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Would you still do it if you knew it was futile?

 
pollinator
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Hypothetical question here - if you knew we were past the “tipping point” and that there would not be sufficient change in the world to stop runaway climate change that would obliterate human life by the year 2050, would you do anything differently?  If not, why not?  

It seems clear that despite the dire warnings, the vast majority of humans are continuing in a business as usual mode, probably with a shrug of their collective shoulders in a “nothing I can do about it” sort of way. “Party like it’s 1999, cuz the world ends tomorrow.”

So if that were true - that you knew our last human would gasp her last breath on January 1st, 2050, and nothing you or anyone else do will change that, would you change what you are doing now?

To be clear, not looking to debate whether climate change exists, or whether we can do anything about it - just trying to get to an understanding of what would motivate someone to adopt a permaculture lifestyle even if they thought it wouldn’t change anything on a grand scale. It seems that many don’t change or take action because they don’t think it will matter.
 
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I look at what I know about history.  History of humans.  History of climate.  I feel that we are well beyond the tipping point.  even the bbc says we only have 17 months to reach the tipping point. Survival beyond a couple of generations seems impossible.

But I also know from looking at history, that the impossible is within our skill set.  Humans are capable of the most amazing things.  

Climate change on the small, natural scale, is the number one destroyer of state-level societies.  When this happens, human society breaks down to the village level and starts again.  But there are examples from history where societies have reversed (small, local, natural) climate change through dedicated action and a shifting of their whole outlook towards the world.   They did the impossible.  They worked with nature to reverse disaster well beyond the tipping point.  Sometimes I imagine that we could do this too.

Here we are at the cusp of a kind of climate change unlike any our species has seen before.  The enormity of it staggers me.  I cannot see a way through this.

And yet, looking at the cultures that made it, the one thing they did was to look at what techniques already existed around them.  In England, something as simple as installing chimneys and switching from wine to beer, in Japan, they changed their forestry, diet, and building practices.  These skills already existed.  I see permaculture as a way to preserve these skills and make them applicable to the modern setting.

So yeh.  I do think we are probably doomed.  I'll probably live long enough to see the world fall to shit.  But I still choose to have hope because the alternative - not having hope - is unsustainable.  

I carry on.
I chop wood.
I carry water.
I plant seeds.
I teach others when I can.
I hope.

 
garden master
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I would still do it, and I am doing regenerative agriculture/permaculture/beyond organic gardening & farming. Personally, I think the world is beyond the tipping point, but I still do what I believe in anyway because for me it's a quality lifestyle, independence, it's ethically the right thing to do, and I hope that I'm wrong (again) and maybe the masses will wake up, and I can be one of many to help teach people better ways, and civilization will take the fork in the road and humans won't be extinct sooner instead of later.
 
pollinator
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Good question, Artie.

I kinda like this permaculture stuff, regardless of anything. It seems like a great way to hang out on this planet and feel like I'm part of it rather than some alien godzilla-like thing that doesn't know where it is and just destroys whatever it comes across. I really like being able to be friends with the birds and the trees instead of wanting to kill them all. And knowing how to do that in a way that it's not just a hippie dreamer deal, but also actually works, and could work for everyone and everywhere.

I agree with R a lot that I think we're probably past the tipping point, though nature is unbelievably complex and the truth is we just don't know. And, we sometimes pull off miracles. We really do. Don't know how. But if this flaming wreck of late-stage capitalism is really gonna take us speeding down the hill and off the homo-sapiens-extinction cliff in the next few decades, which my gut tells me is about 50-50, I really have a lot better things to do than help them push downhill.

The idiots that people will actually wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and go and vote for, leave me speechless. I don't think that each of us as individuals at home changing our habits is gonna be enough to save us by a longshot. Government actually matters. On that, I'm actually pessimistic. A huge portion of people's information, all over the world, runs through a very small number of funnels these days, all seemingly in the hands of the loonies. If that doesn't change, I'm pretty sure we're toast. But weird changes happen unexpectedly, so here's to that.

In any case, out I go to mulch my tomato plants. And I worry about whether a swale or a bench or doing nothing is the best solution for a certain little patch of land. Is this an ethical decision? I don't know, but it's my decision.
 
master pollinator
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If I felt that what I do with my life is so meaningless I don't reckon I would keep trying to live.  So yeah, I would still do it because it has become my way of life.

 
Artie Scott
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Great answers!  

Dave, I am totally with you - it is a great way to hang out as friends with the birds and the trees, and not be part of the problem.

James, quality of life, independence, and the ethical choice - agree!  

Raven, teaching, choosing hope - love that.

Tyler, adding meaning to life seems closely aligned to hope.

I think these are all great reasons, and while I can be pessimistic in my dark moments, I still like to think that doing the right thing, the ethical thing, is also the most pleasant way to live. Much is beyond our control. All we can do is our best, and try to teach others, and hope. And enjoy the fabulous beauty we have all around us.
 
pollinator
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What an interesting question and thread.

I appreciated ravens historical musings. Indeed humans have believed things an masse which turned out to be wrong. Many times. Those beliefs have translated into needless wars and even mass suicides at times. What would have happened if the masses didnt believe? What if they just stayed home and tended their gardens and taught their kids to be kind productive humans? How different might history be?

I also like the span of control line of thinking. Whether we are right or wrong about what we believe about what is occuring and will occur in the future, the fact remains our influence is highest within our span of control. What will we make, eat,  purchase, teach, share? When we get much beyond that, it is often unclear if we have actual influence and if it is going to be used per our intent. (Politicians who get elected on a platform and then do the opposite of their talking points comes to mind.)

So combining these ideas leads me to consider kants categorical. Imperative.

Rusty memory paraphrase
So live, that you would wish your conduct to be the universal rule of conduct for all mankind.

Ie, if everyone reverted to permaculture practices, the narratives wouldnt matter and the outcomes would certainly be better.


 
pollinator
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I do what I do, I am not a believer the world is going to end, geologically speaking it's generally been a lot hotter, wetter (when the globe heats up the available water in the atmosphere increases) and had 0 icecaps. The world and life on it will trundle on quite happily. I would even go as far to say that human population will probably not nosedive not in the long term anyway. short term wars where people desperately try to move around the globe could cause issues depending on how they are managed. (so for could read will) But the total available land/resources will not shrink much if at all. It's just the distribution of it that will. So there will be winners and losers, those of us in the west have the most to lose, but we also have the most resources with which to win.
 
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When doing the right thing seems futile, it is time to dig in and be even more determined to do the right thing.  I may not change the world by doing the right thing, but I can sleep well at night knowing that I am doing my best.  I may not be able to change the world, I can only change me.  To paraphrase Paul, the Duke of Permaculture, I can either spend my time being angry at the bad guys or I can spend my time doing the right things.  I agree with Paul.
 
pollinator
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Wow, we really are digging into philosophy here. As somebody who vacillates between nihilism, stoicism, a little bit of utilitarianism, and a whole lot of profound depression, I would say that I do what I do because it suits me, both spiritually and physically, and I feel like that's the best I can hope for. Let us all find some kind of peace in this world we live in.
 
gardener
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Coming at the question from two different perspectives:

1.  Yes.  I would still do something.  When I look at people surviving in places like North Africa or the Gobi desert, I realize that life will still go on long after the scientists tell us that we've passed the point of no return.  People will adapt.  Yes, millions and perhaps billions will ultimately die, but not everyone.  Those who adapt will survive.  I fully plan to be one of them.  Thus, prepare to live in a climate that will very well me much drier.  But it could be wetter -- it will depend upon where you live.  

2.  Yes.  My undergirding philosophy of life is based upon a faith that gives me hope.  I'm a prisoner of hope, if you will.  Down through the millennia, people of faith have gone through horrific situations and passed through unimaginably terrible circumstances, yet have held onto the hope that there is something larger at stake.

I think of poor Sam and Frodo, making their way to Mordor.  When all seemed lost, and Frodo had reached his limits, Sam steps forward with this beautiful monolog.




It's never futile.  

"Folk in those stories had lots of chances to turn back, but they kept going because they were holding onto something."
 
"What are we holding onto Sam?"

"That there's still good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."


 
Artie Scott
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J, the Categorical Imperative!  You rock!  Major philosophy class flashbacks here - hadn’t thought of Kant in, well, let’s just say a good long time. But you are absolutely right.

Does any of this get us any closer to convincing the world’s eeyores that are convinced there is no point doing anything, so they might as well continue enjoying their lifestyle while they can?  I think Paul’s “more luxuriant life” gets us part way there. Is it a combination of that, plus it’s the right thing to do (a’ la Kant)?  How do we articulate a compelling case for doing it even to those who believe it won’t significantly change the trajectory?
 
Stacy Witscher
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I am definitely an Eeyore, so I don't see that as a negative, but I also love Kant and Epictetus and Thoreau. One of my kids has a philosophy degree, so I enjoy all of this.

I definitely think that my ability to eat fine dining type food for less has influenced my choices. Really the only reason to work in fine dining is the food, I could do without the low pay and sexual harassment.
 
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What about the other end of the spectrum?

What if someone found a hilariously inexpensive and fast (and beautiful, and regenerative and stimulating and purposeful and in short good) way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? And a very simple solution to the problem of carbon emissions?

What's the motivation then to practice permaculture, or some form of regenerative ag?

 
J Davis
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Kamaar Taliaferro wrote:What about the other end of the spectrum?
What if someone found a hilariously inexpensive and fast (and beautiful, and regenerative and stimulating and purposeful and in short good) way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? And a very simple solution to the problem of carbon emissions?
What's the motivation then to practice permaculture, or some form of regenerative ag?



Interesting question.

I think this question actually highlights the weakness of championing a single purpose as the rationale for permaculture.

If the purpose of this site is to reverse climate change then candidly it is named wrong (permies). There are many potential solutions to that issue which conflict with the very principles of permaculture.

People already land on permaculture for a variety of reasons including:
- an aversion to what is perceived as a shallow consumer culture (back to the land movement)
- the logical conclusion of a prepper mindset (long term food producitivity with minimal inputs)
- method for revitalizing the prosperity of remote and 3rd world villages (reverting to no till, restoring watersheds, layered forest for shade, water retention)
- community self reliance independent of supply chains (resilient, isolationist, etc)

If we are not careful, a single focused rationale will keep people with other preimary motivations from rooting in the permies community.

Lets do permaculture because it works!

And I suggest we throw the global warming rationale in the cider press with religion and politics.
 
 
Artie Scott
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Hi Kamaar,

Great question!  I think the rationale is exactly the same - a delicious way of life, communing with the trees and the birds, the ethical way to interact with all living things, the Categorical Imperative.  
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kamaar Taliaferro wrote:
What's the motivation then to practice permaculture, or some form of regenerative ag?



The purpose of permaculture is not to reverse global warming, it is to create resilient human culture in concert with Nature.  That's the motivation.

"Permaculture...is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."  Bill Mollison, Preface, Permaculture a Designers Manual

In the absence of global warming we would still need permaculture.

 
pollinator
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If there’s a way to lose the people and keep orangutans, I’m all for it!
 
Kamaar Taliaferro
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My bad y'all my intention wasn't to suggest permaculture is just another term for reversing potential climate catastrophe. Or that it was even a primary goal--or even just a potential side effect.

The way I worded a potential solution definitely sounded a lot like an infomercial: "try this and we will have world peace."

I was just curious too. Like hypothetically everyone on Earth is already practicing some form of permaculture. What then might be the frictions we're looking to smooth, or the depths we're exploring, the roles we play, etc. Do we have the language today to explain what that world of tomorrow might look like?

But it seems like, for myself at least, the starting position doesn't fundamentally alter the desire to practice permaculture. And ya know, it's kinda fun too.

**edit** Artie I fully agree





 
pollinator
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My problem with the climate change thing is that we've only been tracking the weather for a couple hundred years but the planet is how old?
Also, the solutions proposed by government and rich people, most likely won't apply to them.

The earth, nature, God or whatever force, tends to have a way of fixing us on occasion. Plagues, mini ice ages, natural disasters. The planet seems to make it through though.

I don't doubt that we don't do the earth any favors sometimes. I grew up in Massachusetts in the 70s-80s and there's a song about the Charles river. "Well I love that dirty water, Boston you're my home" The Charles River was the most polluted in the country. I think that's why they sent all our industry to China. Our rivers are clean now but China is as bad as our industrial areas were back in the day but I don't hear many people in government or big business saying much about that.

Likewise, I know top soil loss is a thing because it's something we can observe. I cut a lot of trees here and the stumps I cut down to 1 inch are now sticking up 3 inches. Some of that's from me driving around on the tractor but some of it is soil loss. The humus goes real quick, then the top soil starts. It's only a few places and I'm careful to try and prevent it now. There's a property up the road that has gullies down into the red clay subsoil. I've seen a few posts here lately of people wanting to work a piece of land that is a 20-25% slope and I cringe a bit, though there's a cattle guy down the road that has beautiful deep green grass/pasture growing on that sort of slope. He's got the best looking pasture in the area so he really knows his shit.

Pretty much everyone who gardens around here uses white powders. Fertilizer and bug killer. My second year here, I grew really nice potatoes and pulled most of the plants up by hand while my neighbor worked all day digging taters out. I helped him one year. He had little taters and not many of them. Maybe 2-3 lbs for every lb of seed taters which is bad. I haven't gardened steady here yet but when I do a big run of taters in nicely amended soil, I'm going to call him down here to help me dig(pull) them.  

I've got another neighbor/buddy further up the road that gardens about the same way. No amending the soil or mulching. He adds white powder and waters when the clay starts cracking. He's more into gardening than the first neighbor mentioned so when I get my shit going real good, I'll invite him over for a few beers and show him the garden. He's more apt to follow suit than the other guy but only after arguing that he knows best. Got that pride thing going on.

When I get our passive solar house built, I'll invite people over to hang out when it's early Spring - late Fall and they're already burning wood but I won't be. They all have decent houses built and aren't going to rebuild at their age but they'll talk about it to other people.

Some day it seems like it might be a futile effort for me to even get all this stuff done but I'm not going to quit. I have kids and they'll learn from what I do get done and hopefully finish things.

Back in the 70s, they said the tipping point was the 90s. I bet during the dust bowl days and Great Depression they said we were doomed. We don't know as much as we think we do.

Most TV shows and Movies these days have some sort of environmental bent but the people that make those tv shows and movies live a fine lifestyle. I don't watch much of it and I point things like that out to the wife and kids.

40 years ago butter was bad so we all switched to margarine. Then it changed back. The "food pyramid" is no longer and was different before it came along. I don't think the scientists know as much as we think they do.

We do what we can and try to get a few others to do some things that will help us along and that's about all we can do. Things are never going to change by force. The people that want to make you change usually have a different set of rules for themselves than they want applied to you, hence permaculture.

People are actually changing for the better in some ways. It would be a lot better without the culture wars but it takes time. Way longer than any of us will be able to observe for the most part. Similar to the long term weather patterns or the evolution of anything. My sister did our genealogy and just 150 years ago, every couple had about 10-12 kids, just to end up with 4-6 kids that live past the age of 3. Most of the ones that died, did so within the first year. We've come a long way in 150 years. Do we want to go all primitive and go back to that? No. We just need to adjust recognize where we go wrong and adjust. Just like life in general.

Will we survive? Most likely.

Will it be how you or I envision? Most likely not.

Humans are fucked up. "Everyone knows everything and no one's ever wrong, until later" (nuther song "Show me don't tell me")

peace, out
 
Marco Banks
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Tomorrow, the earth will continue to spin on its axis, slowly making its annual trip around the sun.  That's not going to change.

Rain will continue to fall somewhere.  It's a closed-loop system: the moisture in our atmosphere and on our planet will not suddenly leak out into outer space.

From my perspective, those that predict that we have reached "a point of no return", or will do so soon ("There's only X years left to save the planet!") are ignoring the fact that something will still exist when that date passes. The earth will not disappear.  Something remains.

So the prediction that "it's all going to end" isn't accurate.  What they mean is that "it's all going to change considerably" -- change from what we currently know.  I would agree with this second proposition, but not the first.  The question (from my humble perspective) then becomes "who will be in the best place to not only survive, but thrive in a changing climate?"

Thus, the opportunity of reversing the inevitability of climate change is probably already passed.  Sadly, that ship already sailed.  But there is nothing futile about preparing yourself and your home/farm/land for the future.  Dig a swale, plant a tree, install a rain barrel.  
 
pollinator
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To your point, Kamaar, I'm reminded of something my engineer friend said: "I realized after trying to come up with a technology to sequester CO2, if we had this powerful way to suck all the CO2 out of the atmosphere and stabilize the climate tomorrow, we'd weaponize it."  That's the reason for permaculture, in my mind.  It's not separate from human relations; it is a whole systems view.  How do we design culture that allows us to live together in satisfaction with other humans as well as with non-humans?  

It's a hypothetical question, but it's of value to find the determination to keep going even if things look %100 impossible.  Becuase the truth is we don't know until we know.  We have a great capacity for fooling ourselves: "it is history that prevents us from flying," said Bei Dao, "Birds that prevent us from walking,/Legs that prevent us from dreaming."  We always think we know the future, we have some neural apparatus for making predictions, I've heard, and most of the time those predictions are accurate (or self-fulfilling prophecies).  But they are based on a kind of intellectual arrogance, an overestimation of our capacity to know truth.

Instead, truth is a creation.

Even though the vast majority of people have shrugged off the need to take care of the whole planet or address the issue with deliberation, that does not mean that they will continue to do so five minutes from now.

Even though some have vociferously denied the need to change course, that does not mean they will do so.  In fact, the most passionate opponent sometimes becomes the most passionate ally.  I have heard that there is a former Klansman who now works diligently for the NAACP.  

"Hindsight is 20-20."

It is worth asking the original poster's question.  I would amend it to "if you thought you knew" for the sake of clarity, but still it's good to ask it exactly as worded and recognize all the ways that permaculture thinking and doing enriches life while it is lived.  There is _always_ something that we leave behind after life for future beings to benefit from.
 
pollinator
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To me permaculture is also very important for biodiversity. Insects are 70% down in what fifteen years? Mass extinctions is now! The food chain is collapsing in front of our eyes from the bottom up. The focus on climate change puzzles me. What happened to desertification, empty seas, the declining levels of lakes worldwide, the onslaught on rainforests and forests that have been cut decennia ago in the West, record breaking worldwide forest fires. The depressing list goes on and on.

But we are capable of anything once we put our minds to it collectively. I welcome the tipping point, because people are not interested enough to really do something.
And the solution is simple, be self sufficient, then move on to grow food forests and create forests on degraded soils everywhere. If every person plants a thousand trees we'll avoid climate change. There are examples of poor people planting a hundred thousand and more on their lands. Why were they capable? Because they saw the need, because they were exceptionally clever, stubborn and determined.
Once things really turn bad, people are going to turn to permaculturalists and the likes and copy the methods en masse. Right now they look down on poor permies and ignore rich ones, the time will come when they need us for guidance because their brains can't work everything out like it should because of panic, guild trips and information overload. And we are the ones who have to make it work, somehow, to make it so that people see that the way forward is there. Their lands degenerating while our lands get healthier? What's not to like? Our lands getting more robust while we work hard, get better at working smart and get healthier food, create habitats for endangered animals, enjoy their company, learn real stuff, connect with self and develop healthy habits and connections to family and friends. I am proud to be part of this community because it is the only future there is, futility is them, their vain lives are futile.
 
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Most of what we know of physics points to either the death of all things through the heat death of the universe, or something more cyclical that returns to the big bang. Either way, there is no way outside of science fiction that might allow us to save anything beyond either of those points.

If we've only got limited lifespans, and the planet only has a limited lifespan, and the sun and all the stars have limited lifespans, and the universe might well someday end, should we still do it?

I put it to you.

-CK
 
Artie Scott
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Maybe we need to change the hypothetical a bit to eliminate the climate change aspect, as it can muddy the waters.

What if you thought you knew the world would end from an asteroid strike in two years?  Would you go buy an F350 and take a two year road trip, burning as much gas as you possibly could, because it just wouldn’t matter?  

Or would you continue growing your growies, tending your critters, nurturing your pollinators, living your beautiful life in tune with the earth?  

I think I know your answer to that, I guess I am looking to articulate the “why” in a way that attracts those not inclined to believe in climate change, or peak oil, or mass extinction. Those threats don’t seem to be working. How to infect more minds, and more quickly?  The carrot instead of the stick.
 
Kamaar Taliaferro
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That's the vibe I was getting too Artie, and I realized for myself the attraction is as much "permaculture is a good thing in and of itself" as it is the potential side benefits of permaculture.

Stronger communities, less inequality, and maybe more personal and vague things like a better relationship with nature.

That's as attractive to me as a food forest manifesting its food-forest-ness. (Just as an example, yes permaculture isnt just food forests.)
 
gardener
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I think the hypothetical allows us to step outside of where we are now, and more clearly state what we want to do and where we'd want to be, than when we are buried in our normal routines and expectations and assume we can't change courses. It's a good tool to get a person to realize their current actions and habits might not be aligned with their long term goals, and the hope would be that this person could make the changes to reach those long term goals.

In my case, I'd retire right now instead of in 3.5 years, and then do what I plan on doing anyways- build my wofati-ish cabin and try to grow more of my own food, raise some chickens, and live with a light footprint. I hope to travel to some places I haven't seen, and revisit the big parks and hike parts of the AT and PC trails. So maybe I'd do that more than I will in a few years, to pack in more enjoyable experiences into the 2 year window. But I've been finding less and less stuff necessary for enjoyment, so I don't think I'd go nuts buying stuff. If the world ended in 2050, then I'd continue to live the way I am, which appears might be helpful to the planet in the long run as well.

But I recall seeing a little cartoon of a person hugging Mother Nature, and apologizing for all the harm they had done to her. Mother Nature responds with something like "oh your actions aren't going to kill me little one, I will continue on as I have for billions of years. You on the other hand, will likely disappear as quickly as you appeared, as many other species have before you..."
 
pollinator
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Chris Kott wrote:Most of what we know of physics points to either the death of all things through the heat death of the universe, or something more cyclical that returns to the big bang. Either way, there is no way outside of science fiction that might allow us to save anything beyond either of those points.

If we've only got limited lifespans, and the planet only has a limited lifespan, and the sun and all the stars have limited lifespans, and the universe might well someday end, should we still do it?

I put it to you.

-CK



Arthur Ganson made a sculpture that this reminds me of: Arthur Ganson - Machine with Concrete
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Hey Ken!  Godo to see you on here again!  How's your hugelbed growing??

I had another thought come to me to add, we will overcome these challenges and we will live in a better world where things like illness, poverty, and war have no more existence.  "We will get there,/Heaven knows how we will get there,/but we know within."  


Kenneth Elwell wrote:

Chris Kott wrote:Most of what we know of physics points to either the death of all things through the heat death of the universe, or something more cyclical that returns to the big bang. Either way, there is no way outside of science fiction that might allow us to save anything beyond either of those points.

If we've only got limited lifespans, and the planet only has a limited lifespan, and the sun and all the stars have limited lifespans, and the universe might well someday end, should we still do it?

I put it to you.

-CK



Arthur Ganson made a sculpture that this reminds me of: Arthur Ganson - Machine with Concrete

 
pioneer
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I'm one of the people that thinks it may well be futile for humans.  Regardless, we aren't the only species on the planet, and I don't think what I am doing is futile for the other species, so yes, absolutely, I'm going to keep doing what I can, while I can.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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In the "2 years to go, asteroid scenario"... I'm sure there's a lot of "who gives a shit?" sentiment to go around. But, just how quickly does society fall to pieces... when nobody cares to go to their "day job" anymore, nobody wants to work airport security, handle baggage, or even pilot a plane? "I'd go travel the world!" doesn't seem to be a very likely option.
I also think there would be a global effort to save our bacon, just like in the movies. Rockets and bombs and Bruce Willis...

In the "2050, last gasp scenario"... Just where in the queue am I? out of SEVEN BILLION humans?!? (I know I'm not last, since you said "her last breath") I'm not sure I'd want to be either, it doesn't sound as if the last 5-10 years would be much fun for those involved, just like in the movies.

The only real option is to keep on "doing it", in hopes that you (we?) were wrong. I refuse to "know it was futile".
As Joshua says, we will overcome and be in a better world.
 
Ben Zumeta
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It is all futile. All we build will disintegrate. We will all become the singularity. Knowing this has no effect on my motivation in trying to be a good person, or any other endeavor that I attempt because it seems to have a compelling combination of being good and right. It seems to me working to help as much life flourish for as long as possible, even if that is only a minuscule contribution in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t need to have any greater meaning to be motivating.
 
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Here's how I see it.  I agree with R Ranson in the second post in this thread.  The tipping point is well behind us or ... if it's still ahead of us, we're doing none of the things that we would need to do in the very few years left to us to avert climate apocalypse.  We have fiddled.  Rome has burned.

But.  Individually, as permaculturalists, each of us has a garden.  We plant trees.  We nurture pollinators.  We save seeds.  We have children, or if we do not, our neighbors do.  

Is human civilization profoundly fucked?  I believe so.  Megadeaths, mass extinctions, multi-decade droughts, famines, climate refugees by the hundreds of millions, death zones at closed borders, epidemics, fatal epidemics in multigenerational climate refugee camps -- I could go on, the horror show I fear does not stop.  

I don't have answers for any of that.  But "we" -- people, humans -- come out the other side.  Not the 7.7 billion August 2019 earth population; rather fewer.  Horrifyingly fewer.  With a severely fucked biodiversity to draw upon for survival.

Here's how I view my efforts to make a pollinator-friendly biodiverse oasis of permaculture plenty on our land.  Odds are, most of it dies with me.  But if even one species, one tree, one weird little food seed that I bought on eBay and planted here to see if it would survive the increasingly unpredictable weather, should happen to hang on or thrive and come through the rough time ahead?  There's a chance that this little place right here is the only place on Earth where that random bit of genetics will be preserved through the tumult that's coming.  There's a chance that some little forest I planted that lives after me will nurture some species of local bird that otherwise wouldn't have made it.  I can't predict any of these outcomes.  All I can do is go outside every morning and plant things that seem to make sense not only for the climate here today, but also the climate that seems to be coming, with lots of wild guesses that will turn out to be wrong.  (I planted cold hardy bananas this morning.  Probably they won't do much, but they were cheap on eBay.)  

I can't predict what survives the horror of rapid climate change due to spiking CO2 beyond all human-historical precedent.  It's literally unknowable.  But I'll do what I do, while I have breath and strength, because it might do somebody in my bioregion a little bit of good.
 
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I enjoy the company of plants.
 
Chris Kott
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I think it's especially important to continue on as permaculturalists, especially with a view to promoting and preserving biodiversity where we can.

If everything living is headed towards a population bottleneck, as it seems likely, we need these oases of health and life from which to reseed the devastation.

I mean, I would like to see some movement from people, like we've seen in some industry, to do things like actively capture carbon out of the atmosphere for sequestration, either in suitable subterranean rock formations, or into solid form, to be dropped into the ocean at appropriately deep places, probably active subduction zones. I would like to see more action on reforestation projects, or else active conversion to new biomes in areas devastated by drought and wildfire, so that at least something is living in place as nursery biomass while biomes settle themselves out under new climatic regimes.

But we have been hearing so much more about all of these things in the past two decades. Articles and news segments don't translate directly into trees planted and carbon sequestered, but they are an indicator of sorts. If we regularly hear about the abandoned agricultural areas of such-and-such a place being all the surface area required for wind to power a massive number of homes, or that such-and-such a desert is perfect for a solar farm whose shade and condensation byproducts will also nurture a new grassland and savannah project, these are baby steps in the overall movement towards positive change, but they are steps, and they are in the right direction.

Even if the overwhelming regional or demographic reaction happens to be negative or dismissive, it's still a reaction to the issue. It's still invading people's minds. Every time there's a natural disaster whose scope, scale, or power has been augmented by, say, increased ocean temperatures or atmospheric moisture levels, every irrational, baseless denial in the face of overwhelming evidence chips away at the nonsense and reveals more of the issues.

And the simple fact of the matter is that, on our scale and the scale of human existence, not just civilisation, it isn't futile. Even if we needed to resort to sheltering a fractional population in domed-over river valleys, we would survive, and those arks of biodiversity would seed themselves over the earth again.

I reject that kind of thinking because we don't need help to spiral into useless debate. We can, instead, focus on the good things we can each do, and the good permacultural practices that we can sneak into people's lives. The microclimates your actions influence, protect, and preserve can act to preserve food-growing conditions even if climate has been thrown out of whack. Unless the sea rushes in to drown you, or it becomes too hot and arid to live, you can keep on, working to reverse desertification by planting forests, and hopefully doing some truly revolutionary work in permacultural seasteading, making our food production serve the added purpose of rebuilding our ocean food web, and filtering out plastics to fuel electrochemical deposition-based carbon sequestration.

Futility is such an abstract thing. What is futility? Futile to what extent? Considering the fate of all things, what would non-futility look like? Is it possible, within the ultimate futility of the heat-death of the universe/cyclical big bangs, to create meaning within it?

I think it's incumbent upon us to try.

-CK
 
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Last one left, remember to turn out the lights....

What a cool/awful question. Just the juicy kind of stuff I like to sink my teeth into after a day at the office.

I wouldn't change a thing we were doing. On our farm, in my practice, with my family. Because there are all these days left, right? Until 2050? So how do we fill the days?

But more importantly, doing a thing for the act of doing it - resting in the meditative quality of being a good steward of our land, is the candy. The process is the candy and the reward. Doing something to make a legacy seems like a fancy pants way of trying to deny death. And we are all going to die. Either slow or fast, painfully or not. But it's gonna happen. Maybe even tonight, for some of us.

I would still break my back cutting wood, planting, harvesting, building and then resting, and take every action as an act filled with gratitude.

But boy howdy. If I could be assured that the world was going to end and we'd all be dead by 2050, I would definitely eat WAY MORE CAKE. .
 
Artie Scott
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Love it, Lindsey!  Completely agree, the reward is the daily pleasure to be found in permaculture.  A more luxuriant life, as Paul would say.

That was the point of the question, really - are we living a life of sacrifice to achieve some future good, or are we living our best permaculture lives, in a way that also happens to have the side-effect of saving the planet and its inhabitants?

I prefer the latter philosophy.
 
Ben Zumeta
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This is a good summation of why I will go down fighting for life on Earth (Thank you Dr. Sagan!):

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GO5FwsblpT8
 
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