on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Dispatches from the collapse

Our abject lack of preparation for what is to come

Niall Benvie

Niall Benvie has been a professional photographer, writer, guide and designer for 25 years and with his wife, Charlotte, runs Food and Photography Retreats Ltd.


I’m sorry. I don’t think you’ll like what I’ve got to say. But it needs to be said. I doubt if anything in your experience - in any of our experiences - makes my conclusion plausible. And, of course, there’s always the chance it’s a false conclusion But, I’ll ask you to entertain just one thought throughout: what if? What if this is how it’s going to be? Maybe, by the end, you’ll wonder, “why wouldn’t it be?” That would be a good outcome; if would mean that you’ve put hope aside and are ready to look at what is to come squarely in the eye.

What if… industrial civilisation began to disintegrate in the course of the next century? Not in cataclysmic, Hollywood-style but rather, incrementally, in different parts of the world at different rates and with varying consequences? There is plenty of evidence that this process has already begun in countries where the value that is the absolute bedrock of civilisation, civility, is being expunged in public and private discourse. Violent words and hateful speech have a long history of morphing into barbarism and destruction. Much of this ugliness is propagated by a spectrum of righteous zealots whose dogma never seems to acknowledge our collective reliance, as a single species, on the integrity of natural systems. In this sense at least, no ideology is rooted in “the real world”; each is just a story adherents tell themselves to fulfil a particular need., material or spiritual.

Our unprecedented connectivity and the weakness of moderating firebreaks makes the transmission of shocks to and from the outer fringes possible as never before. While people have a long history of telling lies to further their cause, the extent to which these can be put, repeatedly, before credulous people, is new. For all I know, I may be a victim myself and for that reason, the claims I make here are substantially based on direct observation of how people behave, my 40 year involvement in environmental advocacy and a lifetime of working outside.

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