Beyond Industrial Civilisation

Industrial sunset at -12°C

I recently sent off for a copy of Earthlines magazine, mainly because there was an article by the artist Rima Staines, whose beautiful blog ‘The Hermitage‘ I follow. Earthlines is a beautiful magazine – “For the finest writing which explores our complex relationship with the natural world. Quarterly, full-colour, challenging, eclectic, multidisciplinary, feisty, gritty, and above all, thoroughly grounded.”

‘Manages to do beauty and practicality on one place. A rare combination and much needed.’ George Monbiot.

Anyway, that’s enough advertising for them! Going through the magazine, I came across an article ‘Beyond Industrial Civilisation’ by Guy McPherson.

Guy is a professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, so clearly has a good handle on his specialist subject area.

In a conversation with a colleague about how he was feeling, he said:

Tucson imports its water more than three hundred miles across the desert, uphill. That water, like the food and fossil fuels requisite to keep Tucson habitable for the million or so humans who live there, is stolen from nonhuman species, the few remaining indigenous humans, and future humans. If any city in the world can and should be viewed as the apex of American Empire, it’s Tucson.

How bad is it? As emblems of civilization, cities extract clean air, clean water, and all other elements necessary for human life from the surrounding countryside. In the case of the American Empire, the countryside is the planet. In exchange for the raw necessities of human life, cities export garbage and pollution while destroying every aspect of the living planet on which we depend for our existence. Most civilized people think this is a wonderful exchange, although it is unsustainable by definition because there are limits on nature’s ability to clean up our messes.

In other words, cities drain life from Earth. And yet we herald cities as centers of culture, and applaud them as a result. As pointed out by John Ralston Saul in Volwire’s Bastards, ‘Never has failure been so ardently defended as though it were success.’

The article goes on to talk about the what the effects will be of the choices we make. We can carry on with the Current System which Guy says “must be replaced if we are to persist as a species beyond a few decades.”. Perhaps a desired solution is Agrarian Anarchy – Guy mentions a few of America’s influential people who over the years have indicated an anarchistic approach is best. The worst outcome as we come out of our current system is Post-Industrial Stone Age.

I’d love to copy the whole article because it does make for interesting and challenging reading, but it’s not mine to do that with.

If you get the chance, catch Earthlines magazine or check out Guy McPherson’s website at


8 thoughts on “Beyond Industrial Civilisation

    1. I’m inclined to agree with you Mike. I wish I didn’t think that, but the current actions of most people suggest otherwise. I guess it’s a human condition that until the fire is burning at their front door, they won’t acknowledge the issues going on outside their house, because doing so turns all their values upside down.


  1. Thank you, Martin, for the free advertising 🙂 As we’re a non-profit-making exercise and create it on a working croft in the Outer Hebrides, we do very much appreciate your kind words! One of the things we specialise is in discussing authentic ways to live in the face of environmental crisis and the likelihood of collapse. Challenging stuff …


    1. I agree completely. It would be foolhardy to attempt to argue otherwise as the evidence is all around and increasing on a daily basis. Can we make inroads? I don’t think we can with our current civilisation, but I have to remain hopeful and work towards that.


  2. You’re right..remaining hopeful, even in the face of all discouragement, is the trick – and I think personal, meaningful contact with nature is crucial in retaining that hope. And good luck with your admirable blog!


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