Is the Problem
By Chris Hedges
will be determined by localities. Communities will have
to create collectives to grow their own food and provide
for their security, education, financial systems and self-governance,
efforts that Heinberg suspects will “be discouraged
and perhaps criminalized by those in authority.”
process of decentralization will, he said, become “the
signal economic and social trend of the 21st century.”
It will be, in effect, a repudiation of classic economic
models such as free enterprise versus the planned economy
or Keynesian stimulus versus austerity. The reconfiguration
will arise not through ideologies, but through the necessities
of survival forced on the poor and former members of the
working and middle class who have joined the poor.
will inevitably create conflicts as decentralization weakens
the power of the elites and the corporate state.
Tainter, an archeologist, in his book “The Collapse
of Complex Societies” provides a useful blueprint
for how such societies unravel. All of history’s
major 24 civilizations have collapsed and the patterns
are strikingly similar, he writes.
difference this time around is that we will unravel as
a planet. Tainter notes that as societies become more
complex they inevitably invest greater and greater amounts
of diminishing resources in expanding systems of complexity.
This proves to be fatal.
complex societies are costlier to maintain than simpler
ones and require higher support levels per capita,”
Tainter writes. The investments required to maintain an
overly complex system become too costly, and these investments
yield declining returns.
elites, in a desperate effort to maintain their own levels
of consumption and preserve the system that empowers them,
through repression and austerity measures squeeze the
masses harder and harder until the edifice collapses.
This collapse leaves behind decentralized, autonomous
pockets of human communities.
says this is our fate. The quality of our lives will depend
on the quality of our communities. If communal structures
are strong we will be able to endure. If they are weak
we will succumb to the bleakness. It is important that
these structures be set in place before the onset of the
crisis, he says.
means starting to “know your neighbors.” It
means setting up food banks and farmers’ markets.
It means establishing a local currency, carpooling, creating
clothing exchanges, establishing cooperative housing,
growing gardens, raising chickens and buying local. It
is the matrix of neighbors, family and friends, Heinberg
says, that will provide “our refuge and our opportunity
to build anew.”
“The inevitable decline in resources to support
societal complexity will generate a centrifugal force,”
Heinberg said. “It will break up existing economic
and governmental power structures. It will unleash a battle
for diminishing resources. This battle will see conflicts
erupt between nations and within nations.
will soon be our fate. It will also be our strategy for
survival. Learning practical skills, becoming more self-sufficient,
forming bonds of trust with our neighbors will determine
the quality of our lives and the lives of our children.”
see long excerpts from Richard Heinberg’s “The
End of Growth” and Joseph Tainter’s “The
Collapse of Complex Societies,” click here