Here in France there’s an expression which goes like this: “Etre entre le marteau et l’enclume.” There are corresponding expressions in all the languages I have some familiarity with and there is certainly no shortage of them in English, involving devils and the deep blue seas, Catches 22, double binds or dangs if ya do and dangs if ya don’t. The one I’ll use to translate the above, however, is “to be between a rock and a hard place,” as I think it most closely corresponds to the original, which literally means “to be between the hammer and the anvil.”
The reason I mention this is because it fits pretty well with a number of the situations we find ourselves in at present, and not only in the Western world. In order to get a clearer sense of where we are, it might be useful to begin by setting a small, neglected corner of the vocabulary record straight. It is well-known that we Americans don’t have any “problems,” only “solutions.” The sheer absurdity of that assertion is obvious to anyone who stops to think about it for a moment, for the same reason that calling a ‘cat’ a ‘dog’ isn’t going to make it bark. Still more troubling though is that, by the time recognition that a ‘problem’ exists, it may well have morphed into something else – namely, a predicament. As John Michael Greer has pointed out in his weekly reports, there is a fundamental difference between the two: problems have solutions, predicaments don’t.
That has consequences: for example, “Okay Bud, you criticize the way things are but where are your solutions?” becomes the wrong question, because there aren’t any. At least not in terms of some sort of win/win situation we Americans are alway prattling about. It’s more like: “Give up this much now and increase your chances of enjoying a tolerably liveable future,” or “Do something else and decrease those chances.”
We are all somewhere in here.
A Hard Place
Well, that’s sort of hard to swallow isn’t it? But what does it mean? Maybe something to do with what the same J.M. Greer, at the Age of Limits Conference last May in Pennsylvania had to say about adapting to the future: “Collapse now and avoid the rush.” In other words, reduce your ‘footprint’ and the grotesque dependencies that go with it, before things turn really sour. Acquire low-tech skills that will be useful in maintaining community wherever you live. Because the next 20 years are definitely not going to be like the last 20 years as Chris Martenson likes to say (his renamed website is called Peak Prosperity and includes investment advice for those who have anything left to invest).
Shall we look at a couple of concrete examples?
Consider climate change and resource depletion together. If, as most mainstream media pundits are spouting today, the USA will soon be not only energy independent but a major energy exporter, then climate change and the attendant freak weather (think droughts and floods) can only increase. ‘The Amazing Disappearing 1° Increase Red-Line” has now become 2° in the flatulent discourse of our manipulators and masters. We are now at 0.8° and rising. If we all stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow the impact would already take us past 2° average temperature increase in the world a few years down the road. The kind of disturbance which can and will likely lead to positive feedback loops – not positive in human terms at all since they entail re-enforcement of trends already underway!
Now add to the mix a quick peek at the economy. This will serve as a second example for now. Where can an economy that absolutely depends on perpetual growth (on a finite planet) and exponential debt be going when its breadbaskets are scorched or flooded, when its financial organization and oversight is a shambles, when the Governor of the Bank of England states (Sir Mervyn King in October, 2011) that we are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and perhaps of all time ? What insurance policy will be covering this?
Well, to begin with, you the taxpayer are the insurance policy and squeezed you will be until the pips squeak!
I am fully aware that initial contact with this kind of information is a bit like being awakened by the uncomfortable feeling that something is snacking on your nether parts.
What can anybody do? Ah, now there’s one of the right questions.
How to thwart the ‘total control’ mechanisms of the Banksters? That would seem to be an easy one and several big names have proposed the obvious: take the too-big-to-fail banks into receivership; get out the chain saw and make small-enough-to-fail banks out of them while reinstating previous legislation (notably Glass-Steagall) which separates commercial banking from casino gambling. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. Supposing that all of the above were done, a daunting and politically unpopular task to be sure but let’s say it’s done for the sake of argument. That would be an excellent place to start but then what? Then, with investment money pouring back into the real economy, the growth machine would crank up again. The drawdown of critical resources, including fossil fuels, would accelerate; CO2 emissions would increase, further reducing our chances of escaping dangerous climate mayhem in the near future; pressure on already 6th-extinction-threatened biodiversity would fly off the charts. Nothing’s easy here but it’s still not the end of the world (sorry, doomsters).
There is a great deal to be said on that subject so we’ll leave it for another post or ten. For the time being, how about the word ‘mitigation’ for starters? Making the coming transition, paradigm shift, phase change, whatever you wish to call it, a little easier than it would otherwise be. Those who choose to hide their heads in the sand will be at a serious disadvantage in the coming years. Those who begin taking small steps now, just to see what it feels like, will have a first experience under their belts in how ‘degrowth,’ reducing footprints and eliminating frivolous consumptive excesses can actually make their lives better.