Yesterday I delivered a presentation to a room full of Honors College students, peppered with a few faculty and administrators. The response was overwhelmingly disappointing. Seems nearly everybody in the room — and in the country, for that matter — wants to keep the current game going, no matter the costs. They don’t view civilization as a problem at all, evidence notwithstanding, and they think the solution to our fossil-fuel dilemma is to drive less and bicycle more.
Shortly after the hour-long discussion with our best and brightest, I delivered the one-minute version of my good news to my colleagues in the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources. Again, nada. These self-proclaimed conservation biologists couldn’t much give a damn about conserving biological diversity, at least not if it means admitting there’s something wrong with culture’s main stream. My dean attended the latter event. Not long ago, when the price of oil was headed toward $150/bbl, he admitted I might be on to something. But then the price of oil collapsed, and I suspect he’s back to thinking I’ve lost my mind.
For those of us who still fear the worst, and are taking small steps to prepare for what’s coming, I think it is especially important that we’ve made the psychological leap. That’s the biggest step of all, the one few are willing to take. It’s necessary (but likely not sufficient). The more of these steps we take, psychological and practical, the better we’ll be able to adapt when the empire falls.
It’s difficult to know exactly how to proceed with the knowledge we’ve gone the wrong direction. But we should not be discouraged by our progress, even though there’s always much more to be done. When despair creeps in, as it often does with me, I console myself with the knowledge that the collapse of civilization will alleviate the oppression we inflict on so many cultures and species. If it’s not too late, nature just might make a comeback. And I try to take action that will allow me to contribute to my post-collapse community. Now that classes are back in session, most of the time for acting has slipped away, or is restricted to short weekends. So I give talks and write about the problem of civilization. It’s my version of television.
As narcotics go, it’s not nearly strong enough.
On the other hand, today is yet another beautiful day in an amazing world. Knowledge that it could all come crashing down tomorrow or, more likely, within the next couple years, makes me increasingly cognizant of the world around me, and the people passing by. My inner Buddhism is bursting out.