Collapse is a choice. We can choose to work together across Planet Earth for life, liberty, health, and prosperity or for global collapse and omnicide. Wait, let me say it plainer. We can choose to work together for life or die. Remember, wherever you live right now is on the same planet in the same biosphere as people in other neighborhoods on the far side of the globe. Except, of course, for a few spacefarers who hope to come back to their beautiful and precious world below.
Our species, as far as we know, originated in East and maybe Southern Africa and has spread all over Earth and walked on the Moon. We can choose to pull together or die. Retreating into your fortress with stockpiles of supplies or fighting other people over race, religion, nationality, language, geography, resources, and violent politics will not help anyone and shall make things worse. You, yes, I’m talkin’ to you, men and women and children, must get over your rage, your shame, your fear, especially fear that is all made up in your minds as False Evidence Appearing Real. Because there are real things out there to be truly afraid of but nothing to be paralyzed by.
Our news is full of doom and gloom, from the mainstream mass media to alternatives on the furthest fringes. In the midst of all the negatives the majority of politicians and their pet economists are saying what most people want to hear and wish could be true: “Folks, things ARE getting better. These trends prove it. See, this and that are going up while that and this are going down. It is a new day for another new beginning again! Yes, times are hard, but they don’t last forever, and this is proof they’re not.”
Meanwhile many of those who know better and know otherwise, regardless of their ethnicity or their political or religious beliefs, are shaking their heads “No, you idiots!” while stomping around in circles pulling out the remains of their hair then sighing in frustration. I confess to having done some of that myself before I remind myself to breathe and wiggle and breathe again then be still. Conservatives and Liberals, Socialists and Libertarians, Progressives and Regressives; across party lines you will find a rising tide of dissent, dismay, anger, and resignation. The magnitude and reality of Collapse simply overwhelms.
It does not have to be this way. Collapse is a choice. We don’t have to be automatons to our own reptilian and mammalian brains or even our subconscious. We don’t have to react with fight or flight or freeze to what’s coming at us right now. Engaging in blame games and one-upmanship is merely another way of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as she sinks forever into the cold North Atlantic.
“Collapse” is a term made popular by Jared Diamond, an evolutionary biologist and geographer-historian who sees relationships between things, events, and systems where few do. Noted for his tedious and well-documented research as well as his deep vision, Diamond’s work is a reckoning. Although he won the Pulitzer Prize for an earlier book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, it was his Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed that seized the popular imagination.
Science and history provide the answers to what happened that brought civilizations to the brink of collapse. The first step seems to be our shortsighted destruction of our environment with its relentlessly uniform results: environmental collapse leads to economic collapse leads to state collapse leads to social collapse. These phases overlap during transitions, and in turn social collapse leads to further ecocide and political turmoil.
In many cases food shortages lead to riots, revolution, mass migration, civil war, warlordism, and even cannibalism as government and society disintegrates and people go hungry. Cannibalism, interestingly enough, proves to be the common last resort during extended famine. It demonstrates the desperation of human beings at all levels of society. While there is a distinction between biological collapse resulting in omnicide, the death of all life locally or even planet-wide, and social collapse, where human society including culture, the state, and the economy, collapses. In several cases, however, there were local, even regional extinctions of human populations.
These scenarios repeated themselves in different societies at different times and civilizations in different areas of the planet. The outcomes of certain choices remain the same: change and adapt to survive and maybe even thrive, or the population vanished. Today, for the first time in known human history, we are a global civilization. We are united in nearly every way as a people except in our political institutions. There is no democratic world government with an Earth Constitution under which we are integrated into a federated, planetary republic.
Indeed we are being pulled in two opposing directions which tear at us every time we try to move forward to address larger problems. One is the centrifugal force of fragmentation with increasing division and warfare between polarized ethnic groups, nations, and religions. I call it the dark side of neo-tribalism. It is a focus upon locality to the violent exclusion of others or the conquest of others to exploit local resources.
The other force is, in spite of this or rather in its own way a cause of such strife, is Empire. Call it the American Empire, preferred by mainstream academics, or more correctly the Euro-American Global Empire, or even the New World Order, preferred by conspiracy theorists. Whatever it’s name, it does not matter. This new form of empire mutates with intention as it positions itself to dominate everything as we speak. It is an unofficial, de facto but very real empire with no clear title. In fact it masquerades as multinational coalitions and as election-loving democracies. This imperium uses financial conquest to consolidate economic power to then influence and control political power from the international realm all the way down to local towns and counties.
Currently it functions as a neo-feudal imperium that maximizes the national security states and tax regimes as well as the military-industrial-intelligence complex of the USA and its allies to enforce its will. The rise of corporate power and the big banks to a level we call “the Corporatocracy” backed by and controlled by an informal yet intentionally deliberative international cartel of central banks that in turn dominate politics creates what Italian dictator Benito Mussolini called “Fascism.” Except this newer, post-modern fascism allows squabbling, co-dependent nation-states the illusion of sovereignty with “democratic” elections while maintaining a vice grip on economic and financial power.
Meanwhile we face an almost cosmic convergence of multiple severe challenges on a planetary level. This has never before been experienced in human history as far as we know. We are fast approaching the tipping point after which it will be too late to address them before being overwhelmed. Our list, yes, yours and mine, our list of problems is long. Overpopulation, environmental, economic, financial, energy, political, health, geopolitical, wars and violence and weapons of mass destruction, fundamentalist religions, infrastructure demands, education reform, the coming Singularity with the merger of computers, robotics, AI, nanotechnology, neurotechnology, and genetics. And many more.
Even each category has a long list. Environmental problems alone include global climate disruption, toxic industrial and agricultural pollution as well as garbage, deforestation, desertification, nuclear radiation, uncontrolled urbanization, disease epidemics, overfishing, acidification of water, increased salinization of fresh water, invasive species, loss of topsoil, loss of wilderness and natural habitat, loss of natural resources, food safety and food availability, the commodification of fresh water, ecological impact of warfare, and mass extinction.
We the People of Earth can start in several places at once. First we human beings request a shift in how we humans think. Goodness, we are running out of time as the tsunami of catastrophe sucks the bay dry before it thunders ashore. “Request” is civil, and now, however, we must demand, yes, demand this shift of ourselves. We must leverage our individual inner worlds together to create our common outer world. Willis Harman of IONS, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, used to call for a “global mind change” before his death. He eventually wrote a insightful and inspiring book called Global Mind Change in 1988 and revised it in 1998 with the subtitle The Promise of the 21st Century.
Right now you can vote in a grassroots, online Global Referendum for a World Parliament, and a Democratic World Parliament at that. Establishing a democratic world federation won’t be easy, but many plans have already been crafted, and voting “Yes!” for such a Parliament is a good, early step. There are numerous alliances of NGOs beginning to form global cooperatives to provide innovative solutions and implement change now, such as Four Years Go.
You can also “take back” your own country and local governments, too. Not to withdraw into obscure isolation, but to cast out empire builders and isolationists both. Creative people with clear views who can work together openly with others to address global problems through a united, world republic is a great place to start. It is a choice. We don’t have to give up and fall toward cannibalism and extinction. Collapse is a choice.
I don’t care if you’re a Libertarian or a Socialist. Come together to find a way to acknowledge each other and integrate individual liberties and social responsibilities. And by the way, here’s a little secret. There is no “way” to find. There is no more any “we must find a way.” You are now the mapmaker. We are all mapmakers. Together. It’s time to blaze new trails into a different wilderness, that of our very own relationships.
Websites to View:
Vote World Parliament: <https://voteworldparliament.org>.
Four Years. Go: <http://www.fouryearsgo.org>.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: <http://www.pbs.org/gunsgermssteel/index.html>.
Jared Diamond’s Collapse: <http://www.grist.org/article/kavanagh-collapse>.
William Dudley Bass
5 April 2011
Revised 23 November 2011
NOTE: Originally published in At the Brink at http://atthebrinkwithwilliamdudleybass.blogspot.com/2011/04/collapse-is-choice.html, then rewritten and republished here. Thank you.
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.