Hitting bottom


I think a convincing argument can be made that civilization is addicted to fossil fuels. Thus when discussing the “cultural problem” of climate change, it is helpful to realize that we are dealing with a culture that exhibits addictive behavior. We cannot imagine life without our drugs, oil & coal; we cannot see that continued use of our drugs is counterproductive to our own wellbeing; we cannot accept rational arguments that would make it obvious that our addiction is slowly killing us and all the things that we love. Our lives are rapidly becoming unmanageable, and our self-loathing rises with each new bout of excess. We cannot continue, and yet we cannot stop.

My assertion that industrial civilization is headed towards collapse is based on many years of observing this addict’s behavior. As a youth in the 70’s I believed that we would soon embrace the ideas of ecology and conservation — but forty years later humanity is farther than ever from having a non-exploitative relationship with our planet.

But we have not yet hit bottom. We still think there is a way for us to continue to get what we crave, free of pain or consequence. We believe technology will find a way for us to keep fixing — we will invent substitutes for our favorite drugs — biofuels or solar power will still get us high, not quite as high as we did with oil and coal, but high enough so that we don’t really have to change how we live.

We refuse to take responsibility for the destruction and death we are inflicting on our planet and on each other. We blame our addiction on our circumstances, and say we have no choice but to live as we do. We believe that it will all turn out fine, that what we have thrown away will magically reappear. Even when we finally do admit that we have a problem, we will still be faced with the world we have wrought.



Perhaps Japan’s emergent human systems are the beginning of a much larger global shift. Perhaps they signal the potential for–if not the actual arrival of–a next chapter of human evolution. If the world’s third largest economy actually manages to adapt to the reality of having 25% less energy this summer —might it be a signal that humans are now capable of scaling themselves and their lifestyles in relation to the limits of geologic material and force?

Friends of the Pleistocene.

Setsuden poster

In context: Major Japanese buzzword: “Setsuden”