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Where Do We Go From Here?

© Richard Reese 1997


The status quo - in almost every aspect of it - is totally self-destructive and dysfunctional. The central question, for those of us who care, is "where do we go from here?" What can we do, in the closing years of the industrial status quo, to reduce the pain and suffering of the generations of the future - of all species?

I've been asking these questions for a number of years. It seems to me that the modern civilized mind is hog-tied by a muscular trio of ridiculous myths, powerful taboos, and simple ignorance. The future of Earth will remain dim until these demons are exorcised by common sense, intelligence, and compassion.

The Party is Almost Over

Almost everyone who reads these words has spent their entire life within the modern industrial status quo. We have come to develop a deep-rooted blind faith that the status quo will continue on and on into the distant future. Ecologists, on the other hand, are coming to see that the party is almost over.

The 20th century has witnessed an unprecedented explosion in human population - it has more than doubled in my 45-year lifetime. This is not natural or normal. On a long-term timeline, it will certainly prove to be a brief one-time spike - because it is so outrageously unsustainable.

time/population chart

The human swarming has had devastating impacts on topsoil, forests, the atmosphere, climate systems, surface- and ground-water, and the ecological and genetic composition of every ecosystem. On many fronts, large and threatening cracks in the foundations are readily apparent.

The quantity of food produced for each human peaked in 1984. There is little new land that can be put into use for crops or grazing. Meanwhile, large areas of agricultural land are being taken out of production by urban sprawl, overgrazing, desertification, salinization, erosion, and waterlogging.

Agriculture has caused severe topsoil erosion since its beginning in 8,000 BC, but modern industrial logging and agriculture have increased topsoil destruction to levels never before believed possible. In Iowa, five to six bushels of topsoil are lost for each bushel of corn produced.

Fish production peaked in 1989, and has been falling each year since. All of the world's oceanic fisheries are being fished at or beyond their capacity.

The number of chemical-resistant crop pests, plant diseases, and weeds is growing sharply, while the genetic diversity of our food crops is falling sharply. Catastrophic crop failures - with the consequent famines - are only a matter of time.

In humans, the number of drug-resistant diseases is also growing sharply. A mammoth human population that is highly stressed, undernourished, and tremendously mobile is nothing but a paradise for disease microbes. Deadly world-wide pandemics are only a matter of time.

The era of cheap oil is entering its final years. [See Oil and the Future] According to a number of senior petroleum experts, the rising curve of oil consumption is expected to cross the falling curve of production some time between 2000 and 2010. When demand exceeds supply, you know what happens to prices - they go up! As people spend more for food, they will spend less for everything else, and this will bring the business world to its knees. The 21st century will not be a fun time for people who cannot produce their own food.

Endless Loops of Repeated Mistakes

Those who have studied the three million year human journey from an ecological perspective can list a number of mistakes that we have made along the way. Beginning near the dawn of civilization, these mistakes and their destructive effects have rapidly snowballed.

Topsoil is one of the most precious treasures for land-dwelling plants and animals. Where civilization began, in the Mideast and the Mediterranean basin, the soils have been devastated. As the ancient forests were cut to create fields and grazing land, the soils were washed into the sea. It often took several attempts to fully convert the land to waste. A city would rise, destroy its resources, then crash - followed by a few centuries of recovery. Then a second city, a second crash, and so on - until the land was completely ruined. Each succeeding civilization repeated the mistakes of its predecessors.

We are still making the same mistakes that the people of the earliest civilizations made - but at a much faster pace, and on a gargantuan scale (in addition to a million more recent and equally destructive mistakes). If modern industrial logging and agriculture were to continue for another 100 years, there would be little fertile land left anywhere.

We are not making these mistakes because we are evil, or because we are inherently stupid. We are making these mistakes because we don't understand that they are mistakes - because they are a taboo subject in our schools and churches - because the central myths of our culture praise and celebrate these mistakes. We are the greatest! We are blessed with living at the wondrous pinnacle of all time! This is the best it has ever been! Right? If it weren't so tragic, it would be funny.

Changing the Future

Today, catastrophe is not far off, and it cannot realistically be prevented. What can be prevented is the perpetuation of ignorance, and the endless loop of repeated mistakes. It is vitally important that the survivors of the upcoming crash have a thorough and vivid understanding of the mistakes of civilization and industrialism - otherwise, they are certain to repeat our failures, and continue our 8,000 year tradition of senseless destruction - to its pathetic conclusion.

While the bulk of environmental action is being directed at putting out countless brushfires, our education system continues to churn out millions and millions of ecologically-illiterate graduates - kids who have an insatiable hunger for good jobs, big homes, fancy cars, and everything that money can buy - kids who are utterly clueless about the direct effects between their consumption and environmental harm. One thinker pointed out that environmentalists are like firemen in a city where all of the children are trained to be arsonists.

Our schools and universities are little more than Monster Factories. [See The Greening of Education by Richard Orr] At great public expense, our children are being expertly trained to be the most destructive people who have ever walked the face of the Earth. They are learning the most efficient and effective means for destroying both themselves and the future.

The best way to change the future is to change the information that is given to the children. At this point in time, nothing is more important than an all-out war for full-scale ecological education. But before this war on the status quo can begin, it is necessary to have the new ecology-centered curriculum in hand - and this has yet to be created - and it cannot be created until the agents of change take time to thoroughly learn the subject.

Today, it is nearly impossible to find anyone with whom you can have an intelligent conversation on the subject. Few will agree that nomadic hunter-gatherers provide us with an excellent model for both human communities and sustainable lifestyles. [See Future Primitive by John Zerzan] Indeed, most people are so intellectually paralyzed that they can't even imagine the concept that nature's original design for human living - one that worked wonderfully for three million years - has proven to be far superior to any of civilization's countless botched efforts to improve upon it.

Few have studied the anthropology books on Pygmies and Bushmen - thus, most still embrace the myth of the ignorance, misery, and filth of our ancestors. Most still embrace the preposterous myth that the shift to civilization was positive and beneficial. Most still embrace the myth that humans sit on the throne of nature, and that nature was created for the exclusive use of humankind. Alas, we dwell in a thick smog of toxic myths - myths that are a million times more destructive than hydrogen bombs.

Once we begin studying the ecological history of humankind, it doesn't take long to recognize the tragic errors of our myths. It doesn't take long to realize that most of what we were taught was nonsense. If we begin announcing this to the world, it doesn't take long for us to be branded as lunatics, numskulls, and heretics by nearly everyone - especially the fundamentalists of progress and human superiority who lead our churches, education systems, and mass media centers - the well-intended but colossally mis-educated leaders of World War III, the war to erase the future.

At this point, two choices are obvious: (a) we can maintain our respectability and simply allow the tidal wave of civilization's stupidity to run its course, or (b) we can gather our courage, take time to learn the real story, and then use the sword of common sense to attack the huge, fire-breathing dragons of civilization's blind, dumb, and bloody megalomania. If we are sincerely committed to the well-being of the future generations of all species, the choice is not difficult.

Feed Your Mind

In conclusion, the answer to the question: "where do we go from here?" seems to be: "to the library." We can't break the cycle of repeated mistakes until we reveal the mistakes to our children. We can't reveal our mistakes until we understand them. We can't understand our mistakes until we take the time to learn, learn, learn. Good places to start include: Other good books include:

The roots of our problems, and their solutions, essentially lie within the realm of the human mind. Feed your mind - and then feed other minds - with your songs, words, and deeds.

Richard Reese
RR 1 Box 401
Hancock, MI 49930-9739
(906) 482-7873
31 May 1997

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