Learning From the Collapse of Earlier Societies (112)

pm112_550According to Professor Guy Prouty, every civilization rises, evolves, and then collapses to a simpler structure — and this will include our own. Comparing America with the Western Roman Empire, Prouty notes the over-reach of our military, the unsustainability of capitalism, peak oil, and climate change. And, this time, we may see a global collapse. Transitioning to a simpler society will require us to change behavior and consciousness: decrease energy, get out of debt, decentralize, de-consume, grow our own food, build community, see ourselves as connected to the planet. Collapse is not the end, he says. It’s part of a natural cycle. Episode 112.

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  1. Chris says: “what about Intentional Communities that are forming out of no where… how do modern professions make the transition… to a profession or career that well sustain them in these new communities ?”

    I think there are two possibilities that may have more or less appeal, depending on your temperament:

    1) Dive in. Find a group that appeals to you, and throw yourself on their mercy. Come with an open mind, commit all your resources, and don’t look back.

    2) Test the waters. Many communities will “take you in” for a limited period, such as during your annual holiday leave from your job in the unreal world. Shop about. Read and research like crazy.

    Regardless of how you prefer to do things, I recommend the book “Finding Community,” by my friend Diana Leafe Christian. This book answers the questions you didn’t ask. Transitioning your career may well be the least of your troubles in moving to a radically new life-style!

    From a community’s point-of-view, you must have something to offer them, as well. It could be your high-tech career has many more years of life left in it, even as we transition to a lower level of energy. Such careers can be very portable, and as long as the Internet is available, you can do such tasks from a wheat field in Manitoba as well as you can do them in Silicon Valley. The income from high-tech consulting could be of immense use to a forming or building community, which might then be willing to help you work your way into something more sustainable.

    EcoReality would welcome such a new member. There is lots of work to do here, and not much time to do it!

  2. Chris, that’s a good question. One idea: Paul and Sarah Edwards have written a book titled “Middle Class Lifeboat: Careers and Life Choices for Navigating a Changing Economy” that addresses some of your question. they include different “secure” careers–the kinds we’ll always need like repair-persons or furniture-builders. There are also a number of virtual careers — ones you can largely do from home with a computer and communications links. (This assumes the grid and communications services stay pretty stable.)
    Along with ways to reduce your cost of living and stay afloat, freeing your time to apply and learn other skills.

  3. hello
    in New Mexico there is of Course Mike Renolds who is building Earth ships house’s and communities of self sustaining homes. see earth Warrior, but what has happen to his programs lately?
    what about Intentional Communities that are forming out of no where.
    I have a lot of questions, how do modern professions make the transition
    from say Computer tech to a profession or career that well sustain them in these new communities ?

  4. Charles, Thank you for your comment as well as your connection to Joseph Tainter. I’d welcome doing a program with him. I first read of his book in Richard Heinberg’s Powerdown, and was really struck by the connection Tainter makes between energy and complexity in civilizations.

    I find it important to use the scientists’ definition of collapse as a simplification, rather than the more common use of that word, which connotes going back to square one–complete destruction or catastrophe.

    I’ll email you directly for contact info, and thank you for watching Peak Moment programs. We welcome ideas for programs from all our viewers.

    –Janaia Donaldson, host

  5. You are to be congratulated for addressing the topic of complex societies and Tainter’s important theory of collapse. The speaker, however, seems poorly versed in Tainter’s argument, and unable to extrapolate from it to the problems facing American society. Why not interview Tainter himself? I know Jim personally; he is a gifted speaker. In fact I invited him to my institution last year, and he spoke to an audience of over 500. He is also extremely accessible. If interested, contact him in the Department of Ecology and Society at Utah State University in Logan. Another good person to interview is George Handley, Professor of Comparative Literature at Brigham Young University. Thanks again for bringing up the issue of societal collapse, and best wishes for the continued success of your program.

    Charles Nuckolls, Professor of Anthropology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

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