The Apocalyptic Landscape  

Posted by Big Gav

Via Monkeygrinder, this is a good post on the growth of apocalyptic thinking.

"Of course, we might not find a technological fix for our energy problems. But the more years we can squeeze out of whatever oil's left, the better our chances are. In my opinion, the chance that we'll solve at least part of the energy problem in the next twenty years is far better than the chance that we'll have a working space-based missile defense program in the next fifty.

Therefore, we need to encourage conservation. But does this mean we need to advocate it on the basis of an apocalyptic peak-oil scenario? I don't think so...or at least, not always. The one-issue mindset limits our ability to be effective advocates for change. There are other, more effective types of leverage than fear of calamitous social breakdown...especially when so many people dislike the society we've got, and may have a secret wish to watch it collapse.

On the Left, we tend to focus on issues that we feel should be of interest to responsible adults. But America is not entirely a nation of responsible adults. There's nothing wrong with pointing out, on occasion, that BushCo is denying us not just clean air and water, but more fun and better toys.

The Right has had a lot of success painting us as puritanical killjoys. But all you have to do is look at sites like Treehugger, Metaefficient, Boing Boing, and Near Near Future to see that, in fact, it's the cheap-labor, anti-competition, scaremongering blowhards of the Right who are the real killjoys. They're not just enemies of biodiversity; they're also enemies of technological and scientific diversity, and they're robbing us of all sorts of interesting and attractive products and possibilities.

There are other forms of leverage, too. The epidemic of obesity among the working population, which costs employers a fortune, could conceivably be used as justification for redesigning residential areas or workplaces in ways that would, coincidentally, reduce dependence on automobiles. For instance, employees who bicycle to work might receive, say, 20 minutes of vacation time per day. In a year, they'd earn an extra two weeks of vacation time. The incentive here has nothing to do with peak oil, but it has a real effect, however modest, on both conservation and air quality.

As I said, these are very disorganized thoughts. But I do think that if we can't come up with a miraculous solution like cold fusion, we need an innovation economy that produces lots of little solutions, and promotes cooperation between experts - and amateurs - in many different fields. Meanwhile, on the rhetorical level, we need to give people hope, and a personal stake in seeing the world change. If a certain amount of apocalyptic thinking comes from emotional dissatisfaction with what passes for life in these United States, then we need to make people eager for a more wholesome form of "regeneration" than fascism offers.

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