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The Ongoing Systemic Collapse

By Guy McPherson

18 June, 2011

Only willfully ignorant individuals are failing to perceive the ongoing systemic collapse of western civilization. Economic recession? Check, since 2000. Economic depression? Check, since 2008. Rampant “natural” disasters? Check, with increasing frequency. Climate chaos? Indeed, only a politician could miss it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is what systemic collapse looks like. We’re awash in tell-tale interactions between climate change, “natural” disasters, and the industrial economy. Fire and flood are both on the rise. We used to be able to exert a modicum of control over both phenomena, back when climate chaos wasn’t exploding and the industrial economy wasn’t imploding.

On the other hand, we used to contain nuclear power within nuclear power plants, too. Well, except the occasional Hiroshima and Chernobyl.

And we used to busy ourselves with the quaint concept of one war at a time. Now we’re committed to Iraq and Afghanistan for the duration of the industrial age. Tack on a few more oil-rich, Muslim countries — say, Pakistan, Libya, and Yemen — and a reasonably intelligent person might conclude an increasingly desperate United States is beginning to lose its global hegemonic grip.

Phenomena that formerly captured our attention every few decades now appear weekly. The new normal is a mad scramble to steer clear of nature’s wrath while ratcheting up resource wars to stay one step ahead of complete socioeconomic collapse. Amidst the chaos, long-time political insiders warn of civil unrest.

Meanwhile, 300 million self-absorbed Americans watch the feel-good “news” to see which models of beer and automobile are being pimped by which of their favorite celebrities. It seems the personal game of “who’s screwing whom” is more important to the typical television-addicted American than the international, imperial game of “who’s screwing whom.” Oblivious to the carnage of industry and the lunacy of our lives, we keep praying the stock markets go up while bickering about who’s to blame for our economic misfortune.

There is another, better way to live. But we can’t be bothered. Please pass the guacamole, and don’t tell me how it got here. After all, extinction is for lesser species.

Until it’s not.

A model for a better way of living is demonstrated by a pair of former teachers: Mike Sliwa and Karen Sliwa, who wrote an essay in this space late last year, have boldly walked away from empire. They’ve joined us for a few months at the mud hut, where they are learning new skills. Among other things, in the first two weeks they’ve extended the water-delivery system (hence, learned some plumbing), added to the drip-irrigation system, expanded the orchard, done some carpentry and generally fix-er-up tasks, milked and walked the goats, and spent many an hour in the garden. I encourage you to visit their blog as they pursue World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

The Sliwas abandoned city life on moral grounds. Others will take a pragmatic approach to transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward climate chaos. In either case, my latest essay at Transition Voice provides a summary and charts a course. It’s been picked up and re-posted several other places. Perhaps it’s worth a look and a comment, on the original site or this one.

At the height of a productive and award-filled career, at the age of 49, I Guy McPherson left his high-pay, low-work position as tenured full professor at a major university to go back to the land. Why would anybody quit an easy, rewarding, secure job at which he excelled to raise gardens, goats, chickens, and ducks? Four reasons come to mind: (1) one way to resist imperialism is to drop out of the empire, (2) there is a moral imperative to the way we live, (3) McPherson's messages about the consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels demanded more of his time than he was able to give them as an ivory-tower academic, and (4) he believes he can extend my life for a few years beyond completion of the ongoing economic and environmental collapses we are bringing to Earth.


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