Chapter 1. Starting point. (Integrating humans with the earth. A comprehensive response to climate damage and underlying causes.
This you must always bear in mind, what is the nature of the whole, and what is my nature, and how this is related to that, and what kind of a part it is of what kind of a whole? – Marcus Aurelius Meditations
A competitive society plus ingenuity leads to mutual destruction and stupid mistakes. It is clear that is where we are. Gardenworld takes us into the forefront of plausible approaches to the mess. Most people now realize we are up against an unprecedented crisis for humanity. Most discussion is about what is wrong, some discussion about how we got in this mess, and very little a-discussion about what to do . What we must do can start with thinking about food and helping those who are hurt by the rapid emergence of cascading crises.
The rich and the urban have always looked down on the farmer but loved the food, delighted in gardens but disdained gardening. This will change as circumstances force a new consensus. Gardenworld – a better future, its politics, economy and philosophy, is dramatic on purpose, not because the book lives up to it, but because the crisis is real and all starts are good. We are facing many simultaneous challenges, and not responding very well. Climate heating, population, migrations, weakness of governments, failure to distribute the benefits of society. Gardenworld is a project whose time has come, its politics, economy and philosophy. Gardenworld is the most practical framework for responding. In essence it is because the primary need for humanity will be food, and meaning. Collapse or not, Gardenworld is a good goal.
To cope with a different future from growth and technology we will need to take apart our belief in progresses as linear and inevitable. We have a line something like the wheel, the clock, the printing press, electricity, TV, iPhones. And we think this is progress, unquestioned. But in parallel with this line we have another within military at the center of invention, guns, slavery, raising up wealth and pushing down ordinary people to be labor. It is clear that this pair of parallel lines tells us that maybe it isn’t progress after all, but a mixed bag we can – and must – rethink.
Economics, a Greek word was for the Greeks Estate management, and we need a new sense of managing the globe for the good of humans. We have a positive agenda ahead if we embrace it: ecological restoration, and the distribution of the fruits of technology so it really is labor saving. Politics is the lost art of managing conflict in human communities. Philosophy should be our reflections on what we are doing. We are born in to the middle of the story. As I write (May 2019) there is a growing consensus that we will not do what would be necessary to prevent warming beyond 2 degrees. We are acting as though we can prevent the triggering of climate change, but the cause is in the past and once the gun is fired you can’t put the bullet back, you can only deal with the consequences. Also there is much more going wrong than climate, such as the inability of governance to act.
Since London passed legislation declaring a state of climate emergency all indicators have gotten worse. In particular increasing the ppm of CO2 in atmosphere. Public anger and concern are growing with no solutions (that both scale and make an adequate difference) in sight.
Since the public discussion is increasingly reflecting a sense of despair that we will do anything but drift, this provocation is based on the idea that we need to be thinking through the issues that arise from that consensus.
We are facing many simultaneous challenges, and not responding very well. Climate heating, population, migrations, weakness of governments, failure to distribute the benefits of society. This is the dilemma: doing nothing will have a bad end and all the adequate proposals to actually do something are grim. We need what in boating is called jettisoning: throwing overboard unneeded stuff in order to keep afloat. We need to explore the real possibilities of what to jettison. Proposed solutions to global heating: sequestration, solar panels, nuclear power, vegetarianism, all take too much time and expense to manufacture and deploy to scale. Economics 2500 years ago meant estate management. Now we need a new sense of managing our current globalized estate for the good of humans.
We are acting as though we can prevent the triggering of climate change, say by shifting from carbon to alternative sources of energy – solar and wind, and as yet unspecified new technologies. But the cause is already in the past and once the gun is fired we can only deal with the consequences. We have relied too long on a mix of technology, free markets banks, representative government and media – and the result is a serious failure. Can we, with common sense, technology, cooperation, and care, do better?
This is a serious hit on a public that already feels it has no place in the elite technical futures (who needs workers?), and whose income has, by staying level for decades (in the US), actually means declines because of the rise of necessary expenditures – iPhone and longer commutes. The press also reports on money spent to protect seaside wealthy communities.
Politics may be one of the most difficult parts of getting us to a better future. As of now, scientific consensus is that we need a major cutback on the use of fossil fuels. How can that be done? It seems like it requires an agreement among all of us because if some resist it would weakening the impact of any group decision. But politics has come to be guided by partial interests, not social reality.
If we have just a few years to act, we need to make some critical moves. Draconian moves (small violation lead to major punishments). Politicians just are not going to do this – yet. So, draconian moves will be necessary that might force the public, society, and institutions to move toward a different way of living.
Here are several of many possibilities of draconian moves.(Remember the scientific view is that we must cut fossil fuel use, not b6 2050, but soon, now. and we are not doing it.)
As of the first of next month, no more air travel. Well, many people are not at home, but traveling. Do we allow them to return? If they all tried in the days remaining in the month there are not enough flights to do this. And how many would game the system? And would the ground and flight crews show up? Of course the legal response. – well. But this is the kind of action that will be needed to shake up the system and force a move toward meeting the 2 degree (or perhaps 1,5 degree) goal. The FAA could do this, though legal responses would happen in hours.
No fuel for trucks as of next month. No food delivered at any distance. Total chaos within 48 hours. (Or within minutes of the announcement. ) part of our failure of governance is it is not clear that this could be done, even if necessary. Perhap Food and Drug in concert with the Interstate Commerce Commission could do this.
No going to jobs that are not contributions to survival . Who decides?
No fuel for heating homes. Must use electric appliances, not gas. How many? Who manufactures that many with a manufacturing process that does not also contribute to CO2 emissions? And who pays for the individual new appliances house by house??
If a home can’t be heated, why pay the mortgage? Banks fail. Cascading effects are going to be more than the number of words in today’s newspaper.
Politics as we know it cannot deliver these effects. Could a popular revolt? And would a popular revolt have such goals in mind, or merely use violence to get the resources to continue a few more months, days??
A popular revolt would be met by the power of the state – if the national guard would show up. Unlikely. The draconian moves would lead to local chaos which would lead to the emergence of mafia-like local strong men “We provide you with security, you provide us with goods.” If there are any left after 48 hour.?
This is grim, yet only by seeing it can we imagine alternatives, and maybe not even then. You should believe that many groups: wealthy, military, corporate, are having these conversations.
But, need we be reminded, without something like such draconian moves the result will be the boiled frog. Inaction also leads to cascading failures. Imagine the workers at the electric company walking away from their jobs.
Politics is about conflict, and to avoid politics is to hope there is no conflict. But politics has been since Aristotle recognized as the way society handles actually existing conflict. The history from tribe to monarchy to plutocracy to parliamentary and representative democracy is attempts to deal with conflict in a reasoned way. We are in that incomplete process. The unfinished French Revolution seeking liberty, justice and equality, or the American version life liberty and the pursuit of happiness have left us with self-protecting elites which want to avoid the passion of serious change.
My own view is that amidst the terrible predictions it is important to keep working on the best plausible solution, which I think is some combination of agriculture and civilization, what I have called Gardenworld. Food will be the most important task as climate destruction increases, Our spirit needs to be hopeful and aesthetic, growing food and people in the same attractive environments is something to hope for and work towards. We do our best. That has dignity to it. If we fail, so be it. No guarantees as those living in past collapsed empires know. But just maybe we can wiggle through. Then the task continues with the next generations. But even wiggling through requires a near immediate stop to all use of carbon fuels.
But there is a glimmer of hope – maybe. It is very important, when all seems to be going badly, to seek out an attractive path that just might work , and work on it till it does. We have relied too long on a mix of technology, free markets banks, representative government and media – and the result is a serious failure. Can we, with common sense, technology, cooperation, and care, do better? Ecological restoration and true labor saving technology managed for the good of all. We genetically have been modern urbanites and hunter gatherer\s. We can handle major shifts in world conditions, an probabaly will need to again. Our habits and tastes will wok against rapid change, but that is going to be our challenge – how to stop being who are are and adapting rapidly.
” There is no way to suppress change, the story says, there is only a choice between a way of living that allows constant, if gradual, alterations and a way of living that combines great control and cataclysmic upheavals.” – Lewis Hyde The Trickster makes the world
We are in trouble. People around the world are aware of the problem of climate change – but also aware that in the talk about what to do there is no plan for reconfiguring normal life. This makes everyone very anxious. People are not active because they have no idea what to do. Cutting fossil fuel use means something like no flying, no heating with gas, threats to food supply, the closing down of jobs that are part of the old economy but use some fossil fuels. It is not crazy to stay in a leaky canoe if you do not have an alternative canoe. People are considering really bad outcomes. Keeping alive some form of hope requires that we have a vision that, unlikely, is still possible and worth working up for. We might need to revisit the impact of the 1400’s plague where about half the population was lost.
We later civilizations, we too know we are vulnerable – Pail Valery 1899.
I am proposing that a mix of nature and civilization combines the most attractive aspects of existing and potential societies. I am calling this effort Gardenworld because it seems to stick in people’s minds and generate plausible hope when people hear about it. There will be a post crisis world. Lets build for it. The mantra here is ecological restoration and true labor saving technology which enhances distribution, no longer narrowing it. Combine this with quality of life across the human life cycle and you have Gardenworld.
Economy begin with the domestication of herds and the awareness the production of new head of cattle. The very word Capital comes from the Latin Cap, head, as in new head of cattle. Managing that increase in the herd suggests that human history can be seen as the expansion and complexification of that original herd management to the current (failing) management of humanity in relation to the earth. We have moved from tribes to empires and on to the nation states and globalization, giving us the city and the country, and a quality of life. How does that relate to the reality of outcomes. I think it helps to see the sweep from cattle to the current world situation as a single line of development.We are taught to see this line as a series on technically driven transformations and discontinuities, but at the same time there is continuity of elites across all transformations. Gardenworld is an attempt to get out of the trap of this history
This means consciously mixing architecture, landscaping, agriculture, and institutions – all with the goal of successful human living across the life cycle with an excellent quality of life. I am calling this effort Gardenworld. Gardenworld is not a plan but an intent, a guide, a series of ideas to guide future efforts.
So I will be discussing design criteria – that is, what is the nature of human beings and of being human and the implications for the kind of world that not only grows food but grows people. Western thinkers made a mistake in searching out how humans are different from animals. The ways we are similar just might be much more important.
After discussing the nature of being human I will further discuss key issues for garden world. To help us think through to such a world the next chapters discuss
• Where are we?
• How did we get here?
• What can happen?
• What should we do?
The core idea is that Gardenworld, with its flexibility and invitation to local innovations, is a plausible world to:
- Maintain as much as possible as we go through the worst of climate change.
- Have a goal in mind that most people can say yes to, a goal that give guidance to every act.
To get there we need
- New economics
- New politics
- New philosophy
This book started twenty years ago as GardenWorld Politics, I just wanted a nicer world. But then I started a series of notes to colleagues about economics and its relation to climate change. I soon realized that while their tendency was to see the world, especially the third world, as ok and only needing some new policies and modest reforms, I saw this world , based on lots of travel and living three years in Mexico, as going badly while economists were misleading with claims about “per capita GDP” and “lower mortality rates.” Climate change emerged with more force in the midst of my thinking, and I was sorry to judge myself as deaf to implications , when I heard about climate warming and CO 2 in a seminar in La Jolla in 1984, and ignored what I heard, like so many others, for three decades. My casual research turned more serious. This book, the result, is a kind of workbook, to share with you , as a studio to think through what can happen now and how we should act. It is, as a workbook is likely to be, incomplete, a series of sketches, notes, dead ends, and hopefully useful lines of inquiry. We are part of republic of thinkers drawn to each others’ ideas for clues and companionship.
If you were conscious in 2000 you are probably feeling some similarities to y2k. There are several important differences. For y2k it was clear where the problem was – in the computer code that ran legacy systems – and people could be assigned to deal with it. These are not present in climate heating. For y2k the event was coming. In climate heating the problem was caused a long time ago and we are living with consequences.
To write simply of deep things – Murakami.