Observations on apocalypse

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Damnthematrix
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Observations on apocalypse

I have just discovered this new website, and frankly everyone should read its contents......

Mike

Observations on apocalypse

 
August 18th, 2009

durer

Today I’m engaging in a long and occasionally heated debate with George Monbiot in the pages of the Guardian about the future of civilisation. And yes, it is a portentous as it sounds. It’s also, I think, an important first foray into territory which the Dark Mountain Project exists to occupy, and which is given little space or airtime at present.

Environmentalism has always been a broad church, but in recent years its concerns have narrowed spectacularly. Today’s environmentalists are preoccupied with climate change to the exclusion, sometimes, of almost any other issue. The environmental debate, which should take under its wing economics, politics, culture, spirituality, practical ways of living and ideas about our species’ true place in the world, has shrunk alarmingly. Today, everything comes down to carbon.

This is an environmentalism that everyone can do business with: oil companies, governments, the business sector, the media. Reducing carbon emissions is in everyone’s interests, and has become a kind of moral duty. Tagged onto this are increasingly dire warnings about the consequences of not reducing them quickly enough, for the climate change-uber-alles mentality comes with an apocalypse attached. We must ’stop climate change’ within 100 months (or is it 95 now? I can never keep track) or we are doomed.

George is a good friend of mine, and does excellent work, but he has come to symbolise this attitude. It’s here in his letters, and what it comes down to is a bipolar view of the world: we can either make our current civilisation ’sustainable’ or we can have a catastrophe of biblical proportions. This is very much the Western religious-cultural narrative dressed in pages torn out of the IPCC report. It is also incredibly depressing.

Why? Because, as I suggest in this debate, most people know, even if they don’t say, that we can’t stop climate change. We may still be able to mitigate it, and should try, but we won’t stop it. Neither will we stop the other trends which are about to burst civilisation’s bubble. And if we are told by people like George that the only alternative to this bubble is Lord of the Flies, we can indeed end up committing what he regards as the ultimate crime: ‘giving up the fight.’

I’m all for fighting: but what are we fighting for? George’s call for more ‘fighting’ to save civilisation from itself sounds to me more like a cry of despair than hope. Where, after all, would that leave us? Where would George’s vision of a world of Western-style living for 10 billion people get us? A turbine on every mountain, a barrage in every river, millions more cars, planes and motorways, GM trees and GM crops, mega-cities in every nation and the non-human world denuded and pushed to the margins or beyond. And where will the fuel come from to power this? Where will we find the resources to power this ever-growing economy? Because grow it must if this vision is to come true.

George claims that the only alternative to such a vision is billions of people dying. Let’s not be dishonest: it could be. But I think that attempting to pursue this vision is just as likely to lead to such an outcome, because the more we push on, the more likely a real collapse would be.

The alternative then? Well, if I believed in Big Ideas and manifestoes and grand plans, I would say a voluntary economic contraction in the rich world, a global cap on carbon emissions, work to reduce the human population (through choice, not coercion, of course) … I could go on all day. There is no absence of such manifestoes out there. The point is that they won’t work, because no-one is listening. The human world is chasing growth and will, I believe, keep chasing it until growth is no longer possible.

George believes such a message is depressing and pessimistic, and constitutes ‘giving up.’ To me, it constitutes liberation, because it gives us a chance to see beyond the world as we know it, and look towards what we call in our manifesto the ‘hope beyond hope.’ I think there are technologies, ways of organising and ways of living and thinking that could provide us with paths through the falling-away of what we know. I don’t imagine it will be easy for anyone; there are no easy ways out now. But I don’t see that trying to tame the monster is a better way of spending my time.

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becky
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Re: Observations on apocalypse

Mike,

What a fascinating website. Thanks for turning me on to it.

becky

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idoctor
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Re: Observations on apocalypse

The alternative then? Well, if I believed in Big Ideas and manifestoes and grand plans, I would say a voluntary economic contraction in the rich world, a global cap on carbon emissions, work to reduce the human population (through choice, not coercion, of course) … I could go on all day. There is no absence of such manifestoes out there. The point is that they won’t work, because no-one is listening. The human world is chasing growth and will, I believe, keep chasing it until growth is no longer possible.

I agree too few are listening.....at least we are making an effort. As smart as people can be there is enough raw animal in us that ensures us of a typical out come like other animals. Resources will dictate our fate like other mindless animals that over populate their supply of food. Reality is what it is.

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Doug
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Re: Observations on apocalypse

Mike

Thanks for the website.  The purpose of the site is important to denizens of the CM website because Paul Kingsnorth is beginning a conversation that will be very relevant in how we think about the directions we are headed environmentally and economically as we deal with the wrenching adjustments to shortage of the third "E", energy.  And, it does so with a literary flair.  The first two paragraphs of the written conversation between Kingsnorth and George Monbiot set the stage in a context that should be very familiar to anyone who has taken the CC.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/aug/17/environment-climate-change

Quote:

On the desk in front of me is a set of graphs. The horizontal axis of each represents the years 1750 to 2000. The graphs show, variously, population levels, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, exploitation of fisheries, destruction of tropical forests, paper consumption, number of motor vehicles, water use, the rate of species extinction and the totality of the human economy's gross domestic product.

What grips me about these graphs (and graphs don't usually grip me) is that though they all show very different things, they have an almost identical shape. A line begins on the left of the page, rising gradually as it moves to the right. Then, in the last inch or so – around 1950 – it veers steeply upwards, like a pilot banking after a cliff has suddenly appeared from what he thought was an empty bank of cloud.

I think this site can be an important companion site to CM.com.

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pinecarr
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Re: Observations on apocalypse

Mike, great link.  Doug, thanks for bringing this thread back to the surface.

My husband and I have just been having a very serious debate along these lines.  Here I am anxiously doing everything within my power (and time  and $ constraints) to try to get us better prepared to survive what comes, while he is not, but is truly enjoying life.  I don't belittle that approach!  I am very aware that the last couple of years I have spent sweating this stuff out have been anxious times for me.  And you can't help but look around at folks, such as my husband, who rather choose to live their lives fully in the "here and now", and wonder if maybe they have chosen the smarter solution. 

What it comes down to are some of the arguments touched on at the links posted here.  If  the future is so bad that it is futile to try to prepare for it (defeatism), then living in the here and now -living and enjoying your life while you can- does make sense.  Also, if things magically work out, you haven't wasted precious years of your life in unnecessary anxiety.  This is my husband's perspective.

Me, I can't help but try to understand and "solve" the problem; that's my nature.  I have to at least TRY to position us better to survive. But when he argues that if things really get as bad as I fear, that our relatively small preparations are not going to be anywhere near enough to make the difference, I do see his point. E.g., even in the best case, our small garden is not enough to sustain our family.  And throw in a hungry mob/gang in the neighborhood, without food, and what chance do we have of protecting even that food source?  So those thoughts/argumens make me better appreciate both my husband's choice to "live for today", and Chris's exortations (paraphrasing) that we can't survive this alone, we have to survive this at the community level, working together.

Anyhow, there are lots of other thought-paths to explore inbetween, as they bring up in the link.  I.e., many arguments artifically present the EXTREME possible outcomes as the ONLY  possible outcomes.   But are they?  And if not, it is good to try to understand the what other direction things may go (possible outcomes), since these are the scenarios we need to plan for,

Anyhow, I agree that these are important debates, as -can be shown by my own case- it can impact individuals' motivations re whether to even TRY to  prepare or not!

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Doug
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Re: Observations on apocalypse

Pinecarr

Thanks for responding.  I had kind of forgotten about this thread, but I think the website has a lot to say that the CM site should take heed of.  For instance:

http://www.dark-mountain.net/about-2/principles/

Quote:

Eight Principles of Uncivilisation

‘We must unhumanise our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.’

  1. We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
  2. We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
  3. We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
  4. We will reassert the role of story-telling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
  5. Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. By careful attention, we will reengage with the non-human world.
  6. We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
  7. We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
  8. The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.

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