Friday, October 15, 2010


As I discussed in “Fatal Flaw,” there are two basic approaches to avoiding catastrophe as a result of our accelerated pillaging of the biosphere. One is to fix the way our economies run, and the other is to develop smaller communities that interact in healthy ways with Nature. In reality, both approaches are currently being tried.

In my “Imagining the Future” posts, I've described my own criteria for an ideal world and speculated about how they might be realized. This generally follows the second approach (substitute “social units” for “communities” and you can see where I'm headed).

One reason I chose to focus on this approach is because, frankly, I believe the alternative is doomed to fail, mainly because we've run out of time: As numerous observers much more knowledgeable than me have pointed out, we should have been making those changes 20 to 30 years ago, because we need the results now.

Also, because my values are no longer aligned with the dominant system (which treats the rest of Nature as merely a set of resources for serving our personal wants and needs), I'm not convinced the world will be better off even if the first approach does work. As we play god and try to remake the Universe in our image, we should keep in mind that our identity as something separate is a figment of our imaginations. We are a part of something far more complex than anything we could ever comprehend. We should respect it, rather than simplifying it, by cutting its guts out, so our puny little minds can feel more in control.

This chain of thought has put me in a bit of a personal bind.

A few weeks ago, the multinational corporation I was contracting with ran out of work for me to do. For reasons that should be clear to regular readers of my writing, I felt a fair amount of relief.

I decided to use my “free” time to consider options for what to do during the rest of my working life, which will probably be the rest of my natural life. These included going back to school, perhaps to pursue a post-graduate ecology degree; trying to make a living as a creative writer – which appears to be my true passion; and working for a nonprofit promoting the causes I care about. Having a goal tends to focus the mind, so I used a lot of that time defining the kind of world I want to help create, which could narrow the practical options considerably.

What I didn't count on was just how successful my efforts would be. Assisting with the creation of a meta-population of healthy, relatively self-sustaining societies in the service of the global biosphere through support of local ecosystems isn't a job description that helps you pay your bills in an economy you've all but proved (and told the world you believe) is an evil creation that is killing everything in its path. Oops. I feel like a mercenary who suddenly gets a conscience, and then finds out he can't get another meal until he goes out and kills someone.

And I know I'm not alone in being conflicted. Many people I know are decent and wouldn't knowingly harm others. They're serving the economy as they would a natural ecosystem, doing their part because their experience tells them it's right, and because they've been sold the promise of being rewarded with some degree of security. It's only now becoming obvious that the whole system is designed to give a few people everything they want at the expense of everything and anyone else (including them), and that their chances of becoming one of the “winners” are slim-to-none. Yet they feel stuck, and are more inclined to hold out hope that the system can be tweaked than face the fact that at the rate we're killing other species, destabilizing the Earth's climate, and using water and energy, there may not soon be any options left.

That said, I really am trying to be upbeat about the future. When you realize you've been at the bottom of a hole when you thought you weren't in one, it takes a little time to adjust. After that, you begin to understand that there's a universe of possibilities right above your head.

For now, I'll probably keep writing, as I was once again driven to do here. Encouraging people to challenge and test how they think about the world seems to be something I seem to be good at, and it contributes to the mental preparation we all need to have so we can handle rapidly changing circumstances. That, and providing some concrete thoughts about a future we can thrive in, along with how to get from here to there. To continue eating and help pay off my debts, I'll work on stepping up the sales of my books and music, and ease my conscience knowing that in the process I'm reaching a larger audience with my ideas (for example, the novel “Lights Out” is an excellent allegory for our condition). I'll also take a fresh look at the other options, and search for new ones, using my new perspective as a guide.

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