Deindustrialising?

Deindustrialising means doing what you can to opt out of a standard western industrial lifestyle. Maybe that means not running a car, or other high energy industrial transport. It could mean learning to grow or forage for your own food, or finding where you can buy food being grown locally. It might mean learning some basic healthcare skills, or improving your own fitness. If you suffer ill health as a result of industrial society (be that due to pollutants, social alienation or anything in between), it could be finding ways of managing and improving your health. It can even mean sitting around a camp-fire with some friends, having a jam if you’re musically inclined, or setting the world to rights.

I chose ‘deindustrialise’ as the title for this blog because I wasn’t really happy just focusing on living an eco-friendly lifestyle, or reducing my carbon footprint. Its primarily a personal journey, but I didn’t want to limit it to just being about making changes on a personal level, and it can equally be applied to your wider community, and even the whole world. I could equally have talked about transitioning, but I didn’t want to imply a relationship to the Transition movement, or focus on a single project or group. Similarly I could equally talk about building resilience (another concept I’m enthusiastic about), but that wasn’t quite encompassing enough either.

We can view this as a process and a journey, and if you’re here reading this then hopefully its one you see the value of. Perhaps you see civilisation choosing to deindustrialise in order to fend off catastrophe, or perhaps you see environmental factors forcing deindustrialisation upon us whether we choose it or not. Personally, I think it will be a bit of both, and while I lean towards the latter, I’m open minded about the possibility that humanity might surprise me.

If deindustrialisation then, is a path that we are on, whether as individuals, communities, countries or the whole world, then there isn’t necessarily a clear point we could call the destination. None of us alive today will likely see the this process complete within our lifetimes. Barring heroic changes in society’s priorities, we will probably still be pumping a little oil when I am an old man. And it won’t take much engineering knowledge to keep a little mechanisation going – maybe powered by existing renewable energy projects maintained long past their life expectancy, or through new harnessing of wind and water. As such we shouldn’t see a move to step up this process within our own lives as some sort of environmental puritanism. While any sane appraisal of our future dictates we leave every scrap of fossil carbon still untapped exactly where it is, the fact of the matter is that this is a decision that can only possibly be made collectively, and unless that happens, most of us deindustrialists are just as fossil fuel dependant as the rest of society.

The difference is a matter of awareness. By recognising and exploring our dependence on industrial society we can start to put in place the first inklings of whatever it is that needs to come after. Doing it now means blazing the trail. Think of us as the test subjects – an alpha run of a new society. The more people deindustrialise ahead of time, the more reliable data there will be for everyone else, and the easier that process will be when circumstances force everybody to start adjusting.

That makes it sound overblown, pretentious, and grandstanding, which is unfortunate. Especially considering that really there isn’t anything glamourous about personal deindustrialisation. Most of it is simple, basic nuts and bolts stuff. It means getting away from the idea that some big social or technological change will somehow come along and change society for us. Technology isn’t the solution to our problems – though there are plenty of technologies that can help, the only feasible response to our predicament is changing the way we live. Even then there are no guarantees of the future we might like, but each step we take ahead of time is a step we are prepared for, and taking on our own terms, as opposed to one that is being forced on us by the circumstances of a diminished future.

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