The Green Disillusion

One of the frustrating things in talking about the potential catastrophic reorganization of the world, is that most of the people with anything to say about it, tend to stop at the point of reaction, and not really move on to a coherent response.

What I mean is, say you have something like peak oil, or mass starvation, or devastating climate changes, and some dude’s been wracking his brain about these things and he comes up with a great idea like drive less, or grow your own food, or reorganize community at a smaller level etc… and that’s it. They stop at reacting to the problem. Very seldom do any of these people really speak to what caused the problem in the first place, how to fix that, and more important yet, what to do with ourselves after we solve the problem.

If you’ve ever known anybody with self destructive elements in their personality, you’ll know that it’s not sufficient to just fix the situation from moment to moment, or just try to get them to stop doing what their doing. Chances are, they’ll just find another way to express the self destructive tendency that they had all along.

But that’s kind of where people are at when talking about this situation. It’s like telling an alcoholic to just ‘stop drinking’. That doesn’t work, except in the case of people who were ready to stop drinking already and just needed to hit bottom before they recognized the necessity of it. Usually, if you want to make any headway at all, you have to identify what it was that made them want to drink in the first place, and find an alternate, superior focus for them to replace it with.

Most of what’s being proposed right now are not alternate superior focuses. A lot of them are flat out reactionary or regressive. The default option seems to be that we need to turn back to an earlier, agricultural model of civilization. Never mind the fact that a lot of that land doesn’t exist anymore in a usable form, never mind that we don’t have the population of traction animals anymore to do this right now. Never mind that you’re essentially restoring a pattern of social relations analogous to feudalism, and opening the door to the most reactionary forms of religion… most people don’t think past the idea that this is the only way to keep growing enough food.

But probably the most compelling reason to reject and move past the historical remnants of agriculturalism is simple math, combined with a bit of empirical observation.

The conventional wisdom, for a non-fossil fuel related agricultural productivity, suggest that to feed each person requires somewhere around 10,000 square feet per person. This is what is being done in cuba right now, for instance. This is, if you have some simple math, an area about 100 meters X 100 meters, or a little over 300 feet X 300 feet if you don’t have the metric system. Some cutting edge methods suggest you could get that down to maybe a 120 feet by 300 feet.

Now, I invite you to look around and try to figure out where that area is going to come from, in the event that you had to start growing most of your own food. If you live in the city, like I do, you’re probably eyeing some common land, or a particularly large backyard. Keep in mind that this area is per person, so if you have a family of three, or four, just multiply, right?

Now, I live in a second floor apartment, with my gf, so no bloody way do I have two patches of ground that size, with ample sunlight available to me. The closest I could get is to commandeer the flat roof of my building, and do some container gardening which some information suggests would work well.

However: there are probably somewhere around 100 other people in this building. Maybe more. The roof is big, but it isn’t 12000 feet X 30000 feet, that’s for sure, so I would in effect be displacing other people from their common resource. If I went to the park nearby, I would have similar problems. As long as almost nobody else wants to section off a piece of the common land, then I’m fine, but that’s isn’t going to happen.

And this could scale up as well. Even if I had some group of neighbors, and we stepped in to tear up a parking lot or some such, I’m reasonably sure that the math still doesn’t add up. What it comes down to is the population density of urban areas is too much for this strategy. You would have to turn every neighborhood into an armed camp, and essentially eject large numbers of people, which I find distasteful, even if it were feasible, which I doubt.

So a lot of people end up having to decant onto the rural lands, but you have the same problem out there, except now it’s exacerbated by the excess capacity of the city flowing out into the countryside, with predictable results ranging from feudalism to slave labor to outright warfare. In a situation where you have economic and food pressures of this nature, it’s hard to imagine things being optimal for food growing either.

So, really suggesting we embrace old model agriculturalism in the industrialized world is probably a lost cause, if not simply morally bankrupt. Condemning most people to such a wretched existence because you can’t spare five minutes to do the math is pretty ludicrous.

Off the top of my head, about the only solution that might work is to abandon the notion of private plots altogether, along with conventional notions of how people and crops coexist. We here in north america should get used to the idea that almost every square foot of usable surface area will be given over to growing something, and much of it will be treated as a commons. It needs to be utterly ubiquitous, and pervasive, so as to offset the tendency to abuse common resources. If every roof top, every parking lot, every back yard or sidewalk is essentially a common food resource, then nobody needs to go very far to eat. Sure there will be a temptation for someone to jump your fence and steal some shit, but if we reconfigure our environment properly, then those people will be too busy watching their own crops to go stealing yours, and if every path and street is lined with berries, fruit trees, and garden beds, it should minimize friction quite a bit. What it comes down to is, if I need to personally own and control my food producing land in some contiguous mass, it will not work. Not in an urban space, not on a mass scale.  But if I can distribute it, and turn the whole city into essentially common land, with the right kind of technological inputs… maybe.

What I’m proposing, is essentially to change all our human environments into designed foraging grounds, where everyone is educated in how contribute constructively to its total diversity and productivity. It also provides a framework for developing  the kind of ecological and systemic education in the population that we’ll need to keep surviving on this planet. Instead of converting most of us back into the world’s smartest traction animals.

This is obviously somewhat embryonic, but to me it is manifestly superior to the knee jerk alternatives of those who pine for 19th century social relations. Or worse.

Planetary Triage

Interestingly enough, the same problem I had in thinking of what to say next is pretty much what I needed to write about.

At this point, there is enough serious shit going down that you would never be able to keep track of it all. I remember just a few years ago, you’d be lucky to get maybe four or five relevant pieces of news a day. Now it’s like twenty original pieces, revolving around maybe three or four novel events, every single day.

Trying to assimilate that on a case by case basis is clearly no longer a tenable situation. If you take these matters seriously, it’s not responsible to get your daily doom fix and paralyse yourself by trying to get the ‘whole picture’.

The whole picture is pretty fucked, y’all. Time to deal with it.

That means you have to approach this as a legitimate exercise in crisis management, and the first step, once you’ve done an assessment, is to perform triage.

Triage, in battlefield terms is separating out those who can be helped, from those who can’t, and putting your resources where it will do the most good. Once things get to a certain pitch, trying to save everyone and everything is only going to put people in worse danger, and put you at risk of losing a lot more than you need to.

At this point, defending every inch of your lifestyle isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t. in the same way, for us to try and save every bit of our society, as it is, on a case by case basis, is only going to make things worse. This is what is being done with the economy right now. Instead of letting things unwind, which they will eventually have to do no matter what, it’s being fought to the death by inches, and this is only going to guarantee us a soviet style collapse, and widespread poverty and misery. The only way to go from a reactive to a responsive mode of behavior is to withdraw to a predetermined point and start to progress from there. Which means that certain things need to be let go of, and let go of right now.

My suggestion, at this point, is to give yourself at least a year of lead time. That means anything that might or probably will happen in the next year should be regarded at this point as a done deal. Make the changes now, while you have the time, and prepare to hold that situation to the best of your ability.

For example, in the next year, you should take seriously the idea that you will not be able to afford to drive, except in emergences, and just stop using the car right now. Save the money and use the bus, or carpool. Buy the gas anyway if you want, and stockpile it. Store the car, or sell it. Buy a bike, whatever. Get ahead of that curve, because you don’t want to wake up some morning and suddenly find you can’t afford to commute to your job anymore, or the government is just flat out rationing the fuel, and you can’t get it. The car culture cannot be saved. Let it die.

Similarly, you should take seriously the notion that airline transport and long distance trucking will be dramatically reduced from what it is now. That means, grocery stores become fewer and smaller, international business shrinks, consumer goods start to dry up. Start learning how to grow some food. Not all, but some. Live closer to your necessities. Learn to live without all the cheap crap. If you really need to travel a lot, you should get used to the idea that that isn’t going to continue. The globalised consumer culture is not going to survive. Let it die.

And in line with what I said above you should probably adjust your financial assets with an eye to the possibility that the banking and finance system as it exists is not going to survive either. Clearing your debts and investing in tangibles is not a bad idea at all.

This is not some mad max shit, and it’s not mass death. But it’s what you gotta accept if you want to avoid the worse alternatives. Or at least, if you want to be in a position to offset the worse alternatives.

For certain regions, the prognosis is obviously much worse. If you live in crumbling infrastructure, under huge debts, at the end of a long commute, and there’s no soil in sight, you might want to seriously consider walking away from that situation. There are places in the united states that face a mass catastrophe in the winter the first time there’s a natural gas shortage that coincides with sub zero weather. That could happen anytime. Great Britain stands to fall into semi permanent blackouts in the next few years due to decay in their energy infrastructure, and depletion of north sea oil.

In short I recommend you inform yourself on the likely unfoldings in your locale and get ahead of the breaking wave. From there, we can start to build.

Best Intentions

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue! You were saying something about “best intentions”? What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished? Well, allow me to retort!

I apologize for the ugly spectacle that has unfolded in the comments thread a little ways down. I probably handled it badly, combined with letting certain people abuse my goodwill to a degree I’m not comfortable with. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. In fact, I encourage it. What I won’t tolerate is throwing around insults in lieu of command of the facts, or wild and uninformed speculation about me as a person, or anyone else here. The internet has enough social retards without entertaining any here.

The way I parsed my arguments for an energy related die off probably threw some people into a bit of tailspin, especially if you’ve read a lot of my other stuff and can’t quite figure out how to reconcile that material with the idea of a mass die off of a sizable section of the human population.

Let me say again, in case it wasn’t obvious enough: I do not claim to have any special knowledge, and I do not claim to have the only answer. That is why it was so upsetting for me to solicit some alternate interpretations of what I was looking at and find nothing but shallow grasp of the facts and good intentions.

The ‘good intentions’ aspect of this is probably the most troubling. I can deal with people who don’t have time to do research and don’t have the figures at their disposal, who haven’t got time to listen to hundreds of hours of lectures and commentary, and hear all the arguments and counter arguments. That’s cool.

What’s frustrating for me is when people want to open this up into the occult dimension, and even worse so, when they want to parrot my own work back to me as if that exposes some contradiction in my thinking, or some fundamental inauthenticity in my work.

Because, after all don’t I go on and on about the psycho plastic nature of reality, about not getting snared in negative reality tunnels, or malignant conspiracies to control your views? And it’s true; I absolutely have.

But here’s the thing: when people get turned onto this stuff for the first time, it’s like a lot of profound experiences in life; because the world and the people around you never talked about it, and show little evidence of understanding any of it, you almost feel like you’re the first person to ever see the world that way. You could almost feel like you got there first, and everyone is just going to have to catch up with you.

With things like magick, or whatever brand of new age ‘new paradigm’ piffle they’re shilling these days, the natural instinct for people like this is to imagine that we can transfigure the whole world with magick and positive intentions, that all you have to do is jack off over sigils scribbled in the margins of the dancing wu li masters and that quantum physics and probability waves will make it all better.

But here’s the false bottom in that little fantasy world, and the key to the naive arrogance in that thinking: you want to change the world as it appears to be, into the product of a magickal act? Well guess what; the world as it it appears to be is already the product of magickal acts.

Long before you got up this morning and tried to change reality with your happy thoughts, long before you were even born, there were adepts doing that very thing, and doing it better than you ever will. Except their thoughts might not always qualify as ‘happy’ in your books.

Tell me, what’s the difference between eckhart toole fulminating about ‘a new earth’ to squadrons of gape mouthed well wishers who read the law of attraction, and George H.W. Bush professing a New World Order to the planet? Here’s a hint: old eckhart didn’t have the CIA, the drug cartels, the IMF and the united states military working for his vision.

It is, alas as the late Robert Anton Wilson used to say; The border between the Real and the Unreal is not fixed, but just marks the last place where rival gangs of shamans fought each other to a standstill”.

And I’m sorry guys, but if you really think you’re running with the toughest gang of shamans, I’m flattered, but you need to give your fucking head a shake.

A lot of what I’ve done here is precisely to bring up the quality of ‘our’ ( whatever ‘our’ means…) gang of shamans, and while in some ways the result has been encouraging, in other ways, not so much.

As I’ve said at least a couple times now, peak oil was one of the formative influences on my work here, starting in 2005, and I had been researching it for a couple years before that. Part of the reason I am even here is that I saw a window, a slice of time where things were still plastic enough to be changed, when the magickal zeitgeist was still being formed, when the gang fight could go in either direction.

What I’m trying to say here, at least in regards to certain aspects of the peak oil question, is that that window has clearly begun to close, if not closed entirely. The front line of the war has rolled over us, and pretending that it hasn’t is just foolish. If you didn’t have the chops to prevent it, you certainly don’t have the chops to reverse it, or mitigate it to any significant degree.

Your ‘probability waves’ or sigils, or reality tunnel shifting, or good intentions are not going to change what has cemented into a consensus reality by now. You will not be changing the amount of oil in the ground, you will not be changing the energy infrastructure by snapping your fingers. You will not be making food out of thin air. The best you can do is to command your own private sphere and work to redraw the playing field in some useful way.

But don’t kid yourself that you’re going to out-magick the reality priesthood. Not about this. You needed to get up a lot earlier in the morning for that. An awful lot of really holy, really spiritual, really positive people have suffered gruesome fates over the centuries, and a lot of them understood this stuff much better than you or I ever will. The reason you don’t hear all their stories, is because they’re dead. Just because a few optimists lived to write theirs, doesn’t change the truth of that.

You don’t get to wish away the physical world and it’s momentum just because you had a couple interesting insights. You don’t get to ignore hard facts by thinking happy thoughts. If you keep thinking that, the wave will crash right down on your head, and you’ll be another optimist who doesn’t get to write an uplifting biography.

This shit is chess, not checkers.