I’ve pasted below, verbatim, an essay I posted in this space on 9 June 2009. The current essay bears the same title as the one from way back when. First, though, consistent with my recent strategy, I’ve added a few introductory words and an embedded song.
I was so earnest. Really, my entire life. Born into captivity, like everybody else, I labored and saved for the proverbial rainy day.
The day has arrived. Here in the Chihuahuan Desert, the rain is plentiful. Abrupt climate change is full of surprises. The shallow aquifer needs little recharge, but it’s getting a lot.
The house of cards remains intact, more or less. A gale is blowing, though. And even the most heinously unsustainable version of civilization cannot be sustained forever, extreme violence notwithstanding.
And that’s what is required, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, to maintain an empire in decline: obedience at home, oppression abroad, and wholesale destruction of the living planet. Violence to the power of three.
There’s more, too: Even abject violence and decades of indoctrination can’t quell entropy. The militarized state of “higher” education, the apex of which I was a part for far too long, ultimately will rot from the inside. The bond market is a mess. Financial shenanigans are widely recognized and reported to the disinterested citizenry. Fossil fuels remain finite.
What we have, as always is here and now with the ones we’re with. With the ones we love.
Contrary to the situation way back when, we know a lot about abrupt climate change. We understand global dimming and its impact on global-average temperature of Earth. The evidence continues to mount, but already the case is clear for historic and current global-average rises in temperature at a rapid clip.
Shortly after the power goes out for the last time, as it surely will, habitat for many species will vanish. There remains little doubt humans will make that least auspicious of lists.
Contrary to the wishful thinking expressed in the essay below, I no longer harbor hope for our species beyond a few more years. Maybe less. I’m hope-free, and find the experience simultaneously joyous and sad. Notwithstanding my near-complete lack of free will — I’m an animal, after all — it’s certainly a foreign set of feelings relative to the cage into which I was born.
But I do work to terminate the omnicide of civilization. I’m not sufficiently naive to wish for civilization to solve the myriad, insoluble predicaments rooted in civilization.
I’ve been spending most of my time at the mud hut. Issues with the Internet connection, along with a steady diet of manual labor, have precluded regular postings here. But difficulties with the off-grid solar system inspired this particular post. If all goes according to plan, both issues will be resolved shortly.
We received a batch of day-old chicks during the middle of the week, and we put them under a heat lamp 24 hours a day. By Friday night, the combination of the heat lamp and the massive electrical use by the power tools I was using to build a goat shed had drawn down the batteries on the solar system. We noticed when the power went out at about 11:00 p.m.
About that goat shed: It will hold two milk goats, starting this summer. Stunningly, given my lack of skills with all things non-academic, I built it myself. It’s fully insulated, the same size as the office I’ve occupied at the university for 15 years, and protected from predators. It has a poultry-netting sub-floor beneath the dirt floor, just in case we want to use the pen for a second flock of chickens (which is a good idea, especially when younger chickens are about to be introduced into an existing flock). The pen has an east-facing window and a west-opening Dutch door. Obviously, I’m as proud as a new mother. But I digress.
Back to the Friday-night power failure: It took us a while to figure out we couldn’t solve the problem without more sunlight hitting the solar panels. By that time, it was approaching midnight under a moon that was nearly full on a beautiful summer night. Since the six-year-old was sleeping soundly, and the adults were all fully awake, the next step was obvious: time to eat.
As we know, man cannot live on bread alone. Occasionally, there must be a beverage.
So, we ate, drank, kibitzed, and communed in the light of the monster moon at the edge of our breezeway. Several hours later, drunk on conversation within and about nature, I collapsed in a satiated heap of fatigue produced by a long day of honest work. The incident reminded me that electrical power is a nice luxury — we’ll all have a difficult time without it, for sure — but the absence of electricity, at least temporarily, has its own rewards.
As regular readers are aware by now, I’m Mr. Silver Lining, the ultimate optimist.
According to the film, we have put ourselves at a crossroad, which offers two paths with dire consequences. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent ecological collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. The film then goes on to offer a choice: your money or your life. As if we you and I have the opportunity to make that decision. As if we have free will. As if, even if we chose economic collapse to save the planet and our species, the world’s politicians will go along. As if.
As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (ecological collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.
Later this week, I’m headed out for a personal research excursion. I’ll be visiting the heart of the Renaissance, peering straight into the birthplace of western civilization: Florence, Italy. And also to Venice and Rome. I’d like to see where it all got started, before it all comes down.