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2 Sep 2009

2012 and the Return of the Alarmingly Gullible

sunrise2I spent a few days last week at the Sunrise Off the Grid Festival near Shepton Mallet.  I had been invited to go and give a talk, and went along with the Hopkins family en masse.  It was a small and intimate affair, with some great things; the Transition area in the Tin Village was fantastic, the talk I gave went fine, the weather was mostly kind, and it was all quite relaxed and pleasant.  I haven’t been at a festival since 2007′s Big Green Gathering, and there was one key thing I noticed that has changed since then, and which left me feeling very uneasy and with a profound sense of disquiet, so I wanted to give it some attention here.  It was the alarming rise of the 2012 doomsters….

There were many workshops and talks at the festival about this idea that 2012 is somehow significant and that, depending on who you talk to, the world will either end, transcend to a higher plane (or plain?), get smashed to pieces by a comet, or some other deeply meaningful, world changing event will occur (check out websites like this, for the kind of drivel that 2012 devotees swallow down whole…) . The bookshops were full of 2012 books, and on the way home we went to Glastonbury town (which makes Totnes look like Slough) where every bookshop seemed to have a 2012 section, full of books with titles like ‘Planet X Forecast and 2012 Survival Guide’, ‘Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy – A Complete Guide to End-of-time Predictions’ and ’2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl’.  As I sat in one of the tents while the gear was reorganised for the following band, a song played over the PA which was a quite groovy, upbeat tune, but the words were all about 2012, and how ‘the positive energy will heal the world’.

Now the alternative scene has always offered a particularly safe bolthole for the alarmingly gullible, but this 2012 stuff really gives me the heebygeebies.  Some of the speakers, who elsewhere wouldn’t even be given the time of day but at an event like Sunrise are hailed as sources of great illumination, mix 2012 stuff with conspiracy stuff with spiritual warfare David Icke type stuff and whatever other daft nonsense is in vogue that week.  It is the 2012 stuff though that is most alarming, and here’s why.

Firstly, it is, of course, utter nonsense.  The idea that 5,000 years ago, the Mayans (good astronomers, but fairly brutal and unpleasant in many other ways) were able to predict that on December 12th 2012 something of extraordinary significance was definitely going to occur is bonkers.  Here’s how my logic goes anyway.  Everything that happens arises based on the causes and conditions that preceded them.  Nothing happens without something causing it to happen, whether it is chance, random chaotic occurences, or conscious interventions and actions.  What happened to me today was in part predictable, and in part entirely random.  Thinking about what might be happening next week is like the long range weather forecast, it may turn out like that, but the best laid plans oft go awry…

As for a year ahead, we may have aspirations and desires, but the elements of chaotic intervention are such that we really have no idea.  Great sequences of unimagined events can intervene, complex patterns of events arise chaotically, and with all the best intentions, we find ourselves doing completely different things.  Life changes course regularly, sometime subtly, and sometimes dramatically. The idea that someone 5,000 years ago had the supernatural powers to be able to predict definitely what would happen 5000 years later is thoroughly illogical.

Of course people have been predicting the end of the world almost since it started.  The Religious Tolerance website has a great list of all the predictions that the world was going to end in 2006, including one from the book ‘The Bible Code II’, which you may have seen in remindered bookshops recently, that in 2006 there was meant to be a world war and a nuclear apocalypse.  I must have missed those.

Adam Rutherfold, writing in the Guardian last year, pointed to the absurdity of two more of the 2012 predictions.  The first is that ‘the Earth and the sun will come into alignment’, when surely, he writes, two objects are always in alignment with each other?  As he puts it, “if the sun and the Earth are coming into alignment in 2012 what the deuce have they been doing for the past six billion years?”  The second is the idea that the Earth’s magnetic poles will shift, leading to huge tidal waves and all kinds of wild meteorological carnage.  The Earth has actually shifted its poles many times thoughouts its history, and it has never caused any significant problems for anyone, other than perhaps a few birds getting slightly lost and water going down the plughole the other way.

One could dismiss this, of course, as a load of harmless, fanciful nonsense which gullible folks inclined towards New Age/alternative culture thinking will immerse themselves in with no real detrimental effect on anyone else.  But as I sat there in a field in Somerset, I felt concerned.  We are 3 years away from December 2012, yet already for some people this is a big deal.  I met people there making their financial decisions around the thinking that they had to be ‘ready’ for 2012, and when it is woven in with some of the other conspiracy stuff that was doing the rounds, it all gets quite alarming.  When people think that beyond a particular date there is either nothing or there is chaos, then all kinds of behaviour become acceptable.

In 1969, Charles Manson managed to convince his acid-addled followers that end society was about to dissolve into chaos, and that their role was to help bring it on.  The results were dreadful.  There have been many others, the sarin attacks on the Tokyo underground, the mass suicides of Jim Jones, and the Heaven’s Gate suicides, when followers of a cult in the US believed the Haley’s Comet was being trailed by a huge spaceship and they had to leave their bodies in order to get to it (the idea of there being a spaceship behind the comet was a popular one on New Age/conspiracy websites at the time).  When there is a perception of no future, any kind of behaviour becomes acceptable.

Feels to me like this 2012 thing is something with a powerful attraction to some, yet it is something that is easy to refute with just a small amount of logic.  Problem is that Hollywood is now gearing up for 2012 too, with the film, 2012, doing for 2012 what The Day After Tomorrow did for climate change.  Check out the trailer below, fantastically absurd, there is, of course, nowhere near enough water in the world to come even close to doing anything like this, but it makes great cinema.

What was of gravest concern to me, as I looked at this event that supposedly represented ‘alternative culture’, was what a huge distraction this whole 2012 thing is from what we actually need to be doing.  Here was an event which supposedly represented ‘alternative culture’, which believes that it holds most of the ideas and thinking that actually know best what society needs.  There was recycling, it was off grid and so on, but at the same time there was all this 2012 stuff.   Peak oil, climate change, actually doing things, actually rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty, can all end up being dismissed.  As the song I heard playing put it, ‘positive energy will heal the world’.  Not that we need to do anything, you understand, we just all have to tune in to it, be in the right space for it, be ‘conscious to the changes’, and magically we will enter some kind of transcendent world where everything that we always believed in somehow has magically come to be everyone else’s reality too.

Sorry folks, the future we create will arise from the results of the actions we have already done and from what we do now, not thanks to some great cosmic forces beyond our influence (and beyond the understandings of any kind of scientific thinking).   In terms of climate change, it is not December 2012 we need to worry about, but December this year, when the Copenhagen talks take place.  As to when we need to start living in a carbon constrained way, that was about 15 years ago.  In terms of peak oil, was it last year, next year, or 2013?  No-one yet knows for sure, although official estimates continue to creep closer, but again, the sooner we start building local resilience and getting on with it, the better.  There are no cosmic forces that are going to do all this for us, it is down to us.  Some arbitrary date on an ancient calendar is not going to magically reduce concentrations of atmospheric CO2, refill the world’s fast depleting oil wells, overcome challenges of water, resource and land scarcity, rebuild genetic and biodiversity, rebuild depleting soils, feed the starving and overcome the very real constraints of a population with expectations of perpetual abundance living on a finite world.

What ideas like 2012 do, is to allow an abdication of personal responsibility.  “There are greater forces at work and we just have to go with it”, “it’s out of our hands”, “all bets are off as to what is going to happen”.  No mystic space people, nor some ancient powerful energy, are going to come to our rescue.  It is down to us, here, now.  It is a huge distraction, one much easier to believe (because at the end of the day that’s all it is, a belief, an article of faith) than to believe that we need to actually do stuff in an organised way.  I look forward to December 13th 2012, when it will be clear that the whole 2012 industry was another spectacular waste of paper, bandwidth and human energy.  Unfortunately by then, due to the inactivity of the preceding 3 years, the world will be 43 months from catastrophic climate change, the UK may well be experiencing blackouts, and those gullible enough to have spent their time ‘preparing for 2012′ (a difficult task as none of the people who write or speak about it have the foggiest idea what might happen, other than that it is ‘something big’) will emerge blinking into a world that is actually still just the world, albeit an increasingly fragile one.  We must challenge this nonsense with logic and reason wherever we encounter it.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

94 Comments

Jacqueline
2 Sep 8:49am

Hi Rob

I wanted to offer a little hope………..
A few years ago I came across the ‘prophecies of 2012′ in a talk given by a reputable Andean shaman. I did a bit of research and as you say there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there. But I was still concerned, the ancestoral lineage of the Mayans was more than their brutality. I even organised for a more positive (or so I thought) english author to come & give a talk (he was living in Shepton Mallet no less!). HOWEVER, the day after the talk I decided that I’d invested enough energy in 2012 and started to look for something that was more concerned with living a good life with some personal responsibility ………… and guess what I came across – a cob-building in Kinsale and then Transition Totnes…….. After waiting a while for someone else to organise an inititive where I lived, I finally bit the bullet and organised a meeting. It was a bit of a leap of faith, but 16 people turned up and we now have an official initiative.
So – by all means challenge the nonsense, but let’s not write-off the individuals….. instead offer them an alternative vision. It’s what you seem to do so very well!

That is a powerful post there Rob – I confess to having all sorts of concerns about 2012, but none of them involve the Mayans.

As you say, in 2012 we’ll have plenty of other things to worry about . . . the price & availability of oil, food etc being highest among them. Those are the “Something Big” that people should be looking at in my opinion, well done for pointing this out so forcefully.

Steve Atkins
2 Sep 9:12am

Hi all

The walk into the realm of the unicorn at the sound of Nepalise bell ringing is somewhat over-rated…and brings to my mind an alternative form of alternativism. How about this (which comes highly recommended by me):

‘The Heretics Guide to Vegan Cookery’

Here:http://www.hereticscookery.co.uk

Although featuring more than ninety recipes, The Heretic’s Guide to Vegan Cookery is much more than just a cookbook. It’s also a series of joyously irreverent food-inspired wanderings through the beautiful Somerset town of Glastonbury and the macrocosmic microcosm of New Age reality that flourishes there. This satirical journey into truth has been informed throughout by the author’s anonymous contacts in the fairy underworld and a renegade Ascended Master known as Fingers.

- Gasp when Reiki takes a walk on the dark side.
-Feel the righteous spiritual glow of revelation when the Almighty Jehovah insists that the entirety of His newly created world should be vegan.
- Marvel as Homeopathy makes an infinitesimal contribution to international cuisine.
- Thrill as wild Druids are attracted to suburban gardens.
- Let your eyes light up with greed as you find out how to breed gurus for profit.

It’s a bargain. Buy before 2012 and avoid the rush to ascension.

Steve Atkins
2 Sep 9:13am

Apologies in advance for any offense caused!

Steve Atkins
2 Sep 9:15am

Brad K.
2 Sep 9:21am

I do love that trailer. Sony, the picture company making “2012″ with John Cusack, has a lottery for seats that should endure the catastrophic events. Sign up at the Institute for Human Continuity web site.

And Sony is now holding elections for the leader of the world, after the event. They are in the fourth week of games now. Do well on the games, or sponsor more people to sign up, and be in the running to be the ruler of the post-2012 world, according to Sony.

Yes, I did sign up for the lottery. I may get a discount on popcorn at the theatre, or a movie button!

As for the future, I figure I should be living today as if it were my last. At the same time I am responsible for the stewardship of the earth and gifts provided to me. When I assumed custody of my chickens, my barn cats, the lot I live on – I wasn’t promised that my stewardship would end on any given day.

Graham Burnett
2 Sep 9:36am

Wasn’t the last biggie 1/1/2000, when the world was going to grind to a halt, planes were going to fall out of the sky, all the worlds atomic weapons would simultaneously detonate, kitchen scales and breadmakers would stop working, etc, etc when the ‘millenium bug’ kicked in? Even Permaculture Magazine had a big thing about it and how the handful of survivors would have to learn survival skills pretty quickly as they scavenged their way around the ruins of our once great cities (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit about PCM). The problem is the dates for these ‘catastrophes’ come and go, nothing happens and we all carry on as normal, slowly but surely developing a sense of ‘millenarianism fatigue’ or ‘crying wolf syndrome’. I saw a book in Waterstones yesterday called ‘Global Warming and all That Bollocks’, I read the blurb on the back which made the actually quite valid point that the the idea that we are one step from calamity is as old as history itself.

Last year felt like the shit was finally hitting the fan with the massive oil price hikes, financial crashes, food security issues becomming a reality, etc, now it feels like things seem to have clamed down and re-stabilised again so that its ‘business as usual’ once more and those of us who were talking about peak oil being imminent are made to look like nutty scaremongers. That is why I think its important that we keep our focus on the longer term trends of energy descent, that in all liklihood it will be a slow decline over a couple of decades rather than a massive overnight crash, even though this perspective doesn’t have the ‘sexiness’ and urgency of the ‘doomster’ scenarios, in the longer term it lends the ideas of transition and permaculture greater credidibility.

Graham Burnett
2 Sep 9:58am

PS. When I watched the trailer I got an ad at the bottom for the new Meryll Streep chick flick and also a free download offer for a publication called ‘how to profit from peak oil’…

Jason
2 Sep 10:06am

Your remarks on this are cogent Rob. It’s a shame you have to say them, but thanks for doing it.

John Michael Greer’s ideas make perfect sense of this. We’re living in a culture where progress is worshipped, and it’s ending, so we need an apocalypse. This sort of thing happens at times like these. Dip into the Hermetica and the old Gnostics, there’s no difference.

You make a good point about the damage that can be caused by people who want to ‘help the apocalypse on a bit’ — but personally, I am happy that these people are not expecting something necessarily good to happen.

Expectations of spiritual good which don’t pan out are more destructive, since they engender bitterness and anger on a wider scale. That can get a little explosive and does more real harm than a couple of murders by lunatic cultists.

The BNP are just itching for a good disaster and will feed off disappointment and anger. When you don’t get what you want, you look for someone to blame.

John Boshier
2 Sep 10:13am

I think 1/1/2000 was a potential big problem, but it was sorted out before it happened. Maybe not world ending, but it could have had pretty serious consequences. It would have affected my business if I hadn’t updated the software I used.

I get the impression that 2012 might be a year when some actual energy/climate related problems may occur, and I have in mind that it would be a good date to aim to be prepared for. Things like having a passive solar house, growing my own food, and being around like minded people. If big things happen then I’ll be as ready as I can be, and if they don’t I’ll be having a great life!

John Mason
2 Sep 10:17am

Nice piece, Rob!

Agree with Graham that the “one step from calamity” is an old idea, but it at the same time does not mean that radically changing times have not punctuated history – things like the Black Death, WW2 etc come to mind.

I share your observation about “so that its ‘business as usual’ once more and those of us who were talking about peak oil being imminent are made to look like nutty scaremongers”. Having further researched the relationship between peak oil and economics, I visualise a kind of “stair-case geometry” to the first years of the downslope of the oil depletion graph. What seems most likely to occur is that, as we recover from recession, we meet an oil flow-rate ceiling similar to the last one when demand was not satisfied by supply in 2007. Up goes the price and down comes the economy again. Another recovery follows, demand increases again and we hit a slightly lower supply ceiling and so on and so forth in a cyclic manner – until economics and oil become more decoupled and more orderly energy descent is adopted. This is inherently preferable to the crash scenario, but still difficult because of the consumerism cold-turkey that will afflict millions.

Cheers – John

Graham
2 Sep 10:59am

Rob:
Excellent piece exploring the dangers of delusional thinking and how prevalent they are within the “alternative” movement, and especially how such beliefs are a way of avoiding taking responsibility for our lives.
I do find it odd though, Rob, that you dont draw the link between this version of wishful thinking and your own beliefs- paranormal explanations for crop circles for example; the rejection of the MMR vaccine; and the continuing and explicit promotion of “alternative therapies” within the Transition Towns movement.
It should also be said that the dysfunctional aspects of beliefs of the 2012 “movement” are shared by all religions; the 2012 beliefs may seem somewhat exotic but are no more irrational than any belief in unseen entities, virgin births, the Power of Prayer, or Sky Fairies of any ilk. Promote or defend one set of irrational beliefs and you are promoting them all.
Graham:
as regards sudden or “catabolic” collapse, these issues are actually pretty academic: as Orlov points out, collapse is essentially a personal experience- what matters is when it happens to YOU.
Our knowledge of AGW and PO, not to mention species extinction, pollution and over-population, is actually based on science and not faith, so we have very good reason to believe sudden collapse is quite possible, and certainly is being experienced by many people in less privileged parts of the world as we speak.
I think we should be careful of Greer’s dismissal of sudden collapse as just another cultural story and instead just debate the evidence.
Sometimes a cultural story may just turn out to be true.

Katy Duke
2 Sep 11:40am

Ah, so you’ve been to Glastonbury!

When I worked in Bristol after the riots, upgrading the walk-up flats & the surrounding landscapes and making proper gardens for the kids to play in, there was a document often referred to by professionals called ‘Normal for Hartcliffe’http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/from-blighted-inner-cities-to-the-edge-of-despair-as-rioters-clashed-with-police-on-the-streets-of-burnley-blackburn-and-bristol-30-years-of-social-breakdown-found-expression-in-violence-1535608.html . It looked at the statistics for the area and concluded that ‘things were different in Hartcliffe’ – “The preponderance of one-parent families, 58.9 per cent, is symptomatic of life on the estate. But perhaps the starkest indicator pointing to the hopelessness, felt particularly among the young, is that only two of around 100 16-year-olds who left Hartcliffe school recently found full-time jobs in an area where unemployment is officially 13 per cent.”

The vibe you got from Glastonbury shouldn’t be seen as too scary, it’s just ‘Normal for Glastonbury’http://www.isleofavalon.co.uk/avalon-culture.html. “Regarded as the oldest and holiest of England’s spiritual sanctuaries, Glastonbury has always had its pilgrims, Ancient Celtic 21st Century Avalonian the ‘hippies’ or ‘New Age travellers’ being merely current versions of the wild specimens of humanity who would have come here in ancient and medieval times. History has a way of repeating itself – and just as Glastonbury was a pagan centre before it became a Christian shrine, so now the ‘new pagans’ have made their home here.”

I was in a crystal shop last weekend on the Kennet & Avon Canal showing my daughter the minerals after (a disappointing) lunch at the splendid Cross Guns at Avoncliffe. I couldn’t help listening to the shop owner talking about one of those dangly-weight-things that you can hold over someone/thing & ask a question. She was telling an intensely-listening young woman that if you ask it a question and it rotates one way, its telling you the affirmative, and swinging is the negative, but if it changes direction then you must be asking it the wrong question! I had to leave the shop in a fit of giggles.

It seems to me that humans can get terribly caught up in asking the wrong questions and Glastonbury is a mecca for a whole panoply of different answers. Fortunately, just up the road in Frome, I haven’t heard of 2012 madness so lets hope it doesn’t get a wider foothold. I spent a few wet days in a tent in Wales over the holiday reading The God Delusion by Richard Hawkins, lent to me by my son who said rather dramatically ‘this book saved my life’. Good boy…. he listens to reason! Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. He is sympathetic to Robert Pirsig’s observation in Lila that “when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.”

I have no god, I am an atheist (Dawkins gave me the strength to be bold on this), but I do have a few ‘heroes’ to celebrate & take guidance from – Rob Hopkins, Aubrey Meyer, Richard Feilden (onwards and upwards), my grandma, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, Franny Armstrong (‘If you’re not fighting climate change or improving the world, you’re wasting your life’)…… http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/sep/01/franny-armstrong-10-10

Yesterday I went to the launch of 10:10.http://www.1010uk.org/ Franny and co at their best! I signed up immediately, and on behalf of Sustainable Frome. … now we have a fantastic vehicle for ACTION. I urge all transition towns to pledge that they aim to cut emissions by 10% in 2010 and join up. “10:10 is an ambitious project to unite every sector of British society behind one simple idea: that by working together we can achieve a 10% cut in the UK’s carbon emissions in 2010. Why bother? Why bother jumping out of the way of a speeding car? Why bother removing a burst appendix?

Cutting 10% in one year is a bold target, but for most of us it’s an achievable one, and is in line with what scientists say we need over the next 18 months. We now know for certain that unless we act quickly to reduce our use of dirty fossil fuels, humanity will face terrible problems in the years to come. Politicians have so far failed to do what needs to be done, so it’s time for ordinary people to step in and show that we’re ready to defend our children’s futures. It’s now or never for the climate.

By signing up to a 10% target we’re not just supporting 10:10 – we’re making it happen. In our homes, in our workplaces, our schools and our hospitals, our galleries and football clubs and universities, we’ll be backing each other up as we take the first steps on the road to becoming a zero-carbon society. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a huge problem like climate change, but by uniting everyone behind immediate, effective and achievable action, 10:10 enables all of us to make a meaningful difference.

10:10 is the perfect opportunity to discover what’s possible when we work together. Let’s get started.”

The event. http://www.1010uk.org/education#whats_going_on
10:10 in The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/10-10
10:10 tweet. http://twitter.com/tentenuk
10:10 in The Sun! http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/Green/2615970/Campaign-to-save-you-energy-and-cash-kicks-off-today.html

andrew ramponi
2 Sep 12:44pm

I agree it depends where you are and when, whether change is good or bad. Certainly somethings which can seem bad at the time often turn out to have been for the better. I am pretty sure we have too much plastic and garbage, and will probably suffer if we go on producing more and more. Yet…

…GDP figures are showing we have “negative” growth. Panic stations at the ready. Last autumn catastrophe, collapse, Armageddon were the adjectives of the season enticing politicians to rally round and support the growth model, uber alles. Borrow more money so we can buy more stuff and avert the unimaginable consequences? And thus far, according to many, we have avoided the worst.

Necessity is the mother of invention but I sense more smoke and mirrors than creative processes here. As always, who is saying it, when and why. I daresay a close look at the whys and wherefores amongst many 2012 doomers would show a variety of wholesome and offensive reasons for their proclamations.

Anyway, whatever may be, it’s clear that as in the labyrinth or maze, sometimes you need to go east to go west, and back to go forward. Who knows where we’ll end up. Or, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “What then my friend I cannot say”.

Shane Hughes
2 Sep 1:14pm

Rob,
I’ve had long debates with one of the founders of Sunrise (before Sunrise existed), after he and a few others, in my mind, polluted our alternative community with mumbo jumbo.
My basic argument is that the “Mayan Crew” are organised religion’s last grip on humanity; an unintended exploitation of weaknesses and our need for something else greater than ourselves to sort it all out. Like you I’d get so disappointed when the most beautiful people and the greatest minds in the “alternative” world were getting sucked into this.

BUT

Even though it gives me the eebee jeebies, simply highlighting the dangers and the negatives won’t make it go away and will also miss the potential positives that haven’t been expressed in your post. Once you strip away the cringe worthy elements;

1. The transition is most definitely starting to speed up, i’m starting to see positive feedback loops kicking in. If this momentum continues 2012 is, in my mind, an achievable focus date for hitting a critical mass where we, in the UK and possibly the globe, stop tinkering and leap into change.
2. Focusing on an event, be it a TT unleashing or any event, galvanises and engages people in ways that no other project does.
3. 2012 is not just a call to inaction or the “wrong” action but a call to action. ie to commit to deeper change in your life. Buckminster fuller has called Barbara Hubarb Marx “the most enlightened being on the planet” and her and people like Ervine Laslow and the Club of Budapest are focusing on 2012 with their worldshift2012.org and other projects that i’m getting involved in, as they try to ratchet up the level of action.
Now these guys advocate a spiritual transformation which also (at times) makes me cringe but the real art is to try to wean out the important (or more like essential) inner transition stuff from the old religous rewrites.

I say don’t dismiss or ignore it, because it won’t go away, harness it and re-appropriate it in a positive way. To be honest, IMO, that’s our only choice. We have to create a logical focus around 2012 so that people don’t get distracted by the illogical one.
Shane

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Holger Hieronimi
2 Sep 2:21pm

Hello-

greetings from mexico

Interesting, how the 2012/ 20013 fenomenon has become really an ninternational one – although the mayan calender just is about a cycle of 26.000 years that ends, and another one that begins – well, looking at how things are at the moment, and the intensity of the shift, we shouldn´t be surprised about that.

I think, that Greer sorted this out quite well in his book – the two myth that we are trapped in. As the myth of everlasting progress becomes incerasingly impossible, a lot of people are going to the opposite extreme – after reading “The long descent”, this is quite obvious for me-

Its really difficult to relate to that, and to find the exact balance- Also quite a considerable part of the Peak Oil & Climate Change discussion exposes the severe perspectives and predictions, that we cannot deny – remember Sharon Astyks last weeks Post “Whose history, what Future” ???

Nevertheless, for many years now, we dicided, that we rather end our lives trying work for a permaculture-future (or transision) than to just let the things happening. In this process, zou¿ll encounter a really beautiul world, that makes the whole process worth it many times

George Peattie
2 Sep 5:23pm

Great post Rob. I find it increasing hard to follow fora on the internet as they fill up with this bull and other conspiracies.

Be warned you’ll be branded a heretic or worse rationalist next and likely be burned on the bonfires come 2012.

BTW the world will end on the 5th of July 1998, the problem wasn’t the prophecy it is the calendar :-)

risa b
2 Sep 5:30pm

>”other than perhaps a few birds getting slightly lost and water going down the plughole the other way.”

One of your most entertaining posts, Rob, which we needed to hear on this serious matter. I long for the day when humanity will consider picking apples as enough intellectual excitement for an afternoon.

Graham Burnett
2 Sep 5:36pm

Graham (this might get confusing!!) – I didn’t mean to play down the very real manifestations of climate change already happening in other parts of the world, and John, the ‘staircase geometery’ energy descent scenario certainly makes sense, I think what i was more getting at though was the fact that the day to day reality or perception of what is happening to me and those immediately around me (the vast majority of the ‘first world’ population that we are so fond of saying are ‘in denial’) doesn’t seem to change much from one year to the next despite there having been some sort of apocalyptic ‘end of days’ cultural narrative backstory to my life for as long as I can remember – in the 70s when I was growing up it was ‘the energy crisis’, by the 80s it was the threat of nuclear war, by the 90s it was disappearing rainforests, the ozone layer and of course the millenium bug and even stray asteroids, and so far this decade in addition to CC/PO we’ve had CJD, bird flu, ‘dirty bombs’ on the trains and now swine flu, none of which have actually come to much in terms of how they affect most people despite being talked up by the media as being the arrival of doomsday. It does feel like the media ‘cry wolf’ and maybe we should also be a bit careful about how we ‘cry wolf’ about peak oil as well, because the thing about crying wolf is that one day the wolf will be real but nobody will be listening…

Dave Dann
2 Sep 7:37pm

Fine discussion. Probably, in the long term, it’s always good to get to see yourself as others see you. At present it seems to me that most people think that Transitioners are indeed ‘crying wolf’ about peak oil, instead of 2012.
Transition Movement seems to me to make things even more complicated by announcing a crisis but then trying to say “it’s not actually that much of a crisis to make us doomers”. The result seems to be a mixed message and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s intention is not to threaten anyone with a decline in their material wealth.

Kate Murry
2 Sep 7:41pm

Surely the point ( re graham’s comments) is not to get everyone in the TT movement to sign up to the same manifesto on what reality consists of, whether complimentary medicine has a basis, or what is normal or paranormal; even scientists can’t agree which bits of sub atomic particle physics constitute The Truth, which makes for good ‘edge’. The point surely is that ideas which detract from very necessary action are an obstacle to achieving the aims of Transition. If a belief , whether everyone into Transition holds it or not, can be seen to promote not hinder then it matters not whether people have a faith, no faith, are scientists, therapists or alien watchers. If one of my Sikh sisters (for example) prays to God every day before she goes out to ‘get her hands dirty’ in tackling the pressing issues of carbon lowering because of her duty to her God, then so be it- even though God’s not my bag and I have other ways of making sense of things. I think the problem Rob is trying to highlight is one of misplaced energy,not whose world view is the best; so lets keep the focus on what supports Transition and what gets in the way, and not fall into the sort of fudamentalist traps that even Dawkins hasn’t managed to avoid.

Jacqueline
2 Sep 8:50pm

Touché Kate! Nicely said.

Guy
2 Sep 8:51pm

After googling 2012 I now know that the end of the world is

London 2012

http://www.london2012.com/

That or I got the wrong link.

Graham
2 Sep 11:19pm

Kate:
“lets keep the focus on what supports Transition and what gets in the way, and not fall into the sort of fundamentalist traps that even Dawkins hasn’t managed to avoid.”
and what im arguing is that irrational belief of any kind will get-and are getting in the way of transition. Its not this belief or that belief that counts- but how you get to that belief. Religion and pseudoscience like alternative therapies actively undermine our general ability to think rationally, and also undermine our understanding of science, without which we have no effective understanding of AGW or PO.

“…even scientists can’t agree which bits of sub atomic particle physics constitute The Truth,…”

This is one of the oldest New Age tricks in the book- unless you are yourself a quantum physicist I suggest you stay clear of this subject. What scientists DO all agree on is that you need a verifiable methodology- the scientific method- to investigate the truth of things, whether or not you reach it. The fact that science does not have all the answers- and it does have a lot more answers than you or I- is not an excuse for just making things up.
I think classes on the scientific method and critical thinking should be an essential replacement in Transition for the beloved “Heart and Soul” groups!!
“…I think the problem Rob is trying to highlight is one of misplaced energy,not whose world view is the best;…”
I think it is obvious what Rob means when he says things like ” …check out websites like this, for the kind of drivel that 2012 devotees swallow down whole…”-
he thinks his world view is better than their’s.
I think there are two broad world views:
1)Believe whatever you want, or whatever makes you feel good = religion and pseudoscience;
2)Come to your beliefs using evidence and verifiable methods, and insist on the same standards from others. I dont see anything fundamentalist about that;
the example of your sister is irrelevant- 2012 is a religion that gets in the way of transition as Rob has explained; many millions of others with other religions will also not get involved with transition, precisely because they believe the sky fairy will look after them.
Plus, alternative therapies are bad for your health and are also a waste of energy.

Brad K.
3 Sep 12:36am

@Kate, Graham,

I believe that change is always measured in pain. The human beast seems to be hard-wired to continue on tomorrow as went yesterday and today. Call this behavioral inertia addiction, or work ethic, determination or perseverance, stubbornness or focus and concentration, without a deliberate choice or change in the environment, we tend to plan or assume that what we do now is what we should do next.

I doubt that the 2012 followers are peculiar to the Transition followers. Yet I wonder – in order to accept the changes that Transition means in one’s life, if breaking the inertia that previously bound one to the worldly norm of one’s many fellows, that we aren’t more open, many of us, to other suggestions and claims of change.

I accompanied an acquaintance at a community exhibit of vacation stuffs, as I recall. While we talked with a mutual friend at one exhibit, a gentleman came around with petition to sign for some local activity. I recognized the topic, and declined to sign; my acquaintance did sign the petition. When I asked why the signature, and explained the topic of the petition, “Oh. Well, I couldn’t refuse to sign a petition for X!”

I doubt that every follower of Transition activities actually understands all the concepts and arguments; I suspect that at least some are there solely because people they trust, respect, or follow recommended or suggested the merits of Transition.

It seems only reasonable that people willing to follow someone trusted without mastering the science and technology for themselves might respond to a serious or facetious discussion of 2012 as being the end of times. After all, Sony is making a movie about it!

The presence of 2012 doomers at Transition functions, I believe, is the answer to the dilemma of losing their attention. Their presence puts the doomers in a delightful position to continue clarifying and supporting them with the messages of Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Transition. Some will likely switch back, especially after 2013.

In the mean time, care for those diverted with fascination for exotic dooms in 2012 as good neighbors with strange habits, and point out how handy a full pantry and growing garden would be, if the comet/planet/space ship/zombie attack misses their corner of the planet.

billyt
3 Sep 2:59am

good post Brad K. i’m quite thankful for this blog actually. i had a tricky chat with some glastonbury folk once about this subject – i was isolated in my views (along similar lines to Rob’s original post). i came out actually questioning myself – and it was a bit disconcerting for while. guess i should have more faith in myself! anyway, thanks again!

Fourcultures
3 Sep 7:13am

There are four basic myths to which we’re all susceptible:
* the myth of Decline
* the myth of Progress
* the myth of Management
* the myth of Inevitability/fate

Each has a certain ring of truth to it, and all are partial, incomplete descriptions of reality. From the perspective of any one of these, the other three seem deluded and ‘religious‘. If we ask the simple question ‘how much is there?‘ the honest answer is, we don’t fully know but only ever have partial information (e.g petrol costs $1.37 per litre today, or ‘we’ve run out of milk!’ or Greenland glaciers retreated at an accelerated rate in 2008, or whatever).
There may be an empirical explanation of these views of nature (see, for example, the four phases of Buzz Holling’s ‘adaptive cycle’), but at the very least they can be seen as alternative heuristics, or biases, by means of which we try make sense of our world.

The Environmental movement generally adopts the myth of Decline, so it’s hardly surprising that at its extreme end it would have an extreme myth of decline: Apocalypse.

Note that the other myths have their own extremes. For instance, extreme Individualism, with its over-developed sense of Progress, fosters different but equally crazy myths such as colonising the stars, living forever through cryogenics, uploading our consciousness to software, the Singularity etc. These are all forms not of Appocalypse but of Apotheosis, in which humans become ‘as gods’. In contrast the Fatalist myth of inevitability claims that since someone has to win the lottery, one day it’s going to be me. And the myth of management is that another restructure (or cabinet reshuffle/ change of government/ return to family values) is going to solve our problems forever.

We should be suspicious of *all* these myths, while recognising that we can’t live without some organisational rule of thumb. It’s the more ‘extreme’ versions like 2012 that show us that the more ‘moderate’ versions are also to be questioned.

Damon
3 Sep 7:28am

I agree that the 2012 forecast based on Mayan calendar is utter nonsense, as is any prediction derived solely from religion or any supernatural, non-data-based belief. I also agree that “We must challenge this nonsense with logic and reason wherever we encounter it.” In this spirit, therefore, I must challenge the basic concept of Energy Descent underlying this site “as an opportunity for positive change rather than an inevitable disaster.”

This might be the case if the transition had started in earnest in the 1970s, but it didn’t. There’s no viable alternative energy (technology, plan) that’s ready. And then there’s the actual implementation — for any technology — that will cost $ trillions, will consume an immense amount of (energy, material, human) resources, and will take decades to complete. An endeavor of this magnitude requires a monumental investment and a sustained, singular focus, which, of course, assumes you have a wealthy, stable society. Deficiency in any one of these critical elements can stall the project, and we’re facing major issues on all of them. (These are all quite reasonable assertions, which I will not bother to substantiate here. There’s a very large body of knowledge available to consult if you are not convinced.)

There are many possible scenarios that could result from these initial conditions, but, realistically, few if any will be pleasant for the vast majority of participants. This is not to deny that there will be opportunity for a lucky few warlords and other clever, opportunistic types. And the end state in the distant future may, indeed, represent a positive change, but the transition — die-off and all — will be a disaster.

So here are my general conclusions:
- We have a very slim (near zero) chance of successfully transitioning our modern society from current energy inputs to sustainable alternatives.
- We have a substantial chance of experiencing extreme turbulence during the extended transition period.
- We have a (possibly substantial) non-zero chance of human extinction.

I think our modern high-energy society will experience almost unimaginable horror as it contracts to a smaller low-energy state. Many things that are taken for granted today will not survive. This transition will take decades or longer — possibly generations, centuries or millennia — before we achieve another Renaissance, of a sort.

Basically, the situation we face today, if we made an honest, fact-based assessment, would be considered unacceptable by modern standards. The loss of life and destruction of value will be immense. Maybe our governments have already come to the same conclusion, and decided not to panic the masses.

Michael
3 Sep 3:28pm

The whole 2012 countdown is something I have come across many times over the last decade or so, to start with it was something folk would chat about in a rather tongue in cheek fashion, like chatting about the next episode of star trek or some such, with a kind of indulging ‘what if’ attitude. Yet as the time has grown nearer this theory really has gone off the scale! I think many beliefs start like this, at one point a tale to tell children, and then people forget whether it is real and time makes it open for reality, its an odd process, very much like the bible! ;)

Anyway, what I wanted to post was a link to a much more important countdown and one which us all should be looking at how to contribute to helping, its the 2041 countdown, if you don’t know what I am talking about then please follow this link…

http://www.2041.com/

Michael

Martin
3 Sep 6:03pm

So what people are saying is that within the Transition movement, religion of any type (new age, christian, muslim, jew, hindu, buddist etc) should be shot down unless they can provide scientific proof of their beliefs? And this is also to be extended to ‘alternative’ therapies as well?

As if the problems of convincing ‘Joe Public’ about the need for transition were not already hard enough, we should now ask them to stop their spiritual beliefs too (and in some parts of the world, that’s a majority of the people)? That makes a hard task, ever so slightly harder don’t you think?

I’m not religious (I am vegan – is that a religion or can someone ‘prove’ I am right/wrong?), but I respect the fact that people have belief systems (even if I think they are wrong) and if people get soul comfort from these, then is that wrong? I also think religions can help people change quicker (look at the ‘what would god drive’ campaigns in the USA against SUV’s). I know that bad things have and continue to happen in the name of religion, but alienating people simply because they have an unscientific belief will make the transition job so much harder.

The same applies to ‘alternative’ therapies – maybe they cannot be explained by ‘science’, yet they work for many people – OK there are some ‘quacks’ out there, but unlike ‘conventional’ medicine, they often work by helping the emotions and feelings that a person has, something modern medicine has forgotten.

Feeling good inside (heart and soul) is important as we get closer to the realities/effects of CC and PO as people will start to loose many of the material comforts and institutions they thought they could trust – some people will need ‘something’ to hold onto on the rough ride.

I’m not anti-science, but as Masanobu Fukuoka said in the ‘One Straw Revolution’, a lot of modern science is too discriminating – due to the specialisation required, it’s hard for a scientist to see beyond his/her field of excellence and hence they have have a poor ‘Gestalt’ or wider view.

Many aspects of Transition are going to be very hard to implement en-mass – as Rob outlined in his book, there is a need to reduce meat and dairy consumption on environmental grounds, but for many people, that’s a step too far because they just can’t make that link. Let’s not add to all this the banning of a spiritual belief system in order to qualify for membership to a Transition movement.

Just my tuppence worth anyway!

Peter Bralesford
3 Sep 6:41pm

Oh deary me, that trailer for 2012 is so absurd that I was still laughing my hemp socks off five minutes after it finished.

Seems mad that some people are so gullible that they’ll believe any nonsense that is thrown at them. Whatever happened to thinking critically?

Marcin Gerwin
3 Sep 6:46pm

Good point, Martin. It seems to me that religion and spirituality are hugely important these days because they are in essence about love, caring, helping others and… reducing consumption. The “belief” part is actually less important than trying to be a good person.

And speaking of science: isn’t astronomy based on mathematics? Perhaps Mayans were aware of some cyclical astronomic event, like solar eclipse, and they based their calendar on it? I have no idea if they were on to something and I agree that the 2012 issue is a distraction. The movie can be good, though :)

Graham
3 Sep 7:57pm

Hi Martin and Marcin
Ok you have completely one me over with your arguments- I agree that the most important thing is to support people with irrational beliefs for which there is no evidence because all these beliefs are about peace and love etc and most importantly, they give people comfort in these hard times.
I mean, there is no alternative is there, like thinking for ourselves and being our own moral philosophers- people who think that are crazy! Only religion which tells you to have faith and not question what the priests tell you can save us.
In fact, it is outrageous that Rob should mock and insult the 2012-ers- calling their beliefs “drivel” and “nonsense”. How dare he! This is highly disrespectful to people who carefully nurture their delusions as a comfort against harsh reality.
Anyway, I’m sure that lots of 2012-ers are all pulling together and doing the hard work of Transition, reducing their carbon footprints in preperation- what does it matter what they believe?
And you’re probably right about 2012 and mathematics- science doesnt know everything, and besides, Quantum whatnot has proved there is more to things than meets the eyes, you should learn to think outside the box a bit more Rob, open your eyes to new possibilities. And your heart.
Too much rational thinking that’s what I reckon. I mean feel.

The most important thing, surely is to respect them. Alternative therapies as well- the fact that they dont work (apart from placebo) and are a rip off lifestyle choice for the narcissistic affluent middle class is no reason to slag them off.
I hadnt gotten as far a calling for anyone to be banned- Ill leave that to you Martin- but the people we should consider banning are people like Damon- he is using reason and evidence to argue his point, which many people will find hugely upsetting- moderator, I ask you to take off comments that refer to evidence!
In fact, science itself should be completely banned from Transition in case its cruel, soulless call for reason and evidence upsets people who would rather just make things up and believe in whatever turns them on.
And it does occur to me that the most important people we should try to bring on board are the climate change deniers and the techno fantasists who think we dont need to worry about Peak Oil!
Come on people, they’ve been excluded for far to long, just as have women been quite unfairly IMO from men’s groups!
Their deluded beliefs should also be respected, these beliefs are after all probably the most comforting in the face of the rather awkward facts, and in fact, in order to stop alienating these very important people, we should stop going on about PO and AGW because they might be put off.Crikey, we need all the allies we can get, its hard enough as it is without these turgid diatribes going on about weird New Agers.
The only conclusion is to disband the whole Transition lark and disappear up our own backsides in a puff of logic.

Jason
3 Sep 8:36pm

Martin –

So what people are saying is that within the Transition movement, religion of any type (new age, christian, muslim, jew, hindu, buddist etc) should be shot down unless they can provide scientific proof of their beliefs?

I wouldn’t like it to be thought that I personally was saying that! I have a very spiritual point of view and meditate at least two hours per day. Books by someone like Patrick Harpur, with his very subtle understanding of fine Jungian issues, Hermetics and Platonic ideas, etc., would represent me very well.

But when it comes to ideas like the ones Rob is talking about here, it seems to me there is no subtlety, in fact there is little thinking at all. — let alone intelligent appraisal of real spiritual experience.

I certainly don’t believe in a materialist universe myself, but equally, I deplore the idea that rejecting materialism means rejecting common sense, caution, philosophy, the hard work involved in spiritual self-improvement, etc. — not to mention, simple good taste! And then pinning your hopes for your physical future on the results.

Just because one has rejected pure Dawkins-style atheist materialism, can one let in any old rubbish? Spirituality involves a great deal of careful understanding. In the case of 2012 there is no care at all, it seems to me — we have an entirely bogus misreading of the original Mayan material anyhow, which has then been obviously co-opted to a modern post-Christian apocalypse which will involve some kind of major ‘spiritual moment’ — and there is no basis for any of it. It is starting to verge on hysteria.

That isn’t to say that everything important in human affairs has to be scientifically provable, it’s merely to say that you can’t predict the spiritual in this put-it-on-a-t-shirt way. To me that’s an excuse to avoid real understanding, whether spiritual or material.

Martin
3 Sep 9:40pm

@ Graham – Ouch!

Maybe my wording was not quite right to accurately convey all my thoughts (it typed it out very quickly) and if that’s the case, I’m sorry. What I was trying to say is that some of the arguments here are totally rubbishing things that some people will feel strongly about (I’m not referring to the 2012 ‘issue’ which I don’t understand either), even if in Graham’s eye’s, that belief is based on ‘irrational’ ideas. The discussion was very one-sided, so I played devil’s (oops, no factual validation of this mythical creature) advocate to try to bring another side.

I’ve had discussions with Christians about the validity of the Bible, which I personally see as a fairy tale or at best, a moral code, having been altered through the years to fit in with the times – nobody can give me any hard proof that makes me believe, yet millions live their lives according to it’s content – I find that crazy, but if that’s what they want to do, I’m happy to let them.

I think people should be responsible for their own actions – we make and create our own destinies and no-one will rescue me or absolve me of wrong doings. I should have a personal moral code to always try to do the right thing, not because I’ll be punished by a higher entity if I don’t or whatever, but because it’s just the right thing to do. Problem is, according to background, upbringing etc, the right thing for me might conflict with the right thing for someone else.

I think it’s great that Rob puts forward his views on this website and then watches as they set sail into the distance! All this discussion is good. I’m just concerned that Transition should not have a ‘stance’ on rubbishing religion/belief systems, just the same as it is politically independent, yet is happy to have people from left, right, middle, up, down or wherever party. Everybody should be welcome, as long those beliefs don’t form part of Transition itself – ie take your clothes off at the door – now you can come in!

My mother-in-law has been diagnosed with cancer for a second time. She goes to a church to receive ‘healing’ which from my point of view I just see as something which helps her stay calm and relaxed and gives her a positive attitude which will help her get through the scientifically-proven treatments she is having. I’m not going to try to challenge her beliefs – although I’d like to ask her how she can get comfort from her ‘god’ who, if s/he was that powerful, would not have ‘given’ her the disease in the first place. To me her beliefs are irrational, but I support the fact that she can have these beliefs.

Finally @ Graham – love your website & your roundhouse – incredibly inspiring stuff. Keep it going.

Dave Dann
3 Sep 9:52pm

“Our lives are more like fragmentary dreams than the enactments of conscious selves. We control very little of what we most care about; many of our most fateful decisions are made unbeknownst to ourselves. Yet we insist that mankind can achieve what we cannot: conscious mastery of its existence. This is the creed of those who have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind.

But what if we give up the empty hopes of Christianity and humanism? Once we switch off the soundtrack – the babble of God and immortality, progress and humanity – what sense can we make of our lives?”
- John Gray

Graham
4 Sep 10:21am

Martin- Thanks very much for your kind comments and best regards to your mother.
I cannot for the life of me see why 2012 is any more (or less) irrational than believing that Jesus saves or Sikhism or in “ancient wisdom” or in any religion.
Rob: Why ridicule and victimize the 2012-ers in this way? Why not reach out to this particular faith group in the same way you hope to “reach out” to other faith communities? Why exclude this growing and dynamic group of believers from your attempts to rewrite the Heart and Soul work to appeal to people of all faiths?
Are not all these beliefs exactly equal in their irrationality? Do they not all fulfill a similar function of comfort against a harsh world?
Jason:
“Just because one has rejected pure Dawkins-style atheist materialism, can one let in any old rubbish? ”
Who decides what counts as “rubbish”? You? What is the methodology we can use to discern between one set of beliefs and another?
I also dont understand where this idea about “letting people/beliefs in ” or not comes from. There is no possible mechanism for exclusion from transition, it is absurd surely to speak in this way.
What is important is what Transition actually promotes- and I see it actively promoting alternative therapies; the kind of response I get often when i question this does tend to verge on , well maybe I should be excluded, my ideas on this are not acceptable.
Please can someone explain why for example homeopathy is any more absurd than the beliefs of the 2012-ers- I mean, those beliefs work for them dont they? And they dont stop them from cutting their carbon footprints do they?
Dave Dann- John Gray’s quote merely repeats what many here have suggested- the most pernicious and dangerous fallacy about science, namely that it is just another belief system.
Science is not a belief system, it is a methodology, a process of collecting and verifying evidence. New evidence can lead to a change of belief- a process that doesnt exist in faith-based approaches.
There is nothing inherent in the scientific method that would lead us to “insist that mankind can achieve what we cannot: conscious mastery of its existence ”
in fact, the truth of what he says- that we are only dimly aware of why we believe things and what motivates us- is itself a fertile ground of scientific investigation:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/23/brain-society-politics
Science does not know everything,(otherwise it would have stopped…) but it knows a lot more than most people realise, and it provides the only method for actually investigating and verifying and falsifying evidence, and this methodology is also effective in understanding our own psychology. There need be no ideology attached to science, just a commitment to the truth.

Rob
4 Sep 12:04pm

Graham
With regards to your questions, “Why ridicule and victimize the 2012-ers in this way? Why not reach out to this particular faith group in the same way you hope to “reach out” to other faith communities? Why exclude this growing and dynamic group of believers from your attempts to rewrite the Heart and Soul work to appeal to people of all faiths?” I have a few comments.

For me, it is a question of starting from where people are at. Sihks, Christians, Muslims etc, have a particular belief system, which one may or may not agree with. We live in communities made up of people of many different faiths, of many different cultures and we strive, in the Transition approach, to enable, catalyse and support the Transition of that whole community. In the same way that Transition is criticised by those who say that one cannot even begin to think of doing it until one has got rid of capitalism first, got rid of the economic growth model first (insert your pet political bugbear here), I think to argue that we cannot involve people in that Transition until they have seen the logic of our way and renounced theirs (however logically and scientifically we can argue this) is impractical, patronising and pointless. I would rather go to those groups and try and get them involved by presenting Transition in their language (either literally or metaphorically). With Transition being in some ways about the telling of new stories, to create new stories that can mesh in with their cultural stories could be very powerful, and far more effective than insisting on their seeing the error of their ways first.

With regards to 2012ers, I railed against it in the piece above because it is not a long-established belief system (in Western alternative culture anyway), it is growing very fast in the very ‘alternative’ culture that purports to be on the ball with social change, and it has the potential to turn into some Doomsday cult with deeply alarming results. You may see no difference between, say, 2012ers and Christians, but there are many Christian organisations (Christian Aid for example) doing great work on Climate Change, and many other religious organisations responding to these challenges. Some are really starting to mobilise people here, whereas my observations at Sunrise of the 2012 lot is that there is a deliberate shunning of the idea of doing practical stuff, of responding to climate change and so on, seeing it all as a scam, and it diminishes efforts for change. I see people around me succumbing to that and I was sufficiently alarmed to pen the piece.

I know you are fond of stating the PO and AGW deniers are the same as people with any kind of religious faith. I disagree. Ultimately, we need an unprecedentedly rapid Transition and turnaround. Those out there denying PO and CC are a lost cause. There are many religious groups who are very active and are a part of the solution, and, if we were able to articulate Transition in a way that resonates with them, there could be many many more. In the same way that a revolution needs the students, the workers, etc, etc, the Transition needs everyone it can get involved, and my sense is that we need to be skilful and respectful where there is a chance that we can get people involved. You never know, heaven forbid, we might even actually learn something from them!

Graham
4 Sep 2:48pm

Rob:
There is much more of an overlap between ideas of 2012 , climate denial and alternative therapy than you seem willing to acknowledge.

“We live in communities made up of people of many different faiths, of many different cultures and we strive, in the Transition approach, to enable, catalyse and support the Transition of that whole community.”
No you dont. You support the ones you like and deride the ones you dont like for talking drivel.

“I think to argue that we cannot involve people in that Transition until they have seen the logic of our way and renounced theirs (however logically and scientifically we can argue this) is impractical, patronising and pointless.”

Ive never heard anyone arguing this; it certainly is not what I have ever argued.
The closest i have ever heard anyone get to this position is your own views expressed above re the 2012-ers.

“With Transition being in some ways about the telling of new stories, to create new stories that can mesh in with their cultural stories could be very powerful, and far more effective than insisting on their seeing the error of their ways first.”

You havnt explained why you cant also do it with the 2012-ers. Instead, you do the exact opposite- insult them in the most dismissive and patronising way yourself, apparently on the grounds that they are a)new and b)encourage inactivity. Surely you could at least try to bring them on board with your weaving of new cultural stories- in fact for this particular group, since they are ready to except a BIG Transition of some kind is possible, why not try to engage this to your own ends?

“the Transition needs everyone it can get involved, and my sense is that we need to be skilful and respectful where there is a chance that we can get people involved. You never know, heaven forbid, we might even actually learn something from them!”

why be dismissive of anyone then? Why dismiss any group how ever (to your mind) whacky? It seems that your are deliberately excluding some groups from this pious inclusiveness, yet your criteria for this seems quite arbitrary.
For example, alternative therapists of all ilks are embraced and welcomed by many Transition Towns, and alternative therapies in general are actively promoted by yourself and in the transition handbook;
yet the beliefs behind these groups are every bit as whacky as those of the 2012-ers.
I dont see any groups such as “Homeopaths against Climate Change”; for many of these people, merely promoting therapies that dont work is good enough a contribution to Transition; in other words, for many, expensive placebos with dodgy spiritual underpinnings and an anti-science stance are actually synonymous with what Transition is about.
As far as organised religion goes, the fact that some groups are doing work that would support transition is not in itself a gold star for religion; for every believer who is doing their bit to reduce carbon footprint there may be any number more who are dissuaded from even thinking about such things because they are devoted to their particular sky fairy.
There are many examples of mainstream established religion whose spread and increasing influence is far more troubling than a bit of New Age apocolypticism, and nothing to do with transition.

Graham
4 Sep 2:51pm

Correction on above comment:

“…and alternative therapies in general are actively promoted by yourself and in the transition handbook;”

should of course read “Transition timeline” book
apologies

adrienne
4 Sep 4:52pm

I felt strangely overjoyed when my 20-year old daughter, having also attended the Off The Grid festival, announced this morning that she’s ‘come to realise that she’s not really drawn to new age thinking’. She says she prefers positive practical actions, and likes the general idea of ‘post-capitalism’. To her, transition seems quite normal and do-able, and I take heart from young people like her who’ve not bought in to the consumer paradigm for long enough to resist the transition.

I agree with Rob when he says, ‘What ideas like 2012 do, is to allow an abdication of personal responsibility.’ Not just 2012 but I find the idea that we must simply and only step up our trust in God/higher power, dangerously prevalent among my spiritual, and not just new age, friends. It’s a kind of spiritual denial that is as tempting and persuasive as the material kind.

Rob
4 Sep 8:35pm

Thanks Adrienne, it was good to see her there! Graham, I wonder, as perhaps a way to take this discussion away from you and I covering ground we have covered many times, if I might ask you a question? What would be your approach to working with communities of faith around where you live? How would you seek to engage church groups and other faith groups in being involved in the Transition of your community? I think it would help this discussion to hear what your approach might look like, and what your approach would look like practically.

It is hard at the moment to imagine that your approach involves anything other than shunning people who you don’t agree with, although I’m sure that’s not what you mean. Some sense of how you would approach this would, I think, add a great deal to this thread.
Thanks.

Ed Straker
4 Sep 9:09pm

“John Michael Greer’s ideas make perfect sense of this.”

That’s kind of funny, coming from a self-professed druid.

Ed Straker
4 Sep 9:23pm

” religion and spirituality are hugely important these days because they are in essence about love, caring, helping others and… reducing consumption.”

Hmm. Reducing consumption. And what about most religions’ opinions on birth control?

I mentioned this elsewhere, but many of the ideas underpinning the Transition movement come from places like Ishmael, which has a whole chapter that deconstructs Genesis.

So I don’t think it’s fair to say that religion is necessarily part of the solution.

Ed Straker
4 Sep 9:31pm

“It is hard at the moment to imagine that your approach involves anything other than shunning people who you don’t agree with”

There is no way to completely avoid conflict. The end goals of transition can and will ruffle the feathres of those who want the continuation of BAU and who do not want to change.

When I was at the Transition Training I specifically asked what to do about “blowback” from groups who feel threatened by the message of Transition and I got no suitable response other than a denial that such blowback would ever occur.

Excluding 2012 nutters might help make Transition more credible, but there will still be “drill, baby, drill” types who may step up to actively block mitigation.

So let’s let go of the idea that Transition can ride into town and work miracles without any conflict. The only way for it not to have conflict is for it never to accomplish anything.

Graham
4 Sep 9:34pm

Rob:
“How would you seek to engage church groups and other faith groups in being involved in the Transition of your community?”
I do approach “faith groups” no differently from any other- Id present the evidence and suggested responses.
What I wouldnt do is to try to engage in any way with their religious beliefs, unless (or until) those beliefs seemed to actually lead them to make bad choices, in which case I might very well debate them about rational choices and the problems that can be caused by faith-based beliefs.
When you say:
“I would rather go to those groups and try and get them involved by presenting Transition in their language (either literally or metaphorically). With Transition being in some ways about the telling of new stories, to create new stories that can mesh in with their cultural stories could be very powerful,”
I think this is an unworkable idea that panders to religion in a way quite unnecessary in encouraging them to powerdown.
Religious people may involve themselves in all manner of ritual, prayer, superstition and wishful thinking, as is alluded to by Adrienne.
There is no reason to encourage “faith” or approach it with some kind of reverence as if it deserves special respect, which is what i feel your approach is.
That certainly doesnt mean there is any need to shun or exclude anyone because of their beliefs- most of the people I might talk to about PO, Ive no idea what their beliefs are.
As I keep saying, we should have more scientific literacy and critical thinking and less “Heart and Soul”- unless the latter is specifically secular.
There might be parallels between giving up religious faith and giving up faith in growth, faith in economic progress, faith in technology etc.. There are also plenty of secular ways of approaching the need for support, personal development etc..
Plenty of rich areas for your creative talents to explore.
So, my question to you is, what will you do when your faith groups tell you what we need is more faith and prayer and we’ll be allright?
Some religious groups for example have great difficulty with homosexuality, and freedom for women. It is not unlikely that if you work a lot with a wide range of the larger faith groups that you will come across ideas like, all this GW is because God is angry with us for not punishing gays and women.
Id be interested in hearing about how you are going to “mesh” with these kinds of religious cultural stories Rob.

Dave Dann
4 Sep 9:35pm

Graham
John Gray – s’funny, my quote didn’t mention ‘science’ at all – surely?. Strangely enough until that comment of yours I thought of all the contributors your views were the closest to mine. But I’ve long wondered about ‘science’. I think it’s the ‘new religion’. The media are constantly quoting “Scientists say….”, as if that means I MUST believe what follows. Argue with a scientist and you get shot down. It seems to me that if you take a statement such as “it is possible to produce light from electricity”, then BEFORE this is shown to be ‘true’ by the scientific method most scientists would treat as ‘crackpot’ somebody who claimed it to be true. However the very moment AFTER it is shown to be ‘true’ by the scientific method then scientists would treat as ‘crackpot’ somebody who claimed it NOT to be true. The mere fact that someone has ‘proved’ it by the scientific method has surely not changed the actual ‘truth’? Were early scientists completely unable to believe that apples fell from trees until Newton invented gravity?
“Science does not know everything” – actually science can surely only be interpreted by people – who are certainly not perfect and may be biased.

On a completley different tack, I hope that those hereabouts who dismiss trust in a ‘higher power’ are NEVER, EVER going to mention the concept of Gaia.

Ed Straker
4 Sep 9:39pm

“On a completley different tack, I hope that those hereabouts who dismiss trust in a ‘higher power’ are NEVER, EVER going to mention the concept of Gaia.”

Lovelock himself is a scientist and Gaia theory is not a cult.

Dave Dann
4 Sep 10:03pm

I have as much need to stay away from people who have the urge to explain everything by ‘science’ as I have to stay away from those who wish to explain everything by ‘God’. It seems arrogant and excessive to try to explain everything. Just my own point of view and as Ursula LeGuin said (I think) – “Excess is excrement. Excrement retained in the body is a poison.”

Ed Straker
4 Sep 10:09pm

“I have as much need to stay away from people who have the urge to explain everything”

Stay on topic. Transition doesn’t seek to explain everything. It only seeks to try to get humanity on a sustainable path, and unfortunately there ARE aspects of many if not all religion that lead people into unsustainable behaviors.

Look at the Duggars, for instance, who have just done their part to further strain the earth’s carrying capacity, to be felt the worst post-peak.

http://www.nj.com/parenting/carrie_stetler/index.ssf/2009/09/michelle_duggar_to_have_19th_c.html

If part of not being able to “explain everything” involves an ex-deus-machina or some other eschatology, then that also flies in the face of what Transition is trying to do. Why transition when God will sort through whatever mess humanity makes of things?

Dave Dann
4 Sep 10:16pm

“Why transition when God will sort through whatever mess humanity makes of things?”
Surely Gaia theory suggests that balance will be restored after humanity’s mess? Why bring your God into it?

Graham
4 Sep 10:33pm

Ed and Dave:
“Lovelock himself is a scientist and Gaia theory is not a cult.”
Lovelock’s original formulation of Gaia did indeed appear to be teleological, ie he proposed as an explanation for life a kind of overall intelligence that regulated the Earth system and was in some way leading life on earth to a sort of pre-ordained goal or direction.
Dawkins famously shot this down in “The Extended Phoenotype” and Lovelock graciously accepted the amendment and agreed that the Earth as a self-regulating system has no independent consciousness or intelligence- it just happens that way through evolution.
This is actually a good example of science learning and changing its views according to evidence and reason- not something you see much of within religion.

Dave Dann: I feel that you, and Gray and many others here still wont accept the basic idea of science- whether you want to explain everything is another matter- all science does is provide a methodology for investigating things. It is a question of evidence rather than faith, that’s all.
Yes, there are ideologies that are associated with science- “endless growth”; “technology will cure all”; “humans have a destiny to control the universe”.
These are ideologies in just the same way as religions have ideologies.
The scientific method is not an ideology however- it is simply a way of collecting evidence and verifying or falsifying same.
You are correct that reality did not change after Newton- but our understanding of reality did change, came closer to seeing it clearly. The insights of Newton were modified by Einstein- he showed how they can be made even more accurate- but in general still hold true. There is no reason to think they will ever be disproved.
It is useful I think to see scientific progress as like a child growing up. In Newton’s day it was just a toddler. Einstein swept it through adolescence into adulthood. Now it has come of age and we do in fact understand a great deal about the Universe- and about our inner psychology, all using the same method.
Whether we have the moral maturity to use this knowledge wisely is another matter- IMO, religion, and apologists for religion, are holding us back.

Ed Straker
4 Sep 11:20pm

“Surely Gaia theory suggests that balance will be restored after humanity’s mess? Why bring your God into it?”

The laws of thermodynamics imposes limits to growth, regardless of what you want to name it. Name it overshoot, gaia’s revenge, end-times, etc…

There is no bargaining to be had against the laws of physics.

Dave Dann
4 Sep 11:41pm

At this point I feel that I should apologise to Rob, for taking up so much of his space, and to any others to whom this debate may have become tedious. I love a good argument and don’t get the chance for many nowadays! There are certainly not many Friday evenings when I will be sat at my compurer. I hope we can amicably agree to disagree here.
I can’t see how you can separate ‘science’ from the fallibilty of scientists who do it and their methods and interpretation of the evidence.
I notice that there was an assumption earlier that I agreed entirely with ‘Transition’. This is not true. My casual observation of humanity is that it has entirely messed things up. I can’t see any evidence to disprove this. I can’t see any scientific evidence that humanity can reverse its actions. It seems to me that science suggests that the human population should not be more than maybe 1.5 billion whereas it is now 6, 7 or 8 (I can’t keep up). What is the scientific justification for the continued prosperity of a greedy ape? How is Transition going to reduce the population again?
My real interest is with that part of humanity that is not just a greedy ape. We need each other and we should stick together because times will be hard soon.
Now I’m going to bed, the moon is big and high and shining through my bedroom window. Good night! “The good life is only the natural life lived skilfully.”

John Mason
5 Sep 9:31am

I love discussions like this and they’d be great to have sat around a table with a good supply of guinness or affordable plonk!

What a lot of us seem to have in common is that for many years we have questioned the world we live in and its values rather than simply accepting them with blind faith. For me, science is the means of explaining the natural environment and its properties: whilst nothing is absolute, it works by building up overwhelming physical evidence. It seems to fall short when it comes to humanity because of the complexity of that system: I am sure many of us here came to the conclusion that you cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet many years ago: however perhaps that is simply because we are more influenced by the scientific procedure than by other thought-processes, be they 2012 or christianity or, most significantly at present, TV consumerism. Here in the West, it seems to me that the latter is very firmly in control, so that one comes across many who exist in a kind of bubble, remote from the realities of Earth. They have never paused to think critically about their guiding myth: indeed it is the single most dangerous creed on the planet, for the simple reason that, unlike any other belief-system, it has the demonstrable capability to cause the extinction of our and countless other species at worst and at best to inflate the bubble of civilisation to the point that it bursts.

This in turn may well be a reasonable explanation why, in a rural town such as this one, the ideas behind Transition are relatively easy to get across to the environmental movement, to those working on the land and to the over-60s: to many others, they are anaethema, an unwanted intrusion into their consumer lifestyle, because of that engineered disconnect with the physical world around them. The shock they will feel once flow-rate depletion starts to get underway will be profound.

Cheers – John

Graham
5 Sep 10:09am

Dave Dann:
“It seems to me that science suggests that the human population should not be more than maybe 1.5 billion whereas it is now 6, 7 or 8 (I can’t keep up). What is the scientific justification for the continued prosperity of a greedy ape?”

Science doesnt deal in justifications- that is the realm of politics, ethics etc.. All science does is try to establish the facts as accurately as possible. The scientific method is designed to try to overcome bias- for example by using controls, blinds and double blinds (and even triple blinds where even the person counting the data is not told which group is which); peer review; repeatable experiments and many other sophisticated tools designed to find out the truth about objective reality. It is truly one of our most amazing achievements because as you say, we all have built in bias, scientists included.
But the method has found ways around that.
If you question this, why do you believe the “scientific evidence” for overpopulation – or for GW for that matter?
Ask yourself how you know things about the physical world- does the sun circle the earth or the other way around? How many people are there in the world? Is there an invisible world of microbes? Is oil a fossil energy made millions of years ago- or is it abiotic, constantly renewed by an ever abundant inner core of the earth?
Ask yourself whether, if you think you know something about these issues, from where you got this knowledge- deep meditative trances? direct transmission from a guru? did you read them in the Bible? did you dowse the answers with willow sticks?

John Mason:
“For me, science is the means of explaining the natural environment and its properties: whilst nothing is absolute, it works by building up overwhelming physical evidence”

Aren’t you being a little tentative here John, perhaps throwing an olive branch to the cultural relativists who think science is just another opinion? Surely science doesnt just work for you, but has revealed universal truths which we cannot escape from. As Ed Strickland says, you cant negotiate with thermodynamics, these laws will win any day over the gods.

“indeed it [TV consumerism] is the single most dangerous creed on the planet, for the simple reason that, unlike any other belief-system, it has the demonstrable capability to cause the extinction of our and countless other species at worst and at best to inflate the bubble of civilisation to the point that it bursts.”

A rival for mass destruction could be a failed fundamentalist Islamic state for example that gets its hands on nuclear weapons. This could finish us off much more efficiently than the slow grind of consumerism.

Actually, Im not sure I agree with you in any case- consumerism can be seen as an ideology, but it is really just an expression of our evolutionary heritage- we evolved in times of scarcity and have not adapted to a world of abundance.
Also, “consumerism” in terms of its environmental impact should never be discussed separate from population which is increasing for two main reason:
1)Human profligacy- we are evolved to keep breeding, again a throw back to harsher times;
2) Religion- which opposes birth control, and oppresses women, and in some cases (the catholic church in Africa eg)actively promotes rapid population growth to grow the numbers of the faithful.(See Ed’s example of the Duggars above).
Religion also plays a big role in promoting consumerism- eg evangelical churches in the US. It is not just a secular activity by any means.
In secular culture we at least have the opportunity to hear many voices and discuss the evidence; this is inevitably much harder in any religious group- they are not likely to want to look too closely at evidence that might question their ideologies, no matter how liberal they may otherwise be.

Graham Burnett
5 Sep 12:58pm

> Ursula LeGuin said (I think) – “Excess is excrement. Excrement retained in the body is a poison.”

It wasn’t U LeGuin, it was Odo the anarchist thinker that helped to catalyse the colonisation by anarchists of Annares in order to stave off revolution on the planet Urras in LeGuin’s book ‘The Dispossessed’ (one of my all time favourite novels BTW, and a great speculative study of how a post-high energy, post capitalist non-(officially at any rate) hierarchical society might function)

John Mason
5 Sep 5:43pm

Graham,

Lots of stuff to think about there and I have just returned home having earlier walked from Mach to the beer-festival at Corris! I’ll therefore reply in the morning!

Food beckons!

Cheers – john

Brad K.
5 Sep 6:32pm

john,

No, no! Please do reply immediately before leaving the beer-festival. It is amazing sometimes what the looser thinking will churn out, while under the influence. The onus is to identify the 6%-10% worth keeping, and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

At the least – take notes!

(I like to drink a glass of water between each serving of beverage. This helps to keep my water-to-substance ratio in balance.)

John Mason
5 Sep 6:44pm

Brad,

Unfortunately, likewise with my colleagues, such common sense was abandoned. I have to report that some of them are still up there, but I’m only a semi-pro!

But something interesting involving the chanterelles we picked along the walk is in the oven and smelling good!

Cheers – john

John Mason
6 Sep 7:16am

Graham,

“Aren’t you being a little tentative here John, perhaps throwing an olive branch to the cultural relativists who think science is just another opinion? Surely science doesnt just work for you, but has revealed universal truths which we cannot escape from. As Ed Strickland says, you cant negotiate with thermodynamics, these laws will win any day over the gods.”

I should have been a bit clearer here. What I meant was that science does not work in terms of “black or white” or “yes or no”, but by the overwhelming weight of evidence. Sure, physics has basic laws to which things adhere, but the myriad variables and feedbacks in any realtime, complex system (e.g. global climate) mean that there are generally no black-or-white answers. This is exploited e.g. by AGW deniers who delight in telling the non-scientific majority of people that since AGW cannot be proven, it does not exist. As unscientific a sytatement that it is possible to make! (The accurate way to sum up AGW would be to say that its validity as a theory is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence – despite one glacier out of how many thousand going the wrong way or a puddle in someone’s back yard freezing over a month earlier than it did last year.)

“A rival for mass destruction could be a failed fundamentalist Islamic state for example that gets its hands on nuclear weapons. This could finish us off much more efficiently than the slow grind of consumerism.”

I very much doubt that. Sure, they could cause mayhem on a regional basis, but to “finish us off” such a regime would need to get their hands on a lot more technology and resources than currently looks even remotely likely.

“Actually, Im not sure I agree with you in any case- consumerism can be seen as an ideology, but it is really just an expression of our evolutionary heritage- we evolved in times of scarcity and have not adapted to a world of abundance.”

I think what I call “TV consumerism” is as strong a behavioural system as any religion, past or present, and possibly stronger, because of its resemblance in many ways to addictive behaviour: witness the open hostility with which suggestions involving its curbing are received. This is why environmentalists are highly unpopular in many quarters!

We live in what can be described as a “throwaway economy”, where we are trained to buy to excess and throw away that which we cannot consume in the time before it spoils – 6.7 million tons of food in the UK alone every year. Built-in obselecence in manufactured goods in order to keep the spare parts industry going is another example. Another is the promotion of the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality – seen especially in the electronics industry – things like mobile phones for example, or digital cameras. Some people upgrade their DSLRs every time their manufacturer of choice announces a snazzy new model. Their photographs don’t improve simply because they fail to realise that it is the photographer that needs to learn how to take a good photograph, not the camera! But they carry on upgrading nevertheless!

“Also, “consumerism” in terms of its environmental impact should never be discussed separate from population which is increasing for two main reason:
1)Human profligacy- we are evolved to keep breeding, again a throw back to harsher times;
2) Religion- which opposes birth control, and oppresses women, and in some cases (the catholic church in Africa eg)actively promotes rapid population growth to grow the numbers of the faithful.(See Ed’s example of the Duggars above).
Religion also plays a big role in promoting consumerism- eg evangelical churches in the US. It is not just a secular activity by any means.
In secular culture we at least have the opportunity to hear many voices and discuss the evidence; this is inevitably much harder in any religious group- they are not likely to want to look too closely at evidence that might question their ideologies, no matter how liberal they may otherwise be.”

Yes – all animals have an evoluntionary motive to keep breeding, agreed. This is of course based on the premise that only a certain percentage of a species’ offspring will reach sexual maturity due to predation, disease etc (the female cod for example releases several million eggs). The religious aspect to this is certainly problematic though, given that overpopulation in the face of depleted resources necessary to maintain that population is guaranteed to lead to overshoot/collapse. That would be the case, however, in either a religious or secular society, because neither currently (with the exception of China) dares to suggest to its people that they pause for a moment to consider the consequences if they add more to an already burgeoning population.

Here in the UK we have campaigns that state things like “think before you drink before you drive”, but can anyone imagine “think before you breed” appearing on posters? Not in a consumerist culture in which the term “designer baby” has already come into use!

No, in my view consumerism has become such a powerful force that it merely uses other religions for promoting itself where that seems appropriate/feasible.

Cheers – John

Graham
6 Sep 1:22pm

Sorry I missed the beer festival John the refreshments may well have helped lubricate the discussion!

“This is exploited e.g. by AGW deniers who delight in telling the non-scientific majority of people that since AGW cannot be proven, it does not exist. As unscientific a statement that it is possible to make!”

And the exact same argument is made by “vaccine-deniers” alternative therapists and pseudoscientists of all kinds to promote their beliefs.

“I very much doubt that. Sure, they [religious extremeists] could cause mayhem on a regional basis, but to “finish us off” such a regime would need to get their hands on a lot more technology and resources than currently looks even remotely likely.”

You are probably correct- still, the main difference is crucial: from within an extremist religious state dissent or freedom of speech is all but impossible. At least in the consumer west dissenting voices are not automatically imprisoned or worse- otherwise Transition, with its very radical anti-consumer message would not stand a chance.

“Here in the UK we have campaigns that state things like “think before you drink before you drive”, but can anyone imagine “think before you breed” appearing on posters? Not in a consumerist culture in which the term “designer baby” has already come into use!”

Well, we are talking about transition here, so the hope is that things could change- it is all about what we promote. It is definately a discussion worth haveing, why does transition not campaign for “Think before you breed” posters- surely this is just as important, and no more radical, than the overall anti-consumer/powerdown message.

“No, in my view consumerism has become such a powerful force that it merely uses other religions for promoting itself where that seems appropriate/feasible.”

You are correct of course- but the theoretical relationship between religious and secular ideologies probably needs more work- I suspect that in the US as regards TV evangelism the two ideologies are so close as to be indistinguishable.

But my general point is, it is not the specific beliefs but the methodology that separates science from religion. That is what should be accepted as universal- the scientific method, rather than just something that “works for me”.
In my view it is crucially important for transition to promote scientific understanding without which we are really not in a good position to make good decisions.

Thanks! Graham

Ed Straker
6 Sep 3:06pm

why does transition not campaign for “Think before you breed” posters- surely this is just as important, and no more radical, than the overall anti-consumer/powerdown message.
———

Oh, I think you are dead wrong about that. Reproduction is the ultimate taboo and Rob Hopkins, while acknowledging it as a problem, has chosen to omit it from the scope of Transition movement.

A transition town filled with Duggars won’t amount to much, no matter how many fruit and nut trees are planted.

BdG
6 Sep 3:40pm

Does this mean we don’t have to fix the clock in Linux (due to wrap back to zero in 2038)?

John Mason
6 Sep 4:29pm

Ed,

Regarding Rob & overpopulation: this is my take on the topic.

The broad principles of Transition are something that are emerging and evolving through time: but one thing they do not involve (and I do not think they should) is telling people “Thou shalt not”. The most frequent complaint I have heard on “the outside”, regarding the environmental movement, is its perceived tendency to lecture people, to tell them what they shouldn’t do. Clearly that does not work: people behave according to incentive rather than prohibition (or even the suggestion of it) as a good rule of thumb. Ironically, the greatest incentive for the majority to adopt the things identified as survival tools for severe post-peak depletion will be as that starts to manifest itself (although just as in today’s society you will have some folk who simply can’t be bothered). At least though, there will in any community with a Transition initiative additional people to facilitate that through what many of us have taught ourselves already (such as my crash-course to vegetable self-sufficiency within 6 months – I knew very little about growing until this year).

Graham,

We seem to hold many similar views! The methodology as you say is the whole basis on which science works, and should be clearly seperated from “belief”. It is how things are, plain and simple.

However, to me, that does not mean that to be a scientist you have to have the mind/personality of a logic-driven emotionless robot. Like many, I variably get a spiritual kick, solace, a feeling of being and place from activities that involve working with the Earth: activities such as storm-chasing, fishing, growing or gathering – all of which involve a quantity of science (observation/deduction/conclusion/application) in order to be successful. Perhaps this is the real spirituality, based on the simple appreciation and, in time, understanding of real things and their importance to our lives. This is, of course, the exact opposite of TV consumerism, which (intentionally or unintentionally, I suspect the former) decouples us from the “real things” – just as religions do to varying degrees. That is a major reason why I put religion and consumerism in the same basket, because they clearly attempt to create a variety of alternative realities that have succeeded in getting us to this rather challenging point in our evolution.

Cheers – John

Brad K.
6 Sep 4:39pm

@ Ed Straker,

About “Think before you breed” – I would give that a second thought.

A family is a microcosm of culture, a deliberately (or mostly so!) blending of the traditions, beliefs, and values of two parent families, combined with choices made because of experiences, and goals of a couple. A family is the unit that combines with others to make up a community.

The surest way of preserving culture is to produce offspring. I would posit that if you hold values and traditions, you will be driven to produce offspring.

Leo Fankowski in his Conrad series of SF novels pointed out that improving the “standard of living” invariably results in a lower birth rate. What if the standard of living is but a side effect, and the driver is a weakened focus on culture, values, traditions, and goals within the family? What if blending the family into a “cosmopolitan” community is the reason for less emphasis on children?

One can play pig farmer to the world, and mandate that fewer mouths to feed is a better way to match resources to needs. Historically the evidence is that children today are the soldiers of tomorrow. And showing up for tomorrow’s battles without warriors is a short path to a quick end.

We can tout metaphysical children as the students of teachings, in formal and informal instruction and debate settings.

But if your beliefs are truly sincere, if they actually drive one, then the evidence will be that you form that microculture at home – a fecund family.

I recall when Zero Population Growth was a by-word of the socially conscious in America. Then, as now, those concerned about surviving, the poor and those striving for their goals – continued to reproduce. Frankowski, again, pointed out how the celibate church in historical Europe attracted the brightest young men, the best thinkers, to the church – and genetically removed then from the population. Did this have an overall effect of turning the gene pool? Undoubtedly. What of the practice of reverence (and sexual exploitation) of the nobility? Did that tilt the gene pool toward aggression and ambition? Likely so. These practices persisted for hundreds of years, a lot of generations.

So when you advocate “Think before you breed”, consider what that implies about the culture and values of those that respond, and what it means for the efforts into the next generation.

Because those drilling for oil, tearing down rain forests for farmland and charcoal, and those building factories sure aren’t holding back on their family plans.

John Mason
6 Sep 5:04pm

Just as a clarification re – population growth, of course if every woman on Earth decides not to breed, we are gone in a century. A bit like oil dependency, the problem is the degree to which the population is expanding due to the numbers of families with high-multiple offspring. In former times, say 200 years ago, to do this ensured (as with the cod) that one or two would likely make it to say 25 years of age. Two centuries of progress in medicine and workplace safety, coupled with a lull in “cannon-fodder” style warfare have, at least in the West, rendered such notions obselete for now, and greater population densities are a consequence.

Cheers – john

Brad K.
6 Sep 5:27pm

@ John,

When listing the causes of improved life span, consider the advances that made geometric improvements, rather than slight incremental changes – sanitation. Medicine might have discovered and described germs and microbes. It is the sanitation department, the flush toilet, digging latrines away from water sources, that reduced the incidence and severity of plaques, dysentery, cholera, etc. Medicine saves lives; sanitation preserves communities.

John Mason
6 Sep 5:38pm

Good point Brad – yes I shouldn’t have omitted that! As you say, as important as anything else!

Cheers – john

Mike Grenville
6 Sep 9:33pm

From my understanding of what Rob is saying here (and what I have been saying for a while) is something that Adrienne hinted at above. This is that in addition to the 3 future scenarios that we talk about (Apocalypse, technology, and greening) there is another that I call Divine Redemption.

A number of different groups use Divine Redemption as a reason for carrying on with life as normal (jetting around the planet, consumer lifestyle etc). They believe that because they are focused on a spiritual path and that a transformation of consciousness is what is going to save us they don’t need to make personal changes themselves.

Into this group go all kinds of meditators, (and I speak as someone who has meditated twice daily for 40 years) and spiritual seekers, 2012ers, fundamentalist Christians who believe in the Rapture (Jesus will come on clouds and the chosen ones will be lifted up into the sky), some Shia Muslims (including President Ahmadinjead of Iran) who also believe in an imminent second coming of the Prophet that will sort everything out.

Personally I am not so dismissive of 2012 because I have a strong sense that a transformation of consciousness is actually happening and that is what many 2012 predictions are about. There is a global awakening happening on all sorts of levels, something Paul Hawken spotted and has called the other superpower.

The issue is not with the belief itself, but with the thinking that follows that there no need to do anything because the angels or the Divine will sort it out. There is an Arabic saying ‘trust in God and tie up your camel’. If you are interested in it investigate it and then move on and do something.

What clicked for me some years ago was that whatever angle you looked it was becoming clear that we were heading to a big crunch. Whether one looked at economics in the Financial Times, energy constraints on Energy Bulletin, Climate Chaos, water, food production, etc etc or from a spiritual angle; they all seemed to be predicting a crunch of issues around about the same date. I found that a pretty compelling reason to get out there and do more! As the joke goes – ‘Jesus is coming. Look busy.’

For me Joanna Macy’s three actions sums up what we need to do: resist destruction (direct action), build new ways of living (transition initiatives), transform consciousness (inner transition). None of them on their own are enough and we need to engage on all levels.

For me a little knowledge of 2012 ideas is just an added motivation to do more for Transition Initiatives, not an excuse to leave it all up to cosmic forces.

Graham
8 Sep 11:16am

Interesting discussion on religion and climate activism here:
http://badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11541

Ed Strickland:

“Oh, I think you are dead wrong about that. Reproduction is the ultimate taboo and Rob Hopkins, while acknowledging it as a problem, has chosen to omit it from the scope of Transition movement.

A transition town filled with Duggars won’t amount to much, no matter how many fruit and nut trees are planted.”

I totally agree with the last bit but i think you are being a little unfair to Rob here- he is not the ruling voice of transition, it is up to all of us to bring the issues we feel are important to the fore.I also take issue with Rob on this mind you, but I thought the Transition Timeline does a good job on population overall;
although it does take the same view of John Mason above, ie that consumption is a more serious issue- I still doubt that. For example, John talks about the insane habit of buying a new camera every year. This is surely a problem and easy to rail against because we see this culture all around us; but even if we were successful at combating this, there is still another 80-90 million mouths to feed on the planet EVERY YEAR. And they will all want a decent standard of living- and have a right to it- but there wont be enough resources even if they never own a single camera. That is why I think population and consumption are really two sides of the same coin and should always be considered together.
(One of the reasons we dont is because it seems easy to try to reduce consumption, while population is apparently intractable).
John:
“Regarding Rob & overpopulation: this is my take on the topic.

The broad principles of Transition are something that are emerging and evolving through time: but one thing they do not involve (and I do not think they should) is telling people “Thou shalt not”. ”

I just dont get this John. A “Think before you breed” bumper sticker is no more saying “Though Shalt Not” than is any of the Transition messages. Doesnt matter how you phrase it, any suggestion that people might consider changing- however subtle and tentative- will be met by some as being dictatorial. Transition is all about changing the culture, there are many ways to do this but if we were apply what you say about Rob and population to all the other messages of Transition we would not have a movement at all! No books, blogs, meetings, forums or bumper stickers at all!

” The methodology as you say is the whole basis on which science works, and should be clearly seperated from “belief”. It is how things are, plain and simple.

However, to me, that does not mean that to be a scientist you have to have the mind/personality of a logic-driven emotionless robot. Like many, I variably get a spiritual kick, solace, a feeling of being and place from activities that involve working with the Earth: …”

Absolutely- but I would avoid the word “spiritual” in this context- most people mean by it the existence of some other kind of reality populated by invisible beings which care about them personally. These delusions are a natural human evolutionary legacy, but clearly will not help us how to cope with issues like AGW or PO; the last thing we want is to have people with such beliefs writing policy or influencing our decisions. (I know- it’s too late!!)
It is tragic that people dont realise how a scientific understanding of the world will likely bring much more of a sense of awe and wonder than religious/ “spiritual” views. See Dawkins “Unweaving the Rainbow”.

I still await with baited breath how Rob thinks he is going to “mesh” with the “cultural stories” of the religious. Most of these cultural stories are completely loopy- you could just as easily re-write Rob’s 2012 piece but replace 2012 with beliefs of, say, the catholic Church or any other religion, viz:
“Check out the Bible for the kind of drivel that Christians swallow down whole”.
What is interesting about this forum is that some commentators (Mike Grenville) have done a good job of actually defending the 2012-ers on the basis that they could be right!!

John Mason
8 Sep 5:23pm

Interesting points as ever, Graham!

Regarding the use of the word “spritual”, I can refer to its hinting-at in the brilliant essay by Jim Perrin, “Black Earth, Black Light”, where he recounts:

“I was sitting with my back to the summit cairn and facing east. It was an evening of absolute clarity and stillness, the sun was going down behind a shoulder of Snowdon and the cwm at my feet was inky with shadow. I was in that perfectly peaceful and harmonious state where you are so still that the gentle throb of blood around your body is as tangible, as audible, as the ticking of a clock. The whole outlook seemed of transcendent beauty – the green hills and woods and soft, low light, I was, in Simone Weil’s phrase, “annihilated by the plentitude of being”.

This I have occasionally experienced myself: the last-but-one such time almost 12 months ago, climbing back up the slopes from the rock-ledges atop Bardsey Sound after a day’s fishing. The late-evening sun was at a low angle, and its light depicted the ancient ridges of the field-systems that existed at one time, centuries ago, where sheep now graze the thin turf and invisible during most points of daylight. Across the sound, Bardsey and the ocean beyond drew my gaze. I had to stop and simply take it all in. It was nearly dark when I left in the end. To me, that is as deeply spiritual an experience as anybody can have. Likewise see my account of finding a 4000 yeard old arrowhead up in the mountains here – http://www.geologywales.co.uk/storms/summer09d.htm

By contrast, a familiar tap-tap on my front door this morning turned out to be what are commonly referred to in these parts as “God-botherers”. Feet firmly on the doorstep, I was advised as to the means of aquiring an eternal life via a translated and simplified version of manuscripts millennia in their age.

I said to him – “if you mean by eternal life that we as a species manage to get through this current crisis and learn to live side-by-side with the other occupants of the planet, fine!”

He then turned to God and punishment of the profligate, and the emergence of a new and perpetual Garden of Eden (yes he was keen!), to which I added how inherently blinkered TV consumerism was, which he agreed with. My final reposte was “fine let God come and extract his revenge – so long as he leaves my veg garden alone”. It was gently tended, after all.

Well, if there is a god up there, he can do me another favour by blasting the caterpillars of cabbage whites (most on the decoy-crop of nasturtium, but some requiring attention amongst the broccoli), but I’d ask him to not get too carried-away when he sees the clumps of stinging-nettles, not yet consinged to plant-food because Commas have pupae dangling from them in places, and after they have all emerged I will cut them back hard, to see new soup-shoots emerge next April :)

Cheers – John

Graham
8 Sep 6:12pm

Beautiful John, thanks.
Sam Harris has interesting points to make on this in this interview with Bill Maher:
http://reasonweekly.com/atheism-and-religion/sam-harris-on-real-time-with-bill-maher

Harris argues that religious beliefs are a kind of cultural pathology- they are clearly nonsense but taboos surrounding discussing this allow them to continue. He also makes the very important point that beliefs are not harmless things that keep to themseleves- knocking on people’s doors is the least of it! Apparently 80% (did i hear that right?!) of Americans actually believe in Jesus and the second coming. Beliefs by their very nature are acted on and people really do make their choices based on what they believe including political choices.
BUT he acknowledges that the core of religion- that we can transform ourselves, and that we can have experiences such as you describe that may take us out of ourselves as it were, is something we should be interested in- but we have to cut through the mumbo jumbo first.

Jason
9 Sep 2:44am

Missed a big ruckus here evidently, been away from my machine.

Just so my own views are clear — I don’t dismiss ’2012′ because it is spiritual (my whole life is dedicated to spirituality really), but because it is based on a supposedly ‘Mayan’ revelation of some kind which I think has no real scholarship behind it, but which has been grabbed hold of and used by a cultural movement in what seems a rather obvious manner to me.

As far as ‘cutting through the mumbo jumbo’ is concerned, it’s a rather interesting phenomenon that. Many people who begin with the attitude that ‘religion is bunk but states of consciousness may be interesting if investigated scientifically’ (which is where Graham is and where I was 10 years ago) tend to change their mind on the reality of religion as they go forward, if they start having certain kinds of experiences. Not that you ever become a parrot.

Others choose to develop wholly non-religious frameworks for what they discover about mind — or think they do anyhow! As a Stoic/Hermetic with a strong interest in modern psychology, I guess I cover all the bases there.

Personally I’m not a fan of social effects of the limited religions that are mostly on offer in the world. But the idea that there is nothing at all behind them is not one which personal experience would support in my case. My experience of religion has been almost entirely *not* of the kind with which we are normally familiar in the west.

Ed Straker
9 Sep 5:39am

“people behave according to incentive rather than prohibition”

OK.

Thou shalt not breed becomes “wear a condom”

“The surest way of preserving culture is to produce offspring.”

ADOPT.

Graham
9 Sep 8:14am

Jason:
“Just so my own views are clear — I don’t dismiss ‘2012′ because it is spiritual (my whole life is dedicated to spirituality really), but because it is based on a supposedly ‘Mayan’ revelation of some kind which I think has no real scholarship behind it, but which has been grabbed hold of and used by a cultural movement in what seems a rather obvious manner to me.”

and the Hebrew revelations of the Bible of virgin births and second comings have real scholarship behind them?! and are not being “grabbed hold of and used by a cultural movement in an obvious way” ? Or maybe the Koran is the One True Book?

“Many people who begin with the attitude that ‘religion is bunk but states of consciousness may be interesting if investigated scientifically’ (which is where Graham is and where I was 10 years ago) tend to change their mind on the reality of religion as they go forward, if they start having certain kinds of experiences.”

and many people go the other way, especially if they start investigating their experiences scientifically rather than through the lens of a particular cultural form. The scientific investigation of “spiritual” experiences is one of the most exciting and fecund fields of study right now, a relatively new idea which replaces the mistake of taking our experiences on face value.
Everyone has “experiences”- but if we believe them to be factually true, then you are into beliefs and religions- that is how many of the main religions started.
Which “religion” do people change their mind on do you think?
Atheism is the fastest growing minority in the US at least, possibly in Europe as well.

Shane Hughes
11 Sep 1:43am

Just wanted to be clear before i start that I’m not a scientist but got a masers of science about 10 years ago and see myself as a lover of science. So my questions below are not against science but rather compelled by Graham’s scientific extremism. Anyhow here’s some questions for anyone who cares to answer them;

Do you agree that science in itself is not quite as important as the worldview that we derive from science?
Do you think that we should build our entire world view on science alone?
Do you agree that science is limited?
Do you agree that every century/milenia our scientific evidence evolves adding new layers of depth, complexity and understanding and in some cases renders useless our previous reading of the “pieces” of evidence?
Therefore, do you agree that at least some of our current pier reviewed scientifically proven evidence based beliefs are actually describing part truths and so future generations will end up looking back and saying we were nothing short of being wrong?
Perhaps even, and dare i say it, is it at all possible that our current science is wrong about alternative therapies?
Do you agree that science (or perhaps our human interaction with science) has to some degree been feeding our current world view and predicament?

Graham,
Do you agree that anyone that doesn’t agree with your science built point of view is wrong?
Do you think there may be times in this thread where your need to win the argument stops you listening to points people are making, rather a kind off old school search for flaws in peoples points in an attempt to undermine their perspective?
Do you agree that if you were one of the core people responsible for promoting transition we’d be screwed as you’d alienate as many as you engage?
Do you believe that only through science can people think for themselves?

Graham
11 Sep 3:53pm

Hi Shane
First of all a question to you: why do you say “Graham’s scientific extremism” ?Why “extreme” and why “Graham’s” ? This is a very common kind of attack on science, which cannot, by definition, be extreme: it is just science, period.
Now a stab at your questions:
“Do you agree that science in itself is not quite as important as the worldview that we derive from science?”
No comprendo. What worldview do you think “we” derive from science?
“Do you think that we should build our entire world view on science alone?”

No. But when you are talking about causal relationships – eg “Does x cure y”?” -then science is your only man (or woman).
“Do you agree that science is limited?”

Yes. Science is a methodology, it’s not magic (which is of course unlimited!). Is religion limited IYO? Is making things up limited?

“Do you agree that every century/milenia our scientific evidence evolves adding new layers of depth, complexity and understanding and in some cases renders useless our previous reading of the “pieces” of evidence?”

This has happened of course- science has made very real progress, but if you look at my comments above you will see that I think it is more useful to see science as something that has grown from childhood to adulthood, to maturity.
What is absolutely not true is that science randomly flits from one view to another. This is a persistent myth, but completely false. The basic insights of Archimedes and Newton still stand, they have not been overturned nor is there any expectation that they will be in the future.

“Therefore, do you agree that at least some of our current pier reviewed scientifically proven evidence based beliefs are actually describing part truths and so future generations will end up looking back and saying we were nothing short of being wrong?”

Now you’re going to tell me that in the future we will believe the earth is flat. It is a meaningless statement you are making- all science says is, do the studies, follow the peer-review protocols to avoid bias, be transparent, dont start off with ideological assumptions and try to fit the evidence to suit.

“Perhaps even, and dare i say it, is it at all possible that our current science is wrong about alternative therapies?”

And maybe they will stand forever. You are asking the wrong questions Shane- anything is possible, the question should be, what is likely? 200 clinical trials on homeopathy for example show it is just a placebo, which is hardly surprising because it is just water. Do you think that science could be wrong about pigs flying? Just because the first million pigs they looked at couldnt fly doesnt mean the next one wont!

You are missing the point about alternative therapies- most people who sell such stuff have no interest in evidence -it simply doesnt come into it.. A treatment that has evidence is called “medicine”. Alternative “medicine” is by definition a treatment that has no evidence for it working. But dont let that stop you selling it to people whom Rob would refer to as “alarmingly gullible”- there is one born every minute and that is great for business!

“Do you agree that science (or perhaps our human interaction with science) has to some degree been feeding our current world view and predicament?”

For example? Not really sure what you mean. I think our predicament comes down to evolutionary features which have made us out-compete everything else- our problem is that we have become too successful. It should be noted that without science we would not have any idea about what our predicament is viz AGW and PO. Many of us wouldnt be alive without science.
I also think that a bigger problem right now is that very few people understand the first thing about science- they have absorbed quite distorted views about it from the media and the New Age movement. Im afraid I have to say that your questions indicate you have bought into this particular meme hook, line ans sinker.

“Do you agree that anyone that doesn’t agree with your science built point of view is wrong?”

And do you agree Shane that anyone who doesnt buy into your woo-woo beliefs is wrong? If you have an argument to make, you need to be specific- what are you actually trying to say?

“Do you think there may be times in this thread where your need to win the argument stops you listening to points people are making, rather a kind off old school search for flaws in peoples points in an attempt to undermine their perspective?”

And do you think that this might apply more to you Shane? I dont think you have even read the thread- you certainly havnt understood the points Ive made on it. Many of your questions have already been answered, not just by me.

“Do you agree that if you were one of the core people responsible for promoting transition we’d be screwed as you’d alienate as many as you engage?”

Do you think that by promoting pseudoscience and “spiritual” beliefs Transition is alienating as many as it attracts? What kind of people might be alienated by the promotion of religion Shane? Do you want to alienate them? Why would Transition be in the business of actively promoting New Age beliefs while at the same time undermining scientific understanding? Seems to me most people come to Transition because of the scientific evidence for AGW and PO, not because they think they will find a safe haven for their fairy beliefs.

“Do you believe that only through science can people think for themselves?”

Science actively encourages thinking for oneself; religion, alternative therapies and pseudoscience rely on people’s gullibility and lack of ability to think critically. Transition should no more be promoting this than it should promote Islam. Or 2012-ism for that matter.

HotConflict
15 Sep 11:21am

Is there a real change coming in 2012. What did the Mayans understand about the Dark Rift? Is the world going through an evolutionary change. The prophet Muhammed told the believers about the Changing direction of the sun and the coming Ascension !

http://www.hotconflict.com/blog/stories-of-the-prophets.html

Jason
20 Sep 1:52am

lol Graham,

<>

In the sense that the Hebrews or Christians really did believe in those things, yes.

<>

As I say, that’s where I was ten years ago. I’m very familiar indeed with the current spiritual sciences, and myself (as I think I have said before) practice no form of religion. But if you go for personal experiential knowledge yourself your perspective can often change in many interesting ways. I find a great deal of value in the current spiritual sciences, but personally, very much less value in the idea that those sciences in some way definitively devalue religions of all kinds simply by existing. But people can make up their own minds if they are familiar with the research.

Jason
20 Sep 1:53am

… woops!

First quote:

and the Hebrew revelations of the Bible of virgin births and second comings have real scholarship behind them?!

Second quote:

and many people go the other way, especially if they start investigating their experiences scientifically rather than through the lens of a particular cultural form

Jules
21 Sep 6:21pm

It is amazing, that blog was filled with subjective viewpoint with
absolutely no substantiation. there is a distinct anti-spiritual vibe in many of the activists groups i detect, a militant atheist
anti-enlightenment rhetoric:

This:

“The idea that 5,000 years ago, the Mayans (good astronomers, but fairly brutal and unpleasant in many other ways) were able to predict that on December 12th 2012 something of extraordinary significance was definitely going to occur is bonkers.”

Is such an ignorant asinine statement, betraying such a personal
prejudice it fills me with anger. So now we can’t predict that every 28-32 years Saturn returns to the same spot in its orbit around the sun?

That is a prediction, and the Mayans understood the complex
inter-relationship of planets and the galaxy we inhabit, possessing knowledge which is difficult for our scientific materialist logic to comprehend. They were aware of planetary cycles and 2012 represents the return point of a major cycle that Mayan astronomy was aware of. Do some research.

And this

“Adam Rutherfold, writing in the Guardian last year, pointed to the absurdity of two more of the 2012 predictions. The first is that ‘the Earth and the sun will come into alignment’, when surely, he writes, two objects are always in alignment with each other? ”

Actually the alignment is with Earth, sun and the galactic centre.
Adam Rutherford is a blatant Guardian hack who wears his prejudice on his sleeve. He gets his commissions writing deliberately provocative anti-spiritual tripe. It doesn’t matter that he does little or no research. As long as you write for the establishment, you can make any number of journalistic errors and no one seems to pull him up on it.

Quite frankly, he’s full of shit!

And this:

“I look forward to December 13th 2012″

In fact the suggestion is that it is December 21st 2012. Not even the barest hint of proper research. Just rabid prejudice. God there is so much to contend with. If this represents the peace movement (and i know it only represents one section), then there is no movement.

That is not to say that there is not an industry growing around this that is exploiting people’s fears. Like alternative therapies, there are charlatans, as there are in any walk of life. but this kind of wishy-washy prejudice seems to be acceptable in the so-called “established” view. where science demands evidence, it seems that those who back the limited scientific materialism pushed by Dawkins et al seem quite content, like Dawkins himself, to attack anything resembling a differing world view.

I think the 2012 phenomenon and indeed the limited world view of scientific materialism should be a topic for discussion, because i feel that any people’s movement that attempts to ignore this growing sense of change, where the interface of science and spirituality is coming to is making a serious error of judgment and failing to see where the problem lies.

Many scientists in the fields of quantum physics, genetics and biology are putting forward radical world views. They are being ignored, because the old order makes money out of people’s suffering. take a closer look at the link between the pharmaceutical industry and the BMA.

As well as regimented church-based religion, it is the old order of scientific materialism that is in its death throes and we would do well to realise how capitalism owes much of its power and ignorance to the ideology of scientific materialism. Both Marx and Darwin are lauded, yet one can be said to have led to an oppressive regime that ignored the spirit of the people, while the other can be said to have influenced colonialism and eugenics.

It’s time we moved past the old regimes, recognise the positives that came from both ideologies, but recognise also that the spiritual nature of indigenous cultures throughout the world also
had world views that served them for centuries. It is ignorant
Eurocentrism to view these cultures as purveyors of supernatural mumbo jumbo. And I notice that the more spikier elements of the activist movement slip very readily into this sterile, limited world view.

Recognise your own prejudice and subjective belief systems before criticising others, without putting forward a shred of evidence to support your case.

Josef Davies-Coates
21 Sep 7:34pm

Graham:

As a devil’s advocate I wonder why you say:

“a failed fundamentalist Islamic state for example that gets its hands on nuclear weapons”

And not, e.g. US who already has them and is the only nation to have actually used them, twice. Or Israel, who spend more on weapons per head than any nations on Earth, by many orders of magnitude.

What unfounded cultural stories have you been swallowing lately?

More to the point:

Can you please substantiate, using the scientific methodology, your claim that:

“irrational belief of any kind will get-and are getting in the way of transition” ?!?

While you are at it, perhaps do a survey of statistical significance of all transitioners, permaculturalists, allotment keepers and urban gardeners on their religious beliefs.

If you find, as you surely will, that many of them are religious then perhaps you can explain how their pro-active efforts are “getting in the way of transition”.

You might also like to do a similar survey on scientists. Are you aware than some scientists are also religious? How does that fit in with your oh so very empathetic world view?

Maybe you will discover in your research that Roger Bacon, recognised at one of the earliest advocates of the modern scientific method, was himself a Christian.

Or that Copernicus, the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe, was Catholic. So was Galileo. And Descartes.

Or what about the Russian mathematician who defended religion during the Soviet era, was imprisoned as a “religious sectarian.” and died of a hunger strike in protest, Dmitri Egorov.

Even Charles Babbage, for forefather of modern computing was reportedly and Anglican.

And despite saying “the faith in miracles must yield, step by step, before the steady and firm advance of the facts of science, and its total defeat is undoubtedly a matter of time” Max Planck, winner of 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and founder of Quantum mechanics was an elder in his church to his death.

Or Charles Hard Townes, another winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics who in 1966 wrote “The Convergence of Science and Religion”.

Or John Polkinghorne, British particle physicist and Anglican priest.

Or Francis Collins, director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute.

Or, my favourite example, how about John T. Houghton who was the co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning IPCC scientific assessment working group and lead editor of first three IPCC reports?! Did you know he is the former Vice President of Christians in Science?!

Are Sharon Astyk’s religious beliefs getting in the way of her transition related work?

Did Martin Luther King Jr’s religious beliefs get in the way of the civil rights movement? Or was his connection to faith communities one of the movements biggest strengths?

Did Gandhi’s Hinduism hinder his work?

I could go on and on and on. And on.

Frankly I find your claim that “”irrational belief of any kind will get-and are getting in the way of transition”” to be preposterous, arrogant and rude.

BTW, I agree that many (most!?) of the beliefs held by religious people are utterly ludicrous but there is absolutely no doubt that many people do great work because of those very same beliefs. Strange, but true.

NOTE: you can dismiss anything I say/ write/ believe, because I am certain that homeopathic remedies have helped to heal my cuts and bruises faster than they otherwise would :P

Josef Davies-Coates
21 Sep 7:40pm

PPS – in short, I agree with what Kate Murry said :)

Josef Davies-Coates
21 Sep 7:46pm

BTW, my friend Rob says:

“the sum of all you can know (even a whole society, even a society as advanced as ours) is ALWAYS infinitely less than the sum of all that can be known”

“majik is just physics for which we have forgotten the logic”

Fair points.

Brad K.
22 Sep 1:17am

There are two “2012″s in my life. The first is the movie coming out in November this year – and yes, I did sign up for the “lottery” at TheIHC.com. What can it hurt? Sony pictures are so tyrannical and underhanded I doubt I am handing them any access or information they didn’t already have. Besides, the last trailer shows John Cusack in the flic – and that usually makes for a good outing.

The other 2012 is more problematical for me. I mean, Yeah! The Mayans predicted the end of their calendar . . . yet managed to overlook, and fail to survive, a bunch of roughnecks in wood boats.

Personally I find the KGB analysts predictions of 2010 more enlightened – that California and New York will refuse to surrended collected taxes, leading to a fragmentation of the US. I presume there would be disarray about the world, since I cannot conceive of any single fragment of the US that would fail to shout, “Collect the national debt from them guys!” There are also the “sometime in the next 15 years” guys looking at the exploding debt to GDP ratio of the US, and advocating a voluntary deflation collapse now, instead of waiting until it gets worse later. There are the Peak Oil and Global Warming arguments, and I recall the Harmonica Virgins celebrations (Apologies, I make light of something I held but lightly at the time, the Harmonic Convergence of the Solar System.) I recall that fluorocarbons were depleting the ozone layer, about the time Dow Chemical’s patents ran out on R-12 refrigerant, but a newly patented alternate formula wasn’t a problem at all, so we should just keep on expending energy with refrigeration and air conditioning. I recall that many credible people were deeply affected by concerns over these matters.

I also recall the era when people were building bomb shelters intended to ride out an intercontinental nuclear exchange. As far as I know, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and maybe Venezuela, would just as soon the US still felt the chill of that nuclear umbrella.

I guess what I am getting at, is the world has been ending for a long time, and many of us have faced the end – and the unpredictability of the end. Sometimes the arguments again ring persuasive, other times skepticism holds sway. I am even getting proclamations, this week, that the free world produces so few babies they cannot persist another 25 years – while the Muslim cultures and nations are producing four times the number of progeny to maintain their population for generations to come.

Younger folk, those that were shielded by community, work, or family from the full brunt of earlier crises are perhaps more susceptible to proclamations of the end of the world. I don’t think gullible is the only explanation, and seems disdainful and disrespectful of those following other drummers. Where preparation for meeting multiple concurrent dooms – which our politicians seem intent on bringing about – can be accomplished through cooperation, that seems a worthwhile prospect.

If I am drowning, I don’t need someone of my faith, or my race, or my political aspirations – I just need someone willing and able to help. It makes sense, then, to try to be that helpful one when we are able.

Graham
22 Sep 3:12pm

Im glad to see the 2012-ers coming out in force!
They are using exactly- and I mean E_X_A_C_T_L_Y- the same arguments against rationality as the homeopaths!
I’m beginning to think that, far from being gullible, they are the only ones talking any sense at all around here!

[...] first, and I think biggest, obstacle Sharon, Peak Oil, and Transition movements face is the big lie. When the government and leaders states something, that statement becomes an [...]

Graham
24 Sep 10:09am

Josef:
“Graham:

As a devil’s advocate I wonder why you say:

“a failed fundamentalist Islamic state for example that gets its hands on nuclear weapons”

And not, e.g. US who already has them and is the only nation to have actually used them, twice. Or Israel, who spend more on weapons per head than any nations on Earth, by many orders of magnitude.

What unfounded cultural stories have you been swallowing lately?”

This is a big topic and clearly controversial! Im not going to attempt to deal with the whole issue of Islamic-Western relations here, and Im not saying that “western” irrational values are any better than “Islamic” irrational values; however, I think the western liberal meme has hugely underestimated the threat from medieval Islamic values in our midst; Islam is committed to spreading its ideology throughout the world, and is in conflict with the hard-won western liberal values of the west which presumably you hold as dear as I: freedom of speech,gender equality etc.. Part of our distorted cultural story is fueled by the retarded and irrational belief that 9-11 was an inside job done by Cheney and the CIA; I also used to entertain such beliefs, and enjoyed watching the “Loose Change ” films with Rob when they first came out.

However, since my beliefs around this were not religious, I was able to change as new information came to my attention. I recommend Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower”. This whole issue throws down the gauntlet to western liberalism: how do we deal equitably and justly with other cultures who do not share our values of equity and justice? (Naturally, irrational fundamentalism from the Christian right may be just as bad and should be challenged for the same reasons -its not rational.)Another highly recommended read on this is Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” where she describes the inability of the liberal Dutch government to even accpet the problem of Muslim honor killings amongst immigrants: they couldnt even count them as honor killings because “that would be racist”.

“While you are at it, perhaps do a survey of statistical significance of all transitioners, permaculturalists, allotment keepers and urban gardeners on their religious beliefs.

If you find, as you surely will, that many of them are religious then perhaps you can explain how their pro-active efforts are “getting in the way of transition”.”

It would be a good survey to do, and would be fascinating to see what the ideological make up of transitioners is. My guess is that it would have a disproportionate number of new Agers, croppies and alternative therapists, and scientists and critical thinkers might be thinner on the ground. But to address your point we would have to define what being “pro-active for transition” actually means.
Obviously I am not saying that religious people are not able to participate in transition- my whole point is, unless we engage with this debate more fully, they are likely to have a disproportionate influence on the shape that transition actually takes, to everyone’s detriment. And this may already be the case.

Thus, there might be people who have religious or faith-based views who indeed accept AGW and PO as threats, but their responses may not be the best because they are not very rational, eg they may say we should pray more. Some may say the calamities coming to us are acts of god because of moral degradation. The whole issue of population and burth control is a hugely problematic area for some religions.

Some may become 2012-ers! The irony around the 2012 issue seems to be lost on you Josef! As it is on Rob: I repeat what i said before, the thinking behind 2012, 9-11 conspiracy theories and blind belief in alternative therapies have much more in common than people wish to acknowledge. They all stem from the same anti-science, anti-rational basis.

(A couple of years ago I did come across a website that was transition-inspired, nicely laid-out pages on PO and AGW, and the entire rest of the site was dedicated to every new age fantasy under the sun from homeopathy to shape-shifting lizards, and yes, you guessed it! The cult of 2012).

So if influential people in TT are only “rational” when it suits them, the actual paths we take to respond may be quite irrational, and because TT has no mechanism for deterring irrational beliefs- indeed it actually encourages them and, as with your stance, actively discourages a more critical approach, it has no way of contending with the darker sides of religion and superstition.
The whole problem with beliefs is that people really believe them and they inform their action by them. How many people attracted to TT are at least sympathetic to retarded ideologies like “The Secret” ?
My concerns here are not abstract theoretical ones; I come across people all the time who, while sympathetic in a general way to “environmentalism” are quite suspicious of AGW- they dont accept the science and tend to think it is a scam of some kind; they believe in “free energy machines” and extreme kinds of techno-fantasies; they are often inherently anti-science which they have no understanding of.

Many such people are involved in TT, and their responses of hanging pyramids in the garden to make the veggies grow, talking to nature spirits (“If you talk to God, that’s religion; if God talks to you, that’s psychosis”)are not just a waste of time, but discredit the movement in the eyes of the more conventional rationalists who from the outside may say: what a load of hippy nonsense.”

In the case of alternative therapies, one of the negative effects of their promotion is the return of measles. On this specific case, I think the “Heart and Soul” groups should make a point of informing people truthfully about the safety of the MMR vaccine.
Re your other points:

“Maybe you will discover in your research that Roger Bacon, recognised at one of the earliest advocates of the modern scientific method, was himself a Christian.

Or that Copernicus, the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe, was Catholic. So was Galileo. And Descartes”

In those days EVERYONE was religious- there wasnt any other option on offer. Science was as you say in its infancy. This was the beginning however of the rational challenge to religion, a struggle still going on. (Pre-Darwin it was very hard to dispute the God Hypothesis; it was only with the establishment of evolution as fact that science could reject it definitively). Planck may have been a member of his church, which again in those days was much stronger , but this may not reflect on his actual beliefs.

Of course I know lots of scientists were and are religious, that doesnt discredit my arguments in any way! Proportionately though, scientists are far less likely to be religious, and there is a REASON for that. The fact that some still are does not mean it is a good thing or harmless.

So what about Houghton? While his science is impeccable, his religion is unlikely to help chart a clear path for an effective response. I am obviously not saying religious people are always going to make irrational decisions, but their beliefs are going to be a hindrance rather than a help, and may lead to quite reactionary policies.

Ghandhi- one of my early inspirations and a real Holy Cow of liberalism and environmentalism- is widely held responsible for the partition of India. Because of his rigidly held religious beliefs he was unable to compromise in the way a secular leader may have been able to. (Ironic indeed that he was killed by an even more extreme religious fanatic.)

Even Martin Luther King similarly may have done better had he been more critical of the religion which did not serve his people well.

I am not intolerant of religious people, nor do I have any problem with working with them. What I have consistently argued is that irrational beliefs and religion should not be actively
promoted by Transition in the way that they are; and that the understanding of science should be a much stronger priority.

Instead, people’s already shaky understanding of science is constantly being undermined from within transition, including on this forum, by simplistic, ignorant ideas like “science has been wrong before”, “science doesnt know everything” “science is rigid and closed to ‘new’ideas” (like Medieval superstition!). f you really believe these things about science, why would you give credibility to climate science? And while some people are able to hold the two ideas together apparently without conflict, many others do not.

These obvious fallacies are just excuses for making things up whenever we feel like it.

Your last comments from your friend Rob actually support my case- it is not science that rigidly claims to know everything, its religion! Its faith! Isnt this completely obvious?

It is not my views which are arrogant and rude, Josef, but those of religion and superstition, which unlike science and rational thought have no mechanism for learning or opening to new evidence. They just know for sure they are right, and this attitude I am arguing is very, very dangerous.

Edbert
26 Oct 12:52pm

I only have four capitalized words to say….. IT DOES NOT MATTER!

Even if the world is coming to an end or NOT, we should just sit back and relax, spend our time with our family and loved ones. We can’t predict the future, we are HUMANS! If the world is ‘coming to an end at 2012′, we can’t stop it. And if it does not, then so be it. Spending time with loved ones isn’t so bad anyways and can be ‘fun’ at times. =.=

THE END OF STORY! XP

Love,
My Opinion

Brad K.
27 Oct 2:47pm

Edbert,

Unlike some, I have come to the conclusion that we are, and must be, driven to raise children.

The home, the place that a couple makes into a place to live, is an establishment of culture. The traditions, rituals, the amenities, beliefs, and definitions of right and wrong often reflect the values of the community and families of the couple (or assemblage of adults).

If you value and identify with the culture that raised you, how can you not also identify with the need to both parent in your own turn, and to preserve your culture, your beliefs and values, into the next generation?

What I don’t understand about your comment about just “being with” family, is that the cultures that created and produced you and your family should also be driving you to focus on raising and nurturing your children – for the generation to come. If you aren’t striving to build or maintain that environment, how can you be true to the cultures that produced you?

The Biblical stricture “Honor thy mother and thy father”, is, I think, interpreted too strictly. I find this passage – remember, it ends with “that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” – ties one into beliefs and culture, binds one to the stream of time from parent to child, to the next generation unending. I don’t think one is permitted to say, “Here I am. Let the world take care of itself.”

But then, written that way, it starts to look like the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player Manual, 2nd Edition. You know, in the appendix on player alignment, the difference (in the game) between good and evil. “Good”, in AD&D, is the habit of making decisions by considering “What is the best for the group; that is the best thing for me,” and evil turns that around to “What is best for me at the moment? Anything else would hurt the group.”

Look at this another way. The observation in social and biological sciences is that organizations and individuals “grow or die”.

It is by trying to transition that we learn what transition means. It is by building, and gardening, and raising children that we learn who we are. There just isn’t time to sit and wonder what comes next.

Daniel Hurring
11 Nov 9:45pm

Hi all,

Bit sad to read this article as I do think it shows a dismissive tone that isn’t befitting of Transition. Wish I had seen it before.

Shane Hughes mentions discussing this subject with an organiser of Sunrise in the past. This was me, some 6 years ago, in a different stage of my life. I agree there is an element of religion in, in particular, the ‘Dreamspell’ groups – the main disseminators of the 2012 ideas – but that shouldn’t be ascribed to everybody who has an interest in this subject.

2012 ideas have been around since at least 1987, nearly twenty years prior to Transition, and it is a movement that has matured over time, as Transition has and will. Most of those who initially proposed the ideas have moved on, and others now embrace 2012 as a useful nodal point or something similar. The recently released ‘Everything Guide to 2012′ kindly embraces Transition as one of the solution-finding organisations on the planet. Hopefully the many thousand of readers, particularly in the Americas, will not be as dismissive of Transition as Rob has sadly been of 2012.

Personally, I neither subscribe to 2012 nor dismiss it, just as I refrain from judgement on the dominant ideas on Climate Change or Peak Oil. Everything is simply hearsay or an educated guess unless you have experienced it or know all there is to know about it. 2012ers, if we can call them that, come in many shapes and forms, from those choosing to use it to motivate planetary change (i.e. Worldshift 2012), to those deciding to build bunkers in the Pyrenees and go underground for two years.

I myself choose practical action, involvement in organizations like Transition and working to provide spaces for ideas to be openly discussed. Many people that I know who are intelligent folk, lights in our communities, still have a passing interest in 2012 and the potentials of what lies ahead. Its far from the dominant belief that the world is going to end or any such thing. That is Hollywood.

For an example, the movie trailer shown above is as accurate to the beliefs of the 2012 movement as a Hollywood movie about Transition would be – Rob Hopkins played by Val Kilmer, a gun-toting hero of a post-apocalyptic oil-free world.

Transition is capable of embracing a belief in world changes such as 2012, just as the 2012 movement can share a belief in Transition.

[...] in poverty, that’s plenty to be getting on with. 2012 is “a huge distraction”, as Rob Hopkins wrote recently. It can lead to pointless fretting (as if even NASA can do anything about the actual end of the [...]