Peak Moment 169: As a historian, Carolyn Baker has a keen eye for current events that are indicators of the collapse were seeing all around us.
But she’s also a psychologist concerned about how we personally navigate the turbulence and find meaning within it. The author of Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilizations Collapse, she describes the old story that isn’t working anymore (humans are separate from nature), and the new story we must live by for real sustainability. Her Speaking Truth to Power website is a rich collection of articles reflecting both collapse and preparedness action. www.carolynbaker.net
It's Too Late, Baby!
“In short, we are prepared to die in order to live a life that is killing us.”I live in Boulder, Colorado where the buzz among eco-activists who attended a recent lecture by Vandana Shiva is her chilling statement that if the human species continues on its present destructive trajectory, it has no more than 100 years of life on this planet. At about the same time this bomb was dropped on Shiva’s audience, Keith Farnish’s amazing book Time’s Up: An Uncivilized Solution To A Global Crisis arrived in my mailbox for review which was about the same time that Keith reviewed my book, Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse. I visit my local movie theater and see trailers for the next series of post-apocalyptic movies such as “2012” and “The Road”. Five years ago the notion of “endings” was not reverberating in the collective unconscious with the fever pitch we’re witnessing today. What’s up? Quite simply: Time is up.
–Keith Farnish from Time’s Up: An Uncivilized Solution to A Global Crisis
I would say that the real crux of Time’s Up is the challenge of how to keep the human race from continuing to commit suicide. The first 82 pages of the book are devoted to a painstaking explanation of the inextricable connection between humans and all other life forms. The fundamental reality of the connection is that “nothing is so dependent upon other forms of life as humans, the ultimate consumers.” Likewise, “everything we do has the potential to disrupt something, knock if off balance as we negotiate the finest of lines; yet that line we are repeatedly stepping over.”
Anyone who argues that humans have nothing to do with climate change needs to read these 82 pages because they unequivocally silence that illusion.
Central to Farnish’s book is the premise that everything hinges on connection—the human species’ connection with everything else. Unfortunately, it is something we must be taught—something that must be explained in words, but something that indigenous peoples know instinctively and need not spend years thinking about.
“It is nothing great and mysterious”, says Farnish, “it is simply the necessary instinct that ensures we do not damage the ability of the natural environment to keep us alive. Failure to connect is the reason humanity is pulling the plug on its life-support machine.”
Unlike the indigenous person, “the majority of people in the industrial West who identify most strongly with a hyper-consuming way of life, learning how to reconnect out of necessity is a struggle: most of us have never experienced anything but the disconnected lives we inhabit.” However, Farnish reassures us, “we have always been connected, we just need to recognize how natural and comfortable it is to be this way.”
Farnish reassuringly holds our hand while he helps us take baby steps toward understanding the essence of connection. He leads us into some very personal experiential, contemplative exercises that engage the right brain and allow us to feel connection rather than simply thinking about it.
Civilization, Farnish says, has put us in a “constant state of sensory deprivation; kept in that state in order that we can be willing participants of Industrial Civilization. If we connect with the real world permanently, then the spell will be broken: we will no longer be ‘viewers’, ‘customers’, ‘consumers’, ‘voters’, ‘citizens’; we will just be us.”
The author reminds us that:
“We are in the terminal stages of the greatest addiction humanity has ever seen. We live in a constant disconnected haze; drip-fed a cocktail of proto-choice, dreams, lies, fear, abuse, and hope. We are users of this culture, and it feels good—until we need another dose.”Unique to Farnish’s analysis is a list of The Tools of Disconnection, that is, ten techniques for keeping us disconnected from each other and the earth, which of course, keeps us disconnected from ourselves:
- Reward us for being good consumers, store managers, marketing executives, investment bankers
- Make us feel good for doing trivial things—local politicians, writers, therapists
- Give us selected freedom—national politicians, judges, dictators
- Pretend we have a choice—vehicle salespeople, travel agents
- Sell us a dream—advertisers, educators, missionaries
- Exploit our trust—scientists, military officers, office managers
- Lie to us—economists, government ministers, public relations officers
- Scare us—journalists, broadcasters, customs officers
- Abuse us—soldiers, police officers, property developers
- Give us hope—religious and spiritual leaders, environmentalists
So what about the “uncivilized solution” contained in the subtitle of Time’s Up? First, the author insists, we must face a very difficult reality: Each of us is the system. “You are part of the system; you have to take responsibility for your part of the problem: how does that feel?” The good news, however, is that each of us is far more important than the people higher up in the web because we are “the engine, the energy source, the reason for its continuation.” Without our cooperation, our faith, the system would have no energy and then it would cease to exist.
Farnish is adamant that Western civilization is in the process of collapsing, as is the ecosystem. However, each of us can help the process along and thereby minimize the damage by initiating collapse within an economy. This collapse, of course, is already happening because the public is losing confidence in the economy. “The need for confidence is a psychological feature of Industrial Civilization….” The system is extremely fragile because it is desperately dependent on faith in itself.
Two things we must do: Concentrate on the Tools of Disconnection—notice them, avoid them, and live our lives in a manner that abdicates them. Equally important, we must “ensure that useful information stays out there—in the minds of as many people as possible.” Beware of the seductions of corporations, especially the oxymoron of the “green corporation.”
Farnish states that “It is possible to create a situation where civilization is left to crumble gradually, reducing the impact on humanity, and the sooner this is done, the less the global environment will be harmed. He makes three stellar points that must not be missed:
- Reconnect with the real world, so that we can understand our close relationship with it in everything we do. The more you connect, the more you will realize how unreal civilization is.
- Live in such a way that we do not contribute to the expansion of the global economy, reducing our impact on the natural environment in the process. Be aware that authority figures within the system, such as political leaders and corporations, will attempt to provide you with ‘green’ advice: this advice is designed to ensure that civilization continues, and should be ignored.
- Create the conditions so that others may also change through education and, even more importantly, undermining the tools that civilization uses to keep us part of the machine. Don’t waste time protesting; this changes nothing—that is why it is legal.
Farnish provides a clearly organized list of “Key Skills For Going Beyond Civilization” in the short-term, in the long-term, and in the medium-term. He emphasizes that “We need people to discuss plans and ideas with, to help us get things off our chests, to laugh and enjoy things together, to just be there when we are feeling low.”
I’m thrilled that Farnish perceives civilization through the lens of addiction and consistently coaches us to enrich and enlarge our deeper humanity. However, I fear that he has nearly written off the spiritual dimension of our being as hopelessly contaminated with religion, faith, and submission to authority. With this I must take issue because the very connectedness he counsels us to develop is in itself, in my opinion, the fundamental nutrient of the human soul and is nothing less than a spiritual practice. Navigating collapse and creating a species that is intimately connected with all others, is absolutely contingent on inner, as well as outer, transformation which has nothing to do with swallowing “faith as fact”. It is rather about applying the connectedness principle internally as well as externally and experiencing in every cell of the body that there is something greater than the human ego. Unless we become deeply intimate with that “something”, we are doomed to create nothing more than a pathetic sequel to the nightmare that Western civilization has become.
In the end, Time’s Up leaves us with a momentous choice:
“We can look at the results of the experiment called civilization and feel helpless, or we can look at what we have in ourselves, and what remains undamaged on the Earth and think, ‘We can do better.’ The future is still ours if we have the determination to survive it and, whether you like it or not, the future will be determined by the decisions you make.”
REAL PEOPLE, REAL PREPARATION, Part 6 With Faith Carr and Carolyn Baker
PHOTO: "Love, Peace, and Chickens" by Faith Carr
PEAK CIVILIZATION AND THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONNECT
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
The appearance of springtime in North America may be more welcome this year than at anytime in recent history. The winter has been long, cold, and dreary-particularly in the Rust Belt where the devastations of housing foreclosures, unemployment, and the resultant blight have left a trail of human misery and degradation not seen since the Great Depression. Ten percent of the population of Ohio now relies on food stamps while hordes of domestic animals abandoned in foreclosed homes endure long and grotesque deaths from starvation.
For countless Americans across the nation, this winter has brought with it something far more distressing than brutal, bone-chilling temperatures-horrific, traumatic revelations that the American dream, neatly packaged and sold for decades, has become their worst possible nightmare. Should they happen to see on TV the guy from the Countrywide commercial greeting them with "Homeowners...", they are probably wondering why he hasn't been assassinated and at the very least wondering why Countrywide is still in business.
Something is festering in the psyches of the formerly middle class of this nation-something far more ominous than burgeoning public assistance and food stamp applications or mushrooming meth labs. If the subprime mortgage massacre had occurred in a vacuum, the dirty little secret might have been kept a bit longer, but juxtaposing it with Peak Oil, skyrocketing food prices, wacky weather and debilitating droughts, not to mention proliferating pink slips, it daily becomes embarrassingly obvious that Jim Kunstler was spot-on when he uttered his infamous declaration in the documentary, "The End Of Suburbia" that "the entire suburban project is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."
And yet during this "winter of disconnect" we have heard delusional economists and the President himself describe the current horrors in terms of "a soft patch" or the need to "ride this one out until things bounce back." And overall, the human race is virtually ignoring climate change and perseverating in the madness of the ethanol panacea.
And speaking of insanity, Europe is rapidly returning to coal-fired power plants, while in China, coal "remains the major source of fuel for two billion people"-nightmare scenarios with respect to global warming and climate change. Meanwhile, Monsanto and other genocidal monsters of food and population control, tout ethanol as an energy panacea--the only tangible result of their hype being mass starvation and astronomical food prices. Or as a friend recently commented: Ethanol is a fabulous solution to our energy dilemma because it will provide more fuel for us to drive around and look for food.
The Four Seasons Of Civilization
Duane Elgin, author of numerous books including Voluntary Simplicity, postulated fifteen years ago that civilizations evolve through specific stages which ironically follow the shape of a bell curve, similar to the Peak Oil curve, in their development and to which Elgin refers as the "four seasons" of growth. This was long before the bell curve of Peak Oil was familiar to many other individuals besides M. King Hubbert, father of the Peak Oil theory, who died four years before Elgin's book was published.
According to Elgin, Stage I of the development of a civilization, "Springtime" is characterized by high growth and an era of faith in future potential. During springtime, there is little bureaucratic complexity, and activities are largely self-regulating. Stage II or "Summer", is an era of reason where social consensus begins to weaken and bureaucratic complexity increases with less self-regulation and more external regulation. "Autumn" follows, ushering in an era of cynicism where consensus weakens considerably, special interest groups surpass the power of a shared social purpose, and bureaucratic complexity mounts faster than the ability to effectively regulate. An era of despair characterizes Stage IV, "Winter", and the collapse of consensus is supplanted by conflicting social purposes. Bureaucratic mechanisms and their complexity become overwhelming, and society begins to break down.
Elgin believes that three possible outcomes are likely to emerge from the breakdown of the system. One outcome is collapse as the biosphere is pushed beyond its limits and can no longer support the burden of humanity. Stagnation is another option, in which members of the system expend energy on simply maintaining the status quo. Revitalization is the most desirable option which results from a "period of intense communication and reconciliation that builds a working consensus around a sustainable pathway into the future."
The author notes that we get collapse by "perpetuating the status quo and running the biosphere into ruin. We get stagnation when citizens are passive and rely on remote bureaucracies and technological solutions to handle a deteriorating local-to-global situation. We get revitalization only when we directly engage our predicament as individuals, families, communities, and nations."
Although Elgin has presented the three options in this particular order, it is clear to me that the current civilization has long since passed through stagnation and is rapidly collapsing. In my opinion, while revitalization may have been possible decades ago when society's elite first learned of Peak Oil, climate change, and numerous renewable energy options, it is now possible only as a consequence of collapse for the simple reason that the progression of collapse has rendered voluntary revitalization extraordinarily problematic, if not impossible.
Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything reveals unequivocally that virtually every resource on earth has reached or passed its peak of availability to the human race. Elgin's 1993 theory, however, offers a larger picture in which the likelihood that civilization itself has peaked and is on the downward side of the bell curve is logically plausible.
The immediate "winter of our disconnect" (and discontent), described above, has been characterized by an astonishingly rapid unraveling of civilization which appears to accelerate with every passing day. The larger winter is not about specific events such as foreclosures, bankruptcies, food rationing in America, or melting glaciers, but rather the final evolutionary stage of civilization and its eventualities in which we now find ourselves embroiled. In other words, particular occurrences of unraveling indicate irrefutably that we have entered Peak Civilization.
It is crucial, in my opinion, to comprehend Peak Civilization so that just as we understand that all of earth's resources have peaked which would prevent us from embracing the chimera of a "return to normalcy", we more astutely grasp the progression of human evolution and its implications in the macrocosm. That is to say that a clear understanding of Peak Oil prevents any rational human being from assuming that a return to cheap and abundant energy is feasible in his/her lifetime. Likewise, recognizing that civilization is in an irreversible trajectory of descent may assist us in conserving our valuable mental, emotional, and spiritual energy so that we do not expend it on phantoms of long-term revitalization.
Past-Peak Elections-You Have No Government
At this point it becomes necessary to distinguish between long-term and short-term revitalization. From my perspective, as stated above, collapse must occur in order for long-term revitalization to become possible, so attempting to prevent collapse also prevents one from honoring the current stage of civilization now unfolding. One example of understanding civilization's "winter" is to grasp that the only thing more futile than addressing energy depletion with ethanol use is the delusion that legitimate presidential elections actually occur in America offering valid choices between two genuinely opposing candidates who represent two distinct political parties and who are beyond domination, contamination, or exploitation by the transnational corporations that in fact manage the United States.
Furthermore, to fully understand Peak Civilization is to understand that the federal government per se does not exist, but rather an elite corporate cartel engaged in the management of citizens-citizens who are now completely on their own in terms of their survival as the pseudo-government continues to implode. Moreover, the cartel's direct intent is the cessation of nation states to be supplanted by corporations and their subsidiaries.
Therefore, the task before us is not to perpetuate the status quo by participating in the ersatz federal election debacle, but to, in the words of John Michael Greer "transition to a Third World lifestyle." I believe that any politician who suggests that we can do otherwise and survive as individuals or as a nation, may be committing a crime against humanity. Politicians and centralized systems are incapable of effecting meaningful change. Or as Greer states, "...getting the Federal government to do something constructive about the situation, for instance - [is] a waste of time. That sort of change isn't going to happen. It's not simply a matter of who's currently in power, although admittedly that doesn't help. The core of the problem is that even proposing changes on a scale that would do any good would be political suicide."
Although nothing could be more unpalatable for the American public, transitioning to a Third-World lifestyle is precisely what it is being forced to do. And as Greer comments:
There's no way to sugar-coat that very unpalatable reality. Fossil fuels made it possible for most people in the industrial world to have a lifestyle that doesn't depend on hard physical labor, and to wallow in a flood of mostly unnecessary consumer goods and services. As fossil fuels deplete, all that will inevitably go away. How many people would be willing to listen to such a suggestion? More to the point, how many people would vote for a politician or a party who proposed to bring on these changes deliberately, now, in order to prevent total disaster later on?
What Peak Civilization Really Looks Like
Peak Civilization by definition means the disappearance of public education, healthcare, government-issued currency, commercial food production, public access to regional water supplies, interstate commerce, the North American energy grid, and the very infrastructure of the United States. Yet one need not succumb to fatalism. While long-term revitalization cannot be realized now, its seeds can be and are being planted by the proliferation of vibrant relocalization movements erupting and evolving around the world, many of which have been spotlighted at the Truth To Power website. As Duane Elgin emphasizes: "A revitalizing society is a decentralizing society, with grassroots organizations that are numerous enough, have arisen soon enough, and are effective enough to provide a genuine alternative to more centralized bureaucracies."
The first headlines of food rationing in America are buzzing across the internet as I write this article. They underscore the unequivocal reality that collapse is going to compel us to feed ourselves or quite simply, we will perish. I believe that food security is the most urgent, the most immediate issue to which we must attend at this moment of Peak Civilization. For months, this website has been informing readers about food storage and preservation and other aspects of preparedness. It is now time, if you have not already done so, to organize groups of citizens in your neighborhood, schools, churches, and community centers to plant and maintain gardens. In addition, collapse is compelling us to rapidly mobilize our neighborhoods and communities to not only accumulate our own supply of stored water but to organize citizens to work with local public water utilities to ensure that they remain public and are not privatized.
Health care professionals reading these words need to consider offering local workshops on a regular basis teaching citizens how to treat injuries and illnesses in the absence of a viable healthcare system. Doctors, nurses, dentists, and all manner of medical personnel are likely to be overwhelmed with patients during and after the full-scale breakdown of the system when hospitals and clinics have closed and almost no one can afford health insurance. A recent CBS News video link emailed to subscribers recently by Truth To Power confirms the imminent, total collapse of America's healthcare system and reveals the extent to which anyone with the slightest bit of training in the field is likely to find her/himself inundated with throngs of sick people desperately seeking care.
Seeds Of Revitalization
Greer emphatically stresses that "The key to making sense of constructive action in a situation of impending industrial collapse is to look at the community, rather than the individual or society as a whole, as the basic unit." Those familiar with Greer's article, "The Coming Deindustrial Society", recall his three requirements for community: A community must have some degree of local organization; it must have a core of people who know how to live without fossil fuels; and it must have food and a production and distribution system for it.
In a future article, Truth To Power will add another requirement, namely, the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately with other community members.
Our challenge at this moment in history is to recognize and intentionally connect with the evolutionary season of winter in which Peak Civilization finds itself because as Duane Elgin admonishes us: "It is time to begin the next stage of our human journey." As I witness most of humanity's current "solutions" to its climate-energy-food-water-population-economic dilemmas, I see only myopic, psychotic strategies, and I have to ask myself whether or not it will be necessary for us to annihilate ourselves and the planet in order to transition into a more advanced evolutionary paradigm that will not permit the human race to ever again engage in anything like the current madness. Tragically, I see almost nothing that suggests otherwise.
It is crucial that we comprehend that not only have we entered winter, but that that particular season is going to last a long time. As we navigate that winter, we are allowed our discontent, but we dare not permit ourselves to disconnect from current reality. Simultaneously, it is imperative that we hold a vision of revitalization and plant its seeds everywhere at the same time that we honor more the changing of the seasons than our addiction to springtime.
|REDEFINING ‘POSITIVE': COLLAPSE FROM BEYOND THE HUMAN-CENTRIC PERSPECTIVE, By Carolyn Baker|
|Wednesday, 05 December 2007|
|This article is an excerpt from Carolyn's forthcoming book The Spirituality Of Collapse: Restoring Life On A Dying Planet. |
If we do not soon remember ourselves to our sensuous surroundings, if we do not reclaim our solidarity with the other sensibilities that inhabit and constitute those surroundings, then the cost of our human communality may be our common extinction.
David Abrams, The Spell Of The Sensuous: Perception and Language In A More-Than Human World
I occasionally receive hate email but more frequently receive ones like this: "I've just unsubscribed to your email list. Your website is filled with negative stories and articles, and I need to keep a positive attitude and do what I can to make my world better."
How does one describe the tone of such a statement? Angry? Not really. Disappointed? Perhaps. Scared? Probably. But I think that righteous is the word I would use to describe this reader's perspective. By righteous, I mean a false sense of doing or feeling "the right thing", but the problem with a righteous attitude is that it often leads to detachment from reality-not unlike Barbara Bush's comment that she doesn't want to trouble her "beautiful mind" with statistics about troop or civilian casualties in Iraq. It's all so American/Judeo-Christian-and, of course, Dale Carnegie: keeping a positive attitude so that we never feel badly about what's actually happening.
How unfortunate that someone like me would ask readers to feel the depths of their grief, fear, anger, or despair about the death of the planet and its inhabitants and talk and work with other humans to prepare for collapse! A righteous attitude bypasses those emotions and makes the state of our planet someone else's problem, not my problem. It communicates that one is above emotions and really doesn't want to soil his sanitized psyche with them.
The addiction to a "positive attitude" in the face of the end of the world as we have known it is beyond irrational-even beyond insane. It's an obsession that could only be cherished by humans; it is, indeed human-centric, as if human beings are the only species that matter and as if the most crucial issue is that those humans are able to feel good about themselves as the world burns.
Usually, having a "positive" attitude about collapse implies wanting it not to happen, believing that it may not happen, and doing everything in one's power to convince oneself that it won't happen. This is a uniquely human attitude. If we could interview a polar bear who had just drowned trying to find food because the ice shelves that he usually rested on which allowed him to regain his strength during the hunt were no longer there, I suspect he'd reveal a very different attitude.
Now of course, we have the delusional human element who argue that humans are not killing the planet-as if the hairy-eared dwarf lemur, the pygmy elephant, or the ruby topaz hummingbird were responsible. Who else has skyrocketed ocean acidity to exponential levels, who else is inundating the atmosphere with carcinogens, turning topsoil into sand containing as many nutrients as a kitchen sponge, and is rapidly eliminating clean, drinkable water from the face of the earth?
Derrick Jensen in Endgame, Volume I, states that "The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of any economic system." (127) He continues:
Any economic system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and really stupid.(128)
Explaining human disconnection from the rest of earth's inhabitants, Jensen describes the various layers of resistance among humans to their innate animal essence. One of the deeper layers is our "fear and loathing of the body", our instinctual wildness and therefore, our vulnerability to death which causes us to distance ourselves from the reality that we indeed are animals. In fact, this is one of civilization's fundamental tasks. Have not all modern societies disowned and genocided the indigenous? And for what purpose? Not only for the purpose of stealing their land, eradicating their culture, and eliminating so-called barriers to "progress", but because native peoples (you know, "savages") as a result of their intimate connection with nature, are such glaring reminders of humankind's animal-ness. They are embarrassingly "un-civilized." Thus, modernity must "civilize" the savage in order to excise the animal, inculcating in her a human-centric world view.
The consequence has been not only the incessant destruction of earth and its plethora of life forms, but the murder of the human soul itself. Benjamin Franklin said it best after returning from living with the Iroquois: "No European who has tasted Savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies."
Any person who wants to "maintain a positive attitude" in this culture-the culture of civilization that is killing the planet-killing people and things that we all love-that person is not only irrational and deeply afflicted with denial, but he is exactly like a member of an abusive family system in which physical and sexual assault are occurring in the home on a daily basis, but that family member insists on "thinking good thoughts" and resents anyone and everyone who says what is so about the abusive system.
So let's admit two things: 1) Humans are fundamentally animals. Yes, we are more than animals, but civilization with its contempt for the feral has inculcated us to own the "more than" and disown everything else. 2) The culture of civilization is inherently abusive, and it is abusive precisely because it has disowned the animal within the human. Indeed animals kill other animals for survival, but they do not conquer, rape, pillage, plunder, enslave, pollute, slash, burn, and poison their habitat-unlike those "more-than-animal" beings who seem incapable of not doing all of the above. Conversely, the "more-than-human" creatures respect their surroundings because they instinctively sense that their survival depends on doing so.
We insist that we are more intelligent than the more-than-human world, but a growing body of evidence undermines that assumption. Just this week, a Japanese study revealed that when young chimps were pitted against human adults in two short-term memory tests, overall, the chimps won. Researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University said that the study challenges the belief that "humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions."
Moreover, a British study at the University of St. Andrews confirmed that elephants keep track of up to 30 absent relatives by sniffing out their scent and building up a mental map of where they are, research suggests. Herd members use their good memory and keen sense of smell to stay in touch as they travel in large groups, according to a study of wild elephants in Kenya. Dr. Richard Byrne of St Andrews noted that elephants have two advantages over humans - their excellent sense of smell and, if their popular reputation is anything to go by, a good memory.
One may argue that neither a chimp nor an elephant could design a computer, but I ask: What is more consequential, the ability to design a computer or the ability to protect, sustain, and nurture the planet on which one resides? Of what value is the computer if none of us is here to use it?
Civilization, which has never ceased soiling its nest since its inception, has also never understood its proper place on the earth: that of a guest, a neighbor, a fellow-member of the community of life. As a result, everything civilization has devised and which is "unsustainable, immoral, and stupid", as Jensen names it, is now in the process of collapsing. I ask for an honest answer here: How can anyone tell me with a straight face (or a righteous attitude) that that reality is "negative"? Would the seagull on a Southern California beach with her feet entangled and bleeding in plastic netting left behind by "more-than-animal" life forms tell me that the collapse of what created her plight is "negative"? Would thousands of dead spruce trees in Colorado ravaged by beetles as a direct result of climate change tell me that collapse is a bad idea? Would the plankton and bleached coral at the bottom of the sea which are fading and dying with breathtaking rapidity as a result of global warming, tell me to keep a positive attitude and do everything in my power to stop the collapse of civilization? I think not.
Fundamentally, what all forms of positive thinking about collapse come down to is our own fear of death. Thanks to civilization's Judeo-Christian tradition and its other handmaiden, corporate capitalism, humans have become estranged from the reality that death is a part of life. Human hubris gone berserk as a result of a tumescent ego, uncontained by natural intimacy with the more-than-human world, believes humanity to be omnipotent and entitled to invincibility. Therefore, from the human-centric perspective "collapse should be stopped" or "maybe it won't happen" or "somehow humans will come to their senses". Meanwhile, the drowning polar bears inwardly wail for the death of humanity as the skeletons of formerly chlorophyll-resplendent Colorado spruce shiver and sob in the icy December wind. Our moral, spiritual, and human obligation is to flush our positive attitude down the nearest toilet and start feeling their pain! Until we do, we remain human-centric and incapable of seizing the multitudinous opportunities that collapse offers for rebirth and transformation of this planet and its human and more-than-human inhabitants.
News flash: We are all going to die! Or as Derrick Jensen writes in Endgame:
The truth is that I'm going to die someday, whether or not I stock up on pills. That's life. And if I die in the population reduction that takes place as a corrective to our having overshot carrying capacity, well, that's life, too. Finally, if my death comes as part of something that serves the larger community, that helps stabilize and enrich the landbase of which I'm part, so much the better. (123)
Now, I hasten to add that I am not suggesting we select our most intense emotion about collapse, move in, redecorate, and take up residence there. Feel one's feelings? Yes, and at the same time revel in those aspects of one's life where one feels nourished, loved, supported, comforted, and in those people and activities that give one joy and meaning.
Had civilization not spent the last five thousand years attempting to murder the indigenous self inherent in all humans, we would not have to be told, as native peoples and the more-than- human world does not, that most of the time, life on this planet is challenging, painful, scary, sad, and sometimes enraging. What our indigenous ancestors had and still have to sustain them through the dark times was ritual and community. Our work is to embrace and refine both instead of intractably clinging to a "positive attitude" in the face of out-of-control, incalculable abuse and devastation.
In his article "The Planned Collapse Of America", Peter Chamberlin asserts that a small group of ruling elite has been engineering the economic and social collapse of the United States for some time. While I agree and also fear the economic meltdown and social and political repression to which Chamberlin alludes, his perspective is once again, human-centric and Amero-centric. Reality check: Collapse is indeed happening, but it is occurring globally and threatening to annihilate all nations and all species. That collapse was not "planned" by ruling elites, and it is one in which all humans have participated. It now has a life of its own and is most likely, out of our control. Attempting to abort it or blame other humans is a waste of time and energy.
The question for humans is not: What do we do about collapse? but rather, What do we do with it? It holds inestimable opportunities for rebirth and intimacy with other humans and the more-than-human world, but only if we open to it. Opening to it means opening to our own mortality, which as Derrick Jensen insists, may be part of something that serves the larger community. Perhaps one opportunity collapse is putting in our faces is that of moving beyond our human-centric perspective-our hubris and addiction to invincibility, begging us to humble ourselves and crawl behind the eyes of the more-than-humans as Joanna Macy poignantly writes:
We hear you, fellow-creatures. We know we are wrecking the world and we are afraid. What we have unleashed has such momentum now; we don't know how to turn it around. Don't leave us alone; we need your help. You need us too for your own survival. Are there powers there you can share with us?
Indeed there are powers they can share with us, but not until we can let go of our current definition of "positive" and, feeling their pain, finally comprehend that the collapse of civilization may be the best thing that could happen to all of us.