A Challenge! – Part 2 – Setting The Stage

Where To Start?

This is the second part of my response to a request to outline my views on the broader aspects of how we might tackle whatever situation that may confront us in the future, assuming that this will be a rather different set of circumstances than most of us, at least in the highly developed nations, have become used to dealing with to this point in our lives.

If you wish to read the first post in this series, go here.

I am conscious that whatever I say here may be interpreted differently by different people and, from my earlier writings, I know that the words expressed do not always adequately reflect the original intention or meaning.  Nevertheless, I proceed, with the proviso that I may at a later stage alter or rearrange the material or provide additional information that may assist understanding or make it easier to read.

On another site I made an observation along the lines that folk generally need to adopt a broader view of the factors that affect or impinge on the way we live, in order first to see that there may be problems to face that we have not needed to face before, and then to consider ways that we may find helpful to us in dealing with those situations.  I was asked to expand on my position resulting in this series of posts.

My observation raises a number of factors that I will examine individually as a basis for setting the stage for the rest of the work.

Why Is It So Hard To Convince People?

I suggested that folk need to take a broader view.

There are two types of people in the world.  You, and everybody else.  Why is it so hard to find people who see things the same way that you do?  And isn’t it delightful on the rare occasions that you find someone who genuinely does?  I say ‘genuinely does’ because you will also find those who will agree with anything that anybody says because they do not have an opinion of their own making or are afraid to express that opinion if they do, as that would open up their point of view to criticism.  That would have been me until I found the joy of blogging.

The first thing to consider then is what are the difficulties preventing even quite intelligent and learned people from seeing things and accepting ideas that are perfectly obvious to you as being relevant and extremely important to all, as individuals or as a group.  I recently considered just this question in a post here on this blog.

I can only offer a suggestion.  A suggestion by anyone else may be equally valid.

I find, and of course this is simply personal opinion through observation, that we as individuals tend to be rather insular and protective regarding the life factors which we, as far as it is in our power, allow to direct and steer the way we live.  We need to be able to wield a measure of control over those things in order to gain or retain a level of security for ourselves.  Those individuals who are not able to achieve that haven of security are viewed as wildcards and misfits, while those who do achieve it often tend to be very protective of it and become unwilling to consider or even acknowledge anything new that might threaten the stability of whatever they have been able to build as a castle, fortress, shield or buckler around them.  These people tend to remain stuck behind their secure outer shell, retaining more or less the same life vision to the end of their days as they gained at the moment they imprisoned themselves through fear behind that wall.

Fortunately there are others among the latter group who are willing to raise or open up their vision to examine and accept new ideas and life factors, finding space to incorporate them into their personal vision of the world.  It takes a measure of courage to do this of course because it means that you have to at least temporarily allow chinks to open in your personal armoured shell, exposing your inner vulnerabilities.  You will change as a result. Your outlook will change and you will benefit from the experience, having rebuilt for yourself a more expansive protection encompassing your greater vision of the world.  This is how we grow as persons and it is the only way that can happen.

We all do this of course, to a greater or lesser extent. This is a spectrum of experience and few would be found at either extremity of that spectrum.  What is needed is for more and more folk to work their way to the higher end of things by opening up and lifting their gaze from the mundane things of life to explore the grand vista of what lays in front of us.  To see what is happening around us and into the future with eyes unclouded by advertising, media hype and political rhetoric.

The important thing is that we who are reading this, you, yourself, I, realise that there is a need for a broader outlook.  Others will come to the same realisation, or not, in their own time.

What Sort Of Problems Are We Talking About Here That We Need To Face Up To?

This is a hard question to answer.  How can we truly know just what the future holds?  We can speculate.  We can categorise possibilities.  There are pointers to what may occur.  There are many ‘experts’ willing to provide a viewpoint.  Often for a price.  Whether that price be for a book, a seminar, an ‘investment opportunity’, a place in a ‘safe’ haven (gated community, underground bunker).  Who do we listen to?  Who do we take advice from?

Informed, critical, personal analysis is I believe always the best way to come to some logical comprehension of any issue that we may encounter.  That is the basis on which I always work when confronted with something that demands my attention.

Note:  I don’t go looking for problems.  I would much rather spend my time playing computer games or reading books, but by clarity of vision, a desire to stay informed, and guided by intuitive insight, I become alerted to events filtering into my awareness that I recognise as requiring more than a passing glance from my attention centres.  With the huge amount of information flow continually bombarding us (if we allow it) these days, we all need to develop such filters.  That is harder to achieve than it sounds, but the task can be eased by consciously denying or restricting access to ourselves from the many modern forms of unnecessary and unenlightening data chatter.

Let’s speculate then.  Let’s categorise the possibilities.  Then let’s prioritise the categories.  Then let’s focus on the priorities.  Good plan?  I can’t come up with a better one and I am the writer here, so let’s do it.

Incidentally, I am conscious that I am hedging here, buying time, before I have to come up with practical issues.  I will try to not take too long about this.

Speculation

There are three distinct possibilities:

  1. Things may improve, get better.  Our technological past tells us that we are capable of advancing our condition.  Limits?  No such thing.  To infinity and beyond!
  2. Things may stay much the same as they are.  Yes, we have problems but we are good at fixing problems. We are reasonably happy with maintaining our present condition.
  3. Things may decline, get worse.  We have been warned, for some decades now, that we cannot carry on the way we have been doing, without facing dire consequences.  Maybe we should look into that more and back off a little, accepting some lower set of life conditions, before circumstances overtake us.

What actual problems will we face if we by default, or by stubborn determination, work towards allowing any one of these three possible situations to arise or continue?

Onward and Upward – Technological, Economic and Social Advancement

We cannot know for certain what future problems await us if we endeavour to improve our lot as in option 1.   Our striving to make things better can only add to option 2’s list of issues since we know that some of those issues were brought about by what we have done in the past to get us to where we are now.

This would paradoxically make things worse for us in that we would need to throw more resources and effort into overcoming these additional problems.

We do know however, that this set of problems will include all of the same problems as will afflict us if we simply strive to maintain current conditions, option 2.

Stay as Sweet as You Are – Steady State Economy

Take option 2.  We know that we have always in the past had, or have in time of need developed, the capability to overcome or work around any problem that has faced us.  At least we can say that no such problem has actually so far ‘done us in’.  We can see however (if we care to observe) that things are beginning to mount up in such a way that we are not feeling so secure in our tenancy of this planet, or as much in control of our destiny as we might have been in the past.

Our resourcefulness is not yet stretched beyond its limits but will our capabilities be sufficient to see us through events that are already, or are predicted to be, set into motion?  It will take a not inconsiderable amount of effort and cost simply to maintain our present condition.

Use Your Gumption, Dump The Consumption!

Option 3.  By ‘decline or get worse’ I mean that we make a conscious and cohesive decision to back away from and give up some of the conditions of life that we have gained through past endeavour.  We would still have to face and overcome some of the problems of option 2 but not necessarily all of them or at least not to the same extent.  We may also be able to further reduce the effect of some of these problems through mitigation, reparation and pro-active prevention activity.

This could, not necessarily would, paradoxically make things better for us in that we may not need to throw additional resources and effort into overcoming problems that would have otherwise arisen.

Summarising

That about sums it up I think.  I hope.  So, in order to keep things as simple as possible, let’s ask the question – What would be the minimum set of issues that we may need to handle?  Having established that minimum, we will examine our probability of success in that task before we even consider taking on a bigger set of issues.

Clearly, this minimum problem set does not include the additional issues caused by adopting option 1.  It would obviously include all current problems to be faced no matter which option route is taken.  It may not include all of the new ‘predicted to be set into motion’ issues of option 2 since by backing away from current practices some way as in option 3 we may forestall the initiation of some of these things.

So our minimum set is all current problems plus the potential for some that may be irretrievably about to surface.  Can we list them?  We will try, but they are very varied in nature and to some extent subjectively authorised.  I am sure that not everyone who reads this list will be in total agreement.  The list will contain general headings, some of which could be sub-divided in many ways.  For now, let’s keep it simple.  We can expand on related issues when we consider each in turn.

In no particular order then:

The Minimum List Of Problems Facing Humanity

  • Climate Change
  • Financial System Instability
  • Growing Debt
  • Population Growth
  • Food Security
  • Water Security
  • Essential Infrastructure Damage
  • Armed Conflict
  • Wealth/Poverty Imbalance
  • Pollution
  • Eco-system Destruction/Degradation
  • Political Instability
  • Resource Depletion

I am going to leave this part of the work there for now a) because my brain hurts, b) because I want input and suggestions through comments and c) because I have other things to do.  This part of the post can still be considered to be a Work In Progress, to be continued.

How Should We Plan, Prepare, Organise, Set About, Dealing With These Issues?

All that has already been written in this post is there purely to establish a considered list of issues that must be faced and dealt with.  We cannot possibly ascertain appropriate strategies for the future unless we first establish the range of circumstances that we are likely to find ourselves in or at least that we are prepared to discuss doing something about.

For example, we could expend energy and resource to establish a particular food production system in certain areas without the knowledge that at some stage that food crop will not be tenable there for growth in the prevailing conditions.  Or, in today’s world, we continue to build roads to places that may become inhospitable to human habitation or by not taking into account that the number of vehicles using them in the future may render the effort and expense unworthy.

So, how do we make a start?  I guess we should consider asking some experts.  But experts tend to be very focussed on aspects of their particular field and those fields of expertise tend to be more and more specialised and reliant on the kind of power and infrastructure of a society such as we have now.  If we look at our list of problems, it quickly becomes apparent that such power and infrastructure in many cases may no longer be available; The specialties of these experts may no longer be required, and the experts themselves may be in short supply.

That is the bottom end of the dilemma.  Of course, while we do have the aid of the experts, their specialties, the necessary power and infrastructure, should we not use them right now to prepare us for less clement times?  Oh, I dare say there would be many different points of view about that.  Here are some:

  • Yes, make hay while the Sun shines
  • Yes, it requires joint herculean effort but we have done that before
  • No, we should leave any remaining precious resources in the ground
  • No, we need to power down straight away
  • There are no experts that could produce the sustainable results needed
  • There is no consensus, nor unlikely to be, for doing that anyway

Is it too big an issue for us to even contemplate?  Are we capable of organising for such a task?  Do we even have all the necessary resources to make a difference?  Or, should we just wait until whatever is going to occur, does, and we can see exactly what is needed to be done afterwards?

I don’t have answers for questions on that sort of scale, and I doubt if anyone really does.  I know what I think will take place and I will outline a little of that right now.  The reader can argue with me about it later, but bear in mind that your opinion and my opinion are just that, opinions.  We will only know in hindsight.  If we are still around to look back.

It is glaringly obvious, from many different angles, that we, as a collection of planetary life forms subject to natural forces, and forces of our own invention, are relentlously travelling through time on a collision course with events that are very likely to disrupt the relative calm of our modern existence and carry the potential to thrust us into turmoil such as we have never previously known in the short timeframe of our special existence.  ‘Special’ as related to species, not distinctive uniqueness.

Every single individual member of humanity falls into one of these classes with regard to the above situation:

  • Those who are blissfully unaware of it
  • Those who try to deny the reality of it, even in the face of overwhelming evidence
  • Those who pretend to deny the reality of it because it is inconvenient for their belief system
  • Those who pretend to deny the reality of it because it is being made worth their while to do so
  • Those who acknowledge it but are scrabbling to find a way to profit from it
  • Those who acknowledge it and are attempting to finds means of stopping it or of mitigating it’s effect or awakening others to it
  • Those who acknowledge it but then ignore the consequences as being too much to worry about and a party spoiler
  • Those who embrace it and are working to prepare for it or adapt to it
  • Those, yet unborn, who will find it necessary to live through the worst of it or exist in it’s aftermath

So, with such mixed set of viewpoints on the subject, how likely is it that any sort of preventive, mitigative, or adaptive, group,political, national or global action may be initiated around the issue?

I would say that considerable individual and (small) group thought and action is likely to occur and in fact would be ongoing as we speak.  Hence this series of posts.  Apart from that, I think it probable or even inevitable that at a time when life begins to become rather more uncomfortable than it is today at the front end of 2014 for a critical mass of western democracies, whether that comes about by self-realisation or external forcings, that a last ditch all-out effort will be made by the governments of those nations as they finally awaken to the imminent exposure of their positions of power to the tide of events.  I have no idea what form such action will embrace but I do know that it will either fail, make things worse or never emerge to see the light of day.

Having said all of that, and I think it would be difficult to dissuade me that it is not something very far from the truth of what will eventuate, my vision of the future would best be served by considering, for each of our list of possible problems that could take us into such a situation, taking as a basis for study and action what amounts to the lowest common denominator (simplest) solution to realistically achieve our ownership of many of the necessities of life in an aftermath world.  If we then still have, are lucky enough to find, or are able to invent, the means and capability to operate at a higher level than basic in given situations, so much the better.  But we better have a bottom line approach or fallback position if we want to survive and thrive.

Note:  This note replaces what was previously the last paragraph of this post.  The reason for that is that when I started to think about the next step I had a palm to forehead moment. I thought I was done here.  Sadly that was just wishful thinking and there is still a lot of preliminary work to do.  Let’s take a look at the plan outline from earlier in the post:

Let’s speculate then.  Let’s categorise the possibilities.  Then let’s prioritise the categories.  Then let’s focus on the priorities.  Good plan?  I can’t come up with a better one and I am the writer here, so let’s do it.

 

Can you see where I went astray?  Let’s speculate?  Yes, we have done that and come up with a basic list of problems.  Tick/check that off.  Let’s categorise?  Can’t find any of that here.  When that is done, then we can prioritise and only then can we focus our attention on solutions/workarounds/alternatives/abandonments.  How could I have tried to skip all that?

OK, we’ve got problems, next comes solutions.  Right?  But when I come to trying to find a solution to climate change I hit a brick wall.  There is no solution to climate change.  So climate change is not a problem.  Right?  But the effects of climate change are.  Take flooding (in areas that don’t normally or very irregularly flood).   Take crop failures from drought (in areas where drought is normally not an issue).  Take excessive heat or cold (in areas that normally or very irregularly experience those extremes).  Now those are problems to which I can contemplate finding some sort of answer.  Those are the problems that we need to be considering (I think, and hope).  The same logic applies to all of the other items on our basic problems list.  They are sources or causes of problems, not identifiable problems in themselves.  Yet I am absolutely certain that I am not the only person who has ever said that Climate Change is a problem. 

I hit the nail on the head of course earlier in the post when I said “The list will contain general headings, some of which could be sub-divided in many ways.” but then I said “For now, let’s keep it simple.  We can expand on related issues when we consider each in turn.”That second part, I promptly forgot, and therein lies the dilemma.  Having drawn up a set of problem ‘sources’ we now need to identify the actual problems and categorise them.  I think that we may find that many real problems are capable of being cross-sourced.

Decision made.  I am going to continue this in Part 3.

Part 3 of the series is here.

A Challenge!

What, Why, Where, How?

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just mind my own business and be content to just read stuff instead of finding it necessary to comment on what others have written.  In times past, that is exactly what I would have done but with recognition comes responsibility.

Since I became aware some years ago that the world of humanity is heading inexorably into troubled waters as a result of our progress, our technological success and our breeding program (whether consciously or sub-consciously applied), I have felt the need, no, the imperative, to participate at whatever level I could to make others aware of that situation, whether they like it or not.

And so, it came about that I innocuously commented on an article posted at Resilience.org (no, don’t read it yet, hear what I have to say first) recently.  The article is about Ammonia possibly becoming a useful energy storage.  I saw this suggestion as yet another desperate attempt to find answers to one of the most pressing problems, in my view, confronting our top heavy, shakily grounded, bulging at the seams, rivet popping, wall cracking, global society whose life support (power, water, food supplies) is about to be cut off by a landlord (nature) long becoming fed up with a tenant’s breaches of the rental/lease agreement.

I must have intuitively foreseen that this may turn into something much more when I posted it as a status update on my Facebook page.  (No, hold off reading the article just yet.  I will tell you when.)

During the cut and thrust of comments to the article, Luane Todd (I think this is the correct Luane Todd, my humble apologies if it is not) got involved in a reply to one of mine.  Luane is a regular commentator at sites like Resilience.org and I have been impressed with her writing and viewpoints over time.

The Challenge

Serve me right for interfering.  Luane, in her comments, got around to politely requesting that I explain what I meant by ‘taking a broader view’.  Here are a couple of quotes to frame the situation:

Me:

” My hope is that more people will find the courage to lift their gaze a little higher to see the broader view rather than focussing too much on things that are of relatively little value in the greater scheme of things.”.

Luane:

“What things/areas/broader view do you suggest we start paying attention to? I have my own thoughts, some of which I have already mentioned. Seems like those of us trying to keep the damage under control might want to be specific about the things we see as priorities. What do you think? Are you game to try that approach?”.

(OK. You can go back to the Resilience link if you like now to read the article and comments.  Or wait until I am finished here.  Won’t be too much longer.)

And so, I have been reeled in.  Not unwillingly, since I have long thought that I should commit to writing just what I really think.  That sort of clarity does not really come across in the regular blogging and status updating that I do, which are often driven by some emotional energy around a focussed issue, rather than being an informed statement of deeply held views.

I have attempted something of the sort previously when I thought that I should be a ‘Prepper’ some time back.  Prepping is of course a worthwhile activity but one that has attracted some less than attractive attributes and adherents, particularly in the US where many folk seem to have a lot more money than sense, leading them to invest in practices and equipment that they are unlikely to ever get to benefit from, even if at some stage they needed to.  I invested quite a lot of time and effort in setting up a blog website called ‘Preparations‘.  The structure is all there, but when it came to getting down to the nitty-gritty detail I lost interest due to the enormity of the task.  Many of my views are recorded there in detail and I may at some stage retrieve the energies that initiated it to build on the work that I did there.

My Commitment

It is my intention to take up Luane’s challenge here on this blog and I will do my best, but there is no guarantee that the work will not peter out in similar fashion to Preparations.

Let it be said that I am more of a thinker or dreamer than a doer or practical person.  I have a logical brain that drove me into an occupation for a good portion of my working life as a computer systems analyst and programmer.  I was good at that and could immerse and focus myself to solve pretty complex logic problems at times.  However, that won’t pass muster in a physical world during a period of upheaval and disturbance.  I recognised this some time ago and have been working towards obtaining an increased level of personal practical skills since then, and gathering necessary equipment, tools and knowledge that I see as becoming useful in such circumstances.

Let it also be said that I do not consider myself an expert in anything that will become essential in a world of declining energy resources.  But I am learning and, while my experience may be in short supply, my view of possibilities is broad and encompasses a wide range of issues.  Many of today’s practical skills may not, in any case, have much value in a future world situation, while those able to hold the big picture will always have a part to play.

So, on with the job of defining and clarifying my points of view by committing them to prose.  I do so as much for myself as for anyone else.

Where to start?

I decided to make a start in the next post by setting the stage, as a framework for further work, there.