pollution_steel_factory“The writing is on the wall for industrial society, and no amount of ethical shopping or determined protesting is going to change that now. Take a civilisation built on the myth of human exceptionalism (ie the belief we humans are radically separate from nature) and a deeply-embedded cultural attitude to ‘nature’; add a blind belief in technological and material progress; then fuel the whole thing with a power source which is discovered to be disastrously destructive only after we have use it to inflate our numbers and appetites beyond the point of no return. What do you get? We are starting to find out.”

Tough words! This is an recent exchange of views (really an argument) between George Monbiot and Paul Kingsnorth. Between “let’s-reform-the-current-system” and “the-system-is-collapsing-let’s-build-something-better” points of view. It’s a really interesting discussion, and really worth reading, but I lean towards Paul’s view (above), with some reservations.

David Holmgren, of Permaculture fame, has also discussed the same question, but with a much more rigorous analysis, on his Future Scenarios site. Worth a look. David says that: “A smooth conversion to a steady-state economy running on renewable energy without massive geopolitical and economic crises is unlikely.” David discusses the importance of energy sources in driving cultural systems and forms.

There are many who want us to adopt easy changes, like light bulbs, and driving less, etc. There are those who argue for “consciousness change” or “enlightenment” as a necessary force for change. All these changes will amount to nothing if we don’t change the “system”. As Paul Kingsnorth says: “The economic system we rely upon cannot be tamed without collapsing, for it relies upon that growth in order to function.”

The depth of change that is needed is generally unrealised, and unreported. Do you find all this depressing or difficult to read? I certainly do. But we are here, now, so we all need to find our own authentic way to respond.

David Holmgren believes we can ride the energy descent with creativity and appropriate design, especially permaculture design. In a really beautiful statement, David says:

Let us act as if we are part of nature’s striving for the next evolutionary way to respond creatively to the recurring cycles of energy ascent and descent that characterises human history and the more ancient history of Gaia, the living planet. Imagine that our descendants and our ancestors are watching us.

Let’s stop wasting time.  Let’s dream up some truly magnificent visions of our future together. Even if they are impossible!