Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Learning from History

Over at The ArchDruid Report John Greer opines on our unwillingness to learn from history. This is especially timely in view of Obama's comments on the lack of jobs in many communities, which has not been alleviated by the government or others, thus leading to bitterness on the part of community members. Clinton may have called his wording 'elitist' but she is no less elitist with her effort to appear as 'one of the guys' downing boilermakers at a local bar. However, while Clinton and Obama trade barbs, with McCain chiming in from the sidelines, civilization burns oil and the moment of peak comes ever closer, with no advance planning by our leaders to mitigate the impact.

Greer's point is one worth considering. Take a look at the specialization that is occurring today and the farflung trade routes and global markets in place. While one can speculate as to how dire life may become as fossil fuels continue to rise in price, one cannot argue that it will be dire compared to today. Calling for a 'gas tax holiday' or 'energy independence' is simply pablum to spoon feed the masses. The hard truth, and it is hard to consider, is that our lifestyles must change.

The movie Blood of Heroes is set during a post-apocalyptic world. It could as easily been a post peak-oil world. The same people who gave us Mad Max strike again. The wealthy live protected lives while the rest of humanity struggles to survive. It's not the best movie in the genre, but worth watching in view of Greer's essay. Could it get that bad? Of course. Will it? Unknown.

The Roman collapse described by Greer and the book he references took place over 1600 years ago. Will we learn from their mistakes or continue our Happy Motoring lifestyle, waiting for something (enhanced technology, a new super giant oil field) or someone (our heirs) to solve the problem?

1 comment:

The North Coast said...

We won't learn.

We never learn. If we were capable of learning, we would have avoided the housing debacle because we have ample recent history to learn from regarding asset bubbles and what happens when they burst. This situation is playing out EXACTLY like the bursting of the credit bubble in the 20s.

And I'm afraid that the collapse of our situation will play out exactly like the Roman collapse, and, even more horrifying, the Mayan collapse, which was possibly grander than that of Rome. What happened to 25 million people, and how did it happen so quickly?

Because they were dependent upon a monoculture, an economy based totally on corn production.

Our collapse will be deeper and longer, because we have reached such an incredible level of complexity and specialization that is primarily dependent upon one rapidly depleting resource.

Reminds me of the old Jules Pfieffer cartoon, about what you learn from experience: You learn that it kills and that nobody learns.

The tragic fact is that we are, as humans, constituted a certain way, which is to expand madly until we bump up against constraints,like any colony of rats or other vermin.We are totally in thrall to our biology, and our glands override our brains consistantly.

We won't stop and our great brains won't keep us from maxing ourselves out because we employ them to maintain denial rather than project the certain future based on undeniable, visible evidence and develop strategies that would help head off the inevitable collision with reality.

My hope is that humanity at its current level of evolution is the first "sere"- a term defined by John Miller on his Archdruid Report, that will evolve into a second "sere" that can thrive in the civilizational compost left behind by our current wasteful societies. It's a pretty dim hope, really, and nothing that will help us near term given the timeframe involved in mammalian evolution. However, it is clear that in our current form, we are not equipped to deal with resource depletion coupled with rampant overpopulation and a civilization built on a very wasteful platform- that we will have to change on the cellular level to be able get past this watershed moment successfully.

And I don't see that happening.

I am really, really glad I didn't have children, let me tell you.