I’m a regular reader of John Michael Greer’s blog The Archdruid Report. I’m also a regular reader of John Beckett’s Under the Ancient Oaks. I’m going to refer to them as JMG and JB because they are both named John. (If your name is John and I should be reading your blog too, leave a comment.)
JMG’s is the Archdruid of AODA, and his blog is about peak oil, sustainability, and the decline and fall of “Western Civilization” (Depending on how you define that) especially what we see of it here in the United States. It comes as no surprise that when I read his posts on Thursday mornings (or Fridays, depending), there will be discussions about civilization in decline, what you can do about it (hint: not much other than try to be prepared), and the wry amusement one can derive from other such topics.
It’s got me thinking. I work in the Oil and Gas industry, and there’s a whole lot of head-in-the-sand thinking that goes on around here. The industry is contracting, even as more oil floods the market, and the side of the business I work in (consulting) is getting squeezed on price and scope pretty hard. (My husband works in Aerospace – a similarly challenging industry in the face of peak oil.)
I also drive 35 miles each way, in traffic, to get to the office. I drive a small, efficient car that I keep in good repair, but it’s still about 10-12 gallons of gas a week. I try to telecommute when I can, but that’s hard in an office where they expect you to show up for all the meetings.
I also live in a house that’s got a lot of windows, no longer has shade trees over the roof, and is fairly poorly insulated (though I’m trying to convince my husband to re-do the insulation and help me line the blinds to help with the windows).
On the other hand, I grow some of my own food, preserve my own vegetables and jams and pickles, and own both a sewing machine and a spinning wheel. There are good solid survival skills there.
I just can’t help but wonder what this is all going to look like in 5, 15, 25 years. I’m 31 years old – if I’m lucky, I have at least another 40 years on this earth. What is that earth going to look like as I age? (I don’t have kids, and don’t intend to, but I am an auntie, and I do care a lot about what kinds of things I’m handing down to the next generation.)
The system that eventually replaces [the current one] will not be designed through a consensus process, nor will it be debated and adopted through a democratic vote. It will evolve over many years through billions of decisions made by millions of people. Those decisions will reflect their hopes, fears, dreams, and especially their values.
This is where we can make a difference for our descendants: by adopting, embodying, and promoting values that will be helpful in the world to come – and that won’t repeat the mistakes our society has made. – JB
So how does My Druidry, and Our Druidry – if I’m talking about our protogrove and study group – handle the big questions like this. Surely we can go on having high day rituals and doing park clean-up days and not really tackle any of these big questions. ADF certainly doesn’t force us to. But I WANT to tackle these questions.
What will our community look like as the world changes? What choices will people make about coming to ritual when it means driving an hour or more to get there (Houston is a REALLY FUCKING BIG city)? What choices will people make when it comes to educating their children, to participating in a wider community?
What is the role of a priest in all this?
Obviously the role of a priest is not to quit my job and live under a bridge, or try to turn my (poorly drained) back yard into a farm, or get kicked out of my house for owning chickens (which is against the community association). As much as I’d like to go “off the grid” that comes with its own risks and serious consequences.
I need to explore more on the side of things I can actually do, rather than deciding it’s all too big a change and abandoning the idea. The world is going to change whether I’m in on it or not, and choosing to opt out of preparing for it just means the crash will come all the harder.
A living example. People will figure out how to live without oil in a hostile climate – necessity is the mother of invention. But figuring out how to live well in an era where the material standard of living is in constant decline? That’s a much harder task. As people are looking around for ideas and suggestions, what can we show them? Not what we can tell them, but what we can show them by our living examples.
Let’s demonstrate reverence for Nature now. Let’s build strong, vibrant communities now – and let’s support them even when it’s not cheap and easy. Let’s honor our ancestors now.
Living a life that requires less stuff won’t preserve Western culture – nothing we can do will accomplish that. Consumer culture is inherently unsustainable and it is going to collapse. But if we’re that dissatisfied with mainstream culture – and I certainly am – let’s start building a better culture that is sustainable right here right now. -JB
*For those curious about Cat Vacuuming, a good definition is here. You could probably make a case that this post is the exact opposite of Cat Vacuuming, but it’s become a good mental shorthand for “mental meanderings” and it makes me laugh.