Fw: A Better Way of Making a Living For Humanity
--- On Fri, 1/2/09, Culture Change <info@...> wrote:
From: Culture Change <info@...>
Subject: A Better Way of Making a Living For Humanity
Date: Friday, January 2, 2009, 2:33 AMHello, we hope your new year's starting out with a bang! But... (!):
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A Better Way of Making a Living For Humanity
By Chuck Burr
We are no more able to find our way forward living as Homo modern as we
are living as Homo hunter-gatherer. Both ways are blocked. Living today on
the infinite growth treadmill as Homo modern results in the death of our
planet. Homo sapiens has exploded our population to a level that we can no
longer run back into the forest to make a living like the Mayan did. So
what are we to do?
The questions is actually, not “what are we going to do?”, but is “how are
we going to make a living?” First let’s rule out the obvious: we can no
longer make a living as Homo consumer. Peak oil will put an end to our
happy motoring and consuming lifestyle before we get the chance to consume
A new International Energy Agency (IEA) report shows the decline of global
oil production has been recalculated at 9.1% per year, up from 5.8%
earlier in 2008. The weakened global economy will buy us a couple more
years, but after that the decline of world oil production will be far
steeper than its rise. We started the last century slowly, but we are now
running our fossil fuel economy full speed with the easily extracted oil
gone and only the hard or impossible to extract left.
The end of plentiful cheap energy will mean a reduction in the complexity
of our society so significant that few today comprehend it. I wonder if
President-elect Obama has any idea what is in store for us. Watch to see
if restoring “growth” is his mantra when inaugurated. This year we saw the
end of investment banking and the beginning of the end of suburbia in the
form of the mortgage crisis. Peak oil’s curtailment of happy motoring has
not even kicked in yet.
Next, the experiment of the agricultural revolution fails, as it has
created overpopulation and overshoot of carrying capacity via a "food
race." The food race drives population growth with growth in food
production; every increase in human population is met with an increase in
The agricultural revolution made us powerful, but it has also meant the
greatest mass extinction since the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years
ago. Just when we need earth’s resilience in her biodiversity the most,
Homo modern is destroying it by converting what is left into human
Combine agricultural-revolution population with peak oil and you get a
nightmare. At the start of the last century, there were only one billion
on the planet, today there are almost 6.8 billion. That means that 5.8
billion people are here one way or another because of oil, and oil is
about to run out.
The obvious being eliminated, that we are not going to make a living as
fossil fuel consumers nor as hunter-gatherers, how are we going to make a
living in the future? What if I told you I had a way to make a living that
has worked for 150,000 generations and it does not involve running into
The answer is tribalism, or, as I describe in my book Culturequake: The
Fall of Modern Culture and the Rise of Earth Culture, tribal communities.
Tribalism is misunderstood by Homo modern as “living a hunter-gatherer
lifestyle.” Hunting and gathering is only one way of making a living;
there are a million other ways to make a living. The important point is
not “what” you do to make a living, but “how” you make a living. Make a
living doing what ever you are best at, whether it is on a permaculture
farm or fixing bicycles, it makes no difference.
Tribalism has over three million years been the evolutionarily proven form
of human social organization. Bees make a living in hives, deer in herds,
whales in pods, birds in flocks, and humans in tribes. There is no getting
around it. If you think that civilization is the new answer, you are
deeply mistaken. In the mere blink of an eye, 500 generations,
civilization has brought the world the point of mass extinction. It might
be working for a wealthy westerner, but it is not working for the other 95
percent of the human population nor the 30 million other species on the
Tribalism has two primary components that enable the average person to
make a living from generation to generation without being stressed out or
exploited. First, a tribe is simply a group of people making a living
together. Everyone in the tribe does not even have to have the same
beliefs; they just have to want to make a living together.
Second, tribe members have a strong incentive to share what they have made
or found with other tribal members. This gives everyone else a strong
incentive to share as well. There is no one leader or boss as in our
hierarchic agricultural revolution culture. Being the main scheduler, for
example, is just another job. When food is scarce everyone goes hungry; no
one keeps a surplus to him/herself.
Generally, tribes are thought to be fewer than 150 people. British
anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized this number of people to be the
limit with whom we can maintain stable social relationships in which we
know each person. He suggests that numbers larger than this require more
restrictive rules, laws, and enforcement. I suggest this number does not
require a hierarchy; everyone can be an equal.
So what should you do? The universal advice I got from older people when I
was growing up was “do what you love to do and you will be good at it.”
You will make the biggest impact with your life that way. Find like-minded
people and find a way to make livings together that you all enjoy.
Have no hierarchy; work from a group consensus. Produce no surplus; make
just what you need locally and your population will be stable and will not
be in overshoot.
Do this and you give your children a bright future. The one great benefit
of a tribal community is cradle-to-grave security. In our Homo modern
culture, we “make things to get things.” In a tribal or Leaver culture,
you “give support to get support.” It is a completely different story or
cultural meme. Memes are to cultures what genes are to people.
Also, by living a better story, we create a new cultural meme that is more
likely to be replicated than our current modern cultural story or meme
that, “civilization must continue,” and “the world was made for man.” I
mean really, how poor a story are these?
A far better story is that our children and we can make a living without
destroying most of the other life on earth. The real exciting part is that
not only can we survive, but we can thrive! We can thrive amid a riot of
cultural diversity among different tribes all making a living differently.
We will also be living within the natural carrying capacity of our
surroundings; a far greater result than what we have today.
So this is our resolution for the new year: To find “our people” and to
make a living together. Maybe being laid off from building pyramids for
someone else could be a blessing in disguise as an opportunity to walk
away from modern consumer culture.
Postscript: Use this winter as a time to catch up on your reading. Besides
reading Culturequake.org, read
Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway
Beyond Civilization, by Daniel Quinn
Dunbar’s Number: en.wikipedia.org
The Meme Machine, by Susan Blackmore
Overshoot, by William Catton
Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hememway
Culturequake: The Fall of Modern Culture and the Rise of Earth
Culture, by Chuck Burr
Visit Culturequake.org to learn more about the Culturequake book and the
online Magazine. ©2008 Chuck Burr LLC
"A Return to Tribes" by Jan Lundberg, Culture Change Letter #114:
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