The Nature Of The Collapse
The ArchDruid (John Michael Greer) has written another fine post, "The Twilight of Money"
Most of it I agree with completely. All of it I agree with in principle.
I've posted a concise and polite question, concerning this on his site. But my comments don't seem to appear there anymore. I've posted counter arguments to some of his theories that he hasn't countered with logic or facts, to my satisfaction anyway. I also posted an argument that he disproved, and I accepted. If he's locked me out, I can't be sure for which it might be.
Now in his current argument, what I'm not so sure about, is his point that our current bubble, and the collapse following it, is essentially the same as prior collapses. That all we're seeing is a difference in scale. This argument is an old one. On many levels, it holds true. Especially on the upswing and for the short term the downswing. Further out, there is some serious room for argumentation.
Now the trend has been...,
After every prior collapse, on the following upswing, technology became more sophisticated, and populations swelled to new highs. This was possible, because with each fall, there were still regions of the world with untapped bounties in resources. A bit of improved technology opened those up, and a civilization rose again, to reach new highs.
Of course, not every civilization that rose from the ashes of older ones, exceeded the previous one. But the historical trend has been upwards.
And here we are, at what appears to be, an apex. And it's an apex looking over a cliff.
If we look at the meaningful resources available to us, every single one of them is decline. And still we are working to harvest them faster and faster, while our population and hunger grows. With the peak of conventional oil in the rear view mirror, our civilization is in the opening stages of it's collapse. As predicted, we're trying to move to a purely economic system that attempts to replace industry and jobs, with nothing but the free flow of freshly minted monies.
The ArchDruid covers this in his post. And rightly argues that other civilizations did a similar thing.
In closing, he makes this comment, "A similar trajectory almost certainly waits in the future of our own economic system, though what use the shepherds who pasture their flocks on the Mall in the ruins of a future Washington DC will find for vast stacks of Treasury bills is not exactly clear."
And in this statement, he and I may be seeing our divergence. In the past, John has argued that after our civilization has ended, we will evolve into an enlightened society. Our technology will grow beyond the bounds we enjoy today. And this civilization will live in peace and harmony with the Earth.
I assume he still believes this. This was a point of disagreement between him and I. I don't see how this enlightenment will occur, without an enlightened power, forcing our evolution to this state. I don't believe that we can do it, and I don't think the odds of alien intervention is high. Absent an evolutionary force to drive us to enlightenment, I think the traditional evolutionary forces will dominate our development.
But even so, isn't such an argument, a divergence from the historical model? If our fall, leads to us evolving into a more enlightened species, then isn't that a strong divergence from the trend, making this cycle a dramatic departure from the previous ones?
As my readers are aware, I don't put much stock into the idea that we'll become an enlightened species, some time after the fall. John suggests that it may take a thousand years or more. In my view it might as well be millions or billions, this is not a direction that evolution naturally takes a species. Evolution pushes species to change, to fill empty niches in the ecology. And after the fall, with homo sapiens being the dominant species on the planet, we're likely to begin filling those niches and diverging. In this view, we are likely to fill predator and prey roles. Enlightenment will take a back seat to survival and the steady ecological pressure to restore balance between the species and populations.
Our descendants won't have an abundant endowment of fossil fuels to drive a new era of scientific advancement. They'll have to go back to making things by hand. As we're eliminating old growth forests, even a civilization powered by charcoal is out of the question, until the planet heals itself, assuming we let it.
This fall, will be hard and dramatic. If it does resemble a historical precedent, than Easter Island is likely the best one. But we never saw Easter Island play out. We interrupted it before the descendants could show us what may happen next.
In this fall, there will be no resource rich civilization to break our decline and lift the world to new highs again. There will be no place to escape to. There will be no gradual decline, spanning many generations.
This decline is missing many of the safety values, that prevented us from coming even close to extinction. This decline may cause our extinction, and at best will drive our numbers so low, that our descendants will evolve into new species, and so homo sapiens will become extinct. This is what evolution does to species that undergo a bottleneck event in a changing environment.
So I think that the differences are large enough to confidently say, this time is different. But this is not a very happy message of hope.
I know I've promised more garden pictures and upbeat posts. Folks have pointed out that I'd get more readers if my posts were not so depressing. JMG publishes such upbeat posts. He gives folks hope and tries to put events into a nicer perspective. I truly believe that he believes what he writes. I enjoy much of what he writes, and I respect him for his views.
However, I don't believe that the evidence leads us onto the garden path. So I can't in good conscience write as if it does. We will have good days and bad days. All through the decline, there will be sunny days and gloomy days. This is what life is. This is our place on the Great Mandela. Make the most of it. We still have time to live full lives, if we only learn to embrace the good things that we have in the here and now.
If there is one thing that I have learned, as I've lived through the apex and the opening days of the decline, is that each day is a blessing and the misery comes from yearning for what we can't have. We live in a society that teaches us that we have a right and a duty, to take more than we need, and to hunger for what we don't have. If we can't do this, then we are diminished as human beings. This is perhaps our biggest failure as a society. Our failure to recognize when enough of something, is plenty.
JMG and I don't diverge in my view, much on anything that matters to the here and now. We preach much of the same things. From that perspective, it doesn't matter which of us is more correct, about what happens in the coming decades. We both argue that folks should be preparing to for harder times now, so that when they come, they won't seem so hard.
"Better eat it up now, you don't know if you're going to eat tomorrow." - My Late Grandpa Albert