Thursday, June 26, 2008

7 Reasons for Hope

Since I tend to read about half of the articles over at Life After the Oil Crash every day, I can occasionally get... down. So I decided to try to focus on the positive today and think of 7 reasons for hope.

1. History
We humans survived very well without electricity and oil for thousands of years. We managed to cover the Earth and expand our population up to about 2 billion people. We had Shakespeare, Beethoven, Monet, good food, trade in numerous goods, and architecture without fossil fuels.

2. Permaculture
We can learn from other cultures and nature to implement low-impact, low-work systems for agriculture and animal husbandry. We can multiply the yields we get, organically, while decreasing our soil erosion and energy usage.

3. Solar cooking and heating, and hot water
Humans have (almost) always needed to use energy, usually from wood, to achive warmth in the winter and cooking throughout the year. However, now we have the technology and tools, and materials laying around, to create passive solar heating and solar cooking devices. This gives me hope that we won't completely deforest our country. It also gives me hope that hot showers might be here to stay.

4. Salvaging
Our global industrial economy, while being incredibly destructive and polluting, has also been incredibly productive. We have much more useful "stuff" lying around than did our ancestors. We should have enough clothing, books, dishware, garden tools, and blankets for everyone for decades to come. We have wood cookstoves and cast iron cookware that can be salvaged and pressed into use. We have wheels, bicycles, and carts for transport.

5. Hygiene
From all the hype about medical advances, you might think we need open heart surgery and Prozac to stay healthy. Not so. It's been estimated that the vast majority of benefits derived from medical advances have been from simple hygiene, sanitation, clean water, anesthetics, and immunizations. These are, or can be, fairly low-tech and fairly low-energy.

6. Equality
Is it just my impression, or have the men of the world often found some reason to oppress the women? Whether it be because of the sins of Eve, our so-called fragility or their sexual jealousy, it seems as if we have spent a large amount of history without voice or power. Now, we have achieved a measure of equality (at least in the US and Europe, and many other countries). We have education, valuable skills, and experience in asserting our opinions. While some women choose to rule the home roost, others take pride in running businesses or taking political power. Our men, I believe, see us as their equals and I believe we can keep it that way.

7. Lifeboats
You, dear readers, are the lifeboats. Anyone developing sustainability libraries, skills and techniques, who have gardens and who use low-energy technologies, are the hope for the future. You will be able to teach your neighbors and families new and lighter ways to live. You may be able to save lives or prevent trees from being cut for wood. You will be able to make a difference.


Lewru said...

And don't forget the formidable Tree of heaven!!! We will have firewood forever barring a blight!

(PS: Monet died in 1926...I'm just sayin'.)

Lewru said...

Okay, so in pondering my last comment, it seems a bit flippant. I don't mean to be. I guess I just don't share the same sense of dread that I know is out there in peak oil circles. I want to be prepared and I want to be self-reliant (to a degree) but I always want to be those things, regardless of the timing.

In the event of a massive overnight collapse, sure, things could get really, really nasty. But the likelihood of that happening is very small.

It will probably look more like a long, slow drain. The population will suffer consequences, but it will probably be at the two extreme ends of the bell curve (old and young) and the chronically ill. Yes, that is sad. But it is also a natural population control that keeps our numbers livable. And as someone with asthma, I don't say that lightly.

Yes, the economy will likely go to shit and we will all be poor and lean and brown from working in the sun. Yes, there will probably be more wars (at first) and hopefully that doesn't mean nuclear, but it might. Yes, we will most likely drill ANWR and offshore, regardless of what a terrible idea that is. Yes, that raises the incidence of increasingly rapid global warming. Yes, that is not good for people who live on the coasts or in already hot climates (or really any of us, but especially them).

Yes, we may not be able to go to Spain or Greece or watch Bill Moyers on TV or eat fine chocolate or cheese (barring homemade, of course!). We may not be able to chill our homes to 68-flipping-degrees in the summer or buy mass-produced, plastic crap from China. Yes, we may not be able to drive 90 mins to see relatives quite so casually as we used to. Yes, we may be in for some radical mind shifts...

We may not live as long and our lives will be more fragile.

BUT, they just might be more meaningful. Working in mental health, I'm tired of seeing the neuroses that seems to go hand in hand with too much time and too little meaning. There is some evidence that the incidence of mental illness has grown proportionally with increases in industrialization. This is borne out in research that shows that people who live in 3rd world countries have lower incidence and recover more quickly from severe mental illness, most likely due to being cared for in home, surrounded by loved ones. And mild anxiety, depression, or cultural ennui? No time! No time to worry or be melancholy. (And yes, I am oversimplifying it.)

What will we have? We can always swim in creeks and lakes and ponds to keep cool, tell stories, re-learn an oral history, re-learn crafts and self-reliance, and reconnect with the earth. (And rig you up a solar shower, which is remarkably low-fi, dearie.)

Don't get me wrong - I know that it can/will be a very difficult transition (although I think Cormac McCarthy overstated his case by heavy hand over heavy hand).

I guess that I don't feel too much despair or sadness about it because my loyalty is with the earth, as opposed to with humans. Is that crazy? We are part of a system that has gone haywire and now we need to return to balance.

Maybe I sound harsh - I hope not. But I take solace in knowing that our planet will be around for a few billion more years, even if we aren't.

Remember when that jellyfish crawled out of the protoplasm and proclaimed, "I am the pinnacle of evolution!"? I think about that a lot.

MeadowLark said...

I admit it... I can't make a trackback link to save my skin. But thanks for the thoughts and allowing me to share with my family.


Hausfrau said...

I think I sense someone looking forward to Peak Oil....!

I know the anxiety of which you speak. We have gotten a lot from our industrialization, mostly labor-saving, entertainment and conveniences... but we have also had a lot taken away. Like community, solidarity, sense of place and belonging. Things that people would die for, before they realized they were already lost. I think if we can get those vital things BACK, as we lose the other things, we'll be okay.

BTW, I HAVE a solar shower! Just not using it yet. ;)

Lewru said...

I love how you phrased that, yes, exactly.

Verde said...

Hygene, Hygene, Hygene in this time ahead. A friend worked in an ER in Appalachia and said a huge part of what they treated could have been prevented by better hygene- like soap and water washing of cuts or wounds.

I didn't remember that about the jellyfish and protoplasm, but I'm not that old ;-)

By and large I'm too far from way lewru said. AND I think this is a really great post.

anajz said...

Being aware is the first step toward resilience.

Lamzeydievey said...

so glad you mentioned a sustainability library! i have gradually been adding to mine (but didn't know what it was called) and was actually planning on asking you today if you had such a thing, and what your recommendations are.

Hausfrau said...

Hi lamzeydievey - here is my blog post on my Personal Book List (or it is found under June of this year). If you are interested in a particular area that is not listed, let me know because I have a great expanded list of books as well that I can email to you.