All Other Concerns Secondary

Posted: March 22, 2020 in Culture, Environment, Industrial Collapse
Tags: , , , , ,

This unwritten blog post has been sitting in my drafts folder since October 2019. The genesis, the kernel, is that beyond the ongoing collapse of the ecosystem, the natural world that provides all the resources upon which we humans and other organisms rely for life and survival, all other concerns are secondary. Now 5–6 months later, we’re faced with a short- to mid-term crisis that has transfixed and paralyzed us, riveting all attention on immediate pressures, not least of which is ample supplies of paper with which to wipe our asses. Every day brings news of worsening conditions: rising numbers of infection; growing incidence of death; sequestering and quarantining of entire cities, states, and countries; business shutdowns; financial catastrophe; and the awful foreknowledge that we have a long way to go before we emerge (if ever) back into daylight and normalcy. The Age of Abundance (shared unequally) may be gone forever.

Are we mobilizing fully enough to stop or at least ameliorate the pandemic? Are our democratically elected leaders [sic] up to the task of marshaling us through the (arguably) worst global crisis in living memory? Are regular folks rising to the occasion, shouldering loss and being decent toward one another in the face of extraordinary difficulties? So far, my assessment would indicate that the answers are no, no, and somewhat. (OK, some municipal and state leaders have responded late but admirably; I’m really thinking of the early executive response that wasn’t). But let me remind: as serious as the immediate health crisis may be, the even larger civilizational collapse underway (alongside the current extinction process) has not yet been addressed. Sure, lots of ink and pixels have been devoted to studies, reports, books, articles, speeches, and blog posts about collapse, but we have blithely and intransigently continued to inhabit the planet as though strong continuity of our living arrangements will persist until — oh, I dunno — the end of the century or so. Long enough away that very few of us now alive (besides Greta Thunberg) care enough what happens then to forestall much of anything. Certainly not any of the real decision-makers. Collapse remains hypothetical, contingent, theoretical, postulated, and suppositional until … well … it isn’t anymore.

While we occupy ourselves indoors at a social distance for some weeks or months to avoid exposure to the scourge, I’d like to believe that we have the intelligence to recognize that, even in the face of a small (by percentage) reduction of global human population, all other concerns are still secondary to dealing with the prospect (or certainty, depending on one’s perspective) of collapse. However, we’re not disciplined or wizened enough to adopt that view. Moreover, it’s unclear what can or should be done, muddying the issue sufficiently to further delay action being taken. Fellow blogger The Compulsive Explainer summarizes handily:

We have been in an emergency mode for some time, and are now just recognizing it. This time it is a virus that is killing us, but we have been dying for a long time, from many causes. So many causes, they cannot be enumerated individually.

So for the near term, life goes on; for the farther term, maybe not.

  1. bangkoksteve says:

    Brutus Just one point before we give ourselves last rites.

    The weakness of the virus is that it needs humans/possibly animals to replicate. Remove social connectivity and it can’t go anywhere. How long? 2-4 weeks is the incubation period so that’s what we should all be doing. Isolate ourselves for a month, and like China and SKorea we can look forward to getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

    This is not my own thinking. Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan) and Yaneer Bar-Yam put out a paper showing the math in late January. (if this link doesn’t come through then google: Systemic risk of pandemic via novel pathogens – Coronavirus: A note, New England Complex Systems Institute, January 26, 2020).

    The virus has since gained traction and devastating parts of Europe and is beginning to pick up serious speed in the US.

    Please view this short video for more details on the power laws involved in the exponential growth rate; (if the link doesn’t appear, just google YouTube Taleb Bar-Yam optimism coronavirus)

    Taleb talks about ‘panic early’ and explains that our natural propensity to react can save us. Isolation is that reaction. It reduces the potential exponential risks.

    Surely, the human race is doomed at some point but there’s still some greatness left in us. Now is time to demonstrate some of it.

    Cheers, Steve

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve read several statistical analyses from nonmedical folks (besides Taleb) that point different possible directions with respect to the global viral epidemic. I have nothing to add to their conjecture as I am starkly unqualified even to comment. However, like you, I’m not ready yet to put a pin in it. Despite a lot of unknowns and worst or best case scenarios to entertain, I expect us to emerge from the epidemic battered and bruised.

      Still, the subject of the blog post isn’t really about the current epidemic; it’s about industrial collapse being the bigger picture still crowded to the fringes of the conversation and left unaddressed. To my way of thinking, it’s not some far-off theoretical evolutionary inevitability but an apocalypse we’ve triggered ourselves in the near term yet basically refuse to deal with.

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