Category Archives: Writing

Liminal Worlds: World Building

Hello again folks!

Have you checked out my recent book, Liminal Worlds? It’s available on Amazon, $2.99 for Kindle, or 14.99 for paperback. Now, if you excuse the plug, it is the world I have built for this book that I want to talk about today.

Call it a little peek into my writing process. When I started writing this book, I knew I wanted to create a “near future” book, with both cyberpunk and solarpunk elements. Some parts of the world would be very gritty, and run by big corporations, and other parts would green, bright, and sustainable.  I also wanted to build a world that would be recognizable to us today, but also far enough in the future that I could take some liberties.

I settled for about the year 2070, and a world that was in transition from a corporate ruled capitalist system, to one a little more sustainable and democratic. So if you don’t mind, I want to talk more about the elements that went into that.

Technology

Obviously, as with any science fiction novel, technology is front and center. There were a lot of technologies I really wanted to play with and explore the implications for a late century world. Renewable Energy is front and center in the world, and makes up about 80% of the total energy demand of the planet. This comes in the forms of wind and solar primarily, but also other forms such as hydro and geothermal power. Each city and country on the planet has the mix that best meets it’s own needs. Some of those needs are even supplied by space based solar power, which is then beamed down to planet.

Other forms of the power on the planet are things like Generation IV nuclear fission, and even nuclear fusion power. These forms of power make up the rest of the power in Liminal Worlds, for load balancing as well as certain high energy projects, such as the Berlin Space Launch.

While I have not explored it in too much depth, outer space is a big part of the world. In order to make outer space accessible, my world is home to a couple of space elevators, and items such as the Berlin Space Launch, which is a modified version of the StarTram concept. It’s basically a ten mile high magnetic lift system, that gives rockets and cargo a boost before they leave the planet.

Electromagnetic technology such as MagLev Trains also make up a big part of my world. Not only are most cars, trucks, and ships some form of electric vehicles, but also high speed trains and aircraft. There is in fact a world circling MagLev train, though this has not been touched on in the book. (Not yet anyways. ) Another concept I deploy is the EMLAR, ElectroMagnetic Launch Assist Rail; which is basically a catapult for short distance aircraft takeoff. The Berlin Space Launch is a much larger version of this.

Beyond energy and transportation, information technology plays a large part in the book too. The ‘Net is a massive information network built up from current forms of cellular and broadband tech, but also nanotechnology as well. The latter is central to the plotline (no spoilers) of the book, and makes the ‘Net of the book vastly more advanced than the internet of today.

Environment

I write a lot about climate change and environmentalism here at this blog, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that those issues are also front and center in my book. As the recent IPCC report states, we have about 12 years to mitigate the worst of climate change.

Yet, my book takes place about 50 years in the future, so where does that leave us? Well, in my world, we as a planet have mitigated the worst of climate change, though it definitely is still a factor in the background. My book is not utopian, and there is plenty of ‘ugly’ still in the background. Some cities adapted well to climate change, others didn’t. Same with regions and countries. Some simply adapted and mitigated better than others.

That doesn’t change the fact that the world has changed in five decades. Globally, humanity has continued to have to deal with the loss of species, pollution, and climate migrations. While on the whole, it is a ‘best case’ scenario, there is still a lot that was messed up, or that still needs attention.

I hope to flesh more of those details out over the coming months with short story writing.

Social/Economic/Politic Systems

What would a future world be without speculation on changes on social, political and economic systems? Liminal Worlds gave me a lot of options to play with some world building. In short, fifty years in the future, I build the world around two big trends.

First, the trend towards the breakdown of hierarchy. This played out in two ways, first there are more Nation-States in the world, though the tend to be smaller and more dependent on others. Also, it ‘broke down’ a lot of larger international organizations, such as the UN, the EU, and the US federal government.

At the same time, there has been a trend towards greater integrations, and more networked relationships between cities, regions and non-state organizations. This has created new alliances and partnerships where old ones have broken down, the most prominent of these in my book is the UN Global Council. The UNGC is basically a union of former countries, states, regions and cities. It creates a quasi-global area of integration.

Creating a future ex-US.

I am still working on a deeper project of mapping out my world, but I wanted to explore some of the ideas I used for the (former) United States.

First, I looked at the map from here;

Which helped me work out the diversity of the US, and identify some possible “fault lines” that might create enough tension to result in breakdown. The 11 US cultures was one was to identify those areas, and what a more broken down US might look like. (Even our current political climate is basically the red areas vs the blue areas on this map.)

I also looked at these two maps from here;

These two maps helped me to even subdivide the US into smaller units, centered around cities as the center of economic activities. As such, this left me with a world with ‘fuzzier’ borders, and less relevant Nation-States as the centers of power.

Another map I drew upon was this one of major US megaregions, which helped to even further refine my ‘core’ areas of narrative. For example, much of the Liminal Worlds takes place in the Great Lakes megaregion, and primarily in Toronto.

I know that was a lot to throw at you all at once, but it is my hope that you enjoyed this exploration of my creative process. Naturally, I invite you to pick up my book, Liminal Worlds, which is available on Amazon. That way, you can see more of the research and work that went into creating that world.

And more importantly, I hope you enjoy the story!

Thanks for reading!

 

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Towards a Democratic World

*Not talking about the political party here, but actual democracy.

“Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?…

Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their workplace? In politics, we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. ” -Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Hello again folks!

This is another post in my ongoing series, as there is certainly more that needs exploring. It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog that I am a leftist. Yup, I am well to the left of the political center, as I think cooperative and ecological economic and social systems would probably be a lot better than what we have now.

More specifically, in terms of the political spectrum, I am probably best described as a democratic ecosocialist, with strong left-libertarian tendencies. I’m not quite an anarchist, but there is a great deal of overlap there. In terms of US politics, I am some sort of a combination between the Democratic Socialist of America, and the Green Party.

(Probably, Mostly, Me)

Overall, I’m probably a center-leftist (give or take), which makes me pretty boring as far as leftists go. Still, I think it is important that we break that all down a little bit more. My political views are reinforced and informed by how I understand animism. As I’ve said so many time before, my animism is the basic worldview that the world is full of people (human and non-human), and that life is lived in relation to others.

This comes with a strong commitment to human and ecological rights, and the inherent worth and dignity of all beings on this planet. It follows that any civilization and its social, political, cultural, and economic systems should be as equitable, sustainable, democratic, and just as possible. Humanity civilizations should be ecologically sustainable, and be self-regulated and self-organized. In short, civilization should look more like an ecosystem, and be integrated seamlessly into the environment.

In other words, I have red (socialist), green (ecological), and blue (democratic, labor) in the mix. That is why I want to talk about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy today. I saw a lot of the world I want to build in those pages. But first, let’s explore some of the components in this world.

Democratic Socialism (Red/Blue)

Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production with an emphasis on self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within a market socialist, participatory or decentralized planned economy. Democratic socialists hold that capitalism is inherently incompatible with what they hold to be the democratic values of liberty, equality and solidarity; and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realization of a socialist society.” (Wikipedia, Democratic Socialism)

This is a good part of my basic philosophy. I think capitalism as a economic system is exploitative of workers and the environment, and mostly just concentrates wealth (and political power) in fewer and fewer hands. Capitalism is one big factor in the rise of oligarchy and plutocracy in the US.

I have made no secret of my like of Nordic Model. It goes a long ways towards what a democratic socialism might look like, but it falls short. That is because the Nordic Model is social democracy, not democratic socialism. Social democracy is still capitalism. Suffice to say, I think it is a good start, but doesn’t go far enough. Another point along the transition, but not the end of the journey.

I would like to see it go farther, with greater democratic control given over to workplaces and community owned organizations. I would like to see much less State power, and a greater number of worker and community owned cooperatives. The Nordic Model has a lot of good points with egalitarianism, and ecological sustainability. But more needs to be done.

Ecosocialism (Green/Red)

Eco-socialism is an ideology merging aspects of socialism with that of green politics, ecology and alter-globalization… Eco-socialists generally believe that the expansion of the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, poverty, war and environmental degradation through globalization and imperialism, under the supervision of repressive states and transnational structures.

Eco-socialists advocate dismantling capitalism, focusing on common ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers, and restoring the commons.” (Wikipedia, Ecosocialism)

I think that capitalism is as exploitative of environments. It extracts natural resources for profit, and leaves barren and polluted wastelands in its wake. We can do better than that, and while there will still be a need for resources, there are far better ways to manage those resources in a sustainable way.

Alter-globalization is an important aspect here. I’m not opposed to global economic integration, but it MUST be done with a respect to human dignity, labor rights, environmental protection, and indigenous cultures. It is quite contrary to the neoliberal globalization we see in the world right now. It’s capitalism, stupid.

Along the lines of democratic socialism, I support the creation of worker and community owned spaces, and a more sustainable economic system.

Green Politics (Green/Blue)

Green politics is a political ideology that aims to create an ecologically sustainable society rooted in environmentalism, nonviolence, social justice and grassroots democracy.” (Wikipedia, Green Politics)

Democracy, sustainability, equality, solidarity. There is not much I can harp on here except the “non-violent” part. On the whole, I’m no warrior. Violent or militant actions aren’t really my cup of tea. I’m more of a builder than anything. That said, I think these things may have limited strategic uses.

However, that doesn’t mean being passive in the face of oppressive systems. Protest, direct action, and civil disobedience are all tactics for fighting unjust and exploitative systems.

Libertarian-socialism/Libertarian-Municipalism (Red/Green/Blue)

Libertarian socialists advocate for decentralized structures based on direct democracy and federal or confederal associations such as libertarian municipalism, citizens’ assemblies, trade unions, and workers’ councils.” (Wikipedia, Libertarian-Socialism)

Okay, so I don’t really like using the word “libertarian” anything due to how this idea has taken form in US political circles. To explain briefly, there are two versions of this idea, left-libertarianism, and right-libertarianism. While there is some amount of overlap between both schools of thought, as both of don’t really like centralized regulation/the State. The difference of course is one argues for cooperative economic systems, the other for unregulated and non-State capitalism.

With my general disdain for capitalism, I am a left-libertarian, in that I don’t think the Nation-State is necessary, especially versions that are far away and centralized. I like bottom up, democratic and decentralized solutions to problems. Not only is the Nation-State, and I’ve discussed in my End of Nations post, it’s probably not the best way to govern a planet. 

Short version, on the whole, I prefer distributed, networked, and democratic systems over centralized ones. Cities are the real heart of our civilizations, and I think a global network of cities might be a better global system than the Nation-State.

Mars Trilogy

You are probably wondering how all of this relates to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. You would be right to ask that question, as I have spent a lot more time talking about political ideology than I have about the fiction books in question. Robinson is generally considered to be and ecosocialist, and many of the ideas I have discussed translate directly into his books.

The short version being, that the fiction can serve as a vision of what the reality might look like. The Mars Trilogy, as it’s name implies, follows the stories of colonists and terraformers of Mars as they build a new society over about a century.

As the society of Mars develops, they run into all kinds of social and political problems. There are the nativist Reds, that want to keep the planet as natural as possible. They are in many ways opposed by the Greens, that want to terraform the planet. The first couple of books cover this struggle, and even result in the first aspects of a democratic and decentralized Martian society.

There is even multiple attempts at a global constitution, which finally culminates in the final book. By the time we reach Blue Mars, a kind of libertarian ecosocialism has taken root, and is embodied in the constitution of Mars. The entire organization of the planet is a kind of global-localism, in which there is both a global government, as well as the rights of individual cities. In short, there are no Nation-States. Mars is an experiment in Democratic Ecosocialism.

Because, on top of democratic structures of government (based on the constitutions of Earth, especially the Swiss), there are the rights of nature and the ecocourts. Here is an excerpt from KSR’s own site on the structure of the Martian government;

The Martian government was created following the Second Martian Revolution which insured Mars’s independence from Terra’s rule. Its form was established in the Martian constitution created in the Pavonis Mons Congress in 2128.

The global government was a confederation led by a seven-member executive council (inspired by the Swiss system), which was elected by two legislative branches:

  • the duma, consisting of drafted citizens
  • the senate, consisting of elected representatives from every town

Legislature was mostly left to towns. The judicial branch presented three courts:

  • a criminal court
  • a constitutional court (including an economic commission for eco-economics)
  • an environmental court (including a land commission for no private property), the Global Environmental Court (GEC):”

I could go on and on of course, as this has become one of my favorite book series. But for the sake of brevity, I want to leave this topic to talk even more broadly. When this is considered along with my first Synthesis of my recent work, a vision of the future starts to form.

It is a vision only, a speculation if you want to frame it that way. All the same, it gives me something to work towards. It gives us something to work towards, if you are of a similar mind as me. We could build an animistic, democratic, and ecosocialistic world.

The Mars trilogy gives us an idea of what that could look like, though of course such a world would vary in the details. Still, I think it is possible. We could build a world that is ecological and sustainable. We could build a world that is democratic, and not built on capitalism. Nation-States may not be the best way to govern a planet, and they will be less relevant in the future. Whether through collapse or deliberate integration, I think the future will be post-national.

We are already seeing what that might look like, and it is up to all of us to work towards a common vision of a global-localism. Think globally, act locally; in a very real way.

Our future awaits.

Thanks for reading!


A Forest Through the Trees

(World Tree Image from Here)

Hello again folks!

I hope you all have been doing well. I have been pretty busy lately, but this is a post that has been playing around in my mind for some time. In case my recent blogs have not been any indication, I’m kind of obsessed with looking at my animistic path through the lens of systems theory, and especially complex systems.

This method to me is all about seeing the relations between all things. It’s about how I as a human relate to the environment around me, as well as the systems of civilization I move through each and every day. How does these various systems interact and relate, and in what ways do we relate to those systems? Whether technological, cultural, or ecological, this is a question that is at the heart of the animistic path I practice.

I have been reading back through some books and older thoughts of mine. As I read them, I was struck with how I could now look at them through a new lens. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that my path is inspired by a lot of different sources; some ancestral, some modern, some fictional… ecetera ecetera. My path is really kind of my own synthesis of ideas, but it is best described as mostly animistic and shamanic. These are the best concepts I have for what I do, even though both are problematic in their own ways. I’m not going into that here either. I’m sure I’ve touched on it before.

The World Tree

What really struck me though was the idea of the World Tree, or shaman’s tree. This is a common symbol in the cosmology of a three-tiered world, that is common in shamanistic ideologies. There is the upper world, which is equated with the sky. The middle world, which is where we as humans dwell, the land. And the underworld, which is the underground, the water, and the world below us. Each culture that uses this idea has nuances of course, but I want to talk about how I use it in my own practice.

Trees have been a big part of my life forever. I spent my formative years in the woods; exploring, hiking, climbing, later hunting. There actually was a time I wanted to go into forestry as a profession, but alas I was blocked by higher math. Still, the imagery is still deeply set in my personality. And so the World Tree, as a concept, is something I revisit regularly.

The branches of the World Tree (such as Yggdrasil of Nordic myth), reach into the sky, and into the upper world. The trunk of the World Tree is in the middle world, and connects all three to the land. The roots go deep into the underworld, into water, and beneath the earth. As such for me, there are rough correspondences between sky/land/water, and upper/middle/lower respectively.

In addition, there is also a rough correspondence between the kinds of being that dwell in each world, and how they relate to myself. The upper world is generally, the realm of the “bigger” and/or “greater.” In Norse myth (and others), this is the realm of the gods. The middle world is the realm of the humans, and many others too. The underworld, is generally the realm of the dead and the ancestors.

There are also other useful correspondences when relating to nature. The upper world is the world above our head, of tree branches, but of birds and stars too. Of wind and clouds, and cosmic things. All the way up. The middle world is the world all around us, deer, animals, and plants that dwell on the land. The earth and the soil. And the lower world is the water, of fish and other marine life. Of water, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

But something else struck me as I was rereading through those materials. An aspect that I hadn’t seen before, and that has been rather interesting to explore. Systems theory also allows for a similar breakdown, that allows me to go even deeper into the idea of the World Tree.

System theories can talk about systems at all kinds of different scales. For example, a mesosystem is a mid-level scale system. A microsystem is a small scale system, and a marcosystem is a large scale one.

I bet you’re clever enough to see already where I am going with this. System theory allows me to look at the World Tree at different orders of magnitude, and explore the relationship there.

Upper World – Macrosystems – Sky

These are systems at the largest possible scales, and this allows me to relate myself to things so much bigger than myself in a very enmeshed kind of way. A way that connects me to human communities, cities, ecosystems, and eventually the planet, the stars, and the whole of the Cosmos. It is the systems that are “bigger” than myself, and that exceed the complexity and scale of my limited human existence.

This is where the World Tree meets the Cosmic Web, the Forest of all World Trees, and All Possible Worlds.

Middle World – Mesosystems – Land

These systems are the ones that relate to the world on approximately the same scale I do. The world between the mountain and the ant. These are the systems at a human scale, which is my immediate surroundings. My relationship to myself, and other people on an individual to individual level. It also includes individual critters, rocks, and plants too.

This is where I meet the Tree in the Forest, or the Deer on the Path.

Lower World – Microsystems – Water

Falling downs order of magnitude, this is where I relate to the things that are “deeper” or “beneath.” This is the scale of those that are dead and breaking down, and everything from the ant on down. It is the systems that make up my body, organs, cells, atoms. It is my DNA, and the very real connections to my past. This is my deep ancestry, that goes from humanity, to the origin of life on this planet. To the land and the planet itself as ancestor, and the very first particles that formed from the Big Bang.

The Place of Deep Roots, and Long Memories.

The Forest through the Trees

In a weird way, if you follow through the roots and branches of this idea, you kind of end up where you started. There is a circular and cyclical nature to all of this. If you go down deep into the roots, you end up at the quantum level, and the very beginning of our Universe as we know it. If you go up through the branches to a high enough scale, you are talking about our Cosmos as a whole… Which started at the Big Bang.

In that way, the concept of the World Tree, and the Cosmic Web are two closely related concepts. The World Tree is the metaphoric personal, and how I relate to the other scales of existence. The Cosmic Web is the forest full of World Trees, and the weblike network of roots and branches. Strangely, that idea starts to a look a lot like the cosmic web of our known universe.

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_system

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_tree


Liminal Worlds, New Novel!

 

Here we go folks!

Today I am releasing an all new novel! It is a cyberpunk/solarpunk crossover I have been working on for the last year or so, and I am really excited to bring this one to you!

I’ll be talking about this more in future posts!

$2.99 for Kindle here!

Or $14.99 in paperback here!

Synopsis:

The ‘Net went big, in a big way.

The greatest integrated digital network the world had ever seen, a fully immersive digital world, complete with fully virtual reality experiences, forums, and social media. It connected the globe in a way that had never been done before. It made the internet of the early 21st century completely obsolete. The world changed, almost overnight.

There were only two problems. First, the ‘Net had been an accident. When the Cyber-Tek nanotech facility exploded, it polluted the land, air, and water with tiny self-replicating nanite machines. In a short time, they were everywhere, and found within everything. Plants, animals, and soil. The other problem; the nanites were also collective learning machines. The more of them there are, the more intelligent they became.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing. On top of layers of broadband, satellite, and cellular communication; the nanites found their own home. That is how the ‘Net was born.

That is where our story begins.

Welcome to the late 21st Century.


Towards a Planetary Civilization

“The culmination of all these upheavals is the formation of planetary civilization, what physicists call a Type I civilization. This transition is perhaps the greatest transition in history, marking a sharp departure from all civilizations of the past…

Every headline that dominates the news reflects, in some way, the birth pangs of the planetary civilization” – Michio Kaku

 

Recently, I have been rereading (my first time was in community college) Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future, and I have to say that I have been getting a lot more out of it this time around than I did the first time.

You see, I have been giving a great deal of thought lately about what kind of world would I create. If I had the power to imagine what the future would look like, what would it be? It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog that I have a fairly optimistic attitude towards the future. Or at least, a kind of pragmatic optimism. In short, I don’t think we will likely ever see a perfect utopia, but I don’t think there is anything that stops us from trying.

Our culture, as it is, is chock full of dystopian stories and grim predictions. There is not shortage of pagans and thinkers that think there is a storm coming, whether this is due to climate change, peak oil, late stage capitalism, or what have you. The end is nigh! Or at least, that is what they keep saying.

This is not to say there is no truth in these claims, in fact I think there is a fair bit of truth in some of them. We live in troubled times, especially if you are like me and live in the United States of America. There is a certain darkness that hangs over all that we do.

Yet, at the same time I think there are reasons to hope. I think there are reasons that this darkness will pass, and that there is a more optimistic dawn on the other side. The reasons for that, if the quote at the top of this article is any indication, is because I think we are moving into the transition, and towards a Type 1 civilization. Which is where Kaku’s book comes in.

A Type I civilization, as Kaku describes it, has access to all the energy that reaches the planet from the local star. In our case, that would be the sun, or about 10^17 watts. On a sliding scale of Type 0 to Type 1, we are estimated to be a type 0.7. Kaku predicts, that we will reach that status in the next century or two.

But the transition from our current state of civilization, to a Type 1 civilization will not necessarily be an easy process. If we extend the metaphor of birthing a new world, there are also reasons to suspect it may well be a messy process. We could in fact even fail, and fade as a civilization entirely.

As such, over the course of the next few blog posts, my intent is to lay out some of my ideas on what that transition and the next world might look like. After a certain point, this will be speculative. It is, at best, what I hope the future might look like. But what kind of sci-fi author would I be if I didn’t imagine what our future might look like?

Besides, there is a great deal to be said about imagining future worlds. Our stories can serve as guides, and help us figure out what kind of future we would like to live in. If all our stories are doom and gloom, blood and fire, then there is good reasons to suspect our future won’t be all that great. We should take great care to ensure our dytopian fictions don’t become self-fulfilling prophecies. I think dytopian fiction best serves as a warning, of futures best avoided. No good will come of us if the world looks like Fallout, Mad Max, or even The Long Descent.

As such, let’s look a little deeper into what vision Kaku lays out for us on our path towards the future.

Planetary Civilization

“The transition between our current Type 0 civilization and a future Type 1 is perhaps the greatest transition in history. It will determine whether we will continue to thrive and flourish, or perish due to our own folly.” Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future.

Kaku lays out a Type 1 civilization as a truly global and planetary civilization; one that is scientific, pluralistic, multicultural and tolerant. I would go on to add it would also have to be more democratic (in the ideal sense), more autonomous, and more networked. I will explore these ideas more deeply in the next part of this series.

There are lots of aspects of that already taking shape. The internet is what Kaku considers to be a Type 1 kind of communication system, allowing people across the globe to communicate in real time. He also suspects that a single language will become the common global language, and the top contenders right now are English or Mandarin. I guess that all depends on the how the geopolitical landscape plays out.

He also points out that a common language will not be the death of all others. In fact, tools such as the internet may provide a means for a kind of linguistic renaissance. In my imagined future world, English/Mandarin is only a common language, and does not dominate the others. The vast majority of people would be bilingual, or even multilingual, allowing for a diverse interplay between local and global cultures. It could actually, if played right, result in the resurgence of indigenous, minority, and even new local cultures.

Kaku also thinks that a planetary civilization will lean towards greater political and economic integration. The EU may be the blueprint for this, and may represent one version of a post-national planetary civilization. He also points out that certain cultural aspects have become quite global, such as the Olympic Games and musical trends such as hip-hop and rock & roll. Environmental problems such as Climate Change are also being addressed on a global scale.

None of this necessarily means there will be a One World Government, but that the shape of a future planetary civilization will depend on a lot of factors. These trends may be historical, cultural, and/or national. In many ways, the shape of the future is still being determined and is very difficult to predict.

However, Kaku does claim that Nation-States will become less relevant and central to political power in the long run. They will likely still exists, albeit in diminished form. As economies further integrate, and scale up, more power will likely fall on larger regional and more local forms of governance. For now, suffice to say this is the “upshift” model of State decline. Collapse, on the other hand, is a “downshift” model. I do not see this as necessarily a bad thing, and my own thoughts will appear in a later parts of this series.

No Guarantees

All throughout the book, Kaku is careful to point out that there is no guarantees that we will ever reach a Type 1 Civilization. We could fail, and our civilization (and maybe well our species), could go extinct and crumble into dust.

The point is, we are facing one of the greatest transitions in our history. Our decisions, right now, as a species will determine what that future looks like. Will we trudge our way through, and see the dawn of a planetary civilization, or will we fail, and fall into some long (or catastrophic) descent into irrelevance. There are factors both for and against both scenarios, and ultimately it is here that speculation fails. We don’t know how exactly how the future will play out, and honestly, I think it will be a little bit of both. But more on that in a later part.

There are a lot of factors working against a multicultural, tolerant, and democratic society. Because the sad truth is, not every one wants that kind of world. Some people want a “simpler” life in some form of primitivism, some want the world of 1000 AD. In addition, many of the factors pointing towards a planetary civilization run into the dialectic of reactionaries.

Just for example, we can see the rise of thing like “Incel” as a reaction against growing trends towards women’s equality and feminism. We can also see Straight White Males (TM) openly reacting against LGBTQ rights, and against gender equality more generally. White Supremacy is in open revolt against diversity and multiculturalism, and we can see that in the current immigration crises. Christian Fundamentalists are reacting against a world full of “sin”. Hell, the rise of Trump combines all of these reactionaries in a disturbing and obscene way.

But those like Trump and others, are only a symptom a lot bigger than any individual. They are reactions, rebellions against the inertia of world history. More than this, they also are symptoms of toxic systems struggling to stay relevant, such as capitalism and White Supremacy. It would take a much longer to tease out all the interrelations between many of these topics, so let’s move on.

Wisdom

At the conclusion of the book, Kaku says it is wisdom that can help us navigate the coming decades, and only with wisdom can we possibly find our way to a planetary civilization. This wisdom could take a lot of forms, but I think one way is to take a longer view, and to shape new cultural narratives. In short, and in no uncertain terms, I think animism is one of many things that will help us find our way through uncertain weather.

Here, Stephan Harding lays out it so wonderfully;

Clearly, modern science and technology have brought us many benefits and are without doubt among humanity’s greatest intellectual achievements, but they have also unwittingly contributed to the massive global crisis we are now facing. In essence, science has made us clever, but it has not made us wise. If we are to have any chance of surviving the looming catastrophe that science and technology have inadvertently helped to create we will need more wisdom, not more analytically capacity, of which there is a plentiful supply…

…And so, along with a growing number of fellow scientists, philosophers and activists, I believe that we now urgently need to develop a new approach in science that integrates analysis with wisdom, fact with value and nature with culture. We think this can be done by replacing our demonstrably unwise (and until recently, unconscious) assumption that the world is an inert machine with the arguable wiser and more accurate metaphor of the world as a vast animate (and hence “sentient”) being. Thus, strange and trite as it may seem, the survival of civilization itself could in part depend on a fusion of science and animism.”

This is where we must end off for the time being, but I am not willing to let this stop here. In the next part of this project, I will run with a lot of what I raised here. I will talk more about the (speculative) future of our civilizations, and I will also talk more about the Earth as an entire planetary system, as an organism in a wide sense, and the animistic implications that emerge from that.

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_civilization

Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future. 2011

Harding, Stephan. Towards an animistic science of the Earth. Within, “The Handbook of Contemporary Animism” Edited by Graham Harvey.


Shifting Narratives, Future Worlds

We possess the power
If this should start to fall apart
To mend divides
To change the world
To reach the farthest star
If we should stay silent
If fear should win our hearts
Our light will have long diminished
Before it reaches the farthest star” VNV Nation – Farthest Star

 

Image from Here

Hello again folks!

There has been a lot on my mind recently, and I am struggling a bit in typing it all out for you. I hope you forgive me for not getting work out as often as I would like. All that aside, I would like to jump right into it today.

Recently, I have been diving deep into my summer reading list. There is a lot of good stuff on my list right now, and that gives me plenty to think and write about. Which is good news for you, as there is plenty of material for me to sort through for this blog.

At the current time, I am rereading two books. In the blue corner, I have Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku. In red corner, I have The Long Descent, by John Michael Greer. I first read Kaku’s work when I was still in community college, and it had a big impact me on the time. Well, after over ten years I feel it is time to revisit it.

At the same time, I read The Long Descent more recently in 2016, and you can find my early thoughts previously on this blog.

In order to set up a foundation for future blogs, I would like to talk about these two books in a bit of dialectic fashion. That way, I can seek a kind of dialogue between the two books, and perhaps gleam a little bit of knowledge from each one in a sythetic kind of way. It’s kind of like idea-based alchemy!

Now, as a brief introduction, these both are very different books, yet both deal with ideas about the future. Even though they both are considered to be non-fiction, there are elements of any speculative work that fall into the fictional realm. The reason for this, of course, is because the future has not yet come to pass. Whenever we speculate about the future, it is inevitable that we will be sometimes be right, and often be wrong.

Still, I think there is something to be learned by setting this two books in dialogue with one another. This is because Kaku’s work is fairly optimistic, and talks about a future where our civilization has progressed a great deal in many ways. On the other hands,. Greer’s book sets up a future where civilization is in decline because of factors such as peak oil. Following the course of past civilizations, Greer envisions a Long Descent into a post-civilization world.

I think it is fair that we set up Kaku’s work on the utopian end of the speculative scale, and Greer’s work on the dystopian end, even if it is a slow motion dystopia. Let’s examine both in more depth shall we?

John Michael Greer, The Long Descent

Greer’s work is well written and well researched, and then extrapolates that research into a grim future. His argument is based on the trajectory of some past civilizations, such as the collapse of the Western Roman Empire or the Mayan civilization.

The bulk of The Long Descent sets up a future based upon the implications of peak oil. Greer covers the facts behind the Hubbert Curve, and other aspects that sooner or later, the oil that drives our civilization is going to run out, and that process will precipitate the long slow decline of our civilization.

In addition, Greer sees no way we can get around this fact, calling peak oil a predicament to which there is no solution. Alternative energy will not save us, nor will anything also. Our best bet, is to prepare for the inevitable decline, which none of us will live to see.

It is a grim future indeed, that reads a lot like a dystopian novel.

Map the likely results of current trends onto a scale of human lifetimes and a compelling image of the future emerges. Imagine an American woman born in the 1960’s. She sees the gas lines of the 1970’s, the short term political gimmicks that papered over the crisis in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the renewed trouble in the following decades…

Her great-grandson, born in 2040, manages to avoid the smorgasbord of diseases, the pervasive violence, and the pandemic alcohol and drug use that claim a quarter of his generation before age 30. A lucky break gets him into a technical career, safe from military service in endless overseas wars, or “pacification actions” against separatist guerrillas at home. His technical knowledge consists mostly of rules of thumb for effective scavenging…

For his great-granddaughter, born in 2120, the great crises are mostly things of the past. She grows up amid a ring of villages that were once suburbs, but now they surround an abandoned core of rusting skyscrapers that are visited only by salvage crews who mine them for raw materials. Local wars sputter, the oceans are still rising, and famines and epidemics come through every decade or so, but with global population less than half of what it was in 2000 and still declining, humanity and nature are moving towards balance…

This process I’ve named The Long Descent – the declining arc of industrial civilization’s trajectory through time.” Pg 32.

This is not to say some aspects of TLD are without value, and the whole thing should be dismissed out of hand. There are a lot of great recommendations on community building, resilience, and energy efficiency that I think are important. I will expand on this in a future post, when I examine both these books individually.

Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future

This transition is perhaps the greatest transition in history, marking a sharp departure from all civilizations of the past…

Every headline that dominates the news reflects, in some way, the birth pangs of the planetary civilization” – Michio Kaku

It must be admitted that there is some truth in all the dystopian narratives that surround us. We very well could screw things up and slip into some Long Descent type future. As I’ve point out in my post on that topic, that scenario does a very good job of setting up the problems of peak oil. Still, as with most dystopia, I think it best serves as a warning rather than a prophecy. The Long Descent, is the kind of future best avoided, and if we play our cards right, I think it can be. That is where Kaku’s book comes in

In fact, Kaku’s book agrees on some of the point on the chapter concerning the future of energy. Kaku follows many of the same avenues as Greer, as he discusses the Hubbert curve, and our dependence on fossil fuels. If we have not peaked already, we will soon.

This means that in the near future, we may be entering a period of irreversible decline” – Michio Kaku.

This fact alone has huge implications for the future; from political volatility, to conflicts over oil supplies, and a high confidence in the fact that oil prices will surely rise. There are huge implications for our economy as well as the world political organizations. If we follow the trajectory of The Long Descent, the decline of oil will be a centuries long decline in our civilization.

But…. And this is a huge but.

Kaku agrees with many of the implications, but his trajectory into the future is very different. Where Greer sees a decline in civilization that takes centuries to hit rock bottom, Kaku sees a transition to a truly planetary civilization. With a rise in renewable energy in the short term, and fusion and other sources in the long term. He sees the rise in oil prices as the means that will make renewables even more viable and economical, and quickly jump in to replace our oil based infrastructure.

This will be combined with a transition towards fully electric transportation, which of course will be powered renewably, by wind, solar, and other forms of energy, In fact, we can already see this transition in process. Project Drawdown bases its projection on the year 2050, as does The Solutions Project. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include the transition to clean energy, are based on meeting the goals by 2030.

At every level of human society, we are seeing the transition take place in real time. Local, regional, national and global. Entire nations are already planning their phase out of the Oil Age, and pushing renewable energies as well as electric transportation.

Towards Synthesis

So where do we end up with these two distinct views of the future? The truth, is likely found in the interplay between the two. At the current time in our history, it is pretty hard to see the future as bright and shiny as Kaku, as we face a lot of serious challenges to our existence. Peak Oil and Climate change chief among them.

At the same time, it is hard for me to agree with the doom and gloom that permeates Greer’s book. I don’t see peak oil as the end of the world, though it may certainly drastically change our the form of our civilization. I think the Long Descent should serve as a warning, and something we can absolutely mitigate. Contrary to many of Greer’s claims, the future is not inevitable.

As such, reading between the two options of Greer and Kaku, a few ideas can be synthesized. That the future is not likely a straight shot of progress towards a gleaming utopia, nor a long descent into some kind of post-civilization dystopia. Most importantly, we are making the choices right now that are going to shape what that future looks like.

We have a lot of choices and actions that can be done today, and many of them are in fact already in process. The old world, the Oil Age, is passing away, and we can already sense the stirrings of the next world to come. Birthing is not a clean process, and sometimes it is even messy and bloody. But I think we can survive it, and not only survive, but flourish.

As such, in the coming posts I want to examine both the Long Descent and Kaku’s Future in a little more depth.

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future. 2011

John Michael Greer, The Long Descent. 2008

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/some-thoughts-on-the-long-descent/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_and_dystopian_fiction


Updates 5/17/18

Hello again folks!

I’m working on wrapping up a lot of different projects right now. So here are a few updates, as I try to get moving here again.

The Indiegogo campaign I ran for my most recent novel was a success. Even though I did not reach my full goal, I raised enough money to fund cover art and design, which is the largest expense of my books at the moment. In addition, I reached THOUSANDS of people, and that is a wider network than I could have imagined. It is really exciting to see my potential audience being that large, as it I never expected I could reach that many people.

In addition to the novel, I have also finished with a full manuscript on animism. Yes, I will have a book coming out about animism, though it may be a year or two down the road at this moment. It will encompass a lot of the ground I cover here at this blog, as well as a lot of new territory too. I am really excited about it, and hope to be able to talk more about it soon.

On top of all of that, I am hoping to return to more regular blogging on this platform. My manuscript on animism has really broken my head open, and there are a lot of threads I want to chase down. Many of these threads are outside the scope of that manuscript. In many ways, my recent manuscript is a “101 – 201” type of animism for a general audience. I have spent the last 6 years or so on this blog developing that kind of material.

I may even start to synthesize some sort of “101” level posts for this blog, in order to help clean up some of my earlier work. It is always amazing to me how much my thoughts have grown and developed since I first began this blog. With my recent work, I really think there is a lot of potential, and I have perhaps outgrown some earlier posts. We are all always learning and growing, right?

So, for some forthcoming blogs, I am hoping to dive a little deeper into what my animism really looks like. Maybe 301 – 401 level stuff, eh? My rough goal of course is to not only dig deeper, but to integrate more ideas into the greater whole. I also want to return to my blog series on the UN sustainable development goals, as well as my Walking with the Ancestors series. Those projects have lain dormant for a bit.

There is a lot of work on the horizon, so I am hoping you all will join me as I move forward this year.