Abundant Descent

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Not to Alarm Anyone, But We Should Be Alarmed – And then some!

Thus it has become my adopted position that in order to limit suffering of all sentient life we must form a cogent movement and unseat the controlling entities and their falsehoods we have lived by for too long – and finally treat our illness instead of its symptoms. Jason Holland

The problem we really have is though Holland’s analysis is correct, on several counts, it is wildly optimistic on the most critical point: that there is a solution and time to enact it.

Holland’s key points: 
1. “All these systems natural and man-made alike seem to be sharing exponentiating curves leading  down the road to collapse, possibly of a Cormac McCarthy variety. The hard truth is we can no longer live in this manner.”
 
2. “Thus it has become my adopted position that in order to limit suffering of all sentient life we must form a cogent movement and unseat the controlling entities and their falsehoods we have lived by for too long – and finally treat our illness instead of its symptoms.”
 
3. “[D]ue to ecological concerns we have run out of time to rely on incrementally changing something which has proven itself corrupt, intractable, and willing only to offer conciliatory gestures with an aim to appease and not fix.”
 
In sum, we have a dire situation, an ELE (Extinction Level Event), created by our current manmade operating system, the global economy, the operators of which are not willing to turn the Titanic around. Thus, the only viable option is to stage a revolution, and take over the levers of power so we can set the human ship on a sustainable course.
Holland precludes the slow change of reformism because we are so short on time. Sensible, for sure.  The problem is Holland, as Chris Hedges and most other revolutionary or socialist strategists, seem to forget…
 
A. Revolutions may sometimes happen overnight, but the mass movements that eventually lead us there tend to take time to build, decades or centuries. And then, once the revolution is sparked it must win. And then it must face inevitable counter-revolutionary pushback. All of this has historically taken far more time than we have, even by Holland’s timeline.
 
B. You may argue we already have a lot of people mobilized to fight the fossil fuel industries. Are we half-way there already? Might the revolution be just around the next pipeline protest? I would argue, not so much.

The movement against climate change currently mobilized is largely being run (or actively coopted) by large NGOs (like AVAAZ and 350.org) who are not recruiting on the basis we must stop the economic engine that is eating the world. They are recruiting to end fossil fuel use and replace it with “clean energy.” In fact, they basically agree with the more enlightened elites, that we just need to “switch to renewables” and grow our global economy “greenly”

Therefore, a movement bent on preserving all life on Earth, rather than saving civilisation, would have to take over the climate movement that already exists and redirect it to more sensible goals *before* taking over the world. The far more likely alternative, given the masses of funding those NGOs enjoy and no degrowth movement ever could attract, is that we would be fighting *the climate change activists,* as well as TPTB.
 
C. The issue, by the way – as Jason Holland hints – goes well beyond the problem of a changing climate.
 
We have a very large human population, spread across the globe, mostly attached to the machinery of a globalised economy and dependent on its structures of ever-increasing exploitation of resources (many of which, if not most are near, at or post peak extraction), ever-increasing debt (that is how money is created– but we are likely at peak debt now, too), and ever-increasing complexity. (See Joseph Tainter on the implications of that and his analysis of how we seem to be approaching peak complexity, too).
 
That means most people – the people we want to put in charge of the global economy – are very heavily invested in its continuing expansion – pretty much, each in their own way, as invested as the elites.
 
And almost nobody is going to be interested in turning the Titanic around unless they become totally convinced there is no other survival option.
 
That means convincing the billions to abandon wealth-seeking and deliberately choose to re-ruralize (without equipment run by fossil fuels we need most humans in the fields growing food).
 

Does this remotely sound feasible, even if we had 100s of years to do it?


To make matters worse, we may be completely out of time:

As I mentioned, we are collectively (along with many other species on this planet) facing the Sixth Mass Extinction crisis, an ELE for humans as well, created by our current means of surviving. We need to radically change this for the sake of all life, including our own. this is a tall order, even if all were willing. It would take a lot of time to reorganise in a deliberate manner, right? So how much time do we likely have? 
It is likely our Titanic civilisation has already hit the iceberg, as described here: “Unravelling the myth of a “carbon budget” for 1.5C
 
And, 1.5C, rather than the generally agreed 2c limit, is actually the most salient target we have any kind of scientific consensus on. That is because it has been confirmed as the temperature rise at which we set off the drastic, rapid and unstoppable feedback of mass permafrost thaw.  The Big Thaw.  
 
To really get down to the depressing facts, though, we actually have no idea *what* the goals of a planet-saving or human-species rescue biodiversity-enhancing program for change would be.
There is no consensus how (or even if) humans CAN live sustainably on Earth (the planet as it once was…
let alone the new Eaarth (a degraded and toxin-ridden place).
…Even if we had the awareness and the will, en masse, to attempt to achieve sustainability, there is no clear or agreed upon “truly sustainable human society” to aim at building.

Opinions vary so widely about whether we should bunch up in cities, return to mass ruralisation, try to maintain civilisation or rewild ourselves, reform agriculture or replace it with permaculture, develop animal intensive agro-ecology or go vegan and end the domestication of animals, depend on herbivores to restore prairie soils…and on and on…Many, who have really examined the numbers and the history, believe humans as a species are simply not viable. Who knows? I argue only Gaia knows, or, in any case, Gaia will decide. 

 
So, the situation is far worse than Holland’s already shocking (to most people) analysis indicates.
 
Lover of revolution over reformism that I have long been, I am afraid we are doomed to face all of these intersecting crises (of the ecological and civilisational varieties) with what Holland so very ably sums up as an ancient predatory system:

“It’s the same ole alpha competitive predatory system which preys on the weakest to feed the strongest. Social hierarchies and people pretending to be more exceptional than others is a busted stupid system. After all our claims of sophistication and technological progress we are living under the most asinine social system imaginable. The central philosophy is quite simple: Might makes right.

 
And it is that simple, but all gussied up in trade agreements, sanctions, economic systems, climate conferences, constitutions, and the heap of other complex and very serious sounding bullshit the people have been sold under the pretenses of security and health.”

Which really leaves us with anarchism, mutual aid and self-organising to the best of our abilities. The problems are systemic, global in scope and have no clear solution. The solutions available are local in scope and scale and utterly inadequate to the concatenation of crises we are facing. The “solution space” is small, the problems enormous, and well beyond our capacity to fully comprehend, let alone to manage.