My thoughts about culture and our present conditions. As Dianne Moore says in Learning to Love a Wounded World, "This requires a willingness to feel everything…. the horror and the beauty of what is here…. the fear and the Love.”

Eco Sanity

On not trying to beat a dead civilization to make it stand up again

I agree wholeheartedly with Manning’s and others’ assessment of the ecological contradiction that is the process of creating vast monocultures for the survival purposes of one single species. I’m thinking here of a recent youtube interview with environmental journalist Richard Manning as I compose this post. Here’s a link to that video:

Richard Manning: “Things Are Going to Get A Lot Worse. Life Will Never Be the Same Again”

However, I also feel there’s a factor that does not get fair and equal billing that is a systemic part of agriculture. Nearly all who go after agriculture as a root and therefore logically linear cause tend to fail to observe that it is not a linear progression from the discovery of doing agriculture to the development of cities. Cities and agriculture co-evolved as systems. We don’t tend to think in systems so we often have difficulties recognizing them.

Agriculture as practiced with the rise of cities became a monocultural process taking over habitats, as Manning notices early in the conversation, that would not have been needed without the populations that clustered in another form of habitat monocultural transformation, cities. Cities and their trade routes.

If you study the collapse of complex societies, and discover books by investigators of the process like Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies, first published in 1988, the correlation between energy and complexity becomes clear. If you don’t want to read the book, he gives a pretty easy to follow synopsis of his argument in this youtube talk of “Why Societies Collapse and What it Means for Us“. Throughout he invites us to draw our own conclusions.

Cities and agriculture clearly share a co evolutionary dynamic, and it’s that dynamic that would have had to have been addressed quite some time ago, and was not. I’ve concluded it could not be. Thus my dour perspective on our circumstances. If I want to bring about depression I just try to imagine getting these complex institutional arrangements that make up the civic centers that, linked together, are the whole of global civilization, to consciously simplify themselves. That’s actually what collapse will be, a simplification process. Ironically, our social complexity is the result of our monocultural self-centered efforts at extracting maximum energy from the earth, that, coincidentally, destroys the natural complexities that make up the higher, more sustainable levels of succession. Human social complexity is a contradiction to biological complexity.

I don’t see any way that an intentional complexity reversal could have ever happened. Not through any en mass form of intentionality, such as that proposed and fantasized through the notion of democracy. Some of us may opt out individually, but that’s just not enough to have much effect on the whole. We are the weirdos, the kooks to be laughed at and reviled,  Sometimes we can be a little more than individuals as minor movements and cults. We are not necessarily stupid as a species individually. But as history has shown, over and over, we are not very good at holistic perceptions through our complex, institutionally-based societies.

Jane Jacobs made an eye opening case for that very human-based feature back in the sixties with her revolutionary thoughts she expressed in her book, a book that many “experts” in academia at the time tried to ignore at the time, The Economy of Cities. In it she makes the simple but glaring recognition that cities and agriculture are codependent on each other.

She does not make the case that together they create a kind of monocultural disease.  Maybe she would have with what has emerged from the process today. But she does reveal the systemic logic of their inescapable relationship.

Therefore, if you want to reverse the habitat destruction of agriculture, the city must be included in that whole problem, you can’t just go after agriculture as the source of the problem. Well, I’d say that’s unthinkable enough of a problem for a large portion of humanity participating in the system for it to be an impossibility no matter how much information is thrown into the works of complex societies.

The ontology of complexity is like an artificial intelligence, a Matrix if you will, that takes over as a kind of mind control, though not in the authoritarian sense of that. People willingly participate, and the word for that is hegemony.  Here’s how Stan Goff puts it in a quaint little presentation about the fears of tyranny in our pseudo democratic society or what Sheldon Wolin came to call just before his death an “inverted totalitarian” system:

It’s much easier to exercise control over a population whenever they consent to their own domination. They sort of accept the official story, accept the official ideology and then we all just sort of go around and cooperate. That kind of control, where we internalize the control, is hegemony. Where when I come up and hold a gun on you and you do it out of naked fear, that’s coercion. And the idea is you’ve got sort of hegemony on one pole exercising ruling class power, and coercion on the other pole, and as hegemony fails then coercion becomes the more prominent instrument.

People adapt to the institutions and what they create, not the other way around. Complexity becomes the ecological environment. It is not that people themselves are stupid, it’s just that we as a species adapt through culture, and we learn the rules of our culture from birth, and those rules, arbitrary to a great extent, are the world to us. That’s what I learned by studying cultural anthropology.

Consider the probability that no one single dynamic will enable our individual attempts to create a broad, institutional awareness.  No matter how insightful my individual book, or another’s perceptive insightful journalistic reporting, like Manning’s, the societal system seems to marshal on, its steps moving with beating to its own ontological drum. Societal understanding all works together as a kind of ecological system of its own, including info-tainment as the “news” that informs everyone about how the world works and helps to form attitudes. Jacques Ellul back in the sixties called it sociological propaganda. Referencing Ellul in the introduction to their work in the late eighties, Chomsky and Herman called it Manufacturing Consent.

I personally was riveted by some dire perspectives when I began my studies after my four year stint with the military during (and in) the Vietnam era.  Naturally my mind was very open and awaiting some way to explain the problems I had been awakened to by what to me was a huge societal mistake. People who were actually in and part of the Green Revolution in the late sixties and early seventies began to recognize the systemic problems that were part of civilization’s experiment in adapting to this planet, and I benefited from their discoveries and wisdom while studying at one of the primary Green Revolution-invested universities; we called it Moo U, otherwise known as Michigan State University. It was especially well known for its advances in the industrial technology of dairy farming, thus the moniker “Moo U”.  I studied cultural anthropology and I expanded my studies to an ecology program that was put together by some of those awakened upstarts in the agricultural departments of MSU and other universities of that kind, one of whom walked into one of my first classes in the program and slammed down his most recent book on table next to the lectern, a book predicting the water problems we are actually facing today. He looked at our startled faces for a moment then he announced in a forceful voice: “The Green Revolution is Dead!” That was 1972. It was dead, he told us, because it’s killing us and the environment, it’s dead because it is not in principle sustainable.

There’s much individual insight and radical thinking to be found in universities, perhaps more than in other parts of complex societies, but in the end, to survive, they must be part of the process of manufacturing consent.  And agricultural colleges tend to get a lot of their research grant funding from institutions like Monsanto and Dupont.  MSU was no exception.  So this little upstart department that came about in the early 70’s, talking about the death of the Green Revolution, did little to change the overall purpose of the university, and on its industrial ag programs have gone since then.

After all, the myth that an individual can change whole attitudes of millions of people and bring them to see the world in conscious ways is just that, a myth that works with all the other systems to keep a society going. The dynamic of people telling me I’m wrong about where all this is heading and having plenty of support for their reasons from the system is part of it.

So I’ve been living with that basic understanding about creating monocultures and watching as humans form the whole earth into one vast human-centered monoculture since I began studying cultural anthropology and ecology in the early 70s.

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On Biodiversity and Civilization

In a discussion that followed my last post, my friend Ogun linked an excruciating-for-me-to-read essay that defends the need for biodiversity from a number of attacks coming from the various think tanks that are part of the current machinery we call industrial civilization.  This is an extremely important topic linking with my recent posts, especially because of its relationship with the concept of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, which is about the topic of over extending a human presence in all the habitats of this planet.  That relationship is one of potentially dire consequences, not just for the human species, but for the biodiversity of all species on this planet.  So I want to bring that part of the discussion up top, out of the more or less visually subdued section called “Leave a comment” under these topics.  So here I am replicating my reply to Ogun because he’s linked such an important addition to these posts:

Thank you for the essay: In Defense of Biodiversity: Why Protecting Species from Extinction Matters. That’s an excruciatingly heart-rending essay for me to read. All my years of assessing civilization and its human arrogance that so many mistake for intelligence are recalled in the writer’s own efforts to see a relationship between humans and the living planet. All that I’ve surmised to be of equal importance to the human species is once again being questioned by the machinery of civilization, and I suspect in that questioning will come even more excuses to destroy biodiversity.

This guy, Elon Musk, has become a spokesperson of hope for civilization. He’s wealthy beyond most of our capacities to imagine wealth. For many he is a kind of hero because he’s using his wealth for “good”. In a similar vein, Donald Trump is looked at as a hero who is using his wealth for good by “draining the swamp” and making “America Great Again”.

Some people who are leery of computers and some technology are listening when Elon Musk says:

“AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

But seldom are they leery of civilization itself so they agree with him. I do agree about AI, but I don’t when he adds the word “civilization” to his sentence. The following thoughts also flow with that essay that defends biodiversity:

One thought I have about AI: If machines are Artificial Intelligence, what would Genuine Intelligence (GI) be?

Institutions are a kind of machine, a technology designed for a purpose. Civilizations are made up of institutions, both private and public. People adapt themselves to the institutions as if they were machine parts, they follow orders, do what they are told to help any given institution achieve its purpose, or they go elsewhere, that’s why machines can replace them. Clever people. Create machines to replace themselves.

Civilizations have proven to be not very intelligent when it comes to long term sustainability within the natural, biological order of this planet, the only planet we actually know where such an order exists, an order not created by machines. They tend to destroy their environments as the institutions busily work to achieve their purposes, then collapse. That’s been the observed 10,000 or so year history of civilizations, or complex societies as some tend to call them.

I suggest civilization as a whole is a kind of AI. People who have adapted to civilizations have adapted to an artificial intelligence as a survival strategy, giving up much of their innate humanity in the process… their feelings for cold, in other words, sociopathic rationality, their emotional intelligence for a rational intelligence at which machines excel, their intuitions of which machines have none, their empathy for other living beings of which machines are not.

I’m not, never have been very interested in being a part of a society where I have to pretend to be a machine to be alive. That’s made me a kind of living stranger in a strange land, to quote the title of a provocative science fiction novel. The question I’ve often asked, then, what choices have I really had? Civilizations as giant mechanical institutional systems tend to grind out the indigenous cultural survival strategies that might actually offer us choices. That process we call colonization. It’s often done with the slogan that “we” the superior civilized beings are improving the lives of the ignorant savages. But maybe they and their simple societies are the GI.

Calling societies that are “civilized” complex, and calling ecosystems that are diverse — and therefore at the upper stages of what we who pay attention to ecology call succession — complex are actually kind of paradoxical in their final analysis. An ecology that is complex, a climax succession ecology, is a complexity that produces a kind of habitat stability, although much is going on within that habitat on an ongoing basis that is rich with living activity among the species. Unless something comes along to disrupt it, such a climax succession ecology can persist indefinitely in state of biodiversity balance.

That is not true of a complex human society. A complex human society is a kind of machine that destroys its habitat’s biodiversity for its own purpose, creating low level succession habitats, or “monocultures” such as you will see stretching all over the flat, vegetatively fecund loess soils of the world as monoculture crop lands, where the machinery of civilization busies itself carefully removing all competitive plant life in the process. This is part of a complex system that feeds the machinery of civilization, including the self-made machines that drive to work in little wheeled machines every day on the freeways to work as machines in purpose driven technologies we call institutions, all working together in a complex of machinery we call civilization.

A couple other “insignificant” examples of the paradox, and these can be multiplied exponentially into a morass of civilized complexity: mountain tops are removed to gain access to short term, finite energy sources in order to fuel the growth of complex societies we call civilization. Whatever complex level of succession that happened to be in place is removed as well. And so on. The oceans’ complex ecologies that “magically” provide edible protein called fish are now harvested with sophisticated technologies that complex societies can create, and the ecosystems there are reduced to low level successions of whatever minimal forms of life that might be left over.

And so on.

And civilization’s institutions and its web of meaning manipulations called sociological propaganda will logically manufacture meanings for doing this as well as the consent of the humans who have become machines within and now rely on civilization for their daily existence. Let us not worry about the future.


Abrupt Anthropogenic Sixth Mass Extinction and it’s Correlate, Climate Change

What is the meaning of “abrupt” in this instance?… Here’s a suggested working definition from scientists: Abrupt means any changes occurring faster than we, as a species, are prepared to maintain a living relationship with. A mass extinction is one of those abrupt change results. Through science we have been able to deduce that in the entire history of evolutionary life on this planet there have been five such abrupt changes affecting mass numbers of species before now. We have a pretty good record of how fast species died out, and in what time frame for all those five.

In the following talk, Guy McPherson, an evolutionary biologists, discusses the changes that are taking place on our planet, on a planetary systems-related scale, at this moment. Some of these changes are of the paradoxical double bind nature. Dr McPherson has been and will no doubt continue to be attacked for presenting this science-based information in this straight forward manner.

Individually we adapt to this set of living arrangements we tend to call industrial civilization. Industrial civilization, we tend to forget to notice most of the time, is our species’ current global-wide macro adaption to the planet. Thus, individually we busy ourselves throughout our lives with micro adapting to this set of living arrangements. The sum total of this set of living arrangements is our species macro adaption; individually we simply fit ourselves to that macro pattern by making the choices it offers us. IF that macro adaption is in the end lethal to the living habitats of this planet that any given species is adapting to, there are scientifically known results of that adaption strategy for any given species over the history of life’s evolution on this planet.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts on this site, civilization appears at the moment to be a kind of habitat virus infection in nearly all the habitats on this planet. I find that to be a deeply saddening proposition to think about. But in the end, my feelings are meaningless to the whole of life because they are actually only part of my own micro adaption of my lifetime. Individually we simply can’t do much to affect the macro adaption process.

Dr. Guy McPherson:


Systems thinking, CO2, Methane, Permafrost and Craters

Mystery as HUGE craters emerge in Russia: Scientist claims they are major warning to world

subtext:

MYSTERIOUS giant craters 50ft wide have begun appearing in northern Siberia as temperatures rise in the region.

 

I’ve been trying to keep track of the science on these crater events since they first got noticed back in 2014. I think the key points in the article are in synch with the the common observations that have been coming out since the first crater was discovered. The theme is, the tundra is melting. The melting releases both CO2 and methane. This has happened before. Yes, true, but the last time the geologic record tells us it happened was 130,000 years ago, and that permafrost melting happened over thousands of years. This one is happening over decades. While the actual sinkholes remain an unresolved phenomenon by the strict, objective standards of science, the melting of the permafrost has become much more thoroughly understood.

If you see the world from a systems view, which is the view I learned while studying ecology back in the early 70s, then you can begin to imagine the entire earth as a complete system. There are also systems within systems to take into account. Systems within systems are connected and with that connection you get feedback loops. What’s happening with the melting of the permafrost is part of a positive feedback loop process.

Positive feed backs can accelerate effects in a geometric fashion. Thus a linear projection of global warming can quickly become a geometric effect with an acceleration of the warming. That’s ecology and systems thinking 101. One of the first principles needed to be learned to understand systems thinking.

If you don’t teach system thinking in the education system, people don’t even get a chance learn what it is and therefore can’t make a deeper, richer sense of this kind of interconnecting, narrative enhancing information. IF people can’t put together an interconnecting narrative (why do we love storytelling and especially mythological storytelling? I’d suggest because it helps to build a sense of wholeness in our understanding of the world), their understanding of scattered bits of information presented in various ways through media remains peripheral, isolated, and fails to become part of a general narrative about what’s going on in the world.

I’m feeling very safe in saying people like Donald Trump never were exposed to this way of thinking, or if they were, they were successful in ignoring them. Why do I feel safe with this view? Because I brought it to my job as a systems analyst and strategic planning consultant, which I sold as a skill to corporations like the ones run by Trump and other CEOs. Their “art” of making “deals” has no relationship to this level of systemic understanding of the entire world. Their skills are isolated events that are considered successes in the moment, but no consideration is given to the long term systemic feed backs they may cause. They relied on nerds like me to pay attention to that, and in their corporate reality, in their world view of making the deal and solving the short term problems of keeping their corporations profitable to keep their stockholders happy, and therefore being a success, we were mostly in the way. At best they might breeze through the executive summary of a 250 page systems analysis and strategic plan we labored to put together for them.

Unfortunately these are the people making decisions about what goes into causing some of these positive feedback loops. It’s like, if your body had a fever, and your doctor told you what infection was causing that fever, and what you were doing to enhance that infection, rather than inhibit it, and you blissfully ignored that advice and went right on with your addictive behavior that was actually the cause, your body may not, in fact, probably would not be able to compensate for the infection, and the chance of it killing you would accelerate as the infection sets in and spreads all through the body.
(more…)


Apocalypse soon?

As I write I am thinking of one of my first in-depth population studies — I chose to study lemmings — when I was studying ecology in one of the state universities responsible for instigating the Green Revolution (a big ten Michigan school) around 1972 when Limits to Growth came out, and, given what I was discovering in my studies, and given that some of the big names responsible then for the Green Revolution were coming to our classes, giving guest lectures, telling us the Green Revolution had already been wiped out then, I took the lessons to heart.  The various computer modeled predictions then were somewhat grim, but among the warnings was one scenario suggesting that if civilization started then, it could save itself the worst of the collapse calamities, even create a decent and sustainably stable human world on this planet before the worst case scenario came inevitably about.

It appeared, for a few years at least, and nearly all the way through the Carter Administration, that the rest of the nation was heeding the warnings as well.  Public schools were quickly instituting environmental education programs to begin developing a crop of aware citizens who could pitch in intelligently to deal with the real threat the Limits to Growth computer modelings projected.

Then along came the corporate backlash to big bad government regulations along with a coordinated backlash against the influential bad seed of liberal public education programs, and we the people got their front man, the now “heroic” presidential figure, Ronald Reagan, and with his smiling face came a systematic propaganda program instigated through corporate owned media (otherwise known with true Orwellian flair as “liberal” media) that puts Wilson’s Creel Committee, perhaps even Goebbel’s work in bringing frenzy to Nazi Germany, at the primary school level of propaganda.

Shrink government  — as a regulating force at least, maybe not the military, no not that — take the chains off those Sampsons, our free market entrepreneurial business heroes, and let them make America wealthy (again, as if America hadn’t just gone through its most extensive height of overall wealth achievement in its history following WWII). That was the corporate cry to renewed patriotic glory that their front man espoused.  And enough of the masses loved it.

So we are suffering its legacy today, though everyone is so confused we can no longer explain in simple terms what lies at the source of that suffering.  Hoards of conservative minions, once middle class workers, many once union workers and democrats, are now programmed to despise anything liberal, which, it turns out, includes anything democratic, which most now think of as socialism.  And, of course, environmentalism was carefully crafted early on — thanks to the threat of the newly devised and signed into law by Nixon EPA — to be a liberal, even democratic idea.  So if you are a conservative minion, you’ve been programmed through Rush Limbaugh, et al, to automatically reject anything environmental.

It might have just been another round of relatively harmless and humorous human folly that historians could look back upon with some laughs, except for the actual devastating effect it’s had and continues to exponentially have on the very basis of life on our mutually shared and fragile layer of living biosphere of this lonely living planet floating in an otherwise starkly cold and biologically uninviting universe.

Since then, both Democrat and Republican politicians, spear headed by either party’s Chief Executive in the Oval Office, have gone back to the economic addiction of human progress as an infinite growth global economy model, along with a general attitude of screw the environment as anything other than merely humanity’s God given resource gift and handy garbage dump.  No one can hope to be elected to the presidency in 2012 without having some plan to grow the economy, to mine more resources (and, ahem, destroy more of the environment through fracking, tapping oil under the Arctic Ocean as the ice recedes, and squeezing oil from shale) whether it’s by the Keynesian style or the Austrian free market theories.

Unfortunately that forty-some year old computer program that predicted a collapse of socioeconomic order and massive drop in human population in the 21st Century appears to be dead on target.  Not so much theory, like economics, but fact. Researchers at MIT have again revisited the program, updated the data, guaged the tragectory predicted, and now they think we may already be running in midair air, just like Wiley E. Coyote when he runs off a cliff chasing the Road Runner.  We are about to drop.

No, the following article does not come from one of those supermarket check out stand rags that tell you about the latest UFO findings, nor is it one of the latest conspiracy theories from prisonplanet.com.  It comes from Scientific American.

Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return? May 23, 2012

Dennis Meadows, professor emeritus of systems policy at the University of New Hampshire who headed the original M.I.T. team and revisited World3 in 1994 and 2004, has an even darker view. The 1970s program had yielded a variety of scenarios, in some of which humanity manages to control production and population to live within planetary limits (described as Limits to Growth). Meadows contends that the model’s sustainable pathways are no longer within reach because humanity has failed to act accordingly.

Instead, the latest global data are tracking one of the most alarming scenarios, in which these variables increase steadily to reach a peak and then suddenly drop in a process called collapse. In fact, “I see collapse happening already,” he says. “Food per capita is going down, energy is becoming more scarce, groundwater is being depleted.” Most worrisome, Randers notes, greenhouse gases are being emitted twice as fast as oceans and forests can absorb them. Whereas in 1972 humans were using 85 percent of the regenerative capacity of the biosphere to support economic activities such as growing food, producing goods and assimilating pollutants, the figure is now at 150 percent—and growing.


Reunion in the wild

Don’t much care for the Whitney Houston touch, but this speaks for itself:

  

And I can’t explain this: while I was watching this the first time, Jacques came in the room and started working real hard to get my attention, pretty soon he was jumping all over me just like the lion was doing at the same time in the video.  I figure it has to be something he was reading from me.


Ideological Barriers to Sustainability

While we watch helplessly as Obama selects advisers and heads of key bureaucracies from the status quo elite, with the same ideologies that have brought us to this potential brink of global economic and environmental collapse, some of us have been having discussions about what we can do outside the structure of government to make ourselves ready for the possibility of the worst of times to come.  This effort to find alternatives in our immediate lives, options we can employ ourselves, is what some are chiding as an example of the "fractured left" typically not pooling together like the conservatives do, and going along with the program like good team mates.  

A few of us recognize the hidden values in that chiding that leads the crowd to aggregate into various forms of government that have been quite problematic in the past.  "Fasces" for instance, is a Latin word that means a bundle of rods, which, when bundled together, is much harder to break than any individual rod.  This word association was apparently one of Musselini’s gift to the world as a governmental description.  If one is worried about breaking, fascism is supposedly an answer. But here I think we are dealing with other problems, problems that in the end can be the demise of a bundle of sticks as well.

Aside from the simple fact that I don’t consider myself "right" "left" or otherwise, I consider this sort of nonsense to be little more than a retrospective analysis based on the notion of competition between the Republicans and Democrats for seats of power.  The illusion we are supposed to be persuaded by is the notion of democracy.  But what we have is not democracy.  Not the participatory form at least.  Ours is an election and legitimization of an elite who, once elected after a big carnival ritual where much money is spent, much attention is played to the personalities involved, we then sit back and allow this elite to manage, much like upper management manages a corporation.  So, as usual, I ignore it.  We have some serious issues to deal with now, and partisan competition is not at the top of my list of concerns.

In one of those discussions where someone naively sugguested we could be on the verge of a massive reindustrialization of the US, thanks to these brainy elites, many from the Clinton era, to compensate for the loss of productivity resulting from the last thirty years or so of neoliberal policies that led to the international corporate bill of rights like NAFTA and GATT these very elites designed, I was recently asked the following question:

"I’ve written elsewhere about my skepticism concerning "sustainable
development," which I consider to be a euphemism for "status quo." I
have also expressed the opinion that, to raise up the poor in the world
would require considerable sacrifices in the living standards of the
rich, sacrifices that are politically unlikely in my view.




For these and other reasons I am pessimistic about humanity’s future.
Perhaps you or others on this list can offer reasons for me to be
optimistic?
"

I consider "sustainable development" to be an oxymoron.  To me, the notion of development connects with a network of meanings that imply "progress" or an enlightenment version of cultural evolution where it’s seen rationally progressing in an ever improving direction.  However, also rationally, thanks to the sciences that this evolution created, we see it has become one which is now quite clearly putting the entire human race at risk.  The risk arises because development, or progress, now involves the ever expanding rational homo centric economic forces that are the very definition of improved conditions for humans on the planet of these words.  One of the primary reasons for what has become the potential demise of societies based on this strategy is underlying economic logic built into this version of development, which is the very capitalist based economic ideology that inherently in its fundamental goal ignores the laws of ecology.  In those laws we can find, through our science, the rules of succession, where at the higher levels of succession we find that a balanced (and therefore sustainable) eco system is by its nature a very complex and biologically diverse one.  In diversity lies stability as long as some catastrophic force does not enter the picture.  A force like a volcano, or a meteor.

Rather than attempting to achieve a complex and balanced state of biodiversity in their environments, humans are using their technology, driven by a recent discovery of a very potent source of stored energy, fossil fuels, to attack biodiversity and thereby lower the levels succession of ecosystems all over the planet.  What human "genius" has discovered is how to use energy-driven technology to supplant biodiversity.  The sum total of industrial agriculture is based on that fundamental trade off.  Agriculture itself is therefore an energy intensive process of maintaining a monoculture in a constant battle against the very obvious and definable forces of nature that want to complexify any given biologically inhabitable area of the planet.  Agriculture creates eco zones whereby the biomass is primarily designed to feed the human and none other but those human’s choose.  Any of the other species that threaten that are considered "pests" that must thereby be eradicated.  In the sense of competition, then, humans are outcompeting other species.  Cancers do that for awhile… until they kill their host.  Then the cancer also dies. 

The result of this human cancer-like process is now globally a tremendous loss of biodiversity, seriously threatening effects on life biological processes that are key elements in sustaining much life, including the lives human beings.  But that’s been, in terms of human life spans over the past hundred and fifty years, a long term effect that has been able to be put off thanks to the discovery of this potent energy source and the development of key technologies based on it.  What a few of us have always recognized, and what occasionally comes out at broader levels of understanding in periods where the energy supply becomes strained, is this is not an infinite game the human species is playing.  It’s a finite game with an ending somewhere, potentially a catostrophic one if not recognized and ameliorated.  Since I am one of those Cassandra’s, what I’m concerned about is achieving a balance of life for humans and the environment on the planet as a whole.  Admittedly that’s a very complex problem, and one we can probably not discuss without disconnecting from many of the terms and concepts we take for granted as defining the imagined world we share conceptually in many ways. 

However, putting that problem aside for the moment, and to answer the question, my optimism about people comes after actually observing them disconnect from ideologies and start
looking practically at what they can do for themselves. It’s a daunting
task to see through one’s own self created illusions, and generally the first reaction will be some form of denial, with a refusal to face the necessity of abandoning a suicidal and socially lethal lifestyle.  But I do see people doing it.  It therefore can be done.

Another person notes the problem of addressing this notion of sustainability in the present context:

"Our cultural values are shaped in great part by the economic
functioning of our society…by the way we’ve structured economic
functioning."


If you follow out all the implications in that statement in detail you
can come up with something very similar to Jacques Ellul’s critique of
a modern culture as a critique de la société technicienne et de la modernité, Historien et Sociologue
or for short, technological tyranny and its threat to human freedom,
which is embedded in his "sociological propaganda" descriptions. An
admitted difficulty with that term is translating his meaning of propaganda. So I go
to enculturation, a more generic term, and one that has a rich meaning in a field I have studied, cultural anthropology.

Again, rather than dwelling on the global problems beyond our scope of
action — I’m not suggesting ignoring them — look at what people are
doing with their awareness of global issues. And once more I recommend
exploring such networking efforts as "Transition Towns" and
other rhizome-like communities.

Here’s what some are doing, not just in the US, but elsewhere in the global economic empire.

Transition Towns… embody creative responses by ordinary people

TRANSITION UNITED STATES is a
networking site for those interested in exploring and/or implementing
the Transition model in their community. This site is being created
through grassroots participation, and is continually evolving. It is a
spontaneously arising effort to connect ‘transitioners’ with each other
and to encourage and support the development of local Transition
Initiatives.

Transition model

Search: Transition Towns

People are finding ways to de-institutionalize themselves, and those
ways must go beyond mere concepts or ideas, or one remains trapped in
the ontology of institutional existence.

One must start with at least a fundamental curiosity of how to get out
of this trap. Of course, the notion that it’s a trap must emerge
somewhere in the consciousness. I suggest the sense of depression about
the future of humanity as a whole is a sign that one senses entrapment
of some king. Look into it rather than find the nearest escape.

In real life, when people aren’t huddled in their suburban rat traps,
watching the spoon fed culture of techno-propaganda of MSM, they can
rediscover their humanity in interactions with each other. I’ve
discovered that permaculture or other types of gardening groups can be
a very grounding place to start. People who love to see things grow,
also tend to be able to love other things, like each other. It was the
permaculture groups that moved on to developing the transition town
network as they began to imagine the effects of Peak Oil on modern
industrial agriculture.

Human beings’ unique survival capability is that they are actually very
good a copying from each other any invented forms that work. Often they will apply
them in new and creative ways. When humans are pro active instead of
managed within institutions for the purpose of any given institution, I
believe they can do marvelous things.