Red line: Sustainable population/sustainable total footprint at prevailing levels of consumption, with no provision for any non-human species. Green line: Sustainable population/sustainable total footprint at prevailing levels of consumption, with provision for a healthy level of biodiversity. In 1980 we started living on borrowed time. We’re now living 1/3 above our planet’s sustainable capacity, and per capita resource consumption is accelerating, headed for twice absolute sustainable capacity by 2040.
Regular readers know that I believe we are in our civilization’s final century. My reasons for believing that are complex, though many of them can be gleaned from my Save the World Reading List.
I also believe that, like in past civilizations, the collapse of ours will not be due to one single cause but rather to a cascading series of crises. These could include:
The occurrence of any of these, in our overextended and fragile economy and political society, increases the probability of triggering the others.
My brain, my heart, my senses and my instincts all tell me we are near the end, and that by the latter part of this century this will start to become very apparent. But I cannot convince you if you are not ready to be convinced.
Those who are convinced are asking what to do. They tend to fall into two camps: Those who believe that concerted human action might avert the collapse of civilization, and those who don’t. The latter group is looking for means to a softer landing, and a head start for a possible next civilization. There is a third group, who I have dubbed neo-survivalists, who are actually welcoming and looking to accelerate our civilization’s collapse. I have no time for this third group: If they could conceive of the horror that will accompany collapse, they would change their tune.
I understand the first group, as I used to be part of it. It is, after all, human nature to be hopeful, to believe we live in good times and that good times can last forever, to expect and depend on the promise of new technologies without recognizing that every new technology has created as many problems as it has solved. It took a lot to educate me that we are far past the point of no return, and that the second, softer-landing group is most likely correct. For the last couple of years, this blog has reflected that belief.
James Kunstler’s book The Long Emergency is one of a growing list of books that also reflect this belief. He recently reiterated the steps he prescribes for a softer landing, in a synopsis he calls his Agenda. “We will have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life”, he says. Specifically:
In short, relearning to make everything more local and smaller-scale. And not relying on government or big institutions for services, financial support, or bail-outs of last resort, since the government will have no money. And becoming resilient ñ so if our income stream suddenly disappears, or all our stuff breaks down, or the people who do things for us (from teaching our kids to cutting our hair to supplying us with bottled water) all go out of business, we will know what to do, and how to look after ourselves and each other. A shocking majority of us are spending so much, borrowing so much, saving so little, and so narrow in our self-reliance skills, that any sudden economic shock would be ruinous.
A lot of people ask Kunstler (and me) for timelines ñ when will we have to start working on this? The answer is: no one knows, and now. We cannot wait for systems to collapse to start learning the skills we will need when they do, and to start creating local networks for the production and distribution of what we need to live, and to start planning for precisely what we will do, assuming we can depend on no one else. Katrina taught us that, if we didn’t already know.
Kunstler concludes: “If you’re depressed, change your focus. Stop wishing and start doing. The best way to feel hopeful about the future is to get off your ass and demonstrate to yourself that you are a capable, competent individual resolutely able to face new circumstances”.
So, time to get learning new capacities: how to grow your own food, make your own clothes, make your own furniture, and repair everything you own. How to set up a business you can run from home that serves local needs. How to manage your own health, and that of those in your community who cannot care for themselves.
And time to create new local networks: community renewable energy co-ops, local farm markets and delivery services, neighbourhood craft and skill networks that make and fix beautiful, durable, essential things from local materials.
Will we relearn these essential capacities, establish these critical local networks, and recreate communities that work, before cascading crises are upon us and it’s too late to do so? It will probably depend on how soon they occur, how many hit us at once, and how severe they are. Most of all, it will depend on how many of us see the value in acquiring these capacities and creating these networks and rebuilding self-sufficient communities that work, for their own sake, now. And doing so together, not just as neo-survivalists trying foolishly and selfishly to create resiliency just for themselves and their family.
We’ll do what we must, when we must. Maybe in time for a softer landing, and in so doing perhaps create a model for the next, gentler, lower-footprint society.
And maybe not.
Category: Building a Community-Based Society
Other Writers About CollapseAlbert Bates (US)
Andrew Nikiforuk (CA)
Carolyn Baker (US)*
Catherine Ingram (US)
Chris Hedges (US)
Dahr Jamail (US)
Dark Matter Women Witnessing (CA)
David Petraitis (US)
David Wallace-Wells (US)
Dean Spillane-Walker (US)*
Deena Metzger (US)
Derrick Jensen (US)
Doing It Ourselves (AU)
Dougald & Paul (UK)*
Gail Tverberg (US)
Guy McPherson (US)
Jan Wyllie (UK)
Janaia & Robin (US)*
Jem Bendell (US)
Jonathan Franzen (US)
Kari McGregor (AU)
Keith Farnish (UK)
Kristinha Anding (US)
NTHE Love (UK)
Paul Chefurka (CA)
Paul Heft (US)*
Post Carbon Inst. (US)
Richard Heinberg (US)
Robert Jensen (US)
Roy Scranton (US)
Sam Mitchell (US)
Sam Rose (US)*
Tim Bennett (US)
Tim Garrett (US)
Umair Haque (US)
William Rees (CA)
Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
My Other Sites
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.