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Dysfunction - May 18

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Pivotal Moment in the Green Scare / Civilization sabotages itself

David Rovics / Dmitry Orlov, Culture Change
Culture Change editor Jan Lundberg:
...My own view of direct action is that the climate is already spinning out of control so fast that people will be reacting strongly, physically, sooner than one might have expected even last year. Commonplace direct action will also be when the consensus of humanity says we have to make up for lost time in protecting the Earth, even though it may be too late. At least everyone will be pro-environment by then, and they probably will not recall the ELF "elves" who used sabotage to get a point across or delay some development that did violence to Mother Nature. Dmitry Orlov and I agree that with petrocollapse and climate chaos definitely on the way, it's important to deal now with our biggest questions for survival, and put everything into that harsh perspective.

David Rovics
...There is a thread running through all of this - the war in Iraq, the criminalization of Muslims in the US and around the world, and the criminalization of environmentalists, particularly those involved with the activities of the ELF. That is, the interests of massive energy corporations. It was due to lobbying efforts by energy companies masquerading as the pseudo-eco "Wise Use Movement" that led Bill Clinton to pass the 1997 law criminalizing speech, under which Rod Coronado is facing his shockingly draconian sentence.

Much, however, has been written by people with far more legal knowledge than I about the nature and technicalities of the various new medieval laws under which many good people are facing outrageous prison terms. I would like to take a moment to talk about the nature of the alleged crimes of many of the accused here. I don't know if they are "guilty" or "innocent" here and I wish them all the best either way. ...

Dmitry Orlov:
A few thoughts on reading David's article...

1. Welcome to the machine. You have found it, or it has found you, and all you can do now is find your place in it. What do you want to be when you grow up, a wheel or a cog? Yes, it is the machines, embodied by government agencies and corporations, that now have all the rights and all the power, not the individuals. Being an individual is still a good thing, but to become one you need a machine to spit out some pieces of plastic with your picture on them. Even the capitalists themselves are slaves to their capital, serving its interests rather than their own.

2. We should expect all non-sanctioned activites, not just environmental activism, to be progressively criminalized. These are all the symptoms of a creeping totalitarianism. As with all diseases, it must run its course. At some point it will start thwarting its own purpose with every step (as all totalitarianisms do) and collapse a while later. Perhaps this has started happening already, or perhaps it will take another generation to happen.

3. The flip side of creeping totalitarianism is the continuing vestigial tolerance for "free speech." The machine tolerates dissent for its own reasons: dissidents are like the dead virus DNA in a vaccine - harmless, but useful for developing antibodies against any real revolt. The trials and the imprisonment of activists is just for practice: they are a type of "cannon fodder." If things ever got serious, they wouldn't be imprisoned. They would be shot, and we wouldn't hear about it.

4. Where words are permissible, no action, no matter how feeble, can be allowed. Killing buldozers to save forests is like swatting bugs to eradicate malaria. Let me assure you: the bulldozers are in no danger. This is all just theater and posturing, like most of the environmentalist movement. Which environmentalist non-profit has the prettiest calendars? And which raises the most money for its causes? This money, as we all know, is denominated in oil, so how exactly can it be used to save nature? Maybe they can spill some of this money on a remaining patch of pristine wilderness, then burn the rest of it cleaning up the spill. ...
(16 May 2007)
Dmitri Orlov is best known at Energy Bulletin for his essay Closing the 'Collapse Gap'. -BA

UPDATE: Related article from the Christian Science Monitor on the bizarre and Draconian sentences being proposed: 'Ecoterrorism' case stirs debate in US

Ten Lessons from Katrina on Our Ability to Cope with Crises

Dave Pollard, How to Save the World (blog)
...An editorial in today's NYT, lamenting how little has been done to rebuild and protect New Orleans since Katrina, provides some important lessons about the current state of our civilization and its ability to cope with such crises. Here are, I think, the ten most important lessons:

1. Our political, social and economic systems are incredibly fragile:
The problem with big, centralized, 'efficient' systems is that they lack resilience and cannot handle external stresses well. In our hellbent effort to keep all these unsustainable systems going, and strip ever more cost out of them, we have pushed them to the breaking point. Natural disasters, political sabotage, environmental stresses, resource exhaustion, economic overextension -- any of these can quickly cause these systems to collapse, and since they are so inter-dependent, a collapse of one can set off a cascade of others. ...

2. In a crisis, you're on your own:
Governments and other institutions are incapable of responding to emergencies. It's not that their people don't want to help: they cannot. Big, bureaucratic systems simply can't move that fast, and they're hopelessly inefficient to the point of dysfunctionality. ... We need to create local, community-based emergency preparedness plans and training, and community-based systems that have the resilience to cope with crises effectively. And we need to get over our 'learned helplessness' that leads us to believe that, in the case of a crisis, the government will tell us what to do.

3. The 'free market' is useless in a crisis...

4. It is not in our nature to prepare for crises:
We did not prepare for the collapse of the levees in New Orleans, even though we knew that it was inevitable. We are not prepared for pandemic disease, or the End of Oil, or the impacts of global warming. We prepare only when the crisis is imminent and certain, and that is often too late. ...

5. We are over-extended only because we can be:
Other cultures believe that we have a responsibility to all life on Earth and to future generations. Ours doesn't. ...

6. In any crisis, the poor have it worst...

7. We never learn from others' mistakes...

8. We don't know what we're doing: We have no conception of the consequences of our collective actions. The Army Corps of Engineers has spent trillions on huge projects that have wrecked the environment and made us much more vulnerable to environmental and health crises. ...When it comes to complex systems, we are idiots.

9. We are less and less self-sufficient: A few generations ago, most people knew how to grow their own food, make their own clothes. How to dig a well. How to fix things. When crises hit, they struggled, but they survived, because they could look after their own essential needs. How many of us today can say that?

10. It will happen again.
(15 May 2007)
National governments seem to be particularly dysfunctional in dealing with crises at this point in history. -BA

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