This short film made in 2017 by Le Quatrième Singe sets out the reasons why people and governments won’t respond adequately to the serious threats that face us, and that consequently everything will collapse. Well, not quite everything. Life itself is almost infinitely adaptable. It responds to adversity by strengthening itself (see Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Antifragile). And those of us including Transition groups who have looked into the future and prepared for it, may help society to weather the coming storms.
The unbridled capitalism of the last 50 years has produced an exponentially growing gap between rich and poor. One percent of the world’s population currently owns more than fifty percent of the world’s wealth. The film predicts this will cause major societal unrest, exacerbated by huge increases in global migration. A prediction also made by left-wing economist Richard D. Wolff (see youtube.com/watch?v=s6Z5Tf-aTJw). Those who currently enjoy economic advantage will not give up their affluence, and the economically disadvantaged will not give up their goal of achieving it, so collapse is inevitable — unless we do give up our affluence. Three reasons why this may happen:
- We are forced to as resources fall short and prices soar
- We are instructed to by perceived authorities and opinion formers
- Everyone else is doing it because the culture has changed sufficiently
Political leaders in democratic societies are not the same as perceived authorities. For one thing they can’t be trusted to tell the truth, or not until after the truth has become obvious to everyone. That is largely because they attain power only by appealing to the self-interest of the majority. A perceived authority, by contrast, is generally trusted and believed. Like David Attenborough. Or your preferred supermarket chain.
The last twenty seconds of the film — much too short — contain a positive message. Essentially it’s the same message that the Transition movement has been conveying for the last fourteen years: simplify, localise, develop community resilience, appreciate and include each other, skill up for power down. Resource depletion is happening, peak oil was in 2006, the financial sector has increasingly transferred investment from goods and services to financial products and real estate, benefiting the already rich and leaving governments and essential public services cash-strapped. The purpose of Transition is to notice all this, plan ahead and put in place solutions that will be available when needed. One could argue that these solutions are needed now! They are, but there is no generally perceived need yet. Advance resilience planning for local communities is more important than ever. TTL’s job is to partner with our District Council to inform and advise so as to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, loss of biodiversity and pollinating insects; to act locally on water use, soil health and pollution; to work with local farmers and growers; to finance and encourage renewable energy, efficient buildings, flood prevention and sustainable transport.
Whatever solutions we succeed in putting in place, such as localising food supply, it’s important that they are not confined to us alone but widely shared. No matter how resilient a community may be, it can’t survive if it’s surrounded by starving people and the government is requisitioning all its food. A subject for Le Quatrième Singe to cover in their next film perhaps.
Dirk Campbell, TTL.