What Do I Do With Collapse Awareness?

The really important part of collapse awareness is also by far the hardest part.

What Do I Do With Collapse Awareness?
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If you’re reading this hoping for answers, then, I’m sorry, but you’re going to be disappointed.

I don’t have any answers.

But it’s a question that nags at me every day now.

Collapse awareness is “great”, but what do I actually do with that awareness?

I’ve actually been collapse aware on and off several times in my life.

First in my early 20’s when I lived on sort of a hippie commune on the Mexican border. We had no electricity, grew much of our own food, etc. I knew modern civilization was a dead end, and wanted to live truly sustainably (long before “sustainable” was just a greenwashing term).

But after 4 years, I got tired of being literally penniless, so I went back to college and got into fire ecology and fire behavior research.

Then I met my future ex-wife to-be and got trapped in a very high consumption urban lifestyle. After 2 years, I burned out, moved back into the mountains, started growing my own food, and lived again without electricity. Eventually, I moved to a Buddhist retreat center deep in the mountains of Southern California and became their master gardener. But I ended up getting mixed up with a crazy person and left.

Of course, then I needed a job and ended up back into the whole go-to-work-and-pay-the-bills cycle, and forgot all about collapse again.

Clearly, my answer to collapse in my younger days was to head for the hills and grow my own food.

But even that wasn’t truly sustainable. At the commune, a small Briggs & Stratton engine ran the pump for the well. It didn’t use much gas, but without that bit of gas, I would have died of thirst and all my crops would have died. And there was no way the Buddhist retreat center could have survived so far out in the back country without cars.

Regardless, I’m too old now to sell our house, move into the backwoods, and become a farmer. And there’s only so much prepping I can do where I live.

So what do I do with collapse awareness?

If you asked me what to do about climate disasters, I could give you a whole series of lectures, because I’ve been through that. And even though the Camp Fire wiped our entire town off the map, there were other towns to go to.

But collapse? None of us have lived through that. And there will be no place to go to escape it.

Do we “fight this or just roll over & play dead or smoke them if we got ’em, just live life & forget about the injustices and the greenwashing around us”?

I don’t know.

I’m not going to tell you how to deal with collapse awareness.

If you feel that you should be slow walking down the streets of London with Just Stop Oil, then that is exactly what you should be doing.

If you feel you need to hit as many places on your bucket list while you still can, I totally get it. No judgment, not from me anyway. The world is an amazing place to see.

If you feel you need to quit your job and spend your last years with your family, that makes complete sense. No one ever says on their deathbed “I wish I’d spent more time at work”.

I’m not going to tell you how to live or what’s right for you.

That’s your decision and no one has the right to tell you that you’re evil if you eat meat or drive a gas powered car, no matter how important they are or what kind of “expert” they are.

The choices we have are bounded by the systems we’re embedded in.

It’s a sign of incredible and unwarranted privilege to tell others how they should live or which choices are morally acceptable. Not everyone has the option to move to a ten acre permaculture farm. Most of us have fewer choices than we actually think.

So I won’t judge you.

The Work

In the end — for me— I think there are two parts to working on collapse awareness: the external work and the internal work.

Both can be taken to whatever extremes you want, though… well, you do you.

The External Work

The external work is physically preparing for collapse.

For me, I don’t expect to actually survive collapse, so that colors how far I’m willing to go to physically “prep”.

We’ve already got power backup, moderate stockpiles of food, several ways to cook it, etc. We’ve expanded our garden as much as we can, but have no illusions about feeding ourselves. Next, we’ll be working on non-potable water catchment and potable water storage and trying to build a local community of the collapse aware.

But beyond that? We’re only prepping for the flickering of the system, not for total collapse. No bunkers, automated machine guns, or ten years worth of protein powder for us.

The Internal Work

The really important part of collapse awareness is the internal work. It’s also by far the hardest part.

That means collapse acceptance, emotionally and psychologically.

I’m not totally there yet. I accept it intellectually, for sure. But emotionally??

I’m personally not concerned about dying. That’s a package deal with living, right? Sudden death by meteor strike? Sign me up!

No, it’s the suffering that worries me. How will it go down? Will we suffer? For how long? In what ways? Just how ugly is it going to be before we die?

Emotionally, I’m not ready for that. I don’t know how to be ready for that. I’ve never gone through it.

Climate disaster? I’m ready for that, physically and emotionally. I know what to expect. I know how to react. I’ve been through it.

Collapse is different. It will be everywhere. Unpredictable. Sudden. Imperceptibly slow. Inexplicable. Crazy. Mundane.

No one knows what will give first. Food shortages? Fascism? World war? Everything at once??

How do you prepare emotionally for that?

I’ve already experienced and seen a lot of suffering after the Camp Fire.

People’s lives wiped out for no reason.

It isn’t fun to experience and it isn’t fun to see. And it isn’t something to be glib about (talking to you, you oh-so-smug trolls on social media).

It’s sad and horrible and makes you feel sick inside. Sick like you’ve never felt.

Nobody, no matter how horrible they are, deserves what is coming.

How do you emotionally prepare for that?

Like I said, I don’t have any answers. I struggle every day with emotional acceptance.

But I do know that when “it all goes down”, all we will have left is each other.

In the end — for me — I think the real work of collapse acceptance is having compassion for each other.

We’re all going to need it.

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