Nerd Nite 2020-02-07 Presentation: Apocalypse Soon

Nerd Nite のプレゼンのスライドファイル:
Here is the slideshow file to accompany my Nerd Nite presentation

Apocalypse Soon

[Follow-up comments, written the morning after my Nerd Nite presentation]:

Firstly I want to thank everyone who watched my presentation last night. Despite how I look once I’ve got a mic in my hands (somehow being in the limelight lends me a lot of energy), I’m not a naturally outgoing person (I’m terrible at small talk) so I was very nervous: you were a wonderful audience and made it easy for me to give my talk. Thank you.

I have a few follow-up comments, things I might have said if I’d had more time and/or if I had been quick-witted enough to have thought of them in the moment:

  • I want to be clear that when I say “grow food with our neighbors” I’m not suggesting that growing food is the only “economic” activity that happens: some people will be carpenters or metalworkers or make clothes or be carers and teachers and doctors and (in an optimistic scenario) even scientists. What I am suggesting is that we make growing food the central pillar of our (local) economies: everything else will flow out from growing food (rather than everything flowing from “make money” as it does now).
  • You’re a very international audience and yet you are all in Okinawa, so I want to point out that the age of unrestrained international travel is going to end with the collapse: I therefore recommend giving some thought to where you want to live for the rest of your life, and start making plans to go there (and once you get there, to start establishing community: growing food with your neighbors).
  • At the end several people made joking apologies for having come by car, or for needing to travel a lot for their jobs. I understand why you feel like making those apologies, but really there’s no need: we are all trapped by our current society, we barely have a choice. I am equally to blame (sitting here typing on my computer, made from rare earths, by (economic) slaves, in factories powered by coal, shipped here by oil, etc…)
    And yet as in my alcoholism metaphor, trapped as we are, we are the only people who can change our lives. I want to be clear that I’m not asking you to “lead more eco lives” “for the planet” – that’s our current cultural paradigm, and my point is that it’s now defunct. The decision I am encouraging you to start thinking about is not “how to be more eco” but rather is “how to take action to increase your odds of survival (or,to reduce the extent to which you will suffer) in the coming decades”.
  • I do however want to point out that if (very big if…) a mass of people started to step back from the consumer capitalist economy that is killing us, and to make new eco-lives, yes that would probably help. Social revolutions have happened, and some of them are good. My best-case-scenario is that so many people realize our civilization is doomed, and therefore start growing food in their local communities, that it leads to a new cultural zeitgeist that actually helps speed up the collapse of the current economic system, which again leads to more people jumping ship, in a virtuous cycle that ends in most of humanity living more like the Cubans (or the Amish) do.

    To be clear I can’t see this happening:
“consumer cog” is a bit rude, for which I apologize, however it’s a reference to something I say in the video above.
  • but I make no claims about my own prescience: I’m just one flawed human stumbling around on the surface of planet earth trying to figure out what’s going on and what to do: it’s entirely possible there’s a happy outcome coming and I just can’t see it.

    But…right now I just can’t see it….I think the future is going to be horrible. So… this sense you (and I) are right to apologize, and wrong to continue participating in what is at this point a cult of self-destruction. We find ourselves in a difficult situation, and I wish you the very best of luck trying to figure out what to do….
  • I think this situation is enormous, and it takes a lot to get your head around it (I am barely beginning). A half-hour talk barely even gets anyone started. With that in mind, I would like to offer to help in any way I can: you’ve now seen me speak, and if you think I am saying something worth hearing then I would love for you to help me get my message out. I am happy to talk to anyone, so if you can organize me an opportunity (at your workplace or in your neighbourhood or your hobby community) I will be very happy to come talk, to any group big or small (or even to individuals). If this interests you please do get in contact, I’d love to hear from you.
  • Note that I am (sorry to brag) very fluent in Japanese (both language and culture – my normal life is lived amongst Okinawans so I have a reasonable understanding of where they are starting from and can tailor my content accordingly), so I can also do events in Japanese.
  • Also, if anyone feels they’d like to help me on an organizational level, do please get in touch. My knack for presenting (sorry to brag again) is offset by really crappy organizational skills, so I’ll be very grateful for any help you can offer.
  • I want to mention protest actions, such as FridaysForFuture, ClimateStrike, and even ExtinctionRebellion. I think it’s worth participating when you can, because protests do raise awareness of the problem, and mass movements have let to social change. However, the idea that our current governments are going to bow to pressure from protests is, in my opinion, not realistic (an understatement: I think it’s a pipe dream). Our current governments are going to ignore protests and continue doing what they are doing. The only way protest can be successful is to change those governments: which is worth trying to do, and ultimately needs to happen, but at present I wouldn’t bet my life on it happening (mostly because of how the rich elites control the media). My suggestion (and indeed, my own current choice) is to do protests where I can, but focus my energy on building local community (which is, in effect, a form of protest, but one can work (to increase my odds of survival) even on it’s own terms, even if our governments continue to do what they are currently doing). However, I do want to add that organizing at a local community level can feed into protests by making them both more numerous and more representative of the local population (including people from all walks of life and strata of society, not just “greenies” and “lefties” – this article has useful discussion of this point). We are going to need strong local communities to resist authoritarian governments and the imposition of neoliberalism.
  • I also want to be realistic: I realize you are not going to quit your jobs (yet) but you can start small: try to find some time to start gardening, and to talk to your neighbors….one step leads to the next, IF you take a first step…
  • Finally here’s a quick selection of news stories from The Guardian (a left-leaning paper who’s climate coverage is very good, though in common with our whole culture they don’t really get the scale of the crisis – in my humble opinion) this morning. I share these to give you a few references to underline my point that politics is NOT going to save us. If we want to live, we’re going to have to the work of surviving for ourselves:
  • – will this spark an economic crash?
  • – far from being able to save us, politics is going in absolutely the wrong direction (the parallels with the rise of the Nazi party are deeply alarming)
  • – and yet emissions are still going up…(+2.7% in 2018)
  • – the EU is one of the very few large political entities even talking about the climate crisis, but even their plans are utterly inadequate (they keep trying to maintain the current economic order)
  • – COP 26, supposedly the political movement that aims to solve the crisis, is shaping up to be an utter failure (same as COPs 1~25….politics is hamstrung, it cannot save us)
  • – a sports section???? Our civilization is heading off a cliff and we’re wasting precious resources worrying about which group of 11 people can kick a ball with more skill???? We are the Easter islanders, cutting down our last trees to erect foibles, and we will spend the next few hundred years regretting our stupidity…

I’ll stop there, I think you get the idea…

At this point I want to acknowledge my own filter bubble (all those links taken from one source!): if anyone can point out where I’ve gone wrong in my analysis, I would really love to hear from you: I would like nothing more than to be wrong about all of this, and to be able to go back to enjoying my family, work and hobbies without all this worry about the future.

Finally then, thank you again for being a great audience, and thanks especially to Maggi for organizing (and Jasmine for the introductions). I’m grateful to have had the chance to speak with you. Perhaps we will get to talk again soon: I’d really like that.

And finally finally: I wish you the best of luck wresting with the issue of how to live. Not easy at the best of times, and (notwithstanding the material opulence in which we are currently cocooned) this is very much not the best of times….

Peace, love, compassion, and also rage…


PS To end on a joke (kind of), this is how I feel about this whole situation, including my attempts to explain it. Again, sorry to be caustic, but I kind of feel this is true:

The Emporer’s New Clothes in the 21st century…