Monday, January 7, 2013

Evolving as a goal

So, there was an article in Der Spiegel recently with an interview by Dennis Meadows, one the authors of  "The Limits to Growth".  Now, those of you who have the poor time management skills needed to make the  effort to regularly read this blog will be fully aware of my abiding respect for this work.  That being said, this isn't a work about how my opinion has changed, but rather, a set of observations on the way that the author and the blogosphere view the world.

The interviewer posits the standard set of questions to Dr. Meadows.  They are all well pitched softballs about the usual suspects:  Human ingenuity, the unexpected advent of a "imagine the profits that would accrue to the inventor of a new, clean and limitless source of energy." scenario.   They are all just ways or trying to make the interviewee look like a gloomy Gus, which in this age of mandatory "power of positive thinking" is the same as painting him a nut.

But there is one quote that stood out in my mind.
Meadows: The problem that faces our societies is that we have developed industries and policies that were appropriate at a certain moment, but now start to reduce human welfare, like for example the oil and car industry. Their political and financial power is so great and they can prevent change. It is my expectation that they will succeed. This means that we are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change.
 Now, I can see nothing wrong with this statement.  Homo Sapiens has always evolved in exactly the fashion described.  It is the way of the world, it is no big deal.  We have to reduce the population of the world by quite a significant amount.  What is happening now is that we are trying to define the method to be used in the cull.  Our problems lie in the arenas of energy use, resource depletion, and overpopulation.  We tend to fixate on a secondary characteristic of financial crisis, but in truth, that is merely an epiphenomenon secondary to the big three.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when Raúl Meijer over at the Automatic Earth took a look at the same article.  He did steal my end piece by getting there first and anticipating my conclusions, and then he had the gall to write them down in a more polished and erudite manner than I possibly could.

We evolve the way Stephen Jay Gould described evolution: through punctuated equilibrium. That is, we pass through bottlenecks, forced upon us by the circumstances of nature, only in the case of the present global issues we are nature itself. And there's nothing we can do about it. If we don't manage to understand this dynamic, and very soon, those bottlenecks will become awfully narrow passages, with room for ever fewer of us to pass through. 
As individuals we need to drastically reduce our dependence on the runaway big systems, banking, the grid, transport etc., that we ourselves built like so many sorcerers apprentices, because as societies we can't fix the runaway problems with those systems, and they are certain to drag us down with them if we let them.
 So here is the nub of the matter.  We are going to be going through a evolutionary bottleneck in the not-too-distant future.  Perhaps I will live to participate, perhaps not.   But if you spend some time reading the works of Darwin and Wallace it seems to me that if Homo Sapiens is going to survive or evolve, it is going to be necessary to adapt quickly and in groups.  That being said, it becomes apparent to me that surrounding oneself with the accouterments of the society that is already failing (read here:  Band-aids, Beans, and Bullets) would not give one any adaptational or evolutionary advantage.

The standard preppers fare is a way to defend a lifestyle that is being killed by reality.  A defensive position will always be overrun.  Especially when the opponent is something as implacable as natural selection.  What is needed is not a physical redoubt, but a mental attitude capable of adapting to change.

Finally:  I found this graph and it made me giggle.  I thought that I would share with you.  A hearty call out to the Sub-Dude

1 comment:

John D. Wheeler said...

I think James M. Dakin has the key: "we have three different phases of civilization collapse ( economic collapse, die-off, post-oil economy ) and prepping for each one is different and often contradictory." In other words, the bottleneck has a kink.

So, yes, Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids will help for the die-off stage of the collapse, but not for the other two. Adapting and preparing for all three stages will be an insurmountable challenge for most. This will provide excellent selection pressure for human evolution.