To Make the Impossible Mission… Possible
The message is two-fold:
1. Not only are we fucked, but it’s coming much sooner than we expected. It’s coming in the first half of this century, not the second. By 2050 life for all but the simplest and most well-protected species on this planet will almost certainly be impossible, except for small numbers in a few marginal areas.
2. The whole issue of mitigation and the need for activism is now more-or-less moot. Even if we were to collectively and massively change our behaviour starting tomorrow, it would only delay collapse by a few years, and quite possible make the collapse even more catastrophic. Until recently there was at least a chance that perhaps a combination of behaviour change and the reduced availability of cheap fossil fuels might combine to pull us back from the brink, or at least make a much-changed and simpler life possible for a much smaller population of humans and other creatures. That chance is gone.
And here’s our collective global mission impossible:
If we want to not die, then we need to stop doing the things that are going to kill us… We need deindustrialization, and we need to wring the bloody neck of capitalism, before hanging it, drawing it, quartering it, and setting the remaining bits of its corpse on fire to make sure it can’t rise from the dead like the unholy zombie that it is… This is all to say, I can’t fight my enemies and my allies at the same time. Liberals, lefties, environmentalists and everyone else who purports to give a damn has to give up on being capitalism apologists who somehow think we can keep this gravy train of mass consumption going.
I would have posted the entire essay, I think it’s that important for our collective spiritual well being, which Dave Pollard titled: Preparing For Collapse: Non-Attachment, not Detachment. I think it’s a Buddhist flavored essay, though Dave does not claim it to be. Instead I posted the videos I found linked early on in the essay, and then the few points I did pull from it.
I don’t think there would be a will to change even now that it may be too late. That’s part of my own version of non attachment. As John Duffy wrote: “If we want to not die, then we need to stop doing the things that are going to kill us…” Now that we’ve created these complex societies, we don’t really have a collective will to live that comes from each individual. We have institutional mandates and people just go to work. That broader spectrum will to change is out of our hands. Too many are willing to give it away. We’ve traded the guidelines for life that nature sets for our own technologically based institutions, thinking we could out play nature’s game. Nature always bats last, she always has home field advantage. We are just visitors.
Perhaps this is more than most can grapple with, but…:
Dave Pollard wrote:
The climate scientists, abetted by the ecological economists, have pronounced the certain and imminent (i.e. within most of our lifetimes) death of the vast majority of life on our planet, including the human species. Now, we can mourn. Most of our human family will continue to fall into one of the three categories of non-acceptance of this pronouncement that I wrote about in my If We Had a Better Story Could We Tell the Truth? post:
(Edit: Pollard prefaces the following three groups with this:
Recently, to my surprise, it’s become more acceptable to tell the grim truth about our civilization. Still not acceptable, mind you, but every once in a while when I do, I’ll notice someone nodding at me, giving me a sad smile, a quiet signal of comprehension and appreciation.
There are three (very large) groups to whom one cannot usefully or comfortably (or sometimes even safely) tell these truths:)
1. The incredulous: Those who either know so little or haven’t had the opportunity to think about what they know, that they find the idea of collapse preposterous, unimaginable, and/or unthinkable.
2. The hopeful: Those who believe that collapse is not inevitable or can be significantly mitigated, or believe that even if it is inevitable and can’t be significantly mitigated, we should try anyway.
3. The deniers: Those who are intimidated or offended by, or overwhelmed with anger and/or guilt at, the very idea of collapse.
Guy MacPherson in his Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin presentation linked earlier in this post lists 8 big positive feedbacks that are already set in motion. He says these are the factors that everybody is consciously ignoring that begin to occur with a rise of just 2 degrees centigrade in the atmospheric temperature of the earth, which he argues has already occurred. (He begins a discussion of these 8 positive feedbacks at about 7 minutes into his presentation. By positive feedbacks he’s referring to self perpetuating processes that will feed the increase of the climate conditions that will cause rapid, non linear and unpredictable climate responses along with an inevitable rise in global temperatures to as much as 16 degrees — and he explains what that will mean, like temperatures in some areas soaring to 170 degrees Centigrade. He has the phrase: ‘Climate chaos (with positive feedbacks)’ up on the screen for a fair part of the early part of his talk.
Feedback 1 at about 11:30 minutes: Arctic Ocean methane hydrates (Science, March 2010) (this is related to your point, poly, about the Gulf Stream shooting past Greenland and up into the Arctic Ocean).
This is causing an ice free arctic ocean, with less reflective ice and more deep blue coloring to absorb heat from the sun. (Science, January 2011) Feedback 2, about 14 minutes into the presentation.
At the same time the warmed air from the warmer waters are warming the air over Siberia. Thus we get Feedback 3, increasing methane gas releasing across the arctic tundra. (Tellus, February February 2011) Around 14:30 in. These methane vents the scientists were looking at went in one year from being around a foot in diameter to a kilometer.
I.e., rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses.
In 2010 a profound drought in the Amazon Rainforest caused it’s natural decomposition rate to rise to a point where its carbon emissions exceeded all the carbon emissions from fossil fuels in the U.S. for that year. (Science, Feb. 2011). Feedback 4. (Around 15:30 minutes)
Boreal Peat is drying from heat and as it dries it releases carbon directly into the atmosphere, the warmer it gets the more it dries, the more it releases. (Nature Communications, November 2011). Feedback 5. (Around 16:10 minutes)
Antarctic methane has been triggered (Nature, August 2012) Feedback 6. (About 16:30 minutes)
Russian Forest and bog fires have grown in recent years. (NASA, August 2012) Feedback 7 (16:39 minutes)
The above seven apparently are irreversible, but eight is reversible:
Drilling in the Arctic increasing because the Arctic Ice is disappearing in the summer. Feedback 8. (17:05) The Obama Administration recently fast tracked drilling in the Arctic.
Political response?: Barack Obama (14 November 2012): “If the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, ….I won’t go for that”
The one piece of potential good news is that none of these eight positive feedbacks include economic collapse. Economic collapse, therefore, offers us one faint glimmer of hope. I offers us a potential way that our own positive feedback corporate industrial insanity to keep doing what we do can be cured. It may be the one possible factor that may somehow prevent the worst scenario of runaway greenhouse gases jacking the global temperature up into the uninhabitable range.
Embracing the potential for economic collapse and working to find new ways to live at the local level is the message that keeps coming out of all of this dire analysis. He goes through the list of what anyone of us with half a brain knows will happen if any politician even breathes a hint of this where it can be published. He points to the demise of Dennis Kucinich’s career as one example. He brings in a discussion of the rise of the security state with the militarization of the police just to point out that somewhere deep in the secretive halls of our government there is some notion that something like economic collapse may be possible.
That is why people like Derrick Jensen advocate for actively bringing down industrial based economies, in other words, he says bring down civilization. He has a better imagination than I have. There aren’t many scenarios I can imagine where that could ever be accomplished intentionally now, other than by individuals quietly throwing down their tools and walking away, much as I imagined soldiers would throw down their guns and just walk away and end the insanity of Vietnam.
Then we will all just sensibly, practically, with a now fully awake collective consciousness begin to develop a whole new economic way of life that would be based locally on creating sustainable life support ways of living, conscious of the importance of respecting the environmental systems that we don’t, can’t control on this planet, systems we understand enough to know that we can’t live without them. Living locally with environmental feedbacks that are under any given small communities control. While this could possibly satisfy the basics that we need to live decent lives, water, food, shelter and community, there is no ignoring human addiction to more.