Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three lost decades, and looking for the green shoots

The last few weeks I have been compulsively reading political/economic blogs and articles that outline how bleak the immediate future is, especially in the USA. I can't seem to stop. This is not a productive use of my time, I will have to stop soon. It is not exactly news either.

We were on to much of this in the early seventies, albeit with a different twist. Less emphasis on outright evil by The Powers That Be, more just awareness that the present system was not sustainable.
The now famous report "Limits to growth" came out in 1972.

Even before that, we had come to this blessed continent from pleasant, well-run but overcrowded* Holland in 1969. 
When you grow up seeing one precious green space after another disappear under desperately needed housing you don't need The Club of Rome to figure out that growth forever is not an option. At least it seemed obvious to us. I disengaged from mainstream economics and aimed for a simple country life with less stuff but more time early in life.

Some good things happened in the seventies. Many politicians 'got it'.  Richard Nixon started the EPA in 1970. Yes, Richard Nixon! He would probably be considered a socialist by the present bunch of Ayn Rand worshippers. The 1973 oil crunch helped. It wasn't a perfect time but there was progress in awareness and in policy measures.

A cleanup of the book shelves yielded a forgotten little book.
"Muddling toward Frugality" by Warren Johnson.
Subtitle: "A blueprint for Survival in the 1980s".

The gist of it: "The level of consumption in industrialized
North America is not sustainable. Adjustments will have to be made sooner or later. We need a decentralized economic model that uses more labour and fewer non-renewable resources. If we start now, we can limit the worst pain of the transition and end up with a more frugal but quite pleasant society. "

A Google yielded the good news that it is still in print, and some excerpts can be found here:

Well, we didn't start then. The eighties hit, and suddenly it was "Morning in America" with this  huge greed fest. I never understood it. We kind of skipped the whole thing. We just carried on frugally raising chickens and children, working only part time and loving the country life in our little semi-hippie world.

Now here we are more than thirty years later. I am reading through some of the worse case scenarios. They are terrifyingly accurate.

Here is a thing to remember. I have posted it before, but need to remind myself every now and then. When a tree in a mature forest dies a natural death, its decomposing body forms a nursing log for new growth.

Our mainstream media is obsessed with covering the decay of the old log. When we want information on the new growth we
have to search it out. It is there.

I am going to order the rest of my seeds now.

*Foot note on population density:
Imagine approximately half the population of Canada in a space the size of Vancouver Island. Strict regulation of the commons has maintained much beauty for all to enjoy, but that is another blog.

 Vancouver Island: 32,134 sq km
Canada's population 34,108,800 (July 2010 est)
Netherlands (land mass) 33,893 sq km
Netherlands population: 16,783,092 (July 2010 est.)

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