Praying for rain, praying for collapse

saguaro cactus

You'd learn to conserve water pretty fast if this were your peak oil retreat. Photo: the pink sip via Flickr.

Bone-dry Arizona wouldn’t be my first pick as a site for an eco-community meant to weather peak oil and climate change.

But that’s exactly where Transition Voice columnist Guy McPherson has decided to “exit the empire” of contemporary American consumerism before it comes crashing down around the residents of America’s biggest cities.

With a couple friends, Guy fled unsustainable Tucson for 2.7 rural acres to set up a self-sufficient intentional community. He hopes it will set an example for others to prepare for the economic collapse that he sees just around the corner. “The Titanic of peak oil smashing into the iceberg of US debt,” as he puts it.

The community plans to grow its own crops and provide its own water — from rainwater harvesting. If Guy is a praying man, I’m guessing he may wear out his knees asking for rain, as climate change is likely to make the US southwest even drier in the future. But since he’s an expert on both climate change and the ecology of Arizona, I’m going to trust that Guy’s already thought this one through.

Destroy civilization to save it

It also sounds like Guy is praying for that economic collapse to come sooner rather than later, as he told TV host Max Keiser, during a recent appearance on the Keiser Report. The show covers politics and the economy and runs on the RT network, the surprisingly freewheeling bi-lingual news service pumped out of Moscow, which Slate has called “Russia’s answer to Fox News and MSNBC.”

I’ve enjoyed reading Guy’s well-informed and passionate Jeremiads against climate suicide ever since his first, “A climate wake-up call,” ran as part of our launch issue in October of last year. That column began with what we’ve come to recognize as Guy’s uncompromising style:

Imagine this scenario. Your medical doctor informs you: “You need to stop all industrial activities immediately, or you’ll be dead in twenty years. And so will your five-year-old child. Eventually, of course, you will die anyway — after all, nobody gets out alive — but your death is guaranteed if you do not stop relying on fossil fuels for travel, heating and cooling, water from the tap, and food from the grocery store.”

I never knew how interesting was Guy’s personal story until now.

Over a 20-year career as a professor of natural resources, ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, Guy built a comfortable career, publishing dozens of scholarly articles and nine books, including Killing the Natives: Has the American Dream Become the American Nightmare? in 2005.

But as he was editing a book on climate change, as he puts it, “it became clear to me then, just over a decade ago, that we had probably committed ourselves to extinction at our own hand. I mourned for six months, to the curious amusement of the three people who noticed. And that’s when I stopped doing primary research on climate change because I thought it was fairly hopeless.”

Then, shortly afterwards, he discovered good news in an unexpected place: peak oil.

He learned how vulnerable the globalized industrial economy was to an oil shock and how the next big energy crisis could bring down the world economy — and thus force us to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80%. In a world of gridlocked climate politics, the fall of industrial society could actually be the only way to save humanity from total climate hell.

That’s when Guy began looking forward to collapse. Maybe you will too after you hear what he has to say about it (Guy’s interview starts at 15:00).

— Erik Curren

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  1. says

    Guy has been a wake up call in my world. His knowledge is immense and his outlook has been brutally honest…which is desperately need BTW.

  2. Bloomer says

    Gloomy video, pretty much sums up where we are heading. Current world population is about 7 billion inhabitants. It is our complex energy driven industrial society that sustains this human population. As resources become more dear, we could likey enter a dark age as grimly described by Thomas Malthus:

    The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world”.
    —Malthus T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population. Chapter VII, p61[25]

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