Thursday, December 4, 2014

What then, should be done?

"It's the end of the world
as we know it
      - REM

"What can a poor boy do
Except to sing in a rock and roll band?"
     -Rolling Stones (Street Fighting man)


Dave Pollard offers some insight into arguments about "What, then should be done?"

        These disputes may be caused by differing underlying viewpoints about the nature of the problem.  I find Pollards chart to be very interesting. (see below)  and here   Basically the one one axis is the how bad you think things are, and on the other axis, is the amount of hope you have that things can be turned around.   He does a nice job of plotting various groups and people in that matrix.    

See if you can find yourself on his chart. 

Or, if you don't like charts , here is a nice  thumbnail sketch of the terrain.

"Humanists, for example, tend to have a worldview that suggests humans are essentially good. Hence by sheer force of numbers (say, 99%?) we can accomplish anything we put our collective minds to – even at this late date. Reform the systems by popular demand, and save the world. Others argue that the 1% don’t have nearly the power that is commonly presumed, and that their conversion or demise will not prevent the juggernaut of industrial civilization from accelerating off the collapse cliff. Still others argue that the so-called 1% are doing their best, like the rest of us, and that the enemy is all of us (leading to a wide variety of prescriptions on what that realization might lead us to do, if anything). And others argue that the 1% are psychopaths, and that the only option is to smash the systems that they lead (hoping, perhaps improbably, that whatever fills the resultant vacuum will be significantly better)."

           I found Pollard's essay itself a little disappointing.   He doesn't really answer the questions posed in the introduction, except maybe indirectly.   Perhaps that is because he comes from a "collapsitarian" position, and therefore  doesn't bother to address  options such as political action, working within the system, or even revolution.

           But he does hit some of the high points of the philosophical issues:  Human nature, the existence of evil, determinism,and  hope.  He ends up in a "sort of optimistic" view.  Humans aren't innately evil, or even innately destructive.... but it just looks that way because they are reacting to stress.   The stress?  Civilization itself!    Once that is gone, things will get better

"And though it may be wishful thinking or faith, rather than profound instinct, I believe that we were once well and that, after the dust of collapse has settled, humans again will be good to each other and to the world.
I’d like to believe that’s a pragmatic and rational perspective, a healthy one. But I may be deluding myself. Those who believe the Earth will be better off without humans may well be right. Those who believe the Earth will be without humans within a short few decades, centuries or millennia (an instant in the planet’s long history) may well also be right.
But I don’t believe they are. I can’t believe they are. My worldview can’t accommodate such beliefs. And therein lies our quandary, fellow collapsniks. We need to open our minds and hearts to a much broader range of possibilities, including those that we may in our quiet moments think are ‘impossible’, if we are going to be able to prepare, together, for anything."

        It's interesting to compare this view with a recent paper by Professor Brad Werner, a geophysicist , who presented a paper at the Geophysical Union meeting entitled "Is  Earth Fucked?'  In his paper he suggested that the basic problem is the nature of capitalism, with its short term view.  He also suggested that because of regulator capture, even governmental action is doomed to failure.  The only possible out, he suggests would be some sort of large scale "resistance".  Although this view has been endorsed by "progressives" , such as Naomi Klien, and Bill Moyers, I'm not sure that they really understand what he is saying.  He is not saying that we would end up with a new  industrial system, one that is more just, and more eco friendly.   He is talking about the end of industrial civilization   - collapse.   As noted here

"So, to sum up: even our best efforts at environmental management are doomed to fail, unless massive scale resistance movements start springing up and send our cultural personality back toward a pre-technological era. " 

November 29, 2014

See No Evil: The Morality of Collapse

Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 21:20
My latest article, See No Evil: The Morality of Collapse, is up at SHIFT magazine as part of its sixth edition. Check out the whole magazine! And if you like what you read, or prefer to read hard copy, please get this issue as a digital download (beautiful magazine layout) or sign up for an annual subscription (6 issues).
In this article, I ask the reader to consider these questions:
  • Is it acceptable to use violence when pacifism seems inadequate to confront the most devastating aspects of industrial civilization?
  • Are large public protests a means of raising awareness and political pressure, or are they a useless distraction from preparing for economic and political collapse?
  • Are social justice and equality essential preconditions for collectively addressing issues such as climate change, or would that be just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic?
  • Would it be a great service or a great disservice to deliberately provoke a collapse of markets and the economy in order to reduce consumption and energy use?
  • Is giving up on environmentalism and large-scale attempts in response to climate change, and instead focusing on local initiatives and personal and community preparedness, a realistic and pragmatic strategy, or dangerous, irresponsible defeatism?
Here’s the start of the article, and a link to the rest:
new political map 2014
As we wade into discussions about the consequences of collapse, and the most effective ways to become resilient in face of it, most of us avoid discussions about morals (personal standards of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’) and ethics (collective standards of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ behaviours). As an example, it doesn’t matter whether climate change is human-caused, we assert, we need to focus on how to deal with it, not who to blame for it.
Alas, it is not so easy to avoid the issue, because our worldviews are inevitably rooted in our beliefs, including our moral and ethical ones. So when it comes to preparing for collapse, the different groups who accept that the near-term collapse of industrial civilization is inevitable (or at least requiring immediate and drastic action to avert) possess worldviews that are rooted in different, and I would argue, almost irreconcilable moral and ethical standards. This makes collaboration, or even agreement on what to do, fraught with difficulty, if not impossible.

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