Monday, January 16, 2012


Apparently, last night was the Golden Globes, or tonight, or something. Some guy named Ricky Gervais talked about something. A cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, sank because the captain decided to go "showboating" (heh, heh) off the coast of a small island. Tim Tebow, who does something with prayer and parabolic trajectories, lost some sort of sports contest. Finally, almost as a footnote to the news, many countries in the Eurozone were downgraded.

I could go on and on about the seemingly endless ability of modern Americans (and people around the globe as a whole) to distract themselves from the systemic problems facing the world. Maybe it's a defense mechanism, leftover from the days when we lived in clammy stone huts and wore animal skins (who wouldn't want a distraction, then?). The problem is that we, collectively speaking, at the wheel of a car that is hurtling down the road at a hundred miles per hour, when the roads are icy and getting narrower and narrower. Oh, there's a canyon nicknamed "Peak Oil" just ahead.

The downgrade of the Eurozone countries is going to be waved off by a lot of people. It'll be called a political move, fearmongering, unwarranted hysteria, whatever label happens to fit the narrative that any given person sees the world through (and therefore pushes). The real way to interpret is that it is a collective judgement on the soundness of the European economy. If you look at credit ratings, the point is to determine the ability of a person or institution (or coutry) to repay a debt. By downgrading the rating of countries in Europe, the collective judgement is that these countries can no longer maintain themselves economically the way they have intended to (or have, to this point).

Essentially, this means that we're not expecting to patient which is modern industrial society to pull through. While this is, at first, a problem for the politicians and bankers who have created this system, it is going to quickly became a problem for the people who live in these nations as the wheels that have allowed modern populations to exist and thrive suddenly grind to a halt and we all find ourselves in strange new territory. We cannot even begin to address these issues, so late in the day that things have become, so we find ourselves looking for newer and better distractions until the clock finally winds down and we return to a world where real meaning is found when simple existence itself becomes a struggle.

What strikes me is the responses to the crisis at hand. Some people, who have not examined the situation, may ask "what crisis?" Simply put, the fact that we're at the end of the road and don't know where to go, because none of the answers are acceptable in mainstream society. We place quasi-religious faith in "alternative solutions" such as alternative fuels, we pretend that there's not a problem, we believe that we can find a political solution to overspending (which in nature would be too many deer eating too little forage). We want to dream our way out of reality and into a new golden age.

In none of this is the realization that we are on a downward slope and need to adjust to it, but we only do so when we are forced into it, kicking and sreaming.


I would recommend that everyone who has already not done so follow Ed's recommendation and read John Michael Greer's latest post at The Archdruid Report. Quite a good read and is well worth it alone for the discussion about our modern narrative. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fracked Up

New Year's Eve this past year in Ohio came with a little bit of an extra "bang," thanks apparently to "fracking." (see here for the whole story) A quick search on Google turns up a few more articles on this happening in other places -- in England and Oklahoma as well. Obviously, a 5.0 (or even 6.0) magnitude quake is not a monster, apocalyptic-level event in any sense, this shows another serious problem with pushing for more and more oil production, now that all the "easy" oil is gone. And this doesn't even begin to take into other issues, including contamination of groundwater, and so on.

Hmm. Putting up with eathquakes so that we can milk the planet just a little bit longer, keep the machines going just a little bit longer, even while we experience potentially catastrophic environmental catastrophes. I mean, doesn't this come off a little bit like a bad science fiction movie? I expect the Klingons to do something like this, but....

The idea of fracking, whatever the soundness of it from a geological or environmental perspective, and whatever ultimately comes of it, is just another attempt to maintain the modern industrial lifestyle that the world has become dependent on. It is this idea -- overextending ourselves to maintain this lifestyle -- that is taking us down another parallel road, with this one based on the squandering of capital in the endless pursuit of trying to acquire more capital and goods.

It isn't really until we step back and look at all these things as a pattern, that we begin to see where we really are as a culture and a civilization. We have built an impressively interconnected society, where it's possible to travel far and wide in days, or even hours, can communicate almost instantly with anyone else around the globe, can access all the important data ever recorded by mankind, pick something. At the same time, we're generally not aware in our minds of what the cost of these advances truly is, nor do we understand that we cannot keep them going forever.

If we think of earthquakes as being the first warning sign that the process of fracking may not be what we thought it was, what is going to be the first warning sign that civilization itself is running on empty? Is it Greece? Europe as a whole? The fact that our politicians don't even bother to talk about reducing the debt, but only about reducing the deficit? When we consider that it's good news that unemployment has dropped down below nine percent, but ignore that the statistic is due to many people finally giving up the job hunt?

It's hard to say what the real takeaway from this is. People who protest fracking have legitimate concerns about the environment, but how do we address the billions of people who depend on fossil fuels to survive? People who protest the debt and spending are correct when they state that the party can't go on forever, but where does that leave the people who are invested in the system and have no means outside of it?

It is when we get down to this point -- where we know that we're going down a road that looks narrower, rougher, and more dangerous the longer we're on it, but a road we can't get off of -- that we know we are destined for a hard crash. The only realistic action at this point is to cover our own butts and make sure we're able to ride out what is sure to be a coming storm.