Updated: Apr 2, 2020
The Collapse Has Begun
Deep Adaptation. Those of us who have been anticipating, talking about and planning for social and economic collapse for a while are likely less surprised than the average person about the state of the world as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the globe. Though nearly everything in the news these days seems shocking, we are spared some of the surprise others are experiencing.
As I write this, the Dow Jones has plunged 2,695.14 in just the first couple of hours of trade this morning. That dramatic drop is following several days of record stock collapse, which is continuing in spite of the US Government infusing $1.5 trillion to keep it propped up, or, as the Wall Street Journal described it, "to prevent unusual disruptions in the market."
We're able to watch with some detachment the US government's failing attempts to salvage the stock market. In preparation for the coming collapse our household moved all our money out of the stock market a while ago into more stable options; and, from that detached perspective, the shock and surprise that's greeted this decline is one of the things that surprises us. From our perspective the signs of instability and unsustainability were clear. We think people should have been able to see it coming. After all, on the face of it, the stock market is basically a pyramid scheme that could not keep going up forever. Like much of our modern civilization, it is an unsustainable system propped up by other unsustainable systems.
The stock market value can also be seen as a measure of humankind's unhealthy and unsustainable destruction of Planet Earth: The more we consume, the higher the GDP and the higher the stock market goes, but the sicker the planet gets. The simple fact that people quieting their lives and spending more time at home with their families is enough to put the market in a tailspin is all we need to know to see how dysfunctional the system is. The healthier our lifestyles become, the sicker the stock market gets.
We want to be clear to point out that while we have - so far - focused this blog on the impact Coronavirus has had on the stock market that is not because we believe the stock market to be the most important aspect of the transition we are facing. It isn't. It is, however, a symbol of importance in the social model we are going need to leave behind. It is, therefore, a relevant measure of the instability of the paradigm in which we have been living and the one that our current crisis is demanding we discard.
The Coming Days: What No One is Talking About
Like others, we are horrified and saddened at the daily events unfolding around us. Despite our preparedness, like everybody else, we are also affected by the magnitude of changes coming. However, the response to this crisis to-date has been as predictable as the crisis itself: Normal people have begun irrationally hoarding things, like toilet paper, while wealthy people have been jetting off to disaster bunkers. Some people are needlessly panicking while others remain in denial about the scope of what we are facing. Meanwhile, the greatest impact has been disproportionally borne by the poor and working class. While reactions are understandable, these responses are not constructive or helpful to transitioning to a new paradigm that works better for all people.
Sooner rather than later we need to begin strategically planning for what comes next, which has to include letting go of, dismantling and getting rid of the parts of our old systems that do not serve us. It should also involve taking stock of the things we have, know and do that keep us healthy, resilient and sustainable. And the impact of this current pandemic may pale in comparison to the magnitude of changes that climate change could soon bring to us.
Regardless of how overwhelmed people may feel about the impact Covid-19 is having on our lives, compared to other self-induced crises humans are bringing on themselves it is relatively minor. We say that not to trivialize the lives lost (current projects of up to 240,000 American deaths if we do everything "perfectly" represents a catastrophic loss of life). We say it to emphasize the scope of what is ahead if our society does not change course.
As of this morning there have been just over 4,000 deaths in the USA due to Novel Coronavirus, the organism that causes Corvid-19. And hospitals and other systems are being overwhelmed to the point where ice rinks are being converted into makeshift morgues to handle all of the bodies. At the same time, Americans are being asked to brace for death rates that are fifty times higher than they have been. In the face of that, few people have been able to let themselves ponder what this current crisis will look like if we do not do everything "perfectly" even though it is already clear that "perfectly" handling this crisis is off the table.
Some state Governors continue resisting issuing stay at home orders - the number one tool for helping slow the spread of the disease. Pastors at a few mega-churches also continue packing their pews against orders, seemingly to keep the cash flowing into their offering plates and a continued stroking to their egos. And, on top of that, there has been virtually no organized national response for basic things like testing or urgently-needed medical supplies. Furthermore, America's for-profit health care system has - in an effort to maximize profits - operated with the lowest bed-to-person ratio in the industrialized world, leaving us ill prepared for a medical crisis such as this.
In response, to-date, our government has seemed more concerned about rescuing the struggling stock market than saving peoples' lives. There has been concern expressed that people staying home to slow the pandemic is reducing consumption, which, in turn, is hurting the economy. That we are even having a public discussion about whether human lives or the Dow Jones index are more important should tell us how far into the collapse of society we already are. When people value the market more than human life we must face the reality that the bonds that should hold our society together are largely broken.
Some public officials have gone so far as to say outright that older Americans should be prepared to die in order to save our economy. The fact is that a segment of our government is openly talking like it is a death cult driven by toxic market worship. If that is not enough to convince people that our core values are misaligned, very little is likely to. Furthermore, it should not have to be said that, in the end, letting people die to prop up the economy will only end up in the economic house of cards collapsing a little later.
In spite of all of these things, the Government response to-date has largely been to try to prop up the stock market while doing very little for the average American. A $2 trillion "stimulus" packaged signed by President Trump last week is largely a windfall for the already uber-wealthy, while providing not nearly enough for poor and middle class Americans who were living paycheck to paycheck long before this crisis emerged.
Not only do wealthy corporations get the lion's share of this stimulus, President Trump has insisted he will fight any transparency or oversight into how those dollars are spent, meaning that the elite class in this country has just used this pandemic to initiate the largest transfer of cash away from the lower classes and up to the wealthiest in the nation. At a time when the extreme income inequality in our nation was already leading to social instability, our leaders are making it worse rather than better.
If the use of a pandemic to enrich the already wealthy isn't bad enough, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that it was suspending enforcement of environmental laws. (Because, you know, what a population facing a respiratory pandemic needs is to be breathing dirtier air and drinking more toxic water.)
In the coming days, and sooner than many may think, the poor in this country are going to need to increasingly rely on looting and other illegal activities just to survive. In some places, this is already happening. And, if this pandemic isn't enough to collapse the house of cards that is our socio-economic structure, there are more and bigger challenges on the horizon that are also coming sooner than many believe.
There are other human-caused disasters currently underway that are being largely ignored due to the focus on the Coronavirus pandemic. In the horn of Africa, for example, massive swarms of locusts are causing large disruptions in the food supply. Caused by human environmental degradation and climate change and exacerbated by civil unrest, war and the Coronavirus outbreak, the plague of locusts is so thick it can be see from space and is causing a threat to the food supply that is unprecedented. It is only one of the crises humanity is facing as a result of runaway climate change that, in the end, will make Corvid-19 seem minor.
As people sit in their homes self-isolating due to Coronavirus, people everywhere are asking for a "return to normal." It's understandable to want to retreat to that which is familiar and comforting. However, we are writing this in order to send two basic messages that few people have been willing to admit: 1) The past is past. We are not going to be able to get back to what used to be normal. Coronavirus itself is too big, will last too long and it will have too lasting of an impact to ever "get back to normal." 2) Getting back to normal wouldn't be a good thing, even if we could do it. Building a better future for everyone is (and has always been) the real path forward.
Signs of Hope and a Way Forward
Amidst the tragic stories surrounding Covid-19 there are glimmers of hope and inspiration. Take, for example, the fact that as people across the globe have self-isolated and reduced their needless consumption, air pollution has fallen by nearly 25%. In places like China, where it has been estimated that 760,000 people die annually because of air pollution, ironically, more people could be living because of reduced air pollution during this pandemic.
In Venice, Italy, the waters are clearing due to dramatically reduced human activity. (You can see dramatic photos here.) Reports of wildlife beginning to move back into areas with reduced human activity are being reported all around the world.
All of this has been seen in the face of countless acts of selflessness by individuals in communities everywhere.
The fact of the matter is that the simplified lives many of us are living now that stay at home orders are in effect are healthier lives than the ones they had been living. And, a growing number of people are coming to realize that we have been taught to work ourselves to death in order to purchase and consume products we don't need, all to the detriment of ourselves and the Earth. Growing numbers of people are foregoing vanity products and are instead focusing on the basic essentials. In our neighborhood, the reduced car traffic is noticeable and appreciated. At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of people who are are walking, biking and running.
More people are working from home, and are able to get out for walks and biking for needed mental health breaks from work. This is better for the employees and helps save the planet at the same time. In short: the things we are doing as a society to try to slow the spread of Coronavirus are good for us in other ways, too. We should embrace them fully. They will not only help us get through this current crisis, they will help stave off the next crisis, too.
As the Stock Market continues its volatility and eventual collapse we should not mourn. We are watching the collapse of a predatory economic system that has been slowly killing us in a host of subtle ways along with the only planet we have to live on. Lets take this time to reflect on the things that bring real meaning to our lives, our families and our communities. Changing our society for the better going forward to make it healthier, more equitable and sustainable would mean the lives tragically lost to Coronavirus are not lost for nothing.
The bottom line is this: The Earth is sending us a lesson. If we fail to learn from it, the next one will be much bigger and even more painful. This is our opportunity to create a new normal, rather than trying to return to the ways we know deep down didn't work.