Native Berryvillian Kevin Michael O'Connor, the Host and Producer of C-Realm Podcasts, has compiled a fascinating anthology titled Conversations on Collapse that is comprised of interviews with a number of contemporary public intellectuals such as Joe Bageant, James Howard Kunstler, and Cornelia Butler Flora.
Conversations asks the question "is industrial civilization headed for a collapse?" O'Connor, or KMO as he is known to his listeners, clearly believes that the answer is yes, as do the majority of his interviewees.
One of KMO's interviews is with Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of Environment, Scarcity, and Violence and The Ingenuity Gap. In it, Homer-Dixon discusses production agriculture and the cost of turning petroleum into food. "We have, on a per acre basis" says Homer-Dixon, "multiplied our agricultural productivity about fourfold in the last century or so, but we have increased our energy input per acre by eightyfold. That is clearly, in a world of much higher energy cost, going to be much more difficult to sustain. Is that going to produce a population correction?"
The term "population correction" pops up in many of KMO's interviews, probably because most of his subjects are Malthusian theorists. Malthus, by the way, was a mathematician and philosopher who famously predicted that, at some point, population would outstrip production with mass starvation and scarcity as the result. Without putting too fine a point on it, "population correction" means that millions, and maybe billions, of people will die.
In roughly 586 BC, the Prophet Jeremiah foretold the imminent destruction of the civilized world. Doomsayers--and KMO's subjects certainly fall into that category--have been at it ever since. And, thanks to our flu-like economy, we are treated to threats of extinction on all fronts, twenty-four seven. Hardly anyone feels good about the state of the world's affairs.
Today's Jeremiahs point to over-population, government deficits, global warming, homosexuals in the military, the death of print, oil and fossil fuel depletion, international terrorism, production agriculture, and Hoards of Big Fat Over Privileged Baby Boomers going on the dole, as the immediate causes.
As a Big Fat Over-Privileged Baby Boomer I've been through the Commies under the bed catastrophe, the Elvis induction, Vietnam, assassinations, Black Power, The Moral Majority, the Johnson Nixon Carter Reagan deluge, the War on Drugs, Bill Clinton feeling my pain, W. feeling no pain, and Barack Obama turning his administration over to a bunch of Corporate Sharpies.
The temptation to go on is considerable. I haven't even touched on seeing a Fruit Loop on the radio become a Major Conservative Voice, a Junk Food Executive from Mars Candy appointed USDA's Undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics, and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell divvying up $72.6 million dollars from lobbyists who've contributed to their campaigns.
Ain't it awful?
Actually, it is. Without belaboring the point, Congress simply functions as a shell game--and the institutions that we depend on for cultural and civic guidance--our churches, public schools, newspapers, and philanthropic organizations--have become increasingly irrelevant as they struggle to deal with technological change, and a more and more distracted people.
Joe Bageant, the author of the bestselling book Deer Hunting with Jesus, said, "Most people [Americans] have been reduced to a market demographic. They're consumers, they're not citizens. No matter how active they are within the system [employment, religion, government, etc.] the system is the problem."
The transformation of citizens into simple consumers is a prevalent theme though out the interviews, summarized by Bageant as "the Stockholm syndrome of the soul," where people become willing hostages to corporations and political parties that con them into acting against their own best interests. This allows people to believe that we are, for example, "supporting our troops" by waging war in the Middle East at the cost of $100 million dollars a day with money borrowed from the Chinese.
KMO's intent and the intentions of the people he interviews is to create awareness that "this time" things are different: bad things are going to happen if we don't throw off the shackles of consumerism and our enslavement to party politics.
Whether we throw off shackles or throw rascals out of office ultimately depends on whether people are willing to change how they live. We've done a poor job of accepting change, as a people and as a civilization, for most of our history. But if KMO is right, we should get ready.
The interviews in Conversation on Collapse can be heard at http://c-realm.com/. Hard copies of the book are available at www.Amazon.com.