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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Why We Cannot Prevent Collapse

Why We Cannot Prevent Collapse

my own graphic; right click on image to open in a new tab and enlarge or download

Yes, I know — every box in the ‘vicious cycle’ graphic above is hugely debatable. But you know, I’m just tired of debating it. I think it describes what’s going on in the world both at an individual and at a collective level, for just about all 8 billion of us mildly deranged apes, reflected in our public behaviours, our public discourse, and in the heads of people I’ve met of every political persuasion and position of authority.

Derrick Jensen famously said that if we pay attention to the natural world and ‘listen to the land’ we will know just what to do. That’s the ‘know’ in quotation marks in this chart, which attempts to explain why, for very human reasons, although we ‘know’, we don’t, with few exceptions, and can’t collectively at any scale, do anything about it.

I’ve used “mass coherent collective action” (aka “the Great Turning”) as the example of salvationist thinking in the chart; it’s the “humanist” style of salvation myth of most people I know. I could have easily used any of the other classical or current salvation myths — the rapture, nuclear fusion, carbon capture, geoengineering, “great transition”, neosurvivalism, posthumanism etc — they all serve the same useless (in practical terms) comforting function. Nothing wrong with them as long as they’re seen for what they are, and are not.

Thanks for the inspiration to a number of collapsnik writers who have been musing helpfully on this subject, particularly about personal and collective human agency, about our human propensity to obfuscate and put out of mind truths we don’t want to deal with, and about our inclination for disingenuous wishful thinking — including Erik MichaelsIndrajit Samarajiva, and Tim Morgan.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

How Do We Teach the Critical Skills Needed to Face Collapse?

How Do We Teach the Critical Skills Needed to Face Collapse?

So civilization, at least as we know it, is going to collapse — political, economic, social, educational, health, transportation, technological systems all will fail, a bit a first, and then more and more.

We have no idea when it will be complete — could be in 10 years, or in 40. We have no idea how it will play out — how quickly, where first, what systems and governments will go first.

We don’t even know how people will react to this Slow (and Permanent) Emergency. So how can we possibly prepare for it?

I think the best answer to this is to teach a lot of people a lot of skills, hard and soft, that they don’t currently have, so that we’re kind of ready for anything. Here’s a list of ten possibly critical soft skills, and ten possibly critical hard skills, that very few of us (in most countries) are competent at at the moment. The ones in italics are, IMO, those that it is important that most people learn; for the remainder, it’s important that some people in each community be very competent at them:

Soft Skills:

  • Critical thinking — the ability to think for yourself, reason things through, be self-aware of how emotions play into each issue, and basically the capacity to study, research, analyze, problem-solve and learn without being spoon-fed.
  • Group facilitation — the ability to help groups work and think collectively, achieve consensus, resolve conflicts, and manage themselves, notably by modelling exemplary facilitation skills themselves.
  • Helping people cope — the ability to counsel others on dealing with and healing from loss, uncertainty, fear, grief, shame, anger, anxiety and other emotions that will inevitably arise and make people dysfunctional as the crises of collapse unfold.
  • Preparing healthy food — the ability to cook and otherwise prepare, blend, and complement foods “from scratch”.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The End of the Common Good

The End of the Common Good

image by Gopal Vijayaraghavan on flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Anita Sreedhar and Anand Gopal, a doctor and a journalist, have been researching vaccine hesitancy for decades. In a recent NYT article they offered this remarkable perspective on it:

Over the past four decades, governments have slashed budgets and privatized basic services. This has two important consequences for public health. First, people are unlikely to trust institutions that do little for them. And second, public health is no longer viewed as a collective endeavor, based on the principle of social solidarity and mutual obligation. People are conditioned to believe they’re on their own and responsible only for themselves. That means an important source of vaccine hesitancy is the erosion of the idea of a common good.

One of the most striking examples of this transformation is in the United States, where anti-vaccination attitudes have been growing for decades. For Covid-19, commentators have chalked up vaccine distrust to everything from online misinformation campaigns, to our tribal political culture, to a fear of needles. Race has been highlighted in particular: In the early months of the vaccine rollout, white Americans were twice as likely as Black Americans to get vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed to the long shadow of racism on our country’s medical institutions, like the notorious Tuskegee syphilis trials, while others emphasized the negative experiences of Black and Latinos in the examination room. These views are not wrong; compared to white Americans, communities of color do experience the American health care system differently. But a closer look at the data reveals a more complicated picture.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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