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EugÃ¨ne Delacroix - La liberte' guidant le peuple.jpg by Wikapedia commons
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We find ourselves today at, arguably, the most pivotal moment in the short history of our species. In fact, given that the fate of all life on Earth is now hanging in the balance (see my recent essay " Hell on Earth "), we likely stand at the single most pivotal instant in the multi-billion year saga of life on Earth. What we do, or fail to do, in the coming years will decide the fate of our species, and possibly of all Earthlife, irrevocably and forever.
500 years of unending human geographic and economic expansion are creaking to a certain halt. Soon, economic contraction must commence. This is coming about because net energy per capita has stagnated, and must soon begin to decline--even as human population continues to rise from today's seven billion towards a projected mid-century peak of about ten billion.
Production of "conventional" oil (basically the stuff that comes out of a typical oil rig) flatlined at around 74 million barrels per day about eight years ago. Soon, it must begin to decrease. Much hype has recently surrounded allegedly new recovery and production techniques such as "fracking." Despite much wishful thinking to the contrary, this is not, and indeed cannot be, a "game changer" with respect to energy production. Strategically we are making the worst, the stupidest, possible allocation of irreplaceable energy reserves. We are using high net energy content oil to produce oil with much lower net energy content! The net effect is that the cost of energy increases over time, and it does so in an ever more volatile manner as high prices collapse demand, lowering prices, increasing demand etc." Worse, fracking is known to poison water supplies and could cause formerly productive regions to become uninhabitable, and thus to be subtracted from our food supply. However, from the corporatist perspective, this strategy maximizes quarterly profits, therefore it is "optimal". Political oversight with a view to the long term is lacking because it has been bought off by these selfsame corporatists.
From a biospheric perspective this means that we have decided upon an economic strategy which maximizes short-term profits for an ever wealthier elite while, incidentally, also maximizing our dumping of carbon into the atmosphere. NASA climatologist Dr. James Hanson has pointed out that this strategy, if carried out long enough, will CERTAINLY cause a greenhouse effect on Earth rendering it lifeless for eternity . Even if we were to somehow avoid that fate, the consequences of rapid, unconstrained warming would still be utterly devastating, including environmental and economic collapse.
Aside from declining net energy in our future, our planet girdling economic system is rapaciously tearing apart the entire web of life in pursuit of short term profit. According to a study recently published in the journal Nature, we are rapidly approaching an "imminent irreversible planetary collapse." Climate, the long term, cumulative, statistically predictable variance of temperature, rainfall and other weather variables, is rapidly spinning out of our recognition--and this is only the very beginning of the process. (See HERE and HERE and also HERE .)
At the center of these rapidly accelerating destabilizations lies our growth-based economy. At the center of our growth-based economy lies a monetary system based on debt. Existing debt, represented by a corresponding amount of money loaned into existence (for a mortgage for example), must be paid off, with interest, in the future. Accomplishing this task requires that more money exist in the future to pay back the original amount plus the accumulated interest. In other words, our global economic system is fundamentally predicated upon growth. Without growth, a debt-based economy will collapse. Yet right now, growth is stalling. So we will begin to experience planetary economic contraction, as net energy per capita begins to decline, and then the decline rate accelerates.
If we had possessed the foresight to begin preparing for this back in the 1970's, when this future first became visible, then we would today be well along the way towards a path to a sustainable, no-growth future. However, we collectively as a species, failed to muster the required foresight. Now, we are doubling down on our mindless folly, substituting slogans such as: "drill, baby, drill" and "fracking is a game changer" and other brainless idiocies, instead of embarking on an immediate course correction towards sustainability while this may still be possible.
To summarize: Humanity is hurling itself blindly towards utter planetary doom. This is, obviously, undesirable. Therefore our species historical trajectory must be altered in a quick and decisive manner if doom is to be averted. Because this world-killing system is so deeply entrenched into the fabric of human reality however, it seems impossible to destroy it before it kills us. Yet, there is no alternative; we must succeed in accomplishing just that.
Historically in times of economic stagnation, elites became more "conservative" in the sense that they hoarded ever more wealth for themselves at the expense of the general population. This naturally caused dissatisfaction on the part of the citizenry. This dissatisfaction leads to ever greater accumulation of draconian military and police powers by the political leadership which exists to serve the interests of the few, obscenely wealthy, elites. Assertion of these police powers against an increasingly enraged population begins to delegitimize the government. If this repression and reaction cycle continues to repeat long enough, revolution becomes probable.
Already this reactionary process is fully underway. Yet political disarray here in the US and likely many other countries, does not actually do anything to stop the world-destroying system from continuing to march us all towards our utter doom. Using our capacity for forethought, or sapience, what strategy should we adopt to maximize the possibility that we succeed in altering our historical trajectory, before it becomes too late?
First, we must begin with ourselves. If we don't free our minds, we ourselves can never be free. Think for yourself. Exercise your inborn capacity for sapience.
Next, arrange your living environment, to the degree possible, for sustainability. For example, my wife, Ramona, and I are homeowners. We have installed sufficient (3.7 kilowatts, "KW") solar and wind power (1 KW), in conjunction with batteries (33 KW) to allow us to be entirely self-sufficient with respect to electricity. We have a 4,000 gallon catfish pond (also solar powered) which can meet our needs for animal protein year round. We have about 900 square feet of organic gardens based on Amazonian terra preta soil techniques which we've struggled for several years to reverse engineer and adapt to our unique climate. We are able to produce our own drinking water independently from the local water supply. We have ongoing projects to create a permaculture garden out of our front yard. We will be installing a catchment rainfall cistern system and tying it into our drip irrigation network for the various gardens.
As our projects come online, we are now, and will be in the near future, organizing groups of interested people from our community to view them, ask questions, and generally be available to facilitate others taking similar actions. This facilitates networking with like-minded individuals locally. Moving up one level in scale, we have developed various relationships with local politically oriented groups of various sorts. I have a sort of networking advantage here, in that I was the Democratic Party's candidate for US Congress facing the odious Darrell Issa back in 2004.
I note that the established mainstream political parties are wholly co-opted into the system of corporate rule at the national level. Cooperation with them is nonetheless, sometimes possible locally however.
Across the local region, state, nation, and planet, people are thinking independently and organizing at the personal and community level. It is from this large and ever growing mass base that deep revolutionary change will come. The existing system is rapidly delegitimizing itself. As a direct consequence, violent (ask yourself who has most of the guns in our society), and non-violent revolutionary movements (think Occupy) are certain in some nations, probable in others such as ours, and possible anywhere.