I flicked over to Anthropik this morning and discovered what appears to be the beginnings of a debate between Jason and Steven from Deconsumption. This is not the first time I have had this impression. Jason himself says that he likes to get into a debate to see what comes out of it but as has happened in the past I don’t think there is actually a debate here.
Steven posted his thoughts on how to choose a small town to move to in preparation for post peak collapse and Jason has responded by saying that small towns are no good because we’re going back to the stone-age (that’s extreme paraphrasing btw). The reason I think there is no actual debate here is that I believe Steven’s posting was about what to do next. Not what to aim for. Jason is talking about what to aim for but seems intent on reaching the end target at about the same time Steven will be getting to his next target.
Jason’s posting implies that small town’s surviving successfully on the agricultural model will have 100 years to prepare for the step where they go past agriculture to more sustainable survival techniques. His statement that they won’t be able to stay with agriculture for ever gets no argument from me and in fact this end goal of arriving back at the stone age is something I attempt to build into every bit of future planning I do. I presume that this is something that Steven also does (without stating it explicitly every time).
The real trick with all this I think (and this is something I have tried to emphasise before) is that for most of us going directly to stone age living is not an option. In fact I would have to argue that only childless and probably unmarried people in their 20s could contemplate it. I certainly know having a young family means I’m not in a position to do that. It’s not that the kids couldn’t cope – in fact I’m sure they’d be fine. The problem is me.
And I should add that (based on my own personal development) I wouldn’t expect a community of childless, possibly relationship-less people to last long. I had not achieved a sufficient level of personal growth at that stage of my life to be able to contribute to a tribe. I would have been a liability and so would most young civilised adults. This is not an indictment on them so much as the parenting techniques of civilisation.
Despite being well versed in the possibilities of the coming crisis I also know that I am not ready to walk away from civilisation, in fact I’m not ready to do anything different at the moment. Nuclear Family Hell (to borrow someone else’s phrase) is not a strong position to do anything from – it’s a position to endure. If it wasn’t I would already be preparing to set up a village. It doesn’t end with me though. I hardly think I could convince my parents to walk away from civilisation, so I need a better plan if they are to see out the rest of their natural lives.
In actual fact I don’t know anyone who I could convince to walk away from civilisation and join a forager tribe. So I need another plan.
At first I thought my old idea of living in an ecovillage might be the way but it soon became obvious that an ecovillage couldn’t absorb an influx of permanent visitors very well and it certainly couldn’t handle difficult security issues.
Therefore I’ve given myself the same advice people are trying to give to George Bush (if only he would listen). True security comes from catering for the needs of all the people. I’d like to aim at preparing my entire catchment to be ready for post peak living and if that goes well, to use that as a model for other parts of New Zealand. I know that last bit is a little ambitious but I figure it’s worth a try.
The first step in the long descent is actually to implement measures that will enable civilised life to continue pretty much as-is. This does sound a bit contrary but bear with me, this is possibly the most important phase. The main reason people aren’t ready is because they don’t know they need to be ready. They won’t know until it’s too late.
If I stand up today and tell everyone the sky is going to fall in they’ll laugh at me but after the sky has fallen I’m pretty sure they’ll be keen to listen. If a few measures like setting up a green dollar system can be implemented now it will provide a cushion during the period when the economy is passing from recession to depression to total collapse. During this time it will become apparent to more and more people that things are changing for good and they will be more inclined to walk away from modern ways of living.
But why do we bother with a bunch of civilised people who are in many ways the enemy of the earth? Because, in my view, to write them off is to be less than human. To write them off is to take the ‘civilised’ approach. To write them off is to be supremely rational and isn’t that one of or problems at the moment?
Of course the flip side of altruism is that it has a self-serving quality to it. Joe Polaischer mentioned in his interview with me that once people get desperate it’s too late. They stop caring for the environment and just look for the next meal to eat and the next tree to burn for warmth. It’s something he has seen in those parts of the world that are already in crisis and it’s something he is anxious to not see again.
Something else I don’t want to do is to write-off organic agriculture. Sure, it’s the food source of empire and sure, it still depletes the topsoil over time but once again it’s a step – and a pretty good step too. Talking to the organic farmer who presented at our GE hearing the first thing a farmer must do when they convert from conventional agriculture is to get the soil functioning again. They take an active part in this over a period of several years.
It’ll be a hell of a lot easier for the earth to repair itself if we’ve already done a lot of the work and it’ll be a million times easier to prevent chaos around you if the land is under organic ‘management’. I don’t care if we have to use capitalist arguments to convince people to farm organically – the more the merrier. It’s also a good way to turn farmers into activists which can’t hurt.
Anyway, once people really understand that the world is changing, and truthfully I still find it hard to believe, they will be ready to move on to those next steps. None of this will happen if I turn primitive and head for the hills. If I do that I shouldn’t be surprised if the part of the world I depend on follows the pattern that has already been set in the more desperate parts of the third world which is to fall apart under me.