You might as well have fun as you change

A thought-provoking view (from 2012)

I spend much of my life making the case for changing one’s life (and not just one’s life – for supporting political and social change that is associated with it) in fairly radical ways, very quickly. I spend a lot of my time writing about this, and periodically I get on a train or a bus or something and go stand up in front of people and make the same case. I know this is a diffcult thing for many people, whose infrastructure envelopes them and pushes them powerfully towards a particular way of life, so I try to make good arguments for doing it now. I make moral arguments, about the use of a fair share. I make political arguments about not giving our money to causes we abhore. I make economic arguments. I make the argument that it will probably be a lot easier to adapt later if we have some practice.

But in the last year or two, I’ve been debating with myself how necessary I think these arguments actually are. Don’t get me wrong – I think there are still compelling moral arguments to choose to live in a certain way, and to support certain responses to climate change and depletion. For me personally, these are the most compelling possible reasons for doing this – even if climate change and depletion weren’t a reality, the truth is that Americans can only consume as they do if they tell themselves that other people in the world really won’t mind if they take more than their share, and of course, we all know that’s complete nonsense.

But I also think that the days of being able to choose to live with less are probably over. My prediction for the coming decade is pretty simple – we’re headed fairly rapidly into a time past all choosing. If the “aughts” were about the growing recognition that things are going to change, the teens, I think are now about the growing reality of that change – the recognition that none of us have the resources, or the wealth, or the immunity from changing circumstances to resist change for very long. The question is how we will change, not whether we will.

What do I mean by this? I mean that whether it comes from a worldwide economic crisis (begun already, not nearly as resolved as people say, and likely to be ongoing), from the gradual end of growth, from carbon finally being priced appropriately at the mine/well/etc…, from the costs of dealing with a rapidly increasing number of natural disaster linked to our lack of ecological awareness, from actual energy shortages or simply extremely volatile energy prices, from rising poverty and unemployment that absorb more and more of us or from failing infrastructure as we face the costs of not maintaining our sewers, electric greed, soil, water systems…. it is going to be increasingly impossible for most of us to go on as we have been.

It is no accident that the bills come due pretty much all at once in this decade. This is the decade, for example in which we can probably expect to firmly establish our oil peak, and if the promise of shale fails, as it may, our gas peak as well. This is the decade in which we run out of money to pay the Medicare bill (2017) and in which we have really begun to see the growing consequences of climate change – an ice free summer arctic, the first one in which we expect really big waves of climate refugees, etc…  This is the decade in which our deferred maintenence will begin to come due as more and more of the things we’ve left undone come back and bite us in the ass. This is the decade when we begin paying for all the things we were borrowing for in the last few years. How do we know this is true? Well, the most obvious reason is that these things are already happening.

Source: Casaubons Book

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