Guest post: We’ve come to believe our own press clippings

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? on They appointed an expert group.

I strip you naked and stand you out in the savannah in front of a hungry lion, you will understand. Biology rules not only us but lions…tigers…bears…spiders…snakes…etc etc etc

We’ve used our intelligence and technology to smooth over some of the rough edges of material existence. Unfortunately we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that we’ve completely escaped all that biology stuff, and that we are beyond the jurisdiction of the rules that govern the rest of life.

In a very short time, most of us in the West have become divorced from the basic processes that sustain the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed. Food comes from a supermarket. Electricity comes from a hole in the wall. We can get almost anything, from anywhere, delivered to our doorstep with a few clicks of a button.

We’ve come to believe our own press clippings, and think we’re a self-made species. “Natural Selection what? Underclass who?” This ease and this ignorance has come at a price.

In the process of creating our comfortable, insular lifestyle, we’ve degraded and destroyed the natural foundation upon which it’s all actually based. It’s now a disaster to be without electricity, or the internet. People will die without them; this is how dependent we’ve become on the civilizational sandcastle we’ve built for ourselves.

This second order dependence masks the deeper dependencies we thought we’d left behind on the savannah. Much of what passes for wealth is completely disconnected from the physical facts of material existence, and depends on data in computers; a mighty Empire built on nothing, calling the shots. Even now, while the world burns, trillionaires-in-the-making are planning their moves; our fate is in the hands of the spiritual heirs of Ozymandius.

But while their influence is indeed powerful, it is not supernatural. We are all on the savannah; it’s right outside the office cubicle, waiting. You’ll get by for a lot longer without a bank than you will without clean air, clean water, and food. Unfortunately, the banks have discovered that we can live (for a while at least) on dirty air, dirty water, and a bit of food, which is fine, so long as we pay our credit card bills every month, which are the only bills they think are important enough to pay.

We’re told all the time that we shouldn’t live beyond our financial means, that we should avoid debt. (Or at least that’s what we non-billionaires are told; restraint is for you, not your betters.) Well, we as a civilization are living way beyond our physical means, overextending our “credit” against what the planet can support in anything beyond a very short term.

In 2022, Earth Overshoot Day (“the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year”) was July 28. Anything used after that day was either from the proceeds of theft, or burning up capital. If you eat your seed corn, you have nothing to plant. This is also true if you buy, or steal your neighbour’s seed corn and eat it. At some point there’s nothing to plant and nothing to eat. Bankers seem not to have cottoned on to this concept, nor have they realized that at some point, they’re going to run out of clean air, clean water, and food. It’s all connected, and all the high-finance shenanigans in the world won’t change that.

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