People don’t like rapid change. They prefer things to stay more or less the way they know and have gotten used to them. So if you tell them that their world is going to stand upside down in only a few decades they prefer to ignore that and hope that they’ll just be able to continue with business and life as usual. I’m like that, too. But let’s be realistic. This world is going to change drastically – whether you want it to or not.
I’m slightly above 20 years old now and either in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children cheap oil is simply going to run out. We’ve known that since the 1970s but our global system has been unable to change trajectory at all. And while talk about green and climate change has accelerated significantly between 2000 and 2010 (note, that’s 30 years after mainstream society had realized that we are destroying our planet and with it our livelihood), it seems to me that this is rather another trick to get consumers to buy new (greener) stuff and keep the economy on its exponential-growth-track. What has actually been happening in the last half a century is that our global society has slowly but steadily been taken hostage by the global economic system. All of us, politicians, middle-class workers as well as CEOs of huge companies, seem unable to change course under the dictate of the so-called laws of the free market. The difference is that a tiny minority is profiting astonishing amounts at the cost of the rest of the population and at the cost of whole generations centuries into the future. While the sales volume of some multi-nationals have risen above the GDP of small countries, nation states around the world have continuously been losing power. The states of the developing world have long known to be corrupt and serve only as an empty hull for an established elite that draws its power from global business. But the financial crises has shown us clearly that also the states of the industrialized world are mere henchmen and have no choice but to risk everything and go into deep debt themselves to rescue the global banking system if they don’t want to destroy their national economy and go down themselves. Virtually all states around the world are hollow states, and are becoming more and more so every day.
In the words of John Robb:
… the nation-states of the West will join those of the global south as hollow states: mere shells of states that serve only to enforce the interests of the global economic system. These new states, more market-states than nation-states, will offer citizens a mere vestige of the public goods they offered historically.
Our current global economic, social and political system is totally dependent on an economy of infinite growth which is fueled by cheap oil. This is coupled with a highly speculative financial system and food stocks in our cities that last only a few days after being cut off from resupply-trucks. Whether it’s going to be quick and noisy or slow and painful, one way or another, this global system will eventually break down. The question is, will we have something to replace it with?
I, as quite a few others, believe the answer are resilient local communities, connected through the internet, that work through the principles of peer-to-peer and open source. The next question is of course when this transformation will start taking place, and much more importantly how much time it will take to accomplish the transition: more like 15 years or more like the 300 years of the decline of the Roman Empire? That is, of course, assuming such a transition will be successful. While I think it is inevitable that a few such communities will form, I do not wish to examine the bleak possibility that such a transformation will fail to reach large parts of our global society.
So I ask you, is it not the responsibility, indeed the duty, of every capable human being on earth to work towards such a transition? May it be swift and peaceful.