Imperial collapse: things I’ll miss, things I won’t, and a few things I’ll enjoy

As I prepare for my post-carbon future, I’ve been thinking about the benefits of empire. My entire life — all 47 years, so far — has been marked by economic growth and rapidly increasing national prosperity. My folks were the first in their families to attend college, and I spent my childhood in a small, redneck town filled with hard-working manual laborers — it was a logging town, complete with a lumber mill and filled with white, lower middle class folks. The only real dangers were barroom fights and bad driving. I was too young to drink in public, and very lucky to avoid dying in a car crash.

It’s been quite a ride, but the party’s about over. We rush headlong off the world oil-supply cliff next year, and the subsequent series of recessions and runaway inflation will spell the end of the Empire. Not to mention safety, security, and civilization.
I’m going to miss green corn tamales. They are so very sweet, and so very difficult to make from scratch. I’ll miss visiting family and friends, too. And traveling the country, and the world, with great convenience. I’ll miss health care. And eyeglasses, since I’m nearly blind without them. It’ll be a little embarrassing, and hugely undignified and quite possibly damned painful, to die from something as easily treated as a burst appendix or an infected scratch.
But I won’t miss people cutting me off in traffic. Or flipping me off, for that matter. According to a report I read a couple weeks ago, 58% of men have flipped somebody off in traffic, which makes me wonder: “Do 42% of men lack middle fingers?”
In fact, my mantra is inspired by traffic: That problem’s gonna take care of itself. Soon enough the traffic jam will be a thing of the past. I’ll miss some of the bumper stickers, but not the cars they’re on, or the drivers.
I won’t miss neoconservatism, either. And since it’s the only rendition of politics currently on display in this country, that’s a great reason to be happy about the fall of Empire.
And then there are the few things I’ll actually enjoy. The collapse of civilization is the last chance for myriad species and cultures. If I live to tell about it, I’ll enjoy seeing it all come down. We’ve obliterated so much, and it’s obvious we’ll not stop until we’re forced. Looks like that day’s coming, and soon.
Similarly, I’ll enjoy seeing self-indulgent people loaded with dollars but little sense as they wonder “WTF?” I only wish I had a few of their bucks to get ready for my off-the-grid mud hut.
It’s not much of a list. Apparently I’m simple-minded or simply not particularly creative. Probably both. Got something to add?

Comments 13

  • What I’m really gonna miss, most of all, is the hot shower in the morning. Cold showers don’t agree with my Constitution, or any-one’s, I presume. If I’d propose an Amendment to guarantee a hot shower for everyone from 47 and up, do I have your vote?

  • I will miss silence – at least how we define noise-free in our created world. It will be a while before the only sound is the music of rustling cottonwood leaves. I have a sense of what will soon saturate the surrounding air and I always close my eyes and lower my head when I think about this.
    I won’t miss cars. They have taken us places and away from each other. They make the air thick with stink.
    I access my mind’s eye and my memory bank for comfort (in addition to inhabiting my life and body moment by moment, perhaps the ultimate compensation for facing one’s mortality head on), and I am grateful elderly family members won’t live through what is peeking (and peaking) around the corner. I sortakinda already miss carefree laughter.
    I have been missing the planet and the trees for a long time (along with swims in the clean, clear waters of an inviting lake), and have grieved the earthly scars most of my life. I grieve the children and for them.
    Do you think a world of women at the helm would have made a difference? Will? Somewhere down the road? Understandably so, our anger is turned inward in culture fueled self-hatred. I am thinking this is about to change, and with the slightest window of opportune opportunity….
    So, Ladies Without Gents, when?
    When all is said and done, as the thunder like no other thunder rumbles throughout the land, I will miss a tall glass of cool water and a bowl of warm oatmeal sprinkled with plump raisins and crunchy walnuts. And don’t forget a slight dusting of caramel-colored raw sugar.
    Vic Borge
    Tucson, AZ
    P.S. # 1 Ah, yes, clean, fresh unmentionables…
    P.S. # 99 That first social security (blank)et check. Damn.

  • Making green corn tamales is indeed a lot of work, but if you have the ingredients (questionable in the future), they can be made in a much easier form. I’ve developed a vegan low-fat pan version of tamales. I went whole-hog for my hubby’s birthday this year and even made a green olive-faux pork filling.
    In the big picture though, expending the time and resources on this single meal is probably not an option unless for really rare special occasions like birthdays. Oh, that’s one thing I’ll miss: desserts. We’re already discussing how to produce our own sweet stuff short of keeping bees. Guess I should really be focusing on getting over the sugar lifestyle instead. *sigh*

  • Chile,
    what about sugarbeet?, they don’t need a warm climate.

  • What, aside from a mud hut, are your specific plans for your post-petroleum world?
    Some Colorado friends (literally) built theirs several years ago–water from a creek, solar juice, garden, and surrounded by “transplanted” wild turkeys that really screw up the ecosystem but they refuse to kill.

  • Old Ari, yep, we could grow sugar beets. The problem is that the processing required to extract the juice and convert it to a crystalline sugar requires many physical and chemical reactions. I did some reading on it, and it just seems out of reach for the homestead. Processing sugar cane and sorghum are also labor-intensive.
    We haven’t tried it yet, but think that one possibility may be malted barley. Growing grains is more labor and land-intensive than starchy root crops but we haven’t ruled them out.

  • How about stevia? they sell plants at the farmer’s market here and I’m amazed at how sweet it is.

  • The liquid extract gives me a headache. I haven’t tried the powdered version in quite a while. You’re right, though. It is very sweet, and it would probably be possible to grow.

  • Hum*drum
    Dear Dr McPh, How about taking your humming & drumming blog outside the confines, maybe even the comfort, of academia to stimulate greater awareness and potentially influence change. While we don’t know which came first in the chicken and egg query, which came first, the conservation biologist or the human man, the one who looked up the pages one day and saw his backyard flooding with justified fear. Whether you venture city or statewide or go all-hog global to educate the masses, please do it. Please. The unprecedented predicament may require the interjection of some practical tidbits we crave amidst more full-blown philosophical explorations – that is survival for you.
    How about it? Hit the blog road, Jack?

  • I’m not sure what you’re expecting, Dame Daisy, when you mention it’s time to take my screaming-at-the-top-of-my-lungs show on the road.
    After all, I speak to anybody who’ll listen, and many who don’t or won’t. For example, I spoke yesterday at a Department of Defense conference. The topic I was assigned: altered fire regimes in the southwestern United States. The topic I spoke about: peak oil and runaway greenhouse. This is my standard approach, and during the last two years I’ve spoken to a dozen or so groups, all about the same two critical topics. I’ll be kicking off the Tucson Innovative Home Tour and Seminar in a couple weeks.
    Students in all my university classes, from fire ecology to wildland vegetation management to sustainability, are well aware of peak oil and runaway greenhouse by the end of the first week of classes. I deliver guest lectures in many courses. Guess what I talk about? After all, peak oil and runaway greenhouse inform every aspect of life on Earth.
    And I try to inform the masses, too. During the last year, I’ve written guest commentaries that appeared in the local morning daily newspaper and also in the weekly rag. These articles cost me plenty of political capital, forcing university administrators to publicly disavow me and also try to find ways to fire me.
    Could I do more? Of course. But I’m busily living another life, too, planning and preparing my post-carbon future. At some point, I have to save myself and my family instead of trying to protect the people who don’t believe the stuff I’m saying. When the cabin loses pressure, you put on your own mask before you help the person in the seat next to you.
    As always, I welcome ideas for getting the word out. My own voice is growing hoarse. Got any ideas?

  • I have been reflecting on offering you some ideas, and here is what has surfaced: Knock on Mr. Bill Buckmaster’s door and request an audience for occasional yet regular Arizona Illustrated airtime. If scheduling is a problem, take Dr. David Levy along as he considers relinquishing his every 3 or 4th appearance and make room for planetary prominence to balance an otherwise astral emphasis.
    Contact Access Tucson and KXCI and request airtime. Schedule a Pima College West Campus talk and seek a speaking engagement at each ASU and NAU. Have you spoken on campus yet? There is a revolving door of speakers across campus and I think you fit right in.
    Speak with the Vietnam Veterans of our community. Schedule a talk with the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson. Reach out to an interested venue in South Tucson. Initiate a series of lectures on the Tucson/Pima Library circuit, including Green Valley. Sounds like a campaign trail, doesn’t it?! In a way, it is.
    We, The People need someone who can align what the media broadcasts with the reality we face. Now, I must leave it to you to best present your position in consideration of your responsibilities. Each one of us is subject to pressures from the social systems we have created. If the person next to you declines the air mask you offer them, what is left to do? Keep the mask handy.
    Anything presented here worthy of exploring?
    I know what you know, and I am sorry. Keep going. Please.
    Marguerite Daisy

  • Thanks for those ideas, Dame Daisy. My so-called day job precludes my pursuit of most of them, though I’ve been turned down by Bill Buckmaster for this topic (after appearing on Arizona Illustrated for several others), and I’m a pariah on campus. Seems I need an agent. Are you up for the task?

  • Well, thank you for listening just the same. It turns out I have been looking for a new gig. Eyes and heart wide open.
    Thought I would sign off for a while by reminding myself that none of us has ever owned tomorrow.