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Society & Ecology
Sunday, October 24, 2004  
Deep Culture Change

It is clear that we need, and may be in for, a deep culture change. Any number of perspectives tells us so, and even more when seen combined.

Only some of the factors...
  • Peak oil
    The oil production has peaked [2], and oil will increasingly become more expensive. This is dramatic news for the western world, and especially so for the US which has the most petroleum dependent society of any. Settlement is organized around cars (suburbs), work is organized around car transportation (commuting), agriculture is petroleum dependent (prices on food will go up dramatically and food production will go down), production of just about all products is heavily petroleum dependent, and transportation of products is completely petroleum dependent. Together, this makes up for a massive crisis unless addressed quickly and with honesty and wisdom. And it will happen within the next very few decades.

    Unfortunately, the policy of the US government and transnational corporations is one that is short sighted and a deeply flawed attempt to hold onto a doomed way of life: to use military and economic domination to gain access to the world's remaining world reserves. It will most likely mean...

    • Continuing wars. Use of military power, intimidation and war to hold onto dominance and spread fear internationally, especially in oil-rich regions not particularly supportive of the US (as the middle east).
    • Reinstating the draft (the US military is already overextended)
    • Intimidation domestically. Cracking down on dissent. This is what we are already seeing, and the Patriot Act and use of violence against protesters may be just the beginning. The US system may well move further in the direction of fascism.
    • And all this may be supported by an ill-informed population. One that is manipulated by fear and misinformation.
    • (it may also mean increasing lawlessness and violence within our communities)
  • Climate Change
    As with any dynamic system, the Earth's climate may undergo sudden and rapid change. It may mean more dramatic weather, mass migrations, wars and more.

  • Food Production
    Our international food production system is highly fragile, for a number of reasons. There is a significant loss of top soil from modern agriculture, preliminarily masked by synthetic fertilizers. Monocultures, and dramatic loss of varieties within each type, makes the crops vulnerable to international disease epidemics (think potato pest in Ireland). The production and transportation of food is petroleum dependent.

  • Overshoot
    We currently consume natural resources at a rate that is higher than what the Earth's ecosystems can replenish. As they are further eroded, their capacity for generation erodes as well. And all the resources we depend on are from the Earth...

    Only one of many examples is food production. We have created a petroleum dependent system both for food production (fertilizers, pesticides, mechanical equipment etc), and foor transportation (often transported long distances). In addition, modern agriculture treat soil as merely something for the roots of plants to hold onto. They spray large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pestecides on the plants, to the detriment of the ecosystem, people and the soil (depleted, toxic). And they use farming practices that allows large amounts of topsoil to erode, and often eventually be washed into the oceans. When oil becomes more expensive, farmers not able to use sufficient petroleum to keep the soil artificially "alive" and keep their machines going, and we realize how depleted the soil really is, we will face a critical food situation that we ourselves have created.
And some of the possible solutions...
  • Local culture
    Going back to a mostly local culture will be essential. Most of us will need to live in an area where all our daily needs can be met locally: close to work, close to stores, close to education etc. We need to grow most of our food regionally. We need to produce many of our products regionally. This does not mean an end to travel or global communication, but a production that is mostly local. Ideally, trough worker-owned cooperatives.

  • Systems view
    We also need to develop more of a systems view. Many of our problems today came about through a fragmented and mechanistic view of the world. One that sees the world as a seamless whole, focusing both on the whole and the parts, will help us live more aligned with the world as it is.

  • Renewable energy sources
    Use of solar, wind, biofuel etc. (although we need resources and energy to develop and produce these as well).

  • Ecological design
    A holistic approach to design, and one that designs with nature rather than in opposition to it, needs to be applied to all areas of our lives. Instead of designing generic boxes for dwellings and adding mechanical equipment for ventilation, heating and cooling, we can design with the local conditions and use wind, sun, soil and more for those same needs.

  • Simple living
    We must most likely learn to live with less, and may find that our lives are more meaningful and fuller that way. We may let go of mindless entertainment and consumerism (hardly fulfilling in the first place), and find meaning and support in community instead.

  • NVC
    Learning to differentiate our needs and our strategies to meet those needs. Letting go of habitual and learned strategies, and find more flexibility in choice of strategies. Choosing strategies that takes our very real dependence on our larger social/ecological system into account is also essential (our needs met, as well as those of others).
And the path...? As so many times before, it is likely to be less horrific than the worst scenarios, and less wonderful than the most optimistic ones. It will most likely involve a good deal of human suffering (already does), as well as power struggles, power abuse, fear and confusion. The mainstream will most likely not be able to deal with it as well as those subcultures that have explored and developed alternatives for a long time (such as permaculture folks).

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