Responding to the Crisis

SUBHEAD: On the threshold of the collapse of this version of human civilization.

By Paul Chefurka on 20 February 2009 in Limits to Growth -

Image above: detail from "The Train to the Edge of the World", 1999 by Mark Bryan at

You need a lot of converging failures to crash an airplane, let alone to cause what we're seeing in the world right now. Unfortunately for many of us, what we're seeing is a collapse.

The main reason we don't yet recognize what's happening to us as a collapse is because the true nature of what is waiting for us just around the corner is still only visible to a very few. Most of us view the situation as though we were peeking into a tiny keyhole, through which we can see only a small section of the vast room beyond. Those pieces that are out of our field of view complicate the situation rather dramatically.

Only a small number of people have the breadth of background and understanding needed to widen their view and encompass the full scope of our predicament. That range of knowledge goes beyond simple economics or environmentalism to include ecology, energy analysis, history, anthropology, biology, politics and maybe a bit of evolutionary psychology. Fortunately, just a smattering of knowledge in those other fields will suffice, so long as one has the inclination to weave the disparate threads into a full picture.

Focusing on just one field will not reveal our full situation (though ecology comes closer than most). I know people in the alternative energy business, for instance, who simply cannot believe that the financial crisis has dashed their dreams of a solar-powered civilization. Most of us prefer to believe that a few simple reforms affecting our chosen field of interest is all that is required. Most of us are tragically wrong.

We are standing on the threshold of the collapse of this version of human civilization.

Recognizing that fact radically changes your assessment of the oughts and shoulds that might be useful in addressing any aspect of the crisis. And it completely changes your ideas about what approach might be useful in addressing the whole thundering avalanche.

All change carries with it both challenge and opportunity. The greater the change, the greater both the challenge and the opportunity become. We are now face to face with the greatest opportunity for human growth that has ever existed, if we can only summon up the courage to seize it. Remember that courage is not fearlessness, but the ability to act even in the presence of fear.<

My recommendations for preparations all revolve around changes in attitude. We need to understand that what humans have experienced for the last 500 years is not a birthright but a singularity. We need to remember that people are fully capable of feeling joy even in the absence of computers, flat panel TVs and MRI machines. Most importantly, we need to come to terms with the idea that all change -- even death itself -- is both inevitable and necessary.

This approach may sound pretty esoteric in comparison to developing wind turbines and solar panels. However, in the end those are just more shiny, ephemeral baubles of the intellect when what we need is the solid rock of the human spirit -- the spirit that has been with us since we became human hundreds of millennia ago.

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