Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Collapsing forward

Collapse Forward
by Alex Steffen at World Changing

It's reasonable to worry about collapse these days. From resource peaks to food scarcity, financial meltdowns to climate change, the news seems uniformly ominous.

We certainly could blow it badly enough to trigger irrecoverable collapse (for instance, by triggering climate tipping points), but I'm dubious that most of the collapses we fear will in fact occur, or, even if they occur, that they will last as long or be quite as catastrophic as we think.

That doesn't mean that big shake-ups aren't coming. They are. The question is, how do communities and regions prepare themselves to sail as gracefully through that turbulence as possible?

One possible answer: prepare to collapse forward (Jer prefers "collapsing upwards").

Collapsing forward means investing now in solutions that will aid the functioning of the current system of doing things, withstand its collapse and soften its impact, and provide constituent parts for a better replacement system. Our goal should always been to avoid collapses in general, but where we see them coming, our goal should be to collapse as intelligently as possible.

Industrial-age water supply and drainage systems, for instance, are already inclined to break, and climate change is going to quickly steepen that inclination. Water conservation, rainwater harvesting, graywater reuse, green infrastructure: all of these ease the burden on the present system, lessening the likelihood of catastrophic collapse, while also providing pieces of what might one day become a new, more sensible water system. Employing them could allow the water system to collapse forward when it goes, becoming a more sustainable version of itself.

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