We should be much more worried about an ecological crash than a financial crash

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Posted Dec 30 2018 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
Teetering on the edge of an ecological collapse

A few years ago, I was having a beer in the bar at King’s Cross narrowboat marina, when someone called Fred asked me what I did. When I said that I worked for an environmental organisation, he came up with a classic line that I’ve quoted many times since. He said:

“We’ve been ****ing about with Mother Nature for so long, that soon she’s going to turn round and give us such a slap.”

He was absolutely right. There’s a crash coming – a ‘slap’ from Mother Nature, as Fred calls it. You might hear something on the radio, or see an article in a newspaper or online, mentioning the warnings coming from ecologists and climate scientists, but it never quite gets top billing. There’s always something more important – Brexit, elections, celebrity gossip, sport. But it will take centre stage soon, because nature is our life-support system, and it’s very, very unwise to destroy it.

Read more on the coming ecological crash.

There are other areas of concern – for example the dramatic decline in human sperm count; the sharp increase in antibiotic resistance; the fact that almost twice as many countries have nuclear weapons as when the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed; or that we’re embarking on genetic modification of ourselves and the building of super-intelligent machines without the wisdom and oversight to ensure that it’s done in a way that won’t harm us. I don’t believe that our current systems will generate the leadership to solve these problems. Quite the opposite, in fact. I believe that the way that we choose our decision-makers will make the problems much worse.

Now, I’ve heard many times over the years that people working in the environment field shouldn’t mention the coming crash, in case it de-motivates or scares people. Having seen the situation deteriorate every year since I realised there was a serious problem (as a teenager), I’m now heartily sick of this position, for the following reasons:

  • It doesn’t work – like I said, the situation gets worse every year.
  • People should be scared – if you’re not, you haven’t understood what’s happening.
  • It’s the equivalent of not telling children that it’s dangerous to play in traffic, in case it scares them.
  • It’s the equivalent of using anti-slip decking paint on the Titanic, so that no-one slips and hurts themselves.
  • It involves lying, if only by omission.
  • It means treating people like children.
  • The mainstream can’t be reached with an environmental message anyway. We can only reach the ‘early adopters’, who will pave the way for changes to occur that will force the mainstream to live sustainably, because there’s no other option.

This isn’t pessimistic; it’s realistic, and in terms of what we can do about it, this site is a source of optimism. We’re not treating our audience like children by pretending that everything’s OK, and we’re providing practical ways to face the coming crash with hope. On January 1st, we’ll post about our road map for preparing for the crash, in terms of lifestyle change for early adopters, and building a new economy via a mutually-controlled exchange system and a model for federating small organisations instead of building giant ones.

But first, I’d like to address some specific groups who I believe may be on the cusp of accepting that we can’t carry on as we are, and who may be almost ready to join the early adopters.

We’re of course not interested in debating whether climate change or biodiversity loss are real or dangerous. Life’s too short for that. We’re interested in giving scientifically-literate, concerned people things that they can do to mitigate, push back and survive, or allow their children and grandchildren to survive, the crash. This is our main audience, many of whom are already heavily involved in building sustainable / democratic institutions. Our message to them is one of co-ordination and federation.

There are those who believe that recycling, buying organic or switching lights off when we leave a room will solve the problem. They won’t – although we do endorse those things. They might also put their faith in political parties and regulation, without seeing where real power lies in today’s world. Multinational corporations and the people who control them have enough money invested in our political systems to ensure that no regulation or election will ever challenge their hold on power. This is obvious now to most people, but you can read more here. We hope we can persuade this group that system change is both necessary and possible.

There are also those who believe that a crash is coming, but that humans will have deserved the horrors it will bring, including possible extinction. We make a plea to those people that most humans are compassionate and honest, and would prefer to leave the world a better place than they found it. The fact that the charity sector is so large is testament to this. It’s our economic system, and the ruthless people who clamber to the top of it, that’s responsible for the coming crash, not most humans. Again, we hope that we can persuade many of these people that there are things that we can do to avoid extinction.

Then there are people who suggest that we do nothing about climate change and biodiversity loss, because they can’t see anything that we could possibly do; or who choose to believe that human ingenuity and new technology will save us (even though that’s exactly what caused the problem in the first place). This is true pessimism, true doom-mongering. To continue on this path of extraction, growth, techno-fixes, corruption and war is to condemn ourselves to extinction, or a world of scattered, battered and probably reluctant survivors. We’re not sure that we can reach the doom-mongers; but we live in hope.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the types of responses to the idea of a coming crash.

We’ll see you again on New Year’s day, with solutions rather than problems.