Monday, March 11, 2013

God Save Me From A Normal Life - Part One

Returning to genuine sustainability in the near future is impossible, because there are far too many people in the world.  There is no way to feed them all without causing deeper permanent injuries to the ecosystem.  Sadly, humankind displays almost no interest in doing what needs to be done to address overpopulation.  It’s much easier to unplug our brains, close our eyes, and assign the unpleasant business to famine, war, and disease.  So be it.

Our extreme overpopulation is possible because we are living in a temporary bubble of abundant energy.  Unsustainable industrial agriculture can produce far more food than the unsustainable muscle-powered farming of earlier times.  But the days of cheap energy are behind us now, which means that the outburst of unusual growth and prosperity will wind down, stop, and reverse.  Sooner or later, industrial civilization as we know it will run out of fuel and collapse.  Industrial agriculture will no longer be possible.  The next 50 years are going to be radically different from the last 50 years. 

We’ve spent our entire lives living in a massively unsustainable, planet-killing way of life.  So did our parents and grandparents.  To our minds, this way of life seems perfectly normal, and we expect it to continue forever.  Actually, it’s a bizarre accident in the human journey, it’s moving into its final stages, and it can never happen again, thankfully. 

A huge obstacle to the healing process is our perception of history.  We’ve all been taught that our industrial civilization is nothing less than a miracle.  It’s always getting better, and the best is yet to come.  Does this sound like a problem that needs to be fixed?  Well, what it sounds like is a history that has little relationship with reality.  Bogus history provides us with a false identity, and it enables self-destructive thinking and living.

Thus, a primary task in the healing process is deliberately unlearning bogus history.  We mistakenly assume bogus history to be the truth, because it has been repeatedly hammered into our brains during many years at school.  It becomes the foundation of our worldview.  Bogus history hides the enormous problems of progress under the bed, and presents us with glorious myths of brilliant achievement.

If we gaze in the mirror and see the reflection of a being lucky to be living at the wondrous zenith of the human journey, then the notion of genuine sustainability is purely absurd, and not worthy of consideration.  But what if we see the reflection of someone who has had the misfortune of inheriting a hideous treasure of mistakes and illusions from 300 generations of well-intended ancestors?  In this case, genuine sustainability takes on the appearance of the antidote, the cure, something precious — a lifesaver.

Unlearning bogus history is like taking a powerful laxative that vigorously cleanses us of our false sense of identity.  Happily, this process has begun.  A growing number of radical thinkers are seriously questioning the value of domestication, agriculture, civilization, and industrial society.  They are coming to appreciate the intelligence and virtues of nature-based societies. 

The doddering drooling defenders of the mainstream work hard to keep these new thinkers safely locked away in the lunatic fringe cage, but their efforts will fail.  These new thinkers are displaying the first signs of powerful wisdom to emerge in the entire history of civilization.  They announce that our way of life is a mistake, and it’s rapidly destroying us.  Comprehending this essential idea enables and encourages clear thinking, intelligent change, and great healing — beautiful breakthroughs long obstructed by the idiotic old myths of progress and perpetual growth.

We must have history.  We cannot live with vision and power if we don’t know who we are, and where we came from.  After we’ve thrown bogus history overboard, we’ll need new histories that have deep roots in reality.  At the foundation of the healing process are learning, thinking, discussing, simplifying, and exploring nature (rewilding).  This work can be pursued at low cost, with greater freedom, outside the realm of formal institutionalized education, by people who want to make meaningful contributions with their lives.

Once upon a time, Carl Jung said, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become.”  This is why many nature-based societies encouraged people to discover their calling via vision quest ceremonies.  Living with a vision provided us with a direction and purpose in life, and helped us avoid getting lost and wandering aimlessly.

Societies also need a vision to live well.  In nature-based societies, vision was provided by the time-proven traditional culture.  The way to a good life was to carefully follow the path of the ancestors.  In today’s disaster-based societies, the guiding vision enshrines perpetual growth — a dead-end path of infantile excess that fuels catastrophic ecocide, and pandemics of mental illness and degenerative disease. 

Our disaster-based culture is bloated with fantasies of unsustainable science fiction futures, like the Jetsons, Star Wars, or colonies on Mars.  Nature exists outside the walls of these bleak humans-only prisons.  We dream that tomorrow will be a technological wonderland — robot-driven electric cars, smart highways, smart grids, high-speed trains, Internet everything, windmills and solar panels, and on and on — nothing sustainable, and nothing that is necessary for a healthy and enjoyable life.  This vision has no future, because the temporary bubble of abundant energy has no future.  Perpetual growth on a finite planet is impossible, and pursuing it is insane.  It’s time for a new vision.

To be continued.


Anonymous said...

"You turned Injun, didn't you?" ~Sergeant Bauer

Expect to be treated with contempt, as was Dances with Wolves, because most people would rather die, or turn at least transform their landscape into a desert, than live anything close to harmony with nature.

What Is Sustainable said...

Brian, I'm not writing to the herd at large. I'm writing to a wee group of independent thinkers that drink upstream from the herd - folks that don't follow the leader.