Tuesday, October 29, 2019

On the Problem of Being White or Indigenous

A Canadian fellow named Tad Hargrave posted a piece of writing to Facebook which I will replicate here for continuity of your experience of this -

"Dear White Men,
White is not skin colour. And there was a time when you were not white. White is new. White is amnesia. White comes from a particular place and a particular time.

There was a time when you were French, English, Irish, Scottish, Russian, Croatian and more. And there was a time before that when there were no nation states and no clean borders when you would have known yourself by some word that likely just meant 'the people'. It was a time of elders, deep culture, language given to you by the land. This is more you than 'white' is.

Whiteness is the recent amnesia that stops you from remembering this. Your deep ancestors have more in common with the world's remaining indigenous people than they do with you. No matter what others say, you come from something beautiful. You have indigenous roots in you just as real as any other culture. You didn't ask to be born into these times where people who look like you are dealt a mixed hand of obscene privileges and immense poverty, you were borne here by those ones who came before you, planted here in these times, their best response to the world as it is. You are the way they love this world, hundreds of generations pouring their love into the spiral of time and fashioning you to redeem those forgotten ones, to weave back together the torn fabric of human culture and to use the tools at your disposal to remake kinship with your human brothers and sisters, the non-human world and everything unseen.

White men have done terrible things to this world in the name of many seemingly noble causes and you weren't born into this world to feel guilty. You were planted here as a response to them.
Being white doesn't mean you're bad, it means a sort of imposed forgetting.

Whiteness is the shrink wrap placed around your soul; a soul that wants to be bigger. Whiteness is the thing that keeps you from remembering those old ones who sent you here and keeps them from recognizing you when they see you. Whiteness is sameness. Whiteness is the end of diversity. Whiteness is the spell of the eternal. Whiteness whispers in your ear, "It's always been like this." Whiteness is among the most recent steps in the making of Empire. Whiteness is the shroud woven to cover your still living cultures and your indwelling but uncultivated capacity for culture-making.

Ask yourself, 'When did my ancestors start knowing themselves as white? Who benefited from this? Under what historical conditions did this happen? Are those conditions being repeated anywhere else in the world today? At whose expense was this done? What stopped when this started?" Ask yourself those things, ask those things of the world and be staggered by what you find.

White is not skin colour and there was a time when you were not white. White is new. White is amnesia. White comes from a particular place and a particular time."

To which I add - You are capable of recovering your indigeneity and losing your "white" by simply shifting back to the mindset that made your ancestors indigenous and applying that mindset with diligence to your current "place", your land and water and air. That is how and where you now need to be indigenous. Indigenous is a matter of your viewpoint, your attitude, and your engagement, while "white" may well be the absence of those things, the "amnesia".

There are tough times coming but they will be much less tough and they may be survivable if you can remember how to be, and respect being, indigenous. Then you will become neo-indigenous. It means to be a person of ethical, moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and actual relationship with the "new" land that you occupy. It means to have an eco-ethical view of life and living along with how your 'place" fits into all that and you into it.

My great thanks and deep respect to Tad Hargrave for writing the piece quoted here (and quoted, I should add, with Tad's permission)

Keep your candles lit and your powder dry, and..
thanks for being there and reading this,

The Smokemaster

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Internal Work That We All Have To Do... For Human Survival

The cat in this picture is an American Short Hair Tabby - meaning very hardy because it could/does have any number of other breeds in the genetic mix and any color you can imagine. She’s a mutt cat and, in this case, has coloring that is a collision of so called “wild” coloring with calico, and her name is Amber Smoke. She’s also intelligent, skillful, self-aware - yes, that’s what I meant - she IS capable of distinguishing herself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals - and she has a personality. She feels pleasure, and pain, and she will fight for her life. She does things as a matter of preference and personal style that her siblings do not do. In this case she transited from the bedroom to my chest in about 1 second of blindingly fast movement, stopped instantly without apparent effort, and circled up on my arm, which extended as soon as she arrived. She is demonstrating absolute trust in another animal that is 62 times larger than her by weight, is not one of her kind (and she knows it) but who takes the time to connect with her and “understand” her as best it can, and that has demonstrated a high level of trustworthiness to her. This is all in proper keeping with the ancient bargain that was agreed between our kinds millennia ago.

We live in a world where we as humans are surrounded by intelligent, sentient beings of other types, the intelligence of some of whom we are only just developing our awareness of. A number of those other beings are what we call domesticated, meaning they have become, by matter of breeding over time, accustomed to, and desire, the company and care of humans. In some cases they wouldn’t survive without it. For most of them this bargain was struck many millennia ago, and most modern humans have no inkling of that time or that bargain. They just think, as with much of nature, that they exist for human dominion and service. If modern humanity remembered those bargains, remembered the times and conditions under which those bargains were struck, respected our companions in the life walk - or more, respected ALL of the beings in the life walk regardless of such a compact or not, made more of an effort to live WITH them rather than OVER them in an assumed position of superiority, made the simple effort to understand them and communicate with them, in community, we could not and would not have done to the planet what we most certainly have done in our hedonistic pursuit of personal pleasure and power.

When I tell people we cannot save our species from the changes that are coming unless that we critically rethink how we “live with ourselves, each other in community, and the planet as a whole”, when I tell people that the first and most important change is a “deep cultural” change that has to happen in our own minds and lives, when I tell people that we must undergo a “conscious evolution”… this is what I am talking about. We need to respect all life enough to accept their right to be here as equal to ours and to make the effort to communicate with them just as they communicate already with their own species and possibly others in the great sphere of life. I hope this helps some of you understand. THIS IS THE INTERNAL WORK that must be done (and should have been done long before this) for our species to survive.

Keep the candles and powder dry, tough times are coming. Thanks for being there and being you.

The Smokemaster

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The REAL issue could make the Anthropocene the shortest epoch in planetary history!

Most of the U.S. is aware of climate change but 90% think - 1) it doesn't apply to them, or 2) they can't do anything about it, or 3) it's a bunch of political bullshit (aka they're in denial). All of those viewpoints are grievously in error.

If we understand that WE are part of a materially finite system of life AND, at the same time, a human created system of social and material process that has foundational requirements (capitalism - endless growth, endless consumption, endless waste with no impact) that cannot be satisfied in a materially finite system, and we have pushed out to the limits of that materially finite system, then we realize we must make some choices. Failure/refusal to make a choice is a de facto choice in the negative, so... If we accept the current scientific understandings in climate, weather, ecology (including habitat for all of life on Earth), human habitat specifically, agroecology, paleo-climate, and more, then there are basic, systemic principles that apply to all of that life -

1) Climate and weather are the seasonal and real-time manifestations of Earth's constant energy balancing act - and more energy is entering and being retained by the system... unbalanced. As a result we WILL be facing and dealing with ever more violent and sudden energy balancing activities as planetary feedback systems try to balance increasingly out of balance energy profiles globally. Laws of physics applied on the global scale.

2) All living things on Earth have varying "zones" of conditions within which their life is possible - at the center of which their life is "ideal". Those zones are defined by temperature, moisture availability, nutrient availability, and shelter conditions (conditions which protect the life form from extremes of habitat condition and allow the life form to "rest"). We could ( and do) call this the "Goldilocks Zone" - where conditions are "just right".

3) Given that all life forms have a Goldilocks Zone, not all Goldilocks Zones are the same. If living conditions in a given location change so as to exceed the Goldilocks Zone limits, the affected organism suffers what is called a "loss of habitat". That organism must either move to new effective habitat, adapt to the current changed habitat, or die. A form of adaptation would include being protected by another organism.

4) Due in part to human activities over the last 100-200 years conditions for all of life on Earth are now changing rapidly and exceeding the Goldilocks Zone of many species alive today. Some species are moving, some are attempting to adapt, many are dying. The changes are accelerating and/or are moving much faster than predicted/anticipated. As a result the changes are too fast for many species to adapt, which means that they must either move, be protected, or die.

Because we are in an increasing exponential curve regarding the level and scope of life-threatening impact now occurring, the choices that we make in the next 5 years in relation to this basic and foundational knowledge of the systemic impact of our ecologically unguided and self-centered choices and actions over the previous two centuries, will affect all life on Earth immediately and the ability of Earth to continue to sustain carbon-based life as we know it for the next 100,000 years... and YES, this does include human life.

The actions needed are wrenching and quite realistically civilization ending. A complete cessation of all industrial capitalist activities. A complete reconsideration of how and what living on a planet with finite resources means for humanity and the life it is utterly dependent upon for it's sustenance. A complete reorientation of the human supporting food system. The magnitude of change rests on the magnitude of overall impact to carbon based life's ability to thrive on Earth at all. At best the saving grace for humanity may be aboriginal cultures that haven't entirely lost their sense of who they are and where they came from, and worst case, the extremophiles of Earth's Tree of Life, such as the amazing array of life found around highly toxic and anoxic deep sea high-heat thermal vents along volcanic fissures may be the only things that make it through

Welcome to what may well be the end of the shortest epoch in global history - the Anthropocene!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Convenience - The Core of The Problem

From the documentary "Fresh" - "I used to have a Pakistani room mate at college, and he said to me one day 'George, there is only one thing Americans are afraid of.' to which I responded 'What's that?' and he said 'Inconvenience!' " George Naylor, Corn Belt Farmer

On almost every level the Pakistani room mate was right. Look at any supermarket. 90% of the stuff on the shelves is packaged the way it is for convenience - but that convenience costs us. The very existence of that store is a matter of convenience. - and THAT costs us. I live near a town of 7,687 people (plus or minus 13 on any given day). It has TWO grocery stores either of which is capable of feeding that many people but one has higher priced, better quality goods and the other has lower priced, and in most cases, lower quality goods and they probably split the town's population between them... if we don't account for the fact that many in the town travel routinely outside the town at distances that give them access to other markets entirely. So, 1/3 of the shopping gets done somewhere else, 1/3 gets done at store #1, 1/3 gets done at store #2. HUGE amounts of convenience thinking driving that profile.

One of the things we need to accept is that most of the "convenience" availability drives extra material extraction from the natural world (it was expedient when the process got started and nobody has complained so it continues) and massive uses of energy, most derived from fossil fuels (coal, oil, or gas). When I talk about We The People needing to re-assume responsibility for EVERY joule of energy that is expended on our behalf every day, this convenience function is the big chunk of what I mean when I say that. Our egregious consumption of energy is almost entirely about convenience. Gas in your two or three cars? Much more convenient than hitching up two or three horses to go to town and several other places. Faster, more comfortable, safer, more weather resistant, nicer ride - more convenient.

Turning on the lights? Much easier and cleaner and more convenient than filling the oil lamp with kerosene, trimming the wick, lighting it (make sure you protect your ceilings from the column of heat from that chimney if it's wall mounted). Pushing a button on the food processor? Much easier, cleaner, less work than hand chopping or mincing the ingredients for supper... if your cooking "from scratch"! Maybe not - just reach into that freezer and take out some pot pies, frozen vegetables, and cook a couple of potatoes in the microwave - all relying on electricity piped through your walls to convenient outlets.

Americans are awash in functions of convenience, so much so, that it's almost impossible to escape - unless you simply move out of it entirely, into a space that was not occupied by the convenience culture before. It can be done. It's either that "move out" or engage the level of rigor and discipline to not use and avoid all the mechanisms of convenience that surround our every moment... or move out into unformed space and create your own "inconvenient" personally energy responsible space.

Its up to us to solve this problem. Its about our consumption - our excessive consumption. If we don't change that, then we are headed for the scrap heap to join every other species that has ever lived... and gone extinct. The biggest reason for extinction is habitat loss. We are on the verge of losing ours too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

You've Only Got Two Things To Worry About!

You have TWO primary concerns with abrupt climate change - 1) how you manage your survival zone (aka Goldilocks Zone - where all the conditions are "just right") as the prevailing conditions change - permanently as far as you're concerned., and 2) how you manage the survival zone of your food supply (which is more delicate and sensitive than yours is).

Stable climate is the absolute foundation of our social processes and system. It is what limits our risks to a range that make "extreme events" both rare and profitable to insure against. What we have previously thought of as extreme events are going to become the norm, affecting everything about our way of life in western civilization (which as a substantial side note, isn't sustainable as it is and becomes positively volatile under abrupt climate change). We are already moving into this period of time and far too little is being done to prepare for or mitigate the risks.

Radical departures from stable conditions usually result in loss of habitat. Most extinction, throughout the history of life on Earth, has been caused by “loss of habitat”. The effect of climate change on all elements of life is completely dependent upon each lifeform’s available habitat. For most lifeforms that occupy the solid surface of the planet a relatively stable climate is a necessity to maintain habitat. Any sustained departure from the required stable condition must either be overcome by changing external factors (adaptation), by changes to the actual lifeforms or their life functions (evolution), or the loss of habitat results in death (extinction).

Your Goldilocks Zone is comprised of the range of internal temperatures that we must maintain to stay alive, as well as the availability of air (aka correct level of oxygen), water, functional food, protection from the elements, and rest to sustain a meaningful life. To be specific that means 5 critical factors. These factors define the human Goldilocks Zone
        1. Oxygen - People can begin to experience brain damage after as few as five minutes without oxygen. For humans and many animals to sustain normal functions, the percentage of oxygen in the breathing environment must be within a relatively small range. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, determined the optimal breathing range to be between 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen in air.
  • Several things may prevent you from getting the oxygen you need. Environmental risks such as high altitude, dense smoke, or carbon monoxide can prevent you from getting enough oxygen.
  • Some medical issues may prevent your body from receiving oxygen like cardiac arrest, stroke, drowning and others.
  • Without a consistent supply of oxygen, you can experience a condition called cerebral hypoxia which affects our brains.
    • At levels at or below 17 percent, your mental abilities become impaired.
    • When levels drop to 16 percent or below, noticeable changes to your behavior will occur
    • Levels under 14 percent will cause extreme exhaustion from physical activity.
    • Once levels drop below 10 percent, you may become very nauseous or lose consciousness.
    • Humans won't survive with levels at 6 percent or lower. After 10 minutes without oxygen, the brain damage can be so severe that most people will die.
  • Higher-than-normal oxygen levels in air aren't as harmful to life, however there is an increased fire or explosion risk. 
    • With extremely high concentrations of oxygen in the breathing zone, humans can experience harmful side effects. 
    • Very high levels of oxygen causes oxidizing free radicals. These free radicals will attack the tissues and cells of the body and cause muscle twitching. 
    • The effects from short exposure can usually be reversed, however lengthy exposure can cause death.

        2. Water - Other than the air we breathe (and it's approximately 21% oxygen), water is the most essential component for human survival. The body’s functional chemicals are dissolved and transported in water, and the chemical reactions of life take place in water.
  • It is estimated that an average person cannot survive for more than 3-4 days without water. The daily requirement is about 3 liters (approx. 3.2 quarts). Ideal drinking, sanitation, and hygiene needs can be met with approx. 50 liters (13.2 gallons)/day
  • During hot weather it is recommended that the average person consume more, if available, to replace the amount lost due to sweating, respiration and excretion to maintain a balance of body fluids. In moderate climates you may be able to get by on less.
  • When the hydration balance is unable to be maintained the body will start to go through the dehydration process.
    • A 2.5 percent loss in water volume in a person leads to a 25 percent reduction in blood volume. This means the blood gets thicker and the heart has to work harder to pump nutrients throughout the body.
    • This lower blood volume also reduces flow to the extremities, leading to numbness in the fingers and toes.
    • The thicker blood also has a harder time making its way through the small capillaries in the brain. The lack of oxygen to parts of the brain can make it impossible to concentrate or focus for any period of time.
    • The length of time one can survive without water depends on activity level and environmental temperature. Higher activity will invariably reduce life span, as will higher temperatures.
    • With no water, the maximum length of time a person can survive is 10 days. Starting at 80 degrees Fahrenheit life expectancy is reduced to 9 days. With every five-degree increase in temperature, the life span decreases a day.

        3. Food - sustenance, a source of biological "fuel", or what we call food, is the next most important factor after oxygen and water.
  • A body that does not have food can survive for quite a long time by subsisting on the fat reserves in the body and the glycogen reserves in the liver and, eventually, the proteins in the muscles.
  • The first two to three days without food, the body will depend solely on the fat reserves to run the muscles of the body. These fatty acids can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. The body can survive for as much as two weeks without intake of energy rich foods (fats & carbohydrates) 
  • The brain relies on the glycogen reserves to send glucose to the brain. After day three, the liver begins to synthesize ketones (short strand fatty acids) that can cross the blood-brain barrier. The ketone stage can last for up to two weeks.
  • Once the fat reserves are used up, the body will begin breaking down the musculature into proteins that can be converted into amino acids that are then transformed into glucose. Muscles break down quickly, within one week.
  • Once this process has completed there is no other internal source of energy and the body dies. Signs of starvation include apathy, listlessness, withdrawal, changes in hair color, flaky skin, and massive edema in the abdomen and lower limbs, all of which lead to a higher chance of infection.
  • Most individuals who experience starvation don’t die directly from it. Most die due to infectious diseases that attack the body as it consumes its own defenses.
        4. Shelter (Protection From temp and moisture extremes… or the frequently cited "elements") - A shelter that helps to keep your body at a constant temperature and stable water content - temperature and humidity being the key components of climate - is also a necessity. This could include appropriate clothing.
  • When a person is exposed to "the elements", water and temperature loss is increased.
  • Cold temperatures and high winds can strip away valuable moisture as quickly as high temperatures can cause sweat related loss.
  • A shelter should consist of a place to make fire to create heat as well as protection from the wind and rain.
    • Without the ability to keep a constant temperature and hydration, a person runs the risk of hypothermia or heat stroke.
    • A person’s normal temperature in 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. If the core temperature drops to 91.4, a body will go unconscious. At 86.0 degrees, the body loses the ability to control internal temperature. At 82.4 degrees, there is complete muscle failure.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, a temperature of 107.6 degrees results in a breakdown of the central nervous system. At slightly over 111 degrees, the brain overheats and causes death.
    • Extreme temperature fluctuations can cause hallucinations and illogical behavior, which can cause a person to fail to take the proper steps to keep himself alive.
        5. Rest/Sleep - For a long time sleep was not considered a basic human need. Studies on sleep deprivation helped to change this in the 20th century. In terms of human need, sleep is one of the five most important elements.
  • Sleep deprivation can cause a myriad of problems ranging from decreased body temperature to cognitive impairment and hallucination.
  • Although the mechanisms of sleep are not well understood, the problems associated with lack of sleep are.
    • Headaches can begin as soon as 24 hours after missing sleep.
    • 72 hours in, memory is impaired and temporal and spatial distortion start to occur. 
    • After 96 hours without sleep, cognition is markedly impaired.
    • After 144 hours, hallucinations ensue and there is a considerable loss of attention and manual dexterity.
    • The longer a person goes without sleep the less coherent thought patterns become.
  • This lack of clear thinking can be detrimental on its own, if coupled with a lack in any of the other basic needs areas it could be life threatening.
With minor variation, these same requirements exist for EVERY form of carbon-based life on Earth, except that for most OTHER lifeforms, the specificity is much more limited and intolerant. You do the math... If you need specific numbers I have them. Ask and ye shall receive...

Think about it! Be prepared! Keep your powder dry and your candles lit!

The Smokemaster

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lifeboat Time (comprised largely of a John Michael Greer blog post from 2007)

While David Wasdell was busy formulating the detailed view of what was wrong and how it could affect things, which he presented in Nov 2007 @ Westminster, another person who was clued in to the realities, by the name of John Michael Greer, wrote a cogent blog post that was well worth much greater public attention than it got. His post, "Lifeboat Time" is MUCH more relevant now than it was then, and it was spot on then... BUT it has been taken down in it's original location (The Archdruid Report, linked below, is no longer active) and is now promised for an as yet unidentified future date of hard copy publication. With that in mind, I make it available here, for your consideration.

Lifeboat time
by John Michael Greer, originally published by The Archdruid Report  | Nov 29, 2007 

"One of the more notable news stories of the last week concerned the fate of M/S Explorer, a cruise ship built for polar seas that turned out to be not quite up to the rigors of the job. Before dawn on November 23, while cruising just north of the Antarctic peninsula, she rammed into submerged sea ice, leaving a fist-sized hole in the hull and water coming in faster than her pumps could handle. Fifteen hours later the Explorer was on the bottom of the sea.
Fortunately the captain had the great good sense to order an evacuation well in advance. Even more fortunately, everyone knew what to do, and did it without quibbling. Crew and passengers abandoned all their possessions except the clothes they wore, donned survival suits, climbed into lifeboats, and spent five cold hours watching the Explorer fill up with water and heel over until another ship came to pick them up. Later the same day they were safe at a Chilean coast guard base on the South Shetland Islands, waiting for a plane ride home.
I thought of that story this morning while surveying the latest round of debates about peak oil, global warming, the imploding debt bubble, and half a dozen other symptoms of the unfolding crisis of industrial society now under way. By this point there are few metaphors for crisis more hackneyed than the fatal conjunction of ship and iceberg, but the comparison retains its usefulness because it throws the issues surrounding crisis management into high relief. When the hull’s pierced and water’s rising below decks, the window of opportunity for effective action is brief, and if the water can’t be stopped very soon, it’s lifeboat time.
By almost any imaginable standard, that time has arrived for the industrial world. Debates about whether world petroleum production will peak before 2030 or not miss a point obvious to anybody who’s looked at the figures: world petroleum production peaked in November 2005 at some 86 million barrels of oil a day, and has been declining slowly ever since. So far the gap has been filled with tar sands, natural gas liquids, and other unconventional liquids, all of which cost more than ordinary petroleum in terms of money and energy input alike, and none of which can be produced at anything like the rate needed to supply the world’s rising energy demand. As depletion of existing oil fields accelerates, the struggle to prop up the current production plateau promises to become a losing battle against geological reality.
Meanwhile the carbon dioxide generated by the 84 million barrels a day we’re currently pumping and burning, along with equally unimaginable volumes of coal and natural gas, drives changes in climate that only a handful of oil company flacks and free-market fundamentalists still insist aren’t happening. Worried scientists report from Greenland and West Antarctica that for the first time since measurements began, liquid water is pooling under both these huge continental glaciers – the likely precursor to an ice sheet collapse that could put sea levels up 50 to 60 feet worldwide within our lifetimes.
In related news, Atlanta may just be on the verge of edging out New Orleans as the poster child for climate catastrophe. Unless the crippling years-long drought over the southeast United States gives way to heavy rains very soon, Atlanta will run completely out of drinking water sometime in the new year. The city government has had to explain to worried citizens that they are out of options, and there aren’t enough tanker trucks in all of Dixie to meet the daily water needs of a big city. Nobody is willing to talk about what will happen once the last muddy dregs in the Georgia reservoirs are pumped dry, and the drinking fountains, toilet tanks, and fire hydrants of greater metropolitan Atlanta have nothing to fill them but dust.
As Macchiavelli commented in a different context, though, people care more about their finances than their lives, and even the Atlanta papers have seen the drought shoved off the front page now and then by the latest round of implosions in the world of high finance. For those of my readers who haven’t been keeping score, banks and financial firms around the world spent most of the last decade handing out mortgages to anybody with a pulse, packaging up the right to profit from those mortgages into what may just be the most misnamed “securities” in the history of financial markets, and selling them to investors around the world.
On this noticeably unsteady foundation rose the biggest speculative bubble in recorded history, as would-be real estate moguls borrowed dizzying sums to buy up property they were convinced could only go up in value, while investors whose passion for profit blinded them to the risk of loss snapped up a torrent of exotic financial products whose connection to any significant source of value can be safely described as imaginary. All this hallucinated wealth, though, depended on the theory that people with no income, job, or assets could and would pay their mortgage bills on time, and when this didn’t happen, the whole tower of cards began coming apart. Some of the world’s largest banks have already taken billions of dollars in losses, and nobody is even pretending that the economic carnage is over yet.
Connect the dots and the picture that emerges will be familiar to those of my readers who have taken the time to struggle through the academic prose of How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse. One of the central points of that paper is that the decline and fall of a civilization unfolds in a series of crises separated by incomplete recoveries. The point is not an original one; Arnold Toynbee discussed the same rhythm of breakdown and respite most of a century earlier in his magisterial A Study of History. If that same pattern will shape the fate of our own civilization – and it’s hard to think of a reason why it should not – the second wave of crisis in the decline and fall of the industrial world may be breaking over our heads right now.
No, that wasn’t a misprint. Historians of the future will likely put the peak of modern industrial civilization between 1850 and 1900, when the huge colonial empires of the Euro-American world hit the zenith of their global reach. The first wave in the decline of our civilization lasted from 1929 to 1945, and was followed by a classic partial recovery in which public extravagance masked the disintegration of the imperial periphery. Compare the unsteady, hole-and-corner American economic empire of today with the British Empire’s outright dominion over half the world in 1900, say, and it’s hard to miss the signs of decline.
Today we may well be facing the beginning of the next wave. One advantage this concept offers is the realization that the experience of our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations may offer a useful perspective on what’s coming. In the summer of 1929, nobody I know of predicted the imminent arrival of unparalleled economic disaster, followed by the rise of fascism and the outbreak of the bloodiest war in human history. Such things seemed to be stowed safely away in the distant past. From today’s perspective, though, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that something not unlike the bitter experiences of 1929-1945 – different in detail, surely, but equivalent in scale – may be in the offing.
If that’s likely – and I believe it is – we’re in much the same situation as the passengers of M/V Explorer were last Friday, but with an unwelcome difference. No alarm has been sounded, no order to evacuate announced over the p/a system. The captain and half the crew insist that nothing is wrong, while the other half of the crew insist that everything will be all right if they can only replace the current captain with another of their own choosing. The only warning being given comes from a handful of passengers who took the time to glance down into the hold and saw the water rising there, and while some people are listening to the bad news, next to nobody’s making any preparations for what could be a very, very rough time immediately ahead.
Those of my readers who have been paying attention know already that the preparations I have in mind don’t include holing up in a mountain cabin with crates of ammunition, stacks of gold bars, and way too many cans of baked beans in the pantry. Nor do they involve signing onto the latest crusade to throw one batch of scoundrels out of office so another batch of scoundrels can take its place. Rather, I’m thinking of a couple of friends of mine who are moving from the east coast megalopolis where they’ve spent most of their adult lives to a midwestern city small enough that they can get by without a car. I’m thinking of the son-in-law of another friend who is setting up a forge and learning blacksmithying in his spare time, so he’ll have a way of earning a living when his service economy job evaporates out from under him. I’m thinking of another couple of friends who just moved back to his aging parents’s farm to help keep it running.
For a great many people just now, actions like those are unthinkable, and even the simplest steps to prepare for financial crisis – paying down debts, reining in expenditures, making sure savings are in federally insured banks rather than the imaginary economy of paper assets, and putting by extra food in the cupboard and useful supplies in the shed to deal with the spot shortages and business bankruptcies that usually accompany economic crisis – are off the radar screen. That’s unfortunate, because some tolerably simple changes made now, while there’s still time to make them, could spare a lot of people a lot of grief not that far down the road.
It’s no fun to be jolted out of bed before dawn by a warning siren, and told that you have to head for the nearest lifeboat station, leaving everything behind but the clothes on your back. It’s even less fun to climb down into an open lifeboat in 20°F weather, knowing you’ll be tossed around on the gray Antarctic seas until somebody responds to the SOS – if anybody does. Still, add up all the unpleasantness of both and they’re still preferable to a last-minute scramble for survival on a sinking ship, when half the lifeboats and survival suits are already under water and the deck is heeling over so fast the other half may be out of reach.
Millions of people went through some approximation of that last experience between 1929 and 1945. Millions more may undergo the same sort of thing once the current crisis gets under way. There’s been plenty of talk about peak oil and the twilight of the industrial world, and that’s been useful in its way, but talk doesn’t substitute for constructive action when lifeboat time arrives." 
After reading this, ask yourself - Can we keep the ship of state afloat with sufficient change in culture, economy, and society? It will pretty much mean rebuilding the ship from the keel up, such that we no longer operate anything like the way we have... and doing that while we are still at sea. 

The alternative is identify the lifeboats and get in them in an orderly fashion, because, as the author says  -
"It’s no fun to be jolted out of bed before dawn by a warning siren, and told that you have to head for the nearest lifeboat station, leaving everything behind but the clothes on your back. It’s even less fun to climb down into an open lifeboat in 20°F weather, knowing you’ll be tossed around on the gray Antarctic seas until somebody responds to the SOS – if anybody does.
Still, add up all the unpleasantness of both and they’re still preferable to a last-minute scramble for survival on a sinking ship, when half the lifeboats and survival suits are already under water and the deck is heeling over so fast the other half may be out of reach. Millions of people went through some approximation of that last experience between 1929 and 1945. Millions more may undergo the same sort of thing once the current crisis gets under way. [Ed. Note: they have] There’s been plenty of talk about peak oil and the twilight of the industrial world, and that’s been useful in its way, but talk doesn’t substitute for constructive action when lifeboat time arrives."
Remember, there is no one to respond once we are in the life boats, and he was writing this in 2007 just before the last collapse. We are now facing collapse #3 and business is no longer, and can no longer be, "as usual". If and when we get into the lifeboats this time, we take up oars and row for shore, wherever we think that is, and we start over, from scratch. Maybe you should not leave everything behind except the clothes on your back. Bring your pocketknife and some matches...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The bottom line is TRANSFORMATION

As Naomi Klein says, frequently "There are no solution options left on the table that are not radical." I've found myself having to make this case rather forcefully with a number of people lately who are very much inclined to be "sustainable" but they have great difficulty letting go of the idea that sustainability CAN NOT/DOES NOT mean "greening up" stuff that we do now. They don't get that "going green" wasn't probably EVER a functional response but that it's just not even in the solution window now. Recycling all your cans and using helical light bulbs is so far short of the mark that it almost doesn't move the needle onto the scale. Change really HAS to be  T-R-A-N-S-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N-A-L!! Don't take a page from the "Amish book" - Buy The Book!!!

Further more, it's worth noting that in the same period of the last 6 months I have seen a huge number of folks who have the same romantic notions about "being sustainable" that some white folks here (in the US) had about "being indigenous" about 100 years ago. "The noble red man, aligned with nature, continues to live... blah, blah, blah" and while said "noble red men" have never completely lost track of their culture and heritage, they will be the first to tell you that it wasn't about nobility. It was about doing the best you can under varying circumstances, and it was about a lot of hard work, pretty much all the time. It was also about community that worked together and had not lost its ever present sense of what community means.

These "nouveau natural" people (same genetic lines as the pseudo-indigenous, I'm pretty sure) think they've gotten sustainability religion and what they've gotten is a romantic image of Grandma canning peaches with the scent of the rich peach-ness floating on the air, mingled with cinnamon and clove. The aroma therapy is great, but the vision lacks substance. These folks have not/are not thinking about planting and growing the trees that the peaches came from, protecting the saplings against "too cold" conditions, or "too hot" conditions, recognizing that you will be sharing some of the crop with the birds, and insects (or badgers as the case may be) and so you do what is realistic to make sure that you grow enough for everybody AND you bust a hump when they are ripe to get them off the tree and into the house.

Being ready to light the fire and spin into action on short notice for the canning requirements of the moment as various thinks hit their optimum ripeness and you have to can them before they get past prime, the cleanup and spin-up again, hot on the heals of cleanup if necessary. Getting all the jars ready to rock, with fastidious attention to detail, because slack in the canning department is poison in the winter - Hell, HAVING enough jars to handle the load - most people have NO idea how many jars it takes to can up a winter's worth of food (or more), or for that matter how productive the garden has to be.  Quite obviously, the list goes on...

So, while we are busy engineering the transition I think it is CRITICAL that we remain clear about what we are transitioning to. If it's not transformational relative to now, it's not the right place. How to recover the baby we threw out with the bathwater... that is not a pretty picture to contemplate but if that baby is still alive we NEED to recover it, not just try to make a new one.

Prepare yourself - we are getting ready for the "great reveal" when we discover how much no-shit real work was being done that tempted Western culture to use human slavery first and then hydro-carbon chemical energy slaves and then in a (potentially final) burst of market capitalism excess, newly re-enslaved people as wage slaves to ride herd on the energy slaves for them. Witness the rise and fall of the oligarch supreme. TRANSFORMATION - because hanging on to the tattered remnants of the greatest fail in human history is our death warrant. TRANSFORMATION - because the fundamental survival of life relies on evolution, and the rule of evolution is that when conditions become unsustainable, you change locations, you change your way of being, or you die!