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Culture Change

It's going to come down hard

The coming global catastrophe
— and ways to preempt it

by Jan Lundberg  

Awareness grows that the world's fragility is apparently no match for the obstinacy of systematic destruction and greed.  With the end of the world as we know it seemingly guaranteed by global warming and other consequences of overpopulation, a conscious person asks "What can I do that would mean something?"  If only the frightening folly of the tragic Iraq War were our main worry.  Yet, we have to look beyond Iraq even now, and beyond the U.S. election in November. 

This essay unifies the following ideas:

Rejecting the allure of personal victories to overcome materialism and apathy

Creating an alternative, local-based economics

Organizing to preclude violence of social upheaval

Disarming Arab and Islamic vengeance by renouncing oil gluttony

The materialism of dominant culture stultifies and neutralizes almost everyone, forcing us to adopt an individualistic response and selfish strategies.  The sham of shuffling onward, to work where we pollute and earn money to pay for our overconsumption, or marching onward, to encounter Iraqi guerillas fighting for their nation's self-determination, brings no relief for the long-term problem: we are not coping well enough to assure survival and thrive.  Around the corner is more fear, less certainty, and quite possibly overall doom — a scientific fact ignored as much as possible.

Having plenty of money and relatively good health, enjoying sex and numerous pleasurable diversions, add up to an empty life if the basis of our existence and spiritual meaning are eroding towards annihilation.  Knowing that politicians cannot save us, and dominant society refuses to create positive environments for mutual aid, freedom and sustainable living, some of us grasp for answers.  Sometimes we despair or even enjoy some cynicism as we pursue limited objectives and goals.  We occasionally triumph with offerings of art and other accomplishments that transcend self.  

However, given the direction of world trends that include the violence of "terrorism" and economic slavery, it is vital to take stock of our situation today and make plans to meet the challenge of a threatening tomorrow.  If, hypothetically, a liberating revolutionary movement is not underway or in place by the time an invader and executioner reaches your door (if you have one), all will be lost.  But that assumes that nothing is done in the meantime, so I will back up: if violence and disaster, such as famine, are on the horizon, prevent it.  This means a movement designed to meet modern society’s ultimate tendency of crackdown, breakdown, and other reaction as preludes to collapse. 

Self-defense is the common response to such concerns, which is why gun ownership is so high in the U.S.  People don’t trust robbers, the government, and what might someday be hungry neighbors.  Some marginal commentators paint a future picture of armed confrontation for not just self-preservation but freeing the individual and remaking of society.  However, trusting any form of government, whether the old guard or the new — even if called the Green Love Provisional Consensual Authority — is hard to imagine when we might still be saddled with resource constraints and competition for land and water.  

Would private property be maintained as an appropriate socioeconomic underpinning?  It is hard to sell people on the idea of change that affects their sense of wealth.  The hard truth, though, is that material things are killing us and the Earth’s other species, as well as perhaps the whole life support system. 

Rejecting the allure of personal victories to overcome materialism and apathy

The kind of sacrifice necessary for assuring a future for humanity may mean rejecting the narrow agenda of satisfying one’s set of desired gratifications.  This must also extend to questioning our concept of material security.  The conundrum is that we feel we cannot scale our consumption down to some risky level that exposes us to harm.  Absent a supportive environment and the bounty of nature to grant us food, shelter, heat, clothing, beauty and inspiration, we cower smugly and sadly blunted in our residential boxes.  We have been divided and conquered, ever since we were herded into cities.

Our problems remain and grow, no matter how tempting the logic is to do nothing and wait for deadly consequences.  We can figure that global warming and a cut-off of food supply will not necessarily be this generation’s experience, so “What me worry?  Who cares?  I've got to get rich.”  Perhaps it is unavoidable that the masses of “sheep” will always refuse to run away from the slaughterhouse until perhaps the last minute.  Yet, if we wait until the last minute, or until the slaughter has begun (if it has not already for most of us), resistance will be most messy. 

Movement to preclude violence of social upheaval

Ideally, a movement and revolution takes the reins of power before massive famine and other catastrophe.  That looks unlikely, so there is little point for some of us, anyway, to organize in a futile fashion.  Why call for unrealistic response to today’s juggernaut of greed, consumption and oppression?  Nevertheless, our collective dilemma is so dire that anyone has the right to make an effort to help, however unrealistic.  Help should preferably be sane and cooperative.  But even among sane and educated activists, unity is rare and undermined by egos and quirky philosophies.  So much time has thus been lost, and so much of nature destroyed, that "victory" may be too late. 

One way of organizing now could be to base a movement on precluding or minimizing the violence of social upheaval.  People would set up protective mechanisms for communities and homes based perhaps in part on a well armed militia.  Self-defense is a simple and honorable approach, and is part of the U.S. Constitution, but it may be that fleeing will be the better part of valor.  So what is the alternative?  The answer:  A preemptive social movement or revolution that institutes peace and economic security through nonviolence.  Ending petroleum gluttony is a crucial part of nonviolence, if we consider wars for oil. 

Toward an alternative, local-based economics: the end of oil

The purpose of a movement or revolution is touted to be about a better way of living, if not preservation of self, family, tribe, nation.  However, because "simple living," for example, meets stubborn resistance and has trouble taking root — even in these desperate times replete with clear warnings — another incentive can be advanced as an argument for preemptive organizing: minimizing or disarming the anticipated violence from either a paranoid fascist state, foreign enemies, or mobs of hungry people. 

The task we would face in a movement to defuse the coming explosion of social upheaval is similar to the Y2K challenge: educate people, seek remedies, and implement them.  Few people did much beyond the first step of education about Y2K, if they even did that.  It turned out to be unnecessary (although some of us learned about self-sufficiency and our collective vulnerabilities).  So, how do we get the educating and remedies done without a clear threat?  

The threat may be clear to you and to me, but not to most people.  Or is it?  Perhaps they are just so conditioned to living as materialists — even though it is a complete dead end — that they would rather finally run out of gasoline forever and then hope for the best.  If that is the preference of the masses, we are all in deep doo doo.  For what goes with running out of gasoline is the lack of petroleum for modern agriculture and food distribution.

The immediacy of the crisis can be pinpointed as an historical event as unstoppable and undeniable as any major geological phenomenon:  The world is running out of abundant, easily producible oil.  Despite the oil industry's and oil-consulting hacks' assurances to the contrary, the peak in extraction of crude oil is hitting about now or in the next few years.  This means that permanent shortage is about to set in, spelling the end of the growth economy.  The "debate" on peak oil is barely underway, and won't be settled until the doo doo hits the fan.

Organizing to preclude violence of social upheaval

Therefore, a campaign to educate people must be implemented, for starters.  It needs to be run or guided by those with the knowledge and capability of organizing communities for sustainable living and distancing their local economy from the national and global economy.  

Each town must be defended from opportunists and thieves who will possibly swarm across the landscape when petroleum supplies suddenly dry up and the trucks no longer pull into Safeway and the like.  The National Guard may play a short-term role as society breaks down along with the Guard. 

Things are already out of control for the majority of the population because the size of the cities are beyond functioning in what will be extreme shortage mode.  The whole country has been similarly mismanaged, thanks in large part to population growth (three quarters of it coming from immigration and immigrants’ higher birth rates).  Therefore, smaller towns and tiny rural communities have the best hope of survival.  Their food supplies can be local to the extent possible, and their water supplies are not likely to be feats of engineering that move water many miles. 

A Violence Minimization Committee, shall we say, for each town or neighborhood would seek to prepare communities.  Educating the population through teach-ins and mutual aid projects could sell the idea and bring people together.  If this became a nation-wide movement, the best result could be that a national leader such as a U.S. president would see the mass appeal for his or her own political capital.  One simple step would then be to start weaning the population off its massive fossil fuel energy diet. 

In a nation controlled by the big money interests, the short-term profit maximizers are epitomized by the petroleum industries.  How do we get them out of our lives and communities in order to secure a healthy environment, a safer world and a sustainable economy?  One way is to point to future violence as the inevitable result of a large population’s relying on petroleum day to day for transportation, manufacturing, farming, etc.  People may have tried to make this case already, and failed.  However, a nation-wide movement can give it a try with the zeal of global prisoners facing the gallows.  

First the movement would have to look beyond the Iraq War and punishing those Arabs and Americans (and whomever else) responsible for the 9-11 attacks.  As important as those historic events are, they are distractions.  The economy is the real terrorist of the land and the people, if not today for most everyone, then around the corner for all. 

The mass movement of nonviolence

A political party could be the Alternative Economy Party, but the U.S. has the rules rigged to favor the establishment party that is split between its Democrat and Republican wings.  So, a party is probably not going to work.  A grassroots movement has the best chance, as hard as this task may prove to be.  A precedent is Gandhi’s movement of civil disobedience and non-cooperation.  However, there were millions of starving, dispossessed Indians ready to take bold steps for their own survival.  In the U.S., the people are almost all in a never-never land of endless consumption whereby working the land or the sea with one's family are increasingly obsolete concepts. 

Therefore, a mass movement, whether called the Nonviolence Conspiracy or the Town Protection Council, needs to address issues of food, land, family and the prevention of violence.  If enough individuals come together to do this, we may avoid some of the upheaval headed mercilessly our way. 

Disarming Arab and Islamic vengeance by renouncing oil gluttony

Our prospects for a an effective movement of nonviolence are indeed poor when the people of the United States let this White House start another Iraq war.  Leveling Afghanistan was hard for level-headed people around the world to prevent, as in a crime of passion being allowed for, after 9-11.  The current Iraq war is against a national population that, like its neighbors in the Middle East and Asia, is well acquainted with violence, colonialism and imperialism.  The peoples of former colonial status are never going to submit to foreign masters, having thrown them off before.  The oil tells the whole Iraq invasion/occupation story to every Iraqi and Muslim.  The Iraqis as well as the Afghanis are going to avenge the destruction of their countries by the U.S., no matter if their previous leader was Saddam Hussein, Bozo the Clown or Jesus Christ.  

The point has been made by many that the Iraqis and even Saddam Husseian were a threat to no one outside Iraq, as the famous weapons of mass destruction were not found.  However, when has a colonized people ever been a threat to the invaders'  homeland?  The resistance of the colonized is the only threat: to the exploitative, profit-hungry elite that sends its young soldiers and mercenaries into the line of fire.

The Vietnamese were perhaps more able to "move on" after the war than Iraqis may prove to be.  ("Never ending war on terror" may complicate things.)  The departure of the retreating U.S. from Vietnam was complete as the Vietnamese began their national healing after their victory, despite recent U.S. genocide and ecocide.  Iraq, unlike Vietnam, is in the most strategic part of the world, has massive oil reserves, and has Islamic fervor of all Arab peoples to fuel the present and future fight against not just invaders but those responsible for the invasion.  The worst legacy for Iraq and the world is the depleted uranium poisoning by the U.S. military.

Some U.S. pundits have made the obvious point that the Iraq War has generated much support for future terrorism.  Israel has had a long taste of low-intensity warfare, for stealing Palestinian land, but the U.S. is Israel's big brother and will, for decades at least, pay a high price for killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Muslims.  The war may have barely begun.  It will not end June 30, 2004, as almost everyone knows.  But it will stretch on into a time of assumed “peace,” in the form of retribution that will not end until major change sweeps the world.  George W. Bush is a fundamentalist Christian who believes in backing Israel in the interests of Biblical Armageddon.

To renounce our infamous Western waste and energy gluttony may be our best protection from future attacks on U.S. civilians on our soil.  To imagine that the U.S. would change its ways is almost impossible to picture now, but the world is changing quickly.  The only reason Arab and Islamic vengeance may not be a factor in U.S. security years from now is that the loss of plentiful petroleum — a certainty within a few years — will largely cut off the West from the East.  At that time, north Americans will probably have just started to sort out their own struggle against their real adversary, a domestic one:  the culture of greed and materialism.


 April 14, 2004

Protest the U.S. occupation of Iraq and read background on war for oil, see the link to the new depleted uranium report.. 
Global Warming Crisis Council and the Pledge for Climate Protection

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Jan Lundberg's columns are protected by copyright; however, non-commercial use of the material is permitted as long as full attribution is given with a link to this website, and he is informed of the re-publishing:


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"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

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The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

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