Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grassroots Press Column, Apr-May 09 Issue

It's funny -- I'm trying to get away from writing this kind of stuff, but when I'm offered the chance to write for 10,000 people, this is what comes out. Once I got beyond the need to be liked, I enjoyed the raw power of writing an accurate and hard-hitting article. I told the editor, Steve Klinger, to be sure and hide the razor blades and rat poison from his readers. You can see why I'm concentrating on homestead happenings and beautiful photographs these days:

The acid test of any prognosticator is, how accurate were their past predictions? Here’s what I wrote in Earth Quarterly back in May 1998, when George W. Bush was a mere blip on the horizon:

"Although it is impossible to predict the future in detail, I think we can map out some general trends, and they aren’t pretty. If we thought the 20th Century was something, we ain’t seen nothing yet! Here are some safe bets: Overpopulation will get much worse, destruction of the biosphere will become even more extreme, the rich will continue to get richer at the expense of everyone else, government will continue to have a severe case of "rot at the top," decadence will increase as society as we knew it continues to degenerate, and the worship of wealth and technology will remain the de facto religion of the global mass culture. This sounds like a grim scenario, but I think it’s necessary to face up to reality if we seriously expect to do anything about it. For the present time, "full speed ahead and damn the consequences" remains the unspoken policy of the global ruling class. It remains to be seen if we can sufficiently change the destructive momentum of our species in time to avert the ecological catastrophes that await us if we don’t."

So as far as past predictions go, I rest my case. Except for the "remains to be seen" part. Because now we know for sure.

Looking to the future, here are a couple of quick observations:

About the financial crisis: Most human cultures have been dominated by elites of one kind or another since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, when the first band of ruffians discovered that they could take over the store of grain and hold the rest of the society hostage. We’ve been held captive in various ways ever since. We’ve been trained to call them Royalty, but in actuality they are Parasites. Somebody called ours The Tapeworm Economy and that’s an accurate description. We and the planet are being bled to death by parasites.

As long as status-quo society is functioning, the parasites will remain in power. Thus, the parasites will continue to receive unlimited bailouts while the rabble (that’s us, by the way, no matter how affluent you like to think you are) will be bled dry. This means, among other things, reducing our pesky "entitlements" – social security, health care, education, protecting the environment, you name it – such superfluous activities will be cut to the bone whenever possible. "Entitlement reform" and "difficult choices" will be hot topics by the time this issue of Grassroots Press comes out.

Eventually, if we’re bled far enough, society will break down, and I’m not at all sanguine about all the yahoos with assault rifles out there. I’m not seeing much evidence of spontaneous uprisings of sustainability or community; at least, not enough to make the necessary difference to mainstream American culture. It’s possible that communities in favored locations (the Southwest isn’t one of them) might survive; I would recommend Alaska or northern Canada.

About the climate catastrophe: Denial remains a popular option. The worse things get, the more Americans are skeptical that climate change is any big deal. Ha ha, fools, the joke’s on you! Unfortunately. Because the joke’s on all of us. We now know that melting permafrost will release enormous amounts of methane and CO2 into the atmosphere, which will make global warming much worse. But now there’s something new to watch for: the increasingly acidic oceans are having a negative impact on the plankton that produce most of the planet’s oxygen. To the denialists: go choke on that!

I’ve had many conversations with a friend about this, and we’ve concluded that fundamentally, nothing has changed. Humans are fatalistic by nature, for good reason. ("I probably won’t die today, but if I do, it’s the will of Allah, or blind chance, or whatever.") We as individuals are going to die anyway... we each have to make our own peace with reality in our own way, or not. The Earth is going to die anyway, when the Sun becomes a red giant in the far distant future. Moving the date of planet death forward by 5 billion years isn’t such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It looks like giving apes such big brains wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Nobody ever said that evolution is perfect – some mutations are beneficial, but most are lethal. It just took awhile for the lethality of our mutation to play itself out.

I’m reminded of the wine yeast that finds this marvelous vat of grape juice, so it grows and grows, excreting alcohol all the while, until the yeast is killed by its own waste products. Such a splendid planet we are rapidly destroying.

We can definitely expect discontinuities in the not-too-distant future, and life will become very interesting. For better or worse, we will keep on doing whatever it is we already know how to do, until we are no longer able to do so. As usual, I’m always eager to be pleasantly surprised, and would love to be wrong about all this. You can start expecting upbeat articles from me whenever the CO2 levels in the atmosphere start to drop. Don’t hold your breath.


Anonymous Jacques Conejo said...

So... I guess Steve finally convinced you to write something for this issue?

As always I appreciate your view.

I wonder how it makes you feel to tell the truth, when the truth is so sad.

We've talked a bit lately about knowing the truth and remaining functional - finding joy and fulfillment in the moments of daily life. You're one of the few I recognize who manage that balance well.

In the final analysis, it may be that our highest achievement is to have a delicate yet confident embrace of what we can do - and simultaneously hold the humble acknowledgment of what is beyond our understanding or ability to influence.

Perhaps if I get a few more years of practice, I can be better at it.

Thanks for setting the standard. Thanks for telling the truth.


6:43 AM  
Anonymous Jacques Conejo said...

Let me also add...

I know I say this every time, but hey - The updates on the homestead and the hows and whys of it are always great - and the photographs too!

The appearance of those updates and photo-moments serve (in my mind) to demonstrate that balance I was trying to define... There it is, manifest in "digital reality" as well...

Peace to you and your "sprite".


7:21 AM  
Blogger Gordon Solberg said...


You wonder how it makes me feel to tell the truth, when the truth is so sad.

There's a payoff in telling the truth, since the truth needs to be told.

But it really sucks to have to tell this particular truth. I don't know why I feel compelled to yell this from the rooftops. I just grit my teeth and do it.

I would much rather be posting photographs, or blogging about any number of any topics.

7:51 AM  

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