What to Do? Taking Action in the Face of Collapse
Creating a sustainable culture of peace based on progressive values starts with
facing what’s really going on, both internally and externally.
WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO? Taking Action In The Face Of Collapse
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
By Carolyn Baker
Every time I write an article on collapse such as my most recent one “Happy
Independence Day; You Have No Government”, I am bombarded with emails asking me
“what should I do?” For those who have just discovered this site, that is a
legitimate question because for them, the reality of collapse may be new. Those
who have been following this site for some time have heard many suggestions on
what to do, but this article will offer those and other suggestions again more
clearly and more adamantly than they have been offered here before. The
intensity you are likely to hear in this piece is driven by the urgency which I
and many of my peers are feeling at this moment. Quite frankly, it’s time to
quit screwing around with talking about collapse and start acting. The Rubicon
has been crossed, we’re not living in Kansas anymore, and we are living in the
closest thing we’ve seen to pre-World War II Germany than anything since then.
Suit up and stop theorizing and speculating. It’s showtime.
The first thing I’m not going to tell you is that collapse can be avoided or
that human ingenuity and technology will come up with something to spare us
from it. I’m not going to tell you that there will be some mass movement- some
groundswell of protest, writing letters to Congress, creating blogs and
websites, supporting the “right” candidate, and asking for donations. No, what
I’m going to tell you is that as a nation and as a planet, we are screwed,
fucked, and shit out of luck, or if you prefer Spanish, estamos jodidos.
The second thing I’m not going to tell you is what you’d like to hear-how you
can just keep living the lifestyle you’re living but that somehow you can avoid
collapse. I’m not going to tell you that you can keep banking with Wells Fargo,
Bank of America, Citibank, or any of the other satanic financial monsters and
it will make no difference to you or anyone else. I’m not going to tell you
that you can keep buying your food at your local supermarket or Walmart, and
everything will be fine. I’m not going to tell you to go out and vote for a
presidential candidate in 2008 when even if there is an election, whoever is
selected by the electronic voting industrial complex, will be that complex’s
man or woman-body, mind, and soul. I’m not going to tell you to get a hybrid
vehicle or put solar panels on your house. In fact, before I tell you to do
anything, I’m going to invite you to engage in doing nothing.
Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, creators of the documentary “What A Way
To Go: Life At The End Of Empire”, have suggested five things you can do,
and I’d like to elaborate on those.
Unlike ancient cultures, America is a society of manic doers. Before we have
even understood the problem, we are frantically rushing to find a solution. So
I’m going to ask you first of all to stop-dead in your tracks and do nothing.
In fact, I’m going to suggest that you go out in nature, sit down on a quiet
log, tree stump, rock, or on the grass, and do and say nothing. Look into a
river or stream, study a blade of grass, pick up a handful of soil, focus on a
colony of ants, but whatever you do-pay attention. Look, listen, smell, and
above all, feel your own emotions as you: 1) “fully acknowledge and internalize
that the culture of Empire is destroying the support systems on which the
community of life depends, and robbing us of our essential humanity.”
Acknowledge that all of your efforts and those of everyone you know and love
cannot and will not prevent collapse. In addition, feel the powerlessness,
helplessness, and hopelessness that courses through your body as you do this.
Feel the forever loss of the stream or grass, or soil, or animal that you might
be looking at. Imagine in its place the extinction of everything you are now
perceiving. All that you are now observing has been supporting you, and soon,
it will be gone. How does that feel? Yes, I know. Sad, tragic, horrifying,
enraging-and now you feel even more despair. It’s OK. Let yourself feel it-
really, really feel it. This is sacred time. This is the moment of truth; this
is your meditation on what is so, and you can’t do anything else-not really,
not effectively until you feel these very feelings. In other words, surrender
to the idea of collapse. Stop running from it, imagine it, feel it. The more
you focus on doing, the less you’ll focus on feeling, and your doing will not
work for you until you feel the feelings behind your doing.
And then, when you’ve experienced those very precious and necessary moments of
sacred truth, take yourself into the company of those you love and begin
talking about what is so: 2) “Talk about your concerns with everyone you know.
Make peak oil, climate change, mass extinction and population overshoot
household words.” There will be many people you cannot discuss these with. Find
those with whom you can. This is the beginning of “finding your tribe”-finding
those individuals who get it, who feel what you feel and are no longer in
denial about collapse. They have probably been looking for you as much as you
have been looking for them. Talk not only about the facts, the research, the
events of collapse, but equally or even more importantly, about your feelings
about it. This really isn’t hard to do. If you have children, think about their
future. What do you feel?
Yes, I know you want to know more about what to do, but slow down. You’re
moving too fast. Keep feeling. Keep talking.
The very first action steps really have to do with you and your inner world.
You need to think and feel about who YOU want to be in the face of collapse.
What kind of work do you really want to be doing? 3) “Find your work in the
world to preserve life, change this culture and /or create restorative ways for
individuals and communities to live in harmony with each other and the non-
human world.” Does the work you’re doing help to preserve life? Do you need to
relocate to another part of the country or world so that you and your loved
ones can live lifestyles that prepare yourselves for collapse? What are you
doing to take responsibility for your food supply? How are you preparing to
live in a post-petroleum world? Can you even fathom what that means? Such
dramatic change does not happen overnight; it’s a transition, but remember, you
don’t have all the time in the world. Several dozen species have become extinct
while you’ve been reading this article.
4) “Assess what you actually need during this transition in order to live and
do your work. Only buy what you need and buy from local sources in order to
support the creation of local economies.” And now comes an enormously important
exercise: What do I need and what don’t I need? Preparation for collapse will
change as much in your life as will collapse itself. Every step of preparation
is a meditation, a paring down, and gathering together, always informed by “Who
do I want to be? What’s really important? What do I really not need? What do I
I believe that one reason collapse is so unthinkable for many individuals is
that they have no spiritual (I did not say religious) basis for navigating it.
On the other hand, some individuals can think deeply about and realize its
daunting reality, but they approach it with cynicism and bitterness. All of the
above questions I have suggested entertaining are essentially spiritual
questions because they are questions of the soul. 5) Therefore, “find or deepen
your spiritual connection to that which is greater than you. Ask and then
listen for guidance about how to live joyfully and creatively in the face of
these unprecedented times.”
One of my favorite mantras is a quote from Derrick Jensen: “We’re fucked,
and life is really, really good.” Amid the dismal we need fun, joy, play,
lightness of heart, art, music, poetry, songs, stories, and creativity of
infinite varieties. Yes, I know, it’s a tremendous challenge holding such
opposite emotions in the same body, but that is our work in the face of the end
of the world as we have known it. Recall the words of Morpheus in “The Matrix”:
“I didn’t say it would be easy, I just said it would be the truth.”
I will be away from the computer and Truth To Power from July 14-28. Not only
do I need two weeks away from the website, but I need to gather with my “tribe”
as we spend days and nights in nature sharing our feelings and planning how we
might create and maintain a community for navigating collapse. People often ask
me what I’m doing to prepare and where I might relocate. Even if I were able to
tell you, what I would tell you isn’t necessarily what you should be doing or
where you should be going. Only you can discover that for yourself. My wish for
you is that you will use these two weeks to contemplate your future and where
you need to be and what you need to be doing.
Remember: There are no “solutions” but only options as the fascist empire
concretizes around us. Part of the empire’s agenda is to keep you, like a dog
chasing its tail, looking for solutions and bashing people who don’t offer them
to you but tell you the truth instead-that the future of you and your loved
ones is entirely in your hands and no one else’s. The sooner you let go of your
illusions about avoiding collapse and someone or something being able to
prevent and cure it, the more energy you will free up to act on behalf of
yourself and your tribe.
OK, now I’ve told you what to do. If you don’t want to do it or refuse to do
it, please don’t call me “dismal”, “negative” or a “purveyor of hopelessness.”
Look in the mirror and ask yourself how it is that after all this time, despite
all the information you have, you still don’t get it. Someone has said, “Deal
with reality or reality will deal with you.” Do you want to deal with reality
when collapse is in your face, or do you want to take action to prepare for it
now? Ground yourself in your authentic feelings about your collapsing world,
then join with your tribe to build lifeboats. For two weeks this website will
be in “hibernation”. It could be sacred time–time to reflect, time to feel,
time to act-before time runs out.