This post is a response to hype about Obama as a supposed agent of 'change.'

(I've posted about that hope-hype here, here, here, and here.)


Marjorie Kelly and Paul Raskin -

"What is unfolding today is a systemic crisis, heralding the beginning of a large-scale shift at the deepest levels of [societal] organization."

"We need a new map of the world."

"Transitions announce themselves in the language of crisis. We are in a time of turbulence as old patterns give way and new ones form. The multiple crises today signal a system transformation operating at the scale of the planet."


Bill Vitek (who tends to focus on energy & carbon issues) -

"I see cracks and leaks growing, and ever faster. I see that the past half-century's ... blazing run on the carbon bank of coal, oil and natural gas, is sputtering out. But not before we clog our carbon sinks, particularly the atmosphere, triggering global climatic disruption that is already under way.

We want to see our current problems as part of the usual ups and downs of the business and climate cycles. But in the past three years oil [extraction] has remained steady while the price has doubled. Oil supplies will soon fail to keep up with ballooning world demand. Then the other fossil fuels will flare out too. But not before adding to atmospheric carbon dioxide already a third higher than pre-industrial levels and strongly tied to a long, abnormal rise in global temperatures.

I have come to this perspective reluctantly, but am now convinced: We are living in revolutionary times! We must change to a way of life as inconceivable to us as the invention of the modern factory or heart transplant would have seemed to a peasant or professor in medieval Europe."

" 'Well, change, yes,' you might say, 'but revolution? What about [new technologies] and efficiency? The environmental and sustainability movements? Isn't all that enough?' "

"Efficiency tweaks won't save us. Ever since England in the 1800s grew efficient with coal, only to use ever more of it, efficiency has led to higher consumption and more atmospheric carbon. Even if every car in the world were a hybrid, and every light bulb a compact fluorescent, growing demand would dwarf savings.

And though Toyota, General Electric and Wal-Mart tout their green efforts, their need to profit by increased consumption of their products is not questioned. This system can't fix the problems it has created or fit our emerging realization that Earth has limits, any more than King George could have encouraged independence-minded Colonials, or medieval scriptural authority could have embraced 17th century scientific discoveries.

Our challenge is to make a new Enlightenment, rejecting belief that we can master Earth and treat it as our unlimited supermarket, playground, laboratory and dumpster. Every human enterprise and standard needs reorientation to recognize the boundaries of our sun-powered planet.

We don't have to be violent about it. But we must be as single-minded and insistent as someone yelling 'Fire!' when there is, in fact, a fire." "That's prudent and morally required.

It's so much easier to hope for a miracle. But our best hope lies in embracing revolution."


Robert Jensen and Pat Younglbood -

"If being realistic has something to do with facing reality, then arguments for radical change are the most realistic. When problems are the predictable consequence of existing systems and no solutions are plausible within them, then arguing for continued capitulation to those systems isn't realistic. It's literally insane.

[Americans] live in a country that is, in fact, growing increasingly insane."


A couple of related posts -
- "We create the alternatives together"
- Industrial agriculture

As Stephanie McMillan notes in the cartoon in that "Industrial agriculture" blog post, "revolution" is just a word --
a word that can be imbued with conservative meanings --
much like anti-"war" messages.

Toban Black


Larry Menkes's picture

Change and conscious living

I've learned that "hope" is not a strategy. In spite of my longing, I no longer hope for change. I've also learned that changes are inevitable. I've also learned that people who choose conscious living can and do change.

There is no doubt that we are living in the moments of massive global changes and the election of Barack Obama is a large positive change. Global climate change, peak oil, peak water and other resource peaks will impose more massive changes. (And the potential for more Black Swan events always exists.) Our response to the challenges and changes will, in part, determine the outcomes.

As an ex-technocornucopian, I'm no longer convinced that increases in energy efficiency will lead to reductions in energy consumption and atmospheric carbon-loading. Yet my personal experience is of the opposite. Switching to a hybrid car hasn't made our family drive more. Our use of corn to heat our house hasn't resulted in our raising the thermostat. Compact fluorescent light bulbs hasn't caused us to leave more unneeded lights on; my wife and I still compete to see who can do best to turn them off.

Perhaps the real challenge is learning how to live consciously. And for those of us who work through the turmoil of personal growth that leads to conscious living, the step to living as efficiently is a short one. After that, it's just another short step to voluntary simplicity. Which do you choose?

Larry Menkes
"You must be the change you want to see in the world."
(m. gandhi)