Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our Response to Mad Maxers

by Paul Edwards

At one of the Sustainable Livelihoods seminars Sarah and did recently, three men in the audience were adamant that the future awaiting us will resemble the world of Mad Max. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie on which this scenario is based, it’s a fantasized snapshot of a future characterized by violence, fear, and brutality. In such a world, the three priorities in life will be food, guns, and ammo.

This is not our view of how we need to think about or plan for the future. Here’s why:

You can’t build a wall high enough or have a gun big enough to withstand the kind of weaponry too readily available today. If we want a secure future, our best bet is being part of a sustainable community of people who work together to support each another in providing for our basic needs and well-being, including physical security.

If we assume, as the Mad Maxers do, that the American population will shrink to about one out of ten of us today, we would have a populous roughly equivalent to the number of inhabitants just before the Civil War – about the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. That was a time when more people worked on their own than worked to the rhythm of a machine and when barter was always a choice for trade. We expect to see both these become trends in the emerging new economy we call the Elm Street Economy.

That was also a time when slaves in the South did much of the manual labor in that region. Slavery became unthinkable when just one gallon of gasoline being the equivalent to 500 hours of manual labor. Now automation is on the verge of replacing hand and stoop labor farm workers. But without renewable means of low-cost energy, slavery, indentured servitude and company towns could return. These we most certainly hope will not develop, but a world such as that just might devolve into a Mad Max world.

In a Mad Max world, to defend against nations and terrorists who bear grievances or perceive gains by vanquishing America, the U.S. would need to have a large standing military – something the pre-Civil War U.S. did not have. With only one in ten Americans remaining it is doubtful the population could produce enough wealth and resources to support such a military.

So while there are some who believe there may be enough oil still remaining in the ground to sustain a greatly reduced population for some time, do we want to take that chance? Do we want to risk the emergence of a Mad Max world? Or shall we begin now to build an Elm Street Economy, a resilient local communities based on renewable energies that will enable us to adapt to a declining amount of cheap fossil fuel? For myself, the latter is my choice. In part, because surviving in the social order or disorder of a Mad Max world would not allow me to be the kind of person I am willing to be.


Ian Graham said...

Hi Paul, I was on the PPL web seminar yesterday. Probably no one, certainly not me, has the acumen to foresee how our communities could navigate a collapsing economy/civil society. (I commend the classic film Seven Samurai, for food for thought on the question tho.)
That said, not being willing to live in a community dominated by violence and threat/ecstortion is easier to affirm than to live by. I share the sentiment of denying the possibility of becoming hardened to violence etc, but I also doubt that I will have the fortitude to end my life, if indeed as is likely, a long emergency of disruption to civil society prevails.
Ian in Dundas ON

Sarah Anne Edwards said...

Posted for Joan

I have heard of people stocking up on food, equipment, etc.....most of all the increase in gun sales in Bakersfield. Somehow they're connecting a Mad Max world to come with the election of President Obama....know racism is involved on some level but I believe it's more than that.

So happens I saw all the Mad Max films...not an environment I would want to live in.

Paul I enjoyed the article....gave me much to think about...wouldn't be surprised if our country, unless there's significant change, actually split between the Mad Max mentality and the Elm Street Economy....


Sarah Anne Edwards said...

From for Carolyn,

I believe that it is very important to conscientiously store food and water. In a total collapse scenario, we will not be able to get basic resources, store shelves are likely to be empty, and access to clean water may be very dicey. What is also extremely important is that neighborhoods create watch groups in which they are looking out for each other in terms of robbery, assaults, fuel and food shortages. The sooner and more effectively these structures are put in place, the less "need" for violent responses. However, I would not tell anyone NOT to have weapons, but I would tell them to learn how to use them skillfully. If people feel they need to have a gun/guns and ammo, then have them, but to have them without knowing how to use them is irresponsible and defeats the purpose of having them which is protection of oneself and one's family. Every state in America offers gun safety or concealed carry classes, and anyone who owns a gun is morally obligated to take one of these classes. Author and activist, Derrick Jensen, writes very clearly about this and does not take a pacifist position on defending oneself or the earth by any means necessary. My preference would certainly be the proactive approach of the Transition Town movement, but not every Transition initiative in America is likely to have emergency responses or neighborhood watches in place in time to deal with outbreaks of hysteria and violence efficiently. I highly recommend reading Dmitry Orlov's "Re-Inventing Collapse" to learn in depth what the Russian people did for each other to minimize violence during the collapse of the USSR.

Sarah Anne Edwards said...

I strongly agree with Carolyn's comments, especially this how extremely important it is for neighborhoods to create watch groups in which we are looking out for each other in terms of robbery, assaults, fuel and food shortages. The sooner and more effectively these structures are put in place, the less "need" for violent responses.
Paul’s point in the blog is that if we assume a basically guns, ammo and bread future (as the three gentlemen in our pilot workshop were), we’re sure to get just that. But if we can plan for a sustainable future that includes a strong security component we have a chance of having a society in which guns, ammo and bread, are key sectors but not the primary and dominant feature of the society.
Let’s hope so anyway.