Allies in the Paradigm Shift

People who have realized the serious difficulties unbridled Capitalism has brought us usually listen to the Green message, but their willingness to join a Third Party or to embrace a whole new lifestyle depends upon their understanding of the paradigm shift that the Green Movement represents.
We say Reduce, Re-use, Recycle (for a recent development, see Janet Unruh’s recent book).  They say, Let’s add ethanol to gasoline.  Or — and this is an absurdity that the Green Party itself promoted — I pledge to support the Greens (but I won’t say how) as soon as the next Democratic Party primary is over  with.
I point these faint-hearted allies out to distinguish them from others, who really have taken the measure of the cultural, social, economic, political, and philosophic difficulties we now face, but who are not aligned with the Green Movement.  It is these latter who can enrich our Party and whose voice we need to hear.
An example is John Michael Greer.  Last month he wrote:
 It seems uncomfortably likely, in other words, that peak oil theory has racked up another successful prediction.  It’s one that my regular readers will remember from several previous posts, including this one from last June: the opening up of a chasm between those who are willing to face the reality of our situation and those who flee from that reality into fantasy and self-deception.
The consequences of “peak oil” — the eventual, in all likelihood sooner rather than later, exhaustion of the obtainable hydrocarbon fuels that have powered the industrialization of the last three centuries — contradict the so-called “civil religion” of Progress.  As long ago as 1961 Carl Gustav Jung pointed out (in his chapter “Approaching the Unconscious” of his last book, Man and His Symbols) that the Communist world promoted a “Golden Age” in the near future, and the capitalist West answered with the prospect of  a welfare state, which Jung characterized as “The Kingdom of God on Earth.”  Both sides implicitly believed in an irrational myth of inevitable Progress.
That chasm runs straight through the middle of the contemporary environmental movement, very much including the subset of that movement that concerns itself with climate change.  It doesn’t run in the obvious place—say, between the techno-environmentalists who insist that everyone on the planet can have a lavish American middle class lifestyle powered by renewable energy, and the deep ecologists who see humanity as a gang of ecocidal apes yelling in triumph as they rush toward planetary dieoff. Both these extremes, and the entire spectrum of opinions between them, embrace the core presupposition that undergirds the conventional wisdom of our age.
What is that presupposition?  Total faith in the invincibility of technological progress.
That’s the common thread that unites the whole spectrum of acceptable viewpoints in today’s industrial society, from the cornucopians who insist that the universe is obligated to give us all the resources we want if we just wave enough money around, through the faux-environmentalists who are out there shilling for the nuclear industry because the other options are a little bit worse, right across the landscape of ideas to the believers in imminent apocalypse and the darkest of dark green ecologists. What differentiates these viewpoints from one another is their assessment of the value of technological progress:  the cornucopians think it’s all good, the techno-environmentalists think most of it’s good, and so on along the line to those extreme neoprimitivists who have convinced themselves that the invention of spoken language was probably a bad idea.
Greer’s point is, that if “peak oil” is right — and there’s quite a bit of evidence that it is — then humanity is really limited to pre-industrial levels of energy use.  “Technological progress” approaches, in those conditions, an oxymoron, a concept that is self-contradictory.  Basically, there won’t be much of it at all.
That’s exactly the core idea, it seems to me, of the Green movement, if not the Green political party.  Stop believing that the built environment is primary, and re-connect with the natural environment in a wholistic, even spiritual, way.
Despite his denial, Greer is One of Us.

About M. Meo

Worked as translator, museum technician, truck lumper, lecture demonstrator, teacher (of English as a Second Language, science, math). Married for 25 years, 2 boys aged 18 & 16 (both on the Grant cross-country team). A couple of scholarly publications in the history of science. Two years in federal penitentiary, 1970/71, for refusing the draft.
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