Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXX

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Today’s post has been prompted by some thoughts regarding the inability of our political systems to respond in a timely manner to our plight of ecological overshoot penned by Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace, and posted by Alice Friedemann of energyskeptic.com.

I agree with virtually everything Rex argues, especially the role of self-interest by our political class for their apparent rejection of the notion of ecological overshoot and what needs to be done to address the negative impacts this predicament will have on our societies (we can’t avoid these impacts but we might be capable of mitigating their worst outcomes somewhat). My experience with government (I spent many years involved with unions/federations/councils and their political action committees, including chairing some and being directly involved in negotiating contracts, thus having to deal directly with senior administrators and politicians) and readings pertaining to various sociocultural areas (e.g., economics, geopolitics, political systems, pre/history, etc.) have solidified for me the notion that our sociopolitical institutions are for a variety of reasons the last place we should be looking to ‘correct our course’ and attempt to confront the many complex issues of our overshoot and that are beginning to become more obvious. In fact, it is likely (I believe guaranteed) that our ‘ruling class’ will continue to do the exact opposite of what is needed.

Government systems appear to be a means to an end for maintaining the power (and thus wealth) structures within our complex societies. The ‘elite’ of society uses the various governmental bureaucracies/institutions/agencies (as well as other areas they tend to control such as media, education, entertainment, etc.) to meet their primary objective: the control and/or expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams. Everything they do more or less is to help meet that end. And, yes, they do throw some bones to the masses periodically if only to keep them mollified, distracted, and less likely to rebel (as Noam Chomsky has argued so well, control of the people is one of the most important concerns of those who hold power and privilege); one of the more ‘effective’ means in my view is the theatrical performance we refer to as ‘elections’ — convincing the masses in ‘representative democracies’ that they have agency via the ballot box is perhaps one of the most successful scams the ruling class has accomplished for as Johann von Goethe observed: the easiest slave is the one who believes he is free.

Growth, the very antithesis of addressing ecological overshoot, is promoted by government to help in their pursuit of both wealth and power. But it also addresses the unfortunate consequence of the way we have sustained growth the last few decades: exponentially-exploding debt (somewhat north of 200 trillion U.S. dollars at present for the globe, and the larger the debt the larger and more sustained the payments to the ‘lenders/creators’ of the world’s various currencies — the financial institutions that seem to work hand-in-glove with our governments). This debt has not only turned our financial/economic/monetary systems into gargantuan Ponzi schemes, it has necessitated the continuation of growth in perpetuity to help pay off the debt (significant revenue for the financiers) and keep the Ponzi schemes from collapsing.

Of course, such infinite growth is a tad difficult on a finite planet so the other options of addressing our financial dilemmas is to increase taxes and/or inflate away the debt. Our feckless ‘leaders’ are attempting all three of these approaches to keep things from collapsing. They cheerlead and encourage growth, telling the masses it has only beneficial properties and minimising, ignoring, or denying the negative aspects. Taxes are expanded continually and applied to increasing numbers of economic interactions, although the wealthy have an almost infinite number of ways to minimise their tax obligations, unlike the masses. Inflation (which in its original form refers to ever-increasing money/credit printing but eventually results in price inflation which is what most people think of) is, in perfect Orwellian language use, said to be a positive force for our economy while it actually debases our currency which serves the purposes of the large debtors (governments and large corporations) but harms the masses because of the debauching of their ‘money’ as is becoming increasingly obvious as wealth inequality continues to explode.

For all of these reasons (and more) it is unlikely (I would actually put the likelihood at zero) our political systems would ever intentionally curtail the pursuit of growth for it is their seed corn. They will pursue and cheerlead it right up until collapse can no longer be denied, and then attempt to push it some more as they tell those experiencing precipitous decline to stop believing their lying eyes; and/or blame our failing societies on some foreign/domestic bogeymen, but certainly not them and their policies.

The government, as with the rest of the ruling class and unfortunately most people, will not hear the arguments about ecological overshoot at all. It matters not how much ‘science’, data, or evidence is thrown at them. Almost everyone but especially the elite are in total denial (or at least feigning it, perhaps just to reduce their cognitive dissonance). This is why I have abandoned any ‘hope’ that our ‘leaders’ will in any way address ecological overshoot even if they do admit it exists — if they do, it will likely be leveraged to pursue activities that not only enrich the ruling class further but make our overshoot worse, such as ‘clean’ energy which is anything but clean and certainly not sustainable as sold. And, unfortunately, the political systems (at least in so-called ‘representative’ democracies) have morphed into out-promising the other parties for what ‘goodies’ they will provide freely to citizens. More. More. More. Which, again, is the opposite of what is needed to counter our going even further into overshoot…not that it may matter much at this point given how far we are likely already past the most important tipping points.

As Rex argues, the ‘solutions’ that will matter most to people will be at the local level. Relocalistion of as much production and distribution of goods as possible (but especially potable water, food, and shelter needs — including that which is needed to deal with local weather/climate, such as wood for winter heating) is the best approach to be taking to help one’s community mitigate as much as possible the coming storm. It’s likely to get ugly and ‘government’ will be nowhere to be found to turn to; you will need to depend upon immediate family, friends, and community members so cultivate those relationships and work on getting them to understand our predicament and begin making your local community as self-sufficient and resilient as possible.

Please visit my website and consider purchasing my fictional novel trilogy (Olduvai) to help support my work.

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A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...

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Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)

A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...