Sunday, March 29, 2009

Technosanity #24: Is it required for society to collapse to build the society we desire?

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In the C-Realm Podcast episode #124 is an interview with Toby Hemenway which has several interesting thoughts in it. The interview was drawn heavily from his article Apocalypse, NOT. They were discussing "the end of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI) and the likelihood of the collapse of our society due to the various crises facing us.

While listening a question came clearly to mind ... If we are to have the world we want, is it necessary to have our society collapse? Do we need to erase our existing society and start over with a new one? Alternatively is it possible to build the society we want to have, while in the context of the society we're living in?

I think most of us want to live in a better place. There are many versions of what would be a "better" society, right? Different people have their own ideas of "better" society, "better" living conditions, "better" political structures, etc.

Toby Hemenway is a Biologist turned Permaculturist. He discussed the danger of the "growth economy" and how the "growth economy" needs to die, in his view. The "growth economy" is the requirement that companies and population is always growing, enforced by the stock market which gives high value to growing companies and death sentences to those who aren't. He also discussed the "solar budget" and the need for our society to live within the solar budget, meaning that the resources our society consumes ought to be constrained by the energy which can be converted from sunlight.

In any case he has a clear preference for "better" which he described as a horticultural based society rather than agricultural.

There are many people who are predicting doom and gloom and a collapse of our society. I am a student of peak oil and am familiar with the peak oil thinking, that pretty darn soon the oil supply is due to enter into a decline which will cause a crisis to our society over how to make up the difference between demand and supply for the fuel to drive our machines.

Maybe the collapse will be as bloody as depicted in some of the movies such as the Mad Max trilogy. Or maybe it will be smoother.

The desire for "better" stems from unhappiness with the status quo, fear of where the status quo is leading our society, and a vision we have for the better society of our dreams.

It seems to me we can choose for ourselves to live in alignment with our vision of a better society. Depending on our individual vision it may be simple to accomplish or hard.

History is full of clusters of people who set up communal living situations in which they could experiment with developing a vision of a "better" way to live. Today these are called "Intentional Communities" and they vary in size from the big ones like Damanhur or Findhorn down to small groups. These communities have existed all through human history with varying success.

These people have been able to experiment but it still leaves people like me concerned about the direction the status quo is leading our society. These experiments have perhaps been good for the people involved, but they've had little effect on the status quo, and the status quo appears to be leading us all to disaster.

At some points our experiments in better lifestyles ought to become mainstream to make the lessons learned from these experiments to have a broad effect.

Technosanity #24: Is it required for society to collapse to build the society we desire?

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