Can We Really Walk Away from Empire?

by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power

UniverseI recently had the opportunity to engage in conversation with Guy McPherson about a number of topics and subsequently began reading his book Walking Away From Empire, Guy’s personal journey of leaving a tenured professorship to radically alter his living arrangements in preparation for the collapse of industrial civilization. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this touching, inspiring, thought-provoking, sometimes snarky, sometimes heartbreaking saga of awakening and courageous abandonment of civilization’s paradigm.

Yet throughout my reading of the book one question would not relent, namely: Is it really possible to walk away from empire? In my dialog with Guy I discovered that he would be the first to agree that for a variety of reasons, walking away from empire is not possible. In dialog with myself, I realized that the tentacles of empire reach so far into my own psyche and have entangled themselves so deeply that I am profoundly limited in the extent to which I can walk away, yet at the same time, I believe that we all must make every attempt to do just that.

For me there are three enormous obstacles to exiting empire, all of which are related to the internal dynamics of empire programming, and they are so profound that, on one level, radically altering one’s living arrangements may be the least daunting facet of making the break.

Enlightenment Enculturation

The first of these is Enlightenment Enculturation. The Enlightenment, that intellectual about-face that occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the West following what we now call the Dark Ages, was committed to eradicating the ignorance and superstition perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church and folk wisdom. On the one hand, the Enlightenment was a breath of fresh air when compared with commonplace beliefs that women and black cats caused the Black Death of the fourteenth century and the Church’s implacable insistence that the earth, not the sun, was the center of the universe. On the other hand and equally implacably, the Enlightenment committed itself to one path of knowledge only, namely reason. In doing so, the Enlightenment paradigm, in part, set in motion the paradigm of industrial civilization which glorified logic and the masculine, disparaged intuition and the feminine, and instituted a way of living based on power, control, separation, and resource exploitation. Ultimately, how different the rule of this paradigm was and is from the hierarchical, fundamentalist domination of the Church is arguable.

One of the few places in Guy’s extraordinary book with which I must take issue is this same dichotomy, which I believe to be a false one, that is, a dichotomy between reason and mysticism. Curiously, the intellectual giants of Classical Greece whom most modern thinkers admire, were deeply mystical. The word mysticism is related to mystery, and very specifically, to myth or mythology in which Classical Greek thinkers had been steeped since birth. Myths were sacred narratives for the Greeks that served as models for behavior. The predominant theme of all myths of their time was the notion that humans were not superior to the gods and goddesses and that as soon as they attempted to be, they would experience some aspect of personal or community demise.

Author, Peter Kingsley, has written extensively in his four books Reality; A Story Waiting To Pierce You; In The Dark Places Of Wisdom; and in Ancient Philosophy: Mystery And Magic of the likelihood of widespread contact between Ancient Greek philosophers and sages of Eastern philosophy. In an article entitled “The Paths of The Ancient Sages: A Sacred Tradition Between East And West,” Kingsley documents instances of contact which are overwhelmingly excluded from traditional histories of philosophy in the West. The Western philosophical tradition has attempted to surgically remove accounts of the interpenetration of East and West in the Ancient and Classical Greek eras, but more extensive research reveals that for philosophers such as Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Empedocles, to name only three, knowledge was as much about direct, intuitive, physiological experience as about intellectual understanding.

Thousands of years later in the twentieth century, psychologist Carl Jung began writing about the four functions of consciousness: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Jung theorized that although everyone has a dominant function, as well as an inferior one, if we exclude any function or fail to develop it, imbalance results, and we become one-sided individuals. At approximately the same time, a fairly reliable personality type indicator was devised by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. The Myers-Briggs inventory is a useful assessment of personality and how we construe our experiences. All personality types have strengths and weaknesses, and knowledge of the types can prove extremely useful in both personal and community relationships.

For me, Jung was the ultimate reasoned mystic as were his contemporaries such as Albert Einstein, David Bohm, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger. If any humans are around a hundred years from now, they will be incapable of forging a human existence that radically departs from our own without the integration of the rational and the sacred.

Enlightenment Enculturation can be particularly damaging if we exclude other functions besides thinking from our interpersonal relationships. For example, if one is a thinking type, relying primarily on reason and intellect, one will need to work harder at intuiting a situation, identifying and expressing one’s feelings about it, and noticing the sensations that occur in the body during interactions with others. The classic situations where I have witnessed this challenge is among members of a living community, a regional community, or with people in romantic partnerships. Repeatedly, I encounter individuals who are working together on collapse preparation or community-building projects and are endeavoring to proceed primarily from a thinking-type perspective, as if reason and logic alone can solve problems and resolve all adversity.

For example, let’s say that a guy named Joe works very hard at being reasonable and analyzing situations logically, but he may not have noticed or even heard the tone of voice with which Nancy in the group has uttered a response to Joe’s comment. Frank, who’s very intuitive, has sensed a potential conflict brewing in the group, and Frank’s wife, Vivian, a sensate type, may have experienced a sharp sensation in the pit of her stomach during the conversation and perhaps later, a sense that something was “off.” None of these individuals need verbalize their responses in the moment, but they absolutely must pay attention to them. Hopefully, they have learned or are learning some solid dialoging skills, otherwise, their collaboration will probably be short-lived.

I never tire of ranting about the need for emotional literacy and communication skill development in preparing for and navigating collapse because the more I work with groups and individuals who are preparing, the more I witness how woefully unprepared most of us are for dealing with the non-logistical aspects of attempting to walk away from empire.

Passionately echoing my missives from The Ascent of Humanity is Charles Eisenstein’s assessment of the limits of reason:

Reason cannot evaluate truth. Reason cannot apprehend beauty. Reason knows nothing of love. Living from the head brings us to the same place, whether as individuals or as a society. It brings us to a multiplicity of crises. The head tries to manage them through more of the same methods of control, and the crises eventually intensify. Eventually, they become unmanageable and the illusion of control becomes transparent; the head surrenders and the heart can take over once again.

The positive legacies of the Enlightenment are many: Learning to think rigorously and critically, questioning authority, freedom from the impediments of superstition, reveling in the delights of understanding our world and making sense of it. Yet, Enlightenment Enculturation has become yet another face of fundamentalism in the last four hundred years as a result of its intractable insistence that reason is the only valid method for coping with the vicissitudes of the human condition. For me, Jung was brilliant not only in his assessment of the four functions of consciousness but in his realization of the value of the dark and irrational aspects of humanity.

The “lights” of the Enlightenment are literally darkening in terms of global energy depletion but also metaphorically in terms of a cloud of ignorance, apathy, and terminal distraction (texting while driving, walking, or doing just about any activity) that engulfs a human species that has no interest in becoming conscious and is thereby obtusely crafting its own extinction. While there is never a guarantee that any individual or culture will come to its senses, doing so is unequivocally impossible without the darkness required to suck an individual, a community, or a culture into the depths of an excruciating descent. For all of us, that means feeling the knives of attempting to walk away from empire and then all the other emotions that bubble up as we commit to living the new paradigm every day.

Then come the really big questions: In the face of this loss, destruction, and possible horror, who do I want to be? How do I want to live the rest of my life? What gifts of mine are people around me crying out for? How will I live with myself if I don’t give them? Did I really just happen to fall from the sky on the day that I was born, or did I come here to do something that matters momentously? What does a life of service look like when the culture and the planet are in a spiral of descent or possibly death? Who are my allies, and if I don’t have them, how will I find them? What parts of my personality do I need to modify in order to maintain workable relationships with my allies?

Which leads me to…

Empire’s Sticky Shadow

Another stellar contribution of Jung was the concept of the shadow. While indigenous people had been well aware of the notion for millennia, few Westerners were when Jung began writing about it in the twentieth century. Overall, the shadow means everything that lies outside of consciousness which may be positive or negative. The shadow is usually the polar opposite of what we perceive as true about ourselves. For example, part of us is committed to leaving empire and radically changing our living arrangements, but another part resists doing so. Or on the one hand, we despise the entitlement we see around us in our culture, yet some part of us feels entitled, and if this part of us is not made conscious, it can sabotage our efforts to leave empire or manifest as entitlement within the parameters of our new living arrangements. In fact, any aspect of the shadow can surface unexpectedly and unconsciously sabotage us or harm another individual or group that we consciously cherish.

We may proclaim our desire to join with others in a living community or a group endeavor, but some part of us actually resists joining and will find a way to undermine a person or a project. This may manifest in myriad ways, including hyper-criticism, passive-aggressive behavior, blaming, adopting a victim stance, or even abandoning the group.

Changing our living arrangements is but one small, first step in the journey away from empire. The “well-adjusted” citizen of empire abides with us wherever we go or alongside everything we do in order to live the new paradigm. Constant introspection, not of the obsessive variety, but deep reflection and conscious intention to make conscious our residual shadow is imperative for ex-patriots of empire. More than likely, our new living arrangements will catapult the shadow to the surface, and how much better it will be for us and everyone else if we know that and work with it in advance.

Journaling is an excellent tool as well as working with polarities. In my forthcoming book Love In The Long Emergency: The Relationships We Need To Survive, I will be providing specific journaling tools for working with shadow polarities, and in the meantime, if the reader wants to learn about them, they may contact me. The reader may also wish to read my review of Paul Levy’s book Dispelling Wetiko entitled “Our Collective Psychosis.

Collapse Bypassing

Curiously, another aspect of the shadow may be what I call “collapse bypassing.” Emotional bypassing is anything we may use to avoid dealing with deep issues which if truly seen would evoke painful or intolerable feelings. Some people use spirituality, for example, to avoid feeling troublesome feelings or dealing with emotionally challenging situations. Meditation, writing affirmations, thinking positive thoughts, chanting, or other spiritual techniques may be used to bypass.

Last year a young woman from another country contacted me for life coaching. She had a one year-old baby, and both she and her partner who was the father of the baby were fully aware of collapse. They had read extensively and seen a host of documentaries on the topic. The woman reached out to me because she was “feeling so terrified about collapse.” As we explored her fears, it turned out that her partner had told her very clearly that he was going to do nothing to support her or the child while he invested the next year or two in building a permaculture garden. Meanwhile, she was working part-time, menial jobs while her mother cared for the child, so that she could support herself and her daughter. Her fear was not so much about collapse, but rather how she was going to survive with no help from her partner other than “moral support.” In addition to fears about collapse were survival fears in current time which she had been trying to rationalize because of the “greater” fear of collapse. I soon realized that this was a form of “collapse bypassing” because the focus was entirely on the future rather than coping with the realities of present time. First things first, and so it was clear that what both partners were avoiding desperately needed to be addressed.

Similarly, I am now frequently hearing people who are aware of the possibility of near-term extinction make statements like, “Well it doesn’t matter what I eat now, I’m going to be dead in seventeen years,” or “I’m not going to be here after 2030, so what’s the point of getting involved in any kind of service?” or “What’s the point of learning new skills when none of us will be here by mid-century?”

Both the woman with the young child and some people embracing near-term extinction are consumed with living in the future. In my recent article on “Preparing For Near-Term Extinction,” I stated that our species may well be in hospice care, preparing to die, yet even people in hospice care can have meaningful lives. In fact, it may be that the best measure of a life well-lived is how people choose to die, and the most remarkable deaths are those in which people are living fully, consciously, and with awakened intention right up to their last breath. If all that matters is that you’re going to die by mid-century, you’ve bought into the devil’s bargain, and you’ve sacrificed meaning and purpose for civilization’s “brass ring” of longevity. Welcome to the real world that empire never told you about. What a concept: Middle class people coming to the bone-marrow realization that some day they are going to die! What’s wrong with us? Indigenous people know that they begin to die at the moment of birth. Why should we make meaning in our lives when it’s too late? As Guy McPherson would probably say, we should do it because it’s too late.

Wherever I go in circles of collapse-aware people, I feel a palpable hunger (perhaps a better word would be “starvation”) to process their feelings about collapse and near-term extinction. Energetically speaking, they are projectile vomiting the massive amounts of information that many talking heads in the collapse community are shoving down their throats. “Please,” they tell me, “no more charts, graphs, Power Points, books, or documentaries. I need to sit and talk about this with other people who understand our predicament. I need to hold somebody’s hand or just sit beside them in order to at least know that I’m not alone.”

Enlightenment Enculturation seductively whispers that if we just get more information, we’ll be safe or secure or satisfied or that somehow, some way, we’ll “feel better.” That has not been my experience—not today or yesterday or ever!

The Paradox of Separation

The Enlightenment has dutifully inculcated in civilized humanity yet another tenet which both gave birth to the Enlightenment perspective and perpetuated it indefinitely, namely the notion of separation. In the light of what I would argue is Western civilization’s most definitive and damaging myth, the story of Adam and Eve, those who minimize the power of myth in the human psyche must take notice. As a symbolic narrative, it offers insight into the value and omnipresence of paradox, but as with so many narratives, it was literalized, that is to say, concretized, so that the flow of its subtler meanings was impeded.

Older meanings of Eve were synonymous with “life,” and Adam simply meant “earth.” The deeper meaning of “the fall” is simply that the mythical couple, living in a paradise of unity, free of paradox, chose to end their puerile state by eating from the tree of knowledge. Thus separation became a fundamental part of the human psyche, and the story has continued since the proliferation of an Adam and Eve-like myth in myriad cultures around the world. In fact, the crux of the rest of the story is that the psyche seeks to find the center again—the place where opposites become united and we become united with ourselves, our fellow earthlings, and the entire earth community. Yet, there has been irrefutable value in the notion of separation as Eisenstein explains:

We are faced with a paradox. On the one hand, technology and culture are fundamental to the separation of humans from nature, a separation that is at the root of the converging crises of the present age. On the other hand, technology and culture explicitly seek to improve on nature: to make life easier, safer, and more comfortable.

It may well be, as Eisenstein suggests, that the next gargantuan task of our species would be the resolution of the paradox: the appropriateness of separation, individuation, and making distinctions and the underlying necessity of uniting the opposites of our existence which he names “The Age of Reunion.” That Age, Eisenstein insists, “…is nothing more or less than falling back in love with the world. Nothing, not even an electron, is generic. All are unique individuals, special, and therefore sacred.”

But what does “falling back in love with the world” really mean? From my perspective, in order to experience the Age of Reunion within ourselves and with the rest of the earth community, two things must occur. One of those is the collapse and disintegration of the current living arrangement called industrial civilization because only that, as Eisenstein argues, “will be sufficient to awaken us to the truth of who we really are.” However, we can bring down as many civilizations as we like, but if we aren’t working to transform the internalized empire, to refine and refurbish the inner world, we will continue living and demonstrating the disastrous aspects of separation and invariably, inexorably, incontrovertibly re-create empire wherever we go and by means of everything we do.

Falling In Love With The Earth When It’s Too Late

With no wish to romanticize the tragic fate in which we find ourselves in the face of what may be near-term extinction, I would offer the archetype of the Star-Crossed Lovers which permeates much of our art, music, and literature. Whether it be Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Inman and Ada in “Cold Mountain,” or the Count and Katherine in “The English Patient,” Western culture has provided us with myriad examples of “better late than never” relationships that radically alter the inner and outer lives of the protagonists. And so if it is too late for our species and our planet, if we truly are in hospice, would our last days not be deeply enriched by falling back in love with the earth in a manner we have not yet experienced or even begun to imagine?

Only a fool would suggest that there is a “right” way to do this. After all, there are as many ways to experience falling in love with the universe as there are life forms in it. However, I have been intrigued by one path that integrates science and the sacred. For some years I have been a student of the works of the late Thomas Berry, cultural historian and ecotheologian, and Teilhard de Chardin, philosopher, priest, and paleontologist. Another student of Berry and Chardin is physicist, mathematical cosmologist, and California Institute of Integral Studies professor, Brian Swimme. In 2004 Swimme produced a video series entitled “The Powers Of The Universe” in which he explores ten cosmological forces that shaped the universe, offering observable examples, as well as a variety of suggestions for conscious participation by humans in them for the purpose of empowering people to discover who they are in the greater story of life. In other words, the supreme intention of the series is the facilitation of intimacy with the earth and an openness to radical change in our lives as a result of it.

Swimme recognizes the dire predicament of our planet in the present moment and echoing Eisenstein, asserts that “All of the structures that are destroying the earth are releasing us into the essential nature of who we are.”

We cannot sever ourselves entirely from empire, but we can utilize both its wounding and its few admirable aspects to fall back in love with the earth and in so doing, engender a revolution in our human-beingness. This requires confronting our Enlightenment Enculturation, grappling with the shadow of Empire that will forever inhabit the psyche, and a willingness, even on our ecological deathbed, to immerse ourselves in unrestrained intimacy with the universe.

Comments 296

  • Carolyn – there’s so much here to comment on, i don’t know where to begin, so i’ll just address one little bit, what’s most relevant in my experience thus far in “walking away from empire.”

    i walked away years ago from a growing and increasingly lucrative “wall street” career and ended up living in a tiny cabin at the edge of raw wilderness, disgusted with the industry and the meaningless of the entire “financial thing.” gradually i’m striving to get farther and farther from empire but i agree – it’s simply not entirely possible… empire’s tentacles reach not only into the material aspects of our lives, but deep into our psyche; we are born to empire, we grow in empire and it permeates more aspects of our being than anyone can know until you begin trying to unwind it all and see just how deeply entrenched it is in our being…

    that’s the background – but what i want to touch on are your comments about NTE’s “living in the future.” and this, perhaps, is the greatest revelation i’ve had in this process of walking away… the realization that i’d been foregoing my present in preparation and concern about some possible future, a future that may or may not come… actually living mentally in that future and rather oblivious to the present…

    the greatest success i’ve had in walking away from empire is learning to remain present: here and now. nature has been instrumental in teaching me this – i am surrounded by natural beauty, sweeping vistas, unbelievable views and sunsets and wildlife knocks at my door every day… far too much of it passed beyond my awareness due to concerns about the future (and what i could do about it.) i have learned that what i can do about the future is, well, pretty much nothing. and living in a future that may or may not exist is not living at all.

    that’s not to say that i’m no longer concerned, that i no longer ponder these issues, that i no longer seek answers about what to do… but i have learned that there is ONLY now, there has only ever been NOW and there will only ever be NOW… THIS is the only time in which life happens, indeed, the only time in which life can happen. THIS IS THE ONLY TIMEFRAME OVER WHICH I HAVE ANY CONTROL OR INFLUENCE.

    i don’t know what will happen nor that i will be prepared for it nor that i can ever fully walk away from empire… but i know that being present to my REAL life, the one lived right here and now is the only place where i will ever find satisfaction, meaning or happiness… i realize that this may occur as all rather “fluffy” and zen-like, but there’s no other way to say it… indeed, there is no way to know it other than to realize it for one’s self… and when you get it, you really get it (although it’s a continual struggle to get back to it!)…

    we must learn to keep an eye on the future but not forget to live here and now, the only time and place where life is really happening… to live in too great of a concern for NTE is to live in a place that doesn’t really exist, to live in one’s head instead of the world as it really is… it’s to live in a time and place that never comes and to wake up one day and realize you’ve never really lived…

    NTE or no NTE, that in itself is the greatest tragedy that no amount of concern nor preparation can ever make up for…

  • We cannot sever ourselves entirely from empire,
    Nope but we will be severed from empire when we go extinct.

    Only a fool would suggest that there is a “right” way to do this.
    Correct because after we are extinct there will be no one left to judge how anyone did anything.

    There is one right thing to do IMO. Make sure that in the final days before extinction you do not add any more humans to die untimely deaths and to suffer the very unpleasant coming events that are coming. Since rape will become more common when society starts to fall apart, even if you are married to a man who has had a vasectomy, you need to get your own tubal. Even if you are married to a woman who had a tubal, she may die ahead of you and if you think you will want the comfort of sex when all other comforts are gone, get a vasectomy. Even if you are a gay woman you are still vulnerable to rape. Gay men I think can ignore my advice.

    When the grid goes, as it will eventually, all the nuclear power plants in the world that are still running will melt down and their spent fuel pools will burn. Even those decommissioned, if done by safstor will still be dangerous as safstor takes 40 to 60 years to be completed. (check wiki on nuclear decomissioning) Since it his highly unlikely in these days of waning power that many nuclear power plants will be decommissioned we can expect about 100 meltdowns in the US, 400 worldwide. As I have noted before we have only seen meltdowns where huge amounts of resources, people, supplies, energy, money, have been put to the rescue. We have never seen a meltdown with no remediation.

    So when debating whether to make your birth control permanent, look at these pictures of plants from Fukushima – not only would any child you have now live a life of suffering and die an early death, those born after the meltdowns would also very likely be malformed.

    For yourself, for the unborn who have no voice – get those tubes tied.

    Frankly I am totally out of ideas of what positive things to do that make some genuine difference as we face collapse other than to beat this drum loudly.

    Of course lots can be said about how to live until the end. Basically, be nice to other feeling critters. But when we are all gone nothing will matter anymore. Extinction is the end of meaning.

  • one more point:

    and that “living in the future” is just another example of empire’s tentacles reaching deep within our psyche… our entire culture here in the west is built around the future – work your ass off, trade your best years for a paycheck so that SOMEDAY you can retire and live it up… parents robbing children of childhood so that they can be more “competitive” in their future wage-slavedom…

    our entire civilization is based upon not being present… because if we were truly present, we’d all realize how completely f-ed up it really is and we’d all want to walk away… our civilization dangles the carrot of a future that never comes to keep us at work at things that we’d otherwise find utterly reprehensible and unacceptable…

    …and unwittingly, i imagine that like me at one time, many NTE’ers have simply traded living in civilization’s version of the future for the NTE version of the future… the story changes, but the underlying mechanism remains the same: living in hope of a particular future, or living in fear of a particular future… and the bond to empire remains buried within, camouflaged in a different set of colors…

  • Kathy Cassandra…”Of course lots can be said about how to live until the end. Basically, be nice to other feeling critters. But when we are all gone nothing will matter anymore. Extinction is the end of meaning.”

    Unless I leave a mark in history before I die, when the last person to remember me also passes, it will be as though I never lived at all. NTE takes us to the ultimate loss of meaning in that the universe will not know or care that we have gone missing.

  • Carolyn, thanks for this thought-provoking essay, which will no doubt be the genesis for much intriguing discussion.

    Mark, your comment(s) remind me of how many times have I asked myself WHEN I would stop stupidly spending my time in a sort of limbo, waiting for life to begin – with whatever the next phase that was supposed to be more fulfilling – and figure out that THIS is IT? I’m not sure I’ve gotten any better at it unfortunately – your point that waiting for the next phase in consumer life being translated into the countdown to NTE is a good one!

    I looked at your website and your interview in the About section, in which you stated that watching your parents die of cancer was at least part of your motivation to question the way you were spending your time and try something different. Shocks like that are powerful motivators, but still it takes courage to translate that into action.

    Also I noticed this part:

    “True wealth is a state of mind that has nothing to do with money or material possessions. True wealth is knowing what’s reasonably and genuinely enough for yourself in the material world and building a life that adds more to your emotional/spiritual/mental bottom line than it takes away — ideally, on a daily basis. True wealth can’t be acquired; it must be realized from within.”

    “For me, true wealth is waking up in the morning knowing that I have the means, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual to create a life I love and going to sleep at night knowing that I’ve done my best to do just that. It is being grounded within myself, my principles and personal philosophy and thus immune to the incessant harping of the commercial, corporate world, that strives to convince us we need more and more of whatever it is they’re selling to be happy. True wealth begins with the realization that we don’t.”

    I’m not disputing anything you or Carolyn has said about living in the now and finding value in nature and forsaking consumerism, but here’s my problem.

    True wealth doesn’t only come from within – there has to be an outside context that will support it. And now, in my view, there is no more real wealth in the natural world (which is what makes it impossible for 7 billion, or even 500 million, to even pretend to have a “sustainable” lifestyle).

    Rather than obsess over all the various aspects of NTE – when? how? why? – I would like to forget it, since it’s already too late to prevent it, and instead go out and commune with nature. Not so long ago among my favorite things to do were things like working in the garden or hiking or picnicking in a meadow or swimming in the creek, hunting for wild mushrooms and berries – but I can’t stand to do those things anymore…because, nature is, in essence, dead.

    Yes, there are some vestiges left – I still like to watch the birds at the feeder and look at the ocean – but it is all so hideously degraded from what it once was that it is more like walking through a cemetery. Sure there is still life – fungus and other decomposers breaking down the corpses. But…anything to celebrate? How to love a decayed cadaver?

    In my view this goes far, far beyond mere human interference with the biosphere such as agriculture or deforestation or overfishing. It goes even beyond climate change (which will kill just about everything but hasn’t yet). It goes beyond the foolish introduction of invasive species disrupting the ancient harmony of ecosystems.

    What bothers me, and seems impossible to escape, is the poisoning. It was only a few years ago that I could plant flowers and have them thrive. The night sky in summer shimmered with fireflies and the pond water was clear, you could see the fish. Sure, small farms aren’t the same as wilderness, but there was abundant life that established its own rhythm and balance and relationships. The life was potent and verdant and powerful.

    I can’t find that anymore. Everywhere I look – as Badlands mentioned yesterday – trees are wretched shadows of what they should be, and consequently everything that depends upon them – which is almost everything on land from soil microbes to owls to butterflies to moose – is suffering an ecruciating and rapid decline as well. It’s indescribably painful to watch.

    The exact same thing can be said for life in the ocean which if anything, is in an even faster death spiral.

    It’s putrid, it’s vile, it’s tragic, and it’s all our fault. ALL our faults – not just privileged white men or capitalists or Mongols or Pharoahs or Nobel Savages. Anyone who ever took more from the earth than they returned shares some responsiblity for the degradation of the biosphere, so that includes just about anyone who burned wood, let alone dug fossil fuels out of the ground.

    Quite difficult under the circumstances to feel the wealth.

  • I agree with everything said here, save one statement. “Extinction is the end of meaning.” To me, this is the thinking brain speaking to & about itself.
    Meaning, in my experience, is far, far greater than cognitive understanding & certainly greater than being physical.
    Meaning is a compilation of experience.
    It does not need to be explained, translated or preserved.
    Meaning simply is. It is inherent.
    We seem to be the only species here that has separate ideas of meaning & experience.
    All is well.
    The well of experience is infinitely deep.

  • Gail – i know exactly what you mean… i’ve seen huge swaths of trees die not too far down the road from me just in the past year… i’ve sat in fields of wildflowers this spring and summer, stunned by the silence – the total absence of bees. i see it getting worse every year – it’s obvious and undeniable. i can FEEL it – and mind you, i’m NOT a “touchy-feely” guy; i’m only beginning to break away from a life of reason and logic – and yet the change is so undeniably palpable that for someone like me to be so aware of it, well, it must be pretty darn big of a change. the forests seem to get quieter and quieter every year – i can’t list all the specifics of what’s going on out there, but i can feel that something is going dreadfully wrong out there – and it’s NOT just some “inner apocalyptic bias” projected – the destruction is palpable…

    i wish i had an answer for you – then i’d have an answer for myself as well… it IS hard… watching that form of “wealth” diminish year after year, being robbed of our birthright by the incessant demands of civilization to destroy and consume more and more… and that’s why i find some semblance of solace in the “here and now.” comparing what you see/have now to how it used to be is living in the past – and it just taints the present, robs this moment of the appreciation what is still there, what “wealth” remains…

    i don’t offer the “here and now” as any kind of solution to anything… not much will change should we all go zen and become little buddhas – the countdown has begun and i believe we’re powerless to stop it (forestall it perhaps, maybe, i don’t know, but not stop it.) but fundamentally, now is all there is… the past is gone, the future never comes – it’s always just NOW… try to find whatever “wealth” is left in your neck of the woods and appreciate what still remains…

    bear in mind that to someone born 50 years before you, whatever beauty you still used to enjoy in nature would probably depress the hell out of them as well – the world you and i grew up in was far diminished from what it used to be as well… and yet at one time, we still thought it was quite wonderful because that’s all we knew… someday you may look back at how horrible things are today and realize that by comparison, these were still relatively good times… and don’t wait until THAT future to wish that things might have remained at least as good as they still are now…

    i don’t know – i put out words, i write my ideals, i speak primarily of the once-in-a-while when i really get it… but i, like you, struggle with it every day, to find that “wealth.” it’s a continual process, not a destination… by no means do i live blissfully in some ideal “here and now” – i just get it every once in a while, tap into the remaining “wealth” on occasion… and that sustains for a bit…

    what more can any of us do?

  • The Tribe of the suit..

  • Walk away from empire is easy. All you have to do is quit everything, walk outside, and sit down somewhere and wait. When your stomach growls, you dumpster dive or stand in line at the soup kitchen. At night, you sleep on the ground. Wake up and repeat.

    Hogwash on there being any “meaning” to anything other than the eventual scattering of our sub-atomic particles to the far reaches of the cold, dark, ends of the universe.

    Just because we can “think” doesn’t mean we have spirits or souls or any of that malarky. Self-aware is a curse. Eternity is nothing more than the cold, dark, end. Infinite Nothingness.

    Yes, we trashed the Earth, and countless living things have been sacrificed needlessly and countless self-aware humans have suffered needlessly and the ins and outs of what happened and why may be interesting to discuss – but we may as well discuss the workings of the combustion engine for all the good it’s going to do. Blah, Blah, Blah, (insert loud, prolonged, farting sound).

    There is no redemption as long as one single child on the planet suffers, and I’d lay odds that there’s not one living outside the range of a helping hand if that hand be so inclined.

    Living in a house with electricity and running water? Guilty.

    Own a car? Guilty.

    Have a job? Guilty.

    Pay taxes? Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.


  • I wasn’t sure if I wanted to respond to this post – I’m in the super cynical camp with Kathy C. and Gail and many many others here.

    I don’t really care why. I don’t really care how. I have checked out and I’ve got nothing left to live for or against.

    The only way I can truly atone for the horror my life caused other living things (yes, the birds, the bees, and the children in Chinese sweatshops, etc), and continues each day to cause, is to wander into the wilderness right now and eventually succumb to starvation or exposure. Let the rodents and the worms have my body.

    The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)
    The One Commandment:“Thou shalt not procreate”
    The Four Pillars: suicide, abortion, cannibalism, sodomy

    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • The secret is we must walk through Empire.

    This an excruciatingly inescapable fact.

    Penetrate that veil and find behind what you hate, fear, deny, simply a child lost and crying in the wilderness, reaching a hand to of all people, you and you and so on.

    We hesitate at the beginning of the journey we drew up for ourselves long ago, afraid as ever to explore new territory. But the need to go is quickly converging on the need to not go. As in all births the void of the unknown will not be passed until the time is right.

    I believe we need 12 years at minimum to accomplish the task of walking through Empire. At minimum we will understand everything abd will be complete before we go, we might gain a few more rounds on the dance floor to practice being human, truly.

  • Thanks Mark your point is well taken that by yesterday’s standards the world today is degraded, and by tomorrow’s standards it is rather splendid.

    I will try to keep that in mind in future, especially as I contemplate my childrens’ pligt, because you are correct.

    However, I still submit that there is a rather substantive difference in kind. In the past we had species come and go even as humans drove some extinct or introduced invasives. But there was a transition – other species expanded or replaced those we ate into oblivion. Nature abhors a vacuum.

    Now we have transcended Nature. We are creating dead zones and if anything does survive, it won’t be anything like the diversity that existed in the past. It’s a state shift, an incomparable loss compared to transitions in the past. It is barrenness, a loss of fecundity which is, for me, much more profoundly depressing than an alteration in species composition.

    Rob, if you are obtaining food from a dumpster you haven’t really walked away from empire, you are still dependent upon it. But I do agree, meaning is manufactured in our minds and when our minds are gone meaning will be too.

    Here’s an exchange from the America2.0 group about a news item which I thought was delightful for its brevity:

    “A McDonald’s worker would have to work for 1.1 million hours to earn the $8.8 million that McDonald’s CEO James Skinner was paid last year. If he worked for 40 hours a week, every week of the year, that would take five centuries.”


    “It is too bad and CEO should opt for lower salary, but let us note that if improving the
    situation of worker is the worry, then it is inconsequential! McDonald had 33,000 outlets all over the world in 2012. With average 10 workers, they had 0.33 million workers. So, even if CEO goes without salary , that is just about $30 per worker over year or less that 10 cents a day.”

    “Instead if the workers pay accounts for 30% of the price, then we the customers, need to shell out 30% more every time , so that the workers can get double amount say as a collective tip, as practiced in some restaurants. If that be the case, majority will shift to next joint than pay extra!”

    Capitalism is not without, it is from within and in perfect harmony with evolution and selfishness of each individual. Only that can explain how all the seven billions are polarized and live in relative harmony with very little or no coercion.”

    “Then what happens to big, fat pay of CEO in the life cycle is another story.”

    Unfortunately, I doubt there is another life cycle when the CEO will get his comeuppance, the best we can hope is his head ends up on a pike in this one. But this last part bears repeating:

    “Capitalism is not without, it is from within and in perfect harmony with evolution and selfishness of each individual.”

  • Skye…”We seem to be the only species here that has separate ideas of meaning & experience.”

    We may indeed be the only species able to comprehend the idea of a search for meaning – that self absorbed pursuit; a by product of our human arrogance and conceit which presupposes our very existence and seems to know no bounds.

  • Carolyn, in fairness, I have reproduced my response from Guy’s FB post of this article. There are some ironic curiosities I have. I have taken a good, hard look at transition movements, attended the premiere of Soseby’s movie, and read many of Guy’s writings and guest writings at Nature Bats Last. I agree with much of this and like the idea, but there are a few things not being addressed by the proponents, which I’d like to make you aware of:
    I just can’t get my head around this. 1) I think that Carolyn and the whole transition movement may be guilty of the world’s most ironic case of confirmation bias while they’re parading around telling us we’re all ignoring the logical signs (there are other signs); 2) there’s another strange irony of “preparing for extinction;” you prepare for extinction not by learning to garden, but by learning to play the fiddle, as the quartet on the deck of the Titanic had the only logical approach to facing extinction–whether you know how to garden or not will not matter; 3) we’re all assuming that modern life makes us happy but that we’ll be miserable once the collapse happens but the entire field of hedonic psychology would beg to differ–you’ll find happy people even in currently collapsed societies, and people will be just as happy or miserable after the collapse as they are now, assuming they’re alive and not being hunted by roving bands of warlord militias, and 4) the largest irony of applying logic to this is the inability to predict the chaos that will result from a collapse that may negate any training or skills you have acquired for The Descent. It may just be that the survivalist anti-government militias have the right idea–Somalia is a good example of what a collapse actually looks like on a small scale. Any true believer in near-term extinction should simply be sawing away like crazy on their fiddle there. Because of that disconnect between the known and the unknown, Walking Away From Empire is, itself, functioning as a religion.

  • Carolyn, in fairness, I have reproduced my response from Guy’s FB post of this article. There are some ironic curiosities I have. I have taken a good, hard look at transition movements, attended the premiere of Soseby’s movie, and read many of Guy’s writings and guest writings at Nature Bats Last. I agree with much of this and like the idea, but there are a few things not being addressed by the proponents, which I’d like to make you aware of:
    I just can’t get my head around this. 1) I think that Carolyn and the whole transition movement may be guilty of the world’s most ironic case of confirmation bias while they’re parading around telling us we’re all ignoring the logical signs (there are other signs); 2) there’s another strange irony of “preparing for extinction;” you prepare for extinction not by learning to garden, but by learning to play the fiddle, as the quartet on the deck of the Titanic had the only logical approach to facing extinction–whether you know how to garden or not will not matter; 3) we’re all assuming that modern life makes us happy but that we’ll be miserable once the collapse happens but the entire field of hedonic psychology would beg to differ–you’ll find happy people even in currently collapsed societies, and people will be just as happy or miserable after the collapse as they are now, assuming they’re alive and not being hunted by roving bands of warlord militias, and 4) the largest irony of applying logic to this is the inability to predict the chaos that will result from a collapse that may negate any training or skills you have acquired for The Descent. It may just be that the survivalist anti-government militias have the right idea–Somalia is a good example of what a collapse actually looks like on a small scale. Any true believer in near-term extinction should simply be sawing away like crazy on their fiddle there. Because of that disconnect between the known and the unknown, Walking Away From Empire is, itself, functioning as a religion.

  • Skye…”We seem to be the only species here that has separate ideas of meaning & experience.”

    Skye perhaps you don’t realize that we are talking about runaway climate change that won’t extinct just humans. Some think nothing will survive, some think maybe the thermopile (heat loving) bacteria will. Rocks and bacteria don’t have ideas. They just are. Even if those thermopile bacteria evolve, in about 1 billion years our dying sun will end any life that is there at the time
    The Sun is not constant now and it never has been. Even though our star seems to be in its comfortable middle age it is, in fact, slowly heating up. Every ton of Hydrogen gas that gets converted into Helium forces the Sun to contract just a little bit and that raises its temperature just a bit. In the next 1.1 billion years the amount of energy the Earth will get from the Sun (which is directly related to the Sun’s temperature) will increase by almost 10%. That may not seem like much to you, but to a delicately balanced planet’s climate far less then 10% can mean the difference between life and death. When scientists examine computer models for a future climate under the revved up Sun they see a Greenhouse effect gone wild. The polar ice caps will be history, and much of the fertile land will be flooded. As the Sun’s output continues to increase so much water is evaporated into the atmosphere that even the stratosphere gets wet. Sunlight can then break apart the water molecules allowing the hydrogen atoms to escape into space. No more water, no more life. The world as we know it will have ended. from The Sun’s Death: Sooner Rather than Later? Adam Frank for McGraw-Hill

    It took about 1.4 billion years to move from cyanobacteria to complex cells (eukaryotes)

    Maybe you could attribute some “meaning” with some forms of life, but I don’t know any definition that would work for a lifeless world as having meaning. But if you want to say that a lifeless world has some sort of meaning going on, please do. But the kind of meaning I was talking about is on the order of purpose. We might say, my life has meaning because I helped make a better world. I can’t just get my mind around a bunch of rocks on a lifeless planet having a purpose.

    These discussions are always difficult because the more emotionally charged a word is the more diverse definitions people use.

  • Glade Wilson…”2) there’s another strange irony of “preparing for extinction;” you prepare for extinction not by learning to garden, but by learning to play the fiddle, as the quartet on the deck of the Titanic had the only logical approach to facing extinction–whether you know how to garden or not will not matter;”

    Absolutely correct and a great post overall! We are beyond solving the problems of a warming climate. Trying to manage the outcome until NTE is futile, depending more on luck than preparation. Survival issues will replace the Kardashian’s as the nations hot topic. How long will it take before the marauding masses relieve you of your organic rutabaga’s? A New York minute?

  • @Mark
    Great post(s).

    I don’t think many doomers here at NBL are gardening for preparation. I do it because it seems like a good way to eat. Plus it tends to keep me more present and out of the “what if” future that seems to dominate “civilized” thought. Plus I’m not a musician:(

  • @Pat:
    The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)
    The One Commandment:“Thou shalt not procreate”
    The Four Pillars: suicide, abortion, cannibalism, sodomy

    Save the planet, kill yourself.

    That is the Church of Euthanasia not VHEMT. VHEMT does not advocate suicide. Their motto is May We Live Long and Die Out.

  • Kathy Cassandra Says:
    “We cannot sever ourselves entirely from empire,
    Nope but we will be severed from empire when we go extinct.”

    LMAO. Thanks for that. That line is a keeper.

  • I think that somehow the Universe found a way to become aware of its self, of its existence. And it did that through us. Or some of us. I think that has some meaning.

    I think that if you can put aside your petty ego, the self-oriented chattering machinery of the mind, and be still and silent, sometimes you get a glimpse of what that means.

    For me, the ‘thing’ that the Universe made, so that it could perceive its own being, is my soul, that is, my subtle body, which is not an idea, but more like something akin to my nervous system operating in a field of some sort, which is poorly understood, but very effective and convincing once one finds the entry point, so to speak.

    Although I find Peter Kingsley very attractive, and his ideas would certainly sit well with Gurdjieff, with Sufis, with Gnostics, and others, I can’t reconcile them with my own understanding and experiences. How to account for this, I don’t know.

    I think the easiest way to account for the divide that Carolyn describes above, is the left brain v. right brain division, which Iain McGilchrist has investigated in depth, and which correlates with the Logos v. Mythos divide, which occurs under many other terms, throughout history.

    It’s not an either/or. We need both. Intuitive loving mystical dreamers are all very well, I have nothing against them, I’ve considered myself to be a painter for much of my life, painting pictures to hang on walls, usually what people would call surreal in style, so I know a bit about tapping into my subconscious mind for inspiration, and symbolic imagery.
    But that’s no use if we want to calculate the rate of ice being lost from Greenland, is it. That’s strictly a left brain job.

    Jill Bolte Taylor talks about her insights into this stuff

  • Carolyn – every word, full of light! it is all there in your beautiful words, it has always been there, and you have brought it to life so wonderfully, perfectly well. so much thanks, I can’t even begin to say.

    Gail – you see so much, your sensitivity and loving requiems for the life going away – I love your writing and your blog immensely, and am so heartbroken to hear you have lost so much already in your neck of the woods. my woods seem to be a more alive, still, but the holes are there, just the same. and growing.

    it is always astonishing to see how far the severing has gone, within and without. such mirrors, looking back at each other, reflecting countless times new levels of loss and void. walk on down, walk on through… those halls of mirrors have always freaked me out!

  • @ Tom F.

    Sorry, you are correct, I mixed them up.

    You know, the cynicism is so thick in here and I fit right in. Yes, I’m NTE aware and I’m fully on board. I don’t garden, I don’t have water stored in my basement, and I don’t own any guns. In fact, my life is not much different now than it was before I became NTE aware, except: now I don’t recycle and I buy lots of water in plastic bottles (because it doesn’t matter); I eat lots of steak – as much as I can!; I don’t care anymore about saving for retirement; etc. I’m thinking about drinking heavily and may even take up smoking tobacco.

    I’m a privileged white guy living in America and I’m certain that when SHTF I’m going to be exterminated rather quickly. They probably already have a guided missle with my name on it just waiting for the launch code to go.

    Only in America:
    The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.

  • The feeling now is that we’re still in competition, jockeying for the best position in the mass grave. I keep waiting for the Hollywood solution when some gifted lunatic comes out of the shadows wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and starts taking the worse of the worst down in righteous vengeance. In opposition to the Empire, I find myself rooting for drug lords and pirates, mad bombers and desperate bank robbers. The envy felt is seeing Egypt and Turkey in riot because by the time riot is a way of life in the US, we will be so far down the chute to our own slaughter there won’t be any thrill in that release either. I want to breathe smoke and spit fire. Instead, I become one of the hallow men of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Let me show you fear in a handful of dust…

  • Grant – that’s it! you just explained to me why I was glued to the screen when the first wave of riots in egypt broke out. the vicarious liberation felt good, but in the back of my mind I had been thinking the whole time, “damn, they get to have all the fun. it will just be pure hell and dust by the time this gets to us.” (T.S. Eliot and Whitman, two of the best mad poet prophets white privilege has ever produced.)

    U – that sounds like it. exactly it.

  • @ Grant:

    Yes, I’m rooting for the chaos, the more the better, I can’t wait. Each day TPTB become more powerful and already we have no chance but through sheer numbers acting like hysterical lunatics.

    IMO, there is no meaning and there never was and there never will be. If you take the sum of our human experience you have Mozart, yes, but you also have Joseph Stalin. Those who would analyze this and that and say there is some meaning, some purpose, are kidding themselves, IMO. True, I have not spent a lifetime studying “the nature of man” or any such thing, just saying.

    I’m just as likely to be kind as to be mean – at any given moment, depending on the stimulus. I make no pretense, if I could murder and maim with impunity, I would, but, just as likely, I could live in peace and harmony within a community that was peaceful and harmonious.

    None of it makes any sense, and the articulate ones whom speak so eloquently on the subject are suffering from extreme delusions.

  • @ Rob

    I’m just as likely to be kind as to be mean – at any given moment, depending on the stimulus. I make no pretense, if I could murder and maim with impunity, I would, but, just as likely, I could live in peace and harmony within a community that was peaceful and harmonious.

    Well then, there’s a big difference between us, because I have self-control, and it seems you do not. I have trained myself to have self-control. That’s because i enjoy having self-control. It’s fun. I like to be pleased with myself, not ashamed of myself.

    My conduct, my response, does not depend upon the stimulus, nor would I murder or maim, or steal or do anything else that harmed my self-image. Unless I chose to consciously to murder or maim.

    I learned these things, not as moral injunctions from some code of behaviour imposed by soceity, but I chose to conduct myself in a way that left me feeling good. I learned them from zen practice and martial arts practice. I don’t care at all what others think of me, whether they approve or disapprove, I only care about what I think of me.

    It’s possible to do perfect actions.

    If you don’t understand this, it’s because you are not trying. That’s a sort of smug self-satisfaction, imo. If I was with you, I’d challenge it. I’d give you a demonstration.

    There was Mozart ( whose music i don’t actually like, myself ) and there was Stalin, who was a mad psychopath. And there is you. You can make yourself whatever you choose to be at any moment. But only if you have self-control. Then you are free. Then you are an artist, to create the happening. Otherwise you are just another pitiful casualty, a victim, helplessly bouncing around, a liability, not an asset. To your self.

  • Carolyn Baker says:…we can…engender a revolution in our human-beingness.

    Bargaining in Imaginationland

    Human nature’s beyond our command:
    We can’t avoid being shitcanned
    By trying to bargain
    With psycho-type jargon
    In Imaginationland.

  • @ Ulvfugl

    “We are a way for the Universe to know itself” –
    Carl Sagan

  • Walk away from empire? I don’t think so. Any individual who tried would take some piece of empire with him, clothing or shoes or some such. Could I walk away from my life? Perhaps, if I didn’t have my cats to care for, or if somehow I could take them with me. Will I walk away from my life? Doubtful, I don’t want to give up my comforts any more than any one else does. The best I can hope for is minimal involvement with empire, and I do not participate in the consumer culture, but I do buy what I “need”, I could and may disengage more, but one also must consider relationships and how a spouse may feel differently, and gladly shop at wal-mart. (or encourage his maintenance man to use herbicide to kill the weeds in the lawn of the nursing home he administers. Appearances are, after all, everything doncha know?)
    kudos to all who try to walk away.

    Interesting debate here:

    Head to Head – Climate Change, Fact or Fiction?

    seems to all boil down to growth is the only (important) factor, and that anything that has been proposed is futile…guess these people haven’t heard the proposal to dismantle industrial society…

  • The walk away from empire is an inner journey. Sufis say: Be in the world but not of it.

  • It seems like some here might be out of date with the newest info out there on neuro or brain science. We are realizing the brain works in the end always as a unit as does our body. Unity not separation is the base reality. Now that is new science. Then we have old science which more often than not was heavily contaminated with the toxin of out moded procedure often driven not by logic but fear. We have very far to go toward the light of reason, science or logic and as I stated above that path goes right through Empire, not directly away or around it. You cannot shed your humanity. You must change it. Intuition will emerge on a level that might save us as we trek that journey. But don’t hold your breath, we don’t even know we need to go. I see no reason why we will. Those like me will be of little help here it seems until it is far too late. No matter, even if I know a greater truth, that knowing makes one indifferent in many ways to this blip of a reality we call life on earth. The universe is vast beyond, beyond imagination both within and going out. Life is so varied and we know it’s family on such a puny scale broken off from the rest of life as we are. Our idea of what we should or can do are framed in the prison of choice our fears gave us. So puny. I say pay close attention despair starts the journey but we don’t know it and assume despair is for the end.

  • Now while I agree that the large scale industrial agriculture meant to feed billions is unsustainable, I do hold out the possibility that permaculturists and other organic growers could develop sustainable gardens for a sufficiently reduced population without plowing, irrigation, etc.

    When one considers the absolutely enormous wasteful and destructive practices of our present civilization, it is hard to envision what a world based on entirely different principles might look like. Let me list a few ideas that come easily to mind for such a world. No air travel. No war. No private cars or other transportation devices. No human habitation in climates that are too cold, too dry, or unsuitable for cultivation or hunting or aquaculture. Minimal use of fire. Almost no chemical industry. A culture based on love and mutual care as the first consideration in all our affairs. Small communities. A few small cities where technologies found useful to the common good and simple life would be pursued and a few products such as radios could be produced to enable intergroup communication.

    These are just a few sketchy ideas. But what a difference they would make! The teaching of love/wisdom would be the overriding concern and meaning of human life. The truth is that our present social organization, education, and use of the Earth’s resources is so insanely bad, that it is hard to imagine how different a world it would be if a few of the changes I mentioned were to be adopted. In terms of population numbers, I would guess that a world population of two million would be about as many as we could sustain. I would like to see an immediate cessation of births to accomplish these numbers. Then we could initiate a lottery to fairly distribute the right to have births.

    Now some might object that my ideas are impractical and will never come to pass. My answer would be that our present system is totally impractical and doomed to failure. My vision does not dictate that all of the sometimes benign and wonderful accomplishments of our culture need be trashed and forgotten, but that a careful selection process be carried out eliminating all those things needless and harmful while conserving those that would facilitate our transition to a rewarding and sustainable culture into the future. The development of real love for all beings is the key to our success. Without that whatever we attempt will end in failure.

  • It would be interesting to hear what Les Stroud of Survivorman has to say about completely walking away from empire. In some of his 7-10 day excursions into the wilderness he frequently talks about how extremely difficult it is for an individual to survive there. A small community would be an absolute requirement. As peak oil/coal/gas/soil/water becomes history the forests will be stripped for fuel and who knows what else. That community had better learn how to live in a resource poor region if it is to survive the tentacles of empire.

    I guess the best possible outcome for us would be to reincarnate back as cockroaches. We would definitely be in heaven then. ;-)

  • Carolyn, what an elegant, beautiful, coherent piece of writing.

    On the question of whether we can walk away from empire, my answer is “Of course not” or perhaps, “Not any more” if I wax historical. Coincidentally, I put up a piece just yesterday called The Dawn of Cybernetic Civilization that seeks to explain why not.

    My conclusion is that the “walk away from empire” is not even possible as an inner journey. We are so thoroughly acculturated that it’s not possible to root out all its influences. Most of the supposed walk, whether in the outer world or the inner seems to be little more than a a self-soothing pretense – another anodyne for the despair of broken attachments. This is especially true of the parts of that journey that use the concepts of the Empire as their reference points – as things to be walked away from. The very act of rejection binds us to the things we are trying to reject.

    For me a productive response begins by accepting (with whatever degree of grace I can muster in the moment) the bald fact that I can’t escape the empire any more than I can escape the clutches of gravity or the unfolding ravages of time. Instead, I seek to discover two things: why things are the way they are, and how much I can love those beings nearest to me. Those two activities for me express the two “wings” that the human soul needs to fly: awareness and love; jnana and bhakti; the head and the heart in service of the whole. In the laminar flow between those poles, the turbulence of empire is washed away, at least for a moment or two. In this life, that’s all I can ask.

    May all beings be free to travel whatever path through life seems appropriate to them.

  • @ privileged:

    “@Glade–I don’t think many doomers here at NBL are gardening for preparation. I do it because it seems like a good way to eat. Plus it tends to keep me more present and out of the “what if” future that seems to dominate “civilized” thought. Plus I’m not a musician:(”

    Pithy, and uniquely comprehensible.

  • I challenge the people of Earth to envision a better story for themselves, and then bring it into being before it is too late. It should be obvious that throwing in the towel is not a viable option.

  • OK, this comment is (mostly) about Paul’s shreddingly brilliant, shimmering and incredibly sharp article he just linked to above, so it doesn’t count towards my quota. some ideas like this many have been floating around for a while, but I have not read any synthesis as good as Paul’s, ever. Blew me away. Everyone please go read it, and Paul, wow! :) thanks. great writing.

    mike k – i love your ideas! more later. (awesome challenge!)

  • sorry… “some ideas like this may have been…”

  • Oops! Sorry, today’s error and fourth line correction:

    “With psychobabble jargon”

    Yes, I know it’s too long, but it conveys what I was trying to say more clearly.


  • @ mike k

    What makes you think that there is ‘a viable option’ ?

    The future will be determined by physics and biology, not by what humans think they are entitled to. Physics and biology don’t care what we envision.

    I’m not against your particular vision. We’ve been through all this before, actually, on this blog and other forums. People put forward their ideal world, their utopian vision, their ‘solution’ that they think would work. Call it B.

    So, here we are, the world as it is, at A. And there’s your vision, at B. So how do we get from A to B ?

    That’s the hard part. Because if there’s no bridge, no route map, no possible way to get there, it’s just cloud cuckoo land, You might as well be telling us what we are going to do when we colonise Alpha Centauri.

    In your particular scheme you’ve got to get from 7 billion down to two million, is it ?

    How exactly is that to be achieved ? As a practical proposition ? ‘with real love for all beings’ ?

    You see, despite my affection for mystical dreamers, I have no patience for this crap.

    What happens when some couple says ‘Look we’re having our baby and fuck you, you can’t stop us !’ You going to shoot them ? Force an abortion ? Or what ?

    You really need a strong dose of B9K9. The guys with the money and the guns have got a different plan. The guys in the Mexican drug cartels have got a different plan. All around the planet, there are folk with different plans. The guys with the nukes and the bio weapons, the Bilderbergers, the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Mafia, the Naxalites, the Salafis, for example. They don’t want your version. They want their version. If you interfere and threaten their plan, they’ll kill you. Simple.

    All their plans will all come to nothing, after they’ve fought over the mess, because the biosphere is collapsing, and physics and biology will over rule everything else, including Paul Chefurka’s techno nonsense.

    Then, there will be the two million. Possibly. But for how long ? None of us will be included. So why should we even care ? An irradiated toxic wasteland. Permaculture does not work when there’s climate chaos. Dead oceans producing clouds of poisonous gas that drift across the land. Peat bogs that burn for centuries. The CO2 stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years, we never get a stable atmosphere again for 80 to 100,000 years. Most, if not all, living thing become extinct. if not this century, then the next, or the next. So your two million are not going anywhere…

    We, as a generation have made their future. We are making their future now, by what we have done and are doing. You and I as individuals, have no say in the matter. The powerful mega rich, a tiny fraction of the world’s population have decided, Exxon and BP and the World Bank and the US Gvt and the decisions of the 20 rich nations have decided, what happens. So we get NTE.

    @ Daniel

    Thanks. I had forgotten Sagan said that. Almost let’s me forgive him wanting to blow up the Moon.

    @ TIAA

    The universe is vast beyond, beyond imagination both within and going out….

  • Carolyn, it’s all in the verb. Guy had the good sense to title the book “Walking Away From Empire”. None of us can complete that journey, but all of us can start it. And it’s that process, along with the relationships in my life, and of course my fiddling, that provides all the meaning I need to keep smiling in a world of paradox, loss, and absurdity. Call me a romantic existentialist but I plan on dying proud and happy. Of course, as an parent and an ecologist, I despair at times, but when I do I think of Camus and remember that my despair is an affirmation that I care about something, which is anathema to nihilism and all the meaning I need.

  • U – “All around the planet, there are folk with different plans.”

    there is only One, figuring out its one and only one plan, through the faces of 7 billion.

  • We have been at our rural home w 15 acres in the Blue Ridge for 17 years now. We are mostly a natural place with 12 acres of woods and several acres of fields.

    When we moved in the natural life was abundant- deer, turkey, bear, bats, owls, hawks, buzzards, all types of insect life.

    After 17 years, much of this life has disappeared. On the list of disappeared species includes bats, honeybees, wasps, even many ants. Fields full of clover and not a single honeybee to be seen.

    I am wondering if we have not so saturated the environment with toxic chemicals that we are starting to see breakdowns in many areas of the chain of life.

  • Also, the 17 year Cicada has not showed up this year except for a few spotty appearances. The last 17 year cicada event was massive. Nothing this year.

  • Fascinating thing about Paul’s article, (very fun Paul, good work btw) is that many young techno genius types who are working on the question of artificial intelligence, though dismissing outright the god of the bible etc., as utter non-sense have no problem envisioning a kind of universal computer like intelligence system that is god like. I’ll produce a link to an article about it that is much more instructive than my spotty recollection, when I have my real computer rather than a smart phone to work from. Pure science fiction? Perhaps.

  • Hey Ulvfugl,

    Paul is on the right track, but you can count on the fact that we won’t be coddled in our safe, monitored, technological cells for very much longer, we’ll be locked in for the final descent. Leaving will be considered unpatriotic and damaging to the system. You’ll be able to leave when the immune system can no longer be funded and by then you will have been bled dry of your wealth to help keep the system intact. Most of our leaders are completely clueless dimwits interested mostly in their appearances and doing favors for the prime apes. The prime apes have both hands in the fossil fuel cookie jar. Even the prime apes are mostly unaware of the impending termination of their status generating activity and life sustaining systems. But thank God we’re going to be the new Saudi Arabia, it’s all good, sit down, no reason to leave folks, put your assets on the table and another round of foodstamps for all these good people.

  • @ ulf

    “So, here we are, the world as it is, at A. And there’s your vision, at B. So how do we get from A to B ?”

    I’m intrigued by this question, for I put “unrealistic” visions out there too. But I find NBL a huge help to learning and to rethinking too-vague notions.

    Some things Kathy C has said (despite being as different from her as can be) helped me make the connection between any sweeping change to civilization and all sorts of mayhem resulting. That led to some superficial thoughts on how to maintain enough of civilization to preclude chaos, while changing the sources of energy needed to do that. Just on that level alone, it takes a great deal of figuring how to get all the theoretical configurations to work in balance. An article on Yale Environment 360 by a guy named (something, Steve, maybe) Pierce actually proposed an economic model that took advantage of our oversized population. It might even have been tried somewhere in the developing world.

    The even thornier problem (IMO) concerns your next quote:

    “The guys with the money and the guns have got a different plan. The guys in the Mexican drug cartels have got a different plan. All around the planet, there are folk with different plans. The guys with the nukes and the bio weapons, the Bilderbergers, the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Mafia, the Naxalites, the Salafis, for example. They don’t want your version. They want their version. If you interfere and threaten their plan, they’ll kill you. Simple.”

    The question I ask myself is what results from the competition between these folks? It strikes me as possible that their unrealistic expectation of what the planet can provide will soon enough come to confound them. You didn’t mention us in the belly of the beast. But monstrous power in the throes of entropy has often (always?) collapsed under its own weight.

    What you are not allowing is that there is considerable likelihood for evil power to err, to fight internally and externally. And what we can do, as has been done forever, is to exploit the failures and internecine strife of the bad boys. To do that, we’d need a process of analysis of TPTB that appears to be lacking here. Vague assertions about what the bad guys might do, and actually watching them microscopically (the way they watch us)are two completely different things. I’m not proposing that any particular person should do this analyzing and watching. But without a vision of a possible ideal way to proceed–some sort of hypothesis–we’ll all be exterminated before we can get our asses into gear. But maybe you see no alternative to that, regardless.

    (So my mysticism goes as follows: To envision something is halfway to enacting it. It’s even likely that others–many others–are envisioning it at the same time [what young people do these days always takes me by surprise]. I guess the collective unconscious is highly engaged in these NTE times. But that require each person to shine their light in the dark.)

  • In the Newtonian view of the ordinary physical world, which most of us use to conceptualize our day to day lives, there are four dimensions: length, height, width and time. There is something tainted, unsettled, in the present moment of the time dimension by knowledge of the coming wave of anguish that will only cease when all humans are extinct. The very notion of human extinction takes something from the present time moment – a certain sense of continuity, it disrupts the sense of future time.

    I have heard that for many Native Americans, there was a close association with ancestors, and with progeny, of at least seven generations into the past and seven generations into the future. I imagine that it must have given them a real anchoring, a sense of security in the present moment. A sense of orientation, of one’s place in the dimension of time. A psychological and social stability in the flow. They were not lost in the great dimension of time. They knew how their lives, personally, fit into the great scheme of things – of where they stood in time. This helped them comprehend who they were, and prevented “time alienation”.

    People who are alienated in the dimension of time cannot relate to the future, cannot care about the future. It causes that familiar meme of “Why the hell should I care? I’ll be dead soon anyway!” Such are lost, disoriented, in time. Such do not know “when” they are, and therefor don’t know who they are. Their range of consciousness has been stripped down to only this present moment. No “timemarks” to guide them. They have been completely infantilized. All desire reduced to gratification in this instant, to instant gratification.

    This is an abiding problem with most ‘civilized’ folks — completely lost in, and fundamentally frightened of, the vast dimension of time. Putting all emphasis on, compartmentalizing into this blind sided moment — to avoid the queasy angst of realizing how lost in time they are. A focus on the bottom line for today, or farsightedly – this quarter. Politicians focused on the next election cannot see any importance in considering a future beyond it. This culture has a horrible case of time myopia. We have lost sight of the big picture and cannot see or consider or plan for a future. There is no future for civilization.

    A great misinterpretation of Eastern philosophies also focuses too sharply on the ‘here and now’, when indeed it is more about expanding consciousness of the great long flow, and one’s proper, connected place in the flow. It is flow that is paramount, not place. Without the flow, there is no place, no moment. Approaching the end of our flow, we have lost our place, lost our only moment of existence.

  • First time comment, and it’s coming off the cuff and out sideways, so reduce your expectations …

    I don’t know that reason vs. intuition or masculine vs. feminine is a valid way to dissect the idea that we’re being too clever to maintain a habitable situation. Seems like a plain, gender-neutral conception of reason should be sufficient: hey people, at +4°C we’d be lucky to be miserable, so let’s change course. Apparently not. Millions of people can’t even resist buying these little packages that say “this product is apt to give you lung, esophageal, or mouth cancer”. It’s enough to make you think that people are fundamentally irrational. And by that, I mean irrevocably irrational, which is what I believe. Rather than cast rationality versus intuition, we needed wisdom in proportion to our knowledge, but it just didn’t happen for us.

    Secondly, beyond Jung, I’m looking more at Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance. It’s as if our brains were built to fabricate comfort from the dumbest of choices. If you get sufficient exposure via life experience and book learnin’, you realize that you’ve been fashioned as a giant sack of inescapable hypocrisy; which is generally worn as a badge of honor. At any rate, that’s been my experience. I cannot begin to estimate the number of times I’ve taken comfort (physical, mental, social, whatever) over difficult but more rewarding choices. And much of the time they were sold to me as being smart, or it was fitting in with peers, or it was thanks to the wonders of technology. Once enculturated, you do it to yourself.

    I’m not sure about this whole NTE thing. I’m not even sure that Guy walked away from empire, as much as he just changed jobs. But, it is great to see the conversation happening. My guess is that within a couple hundred years people will be here in a vastly impoverished, prosthetic environment. And for the most part, they’ll have the mental acrobatics required to believe they’re doing super.

  • Btd to put it together with your change to line 4

    Human nature’s beyond our command:
    We can’t avoid being shitcanned
    By trying to bargain
    With psychobabble jargon
    In Imaginationland.

    Yep. The solutions are all gone. No words, no movement will save our species.
    sWe are caught in a Vicious Circle per Craig Dilworth, explained in his book Too Smart for our Own Good, and in summary here

    We can’t talk our way out.

    So garden for the love of it not to live longer. Been doing that for 40 years. Be nice to others. Try spend your last years somewhere other than a Fema Camp.

  • Kathy C, thanks for the link, and keep banging that drum – it is one of the few honourable and worthwhile practical things left to do that I can think of.

    U, would you know what Mozart’s music sounds like, what with the walls of your colon blocking your ears?

    Guy, thank you as always.

  • Plans by others, in particular:

    The CFR and Their Deranged Vision for Arctic Exploitation

    at the end of the article is a short musical interlude most here would appreciate

    enjoy your day

  • Gail: I’ve been commenting on your site but lately they aren’t being accepted or posted. Did I do something or say something to exclude my comments? You don’t like to be thanked? I go through the process of proving I’m not a robot and then my comment disappears upon “submit.” Is it the NSA? Whatever. It’s not like what I have to say is of any importance, I just thought you’d like to know that your comment section needs some work – or, if i’m being booted off then . Great post (ie. it’s huge, but also it’s informative, especially since you visited a former haunt of mine the Tyler Arboretum and documented thoroughly its sad decline).

  • Carolyn’s essay is pretty good IMO, but it mentions indigenous peoples only in social knowledge and human organisation, but neglects their almost universal connections to ‘Nature’ that includes spirits. I’m sure Carolyn is familiar with that, but just not mentioned directly.

    I will forget about a proof of the existence of spirits here, but are we seriously considering all these indigenous cultures were deluded, and just survived in the real world, whilst harbouring such a huge delusion?

    C’mon, get real people, they knew their world, which is the same world as we live in, and are the spirits not there anymore?

    I think not.

    I think Carolyn is only halfway to an idea of what it takes to really Walk Away From Empire. One commentator suggested it would not be possible as an individual alone, and Paul C says it is not possible even as a an inner journey.

    I agree that individuals who seem to require a sprawl of technology to get by will never achieve it. But let the Empire crumble and adapt to using all the world’s bits, and forms of energy to get by. Why draw a distinction between old car parts, and honeysuckle nectar. Use them both, but to truly do so, one needs to confront the question, (or nexus of questions) centred around what is one living for?

    I disagree that there is no way to Walk Away From Empire, or it is not achievable, and I reject in principle it is so ingrained in our ‘psyche’ so it won’t ‘leave’.

    My view is that if this is how one sees the problem, one is not willing to give away, or cleave from one’s identity, things, relations and energy systems that were previously adapted to and acquired.

    It is as simple as stop using a knife and fork and using your hands to feed yourself. We can go back to the stone age, but most just are not willing, not even to save the frigging planet.

    I don’t believe the fuzzy logic here.

    Can’t people see that everything is a choice, but the choices are just not to most people’s liking, and those that see the framing of the options choose most often to justify no real change because no one else is doing it.
    Not guts or commitment to any kind of responsibility there.

    Could it be these shortcomings being blamed on the ‘so ingrained’ mantra are a lack of courage to let go in a real spiritual way of the machinery of ego?

    Do one’s clothes have to be always neat and without a hole? Always sparkling clean? Can you only sit in a chair, or a comfortable lounge? What about the ground?
    If your goal is simply to survive amongst a decent human community, what does the material context matter.

    The technology is and has become a competitive tool to look and feel better than neighbours.

    The reason Australian Indigenous peoples were still stone technology people was not that they lacked the capacity, nor intelligence, but they had no overpopulation to become competitive, such that a metal weapon was of greater warfare advantage, like in Europe. I venture also that it was a change in religious precepts that generated the taboo on infanticide in Mesopotamia and surrounding groups, along with three decades of abundant rains as the climate shifted, that led to overpopulation and increased warfare.
    Even fiat currency is a cultural encoding of an unconscious agreement to compete. And look where the rationalising of the past 30 years has tried to justify such a money system by saying we are all self interested ‘at heart’.

    Can you do without a car or public transport? What’s hard about walking?
    All these ‘adaptations’ to the systems of Empire are choices, even unconscious choices due to cultural and family conditioning, but choices nevertheless.
    “OMG I can’t live without my car!”

    Substitute any object or relation to an energy system of Empire for the word ‘car’and it is absolute crap it is needed to live. To live in comfort perhaps, but one’s concept of comfort can change over time.

    Getting back to the spirits….

    I think we are missing a big port of call with cutting back the GHG and re-mediating the pollution. Perhaps not all the pollution, but a lot.
    Indigenous peoples always had ways to communicate with the spirits, and the spirits command the elements. Do the Math. Just have to find the right people who know what to do!

    I think there is a great opportunity there.

    Just to be clear… not Scientific, but bloody spiritual man!

    I liked the essay, especially the sections about Jung and the four functions, but we need to actually take the Feeling and Intuition functions as access to the real. They are as much a part of our creative understanding of reality as Thinking and Sensation.
    We won;t survive very long without them, we never have.

  • logspirit

    ” It is flow that is paramount, not place. Without the flow, there is no place, no moment.”

    Brilliant !!

  • Carolyn – thanks for the stimulating article. Must admit it gave me a headache and made me think if I had to fit that much knowledge into my pea brain I’d have to rent a storage locker.

    Charrington Says: Millions of people can’t even resist buying these little packages that say “this product is apt to give you lung, esophageal, or mouth cancer”. It’s enough to make you think that people are fundamentally irrational. And by that, I mean irrevocably irrational, which is what I believe.

    Charrington, I think the word you’re looking for is insane.

    We blow babies to bits and leave their shreds hanging from tree limbs. We take pictures of and call it a “righteous kill” – then we give the architect of such unspeakable atrocity the Nobel Peace Prize and 2012 cover of Time. Man of the Year.

    We poison the earth – the Cradle of Civilization – with DU and say screw it they deserved it. The little turds would just grow up to be terrorists anyway. Then we rush off to publish the sanitized news and millions flock to read it —

    OMG , what time does the mall close.

    Then, if you point out the absurdity of it all, folks will say you’re crazy and something about drinking kool-aid. Well it’s pay back time Mother [Nature] Fuckers.

    Artleads Mike k and all – Techo wizardry is great And I guess if TPTB decide to Geo-engineer or some other plan they can get it going or whatever – but I believe like Guy says – we would have it fubar in no time.

    However – on an individual scale – for the folks who speak of the people of the world changing and come up with beautiful ideas and calculations to show it can be done. IMHE, fugetaboutit.

    Just one story and I promise – just one. :) All my life I’ve had this problem – seems nearly every time I wipe my ass I get shit on my thumb. Now, I could go all Einstein and Myth Busters and compute angles, probabilities, graphs – and build a little ass-wiping contraption to test my theories and in no time my problem would be solved. But tomorrow, or the next day when I awaken – pet the dog – put on my socks – sit on the john – and when I’m all done and sitting there looking down at the shit on my thumb and go ‘DOH’ I remember that I forgot the plan.

    Now, with practice, I’m sure I could implement my new system into my actions until they became automatic and I’d no longer have to worry about the problem. But that’s the point – to change one small thing about myself would take attention and effort over time. To wave a wand and say all we need is love or technology is fantasy.

    It irritates ulvfugl – good fuel for the self-awareness you mentioned :) For me, BtD will turn them into beautiful and insightful rhymes I can tell my grand kids.

    SUnger Says: I am wondering if we have not so saturated the environment with toxic chemicals that we are starting to see breakdowns in many areas of the chain of life.

    I believe, as you posted and many others here have pointed out — all we need to do is look and listen and remember. It’s not ‘gonna happen someday’ — it is going on right before our own eyes; we can see it, smell it, hear it, feel it. Our Great Mother is dying right before our eyes.

    And, like Guy just said. “We’re just getting started.”

  • I’m astonished at the last 24 hours of comments. I can understand the silly hopeful thoughts coming from the Newbies, but not the seasoned veterans.

    Yes, collapse is happening NOW. The police state is in full swing. The masses are fumbling around scratching for scraps. Soon TPTB will begin either killing us off or herding us into slave camps. Widespread wars will lead to widespread use of nuclear weapons. The nuclear power plants will begin to go critical and the Earth becomes a radioactive wasteland. Nothing much survives that.

    Permaculture Societies? Intentional Communities? Transition Communities? Enclaves in Guatemala? Get real. You’re better off joining a Satanic Cult and sacrificing black cats to Lucifer – a lot less work and a lot more fun especially if copius debauchery is on tap.

    I’m jaded, yes. I look in the mirror and all I see is a self-aware bacteria in a petri dish. That’s it. Simple.

    My reality is Nothing Matters. Nothing ever mattered. And I can do whatever I want now and I don’t care one bit about tomorrow and I certainly don’t care about yesterday. I also, sorry to say, don’t care about honor or pride or decency or anything else. If you see me on the street, give me a wide berth, for I might just have you for dinner.

    Anyone who perceives a linear rate of growth, but who is actually up against an exponential rate of growth, is likely to be very surprised at how the end comes very quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. They will be completely blindsided.

    At least the folks here at NBL will not be blindsided.

    The crash has begun. The Titanic is sinking and the lifeboats are all gone. Pour yourself another cocktail and put in a request to the band. Beware the lower decks where depravity rules.

    The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)
    The One Commandment:“Thou shalt not procreate”

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • Wonderful essay, Carolyn. Thank you.

    I won’t say I walked away from Empire; I still make my living in the Matrix although, thankfully, not in a brick and mortar location but in the ether. I did walk away from debt-slavery, the false Gods of commerce; and the notion of unlimited expansion.

    But I walked away as half of a team and I will warn you, friends, this is ill-advised.

    “Falling In Love With The Earth When It’s Too Late”

    I moved to our second home in the forest (please refrain from ripping on me for being privileged) and began to build a sustainable homestead with a garden. I’ve been at it 3 years. I started because I expected economic collapse and also to avoid poisoned big ag food. Eventually my research led me here.

    Like Gail writes, I can see my forest around me in decline. I see less songbirds, less fish, no salamanders this year, less bees and weird weather. Yet it is still incredibly beautiful and I made being with it my highest priority.

    I have husband, still deeply attached to the construct. To him, my belief, or even my entertaining the idea of NTE makes me similar to the people who put on Nikes and killed themselves so they could join the spaceship behind the sun. Now I remember: Heavens Gate. Anyway, I shared some of Guy’s videos with my husband and he is having none of it. It has caused incredible strife in our marriage because instead of living at home with him and making money like I used to and “abandoning him” to live in the woods means I have:

    coped out
    gotten lazy
    become afraid of success
    become selfish
    lost my mind

    In fact, anytime I have tried to explain my choices is has not gone well for me at all. I actually thought I would bring Guy here to speak but my first tentative actions toward that end have been met with resistance and fear – fear of how things “look”. How I look. How it would be bad for tourism and so on.

    Ahead of me is a choice of continuing on with my 20+ year relationship or spending my time with the good earth. If you have a partner that agrees with your assessment of the state of affairs, then understand that you are blessed even while standing on the beach of doom.

  • I would prefer not to be labeled as part of the Transition movement. Or at least, that movement seems to prefer to dis-associate itself from me. I believe that for the most part, the Transition movement has failed in the US because it refuses to look at the truly dire nature of our predicament and seems to be terrified of any discussion of the sacred. However, I am involved with and support the Deep Transition Movement:

  • @ Rob S

    I’ve never promoted techno-wizardry or geo-engineering. Maybe they’re in the works, though, and I can just sit here and hope that they help. As you seem to know, the prospects of anything helping are not bright. I’m just trying not to get in my own way, and suggesting that others do likewise. Don’t do bloody, fucking stupid things like throw shit in the sea. (Better to get it on your hands. Better yet to compost it and use it for the trees.)

    @ pat

    If you don’t care about anything, why even care about the planet you want us to perish in order to save? What difference does it make to you if we want to save ourselves too, or whatever remnant of humanity that we can? If external climate conditions kill all humans, they’ll kill all mammals too. Saving ourselves would be saving them. Or do you not care about saving mammals?

    @ OzMan

    Liked your post about aborigines.

  • Rationality is the standard from which in the dim mists of prehistory there emerged the Vedic traditions. No distinction is entertained between secular and sacred. The intellectual rigour applied across the board was codified, amongst other places, in the Nyaya Sutras. Indeed if one considers the Divine to be homogenous and isotropic, even the issue of sacredness is moot.

    Empire, as in the case of industrial civilisation, is a system selected for because it enhanced energy flows from burning buried sunshine. It would necessarily end when the energy flows that maintain it become too problematic, but the concomitants of those flows such as the consequences of environmental (including atmospheric) degradation are now poised to pre-empt depletion.

    Walking away from the grossest dependence on Empire is laudable, yet it is well nigh impossible to cease interacting with those living in and still dependent upon it: Empire is now so pervasive that such interactions nurture it even when directed toward weaning others away from it.

    To the question “who(m) do I want to be?” the answer has to be sought in the nature of the “I”. There are three ways in which delusory reality of the construct from sense inputs is maintained: physicality (satyatva bhranti: the consistency and repeatability of sensory inputs, making the world seem real); closeness or intimacy (samichinatva bhranti: the realness of the “I” is maintained by this) and desirability (isthatva bhranti: as in the comfort of deeming the material world to be real).

    Walking away from the “I” is the most radical walking away: it involves peeling off the multiple layers of identifying labels, only to find that the labels themselves constitute the “I”. The “I” disappears when the last label is discarded: the walking away is complete. There is nothing else to from which to walk away.

  • Red Eft, I hear your pain. I am blessed to be able to face NTE with someone who is facing it too. But except for web friends we are alone. Back when it was just Peak Oil I thought we were facing we were still pretty much alone. So mostly I don’t say much anymore except at home….

  • Renaissance Reversed

    Belief existed at first,
    Then Enlightenment got interspersed;
    As the Age of Reason
    Now ends its short season,
    The Renaissance is reversed.

    @ tvt: Your flow advice prevented something ungainly from happening this time—thanks again! Oh, and thanks for the assertiveness advice—we’ll see how that works out! :D

  • @ Artleads

    It’s every biological unit for himself. I don’t care because it doesn’t matter. People here that wax poetically about “meaning” and “purpose” are delusional. There is no meaning. There is no purpose.

    I’ve said it 1,000 times, the ONLY way to truly walk away from empire, to atone for the litany of sins, is to wander off into the woods naked – soon to die of exposure, wild animal mauling, starvation, or poisoning.

    The voluntary human extinction movement and the church of euthanasia have only part of the solution – but I guess they assume that as people die off that the remaining folks will work together to dismantle the toxic infrastructure of industrial civilization (primarily the 400 plus nuclear plants). I guess they also assume that TPTB will be gentle and kind…

    soon, you’ll see it raining fire in the sky…

    The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)
    The One Commandment:“Thou shalt not procreate”

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.


  • It’s so easy to laugh
    It’s so easy to hate
    It takes guts to be gentle and kind
    I know it’s over
    Still I claim
    I don’t know what else I can do

    – The Smiths

  • Look – something for everyone here, the anti-capitalistas and the evolutionary psychologists! (full length doc – The Selfish Ape – the Tribe of Suit)

    Red Eft, You have my sympathy. I was very surprised at the Age of Limits conference that quite a few participants were there without the knowledge/approval of their significant others. I guess many people do not come into awareness until later in life and they are already in a long term relationship with someone who isn’t interested in learning. No easy solution, best wishes to you trying to resolve it.

    Tom, I’m sorry about comments of course I haven’t tried to block you! I really can’t explain it other than to say, Blogger sucks – you are not the only person to complain. I tweaked a few preferences – took out the word captcha – maybe that will help.

  • @Pat
    VHEMT seems to have the most humane solution. Humans have become a plague species and should therefore cease breeding. Once we have all died of old age the planet can recover. I’ve been in alignment with that for years. Unfortunately humans are animals and animals want to breed. I get breeding urges from time to time and engage in breeding behavior.

    Those who are suffering from angst in anticipation of the future might want to adopt a fulfilling hobby like gardening. NTE might take longer to play out than you think. Certainly every effort will be made to maintain order and BAU. Jay Hanson said in 2007 he expected anarchy in the US in 15 years give or take 10. That puts us in the zone now but it could take another 9 years or more. You can go crazy from angst in that time so best to keep your mind occupied.

  • @uv (Sorry, I could not type your blog name, my machine kept correcting it to ‘uvula’! I’m not kidding.

    From a worldview that honors only biology and physics, dreams of love and harmony must seem unreal and foolish. I know because I used to inhabit such a worldview years ago. The sign on my door might have read: dreamers, poets, mystics, artists will not be admitted. I was a strict devotee of the ‘hard sciences’. When those sciences (limited ways of knowing) began to soften, and eventually vaporize into an imperceptible mist of quantum uncertainties and an increasing darkness of unknowing, I lost my favorite handholds and began floating free in cloud cuckoo land as you call it. Some of us wear that crazy label as a sign of quiet freedom and release from the strictures of ‘scientific’ or ‘realistic’ dogmas. Take a deep breath of that air sometimes, its almost intoxicating. I feel a little tipsy now just thinking of it… Imagine… Someday you will join us and the world will be free… Was I there in the 60’s? You bettcha, and in many ways I never left… There. That should give you plenty of targets to throw your hard bricks of certainty at!

  • @Red Eft

    Yours sounds like an unbelievably difficult situation. When relationship counselors talk about the trouble spots likely to slam a marriage, I bet “differing opinions about NTE” aren’t anywhere on the radar. How would one even get couples counseling for something like this? You make me realize just how fortunate I am to have a partner who gets it.

    @mo flo

    Thanks for the appreciation! This idea seems to flow naturally out the work on how thermodynamics has driven human culture to this position. I wasn’t sure how well it would stand alone without the explanation of the thermo component (which is much tougher – like explaining water to fish…) But understanding the cybernetic exoskeleton only requires the ability to see what’s already happened around us with “big picture” eyes and a bit of imagination.


    I don’t think anything in my assessment of our present situation goes against your projections for the how, when and why of our immediate future. I don’t know if you buy my diagnosis of the 2LoT-driven statistical determinism of collective human behaviour, but it really doesn’t matter. Whether my speculation on that score is right or wrong it won’t change the way events unfold. That die has been cast – “rien ne va plus” as they say in Monte Carlo.


    Do you see yourself as a “cultural psychopomp” – i.e. someone who is helping to escort our about-to-be-deceased culture across the threshold into the afterworld? Others like Tim Bennett couch their activities explicitly in those terms, but I don’t know if you do.

  • such incredible, unbelievable… what to call it… I don’t have any words but to say every single comment in this thread is blowing my mind.

    from the previous thread, first, one thing. the most important thing.

    as I was learning again, in new ways last night in my meditation,

    from CatCampion: “*allowing* myself to remain even more open to flow than usual.”

    that is it, that is all of it. right there.

    but of course there is always more. that’s what comes when one allows. always infinitely more.

    pat – “My reality is Nothing Matters. Nothing ever mattered.”

    this is your reality, and this is also the reality of The Real. If you had infinite power (you do) and you could create an entire universe out of a piece of shit on your thumb (you can) then why would you possibly bother yourself with caring about what the hell mattered in that little shit universe you just created?

    but there is the rub: you are infinite, you have the time to spare, so you do bother yourself to care.

    also from the previous thread,

    Artleads – “NTE means that there can’t be brain space for anything that is unnecessary. And exclusion and undermining is unnecessary, while blinding us to saving *knowledge*”

    this again is part of allowing. if we are going to figure out any way to survive collapse (don’t forget – infinite power is right there at the tip of your thumb) we are going to need every atom of knowledge that we can get our hands on – rational, intuitive, spiritual, and more.

    how to survive 400 nukes and associated waste going critical? beats me! my first thought, though, is prevention of any kind would be a great idea. my second thought is we may need some truly ingenious ways of both protecting ourselves, and just getting the hell out of the way.

    and my third thought is if we don’t allow ourselves to consider the possibility that we may find ways of surviving, we probably won’t.

    Kathy C and everyone else needs to repeat the message of what we are up against. we cannot get even begin to gather the necessary knowledge – and I am talking about hard core stuff that may be necessary – to possibly save our butts.

    the next thing that pops up in my mind is always, but why? why would anyone want to even try living through what is coming?

    and then I remember it is not me who is making that decision!

  • @Glade Wilson

    I sir am a believer, and I for one am definitely sawing away crazily at that fiddle, my precious fiddle, my hear and now! :D

  • School meal kills 22 in India’s Bihar state

    “…Earlier, doctors treating the patients had said “food poisoning” was the cause of the deaths.

    “We suspect it to be poisoning caused by insecticides in vegetable or rice,” Amarjeet Sinha, a senior education official, told the BBC.

    A doctor treating the children at a hospital in Patna said contaminated vegetable oil could have led to the poisoning.”

    Other news sources are reporting organophosphorus insecticide is the cause of death. 22 dead kids. Poisoned by their “free” school lunch.

  • @mo flow
    Whenever people ask me how I have been so successful (yet, thankfully, neither rich nor famous) in my long career as an actress, I generally reply truthfully: It’s been easy, I just allow the flow.
    I don’t believe in striving. I am a self-described lazy person in that I rarely exert any effort that I don’t want to. Work is truly a four-letter word to me, and I have hardly had to work a day in my life. Talent? Check. Smarts? Check. Allowing the universe to guide me where she will have me? Priceless.
    I’ve lived in poverty and American Middle Class (the 1% of the world). As long as basic needs are met, class doesn’t seem to affect my happiness. On a scale of 1-10, my life has been in the 7-10 range. Not sure how I’ve done it, other than allowing. That, and focusing on other people’s wants and problems as much as my own. I intend to stay in that range as the titanic sinks, playing my violin (actually, I’m a cellist) all the way down, so that others might suffer less along the way.

    Thanks for the compliment on my music. I’m just a musician, not a composer, so I’m mainly playing other people’s music – although I do generally write my own parts. I like to think of myself as one who potentiates the music, as well as many other things in people’s lives.

  • You might not want to eat your vegetables for an entirely new reason after seeing some strange fruit and veggies that reportedly have turned up in villages surrounding Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

    Images of the bizarrely deformed flora – which range from tomatoes with tumor-like growths to monstrous cabbage and conjoined peaches – turned up on the website Imgur this week, with the title, “Effects from the Fukushima radiation disaster?”

  • if we do not allow

    the uncomfortable unknown
    to become the unfinished
    but ever familiar

    to be our flow
    into the ever new

    the ever horrible and dark
    holding hands with death
    jumping through endless fiery hoops

    we are not moving
    we are no longer alive
    and we sleep

    not to awaken
    until we need to glow

  • one more thing, re-reading what Cat just said, the nugget that she just dropped that I don’t think I can describe very well at all.

    the other side of flow, maybe call it the essence of flow.


  • Can anyone really walk away from empire? I don’t know but I would say that you can damn well turn your back on it. It may be all around you and beckon to you but you can give it the cold shoulder as often as possible. Ether Ulvfugl or Ozman said awhile back that the first step towards bringing down industrial civilization is to stop admiring it. I completely agree with that.
    I’ve found that the best way for me to walk the slow walk away from Empire is to use as little money as possible.It seems to me that money, as we use it now, is a measure of how much destruction one is responsible for. People say that we “spend” money but it never gets spent,it just passes through to the next hand or bank account.
    Say I decide that I don’t want to support Walmart so I don’t shop there or I don’t want to help the war effort so I refuse to pay taxes. I decide instead to support my local farmers market and regional non-profit with the dollars that I have. Once I buy something with those dollars from anyone I lose any control over them and the odds that they will pass through the doors of Walmart or be used by someone else to pay their taxes is very high.
    If I want to be less destructive I need to use less money. The act of using less money is,by default, a turning away from Empire. Money is Empire’s food so I try not to feed it. When I use less money I need less and so I can work less and earn less and so I have more free time with which to grow my own food which helps me to need even less money.
    I was having a long discussion with a friend about what a person might do with a chunk of money that wouldn’t be destructive to the
    Earth and we went ’round and ’round trying to come up with anything and finally settled on the idea that you could buy land and and then donated it(to itself) as a wildlife sanctuary. Then we realized that doing that was also destructive because the person you brought the land from could do whatever destruction they wanted with the money.

    Another thought I have about the idea of walking away from Empire is that our society is very goal oriented and so we say that walking away is not possible. We see the goal as being completely away from Empire and so it seems impossible. But if we see the process of “walking away” as the goal then we can reach it anew every day.

  • @logspirit I have heard that for many Native Americans, there was a close association with ancestors, and with progeny, of at least seven generations into the past and seven generations into the future. I imagine that it must have given them a real anchoring, a sense of security in the present moment. A sense of orientation, of one’s place in the dimension of time. A psychological and social stability in the flow. They were not lost in the great dimension of time. They knew how their lives, personally, fit into the great scheme of things – of where they stood in time. This helped them comprehend who they were, and prevented “time alienation”.

    Wow! You have so effortlessly described what I have anguished over, the thing that makes it so difficult to raise young children in the face of NTE. Predictably, the first thing I worried about as a parent is the prospect of great suffering, beyond normal suffering. I soon came to my senses and remembered that life is suffering, I have suffered, they will suffer, it is nothing new. But trying to raise children in a sensible manner without the arc of the future laid out, soon becomes an exercise in going insane. One soon realizes that everything in our society is geared towards some future goal, has trained members of society to never be happy, never able to say, “this is enough”.

    With the little ones, it is a thousand-fold, the expectations society has burdened them with before they even take their first breath. Though the future has never been guaranteed, society functions as if it is a given, set in stone. For me, there is no clear answer, so we go along and do what we would likely do otherwise. The exception, which I had already put into practice before having kids, is to act when the time is on me. Meaning, I don’t procrastinate, I don’t wait for a better time to do something, I don’t wait around for perfection. The one urgency I feel is sharing nature with the little ones while I can, before the trees start coming down around us, or worse, on our own heads.

    @pat I’ve said it 1,000 times, the ONLY way to truly walk away from empire, to atone for the litany of sins, is to wander off into the woods naked – soon to die of exposure, wild animal mauling, starvation, or poisoning.

    Not to give you a hard time, but when I read this, I immediately think, what if you wander off, expecting to be eaten by wolves, and you find yourself, you know…SURVIVING. Personally, I would walk into a swift river before crawling off into the woods, but I’ve read too many Alaska Bear Tales.

  • Watch the bears, it almost looks like Nature is okay here and will make you fell better! Lots of salmon leaping out of the water.!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls

  • Crude Oil (WTI) USD/bbl. 108.22

    That price should promote a bit more walking, if not away from empire, at least away from mechanised transport.

    However, it seems that in this world-gone-mad the normal functioning of the human body is completely out of fashion.

    When I decided I could no longer stand living in NZ’s biggest city (Auckland) and made my escape to a semi-rural location, petrol was around $1.40 a litre. Seven years later it is $2.27. But the madness continues: the government is still pushing ahead with road-building, extensions of airports, free trade deals, convention centres….And, of course, we have fracking to maintain fuel supply.

    Sadly, there are pockets of oil and gas under some of the best horticultural land in the world.

    The empire will do its best to poison you wherever you live. And by cumulatively poisoning the land, the atmosphere, the oceans and seas, the empire is in the process of bringing premature death to the majority of the denizens of this planet.


    (don’t push the “play now” button, just scroll down and read)

  • Hi Pat,
    So why haven’t you walked off into the wilderness naked yet…? Just curious.

  • Kevin ; Yup – Light Sweet Crude closed at 105.95 on the comex today. This also completes a significant ‘breakout’ to the upside with high volume. This ‘breakout’ from the classical ‘flag’ formation is usually quite a bullish signal. But the markets are so ‘rigged’ these days, it’s hard to tell whats up.

    I feel something is ‘off’ for a little while – a month maybe — politically, things have grown eerily quiet. Kim K and Bradgalina have disappeared from MSM when just a few weeks ago they was the topic of at least 2 of the top 10 stories. The ‘Biebs’ juvenile antics have also disappeared – lady gaga’s meat dress – it’s all gone. Mike Tyson gonna be a ballet dancer – nothing. Suddenly TPTB don’t seem so interested in bombarding us with distractions. I’m not gonna speculate — it gets too scarey.

    I had to take a breathing test today – I hate it – anyhow 2 nurses there because its a new gizmo I’m hooked up to and one is learning. So I’m in the middle of this one particular test and the trainee asks the other nurse – “Should I prick his finger when he’s done” and I burst out laughing and had to start the test over (bless you George Carlin). Anyhow, seems they never heard Carlin’s ‘7 dirty words’ piece where he says “you can say prick your finger but you can’t say finger your prick” and they laughed so much we almost had to reschedule the tests.

    Tom – great link

    Detroit went bankrupt today. Once the backbone of our industrial economy – now a ravaged wasteland. The banksters will ride off into the sunset with the loot and leave the people to fend for themselves in the streets.

    Reminds me – – Chris Hedges is doing a great multi-part interview on Real News Network. Part 3 was today – it’s a great 10 minutes.

    Denial is harder and harder – google news search for record weather – filter for just last 24 hours – you’ll see Ireland, Australia, Fairbanks Alaska, India, Holland are all seeing freak record weather. And that’s just 24 hours – there was just Calgary – Toronto – Germany – New Jersey, Phoenix — record heat – floods – droughts –

    Adopt a kitten. Practice love. I think we’re gonna need it.

  • The cybernetic super organism is not quite there yet. In fact, a good argument can be made that despite the cybernetic complexity of the Internet et. al., we have taken a giant step backward down the sociobiological slope of hominid evolution.

    The problem with Paul’s super organism is that despite the trillions of connections and the sheer abundance of information,this proposed creature (unlike the Borg) has no real intention or ability to collaborate in a meaningfully adaptive way. It is, rather, frozen in conflict and indecision, can do nothing but feed, and is very rapidly being selected against by external environmental forces.

    It is a step backward in an evolutionary sense because our humanity is define by our eusociality. For tens of thousands of years, in tribal settings, natural selection favored those groups (group selection theory) that contained individuals predisposed to goal directed adaptive behaviors and collaboration. Group selection was the incredibly powerful force that allowed our cortex to blossom and our languages to develop. That kind of highly adaptive coordinated effort began to diminish with the advent of the Neolithic era, the development of hierarchy, and the usurpation on intention, collaboration, and group decision making by a ruling elite. Collaboration, thus, shifted to group representation by force or proxy and intention shifted away from from the well-being of the group to the maintenance, security, and power of the ruling class.

    So, yes, I suppose that Paul’s cybernetic super organism does have a head; but not a very good one. It can’t respond positively to large scale external stimuli (like climate change). There remains too much internal conflict, too many competing sub-stations. As a species, it as though we are back where we started; on the threshold of eusociality where natural selection still acts most powerfully at the level of the individual. Now, without the preadaptations (or perhaps time) for our cybernetic collective consciousness to cross it’s own threshold of adaptiveness, we are stuck, as Lynton Caldwell, professor emeritus from Indiana University wrote, “between two worlds, one dying, and the other helpless to be born”.

    We know that our species has thrived at the tribal level of organization. That what Daniel Quinn’s call for a new tribalism is all about. Other’s hold out hope that the cybernetic super organism will somehow cross that threshold where it too could begin to respond to external stimuli, like climate change, in a progressively adaptive way. Most on this blog, convinced of NTE, find either form of hope ridiculous; for them, the sun has already exploded.

    Me, I don’t know. That my best attribute. After all, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. Maybe we’ll all fry in fifteen years. Maybe not, or not everywhere. But here, right now, there is a brand new Peregrine Falcon screaming it’s will-to-live against the cliff below me. It’s flight is beautiful and powerful and despite the bad news I think he’s asking me to give a damn. This bird’s voice is relentless and makes more sense to me than another fact-filled PowerPoint presentation however well reasoned. The screams call me to action, not because the odds are good, but because the odds are bad; really, really bad. The screams call to me because I don’t need hope to be attached to a range of effectiveness. My prayers still fly over the grave of God.

    For me, hope is attached solely to love and I’ll be damned if hope didn’t just land on the sunlit rock behind me, not twenty feet away, on the high rim of San Diego Canyon, in the fire-scared Jemez mountains of New Mexico.

  • mike k says: Was I there in the 60’s? You bettcha….

    The Dream Is Over

    In the sixties, it seemed that perhaps
    We had both the means and the maps
    To start over again;
    If we couldn’t do it then,
    We won’t do it during collapse.


    We’ll be fine, with food in the larder,
    If we clap with appropriate ardor;
    When that’s not enough,
    We’ll just have to hang tough
    And clap even longer and harder.

    (He said longer and harder huh huh huh.)

    Glade Wilson says: …you prepare for extinction…by learning to play the fiddle, as the quartet on the deck of the Titanic had the only logical approach to facing extinction….

    Jamming on the Titanic

    There’s no lifeboat, canoe, or gondola,
    So walk up to the band and say “Hola!”
    Playing fiddle is grand,
    But much more in demand
    Are people who play the viola.

  • @ moflo

    Glad you’re finding the comments stimulating. I learn more each day, although I miss lots just trying to skim through the large volume.

    Light went off with the musician’s admission of laziness. It’s my case too. I do nothing that I don’t want to do. If I sometimes seem intent on saving the world, it might be misleading. I’m simply doing what I enjoy, when I enjoy doing it. I wouldn’t want to work hard to amass a lot of knowledge for saving the world. That would seem a hindrance to “flow.” I consider myself a particularly creative little organism within a river that will go whither it will, but is highly receptive to the elements within and around it. So I try to do my part, “play” MY music. Nothing hard about it. Or, if it’s hard, it’s enjoyably so.

    I LIKE to think and imagine (it comes from being left entirely on my own as a child, doing little but daydreaming), but have never been what anyone would label as “realistic.” If something sparks your interest, you should go for it. What’s the harm?

    BTW, it strikes me that NTE is well underway, having been so for much of civilization, but on steroid recently. As I see it, the fact that people who have the luxury to sit and read blogs and put in their two cents

  • Fear Mike F.,

    Beautiful writing and admirable love for the world. You are helping in ways that are barely understood by most, to alter the course of our trajectory. As we cannot pin down with certainty many factors we speculate upon with varying degrees of certainty, when it comes to the socio-biological/ evolutionary component/s, our certainty waivers with the crazy static of a station we are still only just beginning to attempt to dial in. Carolyn’s article is a great attempt to start the conversation by patch-working (like a fine quilt) together ideas from some of the best of the best, but if we dig into our hearts and souls, we find that best is at best only a scratch on the surface. A scratch is how it begins as long as we realize that is all it is, so we will move on and in and out.

    Regarding the idea that we are in some kind of a ditch or rut off of the road of adaptive group development thus stunting further cognitive flowering, do you think it is because we are truly at an evolutionary dead end, give or take the rare individual/s or that we are on the whole recreating the necessary forces to kick start us up out of the ditch or rut as a group again? Sometimes when I look around at my human family I feel it is the former and sometimes the latter.

  • Dear Ufvfugl, I could not open me link :-(

  • @Mike F.

    A lot depends on what we assume as the “goal” of complex adaptive systems like human societies. The evidence from thermodynamics strongly hints that cultures, like life itself, arise spontaneously (self-organize) in response to energy gradients in the environment. From this point of view the underlying “goal” of all life and its emergent behavior is to dissipate energy as effectively as they can – with “effective” meaning some combination of efficiency and throughput. Particular emergent behaviors survive to the extent that they contribute to this effectiveness. We have chosen to place our attention on the emergent behavior, and to interpret it in terms of other emergent qualities like politics, religion, social values etc. That’s all well and good for feeling like a part of the human race, but IMO it utterly misses the point of the exercise, which is the energy use.

    Collaboration tends to increase a group’s ability to dissipate energy effectively. This is especially true if the group is organized hierarchically and the collaboration is controlled by appropriate feedback mechanisms. However, collaboration itself doesn’t govern the group’s fitness in the selection process – that is governed by its energy use, which is potentiated by the collaboration. Hierarchy appears spontaneously in all complex adaptive systems. The reason is that hierarchy makes the group more effective at using energy by providing control and feedback pathways. The more energy we have available to dissipate, the more feedback we need to control its dissipation, so the stronger the hierarchy becomes.

    The collaboration of the super-organism is absolutely remarkable when seen this way. We have become able to dissipate one heck of a lot of energy – the equivalent of 17 trillion watts of power, not even counting the solar energy we use to grow food for 7 billion of us. And it’s still climbing. So it goes.

    Because the “raison d’etre” of all complex adaptive systems is to dissipate energy as effectively as possible, anything that gets in the way is ignored or discarded. In our case this is where the Litany of Doom comes from. Climate change, species extirpations, chemical pollution, social injustice – none of that matters one iota to the system as a whole. In fact, unless it presents an immediate and obvious threat to survival, dealing with it would reduce the effectiveness of our energy dissipation. So we have developed clever techniques like climate denial, private property ownership, and economic theories to hide the entropic damage or keep ourselves from having to deal with it. So it goes.

    The noble savage myth was made possible only by virtue of the fact that they lived in low-energy cultures, constantly within sight of the carrying limits of their environment. As soon as our evolved brains managed to remove those limits, things changed. From this point of view our brain’s intelligence (and our subsequent use of language) didn’t evolve to create ballets or philosophy. It evolved specifically to remove limits to growth whenever we encountered them. We did really, really well at that for a while. So it goes.

    I think we have become something absolutely amazing, so long as we understand the “goal” of the system. If we persist in seeing civilization as a purely human endeavor; if we put all our attention on the emergent qualities and spare none for those underlying goals; if we persist in thinking of ourselves as creatures of morality and free will – of course the whole thing is going to look like fail. However, if for just a moment we drop the human-centric attitude, complete the Copernican/Galilean revolution and move humanity out of the center of our value systems; if we look at it for what it is rather than what we wish it was – the whole thing looks strangely and awesomely majestic.

    I rather wish it wasn’t coming to a close. So it goes.

  • Paul, just real quick, isn’t your theory based on the assumption that what drove and continues to drive humans was a natural urge or force that impelled us to dissipate energy as efficiently as possible? The newer theories are that our love for ideas especially ones centered on early worship, started emerging as a strong urge based on love of creativity, ultimately riding shotgun to our drive to survive, this approx ten thousand years bce. Eventually it seems this new complex took over. This emerged early in settlement development to the degree we were willing to risk getting our energy less efficiently by parking ourselves closest to our creative endeavors even if that put us miles further away from access to food. The theory further questions if it was not food that drove our early industries, but the earliest worship of Gods drove our need for agriculture. I mean freakishly this new theory kinda goes along with why Guy walked away from his job, it was located in the least energy dissipation efficiency areas one could envisage. So how does how we are behaving and have been behaving, if the new theories prevail, fit into your idea? Perhaps better? If I get what you are proposing…. maybe not. Fun to chew on though!

  • @OzMan Thanks for the acknowledgement. Every one of us has a naturally limited perspective. Seeing through the apocalypse is a team effort.

    @BadlandsAK Thanks again. Every little bit of light is useful these days. I think, with your help, your kids will discover their place in time, and live it to the fullest. As the list of our days shortens, every one of them grows ever crisper and more intense. I have heard: “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy.” (all of it is life) Sometimes that advice is easier to take than at other times. I have heard: “Do not look upon this world with fear and loathing, bravely face whatever the gods offer.” These expressions portray the spirit of the warrior. Sometimes that valiant feeling courses through me. Sometimes I feel weak, and melt into a puddle. Don’t we all? We should be especially kind to each other in these tender end times, where all feelings are heightened. No need to shout when a whisper will do. No need for salt in the porridge with all these tears. No… rather, let us look to the stars and see we float around one too. Perhaps you’ll want to share that last thought with your kids, for me. I don’t have any.


    Maybe I was just following the goose-stepping dictates of my genes or of the laws of thermodynamics, screaming at me to consume as much as I can. But, since I have watched a lot of TV, statisticians tell me I’ve probably watched a couple of years worth of commercial ads, that’s hundreds of thousands of 30 and 60 second little Adolphs screaming in my brain, telling me the right things to buy. Those corporations don’t have as much faith as some do that my genes of the law of physics would do the job for them. So what choice did I have but to obey, and what impressionable boy can resist the example to be a big strong macho man like Arnold. So I traded in my low emission Honda and bought the biggest truck I could find, now I get to release four times more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. My genes are happier, the laws of physics are happier, plus I feel sexier and more patriotic.

  • mr. rogers the hip radical:

    bailey originally posted the link below about a day and 1/2 ago. i haven’t read many of the comments following it, but so far haven’t come across any responding to it, so perhaps i’m the first. it is imo a fantastic documentary, combining science (particularly re. human biological and cultural evolution), nature, artistry, beauty, and radical provocative ideas. less than an hour long and well worth the time:

  • ‘Hogwash on there being any “meaning” to anything other than the eventual scattering of our sub-atomic particles to the far reaches of the cold, dark, ends of the universe.

    Just because we can “think” doesn’t mean we have spirits or souls or any of that malarky.’ -rob

    agreed. come to think of it, widespread belief/faith in a ‘personal deity’ is perhaps a defining characteristic of the inflated egos of civilized humans. alone among all animals, we imagine ourselves to be important and exceptional enough to warrant such things as a ‘personal god’ and a ‘soul’.

    ‘Save the planet, kill yourself.’ -pat

    c’mon, pat, no individual is powerful enough to ‘save the planet’. kill yourself? sure, but it ain’t gonna save any damned planet! such a thought is delusional and egotistical (rather like believing oneself to have a ‘soul’ or some ‘higher purpose’), exaggerating one’s abilities. rather, kill yourself to save yourself from undesirable suffering, now, or in the future, if and when the time comes that u see such suffering with clarity in your near future. when that time may be, each individual must decide for his/her self, if one has the courage to do so.

    btd, another home run with ‘bargaining in imaginationland’

  • thestormcrow

    I hear you regarding the ‘Money’ trap.

    If you haven’t yet read it a great book on how Money works is David Greaber’s:

    “Debt- The First 5,000 years”

    Also it sounds like you are on the road to Co=operative or Community currencies, which operate entirely differently to Fiat currencies. A great book by Bernard Lietaer:

    “The Future of Money”

    Bernard Lietaer also has promoted a workable interface with Fiat currencies, and progress is being made all around the world on complimentary currencies.

    A great introduction from 2009 is here:

    TEDxBerlin – Bernard Lietaer – 11/30/09

    and here:

    TEDxFlanders – Bernard Lietaer – design and implementation of currency systems

    I don’t see Bernard Lietaer is collapse or NTE aware in the terms put here, but he is on the money so to speak, and not in order to scam.


    Having looked at these issues for the last 3 years I have a thesis to put.

    Very broadly, what we call Empire is the machinery to maintain the tools of money and power.
    In Indigenous tribal situations the warlike and competitive approaches we used at the borders to maintain home ranges for food, water and cultural boundaries.
    Broadly males patrolled these boundaries. In trading between groups precious metals came into being to trade with. Obsidian was used very early too. Rare food too, and salt.

    Within local social grouping co-operative currencies were used and were generated by everyone, and were not competitive by nature. Not exclusively but by default women generated a lot of these types of reciprocating currencies.

    When population increased, and invasions ensued, local currencies were destroyed by the competitive currencies of the neighbouring expanding group.
    As this process fed the rise of Empires, its only currency became the competitive national currencies, and economic growth came into being to keep drawing profit to the centre,

    This was at the expense of all cooperative currencies. You also have the gender component, where the warring groups, the men, destroy the way of life of the neighbouring groups, kill or oppress into slavery or take into armies the males, and the females and children are left to adapt to fiat currency used by the invaders – no longer free to use their own traditional co-operative currencies.

    National currencies are an unconscious agreement to compete. They are a poor tool to support communities, and actually work against it.

    So in my model, national currencies are good at building Empires, and local and co-operative currencies, including the gifting process, are good to build community support, and resilience.

    Bernard Lietaer writes that what we use today as money, and the rules that govern it, actually do not accomplish what many are trying to do with it. I agree.

    2 years ago I began trying to activate the gift community in my area.

    Some saw a man with two chicken heads dragging waste to his yard, and offering to do people’s yard-work for nothing. But it was not ‘for nothing’, as it was actualising what is the glue that has some traction all over the world, helping neighbours.

    I can only say it has been a great failure, as so many are too distracted with their own ways of getting what they need – to be expected.

    But some noticed a man with a human head trying to do something good, or for the common good. Others are too, absolutely, but I have found the most confronting proposition to people is to do something for nothing.

    Fool, idiot, or crazy are the usual descriptors, but it is also for a few the beginning of an idea that is really at the root of human community – free attention and effort on other’s needs.

    So walking away from Empire can also be defined as choosing to associate in a co=operative way with like minded folk to support each other.
    Doing things for free is also counter-egoic, and nicely challenging to oneself as you do it!

    kevin moore

    Can you give us a bit of a bio, of you and where you live in NZ?

    Fuel is going up again here too.

  • Can’t resist

    ‘Conversations w/Great Minds – Rethinking Money – What is Money? P1’

    and the whole 58 mins can b e found now here:

    ‘Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne promoting “Rethinking Money” at The Big Picture show on RT with Thom Hartmann’

    A must see IMO.

  • Here’s an example of what a walk away from empire may actually be like, at least initially:

    It’s a description of the collapse of the Soviet Union from the inside. The real “walk” will be much worst.

  • Thanks for the essay Carolyn, you raise a lot of interesting questions. I don’t envy your task of trying to strengthen the idea community among people trying to make a transition to something new. Since we start from such barren ground, Americans are going to have an especially hard time creating community because capitalism is strongest here, and nothing is better at destroying community than capitalism. It has impressed deeply impressed upon our minds a selfish and crippling competitive individualism, even more so among the affluent types that you work with. In America, true community has been deliberately destroyed, so has any deep notion of family, and even friendship is on the ropes. We’ve been made into capitalism’s idea of the perfect being; namely, the atomized consumer. Even without an environmental crisis, I gave up on America some time ago. I’ve christened it, The Disunited States of Nihilism. Sorry to be so bleak, I do wish you well in your endeavor, and would be delighted to see some results that would change my attitude.