24 March 2009

We Have a Choice

as civilization collapses, we're going to see horrific scarcities, creating massive personal and collective stresses that will break both individuals (to the point of suicide, terrorism and murder) and nations (to the point of insurrection, civil war, and anarchy -- a hundred Afghanistans). We're going to see dreadful pandemic diseases and poverty and famine that will be utterly shattering, like the abject horror the world witnessed during the Irish potato famine where millions simply sat around, hopeless and increasingly gaunt, until they died an agonizing death alongside those they loved and couldn't save. We're going to see the kind of spiritual vacuum and decay that is eating Russia and the former Soviet republics alive today, with population and life expectancy plummeting, drug addiction at epidemic levels, and crime and gang violence out of control. It is nature's last and most reluctant way of restoring to sustainable populations species whose numbers and voraciousness have run amok.

Or, as an alternative, we could be sensible and tackle the problems facing us - climate change, deforestation, overfishing, overpopulation, peak oil, peak water, poverty - seriously, not with political posturing and soundbites, and maybe come out the other side.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that we're all extremely good at defining the problem but rubbish at thinking up even remotely viable solutions. It looks increasingly like we're facing a natural cull AND a manufactured triage at the precipice.

Glyn Moody said...

I agree, but does it *have* to be this way? I mean, we humans have done some clever stuff in the past: couldn't we just try a little harder?

Anonymous said...

That's like asking 'why can't we all just get along?'. Of course it doesn't have to be the way it is but what other way is viable? How can we change our ways en masse? Mr. Pollard illustrates how change is normally brought about in a naturalistic sense and unless someone can come up with a truly earth shattering strategy, the world will slough off a good number of us.

I'm hopeful that a better understanding of ourselves made possible by such illuminating movements as open source/data/education, business transparency, true democracy will buy us a few minutes before a collapse but unless we invent free energy or witness the second coming, it'll be Mad Max meets Soylent Green in the high street!

Glyn Moody said...

Well, I think it's a level up: it's asking why we can't listen to the people who know what they're talking about - scientists and engineers - and start doing something major.

But I agree absolutely about the importance of the ideas behind open source/data/educations...which is partly why I write this blog.

Jaakko H. said...

Interesting discussion / good points / awfully good questions.

I'm quite sure that part of the answer is that we would actually try _less_. Try to think less about ourselves and more about the world. Try to understand that maybe, just maybe the productivity gains of 10-20x of the last century or so -- or whatever number you want to put on it -- could be used a bit differently. How much is enough? How much do want to push the limits of life and at what cost (that may be away from something else)?

Luckily the Web makes not only communicating and interaction among people much easier but also enable to do many things in profoundly different ways. And that's something that people -- we -- should _really_ think about. Even more.

I'm somehow optimistic. Thomas Friedman has said very nicely in relation to solving the world's problems that we have just enough time to solve the problems -- starting now.

(OK, he's probably borrowed that from somebody but it's still well said.)

I think that the web has empowered us to such a great level that there's no hiding anymore behind the traditional point that one person can't change much.

Glyn Moody said...

@Jaakko: yes, I too remain stubbornly optimistic, in part because of the various open movements that I write about: it seems that they - and their implications - do give us *some* hope...