Thursday, March 10, 2011

Almost Too Late

Last night, I watched the on-line version of Nicole Foss's presentation on the collapse of the global economy, which was somewhat different from the presentation she gave at the Transition conference, and surprisingly even more depressing. Foss focused mostly on the financial situation because she believes it will be at the leading edge of the catastrophe that's coming, while the energy situation – specifically peak oil – will drive the majority of it. Her prescriptions were the same in both presentations; among them: avoiding debt, home ownership, and banks; accumulating cash, food, equipment, and survival skills; and, above all, becoming part of a community.

While at the conference I was thinking globally, this time I was overwhelmed with how much the details of how people's live will need to change, especially mine. Like many Americans, I'm unemployed and in debt. This isn't the first time. I've worked myself out of worse situations before, and if the economy had a chance of rebounding, I would no doubt be able to do so again. Unfortunately, there have been deep structural changes in the past few years that will make it much more difficult to recover this time, even if I get one of the many jobs I've applied for since the last time I was working. Those changes, like most of the threats facing us, are tied to the relentless pursuit of growth. When you can't get enough new stuff, you start consuming the stuff that you used to process that stuff, and that's what the world's business leaders are doing, except the “stuff” they're now consuming is effectively composed of people. Those people, right now, are disproportionately among what was the middle class, and I and most of the people I know are among them.

There's still a chance that I can work my way out of debt before things get too much worse, but it will probably mean taking the highest-paying job I can and hanging on for as long as possible, even if what I'm doing with that precious forty to sixty hours a week isn't helping to lay the groundwork for a better future given the realities I've spent the past seven years discovering. In “Titanic Choices,” I likened this to bribing the crew of the Titanic to let me out of my cabin so I would have a better chance of convincing those steering the ship to avoid the iceberg, warning the other passengers, and helping to build more lifeboats.

If Foss and those in Transition are right, we're too close to avoid the iceberg, and we'll be lucky to get a few lifeboats launched before the ship sinks. I've so far resisted this conclusion, which is reflected in the career choices I've considered so far (along with the assumption that I even have the freedom to choose my next career). Their case, right now, is holding more sway with me, especially as unrest here in the United States has started to spread like wildfire. Given that possibility, my career choice will need to be much more practical. Permaculture design, perhaps?

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