As Civilization Sinks: Making the Transition to a Better World

By Jed Diamond, Ph.D., LCSW For more information on this new book contact me: Jed@MenAlive.com www.MenAlive.com

Chapter 1: How’s Your Relationship Working for You?

“I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.” Václav Havel, Former President of the Czech Republic “I feel like everything is falling apart and I don’t know what to do.” John, a middleaged man referred by a former client of mine, looked distraught and on the edge of panic. “I’m angry and depressed most of the time. My wife is threatening to leave me. I’m fighting with our grown son who works with me in my manufacturing business. Plus, the economy is killing us and I’m worried the whole company is going to go under. When I look around for some place of sanity I can’t find one. The whole world seems to be in chaos.” I’m seeing more and more people like John. They aren’t just dealing with one or two problems. They are dealing with multiple problems. They seem to be on a roller-coaster

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going from highs where everything seems fine, to lows where they are frustrated and depressed. In the past there were a lot of other people whose lives were working well who could offer support. Now it seems that everyone is stressed out and overwhelmed. However, like Václav Havel, I don’t think these changes are all bad. I, too, feel that an old system is dying and a new one is taking its place. We are feeling the pain of something new being born, and though we may feel great stress there are also great opportunities. When I began work as a counselor and psychotherapist in 1965 I had a vague idea of wanting to help people. In the 44 years since then, I have counseled with more than 30,000 people. I have a much better idea now about what people need and how I can be helpful during these difficult times. Relationship Complaints Most people come to see me because they are having problems in their relationships. Sometimes it has to do with their relationship to children or to parents. Sometimes it is about their relationship with their employer or employees. Most often it concerns their relationship with their spouse or love interest. When they first come to see me the complaints are often general and imprecise. The pain these people are experiencing is monumental. “Something’s not right with my son,” one mother tells me. A forty-year old man sits down and looks dejected. “I love my wife, but I’m not in love with her,” he says. A teenage boy tells me, “I’m under a lot of pressure at school. I can’t take it anymore.” A forty-eight year old woman says, “My husband used to be the nicest guy you could imagine. Now he’s irritable and angry all the time.” A fifty-five year old man looks numb and speaks in a monotone. “I never thought this

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would happen to me. I’ve lost my job after being employed for 30 years and I can’t support my family. I sometimes think they would be better off with my life insurance than with me alive.” It’s important to get a clear picture of the problem. If we don’t understand the problem, if we’re looking in the wrong places for the cause of the problem, it’s unlikely we will find a solution that works. It usually takes a session or two for me to get a more detailed history of the problem. I learn about key events that may be at the root of the present unhappiness. I hear about such things as the affair he is having, the suicide attempt she made three months earlier, the alcohol or drug use that has become a nightly ritual. The picture becomes clearer; the way out of the present dilemma opens up. Sometimes it takes a small, but precise tap with my psychological mallet to jar things loose and set the person on a new path of health. Other times it may require deep and more persistent work over a long period of time. When I began working with people I thought if I could just understand what was going on inside their head I could literally “change their mind” and everything would be O.K. It soon became evident that I needed to address a person’s “body” and “spirit” as well as their “mind” if I was going to be truly helpful. The fact that I had originally started out in medical school, before transferring to the school of social work, helped me recognize that many “psychological” symptoms had physical causes and vice versa. Back in the 1960s, one of the common problems that people came to address involved drugs or alcohol. I soon learned that in order to treat a person’s “drug problem” I had to expand my focus beyond treating the individual. I needed to take into account the family

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dynamics the person faced. It didn’t do much good to help a woman stop drinking if her husband continued to drink every night. But I also had to address the ways the person related to their peer group. Most of the people I saw were part of a drug-using culture. They met together, played together, and partied together. In order to get a person off the drugs and keep him off of them, he often had to change the peer group. It’s difficult to give up our drugs. It’s even more difficult to give up our friends. I learned about Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step support groups. In addition to giving the recovering addict a new way to think about their life, going to AA meetings helped them develop a new group of friends. As soon as I learned to help a person deal with one aspect of their recovery, there seemed to be another one that I had to address. I developed a concept I called “the rings of addictions.” I began with the inner ring treating the personal aspects of addiction. Then I would address the interpersonal aspects that related to family and peer group pressures. As I learned more I realized I couldn’t stop there. Significant social aspects needed to be addressed. For instance, the drug laws and how they were enforced had a huge impact on the kind of help I could offer. Psychotherapists often ignore social aspects, yet they are often critical in solving the problems we face today. If drug use was seen as a crime, for instance, the person might get put into the law enforcement system, and I might not see that person at all. If drug use was seen as a health problem, they might come directly to me to receive treatment. I learned, too, that I had to understand something about what was going on in other countries. Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana come into the U.S. from places like

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Thailand, Colombia, and Mexico. When people in these countries have difficulty making a living by growing food crops, “drug crops” became a more immediate option. As I expanded my focus in ever widening circles, I felt like a hawk circling higher and higher, getting a clearer and clearer picture of why people were in pain and what we could do to help them more effectively heal old wounds and find joy and contentment in their relationships. I realized that the people I was seeing in my counseling practice were not “the dregs of society,” as some people saw them, but rather the early warning system of things to come. Their pain was alerting us to larger social changes that would affect everyone on the planet. Life Out of Balance When I saw the movie KOYAANISQATSI in 1982 I felt disoriented, but knew that I was seeing something that spoke to the social problems we were facing in the modern world. It took me a long time to understand the message, and I couldn’t grasp it all with my conscious mind. While there is no plot in the traditional sense, there is a definite point being made. The film opens on ancient native American cave drawings, while the soundtrack chants “Koyaanisqatsi” (koy.aa.nis.qat.si ) which is a Hopi Indian term translated variously as “life out of balance,” “life disintegrating,” “life in turmoil”, or “a way of life that calls for another way of living.” It is a visual concert of images set to the haunting music of Phillip Glass. The film progresses from purely natural environments to nature as affected by man, and finally to man’s own manmade environment, devoid of nature, still following the patterns of natural flow as depicted in the beginning of the film, yet in chaos and disarray.

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For me it touched some deep well of knowing that recognized my life was out of balance and a new way was calling to me. What it might be, or how to get there, was way beyond my imagining at the time. I had met my wife, Carlin, in 1980 and we were just settling down to our new life in Marin County, California. By today’s standards, 1982 seemed like a pretty good year. The cost of a gallon of gas was 91¢. The average price of a new car was under $8,000. A postage stamp was 20¢. News went “simple” with the publication of U.S.A. Today. Work began on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Ronald Reagan, “The Great Communicator,” was in office, and his Economic Tax Recovery Act was in place. Yet even then, something was clearly wrong. As described by writer, Julie Wolf: “That fall, the economy took a turn for the worse. To fight inflation, running at a rate of 14 percent per year, the Federal Reserve Board had increased interest rates. Recession was the inevitable result. Blue-collar workers who had largely supported Reagan were hard hit, as many lost their jobs. “The United States was experiencing its worst recession since the Depression, with conditions frighteningly reminiscent of those 50 years earlier. By November 1982, unemployment reached nine million, the highest rate since the Depression; 17,000 businesses failed, the second highest number since 1933; farmers lost their land; and many sick, elderly, and poor became homeless. “The country lived through the recession for a full year before Reagan finally admitted publicly that the economy was in trouble. His budget cuts, which hurt the poor, and his tax cuts, which favored the rich, combined with the hardships of a recession, spawned the belief that Reagan was insensitive to his people's needs. (Although it was a

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25% across-the-board tax cut, those people in the higher income brackets benefited the most.)” Well things went back to normal it seemed, at least for some of us. The economy turned around. Reagan was re-elected. We had gone through a “down” period which was followed by an “up” period. Things might get bad again, we were told, but in the long run things would get better and better. We are an optimistic people. Most of us believe in the system. If we go through bad times, we are sure to reverse the trend and “know” that good times are just around the corner. It’s difficult for many of us to believe that we may be facing changes like no others we have ever experienced. It is difficult for us to believe that the system may be broken and is beyond repair. Wake Up Calls Everyone who comes to me as a client has had some kind of wake up call that tells them that there is something wrong in their world. Their concerns may be vague, but they know in some part of their being that they are facing a major life-change. Often an event will wake them up. It may be “the affair,” a heart attack, their son being picked up for possession of cocaine, a job loss, a parent dying. Clients have to wake up from the fantasy that “everything is fine and wonderful” in order to get the help they need to improve their lives. All of us must wake up from our fantasy that our relationship with the Earth is sustainable and we can go on living our lives as we have been living them. There are 6.8 billion people on the planet today (and our numbers continue to increase). Each of us will be getting a series of “wake-up” calls that will drill through our denial and call us to action. My first one came in 1982 when I saw the movie KOYAANISQATSI. It unsettled me, but I soon “went back to sleep” and life went back

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to normal. I’ve found that “Spirit” has a way of continuing to send us messages until we take appropriate action. I received my next wake up call on September 20, 1991 at 11:45 AM. Here’s what happened. The moment before my brain exploded in pain I was at the peak of my game. I had been a successful psychotherapist for 26 years. My second book was moving up the bestseller list. Our five children were all doing well and my wife and I were living in our dream home in San Rafael, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I was making more money than I had ever made in my life and I was invited to speak at conferences throughout the world. Life was fast and furious, but it was everything I had ever wanted. On Friday, the 20th of September I was multi-tasking as usual. I was jogging back home after taking my car into the garage to be serviced. While running the 3 miles to the house, I was rehearsing a talk I was going to give the next day. Suddenly my brain felt like it would explode through my skull. The pain was so intense it literally knocked me to the ground. After lying by the side of the road for 30 minutes, I was able to walk home and call the doctor. After numerous tests, it was determined that I had a rare and often deadly adrenal tumor. Luckily the surgery was a success and my left adrenal gland was removed. When I asked the doctors why I had gotten the tumor, their reply was: “Some people just get them, there’s no real reason, just be glad you’re alive.” I was certainly glad to be alive, but I wanted answers. I believed that illness is often giving us a message that something is out of balance in our lives. When I asked in my meditations what message I should take from this crisis, I was told I needed to slow

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down. Adrenal tumor, adrenaline, speed, get it? I was surprised. I answered that I had been slowing down. I was born in New York City, a very fast-moving place. I had then moved to Los Angeles which was much slower. I now lived in “mellow Marin County.” I was told that I had indeed been slowing down. On a scale of 100, I had slowed from 98 to 89, which was pretty good. But that was not good enough. I was told that I had to slow down to a 9. What, I protested, a 9?” I would have to leave the city. I would have to change my work. I would have to totally change my life. “That’s right,” was the simple reply I received in my meditation. In February, 1992, we moved 100 miles north to the small town of Willits, California (population 5,000). We bought a house on 22 acres of land, ten miles out of town, and I began to connect with a community of people who were learning to live at a slower pace, more in balance with nature. That was not an easy task for a city boy like me. I was afraid of everything—from bugs to bees to bears. But gradually, as I felt more at home, I began to heal my own body, mind, and spirit. I began to find and develop a way of life that was much richer and satisfying than anything I’d every known. I’ll talk more about what I’m learning in Willits in future chapters. My therapy practice took a new turn. I realized that the personal problems that people came to me for help with couldn’t be fully solved unless we also dealt with our relationship with what I began to call The Ship of State or The Ship of Civilization. I began to understand that everyone on the planet will be getting a series of wake-up calls that force us to address key relationships in our lives.

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How’s Your Relationship Working for You? It seemed increasingly clear to me that the individual clients who were coming to see me for help with their personal problems couldn’t be fully helped without dealing with the larger system of which they were apart. I thought of this larger system as the “Ship of State” and learned that the concept had ancient origins. The Ship of State is an oft-cited metaphor put forth by Plato in book VI of The Republic. It likens the governance of a city-state to the command of a naval vessel. Plato argues that the only men fit to be Captains of this ship are Philosopher Kings, benevolent men with absolute power who have access to what he calls the “Form of the Good.” Plato believed that democracy worked best when major decisions were made by these “good” Captains on behalf of the masses. More recently, it has become a staple of American political discussion, where it is viewed simply as an image of the State as a Ship and the Captains as the politicians and leaders. In our modern rendition, we think of the Captains as representatives of the people, duly elected and serving the needs of the majority. In truth, the Captains are still mostly White Men who have the power of the old philosopher Kings, but without their supposed virtues. We might think of our relationship with the Ship of State in terms of our relationship with a spouse or lover. When someone comes to see me, I learn about the details of their relationship and often ask, “How’s that working for you?” Their answer is often, “Not so well.” If we examined our relationship with the Ship of State (Let’s call it SOS for short), we might notice a number of indicators telling us that things are out of balance and heading for dissolution. When people start digging deeper and allowing themselves to see

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the truth, they will tell me that “I thought I knew this person, but now I’m seeing that they are not who I thought they were.” In extreme cases, we find out that the person actually has a secret life and may even have different names that are used in different situations. SOS also has other aliases, AKAs, such as the following: • • • • • Ship of Civilization (Which I’ll discuss in the next chapter). Dominator model (Described by Riane Eisler in The Chalice & The Blade). Takers (Described by Daniel Quinn in Ishmael). Patrists (Described by Dr. James DeMeo in Saharasia). Empire (Described by David Korten in The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community). • Plan A (Described by Lester R. Brown in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization). I’ll use these names interchangeably at different times in this book. For now I’ll discuss a hypothetical psychotherapy session you might be having as you discussed your relationship with SOS: Jed: So, tell me, how have things been going between you and SOS? You: O.K, I guess. Jed: Really, things are going well? You: Not exactly. Jed: (Silence.)

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You: Well, I guess I’d have to say that things haven’t been going too well. I mean, I really love SOS. We’ve been together a long time and I’ve been pretty happy. But, lately, I don’t know, we’re just not getting along like we used to. Jed: Can you give me some specific things that have been going wrong? It might take several sessions, but over time I would gather some of the specific details of the problems you are having with your relationship with SOS: (The following are taken from major news sources and World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009.) March 12, 2009, New York Times: The Looting of America’s Coffers Sixteen years ago, two economists published a research paper with a delightfully simple title: “Looting.” The economists were George Akerlof, who would later win a Nobel Prize, and Paul Romer, the renowned expert on economic growth. In the paper, they argued that several financial crises in the 1980s, like the Texas real estate bust, had been the result of private investors taking advantage of the government. The investors had borrowed huge amounts of money, made big profits when times were good and then left the government holding the bag for their eventual (and predictable) losses. (Sound familiar?) February 13, 2009, Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects, talk given at Cowell Theatre in Fort Mason Center, San Francisco Successful, middle-aged men, breadwinners, bastions of society, are going to just completely lose it…

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The ship is on the rocks, water is rising, and the captain is shouting “Full steam ahead! We are sailing to Afghanistan!” Do you listen to Ahab up on the bridge, or do you desert your post in the engine room and go help deploy the lifeboats? December 21, 2008, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Water: Officials say China is suffering its worst drought in a decade, leaving millions of people short of drinking water and shrinking reservoirs and rivers. July 14, 2008, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Forests: Reports say booming demand for food, fuel, and wood as world population surges will put unprecedented demands on remaining forests. July 2, 2008, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Food: FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) says rising land degradation reduces crop yields and may threaten the food security of 1.5 billion people, about a quarter of the world’s population. July 1, 2008, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Oil: The price of oil hits a new all-time inflation-adjusted high of $147.27 per barrel. May 2, 2008, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Natural disasters: Cyclone Nargis kills some 78,000 people and leaves millions homeless in Myanmar.

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January 15, 2008, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Climate: Scientists demonstrate that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years, providing further evidence of global warming. October 24, 2007, World Watch Institute, State of the World 2009 Health: In a one-day snapshot of obesity, doctors report that 24 percent of men and 27 percent of women world-wide are obese—nearing the obesity levels found in the U.S. After I’ve listened to my client describe the details of the specific problems they are having in their relationship, I try and make sense of it all. At first there just seems to be a list of separate, unrelated complaints. As we explore in more depth we see that there are patterns that have gone unnoticed. We usually find that there are 6 or 7 “big problems” that need to be addressed. This is what I found in examining our relationship with our modern-day culture, our present-day Empire. The Seven Big Relationship Problems We Face with Empire Today If you’ve ever been in a destructive, dysfunctional, relationship (and most of us have been at one time or another), you know that you go through a number of stages trying to get free including the following: 1. Denial — “Everything is wonderful.” When our friends try and tell us that we don’t seem happy or don’t look so good, we tell them that we are “fine.” When they suggest that our partner doesn’t treat us very well, we tell them “you just don’t know him/her like I do.” 2. Fear — “I’m afraid to leave.” Over time, and many humiliating interactions with our partner, we begin to see that the relationship is destructive. We think, “I’d
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leave if I could, but I don’t know if I can do it.” Sometimes we worry about what would happen to the kids if we left. Sometimes we worry about whether we could survive financially. Sometimes we worry that our partner might harm us if we threatened to leave. Sometimes we just give up hope and want to die. 3. Freedom — “I’d rather die free than live in bondage anymore.” It may take a number of tries and we always need support from others, but eventually we sever our relationship with our partner. We may not be sure life is better outside the relationship, but we know we must leave and find out the truth for ourselves. In order to begin the process, we have to break through our denial and see the larger patterns that are at the root of our destructive relationship. Depending on our particular lives we may begin by focusing on one of the following issues. In therapy I look for the one area that is most ripe for opening in order to begin breaking through the denial. Eventually, people come to see and understand all the destructive aspects. I’ll list the seven that I feel are most important and then describe each in more detail: 1. Economic implosion. 2. Environmental destruction. 3. End of cheap oil. 4. Global warming. 5. Population overshoot. 6. Food practices that are killing us. 7. Male despair and global violence.

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1. Economic Emplosion I admit it. I’m one of those people who is “bad” with money. I “forget” to balance my checkbook and when I do, I “pretend” it’s balanced if I can’t get it to come out right. On the other hand, I’ve always been fascinated with money from the time I was a kid. When I was eight years old, a neighbor showed me her coin collection and I was hooked. I would spend my summers going to the local bank, getting a roll of pennies, looking at each date and putting ones I didn’t have in my blue “Penny Book.” I still collect coins and enjoy thinking about what was going on in the world when I look at my 1909-S VDB penny or my 1914-D buffalo nickel. But it wasn’t until I saw the film Money is Debt by Paul Grignon that I began to understand the true nature of money. At 47 minutes in length, it is long enough to explain the important facts, without being too long. I watched amusing animated graphics rather than listening to a talking head. There were many eye-opening quotes that made sense, and I understood why our monetary system seemed to be headed for collapse, in spite of all the “bail-outs” that are occurring. Here is a quote from Sir Josiah Stamp, Director, Bank of England 1928-1941, reputed to be the second richest man in Britain at the time: “The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented. Banking was conceived in iniquity and born in sin. Bankers own the Earth. Take this great power away from them and all great fortunes like mine will disappear, and they ought to disappear, for then this would be a better and happier world to live in.” The true nature of money is described at the very beginning of the film as follows:

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Two great mysteries dominate our lives: love and money. “What is love?” is a question that has been endlessly explored in stories, songs, books, movies, and television. But the same can NOT be said about the question “What is money?” It’s not surprising that monetary theory hasn’t inspired any blockbuster movies. But it was not even mentioned at the schools most of us attended. For most of us, the question “Where does money come from?” brings to mind a picture of the Mint printing bills and stamping coins. Money, most of us believe, is created by the government. It‘s true…but only to a point. Those metal and paper symbols of value we usually think of as money are, indeed, produced by an agency of the federal government called the Mint. But the vast majority of money is not created by the Mint. It is created in huge amounts every day by private corporations known as banks. Most of us believe that banks lend out money that has been entrusted to them by depositors. Easy to picture. But not the truth. In fact, banks create the money they loan, not from the bank’s own earnings, not from money deposited, but directly from the borrower’s promise to repay. The borrower’s signature on the loan papers is an obligation to pay the bank the amount of the loan plus interest, or, lose the house, the car, whatever asset was pledged as collateral. That’s a big commitment from the borrower. What does that same signature require of the bank? The bank gets to conjure into existence the amount of the loan and just write it into the borrower’s account. Sound farfetched? Surely that can’t be true. But it is.” For the first time I understood why the banks were collapsing. If they create money by creating debt, the more debt they create, the richer the bankers become. I realized the system is a great Ponzi scheme created by a few rich people to take more and more of our

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resources. “Whoever controls the volume of money in our country is absolute master of all industry and commerce,” said James A. Garfield, the assassinated 20th President of the United States, “and when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.” Once we recognize that our relationship with money keep us in bondage, we can begin to get free. I’ll tell you how to do that in future chapters. 2. Environmental Destruction It’s relatively easy to recognize problems associated with our financial lives. The changes have come on quickly, effects are massive, and we have news reports every minute telling us the latest horrors. A news story on March 12, 2009 reported by Reuters quotes Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of a large equity company, Blackstone Group, saying, “Between 40 and 45 percent of the world’s wealth has been destroyed in a little less than a year and a half. This is absolutely unprecedented in our lifetime.” We know that environmental destruction of the Earth is massive and ongoing, but because it is happening more slowly and is not continuously reported in the news, it is more difficult to grasp. In order to get our hearts and our heads around this reality (and be energized to do something about it, as I’ll describe later in the book), we need to approach it with feelings and facts. Here’s a little mind experiment we can do together. Picture the town you grew up in and think about how it has changed from then until now. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California during the 1940s and 1950s. We had a small house in Sherman Oaks and there were actually a lot of large oak trees growing in the neighborhood. I would ride

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my bicycle out in the countryside and make wooden boats to sail down the many streams I would cross. When we could afford to buy a car, my parents would drive out of town. I still remember that that the whole area was lush with orchards of oranges, lemons, apples, and all kinds of nut trees. You could see the mountains in the distance 30 or 40 miles away. We had a little vegetable garden in the back and we raised chickens for awhile. When I return now, the trees have all been cut down, the orchards are gone, the rivers have disappeared, and bicycles have been replaced with millions of automobiles. Millions of people are crowded into the valley, and the smog blocks out the view of the mountains. What would you see if you contrasted the world you grew up in (or your parents grew up in) and the world you inhabit today? The United Nations Environment Programme produces regular reports, Global Environment Outlook providing assessments of the interactions between the environment and society. In a recent report they say that “Unsustainable land use and climate change are driving land degradation, including soil erosion, nutrient depletion, water scarcity, salinity, desertification, and the disruption of biological cycles.” Two of the most basic ingredients for life are soil and water, and both are in rapid decline. We take both for granted, and assume there will always be enough. But think for a minute about what life would be like on Earth without adequate soil and water. Really… take a moment to think about it. Today more than six billion people rely on food grown on just 11 percent of the global land surface. Even less ground—a mere 3 percent of the Earth’s surface—offers inherently fertile soil. But we have been degrading the soil much more rapidly than it can be built up and the world population dependent on that soil continues to increase.

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A September, 2008, cover story in National Geographic magazine titled “Where Food Begins” warns that our modern industrial agricultural practices have “degraded an area of land the size of the United States and Canada combined.” “The history of every nation,” U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt said, “is eventually written in the way in which it cares for its soil.” And water is another resource we can’t live without. According to Dr. Peter Rogers, senior adviser to the Global Water Partnership and professor at Harvard University, each of us needs a minimum of 1,000 cubic meters of water a year (this includes water we need for drinking, hygiene, and growing food). That’s about 264,000 gallons of water a year, or about 725 gallons of water a day. According to the U.N. report Global Environment Outlook, “The per capita availability of freshwater is declining globally, and contaminated water remains the greatest single environmental cause of human sickness and death.” “If present trends continue,” the report concludes, “1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the people in the world could be subject to water stress.” It’s easy for us to think that shortages are a problem for other people in other parts of the world and that we will be fine. But if there’s any lesson we are learning about life on Earth, it’s that we are all ultimately connected. What is happening to “them” will happen to “us.” 3. End of Cheap Oil I’ve always found it difficult to get my head around “energy decline.” I don’t really understand what “energy” is. I hear words like “peak oil,” but it doesn’t really sink in.

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But as I listen to those in the know, it’s increasingly clear that fossil fuels provide a lot of juice to make things happen in the world and as the availability of these fuels decline, we our modern way of life is going to change dramatically. Thom Hartmann is a guy that knows a lot about how things are and can articulate them clearly. In his book The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late, he gives us clear images of what energy is and what we must do to have enough. We all know that the oil we pump from the ground were once living plants that stored the energy from the sun. He says, “Some of the sunlight got stored underground, which has provided us with a tremendous, ‘savings account’ of energy on which we can draw. Our civilization has developed a vast thirst for this energy, as we’ve built billions and billions of machines large and small that all depend on fuel and electricity.” But as Hartmann says, “we’re running out of ancient sunlight.” It’s no secret that we have reached the “peak,” we are beginning to run out, and there will be increasing competition for the amount that is left. The world’s first large-scale oil war was in 2003. It is still going on today. As we’ll see shortly, energy shortages relate to all the other key problems including violence and population overshoot. As Hartmann points out declining supplies of oil will cause oil production in 2050 to be at levels similar to the 1960s when the planet had a population about half what it is today. Most demographers expect that in 2050 the world population will exceed 10 billion. Here’s something to think about. Imagine ten billion people alive, but fuel for only three billion. “This would leave seven billion people—more than the entire population of the planet today—living on the edge of famine,” says Hartmann.

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We think of oil being needed for transportation and heating our homes, but its also necessary for growing our food, pumping our water, making our clothing, and a whole lot more. Heinberg points out that fossil fuels and their decline relate to all the other problems we are facing. In the book, The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, Heinberg says: The world is changing before our eyes—dramatically, inevitably, and irreversibly. The change we are seeing is affecting more people, and more profoundly, that any that human beings have ever witnessed. I am not referring to a war or terrorist incident, a stock market crash, or global warming, but to a more fundamental reality that is driving terrorism, war, economic swings, climate change, and more: the discovery and exhaustion of fossil energy resources. We are truly addicted to oil. It is time when we will either break that addiction or we will die. The bad news is that no one wants to give up a drug that does so much for us. The good news is that millions of addicts have recovered from their addiction to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and other drugs and we can recover from our addiction to oil.

Global Warming This is another problem I know is “bad,” but I really have had some difficulty understanding exactly why it is bad. It just seems, intuitively, that being warm is better than being cold. However, there is now solid evidence that we are heating up the planet as we release more and more greenhouse gases. I’m coming to think of it as the planet having a serious fever that can cause major damage if it isn’t reduced. Dr. James Hansen, head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies and one of the world’s experts on global warming is very clear in his warnings. He was among 2500
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leading scientists meeting recently in Copenhagen, Denmark, who issued a stark warning to the world: Unless we take drastic action to cut carbon emissions, the world will face “irreversible shifts in climate.” The consequences of inadequate action are so dire that many of us remain in denial. Here are some of the things that will happen if we don’t act now: • The polar icecaps will melt and sea levels will rise, wiping out coastal cities from San Francisco to Florida, Bangladesh to Great Britain. “It is now clear that there are going to be massive flooding disasters around the globe,” said Dr David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey. “Populations are shifting to the coast, which means that more and more people are going to be threatened by sea-level rises.” • Even small increases in temperature can have major climatic effects, as demonstrated by a steady increase over the past five decades in severe weather events such as major hurricanes, floods, and droughts. • Agricultural disruption will cause increased food prices for everyone and massive starvation in many parts of the world. Jim Hansen’s conclusions made headlines in January, 2009. We have only four years left to act on climate change - America has to lead 5. Population Overshoot It’s clear to most of us that the Earth cannot support our human population growth much longer. Just as global warming is heating up the planet, global population increase is making the planet more and more crowded and stressed.

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Gore Vidal, American novelist and social critic sounded a wake up call way back in 1925. He was critiqued for his severe use of words, but they echo the wake up call, nevertheless. “Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die.” There are currently 6.8 billion people on the planet. In 1950, when I was 7 years old, the world population was 2.5 billion. In 1960 there were just over 3 billion. How many people were around when you were growing up? Every week 1.58 million more people are added to the planet. Think of it, that’s a sizeable city being added each week. The world is having a crazy party with nearly 10,000 guests arriving each hour. The problems aren’t just the numbers of people being added, but how we are distributing the resources of the planet. Those of us in the U.S. and other developed countries are getting a lot, while others are not doing so well.

The World Bank says 982 million people from developing nations sustain on a paltry $1 a day or even less.

• •

One in twelve people worldwide is malnourished. One person dies from starvation every 3.6 seconds.

All of this must change if we are going to survive as a species.

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6. Food Practices That Are Killing Us Food is basic to life, and our food practices say a lot about our relationship to Empire. There is no statistic more telling about our present situation than this one offered by Dr. Barry Popkin, Professor of Global Nutrition at the University of North Carolina and director of the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Center. Here’s what Popkin says in his newly released book, The World is Fat: “Today, the planet’s 1.3 billion overweight people by far outnumber the 700 million who are undernourished.” For most of human history, most people didn’t have enough to eat. Today there are 700 million people who are suffering because they lack enough food, and there are nearly twice those numbers who are killing themselves because they are taking in too many calories. Talk about a world out of balance, a crazy mixed up system! What makes it even crazier is that the same practices that cause millions of people to starve, kill millions of the rest of us who are fat and getting fatter. A recent survey indicated that over our lifetime, 8 out of 10 people will become overweight. How can that be? According to Raj Patel, author of Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, “Global hunger and obesity are symptoms of the same problem and, what’s more, the route to eradicating world hunger is also the way to prevent global epidemics of diabetes and heart disease, and address a host of environmental and social ills.” Fix our food system and we combat starvation and obesity.

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7. Male Despair and Global Violence Violence is a world-wide epidemic, and men do most of the killing and most of the dying. I’m not saying that women are not victims of violence, and I’m not saying that women don’t kill. I’m saying that in order to understand the problems we face today in the world, we have to enter the world of violent men. I’ve spent a lot of my professional life working with male violence, and understanding these men may be the key to saving the world from disaster. “Looking at the gate leading into the Massachusetts prison, you do not see inscribed over it Dante’s motto, ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here,’ but it does not need to be, for most of those whom I see there had already abandoned all hope.” These are the words of James Gilligan, M.D., a psychiatrist who has devoted most of his professional life to understanding what makes men violent. Why are men violent? I’ll give you my answer based on my own experiences over the last 44 years working with men. I have never seen a violent man who did not experience violence in his family or neighborhood growing up. Violence creates violence. Violence can be in the form of physical assault, but it can also be the result of assaults on our self esteem and spirit. Here’s how Dr. Gilligan summarizes his experience. “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed, and that did not represent the attempt to prevent or undo this ‘loss of face’—no matter how severe the punishment, even if it includes death.” Whether we’re talking about men who beat their wives, men who assault other men, men who fly planes into buildings and kill men, women, and children, or men who take

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their countries to war, we will not be able to end the violence until we help men overcome the abuse and humiliation so many have experienced in their lives. There are two key things I’ve learned about violent men over the years I’ve been working. The first is that the violence we see is the result of trauma the men experienced earlier in their lives. If we prevent the trauma from occurring or heal it early on, we can prevent violence. The second is that men who have been traumatized, either by experiencing violence directly or by observing it in their family, feel ashamed and humiliated. Deep down, they blame themselves. As a result they hunger for respect and will do anything to regain it, even kill or be killed. “In the course of my psychotherapeutic work with violent criminals,” says Gilligan, “I was surprised to discover that I kept getting the same answer when I asked one man after another why he had assaulted or even killed someone: ‘Because he disrespected me.’ In fact, they used that phrase so often that they abbreviated it to, ‘He dis’ed me.’ Whenever people use a word so often that they abbreviate it, you know how central it is in their moral and emotional vocabulary.” If we hear a man’s pain and offer him understanding and respect, we can prevent violence. Cultural Madness and Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder When we examine the seven “big problems” we face in our relationship to Empire, we see that they are interrelated. For instance, our dependence on declining energy reserves is related to men using violence to secure remaining oil reserves. An expanding population causes more rapid environmental destruction. Increasing wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many creates an unbalanced economic system. The bad

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news is that we have seven big problems to solve. The good news is that what it takes to solve any one is the same thing it will take to solve all the others. We are all affected by our dysfunctional relationship with Empire. The indigenous peoples of the world have been fighting Empire the longest, and have much to teach us about how to survive and remain free. “We’re in recovery from the effects of more than five centuries of what only can be described as cultural madness,” said Turtle Clan Seneca leader John Mohawk. These sentiments are echoed by Ojibwe scholar Lawrence Gross. He says that Native Peoples have been suffering from centuries of trauma and suffer from what he calls, “Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder.” He says that today’s Native Peoples are in a “post-apocalyptic” time, because after conquest, their worlds came to an end. But he has not given up hope. “Although the traditional world of the Anishinaabe (or any tribe) may have come to an end, the worldview that informed that life still survives.” As we’ll see in the next chapter, the disease we call Empire has been spreading for 6,000 years. Fortunately its power on the planet is finally hitting bottom. “The end of industrial civilization need not be the end of the world,” author Richard Heinberg reminds us.

Warning: Humans are notoriously adaptable. Even when we know we should leave a destructive situation, we cling to the hope that things will get better. How many of us have stayed in an abusive relationship long after we knew it was killing us? If leaving a love-relationship was difficult, think how hard it will be to leave the Ship of State. Though difficult, it is not impossible. This book will give you the tools you need to save

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your life and the lives of those you care about. But more than that, it will help you have a relationship with the world that thrive and prosper.

Bottom Line Action Plan

There is an old saying in addiction recovery—If nothing changes, nothing changes. This is a book that encourages those who are ready to act to make things better, not just wait and react when things really get bad. After each chapter I will ask you to write down one action you are willing to make based on what you’ve read and suggest some additional actions that I think are most important.

Write your action here (or write it down in your own notebook):

Additional actions:

1.

It often takes us awhile to recognize and act on our “wake up” calls. When I saw the movie KOYAANISQATSI, I was awakened, but not ready to act. When I found I had an adrenal tumor, I knew I had to change of relationship to the Ship of State (SOS). Write down any wake up calls you have had. Have you acted to change your relationship to SOS yet?

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2.

We all notice different indicators that the Ship of Civilization is sinking. The seven that seemed most important to me were: Economic implosion, environmental destruction, energy decline, global warming, population overshoot, food that is killing us, male despair and violence. Of the 7 which ones seem most important to you? What other indicators of decline are you seeing?

Read on and find out how to get off the sinking Ship of Civilization and how to begin your journey to freedom. -EndI look forward to your comments and feedback. Jed

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