To heaven with hell!

Greed and stupidity have always been one and the same. I’d go even further — no one can be as stupid as to ignore the facts for decades, no one can be as clumsy as to create all this mess consistently without sometimes making a better move. Wouldn’t the world make more sense if all this happens not accidentally but intentionally?
Words cannot reach these people. Their minds are focused on self-interest alone. The damage resulting from their actions is neither accidental nor collateral, it’s what it takes to make money and to grab power; they are neither blind nor ignorant nor stupid. From their perspective nothing is wrong with millions of war victims, environmental destruction, social deterioration and the likes. They are textbook sociopaths trapped in the institutional constructs they have co-created in order to feed their self-interest. Nothing we could do or say will change their minds, nothing will change those equally sociopathic institutions from without, and much less from within. They are attempting to twist the world into giving them what they desire, but this is eventually futile and has only led mankind on the road to all-out destruction. You can argue with them, you can plead, you can curse them, you can sue and fine them, you can imprison them, you can boycott or sabotage them, you can kill them – to no avail. It is equally futile and contributes equally to the all-out destruction.
by Flickr user grahamc99 under  cc-by-2.0
One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” 
-Reinhold Niebuhr
The first step in our effort to end Empire’s reign of terror is to awaken to the cage we are living in. The documentation of the tyrants’ lies and deeds becomes important so that we can understand what’s happening and to take decisive moves towards starting the liberation. But let us not get stunned with bygone horrors, let’s not get stuck with pointing fingers at those who offer themselves as targets for our hate. Break the hypnotizing stare; switch off the hellish mass medial noise that keeps you from listening to what’s within you. The lesson to be learned from the disaster is how to do it better. As a matter of fact, our bodies know already from three million years of evolution of our genus how life works for human beings.
No need for anybody’s permission, no need for anybody to join us, no need for changing what-is, no need waiting for better conditions; we just set out on a different path, one by one, clan by clan, tribe by tribe. The way to overcoming the omnicidal system they are deliberately perpetuating is to concede our complicity in the crime and to take a different road from today on. The way to overcoming the life-grinding machine leads to alternative structures based on alternative values emerging from another worldview. Where they are greedy we are giving. Where they are hating we are loving. Where they see one way only we walk an infinite number of paths. Where they are trapped in cold logic we are free to see for ourselves. Where they are divisive we are one, and that includes ‘them’, for ‘they’ are not separate from ‘us’ even if that is what they believe themselves to be and what they would like us to believe too.

Underminers: Subverting the Machine

In the last Empire Express I already recommended this book for reading. Today I would like to re-emphasize its meaning as a useful tool in an age of industrialized omnicide. Those regularly following my blog posts might be aware of the concept of “distributed denial of servitude“, which is the idea that every person who is aware of the problem of civilization can do something to reduce its destructive impacts on humans and non-humans alike, by withdrawing their time, mind, and energy from the machine in order to direct them at alternate ways of being.
Keith Farnish’s book ‘Underminers: a practical guide for radical change’ describes ways and methods how to succeed with this.
The book consists of three main parts:
The first part uncovers the “tools of disconnection”, the many ways by which Mother Culture lures, fools, coaxes, pushes, and forces her children into submission. She makes sure that spite is not turned against her, that all fighting remains infighting among citizens, and that those attempting to leave the herd are getting crushed. Knowledge about her ways is not supposed to rise to awareness because as soon as the illusion of her benevolence falls away people start to turn their backs on her. So becoming aware is already an act of undermining the machine.
With the knowledge of the tools of disconnection in mind the second part describes where and how “the culture of maximum harm” can be undermined actively. The goal is to uncover the illusory nature, pointlessness, and destructiveness of the dominant set of living arrangements to individuals or the general public. There are various options like creating ridiculous situations in which the system’s ability to serve its declared goals fails so obviously that people begin to awaken and start to question established thought patterns and institutions. This awakening from illusions is an absolute prerequisite for their being able to reconnect to the real world.
As this activism of a million pin pricks aims at disrupting the machine to the point of its breaking down one could call that — in the widest sense — sabotage. Yet in a legal sense, and certainly in moral terms, there is nothing wrong with most of what underminers are doing. The author stresses, though, that the underminer has to take full responsibility for his/her actions and therefore needs to plan carefully to avoid physical harm to living beings.
At one point the system comes crashing down. Whether it is the outcome of undermining, or whether it is the result in of the system’s inbuilt weaknesses, or whether it dies from exhaustion of resources is only relevant in terms of what will be left of the world for life to go on. Crashing down it will, and rather sooner than later. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down, not knowing what to do. People need a safety net to fall back into. In part three, Keith explains how to extract yourself from the machine’s grip so you may live not only more appropriately as a human being, but you also establish a parallel society that today practices the skills needed in the future. John Michael Greer once published a book whose title perfectly carries the sentiment: “Collapse now, avoid the rush.”
Community building will be a major undertaking here and, as a side effect of undermining, it becomes easier, through realizing how we got disconnected from each other in the first place.
So, altogether, the book is full of great ideas of where to start — right now — with your post-civilized life, and how to help bringing the machine to a halt. Underminers is available from your local or online bookshop, you may read it for free on a webpage, or you can download a free pdf from the same page.

“Cast off our watches (and phones), like my wife has, and it takes very little time to “tune in” to how far along its diurnal path the Earth has rotated, and what point in our wakefulness cycle we are currently at. I can’t see such principles being readily accepted in the world of commerce where time is money and money is the meaning of life, but that’s just one more reason why the commercial world is completely incompatible with human beings. We only have a finite time to spend on this world, with the people we love, doing the things that are truly important. Who the fuck gave anyone the right to steal that time away from us?” — Underminers, p345

The Empire Express, 4 August 2017

Editorial

The reason the ‘Train of Civilization’ cartoon works so well as a running gag is civilization’s actually being a train going in a relatively straight line from a beginning to an end at an ever-increasing speed. We are bridging gaps and penetrating obstacles to keep it going where it’s heading. This behavioral linearity and this eschatological directedness is mirrored in the inability to explore off-track territory and to turn back to previous, more functional ways of being. The machine is not going to stop speeding up until we are running out of building materials for bridges, or are simply too fast to stay on track, or lose our ability to tunnel into reality’s fabric. In any case, the train of civilization is going to catastrophically crash, either by jumping tracks, falling off of a cliff, or hitting a wall at full speed.

Most activists and their supporters and sympathizers may have a sense of such an event coming up rather sooner than later, but how close are we actually, and how will we respond when, finally, the day has arrived?
This recent collection of links has its focus for most part on how to face this world in all its beauty and decay, and whether there is something left for humans to be done. We get diverse answers from the Pentagon, Brian Calvert, Keith Farnish, and Confucius, among others. Words like ‘apocalypse’, ‘dystopian’, ‘collapse’, and ‘doom’ are popping up a lot, and SF author William Gibson has an explanation for this trend (see below), but the presence of such a word in an article does not keep most writers from promoting an active stance. Let yourself get surprised. The differences in view between the authors presented here are quite telling and I hope they help you make up your mind about where to find your place in the scenery.

Ongoing Assault

The end of the world is universal shorthand for whatever we don’t want to happen. We have very little control over anything much at all, individually, so fantasies of staving off the end of the world are fairly benign fantasies of increased agency.”
Are we doomed? Let’s have a conversation – Richard Heinberg, Resilience.org, 20170727
Even if – in all unlikelihood – we tackled every single one of our many converging crises with a technological fix civilization may still crash because of unintended side effects to those fixes. And there is no technical solution for social inequality anyway. So the lifestyle we are used to is basically toast. But that doesn’t mean we are doomed, says Heinberg. If we collapsed consciously there’d be something left to rebuild upon. This conversation, though, is happening among few only.
Headline says it all: just your normal climate insanity being confirmed by dumbstruck scientists discovering that Earth’s systems are unraveling faster than expected. Make no mistake, it’s going to pick up even more speed and will exceed the damage projected in this study.
Withdraw,” Kingsnorth advised, “so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you. Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance — refusing to tighten the ratchet further — is a deeply moral position.”
The unhappy ape – Ben Kadel, Medium, 20170720
The irony is that a raft of recent research in positive psychology has basically rediscovered everything you already learned in kindergarten: money can’t buy happiness; it’s better to give than to receive; bullies are actually scared wounded souls. Science has confirmed what most traditions already teach about how to live a happy life […] Look around at the excesses and the misery, side-by-side. Look at Trump. This is what it looks like when you only care about yourself.”
Then what is science good for, when the things it teaches us about ourselves and the world just confirm what’s commonplace, and when the technology it underlies alienates us from ourselves and the world? The article doesn’t provide an answer, but maybe that’s also not necessary. The path it promotes may lead you all by itself to some insight about the implications of civilized life.
Not in front of the children: liberal meditations of the apocalypse – Chris Shaw, Wrong Kind of Green, 20170719
The nature, problems, targets, and solutions to climate change are being discussed among middle class white men mainly. They bear the mark of cultural narcissism and fail to involve both decision makers and ordinary folks. A Scottish experiment came to interesting results when breaking these limits.
Men unlike gods – John Michael Greer, Ecosophia, 20170719
Similar to Shaw (see above) JMG explores how the myths of a select few drive the development of societies – into the abyss. Awareness of the drivers may become essential when being confronted with historical patterns.
Our study suggests, first, that thinning permafrost in a warmer climate may not only result in the frequently reported and discussed increased emission of biogenic CH4, but also in increased emissions of geologic CH4, that is currently still trapped under thick, continuous permafrost, as new emission pathways open due to thawing permafrost.”
Which is to say that the findings of Shakhova et al., from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, are being confirmedby research results fromother parts of the Arctic. Subsea Methane deposits are already in the process of breaking open, about to release significant amounts of greenhouse gas.The authors conclude that the results indicate that geologic CH4emissions may contribute strongly to the permafrost-carbon-climate feedback, especially in permafrost areas vulnerable to thawing and therefore warrant much more attention.”
It is to be noted that the data has been collected in 2012/13 already. For an easier to understand description of the issue, read Robin Westenra’s article Methane seeps out as Arctic permafrost starts to resemble Swiss cheese.”
The planet is warming. And it’s okay to be afraid – Margaret Klein Salamon, Common Dreams, 20170717
While I think both Mann and Holthaus are brilliant scientists who identified some factual problems in the article [“The uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells], I strongly disagree with their statements about the role of emotions—namely, fear—in climate communications and politics. I am also skeptical of whether climate scientists should be treated as national arbiters of psychological or political questions, in general. I would like to offer my thoughts as a clinical psychologist […] I hope that every single American, every single human experiences such a crisis of conscience. It is the first step to taking substantial action. Our job is not to protect people from the truth or the feelings that accompany it—it’s to protect them from the climate crisis.”
Brilliant!
There are only two elements here that I disagree with:
a) “dire discussions of the climate crisis should be accompanied with a discussion of solutions.”— What if there are no solutions, or if the problem-solution dichotomy is invalid? That would be part of the truth, wouldn’t it?
It is not the duty of Cassandra to discuss escape routes, but to point at the things she alone seems to be able to see.
b) Salamon’s “Victory plan” is a top-down approach requiring all the world’s political and economic leaders, and especially their superiors to mend their wicked ways. Hand on heart: how likely is that? Are you willing to bet your life – and all life on the planet – on the outside chance that this is going to happen?
While the author correctly proposes that for kicking people into action truth must be told, she basically reduces them to consumers of solutions that Cassandra and the world’s leaders are asked to provide. One more example of why someone being able to perform a brilliant situation analysis may not necessarily be as able deducing suitable actions.
Apart from repeating the “2100” myth Wallace-Wells’ “The uninhabitable Earth” has done a great job at bringing runaway climate change to public awareness. The hysterical outcry across the whole spectrum confirms as much. The rapidly warming planet will tell the truth about the time frame.
Pentagon study declares American empire is ‘collapsing’ – Nafeez Ahmed, Insurge Intelligence, 20170717
The US military knows a few things the government denies, but its strategy proposes more of the same elements that brought about the crisis of Empire in the first place.
This is a war, then, between US-led capitalist globalization, and anyone who resists it. And to win it, the document puts forward a combination of strategies: consolidating the U.S. intelligence complex and using it more ruthlessly; intensifying mass surveillance and propaganda to manipulate popular opinion; expanding U.S. military clout to ensure access to ‘strategic regions, markets, and resources’.”
The military, of course, wants to justify the budget it got allocated and the actions it is about to take against perceived enemies of US national security. There may be an element of exaggeration in this report, but they might as well understate some of the trouble the government doesn’t want the general public to be aware of.
Simultaneous harvest failures in key regions would bring global famine.
‘We have found that we are not as resilient as we thought when it comes to crop growing,’ said Kirsty Lewis, science manager for the Met Office’s climate security team.”
Not news. Just for the records. Another July article reported an acutal 25% loss in olives and an acutal 75% loss in grains from Italy and Spain. That’s a currently happening, observed, real life decline in food supply, due to climate change, and similar events have been reported from all continents.
The truth is that these other beings wouldn’t need to be saved if civilization weren’t killing them. The truth is that they can’t be saved so long as civilization is killing the planet. And the truth is that in this culture there are certain topics which must never be discussed, certain self-perceptions and perceived entitlements which are never negotiable.
We would rather kiss ourselves and the entire planet good-bye than to look honestly at what we have done, what we are doing, and what we will, so long as we have this supremacist mindset, continue to do.”
Voluntary poverty as a way of life is millennia old. Wise men know for a long time already that material wealth has its downsides, especially regarding peace of mind and its consequences on human behaviour. It’s true, “some lifestyle choices matter more than others”, yet one has to be careful with jumping to conclusions. Passing judgments is easy, though not at all helpful when deciding how to deal with runaway climate change.
Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. The author uses the “BP statistical review of world energy” to graphically emulate the information about how much fuel the world is burning or, in other words, whether anthropogenic carbon emissions actually stopped rising. The bad news is, they didn’t. The good news might be, from my understanding, that emissions from natural feedback loops were not as severe as thought – which doesn’t mean they haven’t been kicked off already. But I guess this doesn’t change a tiny thing about our collective inability to stop the runaway train.
The buildup of tensions between US-led countries and Russia comes neither surprisingly nor accidently.
At times, I have found myself performing activism more than doing activism. I’m exhausted, and I’m not even doing the real work I am committed to do. It is a terrible thing to be afraid of my own community members, and know they’re probably just as afraid of me. Ultimately, the quest for political purity is a treacherous distraction for well-intentioned activists.”
A call for tolerance towards different paths rather than black&white points of view.

Pearls Before Swine

As a poet with major depression,” the author writes about seeing an owl in chains, I knew these eyes well. These were the eyes of a creature pushed beyond pain into numbness, overwhelmed with despair, and fading into the void. These were eyes I have seen on the street. These were eyes I have seen in zoos, in aquarium tanks, and in cages. These were eyes I have seen in prison, in psyche wards, and at funerals.

I knew these eyes because I have seen them reflected in the mirrors I have peered into before trying to kill myself. I knew these eyes because I have seen them in myself.”

Viewing human mental health through the lens of deep ecology he writes, We are animals and animals are an ongoing process of relationships. When those relationships become impossible, we lose ourselves. I do not believe I go too far when I write, We are no longer human. By weI mean civilized humans who live much like I do.
Confucian-inspired family values: a moral vision for thee 21stcentury – Henry Rosemont Jr, Huffington Post, 20160510
The autonomous individual simply does not exist in our daily life. Confucians view other persons not merely accidental or contingent to my goal of living a full life, they are fundamental to it. My life can only have meaning as I contribute to the meaningfulness of the lives of others, and they to me,” Rob de Laet writes in his summary of Rosemont’s blog. Gratitude, respect, loyalty are important values that when practiced on a daily basis towards all our relations cultivate their own meaning, their own sense of joy and happiness, so this is not some form of altruism or selflessness. In our yearning for a different society built around collaboration rather than competition we may assume that,Each of us comes from a family, and thus the revolution begins at home.
What does the end of our world look like from a Buddhist perspective? What is left to be done?
Those following my blog do almost certainly see that something is profoundly wrong with our set of living arrangements. Some if not all of you may agree that something must be done about it, and that it were basically better for it to go away. You heard me saying that building alternative structures while starving the old system of our contribution — distributed denial of servitude — was the way to go. That does not mean, though, you should fully ignore the system’s doings; knowledge about how it works and how you can extract yourself from its grip may be of vital importance in defining your own paradigm and successfully develop into actually living it. The same information may be important when it comes to a showdown, intentionally or not, between your life plan and society’s plans for you.

“Underminers” is a seminal comprehensive work in this field. The book which is available as a webpage, as a pdf, or in paper meticulously shows how the system undermined human faculties completely, but also how we in turn may undermine its hold on us and bring it crashing down.

Don’t think about going into noble lines of work, think only of doing what you do best. Because that’s where you’re going to make the most difference in the world.
Action is the antidote to despair. The author of “Ishmael”on the question what every single person on Earth could do.

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Waiter! There’s a fly in my soup”

Famous Last Words

Humans are not like mice!

The Empire Express, 15 July 2017

Editorial

What transpires from many of the following items is the indication, the plea, the outcry, and even the demand for rising up before too long. The writers, speakers, and interviewees agree more or less in their view of the complete corruption of civilization’s institutions but they differ in what to do about it. The more despair is involved the more violence is being calculated into the equation. The more compassion rules the more the change becomes a matter of individual inner liberation.
Jensen, Hedges, Eisenstein, Adyashanti, and Macy each make solid points for their case. Some are giving a flaming speech, some are invoking kindness; all of them are asking, Will you be a part of the solution?

Ongoing Assault

Barbarians, that’s what the Elite calls the general population. A long read.
The uninhabitable Earth (annotated edition) – David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine, 20170714
Now that major magazines and newspapers are picking up on reporting from the climate front articles like this (first issued July 9th) come as less of a surprise. Still, there was an outcry both in the mainstream media, and the scientific press, not to talk about the dumbstruck ignorant population, about how someone dare painting such a dire picture (“climate change porn”) and thus found a “suicide cult”, without substantiation. On July 14th, five days later, the magazine issued an annotaded version which provided sources for the information given.
Though the threat of human extinction still looms at the comfortable distance of almost a century to go the description of the consequences of global warming in this long essay feel more realistic than most of what can be read elsewhere.
Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation.”
Ok, quoting this paragraph wasn’t fair of me. The extent and depth of what climate change will mean to us as a civilization and as a species has been covered as good as it gets. That is because the author has obviously done some research and also spoken to a number of scientists personally. If you’ve seen the piece about those four Australian concerned climatologists, this is your follow-up story, this is what they are scared about.
The old paradigm is crumbling, something new emerges. I am not entirely sure whether the author would agree with seeing ecosystems in terms of communities or if we have to take the word ‘system’ in its mechanistic sense in which humans still can ‘trigger’ desired events, but the general direction sounds fine.
Some very practical consequences of global warming: How is life changing in Alaska (and Canada and Siberia), what becomes of human settlements and infrastructure? Remote was yesterday.
Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA – Tom Secker & Matthew Alford, InsurgeIntelligence, 20170704
US military intelligence agencies have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows”
Imagine– Derrick Jensen, Tlaxcala, 20170703
Jensen straight forward in his critique of industrial civilization and people’s lack of imagination that stands in the way of overcoming it:
‘Imagine for a moment that we weren’t suffering from this lack of imagination. Imagine a public official saying not that he cannot imagine living without electricity, but that he cannot imagine living with it, that what he can’t imagine living without are polar bears.”
Humans in 2167: Internet implants and no sleep – Bryan Gaensler, Down To Earth, 20170630
From an author who is affiliated to the University of Toronto, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, comes a vision for the next 150 years that misses out on none of the classic memes of science fiction. Among the many excellent articles featured by Down To Earth this is one of incredible naiveté. Sorry for spoiling the party, but Earth is already going through the early stages of her sixth mass extinction to which humans are not exactly immune, while the future envisioned here simply extrapolates the destructive course of civilization into the next century as if there were infinite resources allowing for infinite growth on this finite planet. The article describes an impossible future that fails to amaze me with its dull promise of technological progress and a lifestyle that is completely devoid of meaning. I cannot find it “sad” at all that this “will never happen in the real world.”
Take it as a reminder that, despite the trillionfold pain afflicted to life’s community by visions like this, this is still the official story of Empire’s destiny and that, as long as you are dreaming of technological golden ages, you are literally asleep to what’s real.
There will be an extremely painful oil supply shortfall sometime between 2018 and 2020. It will be highly disruptive to our over-leveraged global financial system.”
The convergence of crises reaching its peak point.
Corrected satellite data show 30 percent increase in global warming – Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 20170630
Orbital mechanics and other overlooked factors influencing satellite observation led to a difference of 0.17°C in temperature measurements. The actual global average temperature thus amounts likely to around 1.7 to 2°C, depending on the baseline applied.
When ideas become a commodity public intellectuals like Chomsky have a hard time. On the other hand, though, hard times are the fertile ground on which ideas thrive organically. Out of all the confusion created by an overabundance of ratcatchers emerges a growing certainty;
What intellectuals need is the same as what everyone else needs: a society that prioritizes human flourishing over private profit, and strong political networks that guard public goods against the prophets of an atomized, high-tech future. However difficult that society may be to achieve, one thing about the present gives hope. We are finally getting clear about who its enemies are.”
Stop Fascism – Chris Hedges, 20170526
His Portland speech finds clear words for what civilization has done to the planet, calling for strong resistance to the madness which has taken over governments, corporations, and all of humanity’s institutions.

Pearls Before Swine

Personality; not just for people anymore – Carl Safina, Huffington Post, 20160828
Humans have human minds. But believing that only humans have minds is like believing that because only humans have human skeletons, only humans have skeletons,” the Stanford professor says.
He is talking about insights gained from wildlife observation, and I concur because my experience with farm animals like goats, cows, and chickens completely matches Safina’s descriptions.
We usually see “elephants”—or “wolves” or “killer whales” or “chimps” or “ravens” and so on—as interchangeable representatives of their kind. But the instant we focus on individuals, we see an elephant named Echo with exceptional leadership qualities; we see wolf 755 struggling to survive the death of his mate and exile from his family; we see a lost and lonely killer whale named Luna who is humorous and stunningly gentle. We see individuality. It’s a fact of life. And it runs deep. Very deep […] Humans are not unique in having personalities, minds and feelings.”
I find it important to stress that individuality does not equal separateness of the individual from her environment. But that is a story for another day.
After one became three: working the work that is love – Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, 20160822
An autobiographical account of one human being’s place in the web of life that is not about living in the green. A love story that is rather enchanting than romantic, addressing climate change without counting carbon molecules.
Darcia Narvaez – Derrick Jensen, Resistance Radio, 20160228
An interview with the professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, IN, on child rearing in primitive and in civilized communities, and how the differences affect the moral development of human beings. To me this is one of the Wow! sources with regard to the human condition.
Grief and carbon reductionism– Charles Eisenstein, 20160203
Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific evidence-based predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of activism and energy that we are seeing now in Flint. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. And that requires experiencing grief. There is no other way.”

Ruminants and methane: not the fault of the animals – Alan Broughton, Green Left Weekly, 20160115

I suspected as much. Something must be done about greenhouse gas emissions. But bovines are an integral part of Earth’s life community. If there is any harm in what they are doing it is the result of our abusive relationship to them. This goes not only for ‘cow farts’ but also for goats as desert makers, and other myths. Our hysteria with finding someone to blame for Earth’s predicament is twisting the discussion and hurts those who have done least to bring it about: subsistence farmers and their symbiotic species.

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say– Oliver Milman, The Guardian, 20151202

Less destructive forms of forestry and nurturing kinds of food creation could do a lot to stop or even reverse the trend. But ask yourself: Can that happen within a system that depends on economic growth? Does morality have a chance below the bottom line of profit? Will we apply technology to restore what we have pushed off-balance for the sake of better technology? Can we ever prefer the well-being of other beings over our own as long as we believe in our own superior importance?
The courage to see, the power to choose – Joanna Macy, Naropa University, 20141017
What if we could look the pain, the suffering, the fear in the eye? Are we able to overcome the paralysis that befell us and do something about the rampaging injustice and the destruction of the living world? A celebration of the joy of being alive – and the grief that brings it about.
The space race is over – Paul Kingsworth, Global Oneness Project, 20140501
What is to be done about this? The answer to this question, as so often, seems to me to be personal rather than political. There is no way to prevent this society from Romanticizing progress and technology, and there is no way to prevent it coming down hard on visions of human-scale and ecological development. It will continue to do this until its own intellectual framework, and probably its physical framework, collapses under its own weight […]
But what we can do, when presented with a vision which projects an ideal onto either the future or the past, is examine our own personal need to be deluded […]
This is the work of a lifetime, but perhaps in the end it is the only work.”
The essay could have been written in response to the above-listed article about humans in 2167 but it is three years older and it can be applied to anything we identify with, from apocalyptic warrior to space age hero.
Adyashanti: complete interview– Global Oneness Project, 2009
The interviewee describes how in the development of human consciousness, there comes a shift from a sense of a separate self toward the experience of unity. He points out that the fear of losing our individual identity keeps us from making this shift. I’d have named this piece “On fear,” though it might as well be called “On activism.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Last orders, please!”

Famous Last Words

Go shopping!

All nonsense

They say that if there is no money there is no motivation.
They say that if there is no competition there is no progress.
They say that if there is no fertilizer there is no fruit.
They say that if there is no hope there is no action.
Science has proven it?
I have proven, by living differently, that those assertions are wrong, and I dare everyone to repeat the experiment that has been successfully performed immeasurable many times over, by yourself.
Do not believe me, but do also not believe some corporate-paid strangers who claim experthood on how to live when all they have to offer is highly specialized knowledge in one narrow field of science.

The Empire Express, 28 June 2017

Editorial

Three distinct areas have emerged as today’s focus points: clear indication of the climate’s rapid deterioration, studies in anthropology and sociology, and the battle to bring down the Megamachine. You might also express it in terms of observation – realization – action; or, past – present – future.
A lot of that has close relationship to food supply which is absolutely no surprise to anyone who pays attention to their basic needs.
The question of how to deal with the dire realities of today’s world permeates many publications even when their main topics seem harmless. The threat of a global war, nuclear war even, and the collapse of our culture is hovering over our heads; anarchists, anti-imperialists, environmentalists and primitivists are pondering the role of violence in their struggle to save whatever they are out saving. Does pacifism equal collaboration with the omnicidal System? Is there a moral obligation to use violence against things and/or people? Or is there another way?
I think those belong among the most burning questions of our times, and while I personally tend to favour nonviolent liberation I do suppose that some situations might require the application of force. Can’t plan this beforehand, though, because it depends on the specifics of the moment. In any case, let compassion prevail. Don’t act from a place of hate.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future – Kerry Brewster, ABC news, 20170627
An Australian climate scientist studying heat waves says, “I don’t like to scare people but the future’s not looking very good.“She and many of hercolleagues have second thoughts about having children and they are moving to places like Tasmania where temperatures are lower – as do many of the rich and powerful. If you need reliable indication of an impending climate collapse, here tweetsyour canary.
Carbon in atmosphere Is rising, even as emissions stabilize– Justin Gillis, New York Times, 20170627
That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever?”
If you are aware that various tipping points have been reached beyond which self-reinforcing feedback loops kick in you do not need to read this article. Just share it with people who wonder what is going on.
Both climate change and political issues may interrupt global trade at any moment now. A number of African countries depend heavily on food imports, but the problem is not theirs alone. The failure of raw materials and fossil fuel supply is sure to fell the economies of developed countries in no time. The whole situation is a threat to all of global industrial civilization and has a potential to bring it down permanently – which is why big harbours, channels, and straits have been identified as trouble areas by the anti-capitalist movement.
Subsea permafrost on East Siberian Arctic Shelf in accelerated decline – interview by Nick Breeze with Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semiletov, Envisionation, 20170624
Latest research results show that the threat of a multi-gigaton outburst of methane from the ESAS is real and would have severe and immediate impact on the world’s climate.
The twilight of anthropolatry – John Michael Greer, Ecosophia, 20170621
Check out any other issue where the survival of industrial society is at stake, and you’ll see the same thing. In case after case, it takes very little work to identify the habits and lifestyle choices that are dragging our civilization to ruin, and only a few moments of clear thinking to realize that the way to avert an ugly future has to begin with giving up those habits and lifestyle choices. Yet that last step is unthinkable to most people. It’s not just that they refuse to take it, for whatever reason; it’s that they don’t seem to be able to wrap their brains around the idea at all.”
Then what is it that keeps people from acting according to their best knowledge? After all, civilized humans deem themselves the most intelligent species on Earth by far. We even call ourselves homo sapiens, wise apes. The author thinks that we cannot believe anything will ever be able to come and bite us because of “A paradigm that insists that human beings are above nature—in the full literal sense of the word, supernatural—and therefore can’t possibly need to rethink their own choices for nature’s sake.”
Though the concept is not exactly new JMG puts it in a way that helps with reconsidering humanity’s place in the greater scheme of things. We are divine, but no more so than squirrels and apple trees.
Forbes’ “Go Bust” prescription for Indian farmers is a death warrant– Colin Todhunter & Binu Mathew, Countercurrents, 20170614
A piece in one of the ‘finest’ business magazines, on the need to industrialize Indian agriculture, led to this systematic rebuttal of both the analysis and the conclusion of Forbes’ neoliberal line of argument. Well written, but I am missing the insight that, very soon, the world is running into a food crisis and no one is going to eat if farming productivity is getting measured in financial rather than nutritional value.
The business model of big agribusiness in the US is based on overproduction and huge taxpayer subsidies which allow it to rake in huge profits. However, it drives a model of agriculture that merely serves to produce bad food, creates food deficit regions globally, destroys health, impoverishes small farms, leads to less diverse diets and less nutritious food, is less productive than small farms, creates water scarcity, destroys soil and fuels/benefits from World Bank/WTO policies that create dependency and debt […]
While [Forbes author Tim] Worstall argues that unproductive agriculture is a burden on society, it is not agriculture that has been the subsidy-sucking failure he imagines it to be. It has been starved of investment while the corporates secure the handouts. If anything, farmers have been sacrificed for the benefit of the urban middle classes whose food has been kept cheap and whose disposable income and consumer spending provides the illusion of growth.”
Earth is not in the midst of a sixth mass extinction – Peter Brannen, The Atlantic, 20170613
Interesting read. But palaeontologist Doug Erwin’s argument does not convince. First of all, mass extinctions may have similarities to failing power grids but they are not that, not pieces of technology. It’s simply an analogy like, comparing civilization to a ship, or seeing life as a journey, and it might be just as wrong as the computer/brain analogy. Secondly, previous mass extinction events played out over thousands or even millions of years before the collapse was complete. As we cannot foresee how the extinction of a certain species affects the web of life as a whole, we cannot tell whether key species of today have already vanished or not. We might already be over the edge (or we might not, agreed). Saying that today’s ecosystems don’t look like they were 90% collapsed is like driving a car at top speed over a cliff saying, a crashed car wouldn’t make one hundred miles per hour. From the figures I know the world has lost more than 90% of its vertebrates and insects populations within the last 100 years, and that is a pretty close call for extinction. Add to this the increasing speed at which we eat up living beings and destroy habitats, then look at ocean acidification, abrupt climate change, global pollution, and disastrous technological events, and do not forget to include the general disregard for non-human beings when money enters the game; then tell me again about being alarmist.
Mandsaur agitation: how demonetisation brought MP farmers onto streets – Aman Sethi & Punya Priya Mitra, Hindustan Times, 20170612
Humanity’s behaviour towards the world we inhabit is often described as ‘soiling our nest’. Most civilized people definitely got mental issues when it comes to natural processes, even when they are being adapted for human use, like in agriculture. The average consumer looks down upon their farmers, and generally feels that food prices are too high. But those who produce the vital goods each and every one of us depends upon work the hardest and longest, earn the least, and take the highest risks. Some of the governments know very well that they cannot stay in power if the farmers become aware of their potential leverage. That’s why they are getting shot at while the general public doesn’t care. People don’t care in Delhi, they don’t care in Auroville, they don’t care in Berlin or New York or Buenos Aires or Cairo. They don’t care in your home town, and likely you don’t care either, do you?
Maybe you should. Because when the day of food shortage comes it’s the farmers who will eat, if anyone. I say ‘If anyone’ because it seems more likely that, with all the obstacles and hardships put on the farmers, and with all the destruction brought upon the landbase, no one will eat.
Paris 2 degree rise relates to 1750 – Paul Beckwith, 20170610
The Canadian climate scientist explains where some of the confusion about the actual rise in global average temperature comes from.
It’s habitat, habitat, habitat, stupid – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170607
An essay discussing our crop plants’ dependence on habitat, and the dependence of civilization on crop plants.
Vanessa Beeley on White Helmets, Syria – Sane Progressive, 20170526
It is thanks to a handful of independent investigative journalists that we can see the extent to which the public is being fooled into believing that governments were fighting morally good wars. The war in Syria not only shows that this is true for the West’s attack against yet another sovereign nation, but for the whole so-called War on Terror which is really only a deadly sham. In Syria, it is no longer ISIS or al-Qaeda who are being bombed by Western troops. Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others did a great job describing how the so-called terrorists are being financed by Saudi, Israeli, US, and UK governments. Especially disgusting is the role of the White Helmets that our media style into angels. But listen to the reporter for yourself.
Now: The Invisible Committee – Non (copyriot.com), 20170520
This world is no longer to be commented on, criticised, denounced. We live surrounded by a fog of commentaries and of commentaries on commentaries, of criticisms and of criticisms of criticisms, of revelations that trigger nothing, except revelations about revelations. And this fog takes away from us any hold on the world. There is nothing to criticise in Donald Trump. The worst that one can say about him, he has already absorbed, incorporated. He embodies it. He wears as a necklace all of the grievances that one could ever imagine holding against him. He is his own caricature, and he is proud.”
This is not an essay about the US president.
The truth is not something towards which we would tend, but a non-evasive relation to what there is. It is not a “problem” except for those who already see life as a problem. It is not something that one professes, but a way of being in the world. It is therefore not something that is possessed, or accumulated. It is given in a situation, from moment to moment.”
It is a call for an anarchist revolution, written by an “Invisible Committee” of authors that has, ten years ago, published “The coming insurrection.” Its analysis of the global predicament goes deep, its scope of interest is wide, and although I am really not a friend of applied violence I have to admit that its place in the grander scheme of things seems properly defined.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
The demoralized mind – John F. Shumaker, Newint, 201604
Unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life […]
Research shows that, in contrast to earlier times, most people today are unable to identify any sort of philosophy of life or set of guiding principles. Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited […]
Cultural deprogramming is essential, along with ‘culture proofing’, disobedience training and character development strategies, all aimed at constructing a worldview that better connects the person to self, others and the natural world.”
International migration flows: tracking the trends – Down To Earth, based on UN international migrant stock 2015
In 2015, the world saw the highest levels of forced displacement recorded since World War II. There was a dramatic surge in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people across the world.”
Ho’oponopono for beginners.
Thinking on a clean slate: preface to the human story – M. J. John, Human First – Thinking Beyond Industrial Civilization, 20141208
Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information. The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it ever since.
[…] Everything from telegraphy and photography in the 19th century to the silicon chip in the twentieth has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person, information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems.
[…] For most humans living today, it is hard to imagine life without technology – without second-hand intelligence-dependency. But on the scale of human history, the
Internet and mobile devices are recent inventions, a few decades back, and the modern science and technology a few centuries back. Until just 5,000 years ago, we lived in small groups, hunting and gathering. While that life might seem to be ancient, it is also the life for which our bodies and our brains are adapted. So, we have something to learn from people who still live naturally, as we did for almost 99.9% of human life here on Mother Earth.
[…] In ancient Greece, even slaves had a deep social role as part of a household, unlike even higher class modern workers, who are valued as things, interchangeable as parts in engines of profit. Medieval serfs worked fewer hours than modern people, at a slower pace, and passed less of their money up the hierarchy. We declare our lives better than theirs in terms of our own cultural values. If medieval people could visit us, I think they would be impressed by our advances in alcohol, pornography, and sweet foods, and appalled at our biophobia, our fences, the lifelessness of our physical spaces, the meaninglessness and stress of our existence, our lack of practical skills, and the extent to which we let our lords (leaders of religion, government and market) regulate our every activity. They are sure to consider us as pitiful creatures.
[…] Supposing there were no books, TV, radio, the newspapers, phone and the Internet, we would know very little of what went on or is going on in the world. We would have fewer thoughts, fewer second-hand ideas. Being less cluttered up mentally, we would be better able to concentrate on things near at hand. We would be able to live more intensely. Perhaps we would be closer to REALITY, the real knowledge or the TRUTH. This was, of course, the condition of our ancestors in bygone days, even as it is still the condition of many people untouched by industrial civilization in some of the so-called ‘undeveloped’ countries.”
A veeery long essay taken from the book “Life on meltdown: exposing the root of this genocidal collective stupidity”by M. J. John, and it has, of course much more to tell, beyond critisizing industrial civilization. I chose to quote these passages, especially at such length, because, for the resolving message to come across, it takes for the reader to let go, just one moment, of the idea that humanity is living at the apex of its abilities. There aremassive amounts of evidence today that both human intelligence and human sensory and memory functions are actually in decline. Think of it.
An anthropologist’s presentation regarding tribes of the Northern Congo basin, explaining the locals’ understanding of equality and its rootedness in different kinds of blood. Beyond the social equality – between men and women, old and young people, strangers and family, and all kinds of other dichotomies – there is also equality between human and non-human populations in their forest. I found it interesting to see how the concept of equality differs between civilized and tribal nations. Profound differences in lifestyle result from that.
This book is about fighting back. The dominant culture—civilization—is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being […] it won’t stop doing so because we ask nicely.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Must go faster!”

Famous Last Words

It can’t happen to us.

Apocalypting conservatively

I am aware that many of those who read my posts think that I overstate the severity of the global warming and that it doesn’t look all that bad. Let’s just pretend for one hour or so that you were right. Listen to the good professor in the embedded video who delivers a textbook speech on the ramifications of the IPCC / Paris Agreement scenario. There is no rogue mentality visible here, no revolutionary mind at work, no panic attack spilling over, yet the outlook, based on the – irresponsibly conservative – figures from the IPCC models, is devastating.
David S. Battisti’s Edinburgh lecture in short: The interior of the continents would heat up twice as much as the global average, leading to a 4°C rise in most grains-producing regions until mid-century.. This would result in massive losses in food production, 10% on average for every degree added. Due to plant physiology, higher temperature, and greater weather swings the mid-latitudes – the US and Europe, among others – would lose between 10% (in good years) and 100% of crops as compared to today. As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere skyrockets, massive ocean acidification will impact the marine food web in unpredictable manners.
With population rising to 9+ billion heads by mid-century, the loss of 1% of arable lands per year due to erosion etc., and the loss of crops due to climate change agricultural production has to double within the next 35 years. This is obviously not going to happen because there is not that much suitable land and that much water available, and, after three decades of research, genetic engineering still cannot provide suitable seeds.
One of the outstanding features of this lecture is the non-issue of mass starvation, population collapse, and the social, economic, and political turmoil this scenario will inescapably bring about. I find it incredible how learned folks tend to isolate items of interest and completely neglect their consequences. What exactly is the use of going through the exercise of modeling future developments and not inquiring into what they mean for our lives?
Consequently the students attending the talk seem to take the message with good humour, and so may you do. But think of it: this is the ultra-conservative outlook on a future that you and I, and certainly our children, would see. Take into account that the temperature has risen by roughly 1.5°C since the beginning of industrialization, and how that already impacts our weather. With an open ear you will hear phrases like “faster than expected”, “worse than foreseen” and “with unprecedented speed” all over the place when it comes to climate change. Is it really a good idea to disregard the more alarming voices among scientists who have reason to believe an abrupt multi-degree temperature rise is probable in less than a decade?
See also:
  • 2°C to Midnight; an essay on the inaccuracy of the IPCC’s climate models and the futility of the 2015 Paris agreement.
  • Deep into the Spiral: an outlook on the near future, based on more accurate figures than the IPCC’s.

The Empire Express, 2 June 2017

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
A relation of love with the land – Manu Sharma, Ecologise, 20170530
When humans love the earth they live upon, when they truly see each part of the ecosystem as equal and valuable, when they build a non-violent relationship with it, something magical occurs […] Balance is restored in a matter of years.”
One week’s headlines on abrupt climate change – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170526
One fine analyst you should have heard of if you are concerned about global warming is Robin Westenra. Many of the articles I have been wading through on collecting interesting material for the Empire Express are gathered in one of his latest essays, a digest of news on research on, and results of, abrupt climate change. Though it shows just one one-week’s segment of a really huge pie, the headlines illustrate the rapid decline of the situation, an unraveling which goes on week after week after week at increasing speed.
The empty brain – Robert Epstein, Aeon, 20170518
A very interesting piece on the history of the cognitive sciences and the myth of the brain/computer analogy.
The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”
The extent to which the planet gets turned into trash and poison is truly staggering.
“We need to drastically rethink our relationship with plastic,” [Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at the University of Tasmania] said. “It’s something that’s designed to last forever, but is often only used for a few fleeting moments and then tossed away.”
The globalization of misery: Mosul on my mind – by Tom Engelhardt, Information Clearing House, 20170515
“The globalization of misery doesn’t have the cachet of the globalization of plenty. It doesn’t make for the same uplifting reading, nor does skyrocketing global economic inequality seem quite as thrilling as a leveling playing field (unless, of course, you happen to be a billionaire). And thanks significantly to the military efforts of the last superpower standing, the disintegration of significant regions of the planet doesn’t quite add up to what the globalists had in mind for the twenty-first century. Failed states, spreading terror movements, all too many Mosuls, and the conditions for so much more of the same weren’t what globalization was supposed to be all about.”
I’m not so sure about intentions. After all, it is the difference in wealth that keeps the shareholders happy.
How do you degrow an economy, without causing chaos? – Jonathan Rutherford, Resilience, 20170515
Well, how do you? I guess we never had a nation willingly walking away from progress, and doing so without leaving plenty of shards. Our timeframe is pretty short, and we are living in a system that is based on growth, so you can’t just slowly adapt to no-growth or negative-growth conditions. Grassroots movements may have to play a role here; if they gained traction, the state might hook up by nationalizing corporations, Rutherford says. (topic relates to the Ted Trainer interview; see below)
Prepping for the end of the world – Mike Sliwa, The Good Men Project, 20170514
Maybe dying has a lesson that outweighs the frantic struggle to survive?“
Recent studies have shown that there’s a direct correlation between climate change and CKDu [chronic kidney disease of unknown origins]. The disease affects farm workers across the globe […these]are the very people who provide the basis of our economies and lifestyles. Climate change will impact our entire economic system and CKDu is potentially a canary in the coal mine, a warning of what is to come.“
There is a large contingent within the biosphere that would love to see ants take over after humans step down,” said Eldridge, who cited the insects’ tireless work ethic, longer tenure on the planet, and ability to work well in groups.“
Hilarious!
Where have all the insects gone? – Gretchen Vogel, Science, 20170510
Observations in the wild in Germany show that insect populations have dropped by 78% in 24 years. That’s worse than the decline in vertebrates.
People acquainted to me know that I have a pretty simple, radically downgraded lifestyle. I go to bed shortly after the sun sets; I get up at dawn. My place is more or less a roofed platform with grills for walls, so it’s very open to its environment. Most of the wake times in bed I just listen to the birds, crickets and frogs, and though their numbers have audibly fallen we still have a huge biodiversity existing in our farm. I enjoy being with those fellow creatures every day. After all, “you only get so many Mays in your life”,says ornithologist Tony Whitehead who invites people for forest walks at dawn. I know what Tony is talking about, and he’s right. How many of those Mays do we actually remember? I confess, I have difficulties recalling even one. Springtime memories, yes. But how old was I back then? And, was it May, or April? It’s really better not to reduce one’s nature time to Sundays or, worse, to postpone it till after pension, but to be out constantly, consciously.
“Only now, once you’re outside and engaging with this stuff, is the basis for a meaningful engagement and then a meaningful advocacy for the natural world can come about. You have to get out here”.
Especially recommended article.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained, “[W]e can’t honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them, and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.” North Korean president Kim Jong-un could have said the same thing about his seven nuclear warheads, especially in view of US bombs and missiles currently falling on seven countries.”
Commercial opportunities are vastly outweighed by damage to the climate,”the unknown author subtitles his or her considerate article. Several problems standing in the way of an Arctic gold rush are described. “Nothing, however, looms larger than the potential for environmental calamity.” Given that countries were unlikely to keep within the limits of the Paris Agreement, more radical measures – various ways of geo-engineering — needed to be taken. But,
Even if such ways to cool the planet could be managed on the vast scale necessary, other unwelcome outcomes cannot be discounted. When volcanoes release vast amounts of aerosols and sulphates into the air, they damage the ozone layer—might the same be true for geoengineering?”
Overall it seems that the time has come for climate change to hit the mainstream press, which is quite surprising, but truly astonishing for a magazine like this is the article’s summary:
To ensure political and commercial stability in a defrosting Arctic, and to limit the harm caused by and to the warming pole, countries need to pay it far greater attention. The danger is that it is already too late.”
With all the natural sinks exhaling their carbon quickly, the (non-existent) efforts of mankind to curb emissions have exactly no consequences for the outcome.
This high-level waste must be isolated from the environment for one million years – but no container lasts longer than 100 years. The isotopes will inevitably leak, contaminating the food chain, inducing epidemics of cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities and genetic diseases for the rest of time. This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights.”

…provided there are future generations.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
Towards a unitive life: An interview with Shyam BalakrishnanS. Sharath & Jayan P.M., Ecologise, 20151105 [as featured in Keraleeyam Magazine; translated from the Malayalam by the interviewee]
The interviewee became famous in India after he has been falsely accused of being a Maoist and has been harassed and arrested without warrant by the police. Kerala High Court acquited him, ordering the state to compensate him, because “being a Maoist is not a crime”. Balakrishnan does have radical thoughts, though. He talks of the irreconcilable relation between democracy, nation-state, and capitalism, advocating the fostering of a non-dual, unitive existence which respects life.
The essential truth about us is our oneness… Those living in the delusion of a private life are missing the greatest beauty that nature holds.”
Since the nation-states contradict the natural and basic principles of life, they must fall. The sense of otherness and territory are the prime capital of nationhood. We must fully accept that every community has its own culture and unique characteristics but this doesn’t make it necessary to have a territory guarded by armed human beings.”
we have to integrate all the values ranging from food to freedom scientifically and we must live that through infinite diversities.”
Ted Trainer Interview on ‘The Simpler Way’– Jordan Osmond & Samuel Alexander, The Simplicity Institute, 201511
The current crisis can be taken as an opportunity to shift to a simple lifestyle. The Australian academic explains why there is no way capitalism could be reformed, and why there is no need for fear of an impoverished existence. There are indeed ‘benefits’ from ending consumerism…
What it would really take to reverse climate change – Ross Koningstein & David Fork, IEEE Spectrum, 20141118
Two engineers at Google report on their failed attempts at tackling the climate issue by providing cheap renewable energy.
Those calculations cast our work at Google’s RE<C program in a sobering new light. Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change.”
So even if we listened to our best experts, started right now, and put all our energy into it – we are still running against a wall, one of them being the financial bottom line against which they fought an uphill struggle.
There are, no doubt, all manner of unpredictable inventions that are possible, and many ways to bring our CO2 levels down to Hansen’s safety threshold if imagination, science, and engineering run wild.”
One may dream, of course, but when our lives depend on it we’d better come up with something more solid, no?
We’re hopeful, because sometimes engineers and scientists do achieve the impossible.”
Hopium, Hopium. Some day I might win the lottery, but from my experience, it is rather like, sometimes you lose, and sometimes somebody else is winning.
We can’t yet imagine which of these technologies will ultimately work and usher in a new era of prosperity—but the people of this prosperous future won’t be able to imagine how we lived without them.”
There! The golden age, lingering just around the corner. Let’s face it: money is one of the major problems in the game, and most people rather believe in fantasy tech than to imagine a world without currency. What it would really take to reverse climate change is for industrial civilization to cease existing, and for mankind to survive and wait a few million years until the planet finds a more human-friendly mode of operation again.
Why Capitalism makes us sick – Dr Gabor Maté, 20140928
From the perspective of a physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and is also widely recognized for his perspective on Attention Deficit Disorder, Dr Maté explains the connection between psychological and physical sicknesses, and inhowfar those are being caused by the way we organize work and society. No surprise there, but this is a well presented analysis. See also his interview “Attachment, Disease, Addiction“.

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Dear Passengers! Travelling at our current high speed, we are going to get term… uhm, I mean, arrive at terminal before twenty-one hundred, faster than expected.”

Famous Last Words

“What do you mean, crash?”

Messing with habitat

The founder of our settlement provided a general idea of how the future city was supposed to look like. An architect came up with a few models one of which imitated the shape of a galaxy. Based on that, a layout for the city, the so-called masterplan has been drawn by our town planning group. Population development in the surrounding villages and land speculation are now massively interfering with said plan, but also an increasingly bold environmental movement within our community itself is making the realization of infrastructure according to the masterplan more difficult. Currently under discussion is, imposing a government-approved land use plan through the application of authority, but —

“There’s an issue which almost nobody writes about or talks about, and yet it’s perhaps more fundamental than any other issue at all, which is soil. Soil is the basis of human civilization. Soil is the basis of human existence. We do not exist without soil. Everything we eat, everything which contributes to our body mass comes from soil. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation we have 60 years of harvest left at current rates of soil loss and degradation. And this is a marginal issue. It doesn’t feature in politics, it doesn’t feature in debate, it’s not on the news. No one is talking about this, yet it’s the most fundamental issue of all […] the biggest bias is the bias against relevance. Those things that are objectively most relevant to our lives are marginalised while trivia is put in their space, is put front and center as the thing we ought to obsess about.” — George Monbiot, author of “How did we get into this mess? Politics, equality, nature” in an interview with Verso
A few days ago I had the privilege of getting a glimpse of the discussion around the NTDA* for our township here. The mail exchange I saw – I hope the authors are going to share it with a wider audience as well – left absolutely no doubt that forcing the masterplan into practice is a pretty bad idea.
Without going into the details of their convincing arguments I would like to point out that our physical bodies require physical habitat for their survival, habitat which allows for the growth of food, collection of water, and regulation of body temperature. Habitat is not the supermarket shelves most of us refer to for food, not the money we possess, not the technology we use, not the good books we read, nor the inspiring ideas and visions we derive from them. Habitat consists of the landbase with its shape, its hydrology, its soil, and its living organisms and their larger cultures and communities (what we call ecosystems). Habitat is what provides us with food, water, oxygen, shelter and literally everything else that is absolutely essential for our survival. The elements herein are not interchangeable, none of them dispensible, and one cannot manipulate any of the variables without affecting the whole habitat. You mess with it — you don’t eat, period.
Much of the future city’s area still looks like this.

Our founder centered the city around a banyan tree on top of a hill, and that led to massive reforestation of the local watershed, as the first settlers needed shade urgently. I don’t know whether the founder was aware of it — most pioneers certainly weren’t, and the advocates of the masterplan still aren’t — but the new ecosystem came into existence in exactly the right spot for most of our basic needs to get met — provided we respect what has developed over the last 50 years on this once barren plateau. Tremendous effort by thousands of people contributing countless hours of hard physical work went not only into the re-creation of this forest of several million wooden souls with its diverse fauna; the same is true for many of our farms as well, where committed people enabled natural processes to heal the wounds human ‘development’ had cut. Thanks to half a century of organic farming some places have built up not just inches but a foot and more of healthy, carbon-rich top soil.

To sacrifice these achievements in order to build paved roads, offices, factories, and houses in their place is not merely disrespecting of the creative energy of humans and non-humans alike — what kind of spirituality is this supposed to be? — it is highly destructive when it comes to habitat. As long as we dismiss the information and understandings painfully gained through the history of civilization we better dare not speak of higher consciousness. We cannot impose abstract visions on a real landscape and expect to have a habitat tomorrow. Global environmental degradation forbids us to trade habitat for development any longer without immediately endangering our very existence up here. The city on the hill would become home to the fool on the hill… a dead fool, for that matter.
It is our duty to act according to our best knowledge and our highest consciousness as a species. Knowing what we know about watersheds, climate change, aquifers, ecosystems and their degradation, and so forth, a new vision for our township is urgently needed, a vision that does not speak of imposition of structure — dead geometrical objects — upon a living ecosystem with its human and non-human community. What we need is the (re-) enactment of an understanding how to (re-) integrate the human sphere into the community of life. The brackets point out that historical precedence for non-separation does exist.
The galaxy model was never meant to constitute the ultimate word on the settlement’s shape. Our founder did not say, Repeat after me. Instead, we have been called to take advantage of new developments and pieces of knowledge as we proceed. We are supposed to work out the functioning of our society as we are walking forward — on the go, so to speak — and that certainly includes the physical manifestation of “the city at the service of truth”. Barring a direct lie, you cannot strive farther from truth than dwelling in architectural dreams that are denying the significance of habitat and that have no connection with what-is: ground reality, empirical reality, the reality of the land.

All the fools sail away

We bring you beautiful
We teach you sin
We can give you a piece of the universe
Or we will disappear
Never to return again

And all the fools sailed away…

– from the Dio album ‘Dream Evil’ (1987)
You may have noticed that I wrote recently that I am preparing for a collapse til around 2020 and I wonder somehow what you made of it. The statement itself may appear confusing, even ludicrous, especially when you know me closer or followed my blogs: I’m not at all a prepper. I don’t store canned food in the cellar, I don’t build bunkers, I don’t hide out in the mountains. When the time comes I’ll just perish with the rest of the community of life, likely early on. This is not something I’m looking forward to. I didn’t buy into a death cult. Life has become such a joy to me recently, but this was made possible with the emergence of the understanding only that living happens from moment to moment, with no guarantee there will ever be another. Preparing, to me, means that those moments of presence become the dominant, or the only, way of being, and that I’ll be able to contribute to other people’s wellbeing this way, especially when it matters most: in the end.
2020, yes, that’s quite a risky prediction. It leaves very little time for coping with the bleakness of a no-future future. If I still broke my head over shallow moral issues I’d be afraid of whipping people into a – possibly unjustified – panic. But I don’t, and people are denying the probability of extinction anyway, so there is no panic to be afraid of. The risk that I’m turning myself into a laughing stock is way more real, although I’m not afraid of this, either. If I were wrong, there’d be an off chance that, within the extra time, we curbed the worst consequences of our culture’s destructiveness, yet it also meant the prolongation of trillionfold suffering until the time civilization had actually reached its limits. It meant that, instead of being grateful for getting to live another year, self-acclaimed skeptics could continue to spew their cynicist acid like they always used to, and yet another round of global exploitation would unfold. Doomer dude was wrong. How convenient.
2020. Few people pretend to know the schedule of future history; I certainly don’t. I’ll not assert I’m right while everyone else is wrong. I don’t want to be right. Equally, I don’t want to be wrong when I look at the ever increasing pollution of water, soil, and air, when I observe the steep decline in social coherence, social justice and social peace, when I hear the drums of war drown out all other utterances. Global debt rises exponentially; so does human population. I see boreal forests burn up, temperate forests dry out, tropical forests getting clearcut. I see record melting of ice caps at both poles, both on sea and land, sea currents changing directions, reefs bleaching, and overfished littered oceans turning acidic and deoxigenized. Temperatures soar all over the planet, breaking records, megadroughts devastating large parts of several continents. The destruction of the ecosphere, hundreds of animal mass death events per year, also hundreds of species extinctions – per day! – and all this goes on for day after day after day while politicians speak after business managers who claim that economic growth is more important than lives. This is also what most activists from the green movement promote when they are proposing ways how to make money from ‘saving the world’. Shopping for good conscience we succumb to Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil. We are so brainwashed, we will never even consider starting ‘right now’ with anything, certainly not anything that is radical in nature. At a time when everything develops ‘faster than expected’, lip service to concern has become the last nail in the coffin of mankind. That’s why we’re fracked is a done deal to me, and it doesn’t really matter whether it happens tonight, or until 2020, or a couple of years later. I am talking near-term, I am talking inevitable. I am talking about mankind breaking everything including themselves, neither be willing nor able to stop the killing frenzy.
2020 is not a date to point at and say, ‘You’ll see!’ Boy, I wish everybody would see already, though most of us never ever will. 2020 reflects my understanding that things have become so unsustainable, people have become so mentally sick, problems have become so numerous, conditions have become so dire that the breaking point seems to have arrived.
I’m flying!
Employing the well-matching shipwreck metaphor we are past the iceberg, with a capital leak in the hull through which sea water presses into numerous sections. Some of the crew who notice the damage are beginning to drill more holes into the hull – for the water to flow off again, they say. Others are trying to get the captain to slow down the ship a bit which would reduce the amount of water coming in, but the radio is blocked with gossip, and some public-relations employee is praising the insurmountable Rolls Royce engines, inviting all passengers to enjoy the phantastic convenience on board. The only valuable piece of information received is the fact that the complete emergency rescuers team has joined the plumbers, for fixing a broken toilet flusher in the King’s Suite. The first mate, with the help of the purser, is plundering the safe while the staff are accusing each other of having stolen pencils from the chart table. The captain is sending a team of housecleaners around; they collect used tissues from recycle bins in each cabin to be stuffed into the fissure in the hull. Some people are still discussing where the annoying amounts of water are coming from and why it is so f***ing chilly. But most of us attribute our cold feet to a broken thermostate we believe we should fix somewhen soon. As the icy water quickly reaches our necks it is hard for me to imagine how the illusion of controlled normalcy could be upheld for much longer; certainly not until 2100. The sinking of a ship, like the decay of natural systems, is an exponential process that ends suddenly, cataclysmicly. Now you float, now you don’t.
For the third class – the Third World – the race for life boats has already begun while the folks on the upper decks still discuss the weather over a glass of Martini. And don’t you worry; even God couldn’t sink this ship! Nevermind them building last resorts in New Zealand, underground bunkers in the Rockies, fortresses of solitude in the Arctic, seed banks in Scandinavia, and spaceships to Mars.
There is no running away from karma, though, and to be among the last of men alive will constitute the ultimate punishment for those who took it onto their shoulders to drive the boat into the berg.