FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2018
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: ABANDON SHIP, FROM THE WIRES, CORNUCOPIAN OPTIMISM
TUCSON (A-P) — Movement: voluntarily moving, as in voting with your feet, is alternative to continuing your purpose-driven consumer ‘life’ in service of industrial society. If you know what money is, perhaps have some, and value money, then you are part of the global growth economy, i.e. have been assimilated into the emerging Borg collective. Likely, at no point since birth has it ever occurred to you to resist, to doubt or question why growing the economy, so more [humans] can consume evermore [environmental resources], matters.
Having enough matters. Living in a prosperous enough, cooperative, complex society based on interconnected trust, one that could actually persist as the centuries pass, will matter to posterity. The purpose of life, of all organisms, is to become an ancestor, to behave as if becoming an ancestor mattered. Those who are posterity blind, who live to maximize growth at the expense of their life-support system, their body, are living the carcinogenic life of extreme ‘progress’ of a metastasizing cancer. For the Anthropocene enthusiast, as for the cancer cell, everything is going to look marvelously on the up an up, there will be seemingly vast expanses of tissue to consume right up to the time the body is in the ICU. The technology used to ‘solve’ various issues—the respirator, the IV drips, the monitors, the nursing care..., will seem intended to favor continued growth. The enthusiasm of Borg drones for short-term benefits will not falter until the onset of multiple system failures that the technology, for some unthinkable (to drones) reason, fails to prevent. There will be no shortage of political solutions, but none will work during descent.
Your existential choices: (1) Deny, obfuscate, deny, deny, deny. (2) Work towards political ‘solutions’ and/or religious ‘salvation’ per idiosyncratic inclination as determined by an accident of birth. (3) Abandon the growth hegemon, i.e. subject the Growth’s Mandate narrative of illimitable ‘Progress’ (for humans who are exceptions to Nature’s laws) to the flames of an all consuming doubt and see what is left other than ashes, then consider real solutions. (4) Listen to Nature. Options 3 and 4 are not mutually exclusive.
Assume option 4, which leads to having existential concerns for humanity’s posterity (if not one’s own existence), the persistence of life on the planet, and a willingness to consider real solutions, even ones you don’t ‘like’. The current ‘rules of the game’ select for complex societies as those opting to live the tribal life as hunter-gathers have been assimilated or displaced (made to go extinct). A few tribal peoples may still be fighting illegal logging or otherwise resisting assimilation, but the trend over the past ten thousand years is clear. A few agricultural village societies (e.g. traditional Hopi) resist assimilation into the industrial consumer society. Only one complex society, the remnant Taironans of northeast South America, continues to effectively resist assimilation into the collective.
Making the planet safe for tribal hunter-gathers (the ‘natural and normal’ life as lived for 97 percent of humanity’s existence) would require the elimination of agriculture empowered empire building. All agricultural humans who develop complex societies of chiefdom size or larger have the power to displace, assimilate, or destroy hunter-gather nomads (see past ten thousand years of human history). Appealing to agriculturalists to not expand may work until one fails to not expand, perhaps secondary to overshooting their agro-ecosystem’s environmental productivity when rainfall is less than average and their children are starving, and is rewarded by conquest and acquisition. The unmanaged commons selects for empire building, for looking beyond the horizon and seeing a planet for the taking. Competing empire builder chiefs and priests create (no foresight implied) a system that selects for larger empires. Appeals to conscience favor the conscienceless. If a behavior is problematic, e.g. empire building selecting for increasingly complex societies, all of whom, with the possible exception of the Kogi, fail to manage their society/power/environment such that it can persist as the millennia pass, then the only real solution is to ‘change the rules of the game’, the contingencies of selection.
If success in conquest was not possible, then empire building would fail and be selected against. Imagine a large island with one thousand hunter-gather tribes, who over the past seventy thousand years had worked out a pattern of tribal management units, territories, able to support each tribes nomadic bands with only rare boundary disputes. One tribe learns of agriculture or independently develops agriculture, which allows their population to increase ten-fold. All the other tribes observe the life the agriculturalists live (are forced to live to maintain their population) and decline to adopt their life of toil until more data concerning the long-term development of their increasingly complex social system emerges in a few centuries to millennia or so.
It is extremely unlikely that the high population agrarians will farm sustainably and avoid overshoot at any point as the centuries pass. Even if they do, the increasingly complex political and religious control system may fail due to emergent unforeseen issues. Even if all members of the agricultural society take a solemn vow to respect their neighbor’s choice to remain hunter-gatherers, with the death penalty imposed on any member who even crosses into their neighbor’s territory without an invitation, it would be a trivial matter for a priest to explain, when conditions became unfavorable, that their suffering was due to their Great Protector’s anger with them for tolerating their neighbor’s failure to wear the correct feathers in their hair. Only by attacking the evil doers could they placate the Great Protector. The neighbor, having one tenth the population, would be attacked and the outcome would be predictable unless the 999 tribes had foreseen their vulnerability and agreed to come to the defense of any member of their Federation of Hunter-gatherer Tribes. Even if one or several tribes were quickly conquered, all males killed, and all resources taken, the 998 tribes could still muster an opposing force nearly one hundred times larger to force to agriculturalists back into their territory, assuming the agriculturalists have not developed far superior military weapons or tactics (Pizarro, with guns, germs, steel, and horses was outnumbered 500 to 1 by the Incas). If the agriculturalists, perhaps after their population growth had been more than replaced those who had died in the war, were to repeat the pattern, the hunter-gatherers would realize they needed to do more than push the farmers back into their territory, but to keep fighting until the committed agriculturalists were exterminated and the remnant population agreed to return to ancestral ways (or the others agreed to become agriculturalists with no clue as to long-term consequences or outcome).
Should the agricultural way come to prevail, if each of the 1000 tribes adopted the agricultural life of toil, then all would support a population in excess of 150. Social hierarchy would arise, elites (political, military, religious) would arise to extract services from willing commoners (or unwilling). Larger populations, when scarcity—real or perceived—arose, would expand their resource base. Those that didn’t would collapse from within or, weakened, be conquered from without. Examples, from history and archaeology, number in the hundreds (or thousands if failed chiefdoms who left no trace are included) just within the last seven thousand years. The addition of a vast planetary vat of fossil fuels did nothing to change the pattern, but merely enabled, for the first time, a global empire to arise. You are living in that empire.
Those who believe that, unlike all prior complex societies, the current global SYSTEM will continue to provide increasing per capita consumption for an increasing population, thanks to clever ape technology and innovation, are among they who would rather believe than know. No amount of evidence or reason will matter other than to the few who would rather know than believe, who neglect to believe what they want to and who can actually think more than a decade ahead.
Those who would rather know than believe, those who can think more than a decade ahead, who at least dimly possess ‘foresight intelligence’, have the potential to opt out of the current anthropocentric SYSTEM. Doing so will not merely seem possible, but as some thoughts become increasingly thinkable, abandoning the Empire, its unsustainable economy and social system, will seem imperative as the onset of multiple system failures becomes increasingly obvious.
The fork in the road: (1) Continue to serve the SYSTEM. (2) Consider alternatives, perhaps 65,536 of them, and put a few thousand of them to the test. Spaceship Earth is alternative to society’s urban/suburban technoindustrial Spaceship of Fools sprawl, but we need to understand this Earth and learn to live with it properly. That humans have that potential is a belief-based conjecture as we evidentialists note. Before breakfast, however, I’m a fidest, which is the source of my extreme Cornucopian optimism.