A letter from Reality

Posted October 20th, 2005 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Scenarios of the future

A paper I just skimmed called my attention to “the mobilizer’s dilemma” which is, that “crisis messages may actually backfire by undermining belief in the ability to make a difference, while empowerment messages affirm efficacy but encourage free riding.” (Vasi and Macy, 2003). Which may explain this creeping feeling of numbness in response to the rapid fire of crisis messages in the media and in the blogosphere, and in reality. Sometimes it is enough to just look out of the window. It may also explain my reluctance to just pile on with links to more of it – the constant string of crises might just come to be seen as something “normal” which means we can’t do anything about it. So I try to make sure I can at least say something constructive. But I have a sword hanging over my head at the moment in the form of a chapter for a book that should have been done yesterday so, for today, I’m going to do what most other blogs seem to do and just provide a few links.


James Howard Kunstler always has a good rant about dysfunctional development patterns and peak oil which, I would like to think of as a worst case scenario that is only too believable but that, just maybe, we can do something about. Of course, we did try to do something about it after the first oil crisis in the 1970s, when there was time to plan for a smoother energy transition, but that mostly ended when Reagan came into office. But this time Kunstler also links to this very interesting essay by Dmitry Podboritz about what lessons we might learn from moths and nocturnal butterflies. Humans are suppose to be able to learn right? It ends with this “letter from Reality”:

Dear [name withheld]:


I regret to inform you that I have decided not to extend into the future the conditions under which your present living arrangements have evolved.


Please be advised that the negotiations regarding your future living arrangements are currently underway. I would like to emphasize that your participation in this negotiation process is not, strictly speaking, required.


However, I hereby inform you that your continued absence from the above negotiation process will result in that your future living arrangements will be decided for you.


Please let me know if you have any questions.


With best wishes,
Your Reality.

One of these days I’ll write something about local development conflicts and stormwater wars in a place I call “Muddy Spring.”


The cited reference:
Vasi, I.B. and Macy, M. (2003) The mobilizer’s dilemma: Crisis, empowerment, and collective action. Social Forces, 81 (3):979-998 (as cited in another paper: Pugh J. and Sarmiento, F.O. (2004) Selling the Public on Sustainable Watershed Conservation” in the Bulletin of Latin American Research, 23 (3): 303-318.

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