Coming to a location near you: the collapse of civilization

Posted January 24th, 2013 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

by Margaret Swedish

The amazing thing is how many people are beginning to talk in these terms. Millions of us are feeling the growing, gnawing sense that things really are falling apart, that nothing of how we thought of the world makes sense anymore, and that we may be past the point where we can create a smooth transition from our self-destructive industrial/technological societies to an ecologically sound one.

That’s a depressing way to start an early morning blog post, isn’t it? Maybe I’m just looking for company on this cold winter morning – which by the way is becoming unusual around here – bitterly cold January mornings. Despite this recent Alberta Clipper that sent us into the single digits, January has been unusually warm and very dry. No winter snow cover ’round these parts and the next big precipitation event comes next week – as rain.

So what does my woeful Sen. Ron Johnson have to do with all this? Did you see his performance yesterday at the Hillary Clinton hearings? For those interpreting the signs of the times, it was a great example of an old world order that is collapsing – multimillionaire plastics manufacturer whose wealth is dependent on oil and who is therefore publicly a climate change denier (who knows what he believes, really), a follower of Ayn Rand and self-modeled “Master of the Universe” tries to take on a very smart, experienced, powerful women – and ends up looking small, petty, and ignorant in the process.

Here’s the video:

Rand Paul was even worse, coming off as one of those white southern plantation owners who has created his own universe inside his head and believes himself a sublime representative of a superior race and gender, and then ends looking about the same as Johnson, and McCain, and…

The world has changed; the world is changing. The Masters of the Universe think they are masters of the universe and yet they are mastering nothing – we are still going to run out of oil, the climate is still changing (rapidly) and supernovas continue to explode without their knowledge or permission.

Hillary Clinton, the planet, and the cosmos are not suffering fools very well these days. If you watch, you can’t miss the dismissive smile and metaphorical shrug of the shoulders (of Clinton and the cosmos) as they try to bypass these guys still clinging to some arc of meaning that died during the last century.

Now, mind you, I am not a huge Clinton fan. She is too hawkish for me. She supports the Keystone Pipeline, as would have her once-presumptive successer, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who is reported to have up to $600,000 worth of investments in TransCanada, the company building it, along with other investments in the energy and pipeline industry.

After his emotional proclamation in the inaugural address that we must address climate change with urgency so that our kids and their kids can have a livable planet, will Pres. Obama approve it? If he does, he will be caught in his own moral and ethical endgame – not to be believed anymore.

And so it goes.  Speaking of growing inequality, another sign of the collapse that approaches (you can’t really make a world of 2 billion hungry people whose numbers are growing steadily and think you will have stability, that you will have mastery): in this country where we still cling to this myth of the American Dream, 80% of us have seen our incomes fall steadily since 1979. You know what happened to 1%. I have to tell you, there is no plan that will change this within the economic paradigms that shaped our meaning frameworks, including Paul Krugman’s (which depends on restoring consumer growth, a sure path to the ecological endgame).

Then this: after Obama won reelection in November, the rest of the month saw record gun sales (more than 2 million weapons purchased). Sales increased again after the Newtown CT massacre of children and educators. But here’s another one that sort of raised eyebrows a few days ago – not only are we buying weapons, now we are manufacturing them in greater and greater numbers – a surge in licenses to allow this.

We’ve heard the rhetoric. Much of this is because millions of people are preparing themselves to fight the federal government. I hate to say this, but it must be said: these people don’t like the fact that the black guy won the presidency – not once, but twice. And this society does not have the courage or moral fortitude to disarm these people, claiming some right in the Constitution that actually does not exist, despite what the Roberts Supreme Court says.

Friends, we have to grasp at the real, live in it, interpret it, try to understand our predicament and learn how to live in such times as these.

I’m going to share a few depressing articles, asking for your courage (and mine). None of this is easy. I imagine many civilizations have wanted to look the other way as things began to fall apart, but what saves our humanity in the end is our ability to accept the falling apart, let the old world go, and start building anew – from within, from within our hearts and the spirit that lies at the core of us, even if that core has been encrusted by layers upon layers of western thought, domination, self-aggrandizement, and consumer goods that deaden our instincts and our basic decency and goodness. We need to scrape off those layers and get back to the soul of us.

We know Chris Hedges is dark, but the guy has seen some things. He has been to very dark places covering wars around the world. He wrote this recently: The Myth of Human Progress.

“To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.”

Happy day to you, too, Chris. But, really, don’t we know this to be true?

Here’s another: Experts Fear Collapse of Global Civilization. Again, I’m not making up this doom and gloom stuff. It is a product of human inertia and the inability to see how much trouble we’re in.

Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems.

“We’re all scared,” said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.

“But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it,” Ehrlich told IPS.

Hard stuff to read. All these Jeremiahs trying to get us to see. Hello, humans! Hello, humans!? Hey, anybody out there?

You can read their 10-page report to the Royal Society here.

One more. Steady – I know it’s a lot for one day. This one: The Climate Change Endgame, by one of our foremost scientists on this stuff, Thomas Lovejoy.

“WHETHER in Davos or almost anywhere else that leaders are discussing the world’s problems, they are missing by far the biggest issue: the rapidly deteriorating global environment and its ability to support civilization.

“The situation is pretty much an endgame. Unless pressing issues of the biology of the planet and of climate change generated by greenhouse gas emissions are addressed with immediacy and at appropriate scale, the matters that occupy Davos discussions will be seen in retrospect as largely irrelevant.”

We need a movement, a real human movement, to challenge this brittle world order. And what it needs is soul and spirit as much or more than activism (though that remains essential). To go through times like these requires strong communities, intimate friendship, resilience in how we relate to one another and the rest of the sentient and non-sentient beings with whom we share this crisis, this enormous transition.

We need courage, which we cannot find in isolation, to chart a new path for this self-destructive species.

We won’t have that answer soon, or in my lifetime. What we can have is the beginning of a path, a pointing toward some other way of living on this planet, perhaps one we cannot even imagine yet but about which we can still begin that imagining.

But to do that, we have to get out of the inertia, off the treadmill that takes us nowhere but eventually just wears us out.

Courage is what we need, and inspiration, and a looking inward to the core, and a looking outward in solidarity to what holds while so much around us collapses.

I return over and over again to the question that surfaced for me, where I ended up at the end of my book, Living Beyond the ‘End of the World:’ A Spirituality of Hope:  what kind of human beings will we be as we go through the crisis? Because that will determine the outcome for future generations.


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One Response

  1. D.Bheemeswar

    Everybody all those so called world leaders in the chairs knows that the environment is getting deteriorating faster than estimated, so is with the ethics and morality as the selfish motive shave taken presidence over their humanly nature, whether you call them as experts in science and technology or environment or politics or economists. They do not have any humanity left in them. Nor they do know what is to be done, they are all happy with their laurels and position in the society. This situation is the other face of humanity that always existed on this earth neither they do follow any norms nor they do accept that they can not do any thing. their responsibility and sense of common ends there. Literally speaking educated crooks scoundrels and incompetent regulators that’s all. Just like Noble accepted that what he has invented is the dirtiest one for reversing its effect at least initiated Nobel prize. even Einstein was very critical about his disclosure of energy conversions he repented and wanted take birth in Indian if there is any rebirth. Present people are just pain in the …. Nothing more than that. They just enjoying at the cost of the poor and deprived for their own materialistic benefits. If we take the politicians like Gandhi or Nehru or Lincoln or Kennedy or Churchill, they would have committed suicide a number of times by seeing the present day scenario any where in the world. Science and technology with out any ethics and morality so is politics and so is the industry.