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Posts Tagged ‘peak oil’

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.

JB is an OBOD Druid, and his posts usually have a more spiritual tack. But recently, he’s been talking about decline, sustainability, and what we as pagans can do for the future as well.

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.

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Where is the Ground?.

Another excellent post from Sarenth Odinsson about the future, which seems to me a nice tie in to yesterdays post about the bees.

We are coming to what seems like a turning point in the environment – whether that’s the loss of pollinators, the eventual running out of oil, the eventual burning out of the land we live on, the detriments of monocultured crops, the catastrophically changing climate, the droughts, the fresh water shortages and waste, the pollution of air and waterways, the mountains and mountains of trash… the list goes on and on.

I found this especially poignant:

How do we abandon the outdated models of life and living so that we may, once we have found it, embrace the ground on which we are to build the future?

While each person must find their own solution, here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:

  • Each of us must find a way to live in better concert with our local ecosystems.
  • Each of us must consume less, grow more, and reuse everything to its capacity.
  • What we consume must have some kind of long-term use.
  • Land, both the sustainable preservation of and growth on arable land, and the preservation of wild places must be at the top of the priority list.  No viable environment, and it will not matter what kind of future we try to make.
  • Our communities need to bring its fundamental functions back down to a local level wherever possible.
  • Our communities must support its local workers.
  • Our communities must, in every way possible, learn to live with LESS: Less Energy Stimulation Stuff.

None of this is easy, but that said, neither is waiting for Peak Oil to take full effect and you, as well as your neighbors, loved ones, friends, and so on, are left scrambling with no real plan to tackle the challenge at hand.  Far better to get through the theories and on to practical application while there is still some time left.  There is also the thought of ‘do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good’.  Do I do all of the above?  No.  I do not own the land I live on, nor do I have a lot of control as to what comes into or out of the home, but I do what I can, where I can.  Even raising awareness of Peak Oil is doing something, though the hard work, as mentioned earlier, will still need to get done sooner or later.

I talk a lot about being the Druid of This Place – that our Druidry needs to take care of the local land as much as it does the whole Earth. Do I always succeed at being a good steward of that land? Absolutely no. My garden is small (only 10ft by 12ft, on a very large lot) in a large yard, and my corporate job means I spend less time caring for it than I probably should. I won’t grow more than enough food to be tasty and occasional for a short period in May/June, not enough even to store for the rest of the year.

As a druid, this often bothers me. I feel like with the resources at my disposal, I should be doing more.

But the thing about all of this?

It’s hard.

It’s really fucking hard.

It’s hard to change how you eat, what you eat, how you purchase things, how you spend your spare time, how you live on your land – especially if you live in an apartment. It’s HARD. This isn’t “replace some lightbulbs” this is “fundamentally rethink your lifestyle”.

As much as I try to do, I still drive 35 miles each way to my job every day, I still play video games in the evenings, and I still purchase things I don’t truly “need” (though I try to buy them from small artisans when possible, they’re still not necessary purchases). I don’t cook all of my meals from locally sourced produce, and I don’t even buy organic 100% of the time.

I’m trying to get better at it, but I still fall short of a lot of what I could do to make my “footprint” smaller. I still have lots of skills to learn that would help me be more self-sufficient. Those skills take time though – time that I don’t have a lot of, not least because I spend 2.5 hours a day in traffic.

I don’t really know how to put the two together. How do I continue to live my suburban lifestyle in a way that I can sustain while sustaining the future of the Earth?

It’s a tough question.

I guess I just have to keep working at it, and letting my spirituality help influence my intellectual decisions.

 

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Today is Earth Day – a holiday I have serious mixed feelings about.

On one hand, hooray Earth Day! Let’s all be responsible to the planet! Let’s recycle! Go Druidry! Go Earth Mother! Yay!

On the other? Is this kind of popular activism actually changing anything? Somehow I don’t think so.

Earth Day really strikes me as a big fat cop out a lot of the time. Like Earth Hour (where you use no electricity for one hour on one evening in March), it’s a day where people can pretend to do things that are good for the Earth and feel good about themselves, and then go right back to doing whatever they were doing before. It’s about the warm fuzzy feelings, and not about meaningful change.

For example, today in celebration of Earth Day my office “environmental team” is handing out “Earth-colored” cupcakes and cookies. That’s how we’re celebrating. Who knows what kind of dyes are in the coloring for the cookies and cupcakes, or where they were purchased, or if they come wrapped in plastic.  It’s Earth Day! Any excuse for baked goods is a good excuse! Oh and there’s a contest for the best Earth Day poster, created by the child of an employee.

Still, the sentiment is a good one, and so I’m torn about it. It’s good to do even little things to help the Earth. But I don’t want to overstate the importance of things like Earth Day in the face of very real activism and the very real changes that need to happen to reduce our impact on the planet.

If we keep going how we’re going, we’re going to quickly run out of planet to take advantage of. We’re already pushing close to (or past) peak oil – the point after which the amount of oil we can get out of the ground can no longer continue to expand, but after which our desires for oil and electricity aren’t going to go down. It’s a scary thought, but one that is bolstered by alternative and nontraditional energy sources (of which I think there won’t be “one star savior”, but it will take a combination of energies and conservation attempts and changes in our lifestyle to make work).

In the face of things like that, or the rash of oil related disasters, or the floating trash “islands” or the constant degradation of our wetlands (like the swamp near which I live), it’s hard to be really positive about Earth Day, because I don’t feel like it provokes meaningful change. It’s a great thing to teach kids, but as adults, it loses some of it’s oomph for being just another social excuse and day of pointless social-media-activism.

Of course, I have no better ideas about how to provoke meaningful change from people who aren’t interested in changing. In fact, I think that exercise is pretty fruitless, so maybe it’s through campaigns like Earth Day that we find little handholds and footholds for bigger environmental projects.

And I’m always drawn back to the words of the great Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax:

UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.

The whole point of the Lorax is individual change, and the impact that one person can have – good or bad – on the world around them. And maybe that’s the whole point of Earth Day – maybe it’s fruitless and silly and superficial, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t personally take it as a challenge to myself as a Child of the Earth.

In short, I want my own Druidry to be a recognition of Unless. I’m going to take up the mantle of Unless, and use today as a reconfirmation of the things that I CAN do to protect the Earth and reduce my footprint, even as a cubicle-working, long-commute-driving, suburb-living Druid.

I CAN compost, and plant trees, and garden organically, and turn lights off, and use LED bulbs, and recycle as much as I can (and try to buy less plastic too). I CAN re-use produce bags and bring my own grocery sacks. I CAN combine errands so that I’m not doing unnecessary driving, and make sure my car is in good working order for my long (70 mile round trip) commute, so that I pollute as little as possible. I CAN work from home when I’m allowed, to save gas. I CAN work on hobbies and crafts that promote reusing things, repurposing things, and valuing the hard work that goes into them. I CAN donate my clothes to goodwill when they no longer fit, instead of throwing them away. I CAN work to value people, time, and experiences over things, money, and stuff. I CAN spend time with my landbase, and support organizations that take care of it and the wildlife who live here.

I can’t change how other people react (or don’t) to Earth Day or Earth Hour or whatever other pop-culture, warm-fuzzy environmentalism that gets tossed around on Facebook but doesn’t create any progress. In the face of the overwhelming mess that we’ve made of the planet, something like Earth Day can seem silly – and maybe it is.

The changes made for one day are only useful if they truly become changes made for every day. A tree planted on Earth Day, but left untended, will die of lack of water in the Texas heat.

I can’t change what Earth Day has become, and I can’t make other people change their habits or live up to the cute graphics they post on social media.

But I can take up the mantle of Unless for myself.

Will you?

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