The twin sides of our fossil-fuel addiction — energy decline and global climate change — are the most important topics we can address as a species. The national conversation ignores or marginalizes these critical topics. On the rare occasion they inadvertently come up, we act like a roomful of eight-year-olds with plates full of peas and mashed potatoes, pushing the main course around without actually ingesting it, wishing for the distraction of dessert.
I’ve dug trenches (requiring only a strong back and a weak mind, so it’s the perfect job for me) in which to install water lines, and even installed a
near the chicken coop and duck house (I’m a plumber). This morning I laid
in the outdoor kitchen (I’m a mason). I’ve built several awnings for tools and shade, along with a few structures for animals (I’m a rough carpenter). And we’re growing considerable food, planted from seed, in our own garden beds and also in a neighbor’s field (I’m a sharecropper). My two favorite titles, then, are Professor Emeritus and Sharecropper.
I’ve long recognized the two-party, one-ideology basis of American politics, and I was calling Barack Obama a neoconservative long before it was popular to recognize him as the Teflon President 2.0. But even I can hardly believe this tidbit from a guy I thought was pretty damned smart: From the I-cannot-believe-this-is-happening camp, Obama is appointing a Monsanto man as food safety czar. Welcome to Farmageddon, land of the free.
It is clear that some of us are committed to lives of service, and others are not. I’m sure social scientists have identified myriad patterns to justify our quirky lives, without actually explaining them, much less identifying mechanisms underlying them. And that’s just as well, given the magnitude of the task. I’d rather we spend our considerable cognitive surplus on other issues. Consider, for example, how much time we spend tweeting. And then trying to determine if twittering counts at literature. (If you think twit lit is, well, literature, I think you’re an idiot. But I digress.) Never mind who’s drinking which brand of beer in the White House. We’re so absorbed with television and the Internet and who’s screwing whom in the world of celebrities, we can’t bother to focus on the inordinate suffering we’re causing, to humans and other animals. Sixth great extinction, including our own species? Whatev. Solving those problems will simply have to wait until after I get a tattoo proclaiming my independence from mainstream culture.
Clinton’s Secretary of Labor Robert Reich presents the economic news in particularly stark terms. In his recent piece in Salon, he asks the question, “When will the recovery begin?” His one-word answer is dead on: “Never.”
Even many secular people believe Earth is an egg. Once needed, we will simply abandon this ship for another planet. How stupid is this view? Quantitative skills have never been revered in this country, so it’s no surprise most people think we can simply plan the journey and load up the rich folks (including all middle-class Americans, of course) on a few minutes’ notice. Let’s actually do the math.
Through April of 2009, the year-over-year decline is holding steady at about 3 percent. While that may seem like good news for the industrial economy, the opposite is true: The longer we hold onto a slow decline, the steeper the subsequent, inevitable cliff, as has been demonstrated in dozens of fields and collections of fields (e.g., nations). The steeper the cliff, the greater the probability of sudden disruptions in the supply of fuel, food, and water in towns and cities. And, too, a 3 percent annual decline puts us at mid-1980s world oil supply by 2015. Looks like it’s Mourning in America all over again.