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View Diary: James Hansen: Less than 10 Years Left to Reduce CO2 (243 comments)

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  •  Not sure I can run with that (0+ / 0-)

    What we can do to make a difference is, as I indicated above, to identify the qualities in ourselves and our communities that will be most useful in weathering the storms to come and start cultivating them now.  As it stands, not only have we set this beast loose upon the world, but we are breathtakingly unprepared to face it.  We may not be able to do anything about the first thing, but we can still address the second.

    It is obvious by now that our political and economic institutions are holding on tooth and nail to a doomed status quo, but we don't have to.  Nor do we have to waste our strength attacking a failing system that is still powerful, but which will collapse on its own given time.  We may have to just go full Gandhi on this one, become the change we wish to see, plant the seeds of the culture that will endure in ourselves and those around us.  It may be that our reach will always be local, but that may be enough.  I have a friend who has been devoting herself to gardening, specifically urban and community, based on her conviction that mastery of small scale agriculture in developed areas will be a vital survival skill as these events move forward.  Like a martial art, mastery of gardening takes time under the best of conditions, and she's starting now because she knows that we will not have the best conditions in the years to come.  She knows she won't live to see it get really bad, but the gardens she plants and the people to whom she passes these skills may.  When I think of survivalist militia types stockpiling guns and canned food, but not thinking beyond when that food runs out, how much wiser this quiet woman seems by comparison.

    She can't write national energy policy, but she can learn how to coax life from the ground, and pass love of the same to the children in her neighborhood.  People like this give me hope that maybe, we'll make it through this yet.

    •  I'm inspired by your outlook, really (0+ / 0-)

      Unfortunately I'm much more pessimistic - I don't think change is possible anymore and not just because it will prove completely impossible to orchestrate 7 billion people on the same mission while keeping all their needs satisfied (just the inertia on that is a puzzle that no one can even fathom: how? how do you keep a viable economy and feed everyone that currently expects regular feeding without falling into complete chaos when you alter that economy?) But my premise, sadly (and for which I get a fair amount of criticism) is that the horses/cows etc. have left the barn a long, long time ago on the coming future & climate change: the mere concept of "changing it" is, in my view, not a possibility. I'm amazed when people post diaries like this that point out the absurdity of our situation and everyone reverts to "well let's just try really hard to make the world better" in the comments: it's like trying to dodge a bullet that has been shot at the back of your head at point blank range: no matter how much you want to think that you're not going to take a bullet you still are: you can't put this genie back in the bottle. I garden too, but in no way do I think it makes a drop of difference in the coming shit storm.

      •  Oh, I'm a pessimist, too. (0+ / 0-)

        A military pessimist, no less.  I'm well aware that the human species will be much smaller in a century or two, and that arriving at this new equilibrium will not be at all pleasant.  I agree that our inescapable reality is that humanity's demands have long since exceeded the planet's capacity, and that we will consequently be culled in numbers heretofore unimaginable.  Malthus is well positioned to have the last laugh, and it’s sure to be a hearty one.

        Short answer, I do not propose we orchestrate seven billion people on the same mission while keeping their needs satisfied; that would not be possible under the best of circumstances.  No, I’m afraid most of those people will likely die at the hands of a veritable potpourri of fell horsemen accompanying this beast we’ve loosed.

        But not all of us will.  In the history of our species, there are stories of great civilizations who wove the pattern of their own undoing much as we have done, though their numbers were much smaller and their technology more primitive.  We’ve sifted their bones through our fingers and unearthed their silent ruins.  And then there are other stories, of people seeing clearly the direction in which survival lay and charting their course by these new stars, often discarding generations of culture, economic tradition and religious dogma all demanding to be maintained.  Most people admittedly don’t have the stomach for this kind of thing, and would prefer death to change (though they’d never admit that in so many words).  I would not presume to sway those people, because I’ve seen how skilled they are at building intellectual walls, and I don’t have the time or strength for siegecraft on that scale.

        What interests me far more these days are the intrepid souls determining the ways in which humans must adapt, and then making themselves a living laboratory for the testing of these skills.  It is clear to me now that these adaptations will never be imposed from above, and most people would resist them tooth and nail in any event.  That’s what I meant when I talked about going full Gandhi.  What we can do, first and foremost, is to make those adaptations ourselves, even if we're alone in the effort, and teach others by example how much more they’re capable of.  It’s not much, but there are many intelligent people who can at least infer the kind of qualities one would need as the global ecosystem unravels, and many of them have a fair grasp of words and fully functioning bodies.  That doesn’t guarantee success by any means, but it beats despair, and if enough people do likewise, we may have the beginning of a new human paradigm that can survive the trials we face.  Plant the seed, and see in a hundred years what kind of tree grows from it.  A hundred years should be just when we need it to bear fruit.

        Catastrophe has a way of bringing out both the worst and the best of human qualities.  I am personally determined to embrace the latter, and support others who do likewise.  It may well be that it will come to nothing, and that humanity will join its lost Neanderthal cousins in the long dark of extinction.  But maybe we can at least face the end on our feet, still fighting for a future worth having even knowing that we will never see it ourselves.

        Amor fati and all that Latin rot.  :-)

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