"The human name
doesn't mean sh*t to a tree" Jefferson Airplane, Eskimo Blue Day (1)
Liberty Leading the People by Wikimedia Commons
Most of us sense, to one degree or another, that something is fundamentally wrong with the world around us. Some focus on environmental, economic, political, military, or energy catastrophes looming just over the horizon. Others just have a vague but persistent sense that something just is not right with the world. They are all right, of course.
Considering our misgivings, most of us are constrained from taking action in any meaningful way simply by the sheer magnitude of the forces involved: Nature, the global human political economy, the entrenched power of our governments, the capture of the governments, including that of the United States, by trans-national corporate oligarchies.
The result of such contemplation is often a sense of foreboding, despair, and a crippling, pervasive feeling of helplessness in the face of such vast, if out of control, systems. Consequently, we turn our attention to areas in which we have more control, things closer to our everyday lives. We learn to just live with that vague sense of dread, to ignore it. Predictably, the deep, unresolved, problems of human organization continue to worsen.
Yet, we are NOT helpless before these forces. While no one of us, as individuals can deal "head on" with the magnitude, or historical trajectory, of such vast systems, we can take actions in our own lives, at the scale of ourselves as individuals, which can result in REAL, positive, change, both at the individual level, as well as at the systemic level.
First try to dispassionately understand the nature of the problems we are facing. Knowledge IS power. At heart ALL of our deep civilizational problems arise because of a mismatch between our human political economy--the manner in which the human world is organized, our "operating system"--and the far larger, far, far more powerful "operating system" that is Nature.
Put very simply we humans take and take and take, and do not give back. We break and do not repair or restore. Our economy is predicated upon rapaciously plundering the land, the seas, the skies and returning nothing but devastation and pollution.
For pre-industrial civilization, such an approach would eventually result in a localized collapse, followed after several hundred years, during which the exhausted soils would regenerate, by a new civilization's flowering. This would allow for another flourishing of civilization. Distant civilizations would hardly be affected by these far away rises and falls. The fall of Rome went largely unremarked in China, for example.
With industrialization, civilization became global. Its effects on the biosphere increased by orders of magnitude. Any collapse would henceforth be global as well.
Fossil fuels--oil, coal, gas--became central to our civilization. Our new industrial manufacturing culture came to be based upon materialism, endless consumption, and waste. Unfortunately, industrialism's externalities rapidly began to destabilize the biosphere upon which our civilization depends for its continuing existence.
Now we are about to face the worst of all worlds, so to speak. Oil production has peaked globally except for the contributions of "fracking" and tar sands in North America. Net energy per capita is in decline globally. Only the labor arbitrage (e.g. substituting cheap Chinese labor for expensive American labor) savings provided by globalism, have allowed this system to continue to expand.
The stress on nature is reaching the breakdown point--just as near-term energy decline means that our civilization's capacity to respond meaningfully to our self-engineered existential crisis will be reduced ever more with each succeeding decade. If you can't see catastrophe accelerating towards us you have your eyes closed!
What my wife Ramona, and myself have done under these circumstances, solely at our personal, individual level includes the following:
1) We went completely off the electric grid. We live in a costal suburban area of north San Diego County, in California. Over a period of two years, I designed and, with professional expertise, deployed, what ended up as a 5.3 kilowatt solar system, with another 1 kilowatt of wind power. Finally we have a 400 watt bicycle generator inside the house for human input. For power storage, we have 24 Trojan 105 deep cycle batteries. Result is that we have been continuously off grid for nearly two and one half years! We do not have an electric meter at all! Living this differently, you must, literally, "trim your sails (e.g. energy usage) to the wind" (and sun).
2) We have laboriously created over 1,000 square feet of organic gardens using terra preta (carbon sequestration in the soil) agriculture techniques. See HERE and HERE for our personal account of creating, and bringing to life these gardens. We are permaculturing our front lawn. We have put in a 4,000 gallon catfish pond. After the catfish begin to breed regularly, we anticipate being able to produce about one catfish every two weeks for our dining pleasure. Waste water from the pond is very rich in nutrients. Accordingly, it is recycled into our gardens, which benefit greatly from this.
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