Sunday, September 11, 2016

Why The Greens Are Going To Win

Late in the 2016 Democratic primaries, Huffington Post contributor Frank Huguenard wrote an article titled "Why Bernie Is Going To Win." Aside from the technical reasons he gave for why he believed Bernie Sanders' nomination was inevitable, such as his opponent's at-the-time certain FBI indictment, his main argument had to do with something far bigger. The emotions of fear and uncertainty that politicians like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have always used to succeed, concluded Huguenard, are no longer strong enough to be sufficiently exploited, which means that Sanders, someone who appeals to people's hopes rather than their more base emotions, is destined to become the next president.

For now, the institutional powers that Trump and Clinton are apart of have succeeded in stamping down the effects of this shift in public consciousness. But the shift itself has not gone away.

The societal transformation that Huguenard describes is just one of the reasons I believe that a massive surge in support for a populist and environmentalist alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties-which, by default, will likely be the Green Party-is certain to occur in the coming years. To echo Huguenard, the writing is on the wall, with an economic collapse coming soon which will destroy all notions that the Democrats are the party of the people, the two major parties rapidly diminishing in an electoral shakeup that will create a political vacuum, and the Green Party being our only chance to defeat Trumpist neo-fascism. All of these factors point to an astronomical rise for the Green Party, and I've gone so far as to put together a projection of how it could very well play out.

But this article is not meant to be a sequel for Hueguenard's earlier prediction. Because though I have high hopes for the Greens' victory in 2018, 2020, and beyond, as we've seen, there's always a possibility that such electoral upheavals can be suppressed when the oligarchy controls the process.

This article is an extension of the deeper part of Huegenard's point, which is that regardless of who runs the government, our society-and our species-is experiencing deep and meaningful changes for the better.

The strange series of ideas I'm about to present to you have nothing (directly) to do with electoral reform, the Green Party, or anything else you may have expected to be reading about. They instead have to do with the following animation.
This shape is called a hypersphere. Aside from being fun to look at, it's a visual representation of the nature of human history.

Think of the progress that mankind has made-population expansion, technological advancement, economic growth, and the other factors that have worked to create modern civilization-as if they were those lines that make up the hypersphere. As the lines are moving on the sides of the shape, not much about their structure is changing. This reflects the very long period in our species' past where the several million people on the planet were operating in technologically basic, mostly anarchical lifestyles that went virtually unchanged throughout the lives of both their grandparents and grandchildren.

But as the lines continue to move, they begin to come closer together, and the shape that they make turns into an increasingly narrow tube. The same is also the case for humanity's advancement, in that around 5300 years ago with the invention of writing, the pace of progress became exponentially faster. By 150 years ago, communication had advanced to instant transmission from long distances in the form of the telegraph, weaponry had advanced to firearms, and scientific knowledge had advanced to a full awareness of our planet and solar system's form. By 20 years ago, those three factors had advanced to the World Wide Web, atomic weapons, and an awareness of the structure of the universe itself had entered the general consciousness.

But these trends, along with the many other products of human advancement that are shaping the world, would have to one day come to a halt. Endless acceleration is impossible, and at some point human progress will need to pass through that extremely narrow area in the center of the hypersphere and start traveling back towards that steady, slow period it started out in.

And in a lot of ways, we've already passed through that threshold. Population growth won't start to decrease until an unclear number of decades from now, but since 1960, its rate has peaked and is moving ever closer to stagnation. Perhaps not coincidentally, the rate of economic growth, as well as social, scientific, and technological progress, has experienced a similar shift, having gone from a sharp climb to a relative plateau.

And as Jay Weidner, one of the authors of the presumptuously named but fascinating collection of essays The Mystery Of 2012 thinks, this could all amount to something positive. "In the Golden Age," he writes, referring to the period that humanity is entering as it breaks through the bottom of the historical funnel, "each day, each month, each year appears to be longer than the previous day, month, and year. Time is expanding in the Golden Age, and with that expansion, the anxiety and tension of the Iron Age [the age of rapid advancement] will disappear. It is a paradise, especially for those who survive passing through the wormhole, the null point at the center of the hyperdimensional sphere."

Indeed, our final destination in this wild ride through the singularity appears to be a return to a simpler, and in many ways more pleasant, time. The consequence of living in this extraordinary moment in history, where time moves at an unprecedented rate, is that those who live through it are forced to keep up. The manifestations of this phenomenon-especially apparent in America-have been schoolchildren wasting countless hours of their childhoods by doing an excessive amount of flawed academic work, workers putting enormous amounts of labor into jobs that pay them well below the fair equivalent, and a consumer-based culture that drives these people to frantically pursue superficial and often useless products. All of these things will give way to a more sane and happy society as the era that brought about their existence fades.

The big question, though, is what kind of price we'll have to pay to get there.

As I mentioned before, something has changed about humanity's general mindset. For the first time, the majority of people no longer hold the worldview that defines everything wrong with the previous age, which is to say the belief that greed, punishment, and exploitation are always necessary behaviors. Polls show that most Americans want to protect the environment, avoid military conflicts, have a society free of social prejudices, and an end to the massive gap in wealth. They've moved past the old paradigm's illusion of individual detachment, where each person's goals, problems and interests are a matter of no one other than themselves, and embraced the reality that every person is part of a global community as well as a global ecology. And they know that in order to survive, they must take care of their fellow human beings along with the planet itself.

In other words, they're ready to live in a society that fits the model of the bottom half of the hypershere, where the short-sighted thinking and reckless, material-based ambition of the top half no longer defines how humans wield their power.

But when you actually look at the state of the world, things appear to be moving in the opposite direction. The Democratic elite's rejection of Bernie Sanders has caused a major setback for the government's ability to meet its climate goals, with the best environmental candidate for president (with a realistic chance of winning, at least) now being Hillary Clinton, someone who's entire political philosophy goes against the actions she would need to take to fix the problem. And with the earth's average temperature having gone up more than 1.4 degrees since pre-industrial levels, not far from the 2 degree mark that scientists agree would do irreversible harm to the stability of the climate, it looks like the idea of leaving our world safe for future generations is so last decade.

And the inevitable transition to renewable energies, the one thing that may well ultimately save the species from total extinction, will be what causes it a lot of short-term trauma. As the world's fossil fuel reserves become increasingly less likely to be used in the following decades, due to both shrinking supplies and an increased effort from the masses to abandon a lifestyle that's killing the planet, it will trigger an unprecedented backlash from the oligarchy. Nafeez Ahmed explains this ominous possibility in his piece We Could Be Witnessing The Death Of The Fossil Fuel Industry-Will It Take The Rest Of The Economy Down With It?
Eager to cling to the last vestiges of existence, the old centers of power will still try to self-maximize within the framework of the old paradigm, at the expense of competing power-centers, and even their own populations.
And they will deflect from the root causes of the problem as much as possible, by encouraging their constituents to blame other power-centers, or worse, some of their fellow citizens, along the lines of all manner of ‘Otherizing’ constructs, race, ethnicity, nationality, color, religion and even class.
Have no doubt. In coming decades, we will watch the old paradigm cannibalize itself to death on our TV screens, tablets and cell phones. Many of us will do more than watch. We will be participant observers, victims or perpetrators, or both at once.
Don't get too worried, though-humans may be too busy fighting each other during these next few years to think about the climate or resource depletion. As an article titled Here's How World War Three Could Start Tomorrow (written a year ago) articulates, the world's nations have become not just more advanced in their levels of weaponry as history has entered its most active period in the hypershere, but they've grown more competitive with each other in their roles as world powers. Until some larger force comes into play that returns them to a more limited state, the risk of major global conflict will be ever-present.

However, the most immediate danger we'll be facing during our departure from the bottom of the historical funnel has to do with the main driver behind climate change, exploitation of natural capital, and war: money itself. About that economic crisis I briefly touched on earlier...I'm not joking. All of the evidence, from the fact that the housing market hasn't been this high in a decade, to the stock market having been behaving similarly, to the economy itself having been re-wired by the Wall Street bailouts eight years ago to be more vulnerable to collapse, points to the coming of what some think will be the greatest crash in history.

And that crash may have already started.

In the last 24 hours, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped 400 points, and the stock market, which experienced its least active period in 20 years from July 24 to September 9, has went through its biggest drop since the aftermath of Brexit. We'll have to wait and see if these events are the first in the quick succession of catastrophic shortages in currency that I expect to occur this fall, but even if we see little more such activity in the next few days, a true disaster is about to hit. And when the Federal Reserve tries to intervene, the jaded observer in world events James Howard Kunstler puts it:
Events, not personalities, are going to demonstrate where things are at in the late-stage techno-industrial crack-up at hand. The shamans at the Federal Reserve have exhausted their repertoire of incantations for levitating the financial markets and, more ominously, the value of the US dollar. The prankish god they serve has arranged things so that the very faith needed to sustain their illusory influence will run down the drain as November 8 creeps closer. They must be getting awfully nervous down at the Eccles Building.
To sum it all up, we are about to enter, as the title of one of Kunster's books describes it, "The Long Emergency." Humanity, which largely bought into the societally unsustainable methods of conducting themselves during their feverish tenure through the hypersphere's top half, will as a result find the transition into the grand cycle's next phase to be difficult and confusing. When our past mistakes catch up with us, starting with this year's financial crisis, will we finally wake up to the deep flaws within our system and step up to change them? Kunstler doesn't think so. As he also says in that article, "We’re too unused to reality. We’d rather crash and burn than change anything about our behavior, or even our perception. Both Trump and Hillary are perfect avatars for this date with a hard landing. The disorder both of them are capable of inducing will be a spectacle for the ages."

I have good reason to believe Kunstler is wrong.

In the interests of brutal honesty, all of the events that I just described are likely to occur in the next few decades, and some of them (like the ecological collapse, the recession, and the depletion of traditional energy sources) are inevitable. But as I was careful to make clear the whole way through, I believe that human beings will survive it all. And yes, I believe civilization will survive as well.

I live in northern California. In addition to being one of the best-performing regions for both Bernie Sanders and the Green Party, there is another aspect of the region that the rest of the country can learn from: how its residents choose to manage their community. Though they reluctantly participate in the fossil fuel-based, import-driven system that affects all corners of modern civilization, there is a highly apparent effort among the general population to change how their economy functions. In addition to a wide demand for solar panels, bicycles as a means of transportation, and other practices that reduce one's carbon footprint, it's the way that the area produces much of its food that helps the likelihood of a sustainable future.

Organic, local farming, a method of food production that many, if not most, people in my area eagerly embrace, will prove to be an important part of healing the wounds we inflicted on the earth in the previous age. Because, as Nafeez Ahmed also explains in his article:
The idea of removing carbon from the atmosphere sounds technologically difficult and insanely expensive. It’s not. In reality, it is relatively simple and cheap.
A new book by Eric Toensmeier, a lecturer at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, The Carbon Farming Solution, sets out in stunningly accessible fashion how ‘regenerative farming’ provides the ultimate carbon-sequestration solution.
Regenerative farming is a form of small-scale, localised, community-centred organic agriculture which uses techniques that remove carbon from the atmosphere, and sequester it in plant material or soil.
Using an array of land management and conservation practices, many of which have been tried and tested by indigenous communities, it’s theoretically possible to scale up regenerative farming methods in a way that dramatically offsets global carbon emissions.
This means that if we can get all the inhabitants of the industrialized world to adopt northern California's approach towards agriculture, as well as decentralize the economy in most other areas, such as breaking up the banks so much that they operate on a local level and democratizing how business functions so that the workers control the wealth that they produce rather than the corporate executives, civilization can and will be saved. As history begins to move into the other side of the hypersphere and the old order violently implodes in on itself, if the methods that I propose are widely implemented, we'll be able to salvage the positive elements that the previous age produced-electricity, the internet, modern methods of scientific research-by simply detaching ourselves from the old, unsustainable lifestyle and building a new utopia of localized, and at the same time hyperconnected, communities.

Which, at last, brings us back to my original point: that even if Bernie Sanders or the Green Party aren't here to enact the legislation to help create such a world, we'll be able to create it ourselves.

Even as the old centers of power play out the final stages of their irresponsible game, a new model of societal function is emerging, and not just in my hippie-populated hometown. As Gal Alperovitz' recent article 6 Ways We're Already Leading An Economic Revolution reports, society is doing just that. To sum up the piece, thanks to the efforts of ordinary people in places like Philadelphia, North Dakota, Greensboro in North Carolina, Boulder, and more, we are seeing the creation of a system called the Pluralist Commonwealth, where local communities are free from control by bankers and big business, resources are produced and exchanged on an economically and environmentally sustainable level, and all methods of economic and militaristic imperialism are irrelevant. In other words, the makings for a very bright future.

And so several decades from now, after the Greens have (most likely) succeeded in transforming politics and the values that they represent have transformed society regardless, the grand cycle of time will have been completed. Humanity will have emerged from the insane vortex of the hypersphere's central point with both more knowledge and more wisdom than ever before, and in spite of a depleted (but still usable) supply of oil, an economy that they largely had to start building from scratch, and a damaged climate, they're ready to begin the long, collective healing process and continue living in peace far into the future.

Maybe I'm wrong in my political predictions. Maybe the Greens will be held back by the establishment just like Bernie Sanders was, and the phrase "See You In 2020" will become a sadly ironic memory. But if what I just described doesn't sound like a victory for the Greens' agenda, I don't know what does.

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