Is Being Uncivilized Sustainable? Keith Farnish on Disconnecting (Video)


Image credit: Peak Moment

I'll admit it. I may advocate peeing in public, stopping showering (quite as much), and I am a big fan of dumpster diving and the moneyless man. But despite these nods toward the crunchier end of green living, I love my creature comforts. I love warm (solar) showers. I love TV. Heck, I even like freezer food. Maybe that's why I've always been skeptical of those who outright oppose industrial civilization and the market system. Yet, looking at the destruction all around us created by consumer culture, I have to concede that they have a point. This isn't the first time I've pondered these questions. From the Dark Mountain Project's rejection of environmentalism, to the broader trend of disasterbation in the green movement, I get decidedly uncomfortable when people start pointing fingers at "the corporations" and "civilization" as the big bogey men.

The latest offering from Peak Moment TV—the folks who brought us videos on safe and legal gray water, a DIY solar home, and protecting your money in a declining economy—has me revisiting the issue yet again. In it, Janaia Donaldson talks to activist Keith Farnish—author of Times Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis. And Keith makes a lot of good points: we need to reconnect with nature; we'd be happier if we lived simpler lives; giant corporations don't always have our best interests at heart. It's hard to argue with any of this.

Where I lose the thread, however, is when we start talking about what to do about it. Keith suggests various strategies for disconnecting from "civilization." Some are non-controversial, and often advocated on TreeHugger: swapping food from the garden, living debt free, giving up the commute. And some start to bend the "rules": disrupting advertising, practicing non-violent direct action, or trying your hand at Yes Men-style theatrical interventions. Even then, I really have no argument with the man.

My only issue is this—what is the ultimate vision, and are these strategies enough to get us there? As I've argued before, opposition for the sake of it is pointless. We need a vision, and we need a strategy to get us to that vision. And try as I might, given the pressing urgency of climate change and peak oil, I find it hard to see the mass adoption of "uncivilization" within the timescales we need.

Having said all that, given the slow creep of progress in cutting emissions through conventional means, Keith might very well say the same thing about more market-friendly solutions. Either way, the video is worth watching.

Tags: Activism | Economics | Peak Oil | United Kingdom