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Getting Over Collapse: Part 2 of 4

Read Part 1 here


Losing My Collapse Religion
The collapse meme is hard to resist when it offers a systemic explanation and exculpation for your personal circumstances, but full-on collapse obsession is a difficult worldview to inhabit perpetually. It's doable, but if you take an interest in developments outside of your personal echo chamber, your collapse mania is likely to lose steam.
The Catabolic Collapse theory describes the trajectory of industrial civilization over the coming century as a repeating cycle of mini collapses and partial recoveries. This is as true on the individual scale as it is from a big picture perspective. We all have a date with our personal, ultimate collapse, but for now, most falls are followed by a recovery of some sort. During our personal periods of recovery, it's tempting to believe that happy days are here again. If we clung to collapse to excuse our fall, it quickly loses its appeal when we're on the rise. We're a plunky, optimistic variety of ape because optimistic apes outbred their sullen brethren in our evolutionary past. We realize that pessimists are downers that most normal folk avoid when possible, and so during our personal upswings, the collapse narrative takes on all the appeal of a used band-aid.


It's also hard to stay fixated on the coming collapse when, year after remarkable year, it fails to materialize. During your last collapse phase, you sought out the most credible sounding voices who explained how the rigged monetary system was built on the beach out of balsa wood and tissue paper with the tide coming in. Other credible voices described, in excruciating detail, all of the ways in which the architecture of daily life depended on cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, the production of which peaked in 2005.

And yet a decade later, the rickety, just-in-time delivery system is still keeping the shelves at the super-market stocked with a variety of food from around the globe. The soil-destroying style of industrial agriculture has yet to deplete the Earth's ability to fuel the growth of the burgeoning human hoard. The oceans haven't risen all that much. The internet and cell phone network still work. That collapse which seemed nigh in 2008 has stubbornly refused to show its face and justify our conviction that every aspect of the world built on high-energy technology is soon to go to shit.


Some people manage to hold firm in their conviction that this is the year that it will all fall to pieces, year after disappointing year, but for most of us, our faith will waiver. At some point, we'll compare our narrative against some of its competitors and ask which one best fits the evidence of our senses.


Another challenge to our faith in collapse is the fact that some trends which seem not to jibe with total collapse continue to develop and move in interesting directions. Apple introduced the iPhone in 2006, the year after global production of conventional petroleum peaked. If you'd asked a gathering of Peak Oil enthusiasts in 2006 how they thought mobile computing, GPS and "big data" would change the way people relate to one another, their employers, their government and to their society you probably would have been met with scowls and a scolding "reality check."
After all, the fragile, energy-hungry technosphere was on its last legs. Why waste your time with techno-utopian fantasies? And yet here we are living lives that have been re-organized by those trends that only techno-onanists and corporate PR flaks cared about a decade ago. The world keeps moving, and curious minds want to follow it's movements even when they stray beyond the boundaries of a cherished worldview.

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