Someone asks-- and sure, that is the pertinent question.
Having thought about this a great deal over the last few months, let me share what I feel I've learned by the experiment. This is going to sound really heavy. It is. All in all, remember, I'm a pretty robust guy that usually wears a grin and generally enjoys a good time--and I play to continue doing that regardless, and I guess I'd like to pretend that that's what one might call courage-- but the lessons learned here are tough. I am not certain in anyway what the next step for myself really ought to be, but it's useful to have a frame around the basic problem.
So, I'll share with you what I've learned that's most important: It has nothing to do with growing food or trivial stuff like that. That's easy. Here's the real dirt.
1) Sustainability isn't primarily about consumption, it's about contribution. It wouldn't matter one bit what one consumed if the return to the systemic whole was of higher value(in a very complicated global sense) than the net cost. We evade this conversation primarily of our baggage of cultural metaphysics-- a giant obstacle-- that a good person is more defined by what one "doesn't" do than what one does. Hey, stable ecosystems don't work that way-- the relative positional stability against the encroaching entropic wave is held by everything hustling to give back. We don't like to think this way because the immediate discovery is that few of us return anything whatsoever of value, and are quite comfortable in that. But for sure, as a complete maxim--always, sustainability will require real, measurable compromises with one's short term benefit for the greater long term systemic good. There's never any way around it.
1b) Obviously, it's a hell of a lot easier to a return a positive good if one doesn't consume a great deal, but simply being simple by itself does not contribute a positive good. It's still consumption, just smaller scale, sometimes, and with a different fashion sense.
1c) Still, it's wholly possible to live a life that does in fact give back, and not in a airy-fairy feel good about it kind of way-- but one that matters, measurably. It requires talent, integrity, and the willingness to compromise for the greater good--just about the three rarest attributes of all anymore.
2) The problem of "sustainability" thus is largely an ethical issue, rather than a technical one. We've all the means necessary to forestall the complete destruction of the biosphere, but we're going to shit-can it because we can't be bothered otherwise, we don't give a damn, and it hardly bothers most people. This is an evil culture--a word not used lightly by this atheist--one that has chosen to seek destruction for its own sake. I can't hardly wrap my head around that fact-- it's kinda the tough one to stomach -- but we're all goosestepping along nicely sending the whole she-bang to the gas chambers. . .there's no hyperbole here, at all.
2a) Technofabulous "solutions" are in no way steps in the right direction unless they both aid us to cut consumption and return more value. More often than not, unfortunately they're purely ways of exploiting this crisis for personal profiteering.
3) The "ethics" required to solve this issue aren't going to come from a primitive culture or a historical worldview, because, of course, they never faced anything like this. The path forward, is only forward. This also is a tough one to stomach for many people. Hey! I get it. I understand the primitive desire to look to the otherworldly for guidance, to the holy books, to all that, to the indigenous wisdom-- just like I understand the primitive desire to hate, to fear, for violence, all the rest of that stuck there in the vastly ancient collective memories, instincts and tendencies from untold generations of survival. And it's not that all that's wholly without value either-- when Moses the Fish came down the beach with his Two Commandments for Fishes-- which fishes still follow today, that: 1) thou shalt eat all that fitteth within thy mouth and 2) thou shalt swim away from those mouths in which thou fitteth -- well, that was pretty good advice for fish. And since we share some DNA there it shouldn't surprise us that we still largely think those two commandments are probably good ideas-- more the second than the first, as the world changed some and there's plenty of things we find that we shouldn't stick in our mouth now(big big big biting mouths are still nearly universally bad, and worth running from). When Moses the Israelite came down from the mountain with his updated version of now 10 commandments, reflecting a slightly more complicated existence some of that stuff was probably good advice too-- but we must admit a lot of it seems pretty dated. . . Menstrual huts, anyone? Come on! We must move forward. Unfortunately, even a back to the land neo-primitivism is just as flawed a model as is any other-- we must move forward. There are many folk I know here who will, at this point-- especially in Puna -- with with their smug entitled enlightenment discard my point here, as I obviously don't have enough respect for the "ancient wisdoms." Ohm Shanti, baby. Well, that could hardly be further from the truth actually, and I have respect especially for wisdom of unspeakably ancient, primordial, archetypal type-- like the tendency of animals to return to a quiet familiar place when they know they're about to die.
Of those of us who actually have the courage to act, it this not what our instinctive reaction to the impending crisis largely is?
It is not enough.
3a) This isn't to say we've got to throw all that heritage away-- no panics! But we must recognize that just like the world view of fish is necessarily incomplete to the current condition of human life, so are the musings and values of primitive cultures with vastly less comprehensive world views and much simpler systemic issues to face. In fact, as I see it, as in order to make the change successfully to the world coming-- our values would have to change so radically it's hard to even recognize them as what we've historically called human-- though undoubtedly they must be vastly more humane.
3b) We must also realize that regardless of one's personal revelatory truth that one may have personally and exclusively received from the galactic overmind--it's poor taste, even a basic act of violence-- to expect anyone else to regard that message with any importance. To insist on the validity of stuff like that only drives fundamental wedges of discord between us-- and in fact prevents us from cooperatively addressing the concerns that face us--and they must and will only be solved cooperatively. Stuff that gets in the way of our evolving humanity and enforces the trend of our destruction sounds remarkably diabolical, does it not?
4) One is completely incapable of understanding the sustainability issue as a whole, and one's contribution for good or ill to the situation unless one has the personal integrity to actually do the math. Those that do the math, for sure, end up often being quite pessimistic-- but that's primarily because most people absolutely refuse to do the math. Again, it's not that our problems can't be solved-- it's that they won't be solved. It's an especially crummy problem if you've got some backbone to be honest about the issue-- because you'll get labeled "negative"--oh sure, negative-- chicks don't go for negative. If you cheer lead for abundance, thriving(new hot term), neo-consciousness, all that very popular, undefinable but salable nonsense you'll snicker all the way to the bank-- and you'll actually be thanked for your scam as what you're actually providing is a very valuable service-- allowing people to go along without recognizing (2).
Now how's that for depressing? Best I can offer up. When I get done I'm back to the guitar. Have a couple of parties coming up that ought to be rowdy and a lot of fun.
Oh yeah, the question:
So what can we do?
Well, if history is our guide as far as I can see the best those of us left can do is "bear witness" to the depravity of the moment. There's no way we're changing anything at this late date. Bear witness. Document. Don't let people forget what was said, and done, and by whom. As small as this is, that's not unimportant-- in fact it may be very critically important as the reckoning comes to be able to testify a) we knew what we were doing was wrong b) we did it anyway c) we enjoyed it. Again, actually, no small thing. It's not a bad thing to jam a stick in the eye of those exploiting to moment, sure, but there's a bigger issue too. See, as it goes along, with the ensuing horrors and scarcity, decisions will have to be made-- very very difficult ones. These testimonies are of some value. They may inform the conversation-- they may allow us to preserve a humane existence a little longer than otherwise. If anything multi-cellular survives this century, and that's a big if, it would be nice that at least something was learned from the grand experiment.
Unless a drastic and unthinkable intervention occurs by those factions that might still have the means to do so-- a few horribly crude remedies do exist--nothing human will survive. We will either perish, or evolve to something unrecognizable in a very different world. Likely a very harsh one. Perhaps beauty there too, especially as beauty and sadness are Siamese twins. . .certainly from our perspective here, theirs then-- utterly incomprehensible. . .
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