Paul Chefurka was an early thinker about overshoot and has a large body of excellent work.
He’s also an inspiration for many people wondering how to live with their knowledge of reality.
This 2013 Facebook post by Chefurka provides a nice summary of his journey.
The last six months have seen the most wrenching shift for me since the day I discovered the potential for collapse lurking behind Peak Oil. Moving from a profoundly humanist perspective to a deeply impersonal thermodynamic understanding of the world and its creatures has completely upended my philosophical applecart.
I’ve been steeped for my whole life in the traditions of the Age of Enlightenment, complete with the notions of human agency, reason, free will, morality and the perfectibility of man. My political background was the 1960’s socialist, social-justice movement where concepts of fairness and equality reigned supreme. All that has now crumbled to dust.
My journey to this strange new land began with a simple question. I wanted to know why we couldn’t seem to do anything to stop climate change despite everything we know about its causes and effects.
I first looked outward – “Who is to blame?” Then I looked inward – “What is it that makes us so eager to accept activities that many of us know are dangerous and wrong-headed?”
In the search for answers I kept pulling on the various threads I found, then going over to whatever wiggled in response, finding the threads connected to that, and pulling them in turn.
When the fabric finally unraveled I found myself staring at the Second Law of Thermodynamics, with nobody to blame and precious little to be done about our predicament.
In a way I feel betrayed. Everything I’ve been told about how the world works appears to be wrong. The traditional explanations don’t truly explain what I see happening in either the outer or the inner world. Very few people realize that our precious “Story of the People” – our scientifically derived, culturally grounded, explanatory narrative of the world and our place in it – is little but a comforting, self-deluding fabrication. It’s a fantasy borne more out of wish fulfillment than out of any realistic assessment of what’s actually going on. It may be the greatest piece of confirmation bias that we have ever perpetrated on ourselves.
I feel betrayed by the scientists, the politicians, the activists, the philosophers and engineers. It’s enormously frustrating to have come to this realization about the world, in my limited capacity as a single private citizen. It feels incredibly disempowering, which is not surprising – the very concept of “power” has always been defined by those same scientists, politicians, activists etc. As that worldview falls away I even have to realign my inner definitions of power and relationship.
But while I feel a huge rupture of dislocation, I also feel a soaring sense of freedom and liberation. No longer shackled to shame, blame and guilt, I can see people and events through a less reactive, emotionally filtered eye. The world seems clearer. What people do and why they do it is suddenly obvious. What’s going on in the world has begun to make sense for the first time in my 62 years.
For me the trade-off between clarity and comfort has been worthwhile. As difficult as this journey has become, I’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness.