The idea of economic growth as an unquestioned force for good is ingrained in the American psyche. But a longtime environmental leader argues it’s time for the U.S. to reinvent its economy into one that focuses on sustaining communities, family life, and the natural world. The case is strong that growth in the affluent U.S. is now doing more harm than good. It makes no sense to separate the two challenges: energy supply and climate change must be dealt with together.
Despite four decades of detailed warnings, industrial civilization has failed to turn aside from self-destructive policies of exponential growth and dependence on nonrenewable resources. At this point, stark limits of time and resources as well as a failure of political will make attempts to prevent the fall of industrial society an exercise in futility. Individuals, small groups, and communities can still prepare for the approaching crises by mastering low-tech survival skills now to lay foundations for a sustainable society in the future.
The only thing that could prevent another oil shock from happening before the end of 2012 would be another major economic contraction. The emerging oil data continues to tell a tale of ever-tightening supplies that will soon be exceeded by rising global demand. This time, we will not be able to blame speculators for the steep prices we experience; instead, we will have nothing to blame but geology.
I would like to point out a little bit of insanity. On the one hand, most people don’t really like their jobs; at least, they wouldn’t do them unless they were paid to. On the other hand, we are seeking to create yet more of these jobs — not because we need more stuff on this earth, but simply in order that they have money to live. We already have enough stuff. Why is the only way to distribute it seem to involve the production of even more of it?
Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.
In fact, for several months the world has experienced an almost unbroken succession of geopolitical, economic and financial shocks which, according to LEAP/E2020, constitute the warning signs of a major traumatic event that we analyze in this issue. At the same time the international system has now passed the stage of structural weakening to enter a phase of complete decay where old alliances are breaking down, whilst new communities of interest are emerging very quickly. Finally, any hope for significant and lasting global economic recovery has now evaporated (1) whilst the Western pillar’s indebtedness, especially the US, has reached a critical level unparalleled in modern history (2).
According to alarming new figures released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s population of mature adults has been pushed to the brink of extinction, with only 104 grown-ups remaining in the country today.
The endangered demographic, which is projected to die out completely by 2060, is reportedly distinguished from other groups by numerous unique traits, including foresight, rationality, understanding of how to obtain and pay for a mortgage, personal responsibility, and the ability to enter a store without immediately purchasing whatever items they see and desire.
Moreover, in the corporate state, the loss of community, in combination with the commercially-rendered sameness of the environment and the all-encompassing, manic insistency of mass media — both of which are so devoid of depth, context and meaning — it has become increasingly difficult for an individual to gain then retain the sense of self necessary to know where one exists in relationship to time, place, and changing social and political circumstance.
Fortunately, many governors are addressing their state’s structural deficits head on. Unfortunately, there is a lack of collective appreciation for how painful this process will be.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA invited Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, to give the commencement speech at its 2011 graduation ceremonies on May 14. When students heard this, many were surprised and upset. As Linnea Palmer Paton of Students for a Just and Stable Future put it in a letter to the college president, “[W]e, as conscientious members of the WPI community and proud members of the Class of 2011, will not give [the Exxon CEO] the honor of imparting … his well-wishes … for our futures … when he is largely responsible for undermining them.” The students then invited Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, to give an alternative commencement speech. After a few days of negotiations, the college administration agreed to give Heinberg the podium immediately after the main ceremony. Many students chose to walk out during Tillerson’s address. This is what Richard Heinberg had to say.