The Bnetwork Guestbook Archives: 14-26 September 1997
Hey Rick-- You may be intrested in the current issue of WIRED magazine and the article discussing use of Hydrogen energy. If things work out according to plan we may not need oil.
Dennis Lanigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Olympia, WA USA - Friday, September 26, 1997 at 13:55:27 (PDT)
I'd like to make a small correction to my last post. It's not true the Iroquois Confederation was organized for the purpose of dominating its neighbors, at least not overtly. The founding principle of the Confederation was the Kainerekowa, the Great Law of Peace, which said that the five tribes should not have war amongst themselves. However, as far as outsiders were concerned, the Confederation was a military alliance, and a very effective one judging from the results.
Lou Conover <email@example.com>
Amherst, MA USA - Friday, September 26, 1997 at 11:06:19 (PDT)
I use the word "civilization" in its original sense, that is, the cultural characteristic of building and living in cities. Consider what this entails: Large buildings must be built out of relatively permanent materials. Public works must be organized and maintained. The flow of water must be controlled. Large numbers of workers must be gathered, supervised, fed, sheltered, etc. Food must be acquired from the surrounding country. (This is called tax collection.) All of these activities require the establishment of a hierarchical social structure, where the people at the top have some authority to compel certain behaviors on the part of those below them.
Civilized people have always divided humans into two groups: civilized and barbarian. To a certain extent this is understandable. Cities have always contained accumulations of wealth, and have therefore attracted raiders from beyond the borders of the territories they control. The depredations of these outsiders have given the word "barbarian" its connotations of violence and unlawfulness. However, the vast majority of violence and depredation has been perpetrated by civilized people, against non-civilized and civilized alike, and that continues to be true today. It has always been the case that the most barbaric people are the most civilized.
Roughly speaking, Daniel Quinn's terms "leaver" and "taker" enter the debate primarily from the point of view of economics. Who is making what use of which resources, for what purposes, from what beliefs about how human beings should live. My terms "civilized" and "non-civilized" come from a political point of view. Who controls the actions and lives of which people, for what purposes, from what beliefs about how human beings should live. We agree on the facts and reach the same conclusion: the decision on the part of our ancestors about 10,000 years ago to become civilized, to generate a surplus of food and thereby to create our way of life, was a mistake, the consequences of which are becoming apparent more and more every day.
Incidently, John, you are correct that the Native Americans were civilized. Many of the people living to the east of Mississippi were apparently in the early stages of taking up civilization when the Europeans arrived. For instance, the Iroquois were a confederation of five tribes organized in the middle of the sixteenth century for the purpose of dominating their neighbors, which they proceeded to do with a vengeance. When the Europeans showed up, the warfare escalated because of the wealth generated by the fur trade. The Iroquois were fighting the Huron, the Susquehannock, the Delaware, a loose coalition of New England tribes, and everyone else within reach in an effort to control access to the Dutch, French, and English fur traders. At one point, their empire stretched from the Connecticut River to Lake Michigan, from north of the St. Lawrence to the Cumberland Gap and the Ohio River. They could have seriously challenged European settlement, but they had become attached to the weapons and consumer goods they were acquiring from the fur trade.
The Huron were another confederation, organized about 150 years before the Iroquois. They had adopted large scale agriculture as early as 1100, relying heavily on corn, beans, and squash. They cleared land and farmed it intensively. Meat and fish were supplements to their diet. Huron villages moved every twenty years or so as the soil became exhausted. They were invariably fortified, due to more or less constant warfare, and could be as large as 1000 people.
From my reading of history, it is certainly true that the Europeans were less honorable on average in their dealings with the natives than the natives were with the Europeans, and there was a more or less conscious decision on the part of the Europeans to take the country from the natives and remove them. But the greatest single cause of the near elimination of the native people was smallpox. If it hadn't been for waves of epidemics which continued for over two hundred years, killing as much as 90% of the native population, European colonization of North America would have taken a very different course. This is because, contrary to popular opinion, the natives had well organized, cohesive social structures and systems of command and control. In essence, they were civilized.
Lou Conover <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Amherst, MA USA - Friday, September 26, 1997 at 08:35:47 (PDT)
A veritable deluge of email has alerted me to the fact that many B-folks are not aware of the current discussion on the future supply of oil -- an upcoming crisis that could likely lead to an incredibly nasty crash -- a permanent crash.
My essay on oil (as well as two other essays) is located at:
I am not an oil industry expert. I am a technical writer who has been gathering and processing information on oil for over a year. My essay just sums up what various experts have been saying.
This year, two important books on the future of oil have been published -- by genuine oil industry experts.
Dr. Walter Youngquist has just published Geodestinies. I've been in regular communication with Dr. Youngquist for a year now, and I just received the book. In my opinion, he is quite knowledgeable on the subject, and what he says is trustworthy. You can order this book from:
Dr. Colin J. Campbell has just published The Coming Oil Crisis. I have not seen this book yet, but I have read a lengthy essay of his that is available on the Web (at the Hubbert Peak site, discussed below). He has a great deal of experience in the oil business, and his statements agree with what the other oil experts are saying (i.e., those not currently employed within the oil industry). For ordering information, see:
The mothership of oil information on the Web is the Hubbert Peak site at:
At the Hubbert site, you will find links to a couple of excellent articles
by L. F. Ivanhoe, a retired oil industry geologist, and a buddy of Dr.
Youngquist. Ivanhoe is also the director of the Hubbert Center at the
Colorado School of Mines.
Understand that the folks who are predicting problems are experienced,
gray-haired oil industry experts -- not loonies from the fringe. I've been
studying this subject for a year, and my folder of information is close to
two inches thick. Those still employed by the oil industry are aware of the
problem, but are publicly denying it in a very loud manner.
Another amazing website that extensively documents current ecological nightmares is Jay Hanson's world. This site contains hundreds of separate pages, and you can spend many days exploring it at:
This oil business is shocking to many, because it has been little mentioned in the mass media. It is a real issue. It will affect 99% of those now alive -- possibly in an intense way. If you are going to be planning your life wisely, you must be aware of what these petroleum guys are saying.
Take care, Rick
Richard Reese <email@example.com>
Hancock, MI USA - Friday, September 26, 1997 at 07:48:18 (PDT)
Hey Lou, I think "civilization" begs defining here. From your past postings, I can guess that the division of labor is a big defining factor for you? I personally would not say that civilization is a mistake, but that may be because that word means something different for me. For example, I would consider the Native American tribe to be civilized way of living. Perhaps it is a question of scale?
John Stonecypher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mason City, IA USA - Friday, September 26, 1997 at 05:54:43 (PDT)
All effects are causes and all causes are effects, at least since the big bang.
It's true that the size of our population is an effect of our culture. However, by virtue of its sheer magnitude, population has become the biggest, most immediate problem. Our ancestors were able to walk away from civilization when they needed to because there was room for them to walk away to. Because we have filled the planet, we no longer have that option, at least not as a group.
The population problem is about to solve itself. As John and Jim have said, we need to concentrate on pointing the people who are here in three hundred years in the right direction, which means pointing ourselves in the right direction. That means we have to start living the knowledge that civilization is a unfortunate mistake, and start figuring out for ourselves how we ought to live instead.
Lou Conover <email@example.com>
Amherst, MA USA - Thursday, September 25, 1997 at 20:19:25 (PDT)
I'm in the process of reading B as an assignment for a cultural geography course in college. Ifind myself intreagued and am finding it hard to remember that this is a novel. who knows maybe this is less fiction and more truth than any of us realize. I shudder to think that everything I've ever believed could be false. I'm almost scared.
Jeff Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
milwaukie , or USA - Thursday, September 25, 1997 at 15:45:22 (PDT)
Jim (below) makes an excellent point regarding population: Numbers are not the only problem, nor are numbers the primary problem. We don't simply need less humans; we need humans who strive for something other than unlimited growth/consumption. Three million humans (if they have consumptive minds) can devour the earth just as much as 5 billion humans (with consumptive minds). By "consumptive mind," I mean one that only seeks MORE, and has no real concept of ENOUGH. Homo Sapiens' need is limited. Homo Sapiens' greed can get as big as it wants.
Once again: CHANGED MINDS. The human population will and must decline, but that is not necessarily what will save Life from humanity. Survivors of the crash, if they have Taker minds, will continue Taking, and simply bring us back to the cliff we find ourselves at now.
This is why I do not sit back and let population crash as nature dictates, trusting that to solve our problems. I am not trying to avoid population decline; I am trying to change the minds which make population a problem. Without changed minds, not even a catastrophic population collapse will end the reign of the Taker. He will gaze, aghast, at the decimated population of his culture, and he will set to making babies and feeding them by whatever means necessary, teaching his children to do the same. The "indomitable human spirit," you know.
John Stonecypher <email@example.com>
Mason City, IA USA - Thursday, September 25, 1997 at 14:33:05 (PDT)
Thank you Richard for your thoughtful and learned entry. EFers have my respect and admiration for doing what few environmentalists are willing to do; put their ideals into action.
I'm not sure I share your faith in the idealism of the young, however, although I do agree with the need to educate them, we need to educate everyone. It seems to me, likewise, that the antithesis of the "great forgetting" must be a great remembering. What leaver cultures knew through thousands of years of observation, and ours forgot, I believe, is an understanding of how the world works, how they fit into it, and how to live within it. If this is true, then this are what we must begin to relearn.
DQ has done an excellent job of articulating where we went wrong, what we need now to compliment his works are equally lucid and simply digestable texts to help reawaken this lost knowledge. I know there are scores of excellent books out there on all topics and angles of our enviro-social situation, from Alan Watts to Fritjof Capra, but I have yet to find any as simple and compelling as DQ.
I participated in a workshop with regional enviro's last week and discussed sustainable communuties. (there were many who recognized that the whole culture is unsustainable, but that was not the topic of discussion) There were 30 or so educated, intelectuals and one slowly converting logger. I think the poor guy needed an interpreter, although no one had any trouble understanding him.
I guess what I'm saying, is that when we are shouting our message in the streets, let's shout in a language that will be understood. And if there other are books to compliment those of DQ, please share them here, everywhere.
On another topic, there is a lot of chat here regarding "the crash". For an indepth look at possible scenarios through computer modeling read Beyond the Limits by Meadows Meadows and Randers.
Finally, regarding the subject of population, although any rational being would agree that population is a factor of environmental limits, I am uncomfortable with the emphasis often place on that aspect and often see it a smoke screen and rationalization of our consumptive taker culture. Overpopulation, as I see it, and I believe DQ emphasizes the same, is an effect, more than a cause of our dilema. Furthermore,we can't talk of "population control", without falling back into the taker trap, that is "control".
Jim Demko <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Petersburg, AK USA - Thursday, September 25, 1997 at 12:16:57 (PDT)
This past summer I read B and then, by coincidence, found a place where one can live like a Leaver. It is called the Lama Foundation in San Cristobol, NM. I would consider their way of life to be not a program,but a community vision based on the Leaver principles. Visitors are welcome all summer, a place to be if the Taker society has left you empty.
matt siegel <email@example.com>
worcester, ma USA - Wednesday, September 24, 1997 at 18:28:31 (PDT)
I'm currently going through a slow-motion process of revelation -- one that has to do with talking, stories, and the fate of the world.
In the 1840's, Karl Marx pissed on the capitalists. It took over 100 years for the capitalists to put into effect all of Marx's demanded reforms -- 100 years for ideas to move from the fringe to the center.
Last week, NPR questioned whether roadbuilding in national forests constituted corporate welfare. It took just a few years for the issue to shift from the dangerous pariah Dave Forman to All Things Considered. We have an excellent global communication system these days -- ideas move at far greater speed, over far greater distances.
Last week, the consumer-bashing Affluenza program appeared on PBS. Again, a story moved from fringe to center stage in just a few years. On this program, they showed sequences of corporate employees going to voluntary simplicity seminars put on by Dominguez, Robin, and others. The suits ate up the message! The folks in the mainstream are extremely vulnerable to change, because life in the mainstream SUCKS! The story that the mainstream is following -- improve your status via accumulation -- is completely rotten, through and through. People are losing their faith in the main story of our society.
A few years ago, the Iron Curtain collapsed. This was not accomplished because of government action, or by bloody revolution in the streets. The people in Eastern Europe were simply living in a rotten story. They had put their faith in the visions of a Communist utopia, made sacrifices decade after decade, and could never see the light at the end of the tunnel of sacrifices. They abandoned their story! They picked up on the consumerist story. If only Daniel Quinn (and others) had been published ten years earlier -- they might have picked up on the ecological story, instead.
Most suits are still clinging to the consumerist story, despite the personal misery of their meaningless and alienated lives. This is primarily for one reason -- peer pressure -- conformity is an ancient and powerful human survival tool. If we can spread the ecological story to the young, they will be most likely to take countless sharp pins to the social balloon of peer pressure -- pssssss!!!! The faster we can punch pinholes in the balloon of ecocidal conformity, the better.
The young seem to be the ideal initial target, because they are idealistic, open to new ideas, and capable of ignoring the herd and living life with a higher set of values. Once most people get past 20 or 25, their world view fossilizes, their ideas fossilize, and their lives become embedded in life-long habits and ruts. We're surrounded by adults who find it virtually impossible to alter their self-destructive living patterns -- over-eating, smoking, car driving, television watching, career building, insatiable material desires, etc.
The Achilles heel of industrial civilization is the DOUBT that is growing in the minds of the mainstreamers. When the level of doubt reaches critical mass, amazing things will begin happening with dizzying speed -- just like in Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe, doubt was spread primarily by word of mouth -- never in the papers, magazines, or on TV and radio. They didn't need the system of mass communication on their side to totally and rapidly disintegrate a powerful empire -- they didn't need to have sympathetic bureaucrats in the halls of government -- all they needed to do was to KEEP TALKING!
I sense that the primary target of our actions -- the most effective use of our time and energy -- is simply to feed the flames of doubt that are growing inside the castle walls. The flame of doubt is fed by seeing and hearing about the doubts of others. In other words, what we have to do is to act and talk and write in a purely contrary manner -- as often as possible, to the highest extent of our abilities. This was how the Viet Nam Invasion was ended.
The eleventh commandment is to "grumble onto others as you grumble to yourself." Sing the blues. Recite verses rich with the spirit of discontent. Piss vigorously on everyone within range. Don't sit alone in your hermitage, screaming at the insanity and injustice of the world -- scream in the streets! Scream on the Web! Scream to your family and friends! Rock the boat! Yell "FIRE!!" in a crowded theater -- because the crowded theater really IS on fire -- the audience really IS in mortal and immanent danger! If they don't get off of their asses, they're soon going to be toast!
From time to time I visit the website for The Story of B (www.bnetwork.com). There is a guestbook there, where readers can post their feedback and discuss issues. It's a marvelous paradise island for a pariah like myself -- a land where people stand in line to bash civilization, consumerism, overpopulation, destruction of the Earth, etc. I go there to recharge my batteries. I go there to reaffirm that the young are interested in this subject -- VERY interested.
The other day, I read several posts by Lou from Massachusetts. He was saying that a massive global crash was necessary and good -- in order to preserve the Earth. He sounded like a long-lost brother who I had been separated from at birth. I sent him an email, pointing him to the EF! site where my essays are posted. The oil essay splattered his brains! He thought that the crash was 200 years away -- not 5 or 10. Now he's going to go through the mental meltdown that I went through a year ago. He's also going to be talking to people -- spreading the discussion to others -- who will spread it to others...
Of course, the other half of this coin (feeding doubt) is to paint an alternative picture -- like Daniel Quinn, Tom Brown, and the Primitivists are doing. Provide a door to happy, meaningful, and ecologically sustainable world. Nourish your reverence for the holiness of the land, and warm other hearts -- inspire other hearts to recognize and adore the perfection of creation. I think that this is where the strongest medicine for salvation lies.
More important than fanning doubts is learning to deeply and sincerely love what is truly good, and sharing that love with others. Feeding doubt can do a great deal to reduce the current level of destruction. Feeding the love of Creation can lay the foundations for the new and improved replacement system.
This love cannot be spread while we are carrying swords and shields, while we sit in opposing camps, shouting insults at one another -- "you f*cking corporate greedheads!" -- "you f*cking commie eco-nuts!" This love can only be spread when we treat all others -- everything that walks, crawls, flies, swims, and blooms -- as family, as sacred, as brothers and sisters.
For people like you and I, who have spent nearly every moment of our lives in an insane asylum, this love will be devilishly hard to find, feed, and share -- but it is the only thing that really matters.
Take care, Rick
Richard Reese <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hancock, MI USA - Wednesday, September 24, 1997 at 09:13:33 (PDT)
From what I've seen, the folks who calculate the world could support a population two or three or four times its present size, never consider the problem of what to do with the waste products. Even now many cities and states are running out of space for trash. And the water supply! It's already seriously degraded in many locations in the U.S., and totally ruined in parts of Eastern Europe.
Tom Carey <email@example.com>
Norcross, GA USA - Wednesday, September 24, 1997 at 07:25:57 (PDT)
I am now in the process of reading _B_, and I have had a difficult time putting it down. I read Ishmael a year or so ago, and am feeling a strong resonance with both books.
I am hoping to hear Mr. Quinn speak at Carnegie Mellon this Friday...I'm sure that it will as thought provoking as his books.
Thanks for the website...I, like many others, have felt the need to share our experience of Ishmael and B.
Veronica Haberkost <Bob-RavenswoodEngrg@worldnet.att.net>
Pittsburgh, PA USA - Tuesday, September 23, 1997 at 16:47:13 (PDT)
I don't have time to write much right now, but I think that everyone that is interested in this topic would enjoy reading a book called _Our Ecological Footprint_ by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees. It is somewhat technical however, it is interesting as far as "Carrying capacity" of the planet...although it does Carrying capacity one better.
Meg Ballard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
NJ USA - Tuesday, September 23, 1997 at 07:19:50 (PDT)
Here's a quote from the online version of the cover story in the September 22 issue of Time Magazine. The article, which is by Joshua Cooper Ramo, has nothing to do with what we're up to here, but I thought many of you might relate to it.
"Being a visionary is not the same thing as being popular. Odds are, if you're a visionary, most of your years have been a struggle to get others to see what is so apparent to you. This requires arguing people out of long-held beliefs, absorbing countless verbal assaults and clinging to your judgment while friends wonder when you'll start explaining your position to your dog. Yet with every passing day, you grow more certain that you're right."
Lou Conover <email@example.com>
Amherst, MA USA - Tuesday, September 23, 1997 at 06:54:23 (PDT)
As Mr. Quinn points out, new programs are not the answer. In particular, I'm not advocating a reduction in food production. First of all, in the face of an expanding population, the pressure to increase food production will be irresistible. Secondly, the problem is going to take care of itself. Food production is going to decrease drastically no matter what anybody does, and consequently, so will the human population.
It is instructive to look at the food producing/gathering/acquiring habits of non-civilized cultures. There are as many ways for non-civilized people to feed themselves as there are non-civilizations, but almost all of them have what I believe is an essential characteristic. In all of these societies, almost everyone is personally responsible for feeding him or herself, either as a single individual, or as a member of a localized group. Everyone who is able is involved in producing food. There are no full time specialists in other professions, such as governance, war, or religion. Whenever that is the case, a society cannot become civilized. Without some external compulsion, most human beings will do enough work to meet their own needs, more or less broadly conceived, and no more. People may or may not produce a surplus, but that surplus will be for their own consumption or that of their immediate social group. They aren't happy regularly producing a commodity to be given to someone else.
But that is precisely the action on which civilization depends. Farmers produce considerably more than they consume, and feed some number of others with the surplus. One might try to make the point that the farmer is paid for his surplus, but that is mostly not the case. Medieval serfs were pure and simple forced labor, as were nineteenth century American cotton growing slaves and seventeenth century English tenant farmers. Most of the food which fed ancient Rome was grown on large plantations. Nowadays, farmers function as conduits for channeling money from urban dwellers to agri-banks. A farmer will borrow $100,000, produce a crop and sell it for $80,000, and keep $20,000. Most of the money involved in the transaction has passed from consumers, mostly in the cities, to the banks, with the farmer keeping a fraction of it to support him or herself, usually just barely. Well off farmers hire laborers to do most of the work.
In place of a program, I offer a vision of a small part of what a sane and natural culture would look like. We will all feed ourselves. No one will feed off of the labor of anyone else, especially the labor of someone who is compelled to provide it. People who are busy being successful in personally feeding themselves are unlikely to feel a need to take over the world.
Lou Conover <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Amherst, MA USA - Monday, September 22, 1997 at 20:22:07 (PDT)
NUMBER TWO!I have just opened the door to the second excerpt from My Ishmael!
As I have alerted you already...on successive Mondays (OK, it's not Monday...again, I couldn't wait!), the Ishmael/Bnetwork websites are sharing seven never-before seen writings of Daniel Quinn -- excerpts from the November 1 release date novel by DQ published by Bantam Books called, My Ishmael.
Last week, I turned this one loose: "Hello
There." I have just (9:30pm CDT) opened the door to "Your Culture". Over the next 5 weeks you will see, "Tunes & Dancers" on 29 September, "The Parable Examined" on 6 October, "Wealth Taker Style" on 13 October, "Less Is Not Always More" on 20 October, and "My God, It Isn't ME!" on 27 October.
Not to worry...this is only a fraction of the book! So, what are you waiting for?! Go read it!
Houston, TX USA - Sunday, September 21, 1997 at 19:39:39 (PDT)
I agree that lowering food production is the answer to controlling population. How do we convince 5.5 billion people that what is needed is not MORE food, but less food?
Obviously it isn't possible to convince the governments of First World countries to halt food production when the call to feed the starving is so loud. The best course of action is to start small in local communities. But I don't know where my apples come from.....New Zealand? How about rasberries from Mexico? What is the next step in containing food production?
Atlanta, ga USA - Sunday, September 21, 1997 at 11:52:33 (PDT)
Humankind is being destroyed by blind faith in bad myths. The way to expose the bad myths is to talk openly. Thank you for providing this forum -- its quality continues to improve.
I am amazed to see thoughts very close to my own being posted here by Lou Conover. While my Taker friends consider me to be a nut, it's affirming and inspiring to see that others are pursuing the same thought patterns -- no matter how heretical they are to Taker society.
Three of my essays on the future are available at:
Keep Talking! Rick
Richard Reese <email@example.com>
Hancock, MI USA - Sunday, September 21, 1997 at 10:23:55 (PDT)
It has been pointed out to me, apropos of what seem to some to be unnecessarily apocalyptic prophesies, that the Earth can support far more than the 10 or 11 billion humans who will be living on it in about a hundred years. Theoretically, that is certainly true. One analysis, based purely on minimum caloric requirements and maximum land utilization puts the figure at over 150 billion. There is a tremendous range of computed values for the human carrying capacity of the planet, from less than a billion to over a trillion, so it is difficult to know exactly what is being computed without delving into the details of echo particular number. I would suggest that any reasonable analysis should take into account not only the absolute capacity of the planet to produce food for humans, but also the ability of the planet to continue indefinitely to produce food at the stated rate, and the ability and likelihood that humans will be able to form and maintain the necessary social, economic, and technological infrastructure necessary to utilize that capacity. More than three fourths of the modern analyses of human carrying capacity that I have seen that take such factors into account put the number at or below 11 billion. Many but not all of these include a consideration of human comfort and happiness. In other words, it's not just how many people can be supported, but how many people can be supported with a life worth living.
I don't know of anyone who has tried to figure out how many people the planet can support in the absence of civilization, but since the size of the human population before civilization was more or less stable for tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of years, that size, about 4 million, is probably a reasonable assumption. If so, then we have a long way to go. Our current population is about 1500 times larger than it was in 10,000 BCE, and will be 3000 times larger in a hundred years.
The comment that "reality is drastic and dirty" is correct. The reduction in our population size is not going to be easy, except that we won't have to do anything to make it happen. It isn't going to be a pleasant experience for the majority of people. To say that there will be a lot of suffering is an understatement. It is definitely going to be a "big deal", probably the biggest deal in the history of civilization. But that doesn't change the fact that it is inevitable. When you go to the dentist you know it's going to hurt. If you fight it or put it off it will only be worse.
Lou Conover <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Amherst, MA USA - Saturday, September 20, 1997 at 19:42:47 (PDT)
Hello all B/Ishmael-resonating fellow souls! Yes, there are a lot of us, and it's great when we discover each other. I've just relocated from San Diego to Santa Fe, NM, and am getting settled in. It has also become a time for increasing contacts with fellow Bs, since logging on here a couple of months ago. Any B-ody in Santa Fe area (or anywhere else) is welcome to respond.
Richard Freeman imb2ru
Richard Freeman <email@example.com>
Santa Fe, NM USA - Saturday, September 20, 1997 at 18:08:13 (PDT)
"The Crash". Population will decline.
It all sounds so cool, so easy, no big deaL, just like "friendly fire". Reality is a lot more drastic and dirty than it seems on a computer, neighbors will shoot each other and grocery stores will have higher security standards than banks. Might be. But definitely, there first two/thirds who`ll have to go won`t be chosen by the gods but by those in power. The great forgetting had not only ecological but also political effects.
There are some things that simply can`t be done by men or women, they need to be done by the gods or whatever, like for example, one can`t deny a mother access to any means necessary to keep a kid alive, no man has the right to do that, though it clearly has a negative effect on mankind that biological selection is tricked out. This is a thing that we just can`t change, we got to leave that on the gods and the big crash.
Shalom Ishmael, Alex
Alex Neumann <Stephan.Gitz@t-online.de>
Verden, Germany - Friday, September 19, 1997 at 15:14:04 (PDT)
How about we all get together with a letter-writing campaign to Entertainment Weekly, asking them to review Quinn's upcoming "My Ishmael"??? I think it would be pretty great for Quinn and his ideas to get that kind of national exposure. To make it easy, you can copy and paste my letter:
Daniel Quinn won Ted Turner's Tomorrow Fellowship a few years back - he
was one of a few thousand people to submit a novel which proposed
positive solutions to global problems, and he won with "Ishmael." Since
then he's published a couple of other books, notably "The Story of B,"
which expands on the thoughts in "Ishmael."
Quinn is a pretty amazing writer and thinker. According to his Webmaster
(www.ishmael.org and www.bnetwork.com), he is one of Bantam's
His newest book, "My Ishmael" - apparently a totally new take on the
themes explored previously - is coming out in November. It would be
great if EW gave it some attention. If not, maybe once his subsequent
book - "Future Positive: How Ordinary People Are Going To Save the
World" - comes out, you can find some space for him.
Keep up all the good work - and include some Quinn coverage as part of
Mark S. Meritt
But sign your own name, and provide your address and daytime phone.
Mark S. Meritt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
New York, NY USA - Friday, September 19, 1997 at 15:00:12 (PDT)
The knowledge presented in Quinn's books have changed my life. I proudly speak my knew beliefs, and expose as many friends, family, peers, and teachers as I can. I am looking forward to reading Ishmael, and will become a member of Foundation for a New Worldview. In my High School life, I find it hard to continue living like a Taker, and often get depressed. Truly, becoming B has been the most important event of my life, and I have dedicated all my efforts to furthering the Leaver vision.
(This is not my e-mail address, but my friend's. Is that ok?)
Phill Innuso <HramYaeger@aol.com>
Ramona , CA USA - Friday, September 19, 1997 at 14:44:26 (PDT)
Oh wow,this is so wierd. I continually think about what I would say if I ever had the chance, but now as i sit here,I am totally drawing a blank. Anyway,I guess all that I can say is that myself and many of my friends are devoted readers. We are all currently in High School, and we even convince teachers to read Quinns books. I am looking forward to becmonig a member of The Foundation for a New World View. We all someday hope to be able to call ourselves Leavers, not Takers.
Eagerly awaiting My Ishmael.
Mike Hodges <HramYaeger@aol.com>
Ramona, CA USA - Friday, September 19, 1997 at 14:35:12 (PDT)
I am so astounded by these two books that I just can't get over it. I can't wait for the next book. I am telling everyone I meet about them. I just wish I was smart enough to figure out where to go from here. I am glad that they are teaching from these books in schools. Thank-you DQ for opening my eyes. I am going to do all I can to help turn things around. I love this world too much to allow it to be destroyed.
Jeri Paul <Paul-gm@Redstone.army.mil>
Huntsville, AL USA - Friday, September 19, 1997 at 11:42:40 (PDT)
Oh my, it's nice to have some good discussion going on here again. Here's a nearly-random off-the-top-of-my-head response to what's been said regarding population and food production. Lou, I will think about the numbers you've provided--Good stuff, my friend.
As regards teaching our children: I used to think sustainable agriculture was the answer, but I found that totalitarian agriculture is not only unsustainable in method, but it also has an unsustainable GOAL. The goal of totalitarian agriculture is unlimited growth. The job of the farmer is not to produce food for his community; his job is to produce as much food as he can, an amount which (if the farmer is doing his job correctly) continually GROWS along with the growth of the human population. And as we can see by drops in soil productivity, this ungenius system is breaking down. My goal, as a farmer, is to change both the goal and the methodology of the agriculture I do. Using sustainable methods, I aim to feed my local community (I have not yet defined "local." I wonder if the Amish have the right idea; their markets are limited to how far their horses want to go). So, an important aspect of teaching our children, I think, is that we must give them a different idea of what it is that the farmer does.
This will limit the production of John the Agriculturist (and I hope to infect other farmers with this idea), and it may provide my community (and whatever other communities do it) with a bit of a parachute to help us survive the crashing of our badly designed civilizational flying machine. Notice I didn't say "probable crashing." The crash of the system is inevitable; it is a system that does not work. What I mean by "avoiding the crash" is that we can evacuate the machine before it hits the ground. I higly doubt we can evacuate everyone, or even convince most of them that evacuation is necessary. But I prefer evacuation to sitting in my seat, gritting my teeth, hoping that I will survive to teach my children to do things differently. Evacuation means that we begin to accept limits; that we (or at least some of us) can stop stretching our limits. Evacuation is putting ourselves in the following situation: "My community is already using all the food it can sustainably produce. If I have a baby, it will starve. So, I won't have a baby." The non-evacuation response to that situation would be: "I want to have a baby, so we will have to find a way to get more food. Hey, we would have more carrots if we exterminated those damn rabbits..."
So, I say that our desired path is not to accept and embrace mass starvation, but rather to accept and embrace limits. In your terms, this would mean fertility dropping to replacement levels and below. Improbable that all or most will do it, but I cannot call it impossible, because I cannot see the universe in such straitjacket deterministic terms. If nothing else, communities that are willing to stop having more babies than they can feed locally will increase their likelihood of surviving the collapse of the "machine." And this dropping of fertility can only be a result of the acceptance of the limits of one's environment. And if I can accept these limits, have no reason to doubt that it is possible (however unlikely) that thousands/millions/even billions can do the same.
I will think more on this. This is an important and not-very-examined issue.
John Stonecypher <email@example.com>
Mason City, IA USA - Friday, September 19, 1997 at 07:27:19 (PDT)
Soon after posting my message last night I got a response which said in part "Action is the key word. Action must be taken immediately to halt population growth."
What action? Specifically, how can mass starvation be avoided? Here are a few relatively uncontroversial facts. Except for a very small dip in the fourteenth century due to the Black Plague, since the beginning of civilization, the human population has never declined. In the past twenty years, it has grown more and faster than in all of previous time combined. If we were able to reduce the fertility rate to replacement starting today, that is, an average of 2.06 births per woman, our population would grow to 7.1 billion in 2025, 8.1 billion in 2100, and finally level off at 8.4 billion in 2150. The global fertility rate has never been anywhere near as low as replacement, and even though it has been leveling off since
the mid 60's, it is still very far above replacement. At the current growth rate of 1.6 percent per year, our current population of 5.7 billion will double in about 43 years. Since the growth rate is dropping, a more reasonable expectation is that our population will reach about 11 billion about a hundred years from now. Of course, we can't provide what are considered to be the necessities of civilized life for that many people, so the growth rate may drop further, but not by enough to keep the population in 2100 significantly below 10.5 billion.
Unless we adopt a system of government that so thoroughly regulates our behavior that our society operates with much greater efficiency, including a much greater degree of mechanization in agriculture, the massive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, greatly reduced wastage and spoilage, and the redirection of almost all of the world's available fresh water to human consumption, large scale starvation in the last quarter of the next century is inevitable. Food by itself is unlikely to be the original causative limiting factor on human population growth. Lack of the water needed to grow the food and the top soil to grow it in will limit food production, which will limit population. Crop yields per acre are already declining, presumably due to soil exhaustion and erosion.
Consider what a world with 11 billion people will look like. As every politician knows and as the near constant record of revolution and rebellion shows, the simmering discontent of
the mass of people in a civilized society is always close to the surface. In the developed countries, tempers flair and governments fall when we have to wait twenty minutes for a tank of gas. When shortages become acute, civil order, a necessary constituent of civilization, will break down. Our culture absolutely relies on the maintenance of order to keep the food production system operating at a high degree of efficiency in order to feed 5.7 billion people. The more people there are, the worse will be the conditions under which they will live, the more likely they will be to take matters into their own hands, and the more difficult it will be to maintain order. Without strict order, our culture wouldn't be able to feed the current population, much less the projected 11 billion.
There is no way to avoid a precipitous decline in human population, and it wouldn't be desirable if there were. In fact, the sooner it happens, the less misery it will involve and the better off it will leave the survivors. Avoiding it means emphasizing and accelerating exactly those characteristics of our culture which are the most unnatural and destructive. The issue is not whether we can or should avoid the crash. The issue is what we can do to bequeath to our descendants a world view which will instruct and allow them to live in harmony with their fellows, human and non-human.
This is not bad news. When I said "why bother?" at the end of my previous posting, I was setting up a straw man. I don't believe this is a pessimistic assessment. I'm pointing out that we're off the hook as far as our biggest problem, limiting population, goes. It's going to limit itself no matter what we do. We shouldn't be trying to change what the world will look like in one or maybe two hundred years. We should be trying to change what it will look like in three hundred years, three thousand years. Rescue is out of the question. Recovery is what we should be looking at. Starting now, I believe our goals, as individuals and as a society, should be to transform our world view so that we 1) accept and even embrace the coming decline, and 2) finally admit that civilization as a way of life has been a horrible mistake and recover ourselves as a species living in harmony and fellowship with the rest of the planet, as one type of animal among many others. Accepting the first will make achieving the second much easier.
Lou Conover <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Amherst, MA USA - Thursday, September 18, 1997 at 21:41:31 (PDT)
Reducing food production is certainly a place to begin. One way or another, it's already in process, I think. But "relatively" painless? Russia can barely feed itself, after 70 years of mismanagement. North Korea can't even begin to feed itself. Sub-Saharan Africa seems to have famines on a regular schedule. Wars, droughts, floods, the climate and watershed changes following deforestation.... Could be Big Mama here is giving us a jump start.
Tom Carey <email@example.com>
Norcross, GA USA - Thursday, September 18, 1997 at 20:04:12 (PDT)
Hey Lou. -One of the two "avoiding the crash" guys here. Appreciated your comments, and yes, I think my meaning for "crash" is pretty much what it means for you. I would say that calling it "absolutely inevitable" is a little too constricting. Extremely PROBABLE, yes. If you read STORY O' B, as suggested by our friend below, you will find Quinn talks about an analogy in which a mouse population is approaching a crash, and he talks about how it is avoided. The trick, as far as I can tell, is simply to stop the growth of food production. Start out by holding production to what it is now. Then, slowly produce less and less. The idea is that population responds to food availability; decrease food slowly, and population will decrease just as slowly. Our present course, if no real change is made, will reach its limits soon, bringing about what we call (in common parlance) "the crash." The crash can only be avoided by stopping growth and slowly (and reasonably painlessly) reducing our numbers. It's like a cliff that we're about to run off. Right now we have just realized it is there. I choose to say that it is at least POSSIBLE to skid to a stop before we go over.
If you wonder about how to stop the growth of food production, it is a problem I am working on. Among other things, I am a farmer, so I'm in a good position to plant the seeds of a new kind of agriculture. My goal is to make sustainable, local, non-surplus-producing agriculture a viable economic option for the small family farm. More later on my website.
John Stonecypher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mason City, IA USA - Thursday, September 18, 1997 at 10:18:27 (PDT)
Hey, Lou... I totally empathize with the thoughtful dilemma you've enscribed here. Here's a couple thoughts I had in reaction and I'd be interested to hear anyone else's...
First of all, you sited some very good "signs of distress" as DQ calls them. Have you read The Story of B, yet? If you want a truly extensive list of other signs of distress that could really compound your sense of hopelessness in the matter, read it if you haven't already - particularly the part titled "The Boiling Frog"... However, compounding feelings of hopelessness in the matter was, I'd wager, far from DQ's intent when he wrote the list that there ensues (and as you may or may not know, it is exhaustingly extensive)... So why go through the trouble of writing it to begin with?
The problem is certainly daunting if approached from the perspective of, "look at this mess! We've got to find a way to control these resulting problems, change people's irresponsible approaches, and find a better way to live!" After all, it is neither possible, nor desirable to change the actions of over 6,000,000 people...
B (DQ) offers the Industrial Revolution as a recent broad, sweeping change in cultural direction for us to examine for the answer as to how we may change the current course we are on. There was no plan, no agenda... It happened with a few people getting some bright/not-so-bright ideas, developing them, some fulfilling their desired function and some not, then others building/improving on those previous concepts until the "revolution" developed a life of its own and completely changed the way our culture functions. On the cultural scale, this happened over night, bringing us to the current, brushing disaster situation.
There is no guarantee that any of the things DQ has written, suggested, conveyed here will change the world. I do think, though, that if anything will, it starts here. We take these ideas, we run with them, we develop them, we share them. We experiment with new cultural "contraptions"; some will work/some won't, but others will come along and take those concepts, improving on them, etc.
Sounds like a long process to get an urgent thing going, right? Well, for one thing, it's the only thing to go about it and actually stay in harmony with the very things we hope to foster on a global scale. Also consider this: while the technologies brought about since the Industrial Revolution have been great contributors to the current state of affairs, they also allow for at least a hundred times faster networking, community-building, concept-developing ability... Harnessed correctly, we may actually prove those "technology will save the day" pushers with GE and Westinghouse right - in a way they never could have expected - and only because this technology is currently being used by people who actually INTEND to save the day.
In summary, yes there is hope. We MUST believe there is hope, because the world will certainly not be changed by people who don't. We must start teaching our children that there is hope, because as it is right now, they are being taught that we are the scourge of the earth, and how can they have hope if they believe that to be true?
Matthew Elliott <email@example.com>
New Orleans, LA USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 21:22:38 (PDT)
About a week ago, a couple of people posted notices in which they talked about "avoiding the crash". I'm not sure what they mean by that, but it is fairly clear at this point that a drastic decline in global population is inevitable. The world's human population will almost certainly double in the next hundred years, to about ten or eleven billion, according to various demographers. The current population is already using resources faster than they can be renewed, and is therefore unsustainable. The absolute limits to human consumption, assuming a paring down of food and water intake to the minimum, that is, just above starvation, will be reached in no more than a hundred years. At that point, the population will stop growing because there won't be enough resources to keep any more people alive. Assuming that our culture won't be able to operate indefinitely at maximum efficiency with no margin for error and no mistakes, our population will eventually start to decline. Is this what is meant by "the crash". If so it is absolutely inevitable.
If the narrowly defined economic efficiency of a civilized system is sacrificed in favor of a life style more in harmony with the naturally evolved world, in which humans take their place alongside the other animals and drop the pretension of being somehow different and better, then the human carrying capacity of the planet must be accordingly reduced, necessitating a further reduction in population. The human population in 10,000 BCE, i.e. just before the beginning of civilization, was about four million, according to McEvedy and Jones, 1978. It was civilization that allowed that number to increase more than a thousand fold. If we want to get rid of civilization, we will have to reduce our population to something much closer to four million than the either the 5.7 billion we have now or the ten billion we will have in a hundred years. That decline looks a lot like a crash to me.
If anyone agrees with me, I would be interested in talking about actions that can and should be taken today. If the crash is inevitable, why bother?
Lou Conover <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Amherst, MA USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 20:43:56 (PDT)
This is fantastic!
My name is Matthew Elliott. I've just recently moved to the New Orleans area from California, where I was a part of the Alliance For Survival and various other groups.
Like many of you, my life has been changed completely by DQ and Ishmael/B since first picking up that little tan book back in 1993.
I'm looking for community and support - specifically in the New Orleans area, but on the Web it's a much smaller world - as I begin to build an Institute/Resource Center in town dedicated to the principles found in DQ's work. The physical home will revolve around an old 1920's movie-theatre I'm working on raising the money to renovate (for more info, look up "Elliott" in the Ishmael Community)...
If anyone reading this thinks they may have anything to contribute, from a word or two to a couple million dollars, please contact me...
In the meantime, my best wishes to all of you as we struggle to understand and make the necessary shifts.
Matthew Elliott <email@example.com>
New Orleans, LA USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 20:25:01 (PDT)
Green Bay, WI USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 20:05:08 (PDT)
finally. even with all the information i had, even with all the motivation i had, i still wasnt sure how to go about it. and with all the answers i had for myself, something else was missing. this has put it all together. but i still fear, will enough people be able to attain this?
scott spitz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
muncie, in USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 15:06:12 (PDT)
This site is perhaps the greatest reason for having the internet. I have discovered resources, answers, and thoughts that I had never known to have existed! The thing that overwhelms me most is that there are so many of us out there...
Zach Swanson <JSwan@genesisnet.net>
Lyons, NE USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 12:09:18 (PDT)
I am a student of anthropology at oakland university in rochester MI, and it is all thanks to ishmael.
Patrick Michalak <email@example.com>
Bloomfield Hills, MI USA - Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at 09:13:39 (PDT)
Dave Spaar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Oakton, VA USA - Monday, September 15, 1997 at 10:12:58 (PDT)
The great Lie was known about before Ishmael and B, but it wasn't articulated in the same manner. For those of you desiring to expand your knowledge on the subject of society, culture, etc, I recommend reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This b
ook is a socio-philosophical mainstay and for good reason. It provide some interesting insight as to where we are now, where we might be going and perhaps even how to change everything.
John-Adam Bonk <email@example.com>
Stevens Point, WI USA - Sunday, September 14, 1997 at 18:17:22 (PDT)
I have just opened the door to the first excerpt from My Ishmael!
As I have alterted you already...on successive Mondays starting TODAY (OK, it's not Monday...I couldn't wait!), the Ishmael/Bnetwork websites will be sharing seven never-before seen writings of Daniel Quinn -- excerpts from the Noverbmer 1 release date no
vel by DQ published by Bantam Books called, My Ishmael.
Here are the excerpts (subject to change) and the order they will be added to the
1."Hello There", -- made public 5:15pm (CDT) 14 September 1997 -- NOW!
2."Your Culture" -- about 1200 words to be made public after 6pm (CDT) 22
3."Tunes & Dancers" -- about 2500 words to be made public after 6pm (CDT) 29
4."The Parable Examined" -- about 1400 words to be made public after 6pm (CDT)
6 October 1997
5."Wealth Taker Style" -- about 2800 words to be made public after 6pm (CDT) 13
6."Less Is Not Always More" -- about 2400 words to be made public after 6pm
(CDT) 20 October 1997
7."My God, It Isn't ME!" -- about 2400 words to be made public after 6pm (CST) 27
Some of the titles may look familiar from the website, but these excerpts (indeed, the
entire book My Ishmael) are filled with totally new issues, and entirely new approaches
to old problems.
Keep coming back to the Bnetwork and Ishmael websites! There's always something going on here!
Alan (The Webmaster)
p.s. Have you seen the NEW section lately? How about the WHAT'S NEWS section?!
Webmaster at Bnetwork <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Houston, TX USA - Sunday, September 14, 1997 at 15:33:29 (PDT)
This may help the "What you can do". Watch Affluenza, a PBS special airing at 9:00 pm, September 15 in most cities. It talks about the excesses of our consumer culture in an intelligent way. I highly recommend it.
Seattle, WA USA - Sunday, September 14, 1997 at 09:44:24 (PDT)
This is a great site! I must say that Mr. Quinn
has definately made me think about things that never occured
to me before. I am also glad to see that his message is reaching
more educated people than just myself.
Ryan Anderson <Do not have one, on friend's computer.>
Las Vegas, NV USA - Sunday, September 14, 1997 at 09:37:24 (PDT)
We are all at war with the culture destroying our species and hundreds of others. In order to change we must facilitate new knowledge given to those growing up in our culture.
We need to mobilize now and we need a plan. Talking is a method in which we exchange information and perhaps modify it, but talking is talking and not doing.
Begin with your own habits. You as a consumer fuel the fire consuming the world. Consume less, educate more and e-mail me! I would love to talk about action plans and ideas.. DeepGravity JAB email@example.com
John-Adam Bonk <firstname.lastname@example.org >
Stevens Point, WI USA - Sunday, September 14, 1997 at 01:08:21 (PDT)