Two Great Articles Worth Reading

I’ll comment here on two recent posts-one by Richard Heinberg and another by Rob Hopkins:

Just finished Richard Heinberg’s latest piece, and because I couldn’t find his email address to send this along to him directly, I’ll do it publicly:

Great job, Richard. After reading it, I feel like we’re now on the same path, not only on the same journey, and its great to have you walking my way. While I do agree with you that it was important to try with all of one’s might to change the direction of gov’t bodies, (despite the fact that this was not something I personally was suited to do), I’m glad you’ve changed your direction. There is so much that can be accomplished on a local level and you are such a powerful voice to encourage that sort of effort. Here’s a favorite excerpt:

I could take no satisfaction from these confirmations of the Limits to Growth and Peak Oil scenarios; being able to say “I told you so” hardly made up for the shock of knowing that our last opportunities to change direction had been missed and that the train of industrial civilization was now not merely still chugging toward a broken bridge, but was actually starting to plummet into the gorge below. We had succeeded somewhat in helping increase public awareness of an issue: due to the efforts of thousands of scientists, writers, and activists, “peak oil” had become a recognizable term in public discourse. But we had failed to budge government policy in more than very minor ways (I had, for example, assisted the City Council-appointed Peak Oil Task Force of Oakland, California, which produced a sensible report on which, so far, little action has been taken).

I personally want to applaud you, Richard, for your tireless efforts. It is time to stop, and, as you point out, you gave it your best shot.

But it is now too late to avert a collapse of the existing system. The collapse has begun.

It is time for a different strategy.

You point out that this is no time to toss up our hands in hopelessness (although I might add that this might be a useful stop along the psychological trail for some of us…). Instead, you rightly point out that “collapse” doesn’t mean “extinction.” There is a phoenix arising from that fire, if we’re smart enough to stir the ashes.

So few people recognize what Richard is emphasizing here: You have to get busy now impacting the environment all around you, because if you don’t you might not like the results. As one book title says “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” And the only people who are going to be motivated to do that are those that have some understanding of what is happening and why.

Probably my only quibble (and it truly is that), Richard is your using Kubler-Ross’s tired old stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—to describe people’s Peak Oil adjustment. It isn’t what my own four years of psychological research is suggesting. And it’s bad psychological science, even for death and dying research. This insistence of ‘stages’ is just plain wrong.

But you are right on target that there is an intensifying movement, from all angles, that the global stage is “being set for an economic crash of epic proportions.” The shift is happening, and despite the usurping of the color “green” from everything from coal to banking, more and more people are catching on that “brown” is the right color to be.

You point out a few notable examples of the change, and end with this great kicker:

Individually, these initiatives and projects may seem to be on too small a scale to make much of a difference. But multiplied by thousands, with examples in nearly every community, they represent a quiet yet powerful movement.

You point out that few get media exposure, and I’ve pointed out why in a previous article: browns have nothing to sell, no advertising sponsors, no pro-growth agenda. If we wait for this “no growth” revolution to be televised, we’ll be waiting a very long time.

They understand something the media either ignore or deny. They’re betting on a future of local food systems, not global agribusiness; of community credit co-ops rather than too-big-to-fail Wall Street megabanks; of small-scale renewable energy projects, not a world-spanning system of fossil-fuel extraction, trade, and consumption. A future in which we do for ourselves, share, and cooperate.

They’re embarking on a life after growth.

Beautifully put.

I’d like to add other foundations to a “livable, inviting post-growth society: “that people will increasingly develop the capacity to accept that bad things do happen to people, without demanding that a positive lesson be gleamed from it.

“Happiness” should not be the requirement against which we judge whether this new post-growth society works for us. We should welcome a society that provides us both a livable planet and basic elements for what humans need in order to live. There will undoubtedly be moments of great happiness, but we’ll also need patience in our dealings with other people and tolerance in the face of upcoming hardship. We’ll need a deep feeling of gratitude for the capacity to contribute our skills to our local community and a solid grasp of our own values that will motivate us to fight against injustice. I want to see fortitude and simplicity as guidelines, and the capacity to keep jealousy and greed in check. And, perhaps above all, pragmatism and fellowship, not only with other humans, but with all living elements of the earth.

Thanks for all of your continued hard work, Richard.

Another post that I think deserves applause is a butt-kicking post by Rob Hopkins, who clearly slams one of my favorite villains, GM(O) crops. While I don’t have the credentials to comment on the body of his argument, he certainly expresses my sentiments powerfully and convincingly. He expands the limits of the writer who’s work he criticizes by including the 3 E’s: “Food security is about creating an agriculture which is more diverse, more intimately linked to local economies, and based on a more seasonal diet.”

I have long held that GM has no place in a low carbon farming system. This is not based on taking a moral high ground, or on intentionally rejecting science, rather it is based on taking a broader picture than merely whether it is harmful to eat or not. Does GM technology promote better soil health and carbon sequestration? Does it support farmers in creating sustainable livelihoods which they are in control of? Does it nurture healthier eating practices and a move away from processed foods? Does it improve and sustain biodiversity? Does it make us more or less dependent on cheap fossil fuels? Until the answer is yes to those questions, GM, for me, is out.

These are great questions, and Rob is in an important position to be able to influence people by asking them.

He ends the post powerfully:

“So why has Lynas had this turnaround? Of course, we can’t know, but I get a sense that in the desperate search for a solution to the crisis we are in, there is a sense that this is still a soluble problem if only that one big solution can be found to sort it out. I think that if there is a way through, it will be composed of lots of smaller solutions, driven by those that feel ownership of it. There is a huge danger in embracing large scale, untested, remotely-owned solutions, that we end up turning a problem into a predicament, not sensible when so many, time-proven, smaller scale solutions exist.

Two excellent posts from two leaders in this community.

About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.

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