There are at least a couple of things to which we might accede:
Through the twin slow-motion catastrophes of resource depletion and environmental degradation, human activity will be forced into a different scale than our post-industrial age trajectory has otherwise led us to infer.
General recognition of a need, if not regard, for a lessened carbon footprint is growing. We increasingly recognize the wisdom of native populations, for example, in being proper, long-term stewards of the earth, as opposed to our standard operating procedures. The extents to which we create fetish and fashion from some of native practices, as absurd as they may seem, often represent the initial entree some of these practices have into a society which made them obsolete. Micro-biotic is just a fancy name for eating locally, par ex.
The tragi-comedy kicks in as we try to imagine moving toward reconciling these realities, but on our terms. We want to ‘go green’ and live more sustainably, but we still want all of our stuff. The heavy contradiction here is re-enforced as some of our stuff begins to disappear as a simple consequence of the above conditions.
Not that any of it will magically be taken away. It’s painfully slow, just as absolutely everything was, from our perspective, up until about 100 years ago. The whole concept of slow is a modern artifact itself; even more, the modifier adding duress to it. But, we begin to let a few things go away here and there as we move back into the greater slip-stream of biotic activity on earth.
Sigmund Freud often remarked that great revolutions in the history of science have but one common, and ironic, feature: they knock human arrogance off one pedestal after another of our previous conviction about our own self-importance. In Freud’s three examples, Copernicus moved our home from center to periphery, Darwin then relegated us to “descent from an animal world”; and, finally (in one of the least modest statements of intellectual history), Freud himself discovered the unconscious and exploded the myth of a fully rational mind. In this wise and crucial sense, the Darwinian revolution remains woefully incomplete because, even though thinking humanity accepts the fact of evolution, most of us are still unwilling to abandon the comforting view that evolution means (or at least embodies a central principle of) progress defined to render the appearance of something like human consciousness either virtually inevitable or at least predictable. The pedestal is not smashed until we abandon progress or complexification as a central principle and come to entertain the strong possibility that H. sapiens is but a tiny, late-arising twig on life’s enormously arborescent bush – a small bud that would almost surely not appear a second time if we could replant the bush from seed and let it grow again.
The current availability of information is such that we seem to get what we can from a little news here and there and hope for the best. It’s quite a place to find ourselves – so surrounded by means and so trapped by their implications. We see these things happening in the world, but we continue on with much the same map that brought us here, altering our route slowly, because our terms dictate what we can and cannot live without, as such. Is optimism knowing just enough to keep the jury out indefinitely? Abstract issues like energy and pollution bear down on us in some ways, but with a little information, we can trust that someone somewhere is doing something about it – that, as this one runs out, technology might deliver us to the next free energy plateau that will permit our thriving to continue. The missing part of the picture, obscured perhaps by the massive amounts by which we make inferences about the smallest things, is the scale down. Living differently in ways that we require less will conjure all sorts of changes and many of them will be very positive.
I’m trying to fight the tendency to offer a summation on these points, but how does something end and continue on at the same time? In other words, this is our post-industrial age trajectory.