It’s time for me to leave my current life and start living in a post-peak-oil world

Five years later, Guy McPherson reflects on his original article that was published in the Tucson Weekly on May 14, 2009.

Guy McPherson, facilitator

Five years ago, I made my exit: I walked away from my job and my urban living situation, pulled out all my retirement funds, built a new home off-grid, found new neighbors, and started a new life.

You may be at such a point yourself where you are ready to take that next step. Perhaps you have considered what it takes to maintain the set of living arrangements known as “industrial civilization under empire” and have decided that the cost is too high. You may be ready to make some significant changes that decrease your dependence on the industrial economy and reflect your values more fully through your lifestyle — or at least to do some serious looking into that possibility.

But where to begin? Stepping away from the industrialized living situation one has known and lived for perhaps decades is an enormous undertaking. While some are ready to get off the industrial economy bus at the next stop, as I was when I wrote the following piece, others are thrown from the bus at full speed due to climate chaos, economic upheaval, and other follow-on effects of industrial collapse. Still others clutch their seats nervously and wait, wondering what to do next.

This personal transition invites one to do nothing less than to re-imagine one’s very life. New locales, new friends, new opportunities and new challenges await those who undertake this journey. While there is no blueprint for making this journey, each of us who has taken some steps along the road of personal transition has garnered some garnets of wisdom along the way. For those of you who are called to make other arrangements, consider the program I will offer along with three others this spring and summer. Dwight, John, Parama and I aim to condense our collective wisdom down to one week in Belize in May, and two weeks in Guatemala in March and June, in order to help those making their own arrangements for living outside the industrial economy.

For me, leaving empire has meant relocating to a remote corner of New Mexico. For my co-facilitators, it has meant relocating to Central America, embedding in a different culture, speaking a new language, and meeting their core human needs in ways that they hope will one day serve many others. We have selected locations for this seminar that are living examples of the principles we will be discussing.

I invite you to consider the following article, one of the last pieces I published while still a part of the teaching apparatus at the University of Arizona. When I wrote it in 2009, I was at my own personal pivot point in the process of finding a more durable set of living arrangements. I was ready to step away from my life as I had known it. My time living sanely was just beginning.

Since then, humans have triggered about 30 positive feedback loops and established a course for our own near-term extinction that appears to be all but unavoidable. We owe it to the future generations of all species, whether our own or others, to do what we can in our own lives to terminate the industrial economy and find ways to live beyond it as rapidly as possible.

While doing so may not reverse the course of climate chaos we find ourselves on, at the very least, taking steps to live outside the industrial model while it still continues to function could make the inevitable loss of the infinite growth economy and its destructive lifestyle easier to navigate, and a more fertile ground in which to assist others, many of whom will be unavoidably thrown into a radical shift in their living arrangements.

Whether or not homo sapiens sapiens disappears forever, its industrial economy and the resulting lifestyle that takes endlessly from the future in order to simply survive certainly will. Let us do what we can in the present moment to assist each other in making those alternate arrangements: Please feel free to learn more about The Next Step Seminar here.

The Commercial Media Detox


Ready to walk away from empire at home? Claim your personal power by unplugging your TV for a week.

Over the past two years, I have lived in Central America beyond the reach of American media and its persistent commercial cranial intrusions. Where I now work, my ears are filled with the sound of flowing water, the hum of crickets, and the chatter of farm workers. The audio track to my home-to-work commute consists mainly of the lowing of cows and birdsong, punctuated by the occasional hum of a passing motorbike or the rumble of a pickup truck.

Yet, I have also begun undergoing a kind of involuntary “commercial media detox program.” Drowning out this innocuous din at random, unpredictable times, I hear loudly and insistently inside my head the American pop songs that have become the soundtrack to a million of the most mundane moments of my life — relieving myself into restaurant urinals, purchasing thumbtacks at the pharmacy, and waiting to get my teeth (or something else) examined. Interspersed among these “hits” on my mental playlist are perennial commercial jingles — mainly for processed food products and kids’ breakfast cereals. These aural orphans from the consumer culture arrive unbidden even though meditation practice has otherwise pretty much quashed the backdrop din.

Why, suddenly, decades later and entirely out of the blue, are these commercial jingles and songs blaring unbidden at full blast in my brain, now that I am living outside of the culture that created them?

For the same reason, I’d venture, that the air bubbles in a vigorously-shaken bottle of salad oil will slowly, gradually, and inevitably rise to the surface in their own time. Something forced unnaturally into a space that has no natural support for being there will eventually work its way out of that space, given the opportunity.

Just as a political empire cannot exist without the physical violence of armed invasion and occupation, so a commercial empire cannot exist without the “armed invasion” of the psychic space in the head of the consumer.

Production capacity outpaced demand for consumer products in the United States in the early 20th century, creating the need to artificially stoke demand for manufactured products and giving rise to advertising as an institution.

Yet advertising is an unnatural intrusion into our mental space, a forced injection into the area of consciousness where we make basic decisions about what we need and want. Advertising, then, is a form of psychic violence — a vector of control without which industrial humans would not be impelled to purchase things they don’t actually want or need.

When I removed myself from the omnipresent outside influences of commercial advertising by choosing to live with no television or radio and confining my very slow home Internet connection to email, I noticed that those “air bubbles” — the many crass commercials and insipid songs from the past — have, like belches from a thankfully forgotten meal, started to rise to the surface of my consciousness and “pop”, vividly reminding me of their content — complete with all the original lyrics, tones, and visuals. From out of nowhere, for example, I see in my mind’s eye the faces of those poor actors — adults and children — gleefully shoveling processed goo into their smiling mouths or parading around on screen in their underwear, as I am laying out bananas on a drying rack, riding inside a crowded microbus, or collecting firewood.

It didn’t occur to me how invasive and violent that culture of commercials is until I began to live outside of it and then start “detoxing.”

Without the psychic violence of an incessant flow of commercials and commercial anthems, the very foundation of the infinite growth economy and the culture that serves it begins to crumble. No longer being influenced to buy or being told what and how much to buy, industrialized humans would begin to actually perceive their own needs — if they so chose — and the house of cards built upon their unbridled consumption, in the forms of never-ending credit and the issuance of more and more fiat currency based upon the same dwindling resource base, would begin to collapse.

Astute readers may have realized that this house of cards is indeed already collapsing. In the midst of this collapse, there is an opportunity to claim personal power, beginning in one’s own mind.

Such a shift away from the consumer culture’s siren song and toward one’s perception of one’s own actual needs is an essential step in becoming capable of proactively helping oneself, one’s family, and one’s community to prepare for transition.

You can get a running start on a “commercial media detox” by disengaging from commercial media in one single, simple step that you can take right now: If you are a habitué of any kind of television programming, take a week off from all of it. That’s right: Turn off your TV set and keep it off for the entire week. Even the supposedly “good” programming on television steals the precious moments of your private time in which you are otherwise able to collect your thoughts and start building your platform for what you wish to accomplish.

So, loan your remote to a good friend with instructions not to return it to you for one week. Even better, take the TV set out of your daily living space entirely.

In place of the programming sanctioned by the infinite growth economy, program yourself consciously instead — by cozying up with a book, articles, or other resources that will help you fortify your brain and move forward with, or clarify, your plans. Commit to an entire week sans television programming, put it on your calendar, and then go through with it. Enlist your good friend again (the one holding your remote) to pepper you with messages of encouragement throughout the week. Or, you might solicit sympathetic readers to offer you “TV dry-out support” by posting a comment below. Then, see how you feel by the end of the week!

I got a family friend to do this “just turn it off” exercise twenty years ago. Back then, he was an avid TV-watcher. In his new-found downtime, he studied a bit about transition. Eventually, he decided to move out of his suburban apartment in the United States, invest in off-grid food production, and relocate to a farm.

A couple years ago, as he was engaged in his new plans, he thanked me for showing him how to get off the TV habit and explained how big a difference that one change has made for him.

The results of your permanent vacation from television may surprise and delight you, too.

Welcome to The Next Step Seminar

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The Next Step Seminar is a jumping-off point for people who want to take their concerns about global climate change and industrial civilization collapse to the next level with honest discussion, in-depth planning, and practical guidance on how to prepare for an uncertain future.

Dr. Guy McPherson joins Dwight Carter, Mother Parama, and John Seed Bearer in Guatemala and Belize for a hands-on, practical exploration of what it means to walk away from the industrial economy and how to design and implement a durable lifestyle with respect for the living planet and future generations.

You can read about the seminar on the About page, including the content, a brief discussion of the Core Human Needs, accommodations, and other details.

Learn more about the facilitators on the Facilitator page.

Updates on the seminar as well as posts from the facilitators can be found here on the Blog page.

We thank you for your interest in this seminar — and for caring to know what’s going on behind the thick velvet curtains of the industrial economy and its attendant infinite growth-driven consumer lifestyle.

We hope to see you in May 2014 in Belize or June 2014 in Guatemala. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. We look forward to taking the next step with you into a future worth living and passing on to future generations.