An Illusory Economy
We are caught between beliefs that are untenable and hard limits that will not go away.
Let's look at what falls under the name economy. It is a mental construct that has been accepted as the rational way to organize how we interact to meet our physical needs within what is now described as a global culture. Its precepts are divined by adepts, called economists. Its practitioners choose to believe life can be fit into their tables and ledgers. To not believe is to be exiled in the old meaning of the term. A sentence of exile was meant as a death sentence. A pariah with no support and no way to make ends meet.
We're dealing with religious zealotry. The whole enterprise founded on a set of restricted and restrictive beliefs policed by a cadre of priests and defended by excommunication/exile.
We are overshooting every hard limit there is.
If we let these two facts sink in we can begin to see that the entire economic system is incoherent. None of what passes for economic news, theory, planning…, None of these delusional miasmas actually address, even touch on our dire existential threat.
It's all noise….
What is happening. What will continue to happen; is that the hard and fast limits will assert themselves. Systems and systems of systems – ecologies – and the entire planetary organism will come to equilibrium. This happens in a series of adjustments and rebounds. There is a complex – to the nth degree – interplay of adjustments, rebounds, plateaus, and crises that will sort it all out. As my mother always says, "What will be will be…."
With such a drastic overshoot the adjustments will also be drastic. There is no way to predict how these things will go in detail. It is possible to expect that in the geologically short-term, these adjustments will only stabilize at a drastically reduced carrying capacity. That's what happens when an ecology is degraded. It cannot support more than a small fraction of the energy concentration and flow that makes up the bodies and actions of the organisms that make it up. A ruin cannot sustain as many as well as can something that is in good working order.
We are degrading every component of the Earth's systems that helps stabilize it, buffering shocks. This pushes us into not only a deep collapse but, most probably, a relatively fast one. Geologically speaking…. Something we are learning a lot about as we monitor this destructive experiment as we vivisect our home planet; but something we are just learning we don't really understand that well. Geologic time used to mean, well, basically forever. A span of time we felt confident no living individual would ever see play out except locally. A volcano, a tsunami, an avalanche, might affect the shape of a locale and press harshly on its inhabitants; but wholesale changes and mass extinctions were thought to take much longer.
We now see that some far-ranging changes can happen quickly. Geological time isn't what it used to be.
Still, we don't know. There's a long span of a world-of-hurt ahead. At the end of it the earth will rebound and some other dynamic will find ways to sustain itself before other things change and everything has to change again. We talk of this as the sixth mass-extinction event. This has only happened five times before now in half a billion years, +-.
None of this is new. The report of the Club or Rome in the early seventies laid it out. It's not rocket science…. It's also not economics….
In the shortest term – however long that might take – we need to come to terms with the distance between this common belief, and all its tributaries and side-channels; and the fact that none of it does any of what it purports to do.
One word: externalities.
Again, none of this is new. It's all there in Limits to Growth and if this still seems hard to grasp even now, make a study of it. So long as we base our destructive actions on a belief system that rewards destruction and ignores its consequences we are acting beyond the niceties of plain old incoherence. We are psychotic.
When we find ourselves in a pathological situation it behooves us to understand the motivation and likely rationalizations of our abusers. When we are also – at least in the aggregate – also our own abusers; then it's doubly important to understand how and why we come to do the things we do.
Coherence isn't having answers. It's staying with the salient questions.
It's incoherent to continue to put stock into the divinations of economists. It's also incoherent to ignore the way their auguries constrain how any of us can act. We need to see through the Thaumaturgy of Destruction as well as understand how it works.
Cross-controls. We've been over them before. The senior pilot – it's always the senior pilot – secure that he's – it's always a he – is right and the instruments, the co-pilot, flight engineer – anything or anyone else – is wrong. Right until the black-box recording goes dead….
It's easy to berate these leaders, doers, go-getters. The difference we have from the classic cross-control story is that in this case, the plane's gotta come down anyway. The choices aren't between a successful landing – everybody gets to go home – and a crash. We are crashing.
So, is the confidant captain of industry helping us along? Their actions are destructive. We are in a time of collapse. Such times are characterized by widespread destruction.
There is/was a period before collapse became inevitable. That may have been a long time ago. – My vote goes to the period on the brink of WWI. – We cannot know. At that time; an introduction of reforms, a sense of humility, a turning away from incoherence; might have averted the situation we find ourselves in. At that point the pilot might have recovered….
The dominoes are falling. Not just the nasty players, every complex system, every ecology is collapsing. This is necessary work. It's being done by jelly-fish, zebra mussels, infectious diseases. It's being done by poachers and arms merchants, drug cartels and their bankers – our bankers.
We're no longer avoiding a crash. What we have as available options run from shutting our eyes and crossing our arms in front of our faces – what most people do when their vehicle careens out of control – to finding ways to fly as deeply into the crash as we can. This is what JMG calls, "collapsing early to avoid the rush."
To do this we can't be distracted by visions of what is fair; what we'd like to see happen. The only way this works is to accept what cannot be changed and become adept at making whatever adjustments are available to us that present themselves in the concrete moment.
This way of being/acting in collapse happens to be the same way of being/acting that we would be practicing if we actually cared to live instead of filling our current roles as destroyers and death-worshipers. There is no functional difference between what would give us life under any circumstances and what we must do in this dreadful circumstance of collapse.
Echoes of Pascal's wager….