food, shelter, clothing, learning, recreation, communication, transportation. — I would have written in like so: Food and water (uncontaminated), shelter, clothing, healthcare (not to be confused with pharmaceutical supplies, could be natural remedies and a healthy way of life/living). Then for enabling us to become a constructive part of a larger society we would benefit from sharing information (learning is someting all animals do anyway), and to assist this some communication tools could be helpful (we have voices as a starting point – let’s not forget to use them). Transportation (?) – we have legs, I’m really not certain how much the abiloity to move around the surface of the planet is an essential of life. I recently gave up my car in favour of using a bike for transport, and find that I also end up walking more – which is an amazing process and one that allows for lots of observation and contemplation. — WANTS – are endless, and a cause of great suffering because we [are taught to] want all kinds of things we dont need, and from our present socio-economic-environmental position we are left unable to fulfill many of these wants.

  12. Randall says:

    Dave, To extend your metaphor, you’re prophesizing that the world move voluntarily from the proprietary and predatory mess of an OS that is Windoze, to a cleaner, simpler Linux or similar open source model. I hope this migration happens faster than it has been happening in the software world ;)

  13. Wissbegieriger says:

    Dave, somehow I think you might want to look into the actual complexity of the world, and the depth of self-preserving knowledge in most of the people in it — particularly those who raise families in places less comfortable than suburban Canada. Neither the true third-worlders, nor the export classes of India, China, or for that matter South Africa are the slightest bit of feeling as you ascribe. Some teenagers are, yes, in Toronto I will wager as well as Lagos, and there are some who scribble on the walls here also.I will be honest that I wonder what gets into you to make such posts, or the related ‘end all solution’ one on China, as example.Are you really hysterical at times, or is this part of your idea of what drives up your readership? I often think you are quite well-meaning, and recognise your frustration with aspects of a world you’ve met face forward. But Ernst & Young hasn’t necessarily ever understood any part of the world as well as the mayor of any real city – have you considered this? are you still held by their abstractions?Anyone in a humanistic profession can tell a book about how un-simple, and self-preserving, therefore generally community-preserving most individuals are — even the ones ‘in trouble’, unless they are children or deliberate troublemakers, or unbalanced.For you to keep beating the drums about economic arrangements which have so seldom shown any possibility of working, anywhere or ever, seems unconscionable, if you understand what you are saying. Think of how many communes, religious or otherwise, 1800’s especially, when many enough believed well enough what you seem to want, have survived…I don’t think you can fill one hand, and the Amish and Shakers trade(d) with the larger society…the Shakers aren’t existing any more. The Mennonites themselves are very substantial, and do not deny, but also trade and live their lives with the larger world.Yes, there is plenty of trouble afoot — but do you remember ‘yesterday’? We are all foolish at times in extreme, but the more thoroughly we _involve_ in each others affairs, the less likely any concentration of trouble can bring things down. Exceptions as global warming noted, and let us hope the recent evidence is helping raise the consciousness on that. Meanwhile, the more sense we can evolve in the postive directions you are interested, the better — and it should over time _allow_ more degrees of living closer to your ideal, which other than the economics, it seems you for one already do.Kind regards, and wishes for a better Tuesday…

  14. Balaji says:

    While the learned people are having a shot at this, I would like to add my view. Nature had survived worst things in the past. As humans are part of the nature (even though we behave as we are not), the human race will also figure out a way to come out of this junkyard living, cruelties and self-mutilation. I believe, even as I write this, there is more than one human being that long for living peacefully. As long as that’s happening I think we have hope.

  15. donna says:

    You need to read Neil Stephenson’s “Snowcrash”….

  16. Wissbegieriger says:

    Balaji, I like your thinking very well. Thank you for it, and agree…appreciation…

  17. Jon Husband says:

    Interesting paradox that one of the last remaining places we get to be “human” (with thoughts, feelings, expression) is through the use of blogging.

  18. kerry says:

    Oops – seems I haven’t said enough yet :)I cannot stress enough that our way forward is not a re-learning but a new learning! Yes, taking individual responsibility for energy needs within a small community SEEMS like the old subsistence model, but it cannot be based on the same principles! We need to learn (not relearn) how to live within nature’s means! We didn’t start off this path of destruction with the industrial revolution. Nor did we start it with farming nor hunting. We were always more “successful” than the biodiversity requirements of our space would like and our only way forward is to learn how to START to do so!

  19. Some good points Dave. I blogged a link and added some thoughts. might add, seeing several of the comments you’ve had, that starting with what you can do yourself in your own backyard – “tending ones own garden” – is perhaps the best way to bring about evolution. (Unless of course it’s revolution you’re after.)

  20. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob, Cindy, Donna, Randall, Barbara, James, Taran, Jon, Kerry, Ian: Thanks for your comments and references.Paul: Not yet, but I’m studying it for when I retire in a few years. Diana Leafe Christian’s book Creating a Life Together is my favourite source for info on this, and she runs seminars all over N.America on them.Laodan: I hope you’re right!Martin-Eric: I’d like to believe that, but nature is better at early-stage prevention (‘automatic’ drops in animal fertility when numbers rise quickly or food supply drops quickly) than crisis intervention. There are countries in Africa where the average woman has 17 children, where the land is totally depleted from over-use, and where modern medicine is actually reducing death rates. The end result will be what nature ‘wants’ — a drastic reduction in human numbers — but I fear the process ain’t gonna be pretty.

  21. Martin-Eric says:

    Dave: The process indeed ain’t gonna be pretty, but will happen regardless of whether humans want to play along or not; against our better wishes, if you will. That’s indeed the scary part of my dangerous idea: Nature will have its way, whether we like it or not, and we just might be helping it by going to war against each other and by having one-child policies in the wrong countries.

  22. WildMan says:

    Right on everybody for having this discussion. I was just thinking about “the crash”, and I thought, wouldn’t it be better to organize and form communities of drop-outs and survivors now, rather than after the disaster? For one thing, we still have electricity, and the internet, and cars to visit each other, and money to buy knowledge with. And secondly, after the crash, almost every person will understand what has befallen them, and we won’t have any knowledge to leverage into leadership. So I was thinking, if we jolly anarchists would organize now, and come up with a program, and a series of bases (farms, education centers, factories, etc.) to absorb refugees, why, we would just have to wander preaching the ludicrous gospel of joy and freedom, and the people would come to us of their own accord. The better our position before the crash, the better off we all will be after the crash.On the other hand, if we stay true to form, earnestly pretending to believe in something, anything other than nothing, bitching and moaning and refusing any discipline or leadership, then my friends, we will have a tough fight on our hands.Even after there is no more oil, after the lights have gone out, and the cities are burning, there will still be true believers in capitalism, christianity, oil-igarchy, and every other poisonous belief. Some will try to rebuild in the old image. This means all innovators will again be in danger.We may not have to make a revolution to create a new society. But we will not get out without a fight.As some of you may know, there are FEMA concentration camps set up to “keep us in” this un-civilized “civilization.”Operation Trojan Horse and Operation Garden Plot are Executive Orders which legalize martial law, agents-provocateurs, and mass imprisonment. These laws exist now.Even if we manage to squeeze through the bottleneck of the collapse and crash, there will be the survivors and true believers of the old civilization to contend with.Let’s start now. The future is scary, but we already have a plan, so we are half way there.

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