A Year After the Age of Limits: Mr. Homegrown’s Take

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Our culture tends towards false dichotomies, in the case of last year’s Age of Limits conference, the “desparium” of climate change and resource limits versus the broader culture’s “hopium” of techno-utopianism. As filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsy once said, “One day, someone showed me a glass of water that was half full. And he said, “Is it half full or half empty?” So I drank the water. No more problem.”

In her post Mrs. Homegrown mentioned that I had more to say about last year’s Age of Limits Conference. I don’t have much. She’s is a much better writer than I and she said pretty much everything I would have said.

Not to minimize the challenges we all face from resource limits or climate change, but we humans are very bad at predicting the future. And we have a tendency to turn our desires into apocalyptic fantasies. Whether we have or have not passed the point of no return with these problems, it is immoral not to try to come to the aid of all beings and work to maintain the paradise that is the living earth. I’m especially concerned when I hear dark fantasies about sudden population decline combined with notions that the plucky and righteous survivors will get to choose who lives and who dies. More than one participant suggested such a scenario at the conference.

And, I have to get this off my chest: the fabricated rituals dealing with both personal and societal grief bugged me. Far from helping, they seemed to reinforce a depressive and unproductive group dynamic. Meaningful ritual comes from deep in the collective unconscious. It’s not something you can wing with some bad poetry, encounter sessions and bongos.

On the positive side, it was a pleasure to hang out with and talk to John Michael Greer. Throughout the conference he held court outside the tent and discussed many of my favorite topics: organic gardening, Ham radio, appropriate technology, fraternal societies and even letterpress printing. When a talk or activity annoyed me, I’d walk out and find Greer.

What I would have liked to have seen at the Age of Limits was a wider range of voices. A few mainstream climate scientists would have been a good start. Instead, we were only hearing the most extreme points of view.

One of the organizers emailed us shortly after the conference to ask us to return this year and speak. I wrote back and said I’d do it but never heard back. Perhaps my email ended up in a spam box. I’m glad that I’m not going. I’ve got bread to bake, talks to give and a much delayed vegetable garden to plant.

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12 Comments

  1. “…it is immoral not to try to come to the aid of all beings and work to maintain the paradise that is the living earth.”
    Love this.

    • Which is exactly what you are doing Lucha. Many thanks for your hard work in our community.

  2. Happy to hear your intake on this. (I’ve been waiting). Glad you were able to stay home and bake and work in the garden. I do not think that the majority of mankind is a bunch of greedy bastards who will destroy the world. (only just a few) I think that in general mankind is kind, inventive, and sincere in his/her efforts to do the right thing and that YES we are going through changes but they are going to be considered positive changes. Kinda like childbirth.

  3. I second Lucha’s sentiment. That was beautiful and so true. I also got a good chuckle out of not creating meaningful ritual with “bad poetry, encounter sessions and bongos.” Been there, seen that. Enjoy the bread and the garden.

  4. Very insightful. I wonder what it is about us humans that the dark apocalyptic narratives and futuristic sci-fi dystopia stuff is so compelling? I’d much rather savor that homemade bread and home-brewed beer with good friends and enjoy the simple things than focus on the horrific potential outcomes of future events.

    I’m a tad jealous that you got to meet JMG. I’ve been a fan of his books and blog for quite some time now and think he’d be a pretty cool dude to hang out with.

  5. “And we have a tendency to turn our desires into apocalyptic fantasies.”

    As I read some blogs, I think the authors really want all-out war with the government, confrontation with zombies, and enforced hardship. Sometimes, these articles frighten me. Then, I recover, probably using normalcy bias. I do agree with your view of rituals. I remember how the Kennedys were criticized for going outside and playing football instead of staying inside and mourning for their dead. I agreed at first, then stepped back and decided they were handling their grief in a more productive way.

  6. I don’t live too far from where Mr./Mrs. Homegrown live, so I know first hand how community involvement, beautification with purpose & localizing of markets work.

    This area saw spike in crimes both violent & property back in the 80s and 90s, it was almost like a neighborhood from Charles Bronson movies.

    A family was gunned down in an alley not too far from us in 95, in which a little girl died with her parents and brother suffering serious injuries.

    Federal and local police swooped in, since then our neighborhood has been on a steady rise. The police may take credit (the Aves. are still as notorious today), but it wasn’t them…

    It was the community and people like Mr./Mrs. Homegrown showing the way to a better life. The whole place from Eagle Rock down to Echo Park, even downtown area is improving.

    Are there chances of getting hit with a stray bullet, especially on New Year’s, or getting robbed in the middle of the day walking to the market (like that guy from the Killing Fields on Sunset Blvd.)

    Even though property values in this area are sky rocketing, yes violent crimes are still a possibility, so should security and the ability to defend yourself from those who mean you harm still be considered?

    Yes. But security thru, by, with others, ie. Neighborhood Watch NOT by peeking through your blinds, but by populating the sidewalks, porches, front yards.

    Mr./Mrs. Homegrown, pls. write articles about crimes in your area and practical ways to counter them via the above philosophies you’ve laid out in these two articles, since many here aren’t very familiar with the area you guys live in and the history.

    Thank you so much for these past two articles.

    • Hey Pablo, I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time but never seem to get around to it. I think security really begins with knowing your neighbors. A neighbor of ours got the ball rolling by throwing a party and inviting all the neighbors. I realized, at that party, how important this is. When people know each other on a first name basis they look out for each other and are less likely to squabble over little things.

  7. This also stood out for me: “…it is immoral not to try to come to the aid of all beings and work to maintain the paradise that is the living earth.”

    I was reading something online yesterday (http://mythodrome.net/mike-ruppert-childhood-abuse-near-term-extinction) about the rise of NTE believers and the utter negativity (masquerading as certainty) surrounding that kind of thinking. We cannot predict the future, as you note. So, whether it’ll be sunny or cloudy or some mix of both – we can only speculate and act appropriately (and by that I point toward your sentence above).

    This morning, with that still kind of under the surface of my thoughts, I came across this in an old issue of Permaculture Activist: “Expectations are like wishes – they’re not always granted…”

    and a corresponding quote from E.F. Schumacher that really highlighted the importance of being aware of one’s mindset: “So I certainly never feel discouraged. I can’t myself raise the winds that might blow us, or this ship, into a better world. But I can at least put up the sail so that, when the wind comes, I can catch it.”

    The other day I came across a video (and there are countless others like it) of some divers disentangling a manta ray from fishing line that had cut into its wing. That one act didn’t solve any systemic issues, but it points out that humans, rather than being (forever-and-always-defined-as) only pests are capable of compassionate inclusion & effort. Imagine if we were the species celebrated (and, well, nurtured) by other species for our ability to aid in biospheric regeneration and ecological enhancement! In some environments/times couldn’t it be said that humans did fill that niche? I have no desire to idealize native/traditional cultures but to point out that there are numerous examples of groups of people contributing to their environment rather than only depleting it.

    Let that inform our short (individual or collective) time here. Keep on with the gardening and bread baking!

    • Wendy–many thanks for the link to the essay on Mythdrome. The writer articulates the suffering and abuse that, I think, leads people to be attracted to these ideas. People should read the whole essay, but I especially like the following paragraphs:

      “Moreover, the scientific-materialist paradigm does not take into account the agency raw consciousness has within our physical domain. The Earth is a living system comprised of the consciousnesses of all her inhabitants, animal, plant, mineral, and otherwise. Moreover, all of these are part-and-parcel with the infinite Universal consciousness. That science lacks devices to measure consciousness doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It is there — it’s the water we fish are unable to perceive. Consciousness does not want non-being.

      In reading the comments at Guy’s blog and taking in other NTE media, it doesn’t seem as if anyone is really interested in addressing the facts that the future is unwritten and that Earth’s beings, humans in particular, possess both consciousness and agency. In the extinct-o-sphere, human extinction within the next 40 years is a foregone conclusion. Why would anyone commit themselves so completely to such an incomprehensible fatalism when the truth of the matter has yet to be determined? How is this any different than holding to a cornucopian view? Both lay claim to the unknowable future. They are, in fact, flip sides of the same coin.”

      And thanks for the Schumacher quote too.

  8. Hear! Hear! Yes to more devotion to community and actions that inspire empowerment, like home economic skills!

    I spent a few years keyed in to the likes of the Age of Limits presenters, and in the end, I felt like I was joining a voluntary suicide mission.

  9. The inertial effects of a positive feed back loop contained in a closed system rarely produce a happy outcome for the participants.

    Human agency through the application of appropriate technology can mitigate some of the effects, but the damage has already been done.

    Our trouble with predicting the future stems from the fact that our brains pattern things using simple, deterministic models. We see only isolated instances of input and output, and are hampered even further by a distorted view of time.

    We are not equipped to comprehend consequences on an ecological level, they are simply far to complex. We evolved for survival not stewardship, and the assumption that an imbalance as severe as the one we created, will not have an equal and opposite reaction, is just as naive as the conference speakers who claim to know how it plays out.

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and I believe that our species will survive whatever is coming our way, but I can’t shake the feeling that there is going to be far fewer of us, far sooner than we may think (hopefully I’m just another paranoid nut).

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