I have been concerned about apparent converging global challenges we might be facing in the near future and worry about the current consensus thinking that seems to have a vague optimistic view, but no real plan, about going forward. Enter contemporary urban, economic and environmental thinkers such as James Kunstler, Richard Florida and Paul Gilding, who are suggesting that forced changes are on the horizon. Forced changes that will be dictated by the limits of are current free market economies.
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Like William James said on his deathbed, "Gertrude, Gertrude (Stein) What is the answer. What is the answer?"
To which Gertrude Stein replied, "I don't know what is the question?"
(Old Shelly Berman routine..)...
so I reiterate, Mr. Warriner, What is the question?
Well, there are several question that come to mind:
1. Will we be able to get our heads out of the sand before its to late?
2. To what extent will the Great Disruption/Long Emergency occur?
3. How will mankind dig their way out, i.e., what new systems will emerge?
Or we could just start with obvious question:
4. Will the Great Disruption/Long Emergency ever happen in the first place and why?
Here's my plan. What's yours?
I'll start with Mark's "obvious question" since I won't be here to discuss it with you on Friday.....
Personally, I work hard to keep my distance from apocalyptic predictions even though there is something about them that tugs on that old inner paranoia and superstition. I have a good enough imagination as it is and I'm still creeped out from watching 'The Road'! Seriously. This week my topic of unreasonable paranoia was how to make home-made isopropyl alcohol and whether we should be stocking up on cattle-grade penicillin.
As sceptical as I am of superstition, I'm also suspicious of trying to make predictions when it comes to such complex systems as world economies, global ecology, etc. I wonder if maybe thats another form of magical thinking (I feel terrible saying that, earth science friends, but if we don't question everything we fall into the trap of magical thinking). We've proven time and again that we can't model systems this complex. We have some evidence, but we can't perceive the whole picture or all of the players.
What the question requires is that just about everyone in the world work toward a common goal on purpose. I'm continually awestruck by how completely opposite my deeply held beliefs are to the equally deep beliefs of someone on the other side of the political spectrum. How we could possibly reach some kind of consensus on a predicted result of potential behavior is beyond me.
Just in case you thought I wouldn't take a crack at magical thinking....
1. if there truly is a cataclysm, then we'll all be up sh*t creek anyway and no previous plan except that of the ultra paranoid with a handy well-stocked bomb shelter will be of any use anyway. At least we have our camping equipment, water filters, know how to grow food and hunt and live in a rural area with good secret caves and rock overhangs to hide from the black helicoptors/alien invasion/contagion (take that city-dwelling suckers!)
2. if there is a deterioration to a slow drawn out emergency we DO seem to have a way of rolling with the punches as a species. with periodic extinctions.
3. Human beings are amazing, but we ARE still animals with a limited behavioural repertoire...we're fun to watch, but we have NO IDEA where we are going. No we will not get our heads out of the sand, but we'll figure something out. Or we won't. One of the two.
Remember, the current population explosion is a result of two fairly simple things - handwashing and antibiotics. Maybe toss in immunization. Thats it.
I know you're serious, Mark, and I don't mean to make light of a serious topic, but what else do we have? When the end comes make sure you're stocked up on soap. And not the kind that has been secretly contaminated over the past 60 years with small amounts of nuclear waste, spread minutely, but evenly across the world by an insidious personal hygiene propaganda campaign....
When the end comes, I want to be partying with Tanya like its 1999.
Granted, even considering these dim views of the future, one needs to compartmentalize it so you can go merely on with your life like nothing really bad could ever happen to the US. No, wait, that's actually what we've done quit a lot of regarding terrorism, communism and The Cold War. And what do we do when we vote or debate politics? We consider different complex plans and platforms, including economics, ecology, social systems and yes, world affairs. Then we try to predict which of these complex plans and platforms will effect the future. Is this magical think?
Now, if visions of the Apocalypse equate to magical thinking then lets review the other scenarios associated with topic and leave the magical thinking to those in the loony bin.
Most people believe the end of the Oil Age is coming but we disagree on when and how hard a landing it's going to be. Here is a good description of the groups in the debate:
Which group do you fall in, Tanya?
Ha! I guess I would fall into the plateau group if any. I don't think oil will disappear in the next 4 years - I think we'll keep wringing every last drop of petroleum /coal out of the earth no matter how deep and dirty, all the while defending 'our way of life'.
I hate to use the term 'magical thinking' because I think it describes the wonder of the world and universe, but I also think it describes a certain kind of blindness to the mundane, so I guess I'll keep using it for lack of a better term.....
The magical thinking isn't in pointing out that there is a problem; it comes in when we imagine that human beings have the wherewithall to voluntarily and without duress do something about it. I'm with Trace - I haven't seen any evidence of a change in human behaviour in recorded history or in prehistoric evidence without duress. To the contrary, many past civilizations have literally destroyed their habitats - the Anasazi, Mayans, Phoenicians, fertile crescent people, and on and on. But I think rather than a spectacular collapse, most of the civilizations just petered out, moved on, seeded new civilizations.
The other evidence of magical thinking is when we take our projections so far that our worst nightmares or best dreams are the only forseeable end game.
Nobody projects mediocrity, which, as a species is pretty much where we are, why we're so adaptable. THAT'S what makes me sceptical and suspect magical thinking.
p.s. I swear my silliness is completely natural and not enhanced by any external substances!
"...magical thinking is when we take our projections so far that our worst nightmares or best dreams are the only forseeable end game."
I like your second definition of Magical Thinking, the first reminds me of Mystical Thinking, which many people incorporate into spiritual beliefs and that's fine. However, neither of them should be considered legitimate support for their position in this topic. Unless you can actually provide hard evidence, rather than a belief then its Magical Thinking. Its interesting to note that what Glidings is not part of the doomsdayers:
"Feeling despair and a sense of futility is not just an emotional response driven by personality type. According to some seriously wise and highly informed people [such as James Lovelock in the Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning or Clive Hamilton in Requiem for a Species], it is a rational conclusion, drawing on human history and the scientific evidence. While I have absolutely been in that space, I have now come out of it, and I think they are wrong."
The hope lies in doing what human's do the best, working on the solution to a problem. And, yes, I believe that adaptation is Mankind's strongest suite. We will probably come out of this stronger and better equipped to "move forward".
The end of the oil age is here - as Bill McKibben's campaign against the tar sands pipeline points out, it doesn't matter if that oil is burned on site or piped to China, it's use does nothing but increase global warming, past the 350 ppm tipping point.
so for islands in the pacific, victims of Manila's typhoons, Bangladesh floods, for the many many thousands of species who are disappearing with their evolutionary secrets going with them, it's past zero hour..
I think that is the starting point for understanding..It's over, and it's obvious.
but the path forward has also been well charted, with available technologies and human strategies already in use. Japan is sitting on one of the best geo-thermal sites in the world..It was political corruption and money that made them look towards nuclear power.
Past that, it is hard to see a way forward, in the face of human nature..I walk around San Diego, everyone so happy, enjoying the day, driving to malls, movies, swimming in the ocean which every month experiences millions of gallons of raw sewage dumps (oops, again!), and just can't see how we can turn people away from that, to taking the earth more seriously.
I know what I have done - bike to work, no kids, don't eat meat..and on every project work for reducing watere use, promoting alternative methods of transportation..
But when you see how humanity has consistently wrecked every eco-system it has taken over - the Cedars of Lebanon were depleted, vanished by the Phoenicians, so there are none left..there are so many examples....I just don't see how human nature can be changed..Put me in the pessimist apocalyptic camp - I am going to head for the hills, find a place to live with it's own source of clean water..and continue to do what I can for the actions that I think could help the earth....
I find it interesting that the issue of human population growth is barely referred to as an issue at all. It seems to be assumed that "planning" can do anything. Oh please!
With our population increased by as much as 50% in a few decades -- tripling in one century! -- never mind carrying capacity of the planet, can our systems cope with such a burden? How fast can we increase food production, potable water, create livelihoods, provide health care, house all these people?
And why is this not mentioned? If indeed we cannot keep up with such growth (again never mind if the planet can sustain us) then what is to be done? Which Greenie is ready to have their assorted tubes tied? Sustainable is yesterday. The train is running to fast to talk about "sustaining," change doesn't wait for sustaining
To muse about urban planning without considering how to provide basic needs seems pure Ostrich thinking to me.
So my plan? All efforts into reducing human population growth. The rest can follow or, if growth continues, the rest is irrelevant.