Doomers like Mike want us all to believe, along with them, that we will all soon have to grow our own food. (Clap your hands 3 times and say “I do believe in doom, I do, I do!“) His latest post demonstrates how hard it is to do this on your own. This is self-evident. It’s not easy, or more of us would be taking off to live our own version of the “Good Life”. But here’s the thing. While the threats to our way of life are real, so are many of the solutions. And while we don’t see too many of them appearing now, that’s mainly because there are other, cheaper ways of getting by. For now. As things start to become more difficult, we’ll start to deploy the solutions. Exponentially.
Yes the challenges are real. Climate change is real, and topsoil around the world is washing away, and the population is growing (for now). I get that. But here’s the thing. Economies, and societies as a whole, adapt. We are social creatures and now live in one of the most complex and socially interconnected civilisations ever. Information can spread instantaneously across the planet. We trade food around the world. New food markets are appearing in deserts, with scientists growing fresh food in greenhouses running on a clever mix of solar power, seawater and the desert! We can support the farmers that do the right thing, or are approaching the right thing, by working hard at our jobs and paying them for that food. It’s our food. We helped growing it by creating the market for it. By buying it. Growing food is hard, so let’s help the experts come up with better, more sustainable ways of growing food by being ready to pay a little more for it – if it comes to that.
And while we have to leave the fossil fuels behind, there are (sadly from a climate point of view) still ample supplies left to transition us to a clean, green, nuclear-waste burning machine. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, the way doomers often assert. From a climate point of view, it does have to happen soon. And then we’ll have the very high ERoEI of nuclear power charging whatever transport solutions we adopt (whether hydrogen, boron, EV’s, trains, trams, and trolley buses). How fast can we do it? Look at history. France went from 8% nuclear to 70% nuclear in 10 years! That’s a fast change to clean electricity in a very short amount of time.
But not only that, clean electricity can charge electric cars (or boron or hydrogen). 70% of Americans could drive electric cars and recharge at night on existing off-peak capacity! The capacity is already there: they’re just not using it. The car fleet turns over about every 16 years. Once we start the next big thing , natural attrition can probably out-race peak oil. There could even be a mix of clean fuels like boron, EV’s, or hydrogen, just as we have a mix of dirty fuels today like petroleum, diesel, and gas. It all depends on how the technologies scale and the costs shake down. I’m hoping we build better cities, so we can use the best technology of all: our shoes! Walking more would help us lose weight and create a closer sense of community. Walkable cities build a little daily exercise into your lifestyle.
Growing your own food is hard. It takes a lot of experience. So why do it? I can’t help think that many doomers are justifying their mid-life crisis treechange. They’re not actively promoting sustainable solutions for our entire civilisation, just for themselves. Maybe their village, if the locals are lucky. And that’s just sad. Many doomers dwell in their own little world where they are the star of “Day of the Triffids” or the “Walking Dead”. They see those of us staying in the big cities as ‘sheeple’, sheep-people blindly following societal norms and consumerist expectations, unaware of the dangers ahead. Well, newsflash. Some of us are aware, and choose to promote an alternative vision of the world that includes everyone making it. And this can already be done with technologies we already have today, and who knows what other fantastic innovations will arrive tomorrow.
I admire people living a simple life in a permaculture village. There is a lot to like; with a great sense of community, a low impact lifestyle; and more free time. They have a lot to teach modern consumer culture about the real value of the slow life and low consumption living. But it’s not the permaculture lifestyle that I dislike. It’s the suicidal doomer memes that drive me mad. It’s why some of them say they are doing it. They steal hope, and drain activist energy. It’s unnecessary. We have the technology to make it, and despite our best efforts to the contrary, probably will. Or we can nuke ourselves back to the stone age. The choice is ours. That’s the point. Collapse is not inevitable, no matter how carefully the doomers dress it up with intellectual sounding arguments. We have the tools, and can slowly tame this industrial beast we’ve created. Despite all the bad news on my summary page, there is hope. I just want to share some around.