Stories of How the World Didn't End
February 21, 2012 9:12 AM   Subscribe

John Michael Greer, blogging at The Archdruid Report, has recently been rounding off his entries with stories of end-of-the-world predictions that did not come true.

The stories, drawn from his book Apocalypse Not, began with an example appended to the tail end of an essay concerning a possible speculative bubble forming around shale gas markets, and have continued to appear regularly since then.

Greer's interest in end of the world predictions appears to be rooted in a desire to counteract the kind of environmental harm that he believes can result from belief that (on the one hand) the end is nigh, or, on the other hand, belief in unlimited open-ended progress. Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and the author of a strikingly odd collection of books.
posted by Ipsifendus (8 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
And he turns square corners while acting within the bounds of all mankind.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2012

I think everyone longs for a New Jerusalem, whatever they might call it or imagine it to be. It kind of seems hardwired into us. The practical try to build an approximation by altering their lives and the lives of others through conversation, hard work, etc. The dreamers try to build it by imagining an apocalypse which will wash away all the inconvenient people who disagree, after which the New Jerusalem will just happen. The really dangerous ones are the dreamers who convince themselves and others that they are practical and thereby produce a poor rendition of the apocalypse for which they long -- all of the blood (whether theirs or others') with no shining city at the end.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:12 AM on February 21, 2012

The Archdruid report reminds me a lot of Noam Chomsky. But I love how clear his analysis is.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:27 AM on February 21, 2012

John Michael Greer is one smart cookie.
posted by jhandey at 11:03 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

To quote another awesome pagan, "the world isn't going to end because the Mayans stopped counting." So cheers to Greer for doing anything to dispel nuttery.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:39 PM on February 21, 2012

Greer is a very lucid writer, and his iconoclastic tendencies (e.g. talking about the mythos of progress) are very interesting.
Unfortunately, he is pretty convinced that peak oil will cause a massive down scaling of society over the next hundred or so years.
I wish guys that smart were convinced we could find a way to avoid the suffering that will entail. I suppose he is putting forward an alternative (cf his green wizard appropriate technology stuff) but it is unpalatable for first world consumers.
posted by bystander at 1:28 AM on February 22, 2012

Longtime Greer fan here. I think I can suggest what he might say about your convinced we could find a way to avoid the suffering that will entail.

He might say that is magical thinking. You believe there should be a way, must be a way, and therefore somebody needs to find it. Greer advocates replacing this attitude with looking at what's going on, accepting and seeking to understand, and using that understanding as a basis for action. We can't "find a way" around the fact that we've spent the past century turning a unique and ancient reserve of concentrated energy into waste and depletion any more than a population of deer can "find a way" around its species' exhaustion of its habitat in a particular region.

Nature does correct such things, but that correction is not what we would think of as compassionate on the individual level. His proposition is that we can mitigate the consequences by letting go of our fantasies now rather than struggling to prop them up for another year or 10 or whatever. We, here, refers to individuals and small groups. The larger we, industrial culture in general, isn't going to acknowledge the predicament tomorrow. He's writing for people who realize that doing so earlier is advantageous practically, morally, and spiritually.

There is no "alternative" that would be palatable for first-world consumers, because the first world and its most cherished assumptions are clearly not sustainable. Hence he guides us toward the many things we can learn from the third world, especially how to avoid wasting energy and resources.

Greer's blog ranges over some fascinating territories, including ancient and contemporary history, the bewildering psychological dimensions of our culture (and arguably of any overextended civilization), the appropriate technology movement, science fiction, and the sadly neglected but ascendant discipline of home economics. It's worth a read through his archives, in order, as he develops some great ideas over the course of many sequential posts.
posted by maniabug at 12:14 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

A very concise summary of JMG's position, maniabug. I should say that it is a wish, not a realistic hope, that there could be a way to sort the peak oil predicament. The reality of a de-scaling of the developed world promises to be pretty uncomfortable for those of us living in it.
That said, it isn't necessary to look very far to find plenty of examples of excess and hubris in western societies.
posted by bystander at 10:56 PM on February 22, 2012

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