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I've long been worried about the apocalypse myself.  Not so much a rational worry, prompted by what I see in the papers and whatnot, but a deep-seated, gut-level sort of unease whenever I think about the future.

Although I've long been a fan of sci-fi stuff myself, and do happen to believe rather strongly that the colonization of space would be a good in and of itself, I've never really reconciled that belief with my gut-level fear of the apocalypse.  That is, I've never been able to really believe that that sort of thing could save modern society from collapse.

The big problem really is the unsustainability of the global capitalist system.  It just seems like it's headed off the cliff, and I'm really not sure if there's anything that can stop it.  Even if we'd been aggressively building space infrastructure for the past thirty years, I have trouble believing that what we could bring in would be enough.  Not that there isn't enough out there to supply our needs for a while.  There's all the energy we could ever need within easy reach, and a damn lot of raw materials not too far away.

But I also have trouble agreeing with the OP's idea that if we reduced, reused, and recycled enough, we could maintain at least some of the "good" things from modern life - like electric trains, computers, telephones, medicine, etc.  Say nobody had a car, nobody lived in single-family homes, nobody lived a long ways away from their place of work, and people somehow didn't accumulate "stuff."  Producing and maintaining a sort of bare minimum pseudo-modern society may well require too much energy and material to maintain given the resources remaining, even presuming no population growth.  Such a system would be vastly preferable to a post-apocalyptic world of biker gangs roving a blasted wasteland, I will not argue.  It wold likely be preferable to modern society.  But sustainable is another issue.

Furthermore, it's really hard to imagine a transition to such a moderate-consumption society and a more or less steady-state economy without also imagining the hard and violent crash of the current system.  People just don't like cutting back, and historically, they haven't done so without a fight.

One last thing.  It's a bit misleading to talk about Star Trek as a future of SUV's and mini-malls in space, as the whole future world of wonder and happiness of that fantasy was predicated upon a brutal apocalyptic collapse of global civilization.  From that experience, people became cooperative and non-materialistic, and from there, they went on to space.  None of the series really showed much at all of settled life on a Federation planet, let alone Earth -- probably because to do so, and stay true to the vision of the show and the supporting material written for it, would be incredibly subversive.

by Zwackus on Mon Apr 10th, 2006 at 05:38:07 AM EST

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