I'm going to cross post this in the dungeon and in the public forums because I think the ideas discussed in the linked article are universal. One of the conversants in this article, Paul Kingsnorth, claims to have been in the environmental movement for 20 years, half his life, and to have "given up" on the movement because the fight is effectively lost. I have been on the periphery of that movement for 40 years and have allowed the same dark thoughts to cross my mind.
The author of the article, Wen Stephenson, apparently shares Kingsnorth's views of the environment, but thinks there is still a chance for the movement to change the world's course. The exchange is thought provoking.
The primary focus of this site is energy and economy. The third E, environment, has largely been banished to the CT dungeon with only passing references to the environment outside of the dungeon. Tar sands are devastating vast stretches of landscape (yawn), mountain top removal is destroying entire ecosystems and ways of life (move along, move along), ecosystem destruction is extirpating so many species that we are in the 5th or 6th great extinction event in earth's history (I really don't care about all those creapy crawlies), the world's great waterways are becoming little more than avenues of transportation and introduction of invasive species (I don't swim, fish or boat, what do I care) and arable farmland is disappearing and being degraded everywhere (I'll just farm my backyard if the stores run out of food).
I know most of us are fixated on the financial crisis, but my pov is that if the economy collapses in the worst possible way, it will probably be good for the environment because we won't be able to screw it up on such a grand scale. The remaining humans will muddle along somehow. An environmental collapse, OTOH, could mean curtains for most of the highly evolved (i.e. specialized) species on earth. There may be time to save us from such a collapse, but I see little effort or willingness on the part of tptb or even posters on this site in that direction. Instead, we hoard gold, silver and other resources and try to get "off grid" to the extent possible. That's not to say these things are bad, just short sighted. My point is we spend way too much time and energy on economy and energy, and virtually none on environment. If this post winds up in the dungeon, so be it.
Not everyone is quite ready to hear, or accept, what Paul Kingsnorth has to say.
An English writer and erstwhile green activist, he spent two decades (he’ll turn 40 this year) in the environmental movement, and he’s done with all that. And not only environmentalism — he’s done with “hope.” He’s moved beyond it. He’s not out to “save the planet.” He’s had it with the dream of “sustainability.” He’s looked into the abyss of planetary collapse, and he’s more or less fine with it: Collapse? Sure. Bring it on.<!--break-->
These are precarious and unprecedented times … Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact.
We don’t believe that anyone — not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers — is really facing up to the scale of this … Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilization from self-destruction.
Well, we don’t buy it. This project starts with our sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world. But it is driven by our belief that this age of collapse — which is already beginning — could also offer a new start, if we are careful in our choices.
The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.<!--break-->
Kingsnorth tossed a grenade in the January/February issue of Orion Magazine with his controversial essay “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist.” There, Kingsnorth gets to the heart of his case. “We are environmentalists now,” he writes, “in order to promote something called ‘sustainability.’ What does this curious, plastic word mean? … It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people — us — feel is their right, without destroying the ‘natural capital’ or the ‘resource base’ that is needed to do so.”
Ouch. But he isn’t finished.
If “sustainability” is about anything, it is about carbon. Carbon and climate change. To listen to most environmentalists today, you would think that these were the only things in the world worth talking about. … Carbon emissions threaten a potentially massive downgrading of our prospects for material advancement as a species. … If we cannot sort this out quickly, we are going to end up darning our socks again and growing our own carrots and other such unthinkable things.<!--break-->
I do think that climate change campaigners like yourself should be more upfront about what you’re trying to ‘save.’ It’s not the world. It’s not humanity either, which I’d bet will survive whatever comes in some form or another, though perhaps with drastically reduced numbers and no broadband connection. No, what you’re trying to save, it seems to me, is the world you have grown used to.
“Sustainability” is, as far as I can see, a project designed to keep this culture — this lifestyle — afloat. The modern human economy is an engine of mass destruction. Of course, I am conflicted about this. I live at the heart of this machine; like you, I am a beneficiary of it. If it falls apart, I will probably suffer, and I don’t want to<!--break-->.
I think this debate is where we really need to focus more attention if we hope that "localization" is really going to save us.
PS, I'm posting it this way because I don't know how to post it without those break thingies.
An environmental collapse, OTOH, could mean curtains for most of the highly evolved (i.e. specialized) species on earth. There may be time to save us from such a collapse, but I see little effort or willingness on the part of tptb or even posters on this site in that direction. Instead, we hoard gold, silver and other resources and try to get "off grid" to the extent possible. That's not to say these things are bad, just short sighted....
I share your concern about this topic Doug, so I have to ask what can I do about it on a personal level?
Give me ten things that I can do for the biosphere that don't involve politics or trying to force my personal agenda on another person.
Before you reply with "plant a tree", please note that I have propagated and planted over 50 trees a year for the last 22 years (in my early twenties I had some stupid notion that I could plant a 100,000 trees in my lifetime....FAIL).
And regarding "trying to get off-grid" as being short-sighted, I don't follow your logic. Can you elaborate?
Hi Doug, Ive been reading on and off for a few months, but Ive just started posting.
I definitely think there is "greenwashing" going on about products and services that are still "wants" just made with a little less fossil fuel, or just a little closer to your state. I think the "lets just recycle and use the squiggly light bulbs" crowd believes that might be sufficient.
I wonder if you are speaking about ramping up the message to society about going to something a la Plan B: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/pb2. Its pretty dense and Ill admit Ive only skimmed it. Ive got a friend who doesnt prefer PlanB because it is centralized- he believes we should be working harder as individuals and regions to make changes. After reading a news story this week about a man who planted a jungle in his spare time in India- this is what I think we need more of. Regional action.
I read something from... maybe ZeroHedge within the year about carrying capacity and likelyhood of pacing of population decline. I think the USA military will keep us in oil longer than some other countries, but I see our biggest population weakness being our largely diesel fueld food system. If we "waged war" on hunger and climate change by planting permaculture food forests everywhere possible, it might make a dent.
For my husband and I, we live in a medium size city now, but are saving and planning to buy a few acres next to several friends and build a simple cabin that will be as low energy as possible. I wonder how "bad things will get" and if the concept of money will even matter. None of our group are engineers, and are considering the likeliehood of being no-electric eventually. I bought a tredle sewing machine at a yard sale, were buying good tools a holiday gift at a time, and reference books as the interest strikes us, I wont love the idea but am resigned to the need for composting toilets... we hope to live to be subsistence permaculturists and hunters.
I'm very pessimistic about this subject Doug. I've been an environmentalist since 1975. After 3 Mile Island, me and my bride to be marched on Washington to protest nuclear power (I still have the Tshirt I got there)! How quaint. I've gotten to the point of concluding our best hope environmentally is a severe worldwide economic crisis followed by a serious die-off of humans. Funny: IMO we have a much better chance of saving the environment that way than anything we would do intentionally. That's not what I want, just what I calculate most likely.
We're just focusing on our own impact now. Use less energy and water. Buy food products that come to us by sustainable methods, as much as possible. Recycle everything. Etc. Still disaster looms ever closer.
On the other hand, we've lived long enough to see some changes for the better because of people's efforts. I never saw a wild bald Eagle until about 20 years ago. Now, they're no big deal. We even have a nesting pair inside the city limits of Philadelphia. On a canoe trip down the Delaware River about 17 years ago we and our kids saw a river otter in the water near us. They found him interesting and cute. I thought of telling them how lucky they were and how close to gone they had been, but chose not to preach.
I am not the first to say that environmentalism has taken on a quasi-religious aura, and reading these posts I can't help but think that our collective envrionmental fears have become based upon blind faith in a belief that the world is running down. I am forty years old, and in my lifetime I have seen the environment improve (more fish in the rivers, more birds in the sky, etc.).
Environmentalists cling to the belief that carbon will lead to global warming that will lead to apocalypse. Where is the real evidence for this. In order to be concerned about real damage to the planet one must make not one, but four leaps of faith:
1.) The earth is getting hotter - there are many competent scientists that would challenge this
2.) Man is causing global warming - Again this is difficult if not impossible to prove conclusively
3.) Man could do something to reverse global warming
4.) Global warming would cause a real problem to man's abiility to flourish
I think that the world will deal with some real problems in the coming years, but the envirionment is just not one of them
I have a blog that deals with Self Reliance: www.selfrelianceplan.com. I would appreciate any comments.
Wow, I thought no-one challenged this fact but it appears not. Some might suggest that warming has slowed (though will ignore temporary factors) but "the earth is NOT getting hotter"? Please link to your competent scientists, because I've never heard of one who argues that the earth is not warming.
It depends what you mean by "conclusively". There is much researcht that shows humans are very likely to be the main culprit. However, you seem to be suggesting that, indeed, the earth is warming, contrary to what you suggested in your last point. Is the earth warming or not, in your opinion?
I don't think anyone seriously thinks this is possible. Now, slowing or mitigating warming, that's something else.
I thought it already was. The costs of extreme weather events goes up every year and more and more people have their lives turned upside down.
We're already having to deal with a worsening environment.
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