And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune,
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter
- Stairway To Heaven
It has been 48 years since Jimmy Page put pen to paper to write this song. And we are still waiting for the day when the mass of men will seize the power to direct our own fates, using our intellects to choose the best path.
The new day seems to be as far away as ever and on my last walk through the forest, I was overwhelmed by the silence. No laughter, no birdsong, not even the sighing of wind through the boughs of the trees. And yet there are many who remain hopeful that this day will come, and soon.
Are people ready to change? It does not appear to be the case. The allure of industrial civilization is still beckoning us on with illusions of wealth and fantasies where everyone, or at least us, is a millionaire, even as the developed world's economy begins to choke on high cost energy and sputter every time those costs plummet. Our situation is precarious.
We have over seven billion people on board that we can barely feed. The climate has gone past so many tipping points into chaos that we cannot be assured we will be able to do it again next year. Soil erosion, deforestation, ecosystem destruction, melting sea ice, ocean acidification; climate chaos is simply the icing on an already baked cake.
At this point it seems to be a race between climate induced famine from an agriculture that was never designed for this level of variability or an economy that must grow, but cannot due to high energy costs. Which will be the ultimate trigger that causes our downfall is up in the air.
Is it too late for action?
What if we invent something wonderful to save us all, like a pollution free source of "free" energy? Would that be enough to allow us to correct the myriad other deficiencies? I fear that those who advocate for holding on and trying to keep the lights on long enough for some deux ex machina to save our collective asses are desperately deluded.
We are at the point where every new human consciousness that sees the light of day will be born into a world tarnished and used up compared to even 100 years ago. Many argue that it has always been thus, but there is a difference between the current generation wondering how the next will fare and our situation. We know for a fact that from this point forward there is no happy ending for anyone.
And for what? What compelling reason are we given for continuing this madness? We are told of the magic of space travel and the coolness of our technology. We are told that never have so many had it so good. We are told that billionaires are the price we pay for a robust middle class. We are told that we are free.
I call bullshit. We have an increasingly small chance of preserving a biosphere robust enough to support any life other than human. And we are squandering that chance on more. More stuff. More Barbie dolls. More billionaires. More jet travel. More nuclear power, more mountaintop removal coal mining, more tar sands, more fossil energy ripped from the bleeding skin of our mother earth, more of everything that has brought us to the brink of self-annihilation as a civilization.
There is no one at the helm of spaceship earth. There is no elite cabal with a serious plan for saving the biosphere and preserving the lives and fortunes of over seven billion humans. There is no professional cadre of engineers and medical personnel waiting to usher the masses into a new healthy paradigm of being on the planet. What there is is a system designed to alienate people from the natural world and from each other.
The economy is a fantasy, governed by made up rules and animated by the violence of the state. The real world can no longer handle the effects of the waste stream and the further extraction of resources. The stories we tell ourselves of how big the planet is and how robust the life support systems are are comforting, but then so are fairy tales. The thing with exponential growth is that it is relentless. Our doubling period for population stands at about 60 years, for energy use, about half of that. And that is at current levels of growth and consumption. It all relies on oil. There is no workable plan to transition, there is nothing waiting in the wings.
The status quo is a trap, a dead end, for all of us and the planet that some of us know is out there, just beyond the concrete, just under the asphalt, just waiting for us to come back to the place that we can never really leave.
It is waiting for us to come home.
— Chris George believes one measure of a just society is found in how well it balances fiscally conservative economics with social responsibility and environmental soundness in all of its living arrangements.