As I've been doing daily for more than three years, this morning I was collecting news items documenting the ongoing environmental collapse (and adding punchlines) for the site I coedit.
I ran across a story in the Guardian (UK), entitled 71 months and counting. It's written by the policy director of the New Economics Foundation -- well worth reading.
It's part of a monthly series that began August 1, 2008, with The final countdown, which I revisited. He expected that we had about 100 months to change society dramatically if we were to avoid the 50/50 tipping point of runaway climate change.
It's a prescient article, which on the main is validated by all I've seen since then.
For me, the resonant passage is:
But does it have to be this way? Must we curdle in our complacency and allow our cynicism about politicians to give them an easy ride as they fail to act in our, the national and the planet's best interest? There is now a different clock to watch than the one on the office wall. Contrary to being a counsel of despair, it tells us that
That was true in 2008, and is even more true today, I'm sorry to say.
Over at my site, we created a "2010 year in review" of the 100 scariest stories pulled from the 1700 stories we bequipped in 2010. And then, because we could, we went back through 2009 and 2008 using the same methodology.
The results are appalling to read, and has stiffened my spine.
The dominant economic system is clearly suicidal. The dominant political system is clearly ineffective at confronting problems of the scale of worldwide environmental disruption and ecosystem collapse.
Everything we do from now on matters. Our daily acts of plastic use, our choices about what we buy, how we spend our time, what we value, how we know our neighbors, how we make new friends, how we build resilient communities, how we bring our bests selves forward -- every act matters.
One way or another, we will need to learn to live in new ways, in the places we spend our lives. We have to find ways to actively build resilience into our communities, as we transition from a world infinitely forgiving, to a world deeply damaged and wobbly.
In a city? Search out CSAs and farmer's markets, to strengthen the local agricultural economy. It'll make the transition better by having built an economic infrastructure so we can have food to eat. In the suburbs? Work on telecommuting, ride sharing, neighborhood bulk purchases, and in backyard vegetables. In rural communities? Develop tool-sharing cooperatives, diversify your crops, save seeds, explore CSAs, and make more music with your neighbors.
Everything we do from now on matters to our possible lives five years, or ten years hence. We will be living in a chaotic world of "faster than expected" and "unpredicted consequences," weather extremes and expanding dead zones, toxic buildup and invasive species, all at once, and with economic turmoil as a foundation: When the market finally sees only a bleak future ahead, a massive upheaval is inevitable.
It will hurt more if we keep acting as if it's not happening. The worst pain can be mitigated by personal choices and societal changes, by changes in economic habits and cultural trends.
It's clear we will have to do it ourselves. Perhaps eventually the politicians will follow along.
I'm not optimistic, but I have hope -- and I have a stiffer spine in 2011, having just passed through 2010. I'm ever more committed, because bluntly, time is short.
Resilience, via local communities, is about the only way to avoid a decline into desperate ugliness.
I'll be increasing my work enhancing my community's resilience this year. How can you?