Culture Change has a nice article on how it feels to be an ant caught in the amber: Collapse: Walmart and Waiting for the Shoe to Drop
As I screwed in yet another fluorescent light bulb that didn’t work, I thought about what else I could do to put my finger in the dike of the “Limits to Growth.” I can almost hear ecosystems groan as they nearly burst from the weight of heavy metals, pavement, and drought.
Jared Diamond, in “Collapse,” believes ecology plays a major role in the breakdown of civilizations.
But Jonathan Friedman, at Lund University in Sweden (1), counters that Diamond has it backwards. The social logic of civilization makes limits opaque to its citizens, who can’t even see there are limits imposed by natural resources, so they don’t plan ahead. A good example is not preparing for peak oil thirty years ahead of time, as Robert Hirsch points out ought to be done, in the study he headed for the U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Peaking of World Oil Production.” (2)
This blindness is evident in the Presidential campaign as well, where none of the candidates is running on a platform of the need to reform industrial agriculture, drastically reduce our consumption of goods and energy, or slow down development and population growth.
Friedman says this disconnect with reality is most powerfully expressed by Kafka, where the characters are trapped in ways of seeing the world they can’t see beyond. At a time when most of the world’s problems are due to the depletion and destruction of the ecosystems that keep us alive, politicians and people in general continue to see the world through political and economic filters.
Even those of us awake to the world being one big cockroach about to get smashed by energy limits, are trapped likes ants in the amber of the system.
I’ve been a big fan of Diamond’s work, I’m still wading my way through “Gun, Germs and Steel“, and have often quoted from Diamond’s “Collapse – How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed“. However, Lonewolf and I both agree, Diamond went absolutely nuts recently with this piece (I dare to link to it, because I think it’s truly stupid) – What’s Your Consumption Factor?
Diamond reveals a side to himself that I didn’t suspect existed: stupidity. Here’s a couple of his statements that just left me dumbfounded:
Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates.
If we were to operate all fisheries sustainably, we could extract fish from the oceans at maximum historical rates and carry on indefinitely.
Hence I am cautiously optimistic. The world has serious consumption problems, but we can solve them if we choose to do so.
I cannot explain his position, I won’t even try. His books are informative, well-researched and good material for those looking into history and the collapse of prior civilizations, yet his optimism is unfounded (imo). Perhaps this is why Friedman says this about Diamond having it backwards:
The social logic of civilization makes limits opaque to its citizens, who can’t even see there are limits imposed by natural resources, so they don’t plan ahead.
Civilization itself is the cause and the source of the problem. It creates an illusionary world that is disconnected from resource limits (reality). This is a position I can easily understand and embrace, it reflects my own position that we are too insulated from our world today. Civilization as I’ve said, is an artificial construct; an illusionary misrepresentation of ‘living’.
Green ‘mart’ is a sick, sad joke (on us) – I’m not falling for it.
As I see the giant foot overhead drawing nearer, and knowing that my own feeble attempts to hold it at bay are pointless, I can’t disagree. We all do what we can, what we think will help, if only to forget we’re cockroaches for a while.