Joined: 03 Jun 2005
|Posted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:16 am Post subject: COLLAPSE OF THE PRETTY SHINY THINGS OR OUR WORLD
|Collapse of the shiny pretty things
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
And then the international think tank said, you know what? It's still not working.
All the green initiatives in the world combined with all your good intentions intermixed with a million heartfelt promises to do better, all the environmental summit agreements and all the solar panels and recycled toothbrushes and spending all those hours sorting plastic from glass and carefully rinsing your mustard bottles?
Not helping. Or rather, not helping much, given how it appears we would need, according to recent measures, 1.5 Earths to sustain our current rate of consumption, and you can point to China and India all you want but they're far from the primary culprits (that would be, of course, us) and anyway the odds are very good you're pointing to them on your iPad and your smart phone as you sit at a fine cafe gorging on five times more food than the average Hindu eats in a year.
It absolutely cannot be sustained much longer, is what they're (still) saying, this rapaciousness, this constant craving for more. They say we're pushing the planet to her absolute breaking point quicker than ever, no really we are, and in fact she's actually now well past the breaking point in many categories and has run out of many natural resources, ores and precious minerals and essential planetary nutrients, not to mention thousands of animal species and sufficient fresh water and nuanced human thinking. The oceans? Don't even start.
This is the current reality: The hardcore global meltdown discussed 50, 20, ten years ago? The great recoil? No longer just a possibility. It's happening now. It's already underway, you just don't feel it yet because we're so goddamn wealthy we can cushion the blow with cash credit cards and cheap foreign labor and oh my God this artisanal boutique coffee at $5 a cup is ridiculously overrated. But never mind that now.
What's that you say? You've heard it all before? The end is nigh and civilization as we know it is on track for serious collapse, meltdown, infrastructure implosion unless -- and this might be the biggest unless in modern world history -- unless there's a major and they do mean major overhaul of how culture, greed and entitlement operate? Sure you have. So did the Romans.
And there's your main culprit, by the way: Greed culture. Consumerism run wild. Ravaging and raping the planet's resources faster and faster because the population is still growing like a weed; after all, everyone loves better food, new cars and shiny bleepy idiot iStuff because, well, who wouldn't? It's totally pleasurable, even magical.
Except when it's not. Except when seven billion people are all craving and clawing for the same shiny things, except when stunning gadget-making factories in China employ nearly one million people and still can't hire people fast enough, except when everything we've been told we should love, crave and buy uses copper and nickel, petroleum and a billion gallons of fresh water to manufacture.
Hence, zombies. Hence, Rick Santorum's sad little existence, his and his followers' blind faith in an angry, self-hating God to save us all from His own creation.
Hence, gruesome end times scenarios, apocalypse fool and a new reality show called "Doomsday Preppers" -- or was that "Doomsday Bunkers"? -- all about numbly misanthropic, unbathed white nutballs in mostly Podunk towns readying themselves for the end of the world by stockpiling canned meat, coddling large firearms and training themselves in hand-to-zombie combat as they feed their twitchy kids stuff they killed with a crossbow in the driveway. Neat.
Problem is, save for the nutcases and the think tanks, and maybe few environmental blogs, no one really believes it. No one seriously thinks society can collapse completely. After all, there's so much wealth in the world that first-world nations like America can cover the gushing wounds with sheer economic force and Band-Aids made of even more shiny pretty things. What a weird world.
What's more, it's far more comforting to remember that culture and society operate more on a fluxive continuum, the world adapting and revising itself on the fly to meet major downturn or roadblock. Despite our best efforts to destroy ourselves, despite our fantasy of the Singular Cataclysmic Event, we are still part of the larger organism of life, we are still wildly ingenious and flexible when we need to be. We're just not that easy to get rid of. Yet.
Is the question getting louder? Is the wolf breathing ever closer to the door? What will it take? What's really required for massive cultural upheaval and a return to simpler and more thoughtful, more sustainable, less rapacious way of life? Everyone guesses, but no one seems to know. Because it's never happened before.
Wait, that's not quite true. If we're forced and coerced for the right reasons, we can make massive change and sacrifice on a large scale, relatively quickly. WWII forced a dramatic overhaul in the American way of life in an instant. September 11 did the same for dramatically different reasons. What else you got? Hurricanes? Earthquakes? Snarky hackers taking out the power grid? Sure, for awhile. Until we rebuild, Wal-Mart re-opens, the Wi-Fi comes back online, Amazon can deliver again and everything is right with the world.
But herein lies the problem: Never before in human history, to my knowledge and I'd be happy to be proven wrong, have we made a change, a massive cultural transformation of everything we believe and love about capitalism and the great art of owning stuff, simply because it was the right thing to do, simply because the moral compass was going absolutely haywire and enough scientists, think tanks and spiritual masters said we'd better, or else.
What, light bulbs? Organic hot dogs? The Prius? Sure. But I mean, large scale. An entire reworking of the school system. Value system. A ground-up, top-down overhaul of how it all works and how much you really need, really and true, to be healthy and happy and loved. It's very doubtful it's much more than you have now. It's not nearly as much as you think.
Obama, in the early, utopian gasps of his presidency, made a few inspiring gestures toward a serious overhaul of energy and education. Then he found out just how hateful and nasty Congress and the Republicans can be, which occurred at about the same moment the rest of us realized just how infuriatingly moderate and cautious Obama really is. Then it slowly dawned: the Great Shift probably won't come from government after all.
Here is the question of our day: Does it take a cataclysm? It takes a wake up call so massive and deadly there is nothing else to be done but make ferocious and painful change? Or can it be induced by something more calm and deeply felt, a flip and turn in the soul, an intimate spiritual awakening writ large? What's it going to take? I don't know, either, but whatever it is, it really might require some intense sacrifice on the part of -- whoa, wait a second. Is that the new iPad? Wow. Pretty