As I mentioned in my previous entry, i can't help but worry about where we are heading. I believe absolutely in the collapse of civilisation. If you search on google for Peak Oil or other similar topics there are all sorts of articles to read about how unsustainably we are living, and how with an economy so utterly dependent on fossil fuels, when they become too expensive, we are going to freak out, big time. Everything I read does seem to make sense... but a part of me wonders if these articles are written by doom and gloom quacks - and gun-toting dudes who can't wait to hide in their cellar with their packs of dehydrated survival food.
What assures me that the collapse of civilisation is so likely though, is a book called The Future Eaters, by Tim Flannery. Without making any projections about what's going to happen to us, he simply describes community after community of human groups who make the same fatal mistakes. It goes like this. Humans head to a new frontier, a new piece of land, perhaps an island, and find it rich with bounty - lush plants, tame animals that are easy to catch and delicious to eat... The person who finds the place goes home to get their people, and then they arrive and populate. With the vast amount of resources available, the people, rather than living carefully and sustainably, invariably go for gluttony. They kill the animals with abandon, eating only the very best bits and wasting the rest. They damage the environment ruthlessly without regard for the future. This is the golden age. It's marvellous. Wonderful things happen in this place of leisure - there is art, music, culture. Then the resources, being unsustainable, begin to dwindle. With the increased difficulty in accessing food/water/shelter, the people begin to fight over what's left. They destroy everything - the art, the culture. They battle hard and ruthlessly. Eventually they die, or they find another island and head there. Sometimes a few people are left, scrounging together a living from the last remaining resources.
Easter Island was a classic case - and it was a special one because rather than relying on fossilised evidence to understand the rise and fall of civilisation, its demise was recorded by explorers who visited first during the golden age, and again not that many years later to find the place completely destroyed. Tim Flannery believes Australia was once a rich and green land, full of exquisite rain forests and enormous mammals. When the Aborigines arrived, like all other groups, they plundered hard, killed all the animals. Without the animals to keep the forest in check, it grew wildly, leading to vicious bushfires. The change in vegetation affected the rainfall, which became sparse. The surviving groups of Aborigines were one of the few groups ever to work out how to then live sustainably on the land. They learnt to keep the fires in check with controlled burning to replace the animals. They learnt to hunt sustainably by having sacred places that humans were forbidden to enter, providing a sanctuary in which animals could live and breed. Now of course, we have gone and ruined it.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that we are in the golden age. Resources ARE dwindling. But what's next? It seems collapse is inevitable. The true questions in my mind are a) when will it happen - how much longer will we live like this? I've read predictions that the collapse could happen any time six months from now to two years from now. But no-one knows for sure, and how could they? And b) how fast will it happen? Some believe once the collapse occurs things spiral out of control incredibly quickly, giving us precious little time to adapt and make new plans. Others believe there's the possibility for a long, slow descent, nice and peaceful.
Tim Flannery's stories of past collapses suggest though it's most unlikely to be peaceful, and I am not banking on that. No - I'm not about to get myself a gun. But I'm constantly tormented by a sense that I need to do something, set some plans in place NOW while it's easy, while we still have the resources to do so, and while money will still buy what we need. And yet, at the same time, it feels quite frankly surreal to be fretting about the collapse of civilisation when no-one around me seems to have even considered the possibility (it's a guaranteed conversation stopper so I've pretty much stopped bringing it up with people I know), and when our lives are so deeply entrenched in this golden age.
Our work involves flying around the globe to do something joyful but not even slightly essential - it would have to be defined as a waste of resources if we are talking in terms of our civilisation collapsing.
And I'm not bored yet with the Jamie Oliver-style-notebook-journal-entry. I'm loving this kind of page.