Saving Civilization

A massive mobilization is needed to prevent total collapse.
Saving Civilization

Saving civilization will take a massive mobilization, and at wartime speed. The closest analogy is

the belated US mobilization during World War II. But unlike that chapter in history, in which one country totally restructured its economy, the Plan B mobilization requires decisive action on a global scale.

On the climate front, official attention has now shifted to negotiating a post-Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon emissions. But that will take years. We need to act now. There is simply not time for years of negotiations and then more years for ratification of another international agreement.

It is time for individual countries to take the initiative on their own. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand led the way. In late 2007 she announced that New Zealand would boost the renewable share of its electricity from 70 percent, mostly hydro and geothermal, to 90 percent by 2025. The country plans to cut per capita carbon emissions from transport in half by 2040. Beyond this, New Zealand plans to expand its forested area by some 250,000 hectares by 2020, ultimately sequestering roughly 1 million tons of carbon per year.

We know from our analysis of global warming, from the accelerating deterioration of the economy’s ecological supports and from our projections of future resource use in China that the Western economic model – the fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy– will not last much longer. We need to build a new economy, one that will be powered by renewable sources of energy, that will have a diversified transport system and that will reuse and recycle everything.

We can describe this new economy in some detail. The question is how to get from here to there before time runs out. Can we reach the political tipping points that will enable us to cut carbon emissions before we reach the ecological tipping points where the melting of the Himalayan glaciers becomes irreversible? Will we be able to halt the deforestation of the Amazon before it dries out, becomes vulnerable to fire and turns into wasteland?

What if, for example, three years from now scientists announced that we have waited too long to cut carbon emissions and that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is irreversible? How would the realization that we are responsible for a coming 7-meter (23-foot) rise in sea level and hundreds of millions of refugees from rising seas affect us? How would it affect our sense of self, our sense of who we are? It could trigger a fracturing of society along generational lines like the more familiar fracturing of societies along racial, religious and ethnic lines. How will we respond to our children when they ask, “How could you do this to us? How could you leave us facing such chaos?”

From Lester Brown’s Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

173 comments on the article “Saving Civilization”

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Anonymous

Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan, Jacques Camatte, David Watson, Derrick Jensen, John Moore and Kevin Tucker are the most important thinkers of our time.

Anonymous

Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan, Jacques Camatte, David Watson, Derrick Jensen, John Moore and Kevin Tucker are the most important thinkers of our time.

Anonymous

bullshit. bring on karl marx, herbert marcuse, noam chomsky, theodor adorno, max horkheimer, and murray bookchin!

Anonymous

bullshit. bring on karl marx, herbert marcuse, noam chomsky, theodor adorno, max horkheimer, and murray bookchin!

Anonymous

Marx had a good start, but didn't carry through on his early analysis of alienation and division of labour. Marcuse has amazing in his "eroticization" of anti-capitalist social theory. Adorno and Horkheimer offered and excellent critique of the authoritarian subtext of the Enlightment. Noam Chomsky has a decent analysis of u.s foreign policy, but is overall a reformist and has a quite lame and essentialist theory of language. He's barely an Anarchist at all. Bookchin, well Bookchin should have quit while he was ahead.

Anonymous

Marx had a good start, but didn't carry through on his early analysis of alienation and division of labour. Marcuse has amazing in his "eroticization" of anti-capitalist social theory. Adorno and Horkheimer offered and excellent critique of the authoritarian subtext of the Enlightment. Noam Chomsky has a decent analysis of u.s foreign policy, but is overall a reformist and has a quite lame and essentialist theory of language. He's barely an Anarchist at all. Bookchin, well Bookchin should have quit while he was ahead.

Anonymous

i think you seriously misread horkheimer and adorno if you don't take into account their dialectical reading of the Enlightenment--yes, it has clearly failed, with nazi germany being (at the time of their writing) the most blatant reflection of such, but they also argue that that doesn't mean that its progressive impulses are without merit, or that they couldn't at least theoretically be instaurated in history. adorno and horkheimer are often misinterpreted as being little more than nihilistic, but they surely weren't--it was only at the end of horkheimer's life that he gave up belief in the struggle toward a better society, and adorno doesn't seem to have ever given up (despite his rather questionable lack of support for leftist student activism in germany in the late 60s). but bookchin and marcuse, in their advocacy of a revolutionary re-appropriation of the material basis of capitalist societies and a concomitant destruction of both human domination and the domination of nature, present a rather serious (and in my view, cogent) critique of 'anarcho'-primitivist thought. i also 'like' how you still haven't addressed the issue of mass death that would probably have to take place were we to simply drop what you call civilization.

Anonymous

i think you seriously misread horkheimer and adorno if you don't take into account their dialectical reading of the Enlightenment--yes, it has clearly failed, with nazi germany being (at the time of their writing) the most blatant reflection of such, but they also argue that that doesn't mean that its progressive impulses are without merit, or that they couldn't at least theoretically be instaurated in history. adorno and horkheimer are often misinterpreted as being little more than nihilistic, but they surely weren't--it was only at the end of horkheimer's life that he gave up belief in the struggle toward a better society, and adorno doesn't seem to have ever given up (despite his rather questionable lack of support for leftist student activism in germany in the late 60s). but bookchin and marcuse, in their advocacy of a revolutionary re-appropriation of the material basis of capitalist societies and a concomitant destruction of both human domination and the domination of nature, present a rather serious (and in my view, cogent) critique of 'anarcho'-primitivist thought. i also 'like' how you still haven't addressed the issue of mass death that would probably have to take place were we to simply drop what you call civilization.

Anonymous

"i also ‘like’ how you still haven’t addressed the issue of mass death that would probably have to take place were we to simply drop what you call civilization." Abandon civilization over several decades starting now and some chaos will ensue and some people, unfortunately, will die. Let civilization continue until it crashes hard and mass chaos ensues and there is a gigadeath. Take your pick. I'll take the ditch civilization now option and hope we can have soft landing out of civilization.

Anonymous

"i also ‘like’ how you still haven’t addressed the issue of mass death that would probably have to take place were we to simply drop what you call civilization." Abandon civilization over several decades starting now and some chaos will ensue and some people, unfortunately, will die. Let civilization continue until it crashes hard and mass chaos ensues and there is a gigadeath. Take your pick. I'll take the ditch civilization now option and hope we can have soft landing out of civilization.

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