Collapse & Practice

Peak Oil is a hot topic here in Eugene these days, with a series of events and something that many talk about and plan for (as well as anyone can).


And it is just one of many aspects of the bottle-neck we are heading full speed into. We are in ecological overshoot, depleting Earth’s capacity to regenerate needed resources (living off the principal and not only the interest or surplus). Toxins continue to build up in all living systems. We have a global economical system which – in all its forms – is built on the assumption of unlimited resources, and in its neo-liberal form mainly benefits those already very wealthy and is detrimental for just about anyone else. We are in for a sudden and quite possibly dramatic global climate shift. We have a clash between unhealthy blue and unhealthy orange throughout the world. And for us in the US, we are watching the government doing everything in their capacity to drive us – as a country and world – over the cliff (skyrocketing debt, military overextension, unbelievably short-sighted priorities and so on).

Yesterday, I talked with a friend about some of this. What to do?


Of course, there is a wide range of scenarios and nobody knows how it will all play itself out. In most cases, it turns out not as good as some thought, and not as bad as other thought. The most optimistic scenarios are (a) we’ll solve it through technology and (b) we’ll all become enlightened(!). Neither of which seem very likely on a large scale. The most pessimistic scenarios are that western/modern civilization will collapse and only a fraction of the current world population will survive, and then only with a shadow of the pre-collapse culture.

The most likely is that, yes – it will be difficult and many will suffer. Many do already through the many more local impacts of ecological collapse and an economical system keeping them people poverty. And still, we will somehow make it through – changing many or all areas of our collective and individual lives to adapt to being part of a limited planet.

Regional differences

There are also likely to be many regional differences. The US is (maybe ironically) not likely to do very well, due to massive debt, lack of foresight by the government, heavily petroleum dependent food production and transportation, and the “everyone for themselves” mentality. Iceland – as one example – is likely to do much better, already moving into a hydrogen economy, being able to grow much of their own food through geothermally heated greenhouses and through a good supply of sheep and fish, and relatively isolated which may be beneficial if things start break down in the western world. And many currently poorer countries may do OK as well. Those which are not impacted too heavily by modernization and some forms of foreign aid, still have a pre-industrial infrastructure in place which is locally oriented and less dependent on petroleum.

Own options

In terms of my own role in all this, in case it all moves in the direction of the more dramatic scenarios, there are some options… (a) Move to Iceland. (b) Move to somewhere else in northern Europe, where people have more of a grounding in solidarity, realizing that we are all responsible for each other – especially in difficult times (in the US there is the widespread attitude of “everyone for themselves”, and this will probably only be intensified in a crisis). Or stay in the US and (c) move into an intentional community growing much of their own food (possible, but not the most attractive considering the general culture in this country), or (d) join the army or the national guard, as they will be busy protecting the interests of the wealthy, and will be provided with food, medicines and so on (this is obviously not an option for me).

Again, what it comes down it is that we don’t know. It is good to stay informed about all these issues, keep an eye on trends, continue our social and ecological engagement and nudges towards deep culture change, and explore and keep the various personal options open.

Spiritual practice

And for me, what it really comes down to is practice – continuing and deepening my integral and spiritual practice. Here, I explore and learn how to stay in unknowing, to deal with pain and difficult situations, to allow difficulties to open up my mind and heart rather than close them off.

Ironically, considering the mainstream reputation of spirituality as impractical (which it definitely can be in its airy-fairy version), this practice may be the most practical preparation for an uncertain future. And the future is always uncertain. It never turns out the way we think.

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