Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I don't think we should be in denial that the Earth is terminal; or that our civilization can't go on the way it's going. That's not Cause-of-the-Month; that's fact.
And I don't think we should lose hope. The Spirit which brings us this crisis can also turn our misguided, heedless species (and selves) around, and bring about healing even in terminal conditions.
Should we be talking more about this?
Hello Forrest. I can't talk about it if I don't understand your assumptions. Obviously, you are not in denial. Are there others who are not in denial? What do you mean, specifically, by the "fact" that the "Earth is terminal?" What specifically is the "way" civilization can no longer sustain? How specifically are human beings misguided and what specifically is it that they do not heed? How specifically are we "doomed?"
A wise Jewish man once said "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
or as we might hear said in our stores: Out with the old and in with the new!
It comes down to a matter of Function over Style. It doesn't work so it has to be fixed. If we will not do it someone else will. He always has.
Picture God looking down at the earth and Abraham arguing with him:
Surely you will not destroy it if 1% of the people have a good life? God looks at him and Abraham realizes the stupidity of what he has said. Abraham then says: "Surely you will not destroy it if 10% of the people have a good life?" Again the LOOK. Abraham then asks "can I go and help you separate the tares from the wheat?"
The planet, as a lump of metal in orbit around a nearby star, is not in any danger of fragmentation. Even a larger asteroid would not harm its spherical integrity. Some gas mix will obtain.
Given the abundance of life now, I expect some forms to go forward, and not just microbial. Were I to sleep for a million years, I'd expect to wake up to life forms, but maybe not to humans as we know them today. On the other hand, I'm aware of no science that would prevent humans sticking around for another million. In principle, that's doable.
So what's doomed then? Our "way of life" maybe? But what is that? Let's ask about "our civilization" and whose that is. Do we have a single civilization? In this time of so many exponential curves, I'd say we have convergent civilizations, thrust together by "Small Planet Syndrome" (SPS). Our diversity will serve us in the long run. When everyone lives the same way, making the same mistakes... that's not a goal.
The opportunity to start over from scratch as it were, while inevitably bringing cultural baggage from the Old World to the New, was in many ways the lure of the Americas and a defining feature of the last few hundred years. Now that the whole world is better charted, and no new continents are expected to emerge, are we prevented from starting over in pockets? Is the day of the pilgrim, the intrepid colonist, forever done? Must we wait for Mars to open up to new settlements before experimenting with new lifestyles?
I'd say the barriers to creating communities have never been lower in some respects. In terms of theater, we have such exciting new props. Windmills, solar cells, lithium batteries, giant domes... these items are more capable and more affordable, in terms of what they do, than anything available to the original pilgrims, and yet they were brave enough to give it a go (with a little help from the people here).
Scouting grew from Camping, an abbreviation of Campaigning, which is what militaries do. The fun of leaving your established residence and set ways, to join some Camp, as a Scout, is not denied those of Quaker heritage. I think of AFSC "work camps" originally contrived for COs. Might we create those voluntarily, versus succumb to the prophecy of camps only for those herded into them (the "FEMA camp" meme), against their wills? That's not the kind of camp I mean. Or call them "eco-villages". We create them consciously, not in response to specific disasters, not even in response to the refugee crisis, but because we want to try new things and master new skills. Let's call it the Space Program and all work for NASA. The Objective: to terraform Earth (a planet as remote as any with a big advantage: we're here already), and to do so more consciously.
I'd think we'd be more excited, about our opportunity to create not-about-outward-war Quaker-values camps, wherein new workflows, new technologies, get prototyped for real. A cross between the New Alchemy Institute and these NASA pilot studies for living on Mars (young people living on next to nothing, for months at a time). I think a lot of us would jump at the opportunity, as a way to be on TV if nothing else.
Here's where my head was at in 1997:
Remember our Quaker heritage, spelled out in the new Quakernomics (book), of the Utopian Company Town. I'm not claiming we ever had one (a company town that so qualified), but that in the 1790s the Quakers had enough economic clout, even minus Pennsylvania, to contemplate what life might be like were we to escape English classism and its me-or-you trickle down economics.
Quakers were into rail, steel, shipping. They shied away from owning slaves. "If we do this right, even the janitor's kids will go to school and everyone will enjoy state of the art health care". Meetings had a role in governance. Those were the golden years.
My contention is full-blown Quakerism is designed from the ground up to manage considerable wealth, what with all these Business Meetings, operating manuals, committee structures and so on. This was a sect steeped in business as well as egalitarianism. I say we (we the Friends) need to get back into business again, big time, and our goal should be the creation of new lifestyles, non-militarized, that involve living lightly upon the Earth. Scouting. Hiking. Camping. Permaculture. It's not just low tech, but high tech, with Nature's being the highest tech. Our tech is nothing compared to hers.
I expect that our success in pulling this off would indeed doom many a contemporary business plan to obsolescence, with those plans being mainly about exploiting pain and suffering, taking advantage of shortages, in the power vacuum created by a restricted imagination and only gloomy-doomy visions. Quakers should remain a source of positive utopianism in principle, as long as there's real science, real reason for hope, behind it. I say there is.
Sometimes you just have to blow things up and start over. Knowing when is the trick.
James, there's this Zen story about a small boy living in a monastery... One day he asks his teacher, "Sensei, why do people have to die?"
His teacher explains that we live embodied within physical and karmic constraints, that sooner or later it simply becomes time for a person to die.
"Sensei, you remember that precious teacup you've always loved so much? It was time for it to die."
I'm sure we'll all be cared for, whatever happens. But I don't want humankind to end up having that sort of conversation with God. It's been a beautiful world, so far.
You’ve heard that the seas will become acid, and we won’t have fish from the sea. You’ve heard that the wheat belt will become dry, and agriculture will diminish. But then your great grandchildren, and the great grandchildren of your relatives, will have less to eat. Somebody on earth will starve.
On a sacred mountain, a 100+ year old man, Abraham, bound his child descendant, Issac, onto an altar in order to slaughter him. Then God spoke, telling Abraham to slaughter a wild goat instead.
Our turn. Humans must not slaughter their own descendants, and honestly, every last one of them has 99.9% of your own genetic code. It’s a sin, it’s immoral, it’s an abomination. Cast off your personal participation in this sin. Don't kill off your own descendants who are going to be 100 years younger than you.
On many forum sites, the Koch brothers’ paid troll cheaply accuses each of us of hypocrisy whenever we buy the industry's fossil fuel. I reply to the troll, perhaps you’re right. We clothe ourselves in petroleum-based plastic no less than an oil-covered bird washed up on a beach. We smell like gasoline after we pump some. We bring cancer-causing chemicals into our families’ houses when we bring home petroleum-made products. We curse ourselves and our communities by this involvement.
Therefore, let us continue to reduce and end our dealings with the barons of massive death. Sell that stock. Clean up your retirement fund’s wanton investing by writing the members of the board. If you’re a small business, sell products that you can be proud of selling. Stay clear of oil wars.
It’s better to go a bit colder in your house rather than to be a small part of the death of your descendants. It’s just as good to be a bit smarter about the energy that you do use.
Now, realize that no man is an island, and that our civilization succeeds only when people work together. Find ways to band together, to have a common will power with others. The word “religion” contains the Latin roots “Re-“ and “-Lig”, to bind together again.
Buy in bulk. Find among you a leader in this small art of bulk buying. Discern the best solar products. Find among you a leader in this art also.
I try to invent the new state of the art in solar nighttime building heat, in solar-based nighttime electricity, in biodiesel generation. Ten other inventors will need to replace me someday. However, what I really need right now are complementary people with social enterprise skills, HR people, sales types, carpenters, people to answer the phone and you. I want you to see your own life, high or low, not only as a way to make rent money but as a way to be proud of your existence.
We’ve had it with a bad Pharaoh’s chains of serfdom and we’d rather walk away. Babel’s promises we have rejected. Moloch is the god that eats our kids up in a hot furnace. We reject this stupid excuse for a god. Mammon (money) is a god that equally eats up our kids. Don’t you follow mammon. Instead, do the right things. Arise. Be brave. Mammon says that the second mouse gets the cheese, but so what? You want to be a hero or heroine among humanity, not a mouse among mice.
Our God is the God of Noah, who found grace in God’s eyes. We shall listen first to God’s prophecy of the doom of the world, but then we will listen intently to God’s engineering specs and we shall follow up on them.
What's a cubit?
A foot is the length of some English king's foot. An inch is from the tip of some king's finger to the first knuckle. A mile, from the French "mille" or 1000, is 1000 left foot paces. We're such a primitive civilization!
Now, a cubit is the distance from a bent elbow to the fingertips.
A cubit is the distance a very large small boy (us) needs to drop a planet onto a hard surface to really mess things up.
The best (& most honest) minds we've got agree with what Paul Klinkman is saying here -- with the further observation that we can't save our descendants (genetic or otherwise) a 1/2 Earth to live on. If we keep on 'poking the climate with a sharp stick', as our political/economic leadership [aka 'Pharaoh'] keeps doing -- and we inevitably, quite innocently continue to do and to abet, the processes we've already set moving will lead to an unimaginable dieoff of our species and probably eventually render the place unfit for habitation by anything bigger than a breadbox or smarter than a dodo.
That's not counting the damage we've already done to the soil via fracking & industrial agriculture, nor the virulent pathogens that industrial-scale animal husbandry tends to produce and to make antibiotic-resistant, nor the effects of a great many nuclear reactors going underwater as sea levels rise over the next hundred years. One crazy-but-smart optimist (Dmitri Orlov) thinks a few properly-trained refugees from civilization could lead a back-breaking, simple existence in Siberia & northern Canada for hundreds of years -- but I'd expect them to eventually fall prey to conditions similar to those during the Permian Extinction, as a whole lot of buried-&-frozen methane adds its impact to the mess.
It's hard for people to get our minds around this; the natural tendency is to take it all as just more newsporn: "Isn't it scary?! That's depressing all right; what other awful thing is happening?"
A great many otherwise-intelligent people are so enthralled in media-fog that uh, I don't see us doing what Paul Klinkman suggests, not on a scale to even slow this down.
Unless God really does update our hearts & renew our collective minds...
I wouldn't put it past God to pull out yet another astonishing miracle! Or to use the very death-throes of all we know, to bring us all to spritual atunement...
Meanwhile, it's one very odd state of affairs.
When it comes to future generations disowning their ancestors as little more than proto-human monsters, freaks of nature who barely qualify, I'd think carpet and fire bombing, chemical warfare, that kind of stuff, would be high on the list of "too psychotic to be effective" ('Human Smoke' was a good book, lots about Quakers and AFSC in that one (about the "interim" between WW1 and WW2)).
It's the bigger brain probably. We didn't learn how to control it (on average), despite our religious tendencies. There's a huge death wish component in the species as a result, with much of our talent invested in Weapons of Mass Suicide (WMSs). There's a lust for Armageddon, which makes money for Hollywood.
What I notice about mostly English-only-speaking Malthusians especially is they're secretly glad of big die-offs (as long as it's not them) as they think "over-population" is the key issue and so die-offs are a way to address that (yay AIDS etc.).
I'm for keeping Malthusians away from children, infecting them with their meme virus, but there's little I can do about it. I'd say the barriers to higher living standards (not having people dying of unnecessary starvation would really boost mine -- every day would be a better day) are primarily metaphysical, not physical. We have the resources to keep 8 billion 200-300 watt bulbs burning, a relatively minor energy expense.
Dieoffs make great shudder-porn for anyone who's seen what happens to a test tube full of happy bacteria when they finish eating the goodies. Maybe there are people who get their jollies looking forward to it happening to somebody else...
but I think we'd all rather keep population size within limits where that doesn't happen. It's far from clear to me that we aren't already past the point where that's possible, particularly on an already-damaged planet. Back when it would be some ancient irrigating civilization, people could just scatter to someplace where the soil wasn't ruined, even join a nomad tribe somewhere.
No such options here! Gerard O'Neill's old orbital power-collecting ideas might bring down enough energy to clean things up a bit down here (and might be less expensive with modern minituration tech, if only the politics of it ever appealed to our masters), but migration just can't happen on that scale.
To limit populations non-violently, you need an available hope -- that a smaller, educated family will survive and can maintain their geezers more generously than a large, wretched family. The harshness of current political/econonic policies works against that...
Yeah, why d'ya think they call it "theater" as in "in theater" (military term). Shudder-porn is a huge draw, lots of paying customers, one of the biggest industries (Vietnam War a famous title).
Signs are population levels are leveling off. "Lots of kids" (family employees) is a wise investment when infant mortality remains high. Although studies are inconclusive, adding kilowatts in the form of electricity, reading at night, lower mortality, leads to less baby-making by choice. Women actually have other functions (in addition). Two kids (nuclear stereotype) only replaces the parents, there's no "doubling" in having just two. A lot of people have none or adopt and are quite happy doing that. Celebrating the singles lifestyle more -- another trend (plus it's just fine to be gay, no worries, even by choice if not by predisposition).
I think a moratorium on English-only speaking Malthusians giving any kind of advice whatsoever might be a good move but its unenforceable. Besides, they're a dying-off breed (yay).
When it comes to kilowatts per capita (per person) we need those maps of world electrical grids, HVDC lines especially. A World Game priority was building one from Siberia to Alaska but that came under the "Bridge to Nowhere" once the USA masses got hold of it. So ignorant of their own heritage!