In 1999 I was sitting in Apache Junction Arizona thinking about my life and future prospects while I gazed halfheartedly over the interior of our second hand RV. We were called ‘full timers’ in the language of those who chose to live full time in homes of this sort. The Itasca Suncruser had been Feng Shui(ed) two years ago in Ithaca by a member of the black hat society and the process took nearly four hours to complete. She walked us through the colors & symbols that would enhance our successful journey to a new life. Then we tore out the brown, orange and gold shag carpet and got to work rehabbing the interior according to her good council.

My mind was passing over the sceneries and scenarios that had added up to the sum total of my life experiences for that 18 month excursion so far. Deep swamp southern Louisiana, even deeper swamps of Pearlington Mississippi, on to the Sevilleta Wildlife refuge New Mexico, to here, Apache Junction, an outpost east of Phoenix and west of the Superstition mountains. The main highway east out of Phoenix hadn’t been built yet and Apache Junction was still a low class nowhere man’s world of RV parks like the one we were parked in. Next stop? Our plans were to head North West to Seattle.

Four years before that I was finishing up my degrees from Cornell University. Our journey so far was a trip in contrasts; me working in and around various wildlife refuges and my ex-husband working for a national concrete construction company. As I worked to better the environment he worked for large paychecks as we passed through each boom town, one after another.

It would be years later in a pass-by visit from a Tucson Wedding that I would stop in on a multi-millionaire associate, living in the new private 18 hole golf course gated community crammed full of  expensive townhouses in that very same town, Apache Junction. This man had walked into a convention with only a folding table and an idea and had walked out a millionaire. He invented the banking software that now commands the functioning of every ATM in every bank across the nation.

This was pre-google, snap chat, square space, ipads, smart phones, twitter, FB, Alexi, YouTube, blogospheres, credit default swaps, exotic mortgages, and IPO offerings of any new parasitic intermediary technology that one could think of.

As a civilization our infatuation with technology has far surpassed our affection for self- introspection or the examination of anything else that truly counts for that matter.

The external landscapes of the environment and the internal landscapes of the public were becoming increasingly homogenous everywhere we traveled and no one seemed to be noticing this monetization of everything. Everything.

There is a belief in western civilization that finite resource limits of oil, gas, coal and any other rare earth mineral you can think of, can all be overcome with ‘just’ more technology and money.

 

NASA has an idea to replace the endangered Rusty Patched bumble bee with tiny bumblebee drones. The American Farm Bureau fought that listing BTW. How far off the mental train track do we have to be as a civilization for those two things to occur? How about the iPhone moment when persons hold up their phones as proof that we can overcome any predicament with technology? When anyone, giving a public lecture, warns us how far our overreach of technology (and finite resources) has become, it can be counted on for the younger crowd in the back to hold up their iPhones as disproof of such negative perspectives and the rest-assurance that whatever problems humans have caused, they can surely be solved with more technology.

In the not-too-distant past self-introspection was conducted through ritual and ceremony and guided the attunement’s to cycles and patterns in everyday life. This enabled members of the culture to personally experience a realistic place (and pace) in the natural world and survive. Every member of the family/tribe/clan understood the limits within which daily life could be conducted and while that sounds really constrictive, and in many ways it was from our present day notions of ‘individual freedom’, it was the sort of life that kept cultures alive for thousands of years, often in harsh environments.

But we’re different now.

We might be thinking; Thank God we’re freer now to go wherever we please, assign our own role in society, think what we want, live where we choose, select our own idea of a lifestyle, and determine the course of action to satiate our needs and wants. We’re free to choose our own faith, or no faith at all. We can leave our home towns if we feel they have nothing to offer, we can disassociate ourselves from family or old friends if we have differences too deep to resolve. We can chart our own course and make our own way in life. We can be Jewish one day and Methodist the next. We can choose our sex or refer to ourselves as nonbinary*. We can get all kinds of plastic surgery to alter our looks or take pharmaceuticals to alter our moods, we can get technological implants to wave our way to the front of the line or we can reject society altogether and go live in the woods; So many choices, so much freedom.

May I offer a basic observation? This doesn’t happen with any other species on this planet.

The peculiar thing about modern societal humans is; for all their ability to think in the abstract (which in the secular world counts for supremacy) they continue to be at an utter loss when it comes to thinking about the overwhelming fundamental fact of life.  The restrictions and limitations of energy exchange on planet Earth are non-negotiable; for everyone and every living being. In common physics speak: there is no such thing as a free lunch. Now I’ll admit it must have been quite a rush to domesticate that first animal, or tweak that first plant and find out there’s a way to manipulate another being into providing more nourishment for a better caloric intake, as happened around 9,000 years ago (give or take). Equally so for all of the technological advances invented in gradual succession over the last ten thousand years, as the human population grew and prospered as a direct result of surplus stored energy in the form of grains.

The fascinating thing about humans is their ability to pass down knowledge through story, song, and dance. Cultures have been able to do this over millennia, and without civilizations intervening, still do today. Civilizations, on the other hand like their hierarchies, written languages, and abilities to communicate via technology; instantly.

It’s a natural course of succession, when populations reach a certain tipping point, for hierarchies to emerge, along with the predictable dominant minority who edict what those stories will be, when they will change, and how the rest of the populace will learn them. BTW dominant minorities are always out for themselves. Which is why, when Rome began its decline from militaristic overreach (looking for more energy) they realized the new Christians were getting mighty uppity and threw the pagans under the bus in order to keep the Status Quo Roman Empire going.

It’s also a pretty sure bet that within every civilization the dominant minority will set the ideals for everyone else to follow, and as a way to control the mob of underlings; will make it perfectly clear that everyone within that society has their place and will most likely (99%) not change that position in the hierarchy; over their life time and the life times of their progeny. That’s what happened in Europe before the Western Hemisphere was discovered.

But we’re different right? We threw off the shackles of aristocracy and religion and started a democratic republic where we could be free and think for ourselves; some  viewed it as the new Christendom, and some viewed it as the new secular haven – either way we were all gonna be rich.

There is a very fine line between Ideals and lies, which, if continued unchecked, lead to delusions.

Life and History can be pretty messy affairs, and within them is the certainty of human behavior; once you tell a lie and intend on getting away with it, you’ll have to cover your tracks by telling bigger ones with much more ‘certainty’ and in a much louder voice as time goes by.

It was an extraordinary proposition to take over a large swath of the North American continent from a large population (already at carrying capacity), brush them aside, invite millions of landless peasants from Europe (already over carrying capacity) and come up with an ideal of a democratic republic.

When Europe found itself straining under the lack of resources (energy & land per capita) and another cycle of uprising by the lower populace got underway, the dominant minority sent out merchants by way of ship to find more resources. There was a hitch though. It was discovered that sending a ship to north America to trade with the Indigenous population wasn’t energy or cost effective, but starting a settlement to trade and then send back the goods was. What does any dominant minority in charge of a hierarchy do when faced with the desire for more resources and profit while also burgeoned by an uppity population already over carrying capacity?

Send them to the new world.

Talk about having to double down on those ideals of Freedom and Democracy in one herculean effort – because without that cohesive story and cooperation – there would have been no democratic republic. Luckily, for the profiteers and aristocracy, the massive payload of resources and land could pay its way to the finish line visa vi the hardworking new immigrants. Aided by the emerging technologies of The Industrial Revolution, enlightenment era thinking, hungry immigrants, ‘new land’, and a pinch of Free Markets; voila! You have a Nation.

This is pretty heady stuff. The stuff of legends, the stuff of Ideals, the stuff of History.

–  That bit about ritual and ceremony practiced by cultures around the world in order to have personal experiences of our place in the natural world? It was subsumed by the transgressions of the Industrial Revolution as we unlocked the Pandora’s box of stored energy, applied the necessary technology, and put it to work.

Finding the mother of all caloric payloads in 1859 by reviving the technology to use it must have been a total rush. It was; the oil rush.

Western civilization, already in the twilight of its years quite frankly, needed an infusion of new land and energy if it was to look anything like the extravagant materialistic show it is today. The United States gave that infusion to the Western civilization in spades.

So why does everything around us now seem to be going so wrong? Why are we in such turmoil? How come everyone is arguing? Why isn’t the economy turning around like they say it’s supposed to?

Most of us have heard of Adam Smith, one of the founders of the Free Market idea who wrote the book The Wealth of Nations published March of 1779. At the time his ideas were both sound and original but were incepted prior to the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics – one of the most iron clad law within physics – which puts the proposition of continued growth in direct opposition with the laws of Nature.

Now I wasn’t contemplating the laws of physics or the words or ideas of Adam Smith as I sat in my rolling home in Apache Junction. I was thinking about how I would make the transition from high-end restaurant and catering work to some kind of life that would ensure a solid financial safety net as I got older. It would take me a long time and a lot of effort to get me where I am today; the understandings of why the life of chasing money would never get me to the goals I was considering and the fact that everyone else around me was taking the same tack and repeating the same wrote nonsense word-for-word did not help.

We probably want to understand that our present economic system which governs every aspect of our lives was developed using 1795 closed form equations – those went out the window with the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics.

Oh Well. So much for throwing off those shackles of egregious ‘World Religions’ for new religious freedom – meet the new secular voodoo of Economics – persons of faith might want to use some self-introspection of their own to answer that nagging question: which are you practicing more fervently on a daily basis; your faith or the Religion of Progress?  Ideals are tricky business when the dollar in your hand says “in God we trust” and it’s all too easy to believe in the Ideals when times are good and less so when the delusions get piled high and deep.

“The metastasis of money through every aspect of life in the modern industrial world is a good example. While no past society, as far as we know, took this process as far as we have, the replacement of wealth with its own abstract representations is no new thing…The vast majority of economic activity in today’s world consists purely of exchanges among these representations of representations of representations of wealth…An economy of hallucinated wealth depends utterly on the willingness of all participants to pretend that the hallucinations have real value.” (1) I’ll include here the abstract representations of Freedom, Democracy, and Sustainability as they square off against a much more factual concrete set of realities of declining resources.

When a nation state prints money out of thin air and sells its bonds on the cheap and uses the funds to pound the living daylights out of other nation states in order to secure primary wealth generating resources for said printer of money (and seller of bonds), sooner or later,  the other nation states are going to catch on.

Instead of circumventing our unexamined emotional reactions, left-over from primal conditions that required them, we continue to buy into (quite literally) the Ideal that all we need is more money or that the money should ‘just’ be distributed more equally, or that some of us ‘just’ deserve it more than others, eugenics and public policy aside. Rather than moving on to more productive self-introspection in relation to oil, ecological literacy, and fundamental physics (Nature), we usually default to whatever the latest Ideal the dominant minority or other equally clueless energy illiterate herd churn is doling out that particular day. Money simply isn’t wealth. It’s a token of exchange as the tertiary economy; it’s how the primary and secondary economy is distributed among society. Plenty of civilizations and exponential numbers of cultures functioned through millennia without money.

The issue isn’t money; the core reason is the decline of Oil – the primary foundation of how the secondary and tertiary economies play out. The issue isn’t about democracy –  in the latest and sixth Empire of Western Civilization as it desperately works its way around the globe in search of more resources; gold (Libya, Iraq), oil (Venezuela, Iraq), pipelines (Syria), while trying to retain supremacy in any way possible; tariffs, sanctions, false flags, data collection, and endless MSM churning of disinformation for the masses.

Of course there are many individuals who are thinking critically about our civilizational predicaments and specifically their personal relationships to energy – which is what often happens when a civilization is failing; the population fringes begin to distance themselves from the center as it begins to fall apart.

I ended up doing that.

Those on the fringes are withdrawing their personal and household energies from the Market, rekindling lost skills, and preparing for the centralized collapse. A centralized behemoth like ours ran out of self producing resources a long time ago and has acted like the dissipative system it is: going outside of its borders in search of ever-more-energy and resources to keep it going, whether that’s oil (US petrodollar), illegal immigrants (cheap labor), overseas sweat shops (cheap goods), NGOs (carpet baggers) to indebt other nation states, or outright militaristic bomb and grab (the US was planning to invade Afghanistan before 911).

This is one of the most spectacular times to be alive & aware; we have, literally, at our fingertips more information, easily accessed, as a proletariat populace than at any time prior as far as civilizations go but we have to know what our core predicaments are and how to use the resources we have left. The dominant minority is not going to ride to our rescue to MAGA – red or blue – or any other demagogic personality we put in the White House for that matter.

My second observation centers around the fact that nearly every group clamoring for their ‘inalienable rights’ are refusing to acknowledge and talk about the one critical predicament: that we’ve put all of our exceptional eggs in one basket. Oil is declining and our entire voodoo financial system is predicated on expansion.  During times of cheap oil and financial expansion we could afford to push forth all kinds of social programs, and now that time has passed. Toxic technological optimism isn’t helpful either.

This is incredibly dangerous.

I’ve had to wade through my own psychological cesspool of reactions over the last six years in regards to what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. The reactions stem from our core collective mythology. And believe me – that’s no easy task when I’m trying to deprogram myself, hurdle cognitive dissonance, master lost skills, and ask enough of the relevant questions to formulate a design response to the fact that oil is going away. The reactions have spanned the gamut from viewing me as some kind of exotic zoo animal, a terribly negative and serious person, a hero, a female victim of feminism lost, a trail blazer, a misdirected tree growing permaculturists in a semi-arid landscape, a trite new homesteader who only has to boost her website reads to increase her multiple streams of income, to the latest accusation that I am some deranged person with a gun hoping for a crowd. I don’t personally own a gun. I don’t like crowds.

Upon my review of history, geology, geopolitics, human behavior, fracturing of societies, civilizations and their decline, I’m not stupid enough to believe that we’re all going to live in harmony ‘just’ because we want to. That would be an ideal situation. Sure I could be wrong, but I’m not confused.

That’s where courage comes in. There’s heaps of imagined bravado out there with more heaps of braggadocio and most of it’s worthless without Courage, Love and Beauty. Facing life on life’s terms isn’t for the faint hearted. It takes courage to know what’s coming and continue to cultivate gratitude, mindfulness, humility and love while working within the cooperative systems in nature.

  • When I sweep the dilapidated 30 year old farm house linoleum floor I whisper I am so grateful I have a floor to sweep.
  • When I go outside with crushed egg shells to feed back to the hens or kitchen scraps to feed to the red worms, who help build the soil, I experience a sense of gratitude that I am cooperating with systems of wealth building.
  • When I purchase an item I make a conscious attempt to recognize it may not always be there in the future (to mindlessly click and purchase again).
  • When I make or repair an item I choose to see that action as preserving beauty, not a situation of poverty.
  • When I make a mistake, I see that as an opportunity for self-growth. I try not to throw money at the ‘problem’ in order to side step emotional uncomfortability.
  • When I hold a rooster in my lap, before and after I set him free to the collective animal spirit world, I make a choice to feel the full range of the experience.

I am alive in the World. Not because I twitter away my time taking in the clap trap of the boob tube & social media, or thinking about how much money I can make or what can be purchased next (that will define me as a person).

I am free to spend my time reading books by persons who remind me; there is inherent beauty in cultivating some of the less flashy aspects of life, and far more concrete value in reverential treatment of what a person already has.

I am present to realities around me; my cognitive dissonance* and the cognitive dissonance of others, my personal character defects & personal strengths, the collective denial of historical fact, the distortions and abstractions that can only come from a massive infusion of the most concentrated and fungible form of stored energy this species has ever tapped into.

There are limits and there are boundaries – both in the Natural world of physics and in the human realms. It might be a good idea to start setting self-limits in anticipation of the more non-negotiable limits that are already in play.

And even in the midst of all this, I still choose Love and Beauty. I still consciously choose to have courage knowing that all of what we take for granted is on a trajectory of decline over the next forty years and beyond, and it’s ok.

The key to all our affairs is the acceptance (2) of our addiction to a declining resource – and once we can grasp that – we can move on to more concrete ways to recover and redesign our way away from what has been a fragmentary flash in the pan.

 

sheila

Cognitive Dissonance: this term is used by those of us on the fringe who are experiencing the effects and understandings of energy decline whilst receiving daily doses of Positivism enemas from the dominant minority, tech companies and anyone else hoping to keep this racketeering show on the road.

Nonbinary: this is a new one on me. Perfect example of how to measure a civilization’s descent but its uptick in the abstract. https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/nonbinary

(1) Arch Druid Report: Natural Economics Volume III, 2009; 155 The Twilight of Money

(2) AA Big Book: page 449