31 December 2008

You say "collapse" like it's a bad thing

Over the holidays I had occasion to discuss the state of the world with members of my family. I found it very difficult to contribute to this conversation because of my family's rules of engagement, which I suspect are similar to other people's family rules.
  1. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. If one has facts to back up said opinion, one should keep them to oneself lest an unfair advantage be gained over one without facts.
  2. The only acceptable response to any sentence which could reasonably have been uttered in 1973 or 1999 is to chuckle and say, “we've heard that before, haven't we?”.
  3. It is bad form to raise an issue unless its obvious solution does not require personal sacrifice and can be implemented by a mediocre government with no net tax increase.
  4. “We're fucked.”, no matter how delicately phrased, will make people feel bad, so, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Where I differ from my family, and I suspect most North Americans, is that I am not particularly interested in solutions to the problem of the economy. As much as I enjoy the freedom of mobility a car provides, or the buzz of a new electronic gadget, I am not committed to preserving a society based on burning huge quantities of fossil fuels and consuming shiploads of cheap stuff from China. I've said before that we'd all be better off if the richest billion or two of us were a lot poorer, and since almost none of us are willing to voluntarily give up wealth, having governments pour trillions of dollars into the black hole of economic collapse seems a fine way to ensure widespread wealth destruction. If oil sands development slows down, or car sales dry up, or demand for uranium drops, the planet wins a reprieve from the onslaught of civilization. No government policy could better protect the environment.

In case you were thinking of adopting this position, I must caution you, it will not make you popular. Your mental health will be questioned and you will be accused of sucking the joy out of life. You might not want to speak it out loud in polite company.

So here's to continued interesting times in 2009.


  1. I had written a response to this last week but there was a glitch in the computer I was using away from home and for some reason it just didn't 'take.' What I said was something like, I have been having a similar experience as I visit family and friends. When I got home yesterday, I blogged a bit about it, and then got a bit of negative feedback about that. I am definitely not increasing my popularity. But, I'm sort of used to that.

  2. I saw your post after I had written mine. I think a similar scenario played out in many homes over the holidays.

    Three cheers to unpopular inconvenient truth tellers everywhere!

  3. Hey B

    I hope this doesn't sound like rubbing it in but at my in-laws there was a recognition that what I'd been telling them for the last year (at least) was, in fact, true. Of course, my in-laws are the type to acknowledge you're right and then do the exact opposite. I can't wait until they take the next opportunity they have to buy a great house, even though they're currently renting an amazing place for next to nothing. (The house that they were able to walk away from without losing a penny was later sold for $70k less than what they had agreed to pay only a few months before).

  4. OC,
    I wouldn't actually expect anyone to follow my advice. I don't even follow my advice.

    You actually seem to be going around saving people big money, though.

  5. I've found it is hardest with friends. My brother can call me an alarmist, but he still calls :) People will only listen when they are ready to listen.

    I thought about having a movie night and show the movie The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil to see if it will spark some discussion. The problem is, Cubans were still not as detached from the land and their knowledge of it as we are.

  6. I haven't seen that video yet. I was glad to find it entirely online. How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, The Power of Community

  7. hi! umm... have you checked out "sacred economics" by charles eisenstein yet? there's a video and you can read it online! http://sacred-economics.com/ (i love your post and i think this work will help you in your conversations with family... it's helped me!!!)

    1. Thanks Raven. I checked out the video, which was quite good, but when I looked a bit more into Charles Eisenstein, I found some videos of him explaining how to make the law of attraction work and my left brain just exploded. My right brain doesn't go for that stuff, either, to tell the truth. It's too bad that even the people who seem like they might have real answers, don't really.

      All I've figured out in the years since I wrote this, is that I don't know anything. I guess that's why my most recent posts are mostly just pictures of my tiny corner of the natural world.



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