According to all the information we possess, it is all too likely that we must reckon with a worldwide collapse of the ecosystem during the lifetime of the middle and younger generation, not even waiting for the youngest generation to reach maturity. In our country – beginning probably on the coasts and rivers – the collapse will be especially dramatic.
The resulting attempt by people to save their own situation will lead to a frightful struggle of all against all. Perhaps we could call in our military to keep order for a time and especially to secure supplies from outside. But the latter is by no means certain, because weapons are spreading rapidly. In twenty years there will be far more nuclear-armed countries than there are today ... and nuclear terrorism. And we know how vulnerable our complex infrastructures are.
If we want to avoid this, we must face the danger now while we still have a braking distance that might just be sufficient. Admittedly nobody can say what exactly is the degree of irreversible damage that can never more be made good, although certainly no exterminated species can be resurrected. But let us agree on a plan to prevent the ultimate overloading and resulting collapse of the biosphere and the atmosphere. We can do this if we put our heads together and rein in our egoism.
But we must begin with ourselves. There are too many Germans in Germany, too many Americans in America, and so on. Our territory cannot support our daily average use of energy: 150 to 160 kilowatt-hours per person. Let us then at least accept a reduction in the number of births; naturally population movements caused by the metropolitan industrial system also must stop, for they only cause problems and solve none.
And then lowering the basic load affects our material basic needs for food, clothing, housing, education and health, and also the need for (military) security, for mobility and communication, and for pleasure and development. As a consequence of big organizations, big technology, transport systems determined by world markets and a security-fixated psychology, we satisfy these needs at the cost of a disproportionately high expenditure.
We “solve” the problems resulting from this – not least of all that of protecting the environment – by making ever new inroads into the nonrenewable resources of the planet. But since this process is structurally determined – that is, given the pattern of civilization it is insoluble – we must make basic changes in the structure itself.
This becomes especially clear when we look at the things we must abolish – because without far-reaching structural changes there would still remain a miserable torso of the industrial megamachine, from which would come nothing but frustration. What, then, must clearly disappear? Obviously nuclear energy production. But we must also give up the private automobile, largely abandon truck and special vehicle traffic, and close most airports. Naturally the wheels of the military must also stop turning. We must cut back the number of cars and the volume of chemicals we produce, and we must abolish the arms industry completely.
Where are we to turn if industrial jobs are to be abolished in this way and we have to make do mainly with the mineral, agricultural and atmospheric resources that we can still find in our own land? We then must remind ourselves that human beings were not always cut off from the nourishing Earth and the tools of their work – cut off not only by distance but also by property relations.
In spite of the density of its settlement, the land in our country is still sufficient for us to meet our own needs by organic farming and gardening, especially if we cut back on eating meat. We could feed ourselves by the work of our own hands.
For tools, containers, storage and dwellings, small industry is easily sufficient, provided we limit the production of basic provisions to the immediate neighborhood – say within a radius of 25 to 30 kilometers. If we concentrate our intelligence on a convivial small-is-beautiful technology, the result could be a highly productive system of tools requiring not more than four hours per day of actual work per person.
Everything depends on readiness for a form of existence organized locally around the commune and the living community. The division of work would essentially be built up anew from there. In the center of things, however, would stand not work, but life, the interpersonal traffic of a high, love-filled culture, where the values of being stand above the values of having.
So the immediate thing to do is to become familiar with developing communities: Start looking around for other people, families and groups to maybe share with them the adventure of a different life.
Rudolf Bahro from Avoiding Social and Ecological Disaster: The Politics of World Transformation. Bahro rejected Communism when the East German government refused to denounce the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.