Mike Sliwa believes the story we tell ourselves about ourselves is a story worth forgetting.
“Protect your spirit, because you’re in the place where spirits get eaten.”- John Trudell
Yeah I get it. Y2K, the Mayan Calendar and Halley’s Comet among countless other doomsday prophecies have come and gone over time. They’re like candy and we eat them up. “We” are the dominant culture of course. The dominant culture is made up of those of us who live in and are supported by what we call “civilization.” Civilization (as defined by me for the sake of this essay) is the living arrangement where our basic needs are imported into our communities. Importation is the process by which our food, water and shelter are turned into commodities we purchase rather than hunt, gather, grow, collect, and create ourselves. Today the dominant culture is global industrial civilization.
We in the dominant culture make movies about apocalyptic disasters like 2012, zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and the latest hot show, The Walking Dead. Once in awhile we even produce something of quality like Cormac McCarthy’s book, The Road. Why do we tell these stories? Are they a self-fulfilling prophecy? Did we ever consider that maybe we’re the zombie.
Some of us interpret holy books, join cults and fear the technology we produce at times. We consider those folks to be “fringe” elements of our culture. We used to be the fringe element of humanity. Have we ever considered that what was once fringe (agriculture, food storage and therefore civilization) has now become the dominant culture on earth? We are believers of civilization. We are worshipers of the global industrial economy. We tell ourselves that civilization is the best way to live, the only way to live. We call anything else primitive. We define the terms.
What we fail to do is actually look at the obvious; all civilizations fail because they are not sustainable and because of this the children of the world may not grow old. In fact, they may not make it to adulthood. This of course sounds ridiculous and way over the top, not to mention absolutely horrific but every action produces consequences which create new worlds. After all we believe this particular version of civilization is “different” … said every civilization that ever existed. This particular doomsday scenario is not a prophecy but merely a consequence of our living arrangement. I could provide plenty of scientific data to back up the following but it doesn’t take data to think sensibly.
These five reasons only require what the dominant culture lacks, common sense and foresight. We lack them because they don’t fit neatly into our living arrangement. They don’t play a role in the story we tell ourselves about ourselves and they threaten the very thing we love most, civilization.
Here’s a look at the ghosts of near term human extinction:
1. Rapid Species Extinction
We are in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction. We are also part of an immense community of species. The few human communities that understand this are quickly being devoured by our need to use every last inch. As our culture “advances” we need to devour ecosystems to do so. These ecosystems are full of life. These are lives that provide life for all species on our planet. Our lives in fact depend upon the larger community of species. So as our living arrangement eliminates some 200 species per day it shouldn’t shock us that eventually we will eliminate the very source that provides for our own existence.
Consider looking at the math.
2. Resource Use
The fossil fuel era has been amazing. In fact everything’s amazing but no one is happy. This amazing living arrangement of course requires tremendous amounts of what we call “resources” to be maintained. Never mind the fact that in order to obtain these precious “resources” it requires worldwide oppression and violence. Never mind the fact that what we call “a resource” is in fact so much more than that. We just relegate everything into a commodity and expect it to last forever and without consequence. Now that some see we have actual limits we hear a renewed call for nuclear energy and “renewable” resources. Next thing you know we’ll be using our food as fuel … oh wait.
Consider checking the math.
3. Population Overshoot
It took from the dawn of human history (millions of years) to the early part of the 19th century to reach a human population of 1 billion. In just over 200 years we’ve added over 6 billion more. We gain about 200,000 (births minus deaths) people per day on the planet. Roughly 140 people are added every minute. Many people desire affluence which requires more resource use, therefore exterminating more species. All people have basic needs to be met; however few of us have the skills to be
The reason we’ve increased population so dramatically is really very simple. We have figured out a way to produce more food, thank you fossil fuels. Food equals people. More food produces more people. More people produce population overshoot. When a species goes into overshoot it devours everything that supports its existence. Oh and before we go blaming our population problems on what we like to call, “developing countries” consider that the average person in the U.S. consumes as much as 32 Kenyans. So in other words, little Jesse and playmate Pat aren’t just parts of your low impact family of four … make that a family of 128!
Consider doing the math.
4. Global Economic Growth Model
Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible. Yet today the dominant cultures economic model is simply that. We must maintain a growing economy. There is no Earth II and if you’re counting on that your dominant culture hubris is in full swing and you’ve overlooked the fact that the living arrangement you believe in so deeply requires multiple planets. Maybe we should figure out how to live on this one first? The result of our techno fix for everything game of Jenga is why we face multiple emergencies in the first place. Hoping our leaders will fix this is wishful thinking. So if you believe that finite planet / infinite growing economy = a future, then I would simply ask you to …
Please do the math.
5. Climate Change
The end game of agriculture over hunting and gathering that began some 10,000 years ago has come to a tipping point. The war that farmers wrought upon nomads is almost complete. The prize of course is our own extinction. The decision to settle down and privatize everything from the earth below our feet to the water that falls from the sky has had dire consequences.
The ultimate consequence is climate change. The culmination of species extinction, resource use, population overshoot, and an ever growing economy has brought us to the cliffs of insanity. We have become gods in our own minds and the tree of knowledge was just a branch we mistook for something with a future.
To keep everything we have developed up and running is a no win situation. Climate change will sweep up what’s left of our species and take many others with her. Of course we may just throw another techno fix at it and try and carry on.
The math please …
Our children will not grow old. It’s a horrible scenario to wrap our minds around. We in this culture believe so deeply in our ability to adapt and overcome that we missed the fact that we never had to in the first place. We are just another species who live by the same laws of nature as any other species.
We are nature. We lived within those parameters for millions of years, some still do. Those few who live in places like the Amazon, New Guinea, Southern Africa, and other remote locations around the globe are as John Trudell calls, “the people.” They’ve always been the people. We on the other hand don’t acknowledge them as so because they are acting in a way we no longer recognize. They are being human. They are humans being. They are human beings.
We are a conquered people and therefore have become conquerors ourselves. Waging war on “the people” and non-human species over the centuries has sealed our fate … including our own children.
“My advice, I would urge you to see the truth of the situation you are in.” –From The Counselor by Cormac McCarthy
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