Monday, July 26, 2010

A crash in slow motion

Perhaps the present ecological and resource crises of industrial civilisation are a little like a car crash unfolding in slow motion. The car has way too much speed and momentum and is already sliding out of control. If we'd started slowing or turning earlier, then we might have been alright, but as it is, there is little the driver (government and business leaders and whomever else exercises authority or influence in society) can do to avoid a collision (I won’t call it an accident because we've had plenty of warning). However, the reactions of the driver during the last few “seconds” (years) prior to the crash can still have a big effect on the nature and severity of the damage. So, I think the driver still has an important role in preventing a multi-car pile up with many fatalities. Quick reactions could hopefully mean just some severe whiplash and a few vehicles written off.

This puts me at odds with those who believe that the crash can be avoided entirely as long as we floor the accelerator and do a little creative navigation. That may or may not be true, but at the very least, everyone ought to make sure they are wearing their seat belts. It's going to be bumpy up ahead.
If you're a passenger and don't trust the driver's reactions, you may have time to try jumping out of the door. Of course, this doesn't guarantee that you'll be any better off than if you make sure the driver is paying attention.

UPDATE: This image is continued and developed here.


Anonymous said...

Yes, that's the way I'd put it. If the driver pays attention he might be able to skid-steer sideways into the trees up ahead on the left, rather than driving straight over the edge of the cliff!

byron smith said...

Nicole Foss is more pessimistic:

"When you have economic contraction you also have a substantial contraction of the trust horizon. This deprives political institutions at the national and international level of the trust that would give them political legitimacy. They become stranded assets from a trust perspective. People no longer internalize the rules that those institutions are attempting to impose. The response is typically surveillance, coercion, and repression. This picture basically suggests that it is pointless to look for solutions from the top down. It is not solutions that will come from the top down but more problems.

"So politicians typically make a bad situation worse as expensively as possible. The systems that we have established have become sclerotic and unresponsive, hostage to vested interests with no ability to adapt quickly to give people abilities to cope with rapid change. I don’t look for solutions from them. The people who are part of that system are typically the people who have gained significant amounts from the status quo. These are the last people who are likely to change things, so I don’t look for political actions."