Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thinking about collapse


      Here's a couple of thought pieces for your Sunday meditation.

      First a conversation with Chris Hedges, Morris Berman and Dmitri Orlov, about life at the end of the industrial empire; and ways of approaching the coming unraveling.   here    
      It's a pretty long discussion, but well worth hearing.  They cover a lot of ground - energy, environment, empire, drones, Obama, TV, .  Hedges, the foreign correspondent has interesting analogies from the Balkans.  Berman from history.  

      In the end , Hedges recommends a fight to the  (Sisyphus-ian)  end while Berman suggest moving to a  country more grounded in reality.  Orlov, , as usual focuses on the practical realities, of living in the world after the money system no longer works.

     Second,  a piece by Robert Jenson, which also tackles how we deal with the knowledge of impending collapse.      The journalism of Collapse    ( Tip of the hat to Charlie S.)

 Here's a fun fact -  “apocalypse”  means "a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden from most people, a coming to clarity.
     Jenson recommends removing the veil -   thinking apocalyptically

"Thinking apocalyptically, coming to this clarity, will force us to confront crises that concentrated wealth and power create, and reflect on our role in these systems. Given the severity of the human assault on the ecosphere, compounded by the suffering and strife within the human family, honest apocalyptic thinking that is firmly grounded in a systematic evaluation of the state of the world is not only sensible but a moral obligation."

   And what are we revealing?   Jenson summarizes:


"Ecological realities

Let’s put analysis of journalism on hold and think about the larger world in which journalism operates. Journalistic ideals and norms should change as historical conditions change, and today that means facing tough questions about ecological sustainability.

There is considerable evidence to help us evaluate the health of the ecosphere on which our own lives depend, and an honest evaluation of that evidence leads to a disturbing conclusion: Life as we know it is almost over. That is, the high-energy/high-technology life that we in the affluent societies live is a dead-end.

There is a growing realization that we have disrupted planetary forces in ways we cannot control and do not fully understand. We cannot predict the specific times and places where dramatic breakdowns will occur, but we can know that the living system on which we depend is breaking down.

Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live -- groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species and reduction of bio-diversity -- and the news is bad.

Add to that the mother of all ecological crises -- global warming, climate change, climate disruption -- and it’s clear that we are creating a planet that cannot indefinitely support a large-scale human presence living this culture’s idea of the good life.

We also live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a huge reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds our lives. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy” using even more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountain-top removal, tar sands extraction) to get at the remaining hydrocarbons.

Where we are heading? Off the rails? Into the wall? Over the cliff? Pick your favorite metaphor. Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing the planet beyond its limits.

Recently 22 top scientists in the prestigious journal Nature warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience.” That means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.”

That means that we’re in trouble, not in some imaginary science-fiction future, but in our present reality. We can’t pretend all that’s needed is tinkering with existing systems to fix a few environmental problems; significant changes in how we live are required. No matter where any one of us sits in the social and economic hierarchies, there is no escape from the dislocations that will come with such changes.

Money and power might insulate some from the most wrenching consequences of these shifts, but there is no permanent escape. We do not live in stable societies and no longer live on a stable planet. We may feel safe and secure in specific places at specific times, but it’s hard to believe in any safety and security in a collective sense.

In short, we live in apocalyptic times.

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