Three years and 185 essays into the blogosphere, I’ve decided it’s time for a “greatest hits” essay. The best part, for you: It’s only a line or two per essay, and I’ve selected from only a dozen essays. The best part, for me: I get to pick ’em. They’re in chronological order.
Feel free to agree, disagree, or add you own to my list of best lines. What posts, and what lines, were influential for you? Which ones made you laugh out loud, cry in agony, or want to smack me up side the head? Don’t be shy; my skin is thick. Invite your friends, too. Any number can play.
Philosophy and Conservation Biology: Evolution drives us to breed, drives to procreate, and drives us to accumulate resources. Evolution always pushes us toward the brink, and culture piles on, hurling us into the abyss.
The end of civilization and the extinction of humanity: Cheap oil is fundamental to the 12,000-mile supply chain underlying the “warehouse on wheels” approach to the just-in-time delivery of cheap plastic crap.
Saving the world: a transcript for your review: We’re fish in a river, unaware that there’s an ocean, much less a landbase. If you intend to think your way out of this cultural mess, you’ll think of Nietzsche’s Overman. You’ll think of Orwell’s modest heroes. You’ll think of all the quirky, off-beat, out of touch, counter-culture contrarians you’ve ever met. You’ll think.
Whack! I’m Homo industrialis, after all. I care about me, here, now. Hell with tomorrow, and all the tomorrows to come.
Humanity at a crossroads: We’ve reached a crossroads unlike any other in human history. One path leads to despair for Homo industrialis. The other leads to extinction, for Homo sapiens and the millions of species we are taking with us into the abyss. I’ll take door number one.
Scale: Within the span of a couple generations, we abandoned a durable, finely textured, life-affirming set of living arrangements characterized by self-sufficient family farms intermixed with small towns that provided commerce, services, and culture. Worse yet, we traded that model for a coarse-scaled arrangement wholly dependent on ready access to cheap fossil fuels. Then we ratcheted up the madness to rely on businesses that use, almost exclusively, a warehouse-on-wheels approach to just-in-time delivery of unnecessary devices designed for rapid obsolescence and disposal.
Linking the past with the present: resources, land use, and the collapse of civilizations: We have ripped minerals from the Earth, often bringing down mountains in the process; we have harvested nearly all the old-growth timber on the continent, replacing thousand-year-old trees with neatly ordered plantations of small trees; we have hunted species to the point of extinction; we have driven livestock across every almost acre of the continent, baring hillsides and facilitating massive erosion; we have plowed large landscapes, transforming fertile soil into sterile, lifeless dirt; we have burned ecosystems and, perhaps more importantly, we have extinguished naturally occurring fires; we have paved thousands of acres to facilitate our movement and, in the process, have disrupted the movements of thousands of species; we have spewed pollution and dumped garbage, thereby dirtying our air, fouling our water, and contributing greatly to the warming of the planet. We have, to the maximum possible extent allowed by our intellect and never-ending desire, consumed the planet.
Apocalypse or extinction? Now I mourn because the solution is right in front of us, yet we run from it. We fail to recognize our salvation for what it is, believing it to be dystopia instead of utopia. Are we waiting for the last human on the planet to start the crusade?
Is terminating the industrial economy a moral act? We should be investing in our neighbors, as has always been true. And those neighbors aren’t just humans. They’re animals and plants, soil and water. We need to protect and honor them as we do our own children. We need to harbor them from the ravages of war, and also from an economy built on war. We need to live outside the industrial economy and within the real world of honest work, honest play, simple pleasures, and paying the consequences of our daily actions. We need to abandon a political system that takes without giving, long after it abandoned us. At the most fundamental level, we need to re-structure society so that children understand and value the origins of food, and life.
Surveying the field and charting a course: In short, civilization is only a few days removed from chaos or, if you’re an optimist like me, from anarchy. This has always been the case, for every failed civilization as well as the one left standing. With every passing day, we move further into ecological overshoot and also closer to the end of western civilization and its apex, the industrial economy. For most individual industrial humans, the end will not be welcome. But for the living planet on which we depend, and therefore our very species, the end of industry will bring a welcome relief from decades of oppression. It might even give us back our humanity while granting our species a few more decades of planetary existence.
Economic and ecological consequences of expensive oil: There is a better way. We know what it is. It’s time to give up our childish dreams and act like responsible adults. Is that too much to ask?
The risks of fiddling: Some people with whom I speak are so reluctant to give up their easy lives in the city they’ll bank on the ability of technology to bail us out of our dire economic mess. They fail to recognize that inexpensive oil is the Technomessiah. She died a few years ago, but she’s walking around, zombie-like, to save on funeral expenses. Burying a messiah isn’t cheap, you know.
I have several public appearances on my schedule for September. Keep track here, and let me know if you’ll be in the neighborhood so we can meet.