Doing Nothing to Get a Grip on Reality

“Johnny, why can’t you just sit still?” Well, Johnny is not the only hyperactive one. You might even conclude, just from watching any group anywhere in the world today that humanity as a whole is hyperactive. Where did all the patience go?

Kern oilfield near Bakersfield,CA
Kern Oilfield near Bakersfield, CA. Source: YouTube.

These thoughts were triggered by my reading an article by Brian Tycangco, “Black gold isn’t going away…this is why,” in Asia Wealth Investment Daily, an investment newsletter offering various subscription services as well as general perspectives on the Asian investment markets. Mr. Tycangco waxed enthusiastically on the fact that oil consumption is increasing in Asia because that is where economic growth is strong and demand for energy is high. Consumption of oil in the U.S. is mostly flat, but also growing in Europe, according to Tycangco. The explosive growth in the number of cars in China and India is a big factor. Asia is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world. mobility is a key factor in that growth.

Hyperactive Global Investment in Energy Consumption

Clearly, the world of investment and economic growth is oblivious to the accelerating destabilization of ecosystems, climate, and the whole Earth system under two hundred years of carbon-duress. Earth-systems destabilization is imposed by the global endless-growth corporate economy and the political and cultural systems that support it.  Dmitri Orlov calls it the Technosphere and argues forcefully that we must shrink it.

The political elites of nation states debate proportional responsibility for achieving a 2-degree C cap on global warming – without taking concrete policy steps to achieve their inadequate goals. Meanwhile, the engine of economic growth responds to the accelerator of capital investment and speeds us all toward the abyss. It is the biggest disconnect I can imagine.

Globalist economic culture exists in a cultural and scientific bubble, divorced from any sound knowledge of the planetary effects of human activity powered by fossil fuels. We might very well liken accelerating capital investment in fossil-fueled economic growth to a hyperactive child, oblivious to the admonitions of its parent (planet Earth) to calm down and stop banging around breaking everything in sight.

False Positives of Ecomodernism

The so-called “ecomodernists” want to solve the problems of climate destabilization and ecological destruction by advancing the techno-industrial systems that caused all the damage in the first place. You know, geo-engineering and all that. Over two-hundred plus years, the technosphere came to dominate Earth systems, causing their destabilization. Trying to accomplish something by repeating the method that has repeatedly not achieved the goal defines insanity. It’s nuts.

Here’s the thing. The investor class drives the global corporate economy and has no interest whatsoever in constraining the extraction and consumption of oil. Members of the global financial elite fully intend to squeeze all the profits out of fossil-fueled economic growth they can, while they still can. The catastrophic consequences for living Earth systems are simply not part of their culture, even when they are aware of them. At the same time, the global corporate elites have the upper hand in determining the policies of nations and they are doing everything in their power to continue down the path of hyperactive devastation of the planet.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the risks of human extinction appear to play out beyond the lifetimes of those making decisions today, or at least beyond the edge of their not so invisible shield of privilege. The hyperactive CEO simply does not care about a future beyond his own life. He assumes he can retreat into his mansion behind security gates as society collapses around him, or he simply continues to deny the rapidly growing evidence of immediate impacts of climate destabilization. After all, the first devastation occurs in places like Bangladesh or central African or island nations. Manhattan seems immune for now, but Miami, well, not so much.

Doing Nothing Now

Mindfulness requires Doing Nothing. Image: Pinterest.

As Asian economies boom and hyperactive economic growth consumes more oil and devastates the planet, it strikes me as ironic that the great cultures of contemplation – Zen, yoga, Taoism, and related practices – all have Asian origins. Some Americans try to get a grip on reality in the hectic world of working and living in the industrial era by taking up some variants of these practices, all of which involve doing nothing. However, that does not stop them from rushing to Whole Foods after Yoga class for the latest international treats to sustain their total consumer “lifestyle.” The disconnect between everyday life and making peace with planet Earth remains strong.

A New Great Transformation of both the whole Earth system itself and the role of humans on the planet is well underway, as the geologic era of the Holocene succumbs to that of the Anthropocene. Humanity has already severely influenced the trajectory of Earth history. Most of what we do with the profligate energy consumption and waste is unnecessary. How much fossil fuel is required to build a violin? How much fossil fuel do we need to expend in reading a book, raising our garden, building a house, restoring a local ecosystem, or playing a game of volleyball?

Our future role in Earth’s evolution is, it seems, entirely up for grabs. Most of those fossil-fueled “labor saving” automated devices that destroy jobs are no longer viable from the perspective of human self-interest in survival. If humans are to carve out a meaningful and viable place in the planet’s future, we had better start doing nothing now.

4 thoughts on “Doing Nothing to Get a Grip on Reality

  1. The issue you have is that Capitalism has taken over the provision of all human needs and also the government demand taxation in privately created money. As an individual family to become independent of it would require sourcing and maintaining publicly accessible food, water and housing at the very least. As soon as privately owned needs becomes the only choice then money is required and you would have to work for a capitalist company or produce something that you could sell or barter with. This is where the global elite private owners gain their power from as you are forced to work within the system. For me it is untenable unless masses break the elite defined “laws”, by not paying back debt, by working for each other to contribute to sustainable human needs and realising that the demand of ROI by private ownership is not a requirement for a functioning or progressive society but is a fallacy. The fact that Capitalist companies were used to exploit people and land during the European empires and this global mode of living is still with us 400 years later suggests something is horribly wrong with “government”.
    I potentially think the elite of the elite may in fact see the future, their legacy as important as they seem to pass their wealth on to their children. Certain family bloodlines seem to have retained massive amounts of power over centuries. So they may believe in a publicly hidden faith that sees the destruction of vast peoples of the Earth as part of a bigger picture. Or not so hidden as the Abrahamic religions talk about the “last days” and apocalypse type scenarios with the Reformation of Israel playing a key role.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I cannot dispute what you say here. But, as the old saying goes, “What is to be done?” That is the most difficult question of all. If it were not for the fact that things seem to be coming to a head with a possible constitutional crisis looming, I would say that national political action is beyond short-term hope. Too much volatility to say now. Nevertheless, from a whole Earth system perspective, we simply have little or no time left to shut down carbon emissions to net zero if we wish to expect some humans to survive this century. That leads me to the (also difficult) growing trend toward taking local action to transform our relations to ecosystems in part by restoring them and in part by replacing the carbon-emitting economy of economic growth with ecological communities. In any case, it will be a hard uphill battle that will inevitably involve significant population losses and a good deal of societal chaos, if not complete collapse.


      1. History shows that mass revolt only occurs when people have nothing to lose and/or can’t see a better way out. It also needs passionate people to help lead and organise. The Western working class who were once the exploited were loaned the power to consume (money) and so joined the extremely low ranks of the exploiters, but not enough can see it. But until enough realise that the world does not need money/us buying stuff to eradicate poverty but basic human needs in the hands of the people not privatised we will continue to head down ecological collapse. We need like minded people like yourself and myself together and voice these opinions in public. You may already, I don’t but in the process of trying to.

        Liked by 1 person

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