my own graphic; right click on image to open in a new tab and enlarge or download
Yes, I know — every box in the ‘vicious cycle’ graphic above is hugely debatable. But you know, I’m just tired of debating it. I think it describes what’s going on in the world both at an individual and at a collective level, for just about all 8 billion of us mildly deranged apes, reflected in our public behaviours, our public discourse, and in the heads of people I’ve met of every political persuasion and position of authority.
Derrick Jensen famously said that if we pay attention to the natural world and ‘listen to the land’ we will know just what to do. That’s the ‘know’ in quotation marks in this chart, which attempts to explain why, for very human reasons, although we ‘know’, we don’t, with few exceptions, and can’t collectively at any scale, do anything about it.
I’ve used “mass coherent collective action” (aka “the Great Turning”) as the example of salvationist thinking in the chart; it’s the “humanist” style of salvation myth of most people I know. I could have easily used any of the other classical or current salvation myths — the rapture, nuclear fusion, carbon capture, geoengineering, “great transition”, neosurvivalism, posthumanism etc — they all serve the same useless (in practical terms) comforting function. Nothing wrong with them as long as they’re seen for what they are, and are not.
Thanks for the inspiration to a number of collapsnik writers who have been musing helpfully on this subject, particularly about personal and collective human agency, about our human propensity to obfuscate and put out of mind truths we don’t want to deal with, and about our inclination for disingenuous wishful thinking — including Erik Michaels, Indrajit Samarajiva, and Tim Morgan.
It’s great to be reading the work of others who appreciate that there are no answers to such predicaments, nothing to feel ashamed about, and no one to blame, and that it’s enough to just try to understand and explain what is happening. I think we owe that much to ourselves, all of us doing our weary best, and I think we owe it, too, to the future inhabitants of this planet, human and/or more-than-human, that will live with the mostly unintended consequences of our efforts and our presence here.