do no harm
Reader Bill drew my attention to this comment of mine a while back.
"The impediments human battle in maintaining civilization are mainly cultural
I found this an amazing statement to be found on a discussion of Peak Oil where most folks seem to be talking about physical survival and techno-fixes or the lack thereof. Can you expand on your statement? How I understand it is the centerpiece of my work (www.sacredearthnetwork.org) so your comments would be appreciated.
I strongly believe that we have a cultural problem, not a technical one.
Here at the peak of available energy, immersed in a culture of waste, an industrial civilization when presented with a large problem will try to solve it with a larger problem.
For example, the imagined nuclear paradise that will “bridge us” to our abundant energy future. Huh? Manufacture poison and store it at random around the continent so as every household in America can have five televisions stored at 72 degrees Fahrenheit? Can we just conserve and switch to wind power instead?
Consider agriculture. Without cheap oil at hand, North America will hopefully take her cue from Cuba. The good white collar jobs in 2015 will all be in high yield organic farming, not “information technology”. There won’t be enough energy available to engage in risky, bullshit ventures like switchgrass ethanol on a widespread scale. The most efficient use of plant energy will be to feed the people who tend the plants.
This would seem to be beneficial in the long run for a culture. Kind of a bright green future. Some people seem to think they can do the bio-sphere better than what exists, a splice here, a glowing frog there. Maybe. I’d like to start by preserving the working system that exists.
Industry must be scaled such that they become provably sustainable. I am not advocating for Amish style communities here. I don’t think the way any individual group lives and sustains is important, simply that the largest cities take care in sustaining, likewise the smallest communities.
As a starting guideline, engineering should focus on the least toxic alternatives for every task, and when toxins are generated by man (as they also are by nature) they should not be shunted through public sewers and into the oceans. This is exactly what happens presently. The result is that bio-additive heavy metals, drugs, and toxins are sold to farmers as “fertilizer” and end up in your tomatoes. Once applied to a layer of soil, heavy metals will stay put for thousands of years.
I could go on for quite a long time with examples, but I think the point of separation between the culture we have now, and what we must do to survive with grace and style are pretty clear.
Our boot is so heavy on this planet that the feel good myth of America, a little capitalist plot we can each call home, has failed. It is pointless to subdivide the world and engage in the stupid, stupid tragedy of the commons when we are elbow to elbow with our neighbors. When fishing boats jostle in the same waters for declining ocean fish. When forests are leveled so catalogues can print words like “teak” and “mahogany”. So you can eat beef every day. Delicious, tastes like water table.
Instead of dividing and shuffling wealth, the world has been rendered small enough that it should be apparent to all civilizations on this planet that there is a collective burden and the responsibility to fix the damage done. To repair what we’ve broken. It certainly is physically possible, unless perhaps we’ve broken the carbon cycle. (Hope not.) Not only is it physically possible, but it is a perfectly valid “industry” for humans to engage in.
The failure is one of imagination. The failure is in thinking that wealth stolen from other parts of the world is sustainable. No. The world is finite.
If you own a computer, you live in a bubble of stolen wealth with me.
Where do your responsibilities lie?
This is not a guilt trip.