Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


A while back, I saw “Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei” a German film about a bunch of anarchos who brake into rich peoples houses and rearrange their furniture as a piece of art activism. As part of this action, they paint a slogan on the walls, either 'Du hast zu viel Geld' - ‘you have too much money’ or ‘Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei’ literally ‘the fat years are over’. This should be engraved above the door of every office, bank and government building in the ‘developed’ world. And every school, hospital, pub and club. Because they are. And we do.

Climate change is not only happening, it is now probably beyond us, no mater what action we take or what activities we choose to cease, to prevent it being catastrophic. Many projections give us 40 years more of cheap, plentiful energy (in economic terms) energy, irrespective of where we’re getting it from, and that includes nuclear. And renewables. The rate our economies are projected to grow at, and indeed are required to grow at to maintain our lifestyle, let alone permit the rest of humanity to get close to having that lifestyle, ensures we’ll be lucky to get even that. We’re overdue a 1918 level ‘flu pandemic. Many of our oldest microbiological predators are already resistant to the antibiotics we use to control them, we have only a few left that still work on some organisms, in some cases only one. The cases of TB and and post operative infection are already climbing.

We are about to enter a new world, one more like the one our grandparents grew up in, where scarcity, uncertainty and upheaval are our handmaidens and death stands constantly at our shoulders. In short, the world where the vast majority of humans already live. We were not kind to them on the way up. I doubt they will be particularly helpful as we fall. Even if they wanted to, they are not in any position to be. We’ve seen to that. And I don’t suppose our children will be very happy with the situation either, and as for their children…

I’ve said before that we are living through the last days of Rome, and I stand by it. We live in a bubble, artfully constructed and rigourously protected by a lot of hard and dirty work conducted out of sight. Like them upstairs in an Edwardian country house, we have grown completely used to a way of life we have no idea what it takes to maintain. We shall be known as the generation that peaked. 50 odd years of growth and plenty, security and comfort, give or take the odd blip. And before you start banging on about how hard it is / was for you or someone you know, yes some of us have had it tough. But try a year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Darfur. And that’s the position for whole populations; that’s the norm, not the extreme, for a huge number of our fellows.

I’m not interested in a misery contest though, or some sort of liberal guilt fest. Just a sober, accurate recognition of our position, and our probable future. A society that thinks not being able to get enough play station 3s for Christmas is a crisis is suddenly going to have to realise what a real crisis is. And we’re not going to like it. We’re not going to cope. And it won’t matter how much money we throw at it, or how clever, or brutal, we are. We are running out of stuff, out of space and out of time. The film, which I liked, by the way, was called The Edukators when released in the UK, the name the group gave to themselves on their missions to unsettle the rich. Well, we’ve all got a lot to learn if we’re going to hack it where we’re going. We’ll have to relearn the cycles of famine and plenty, the uses for rubbish and the virtue of old things. And the ways of living on lean pickings. The fat years are over, and with them the Empire of the Fat.