"Waiting for the Crash"

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An editorial snip, originally written by George Solberg for Earth Quarterly Magazine


Frankly, I had just about given up. It seemed like the Global Exploitation Economy was invulnerable. It seemed like there was nothing of real significance we could do to stop the ongoing destruction of the biosphere. But in recent months there have been strong indications that the whole economic house of cards might actually collapse enough to give our planet some relief from the relentless onslaught of human greed that is destroying life on Earth. I've been waiting many years for this to happen, and I feel very good about it.

It has been clear to me for quite some time that a severe economic downturn is the best possible scenario our planet could ever hope for. (Whether this is a y2k effect or a severe global recession really doesn't matter.) What we need is a crash severe enough to halt all "economic expansion" (i.e., cancerously exploitative growth), but not enough to shatter the fabric of civilization. Too severe of a crash would cause the "Humpty Dumpty effect," we would never be able to put the pieces back together again, and we would be confronted by an unprecedented nightmare of anarchic terrorism. For this reason, I don't take seriously the people who cry, "Head for the hills and take plenty of ammunition!" even though I can relate to where they are coming from. The philosophy of "Me, my family, and my assault rifle" might work for some people for a short while, but if conditions ever got so bad that assault rifles were necessary for self-protection, then the survivors would be the losers. If we ever reach such a point of global anarchy, then all the wise teachers of our species--Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, etc., as well as the millions of unsung heroes we have never heard about--would have lived in vain.

For this reason, I will cast my lot with civilization, imperfect though it is, rather than with the fantasy that anarchy has anything worthwhile to offer. Here's a slogan for you: "TO SAVE ANYBODY, WE'VE GOT TO SAVE EVERYBODY."

There are two worst case scenarios--One, which I have just outlined, is a crash so severe that an irreparable breakdown of civilization into anarchy takes place. The other worst case scenario, which has the same end result, is the one we are presently experiencing, in which an out-of-control global economy, with no particular intelligence to it except the at-all-costs pursuit of profit, exploits Earth's natural systems to such an extent that irreparable damage is done to the biosphere. In this scenario, when environmental conditions become severe enough, civilization will break down and the terrorists will speed the annihilation process to its inevitable conclusion.

We need a functioning civilization to turn this thing around. However, civilization needs a good hard whack up the side of the head with a 4x4 to bring it to its senses. It's got to be just the right whack--too much, and you destroy all the idealism and nobility that we humans are sometimes capable of; too little, and people will just shrug it off and continue with their destructive status quo behavior.

The task for us as individuals is to optimize our chances of surviving the corrective blow that the Global Exploitation Economy desperately needs. One obvious way is the old tried-and-true homestead philosophy which many books and magazines have been promoting for the past 30 years. The key element of this philosophy is control of a piece of land. (You can't even begin to become independent if you've got to pay somebody else for the privilege of taking up space on this planet.) Then you build a nice little shelter on your piece of land. Not just any shelter, but one that is intelligently designed, making full use of native materials, snug insulation, and free solar energy. Next would come a garden and orchard. (Even if you can't supply more than a fraction of your food needs, do it anyway for the considerable spiritual and health benefits you will enjoy.) Then would come linkage with like-minded friends and neighbors, since community is one of our God-given birthrights that has been stripped from us by the (seemingly) all-powerful forces of Mammon. Then (and this should actually be first on the list) would be one's personal walk with God--however you choose to define this reality. Put all these elements together, and maybe we do indeed have a chance of finding our way back to the Garden.

-- matt (amen brother@somewhere.nz), October 16, 1999


Be careful what you wish for man. If the system crashed to the point that people were reduced to growing their own food out of necessity, it is doubtful that civilization would survive. Here is the problem with your solution: Seeing that it would take an earth-jarring collapse to move people to do the kinds of sane, ecology-preserving things which you are advocating, an ecomonic collapse would at the same time greatly hinder people from investing in the very things necessary for the transition to a more self-sustaining life style. Surely you don't expect any significant number of people to suddenly wake up in the next few months in time to actually prepare themselves, do you?

Further, it can hardly be expected that government and big business would be in any position to offer any leadership in that regard. In the end, and I do mean THE END, it always comes down to survival. The instinct for self-preservation is strong. The man who heads for the hills with his AK47 certainly is acting on his impulse to survive a potentially life-threatening situation. Nonetheless, what you are promoting is your version of self-preservation. Perhaps we should add another "G" to the survivalist list--- Gold, Guns, God, and Gardens? (In the event of TEOTWAWKI, it would seem that "God" would preclude the other three)


-- Robert (worldpage@aol.com), October 16, 1999.

What's your point Robert?

Matt did not say "that it would take an earth-jarring collapse to move people to do the kinds of sane, ecology-preserving things which you are blah blah blah. He merely suggested that we are frying our lovely planet for the sake of baubles and maybe Y2K will slow us down enough for us to discover our neighbors -- community.

We are talking about consumer-addicted, mindless, smug peoples waking up to terminal inconvenience and the possibility that community is more important than friggen new toys.

Furthermore Matt never suggested that it would be government and big business who would offer any leadership. I am sure that that is the furthest from his mind.

You did nothng but repeat Matts assumptions with your own so cynical spin and a cute cut at self preparations.


-- comindown (itscomming@you.org), October 16, 1999.

It is my own preference not to know my community, and I would resent any of them infringing on this so called "God given right" to be left unharrassed, especially as I am not of the Bibilical mythology thought process nor do I dream of eco-communistic lifestyles.

The "Global Exploitation Economy" gave us victory in the Cold War where there hadn't been any victory. If the nation had not done so we would have been hostages to the Kremlin which by the way is historical fact. It has been serving a military, intelligence, and national security interest.

-- Paula (chowbabe@pacbell.net), October 16, 1999.


Couldn't have said it much better myself. When I was out browsing at the stores a bit yesterday I realized I was feeling a little more lighthearted, as though a weight was starting to be lifted from my shoulders. After a 600+ loss on the market it looks like things just might start to make a correction back closer to where they should be. Instead of constantly struggling to keep up with the rich bastards and getting nowhere, maybe the working man will finally be able to begin to enjoy a few of life's pleasures without always having them looming on the horizon as an unattainable dream. I sure hope it happens fast, I've been waiting and struggling a long time.

-- @ (@@@.@), October 16, 1999.

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