The Great Squeeze: Surviving the Human Project

July 20, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

I recently viewed the documentary, The Great Squeeze. Below is a review of the film. To get your own copy, visit

A Green Renaissance
By Christophe Fauchere, The Great Squeeze: Surviving the Human Project
March 4th, 2009

We are at a decisive time in human history poised to fight battles on many fronts. The enemies are not extremists in a foreign country but within us. The economic downturn today is a sad, but logical addition to the shortsighted decision making that has also resulted in the degradation of our environment and mismanagement of our natural resources for the last 150 years.

The world over the past 150 years has been running on steroids AKA fossil fuels, the double-edged sword of our modern times. These cheap and abundant sources of energy have allowed the world agricultural output to explode along with the population, doubling in just 50 years to more than 6 billion and growing.

Economies have expanded dramatically, lifting the world out of the “Stone Age” while slowly crushing any kind of local sustainable economies. We have been over-sizing our infrastructures, expanding suburbia to grotesque sizes and building monuments to ourselves. Basically, our entire civilization is built around those finite and dirty fossil fuels. In the process of rising to these new heights, we’ve damaged our eco-system, altered the earth climate, accelerated species extinction and over-extracted and over-used most of our natural resources, including fossil fuels, the pillars of our industrial society. And if all of that were not enough, the laissez-faire philosophy of shortsighted elected officials and the greedy behavior of influential business leaders have plunged our entire global economy into a deep recession.

The culprits of all those crises are not strangers to us today. They are the same type of leaders that precipitated the collapse of the Anasazi society, the Mayan civilization or the Easter Island people by overshooting the economic and carrying capacity of their environment. For the past 150 years we’ve been behaving like a teenager behind the wheel of a new car too thrilled and oblivious of the danger of the curve ahead. How could we have accepted an economic model, based on infinite growth that doesn’t take into account our environment and is fueled by finite natural resources?

Despite the free falling values of 401Ks and the staggering jump in employment, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, we have the opportunity to turn around our industrial, throw away economy and move towards a green sustainable one. This is the perfect time to take bold action and unite behind the idea that the human economy is part of nature and not the other way around.

One doesn’t have to be an expert to see the obvious short-term benefits that a green economy would have on our current dire situation. However harnessing more energy from renewable sources or rebuilding and retrofitting our infrastructure alone won’t be enough to overcome those merging crises. It will alleviate the symptoms. But won’t cure the disease. The world needs to move away from a consumer/manufacture-based economy to a more civic/service-oriented economy that is less wasteful in its use of natural resources and energy.

But above all, we need to be more involved in the democratic process by staying informed and keeping business leaders and elected officials accountable. An educated public could have avoided that big mess in the first place. In the film “The Great Squeeze”, anthropologist David Stuart when referring to a past collapsed society says “One of the most surprising things about human society as opposed to human individuals is that groups make decisions that individuals would often not make on a bet. And so an entire society can make a terribly obsessive decision that we are going to pursue our interests as the Chacoan elites probably did that only further does damage.” Humanity is capable of amazing things. We found cures to diseases, landed robots on Mars, and are mapping the human genome. Why can’t we make good viable decisions for ourselves and for future generations?

The Renaissance of the 14th century is described as a time when long-held beliefs of the Dark Ages were obliterated and replace by classical ideas that had long been lost. In some ways we are at a similar place today. Our renaissance should be a social and political upheaval that reconnects humanity with nature and allows us to prosper within its rules. “I think from the breakthrough that we had” says renowned biologist E.O. Wilson “we formulated our early perceptions of the way the world works and also our ethical premises with reference to the rest of the living world. It’s only recently that we’ve learned that that was incorrect.” Author Richard Heinberg adds ”If we’re going to make a transition to a sustainable society,” when talking about the inadequacy of GDP as an indicator of human progress, “we have to get away from using these one dimensional metrics and start looking at the complexity of human life within a living environment and start valuing simple things like human happiness and satisfaction and the viability of our surroundings”

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