Preparing for the “collapse scenario”


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance Network,   Aug. 3

I think many, if not most, of us feel the imminence of "business as usual"
coming to an end. 

We want the end to come about in a way that does the least harm to life on
Earth as possible, in a way that allows what is most precious in life to

One person who has thought about preparing to live more within our
ecological means and with less of the conveniences industrialization and the
consumer culture have brought us, is Sviatoslav Zabelin, Co-chairman of the
Council of
Socio-Ecological Union, International.  A while back he issued the following
"call to action". 

It has already been widely distributed so I am editing it down drastically
but anyone who would like the entire document is free to request it.

all the best, Jan
From: Carolyn Ballard <•••@••.•••>
To: "'•••@••.•••'" <•••@••.•••>
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 19:45:05 -0400
-----Original Message-----
From:   Sing Chew [SMTP:•••@••.•••]
Sent:   Monday, April 27, 1998 12:36 PM
Subject:        Please forward!
From: Sviatoslav Zabelin
>Goldman Environmental Prize winner-93
>Co-chairman of the Council of
>Socio-Ecological Union, International
>E-mail: •••@••.•••
>P.O.Box 211 Moscow 121019 Russia
>To: The World Community
>Subject: Implications of the "Business-As-Usual" Scenario.
>         A Call to Action.
Date: April 7, 1998

Dear Friends:

     The reason for this open letter is both very simple and very complex. 
On one hand, economic and environmental indicators show that we are at a 
critical threshold within the global economic and social system . On the 
other hand, the majority of the population, from the heads of government to 
the bottom of society cannot accept the idea that the usual order will 
change crucially --and it will probably happen in the very near future.
>     I believe the foundation for this open letter is absolutely
>pragmatic and realistic, without mystical interpretation. My intent is
>not to frighten anyone but simply to transmit the facts, as I see
>them, so that we humans can make the correct, life-giving decisions.
>                                I
>     In 1972 Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Renders and
>William Behrens III prepared the report "Limits to Growth" for The
>Club of Rome's project, The Predicament of Mankind. The computer
>projections made by their World3 model showed that under the "business
>as usual" scenario the economic growth of the world economic system
>will stop and the system will collapse before 2020.
>                                  II
>     A global catastrophe, resulting from going beyond the limits to
>growth, is not a fantasy. Please study the smaller, but highly
>illustrative, crisis that happened with the Soviet Union as a limited
>economic system in the 1980's in order to understand what lies ahead
>if we do not change our ways.
>     The description of crisis mechanisms and consequences from
>"Limits to Growth" coincided with the reality of the Soviet and
>post-Soviet society (despite the fact that the World3 model was made
>for a market economy).
>     This crisis led not only to a 10-year decline of industrial
>activity, not only to the collapse of science, medicine, education,
>not only to enormous unemployment, not only to hundreds of thousands
>of victims in civil wars, but to a significant decrease of population
>also (approximately 1,000,000 per year in the total Russian
>populationof approximately 150,000,000).
>     My second recommendation is to look at the crisis of USSR not
>from the point of view as a victory of capitalism over communism but
>to look at the deeper lesson to be learned. The demise of communism
>can be seen as a limits-to-growth crisis. Come see the Russian
>province for yourselves to learn what a crisis can do to a developed
>country which launched the first man to the Cosmos.
>                               III
>     Despite massive amounts of evidence, most decision makers,
>businessmen and NGO activists, spiritual leaders and artists--together
>with the majority of the world population-- behave like we have
>centuries to solve systemic problems. And it is understandable, the
>human mind wants to avoid such painful information. Key crew members
>on the ship Titanic failed to heed the warnings given to them. The
>ship was considered "unsinkable" and speed and profits were the
>priorities. However... WE can change course. We are flexible thinking
>human beings who can act responsibly and save ourselves, our children,
>and the living beings of Mother Earth.
>                                Y
>     It is clear that the existing state machine cannot respond.
>     It is clear that pressuring this machine is simply ineffective.
>     It is clear that no one sector alone (governments, business, NGO)
>can solve the problems that we face.

>     I am a leader of one of the biggest and well-known international
>NGO networks, and I am scientist.
>     I am a citizen of the former USSR & Russia and I know how to live
>in a "limits-to-growth-crisis".
>                               YII
>     I am sure that only a coalition of courageous peoples from
>different sectors, from different countries can give humanity a chance
>not to return to the Dark Ages with its murders, wars and plagues.
>     I cannot avert, or lessen,  this crisis alone.
>     I ask you to distribute my message by any means that you have.
>     I ask you to send this message to the businessmen, policy makers,
>and leaders that you trust.
>     The positive future of Humanity and Life on Earth is in our
>     We must act together!
>     I am at your service.
>                               ***
>     The first victims of the crisis will be the population of the
>developed countries, ie North America, Western Europe, New Zealand,
>Australia, Japan, etc. They have the most to lose. They will lose
>their quality of life, their comfort and their position as leading
>     Believe me - these will be truly national catastrophes. And I
>really feel compassion for these peoples because they have no modern
>experience of growing food and living off the land. They do not have
>any recent experience in long-term storage (foods, clothing. etc )
>     Even if they did, the majority of the population in these
>countries have no private parcels of land to provide themselves with
>     On the other hand - the developed countries - because they are
>still rich, educated, powerful, etc have the chance to meet the crisis
>with appropriate means. And to succeed to soften it - because it is
>too late to entirely prevent it.
>     The Socio-Ecological Union (285 groups from 18 countries)
>formulated these means as follows:
>     - assist the development of all forms of local democratic
>self-government, mutually beneficial, self-sufficient local economies,
>and the emergence of a non-governmental citizen movement to protect
>human and environmental rights. A form of minimally centralized,
>collective, self-organization will serve as the societal means to
>overcome the crisis.
>     - enhance the access of essential life-affirming information and
>develop the spread of environmental education, using all means
>possible. This is the equivalent to creating the intellectual, moral,
>and spiritual conditions needed to overcome the crisis.
>     - technologically "retro-fit" the human race within the limits
>imposed by the Biosphere which includes processing all human waste.
>This means quickly developing the appropriate technology necessary to
>overcome the crisis.
>     - reduce industrial and agricultural impact on the environment
>and conserve as many natural areas as possible in different parts of
>the world. This means conserving the natural environment and resources
>necessary to overcome the crisis.
>     - initiate global cooperation among all people despite their
>social, political, national, or religious beliefs, or their
>involvement in state, business or public sectors--anyone able to act
>together towards reaching the above-stated goals. This means creating
>the organizational mechanisms to overcome the crisis.
>     All these objectives are equally important, and progress towards
>realizing any one of them will both help lessen the impact of the
>crisis and move us towards the development of a new civilization.
>                               ***
>     We as Human Beings, as Homo Sapiens, have a chance not to go
>backwards, but to move forward to the next level of social
>organization--what could be termed a cooperative, spiritually informed
>civilization. God and/or Evolution gave us free-will. Let us choose

Professor Alf Hornborg
>Human Ecology Division
>Lund University
>Finngatan 16
>223 62 Lund, Sweden
>Tel. 46-46-222 3113
>Fax. 46-46-222 3695

Note from Jan: 

I find this excerpt from the above "call to action" worthy of reflection:

  "Despite massive amounts of evidence, most decision makers,
>businessmen and NGO activists, spiritual leaders and artists--together
>with the majority of the world population-- behave like we have
>centuries to solve systemic problems. And it is understandable, the
>human mind wants to avoid such painful information. Key crew members
>on the ship Titanic failed to heed the warnings given to them."

Indeed. It feels somehow silly to be "building an ark" as it were, when
everyone around me is busy getting on with life as usual. (For example, I
have been thinking it would be a very good idea to get hand pumps for the
wells which everyone in this rural area where I live uses to get their
water...and encourage others to do so. But I find myself feeling silly and
alone when it comes time to act.)

Don Chisolm, of the Gaia Preservation Coalition, echos the same sentiments
in a quote he has used in his signature:

                    Don Chisholm
          416 484 6225    fax 484 0841    
          email  •••@••.•••

      The Gaia Preservation Coalition (GPC)
       personal page:

"There is an almost gravitational pull toward putting out of mind unpleasant
facts.  And our collective ability to face painful facts is no greater than
our personal one.  We tune out, we turn away, we avoid.  Finally we forget,
and forget we have forgotten.   A lacuna hides the harsh truth."   -
psychologist Daniel Goleman

And then there is this terrible and haunting story from the film "Shoah":

From: James Crombie <•••@••.•••> (by way of
•••@••.••• (James Crombie))
Cc: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••

.....   in the marathon movie "Shoah" which
collects together much of what we know about the Holocaust.  Among the
interviews of eyewitnesses, victims and participants, I was particularly
struck by the testimony of one of the members of the
"staff" of one of the camps, Treblinka I think.  This person was not a
German but a Ukrainian.  (This was not unusual.)

When the trainloads of prisoners arrived, they did not know that they had
arrived at a death camp.  And it was strictly forbidden for the guards to
tell them.  The punishment for disobeying this order was to be
thrown into the incineration ovens without being gassed first.

The guard in question remembered that in one load of prisoners he recognized
the wife of his best friend from his home village in the Ukraine.  In spite
of the risk to himself, he decided to tell her what was in store for her and
the other women and children, and that their
only hope was a mass revolt.

The woman was horrified and was soon to be observed moving from hut to hut
in the camp.  The other women absolutely refused to believe her. The cost of
believing what she was telling them was perhaps too high --
since they were there in the camp with their children.  A revolt would have
immediately and certainly cost the life of many, whereas this claim about
the camp really being a death camp was PERHAPS not true...  They were all
gassed and incinerated.

Adorno, somewhere in Minima Moralia, remarks that we cannot allow ourselves
to believe in -- or even to be aware of -- certain injustices, because if
they exist we are accomplices.

With knowledge comes responsibility.  To avoid the responsibility we try to
dodge the knowledge.

This mechanism may explain the lack of popularity of news about human rights
abuses (and the Third World in general) in North American media.


James Crombie
En réalité toute  lâche précaution pour éviter les
faux jugements est inutile , ils ne sont pas évitables.
                                -- Marcel Proust