On not giving up

16 05 2013

Another guest post by David Hamilton

In his blog post “On giving up”, Mike Stasse talks about his years of campaigning on the great environmental themes of peak oil and climate change, and on how his attention has in recent times turned away from trying to help society to change towards survival in the face of the certain collapse of our civilization.  Mike made me think about my attitude to these issues, and this piece is the result of my thinking.  In short, I have not “given up”.  This is an individual decision, of course, and not a decision which one makes for all time – life circumstances change and one’s energy and time available also change.  However, for those with the energy and time, I urge you all to not give up, but to still strive for change.  I have three reasons for not giving up.

Collapse is not binary.  By this I mean that collapse is not all or nothing.  Collapse can be small or large, slow or fast.  I think it is self-evident that the more prepared a society, community or group — the more resilient they are prior to the collapse – the better they will survive the collapse and the less destructive the collapse will be.  There are many parts of our civilization that are worth saving (and others which are not!).  I’m passionate about music, and particularly the classical tradition which arose out of medieval Europe, produced the greatest musical innovation – the system of written musical notation – and evolved those wonderful mixtures of art, craft and technology: modern musical instruments.  A collection of uniquely talented individuals with names like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven then used the genres, forms and instruments of the day to create extraordinary works of art that speak to people across the centuries.  I could not bear to think that this supreme legacy could be lost.  There are many more areas of great human achievement gradually assembled over the centuries whose loss would also be incalculable.  These things are definitely worth saving.

Our diagnosis will not necessarily be accepted.  Mike, you and I know that when a collapse occurs we will understand its roots in the limits to growth, the Ponzi scheme nature of our financial system, resource limits (such as peak oil), or climate change, or all of the above. Others, however, may have very different ideas.  When given the choice between a complex interweave of factors, most of which essentially say “it was us”, or a conspiracy theory demonising some “other” group, a regrettable proportion of our population will choose the conspiracy theory every time.  One of my greatest fears is that we will see the rise of overtly fascist groups touting simplistic “remedies” built mainly on blaming the current batch of problems on some group, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.  Indeed, Europe’s current economic woes have brought an increase in support for ultra-nationalistic and other right-wing parties.

By continuing to talk about what is going wrong, why the present course of our societies is heading for a sticky end we not only decrease the damage, we also increase the chance that the causes will be correctly diagnosed when the problems pile on each other.  Better diagnosis of what is going wrong will surely lead to a better response, even if the response only changes things at the margin.

We need hope.  Humans, being aware of their own mortality, need hope – a belief that actions have an impact on changing the future, even if we don’t expect it to be our future.  Hope is related to correctly diagnosing the underlying problem; once people understand what is happening, their ability to act to modify their own future and that of their children improves, and this helps them to have more hope about that future.  Hope and action strengthen each other.

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6 responses

16 05 2013
informationforager

Very well said. I understand Mr. Stasse’s position. I myself have discussed this Peak Oil thing with others and have frequently been totally ostracized. The reason why is because I became very familiar with the facts. As I discussed it with others I was essentially shooting down their hope for a better world. While I saw myself as an absolute realist, others perceived me as a doomer and so that became their escape clause.

I am hopeful but realize that this new better world may not include me for very long. Others are prepared, much more than I. I myself do those things that appear very normal and regular. I still go to baseball games, still take the kids to school, and I still vote.

My real hope is that even now I can convince some people life is going to change and we can adapt even a little bit for the better. Thanks.

16 05 2013
mikestasse

Anyone interested in this thread will enjoy http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-05-16/the-pleasures-of-extinction

Excerpt……..:

“It has become increasingly clear that the perks, the salaries, and the comfortable middle class lifestyles embraced so enthusiastically by so many people in the movement are themselves part of the problem. I was intrigued to read earlier this month a thoughtful essay by leading British climate scientist Kevin Anderson arguing, in terms that will sound very familiar to regular readers of The Archdruid Report, that the failure of climate change activism to make any headway in changing people’s behavior may have more than a little to do with the fact that the people who are urging such changes aren’t making them themselves.”

I agree. Take the steps to “save yourself”, and people will take notice.

16 05 2013
glenn

On Giving Up in the Age of Collapse
http://thoreaufarm.org/2012/04/hope-in-the-age-of-collapse/#comments

Another way of seeing things. For me, I lean closer to the Paul Kingsnorth point of view.

An interesting dicussion worth having – for some of us.

Cheerio,

16 05 2013
17 05 2013
wanderer1954

sure, we may have reached peaks in physical commodities like oil, but who cares. We have not reached peak in knowledge and the application thereof. All we do can be done with renewable energy …. hope is in responsible science and technology which has developed many solutions. I put my meagre resources behind it, buying shares in the ‘good’ companies…and that is something most people do not do. Many could at least encourage their superannuation fund managers to get out of coal and other fossil fuels and into renewable energy…. NASA gives hope. Still, the down to earth lifestyle is a choice we have, thank the pagan gods. Stuff sport heroes, put the top science and its people on the pedestal, like Major Tom ( Major Hatfield) singing Bowie’s song on departure from the space station. Search “space oddity” on youtube, if you want to see the music video of the century so far.

28 06 2013
Katja

It’s hard to come by educated people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
Thanks

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