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Progress vs. Apocalypse — John Michael Greer

Progress vs. Apocalypse — John Michael Greer

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The myth of progress and the myth of apocalypse have deep roots in the collective imagination of the modern world, and few people seem to be able to think about the future without following one story or the other. Both are inappropriate for the futures we are actually likely to encounter.
The myth of progress and the myth of apocalypse have deep roots in the collective imagination of the modern world, and few people seem to be able to think about the future without following one story or the other. Both are inappropriate for the futures we are actually likely to encounter.

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on Jun 12, 2013
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PROGRESS VS. APOCALYPSE
THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVESJOHN MICHAEL GREER
 
This publication is an excerpted chapter from
The Energy Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth
, Tom Butler, Daniel Lerch, and George Wuerthner, eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2012).
The Energy Reader 
 is copyright © 2012 by the Foundation for Deep Ecology, and published in collaboration with Watershed Media and Post Carbon Institute.For other excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visit energy-reality.org or contact Post Carbon Institute. Photo: NASA
about the author
 John Michael Greer
is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, a peak-oil theorist, and the author of more than 20 books on a wide range of subjects. His recent books include
The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World, The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered,
 and
 Apocalypse Not.
 Greer lives in Cumberland, Maryland.“Progress vs. Apocalypse” by John Michael Greer was adapted from
The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age 
; © 2008 by John Michael Greer, used by permission of the author and New Society Publishers.
Post Carbon Institute | 613 4th Street, Suite 208 | Santa Rosa, California 95404 USA
 
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iscussions about peak oil and the predicament of industrial society constantly revolve around two completely different, and in fact opposite, sets of assumptions and beliefs about the future. Most people insist that no matter what problems crop up before us, modern science, technology, and raw human ingenu-ity will inevitably win out and make the world of the future better than the world of today. A sizeable minor-ity of people, however, insist that no matter what we do, some overwhelming catastrophe will soon bring civilization suddenly crashing down into mass death and a Road Warrior future.These competing narratives reflect the hidden presence of myth. Many people nowadays think only primitive people believe in myths, but myths dominate the think-ing of every society, including our own. Myths are the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our world. Human beings think with stories as inevitably as they see with eyes and walk with feet, and the most impor-tant of those stories—the ones that define the nature of the world for those who tell them—are myths.According to the
myth of progress
, all of human history is a grand tale of human improvement. From the primitive ignorance and savagery of our cave-dwelling ancestors, people climbed step by step up the ladder of progress, following in the wake of the evolutionary drive that raised us up from primeval slime and brought us to the threshold of human intelligence. Ever since our ancestors first became fully human, knowledge gathered over the generations made it possible for each culture to go fur-ther, become wiser, and accomplish more than the ones that came before it. With the coming of the scientific revolution three hundred years ago, the slow triumph of reason over nature shifted into overdrive and has been accelerating ever since. Eventually, once the last vestiges of primitive superstition and ignorance are cast aside, our species will leap upward from the surface of its home planet and embrace its destiny among the stars.Conversely, the
myth of apocalypse 
 suggests that human history is a tragic blind alley. People once lived in har-mony with their world, each other, and themselves, but that golden age ended with a disastrous wrong turning and things have gone downhill ever since. The rise of vast, unnatural cities governed by bloated governmental bureaucracies, inhabited by people who have abandoned spiritual values for a wholly material existence, marks the point of no return. Sometime soon the whole rick-ety structure will come crashing down, overwhelmed by sudden catastrophe, and billions of people will die as civilization comes apart and rampaging hordes scour the landscape. Only those who abandon a corrupt and doomed society and return to the old, true ways of liv-ing will survive to build a better world.Both these myths have deep roots in the collective
 
The myth of progress and the myth of apocalypse have deep roots in the collective imagination of the modern world, and few people seem to be able to think about the future without following one story or the other. Both are inappropriate for the futures we are actually likely to encounter.

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