by John Stassek
A BRIEF EXPLANATION
Six years ago I stopped at a Barnes and Noble bookstore to do a little browsing and kill some time. That was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. I picked up a copy of The Long Emergency. Up until that time I’d never heard of peak oil. James Howard Kunstler set the stage for what was to become a long, lonely and depressing weekend. I bought the book, went home and discovered the LATOC website (lifeaftertheoilcrash.net). My life divided itself into two parts that weekend: Before I Knew, and After I Found Out. I spent the next few years in a serious state of depression, wishing I could go back to the Before I Knew days. Two years ago I found Nature Bats Last. Guy’s “The End of Civilization and the Extinction of Humanity” was the first essay I read. I followed that little beauty with John Rember’s “A Few Rocks from the Box: A Meditation.” My world view shook with the revelation peak oil may be our only hope to save us from anthropogenic global warming.
What follows is common knowledge for most of you. It’s intended for those readers who have just started this mental roller coaster. Six years ago I wish I’d had someone to talk to, or at least reassurance that I was not alone in my deep despair. Many of the essays and comments on this website focus on what we should be doing to prepare for whatever is coming. I’ve tried to condense some of that. It’s not meant to be all encompassing, but I hope it may prove to be helpful as a starting point. Perhaps you’d like to share how you became aware, how you discovered this website, and advice you’d like to pass along to those just beginning this odyssey. I truly believe we are facing a long and difficult journey. Many paths beckon. The only path that makes sense to me is the one we travel together.
SO NOW WHAT DO YOU DO?
Okay. You’ve become aware that you live on a finite planet. You’ve tried to find a logical way out of peak oil, global warming, overpopulation and an economic system that requires infinite growth. But no luck. That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach means you’re beginning to understand the implications of the difficult journey you face. So now what do you do?
First: Remember you’re not alone. And what you are feeling is normal. Others have already started on this journey and will welcome you. Nature Bats Last is a good place to meet them. In the Archives Section you’ll find over 300 essays with attendant comments that have been written over the past six years. These essays and comments will serve you well, and you’ll come to regard the writers as a part of your family, only more so because, unlike most of the members of your own family, these people actually understand and have gone through what you are only beginning to experience. And there are countless website links and references sprinkled throughout that will add to and enrich your education.
Second: Think of this period in your life as the calm before the storm. You have the opportunity to do some things now that may help you and your family in the future, things that may not be possible later on. But there are a number of paths available. Which path makes the most sense? Only you can decide. Here are a few examples:
Business as usual has two paths:
Denial: Simply disbelieve, ignore or pretend you never heard about this. An easy path, but dangerous because you’re wasting the opportunity to make changes in your life now that may help you down the road, and you will likely regret that someday. And it will nag at you.
Acceptance/Resignation: You believe there is nothing you can do. Unfold the lawn chair, pop the popcorn, open a beer and enjoy the show. Live your life as you have been, for as long as you can, and don’t worry, be happy. This route is similar to denial: easy but dangerous.
Taking action has many paths:
Survivalist/Bunker Down: Move to a defensible position, keep a low profile and prep like crazy. Hope the chaos that comes from a breakdown in civil society does not touch you. Problem is, it’s hard to keep a secret, and every defense can be overcome, especially one with only a few defenders. Twenty-foot-thick castle walls built atop mountains or behind moats have been breached. Read your history.
Hit the Road/Become a Nomad: If you are a free spirit and like adventure, this may be for you. Discard all possessions you do not need, and start walking. This approach is flexible, with more options than staying in one place. But you will always travel with your back exposed. And you will find that some may welcome you but others may not.
Agrarian anarchy: Small, rural communities centered and focused around simple and unmechanized farming. “Anarchy assumes the absence of direct or coercive government as a political ideal, while proposing cooperative and voluntary association between individuals and groups as the principal mode for organizing society. This close-to-nature, close-to-our-neighbors approach was the Jeffersonian ideal for the United States, as evidenced by Monticello and the occasional one-liner from Thomas Jefferson. It was also the model promoted by Henry David Thoreau and, more recently, radical thinkers such as Wendell Berry (farmer, writer), Noam Chomsky (linguist, philosopher), Howard Zinn (recently deceased historian), and Tucson-based iconoclastic author Edward Abbey.” (Quoted from Guy McPherson’s “Toward an economy of earth” here.)
Transition Towns: Try to raise awareness and organize your community to help it become more resilient. Create a power down plan that will allow your town to thrive or at least cope with increasing energy costs, disruptions in social order, and climate chaos. Given the scale of what we face, this approach most likely won’t change the outcome but is doable and will give you some satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. This approach is, in some ways, an organized variation of agrarian anarchy. And you can combine either with Acceptance/Resignation. Do what you can but understand it won’t make much difference so you may as well enjoy the show.
Primitivism: Discard all personal possessions you do not need. Learn the skills of our ancestors from long ago. “The first two million years of the human experience, and the first few hundred thousand years for our own species, was spent with relatively small communities living close to the land that supported them. These humans knew each other and they knew the plants and animals with which they shared the area. They had minimal impact on the lands and waters that supported them. These humans spent a few hours each week doing what we call “work,” making sure the members of the community were well-hydrated, well-fed, and warm. This was a durable set of living arrangements, as characterized by its longevity and minimal impact on Earth.” (also from Guy McPherson’s essay “Towards an economy of earth”, NBL, Feb 2, 2012)
Fight to Change the World: If you believe our present industrial society is doing great harm to us, our children and our world, and if you believe it is possible to change it, then work to change it. It has happened before. Mahatma Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony and Dr. Martin Luther King are good examples. Public organization, politics and social activism. Civil disobedience. Environmental terrorism/freedom fighter. Read Endgame by Derrick Jensen, Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey by Guy McPherson and The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. This will take great courage, fortitude and conviction, and may result in your imprisonment or worse. But some believe it may be the only path that leads to preserving this world and preventing our extinction.
And finally, Third: Try to make this as uplifting and satisfying an experience as you possibly can. Enjoy nature in all she has to offer. Enjoy each other’s company and all the other good things in your life. Take pleasure in your accomplishments. And remember: No one knows for sure how this will all play out, but no matter what happens you can’t go too far wrong in following the words of John Wesley, English religious leader (1703-1791): “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.
The trick will be in trying to figure out by what path can you do the most good