Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions? Jared Diamond’s question is the title of Chapter 14 in his book Collapse. He posits four sequential steps to explain why societies mismanage resources and fail to thrive or survive. First they fail to anticipate the problem. Then they fail to perceive it. Failure to solve the problem is followed by failure to succeed. After that? Pfffft. Buh bye society.
Your scribe doesn’t know if Diamond’s theories underpin the cross-stitch series “Tapestry of Disaster, Immolation” by Australian artists Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy, but their apocalyptic scenes crafted in a common, routine stitch (to underscore the democratic nature of the problem?) might be sufficient to scare audiences into reducing their carbon footprint if not lobby governments to change course. One can hope.
Cordeiro & Healy describe their concept as “the creation of a kind of temporal bookend. We are acting out a rough symmetry to our experience of fossil fuels.” “Temporal bookend” is the way the artists describe comparing the short time it’s taken to deplete the earth’s finite fossil fuel resources compared to the millions of years it takes to create those fuels. Their cross-stitch fossil fuel explosions are “the distillation of a moment”.
Elaborating, they explain “through the medium of cross stitch we have taken this tiny moment of time and drawn it out over months”. They stitch “about eight square centimetres a day”, adding it’s “really impossible for the casual observer to look at the finished cross-stitch works and understand how insanely long it takes to make one.”
So where are we in Diamond’s scenario? Your scribe believes western societies have fallen into the crevasse between steps 3 and 4. Instead of figuring a way to use the ice axe to climb out, we instead are in a moment of uncertainty of choice. We dither. We deny. And we carry on as usual creating a vast tapestry of disaster. DJ