Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Peak: an ecological idea about our present society, not necessarily havinng to do with oil

By the peak I mean a graph that sharply increases up to a high point, crosses a line, the peaks, descends below that line, then continues down. The graph represents resource use. Our insane consumption has endangered the world, but it's also opened up concentrations of knowledge that would have been literally impossible to amass before, and those new ideas, along with the technology that this consumption has produced, can in effect be used to create new methods of production and new consumption patterns that can preserve some of our quality of life while reducing resource use. In other words, the explosion of industrialism and capitalism has given us the potential to dismantle industrialism and capitalism in a way that could preserve some of the positive aspects of what it's produced, spread across society in a fair way. Industrial capitalism in our era is like a game of musical chairs: as long as the music keeps playing everything's fine, but when the music stops we'll find that one chair is missing, and that it'll only get worse. The better, then, to take what we've learned, with 'we' being admittedly the folks who have received more of the benefits that industrial capitalism has brought, preserve it, and find ways to continue it with less while the music is still going than to try to accomplish it after it's already stopped. The line in our graph is the level of resources and knowledge needed to come up with a set of solutions that will allow us to do this. We won't be able to stay above the line forever. After a certain point, if we haven't done the investment, we'll be facing taking on the crisis with less and less physical resources even though we'll still have increasing intangible resources like knowledge.

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