In economics there is a proposition known as Dornbusch’s Law that states: Crises take longer to arrive than you can imagine, but when they do come, they happen faster than you can possibly imagine.
Dornbusch’s Law was first applied to currency crises, but its relevance is not limited to this sphere. Putin’s ambitions toward Ukraine built up over years. One day the life of the Ukrainians went on as usual, the next, their lives were in turmoil with millions scrambling to survive or to fight.
Aware people might consider whether Dornbusch’s Law applies as well to our global situation. Many who see the gathering imbalances in the world have found the dominant systems of power and commerce to be unexpectedly resilient. So much is out of balance, in low level crises, and yet this wholly unsustainable system has yet to collapse. Prediction after prediction of the downfall of capitalism and industrial civilization has been made and gone, but the system remains preternaturally alive.
It is so deeply ingrained in the workings of modern capitalism to undermine the vitality of social and ecological life that capitalism has been called a “crisis generating system.”
Consider this list of some of the primary realms of crises that are primarily influenced by the dynamics of capitalism:
- Climate change is unrelentingly approaching a point of no return.
- Lack of clean water availability increasingly impacts broad swaths of humanity.
- Environmental destruction is rapidly degrading the integrity of ecosystems.
- Humanity is using resources at a rate far beyond earth’s carrying capacity.
- Authoritarian rule, plutocracy and ethnic chauvinism is paralyzing democracy.
- Concentration of wealth among the uber-wealthy has brought unprecedented disparity.
Each of these arenas alone has capacity to create train wrecks on a massive scale. Not all of these crisis realms will exhibit dynamics that unfold in the Dornbusch’s Law type scenario of sudden slippage into all out crisis. But an economic crisis will certainly hit suddenly. And then, when the economy goes, given the possibilities for synergistic interactions between all the other spheres of crisis, it becomes easy to project a meta-collapse that will happen much faster than we would have thought. And with much greater intensity.
We go about our business, blinded to a looming future. Even as Russian troops amassed on Ukraine’s borders, Ukrainians did not expect a full-scale Russian invasion; there was not an all-out mobilization in preparation. Life went on pretty much as usual. Is this not now humanity’s situation writ large?
Of course, there are many who recognize that our situation is serious and have dedicated themselves to bringing change. But even most who press for change do not take so seriously the possibility that crises will follow Dornbush’s Law.
When Russian troops finally did cross the border, the Ukrainians quickly united and dedicated themselves with resolve and bravery to defending their country. When collapse comes (on a scale that fully grabs our attention), humanity will pull together in our common struggle for survival. At this time, systems break down, possibilities open up, and change — deep change — can happen relatively quickly. Institutional resistance to progressive reforms will fade, and many will be seeking new ways of social functioning. The full-on crisis of capitalism will bring opportunity for reverse “shock doctrine.” It will be our time to roll out our vision for an equitable, sustainable, cooperative, life-supporting economy.
That full-on crisis will open opportunity does not mean that we should bide our time until collapse is upon us. The wiser we make use of the remaining time of relative normalcy to prepare, to position, the more effective will be our capacity to respond to collapse. The fate of many, and of much life on the planet, will be determined by how actively we prepare. And how astutely. What does effective preparation look like? This is, in part, what the New Era Convergence will be about. Not just the Convergence itself, but much that leads up to it and much that will follow.
We aspire for the New Era Convergence to not be an event but an important step in a process. This is something new. At the Pacific Northwest bioregional level from this Aug. 21-24, 2022, we will seek to congeal a collective vision for the new era, to more effectively integrate our respective efforts, to build connective tissue among our allied initiatives, to progressively advance a strategy to mobilize power and vision, community and spirit, to bring social and ecological life back into their fullness. This will require sustained effort.
The wait has been longer than many had imagined. In the late 1960s, Paul Ehrlich, in The Population Bomb, predicted millions starving by the 1970s. M. Herbert King expected global peak oil to occur in the 1990s. Ravi Batra warned of an economic depression by the 1990s, Thom Hartmann by 2016. Yet, the resiliency of the dominant system has held. But it’s become fragile. There’s now a feel — shared by many — that the center will not long hold, that we are colliding with the pent-up contradiction between the way nature works and the way the dominant economic system works. Or doesn’t work.
If these well-informed premonitions prove correct, we are coming into the time to be actively engaged in building the new era. Will you join us?