And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
…our world is not broken, it is dead. We are alive, if we choose to be, but the hierarchical systems of exploitation that structure the world in which we live — patriarchy, capitalism, nationalism, white supremacy, and the industrial model — all are dead. It’s not just that they cannot be reformed, but that they cannot, and should not, be revived. The death-worship at the heart of those ideologies is exhausting us and the world, and the systems are running down. That means we have to create new systems, and in that monumental task, the odds are against us. What we need is not naïve hope but whatever it is that lies beyond naiveté, beyond hope.
The reason many people experience collapse fatigue is that they are waiting for a dramatic, off-the-cliff event that will “prove” to themselves and their detractors that collapse is actually happening—and thereby bring civilization to its knees. Moreover, let’s be honest: Anyone who has researched collapse and is preparing for it has some last vestige of doubt, however miniscule, that the way of life we have known since birth will actually vanish. Why else do hundreds of people tell me that they feel schizophrenic about collapse as they continue knowing what they know, but interact with countless others who are clueless? Why else do some people confess that some part of them thinks they may be crazy for preparing?
This, then, is the inner work of Transition: Questioning and letting go of the comfortable beliefs and unquestioned assumptions – conscious or unconscious – that we take as gospel truth, and that cause us so much stress (especially when the dissonance between them and reality-as-it-is becomes too obvious to ignore).
Here’s the idea in a nutshell. Most geoscientists now agree that human activity is overwhelming natural systems. Whereas civilization developed under planetary conditions that have prevailed since the last Ice Age, a period known as the Holocene epoch, we humans appear to be propelling Earth into a “new normal” through soaring carbon emissions, deforestation, ocean acidification, and a laundry list of other assorted global impacts. Geoscientists have pretty much agreed to call this new period the “Anthropocene,” to reflect the fact that planetary systems are now being shaped substantially by human activity.
I suspect that in the throes of societies in chaos, involvement with men’s and women’s groups will be dramatically minimized by pre-occupation with survival, but regardless of how tumultuous the upheaval may be, the profound soul-making work that has occurred in these groups will not be extinguished. In fact, men and women may discover that groups focusing on the issues of their own gender are more relevant than ever because gender issues will become intensely germane as panic, rage, and scapegoating ensue
I can’t think of a better way to sum up the work ahead of us right now, as industrial society lurches down the far side of its trajectory through time.
In his book Eaarth, Bill McKibben explains that the effects of man-made global warming are not a thing of the future, but are already here now. Human activity for the past centuries has already changed the Earth we thought we knew. How can we learn to love this damaged Earth that human activity (both knowingly and unknowingly) has created? How do we wrap our brains and hearts around something this huge? And how do we do this in a way that offers healing, renewal, genuine hope and a path forward?
We live, then, in a dark time here on our tiny precious planet. Ecological devastation, political and economic collapse, irreconcilable ideological and religious conflict, poverty, famine: the end of the overshoot of cheap-oil-based consumer capitalist expansionism. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you have small chance of understanding where you might be headed. So let me offer a capsule history for those who, like most of us, got little help from textbook history. Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on preexisting or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go.
The poorest and most vulnerable die first, out of sight, and everyone else just does what they can to survive. Peoples’ priorities change: they concentrate on getting by from day-to-day rather than planning for the future. They stop getting married. They have less children or none at all. They live for today. They work harder for less. Taxes go up even as basic services are cut. Long term unemployment has been conclusively linked to greater mortality and susceptibility to illness, physical and mental. Would many of these people not still be alive today if were not for austerity measures and declining middle class opportunity? Isn’t that a die-off? It’s been said that having children is a referendum on the future. Based on global birth rates, I think the human race is collectively registering a vote of “no confidence.”