Sabbath eve, September 24, 2010
I’ve been in a funk for a couple of days, low of energy and feeling somewhat light headed. I don’t know exactly what caused this condition to arise, but I know I compounded the equation by engaging in an Internet orgy of doom when I should have been out doing something instead. There’s a time for everything, including studying the condition of our condition, but I need breaks. Too much bad news incapacitates me.
So this afternoon I shut off the computer, went out to the garden, started a rototiller and began plowing soil. We’ve had abundant rain, way above normal for the year, and grass and weeds were in the process of taking over an area that I had plowed less than a month ago. As the machine chugged and churned through the earth and tender vegetative matter, my mood began to lift.
I’ve focused a lot of attention of late on the current industrial model of feeding ourselves and the fact that absent cheap and abundant fossil fuels we will not be able to continue living as we now do. In doing so, I have pushed aside other lessons learned not only from a study of history but also real experience.
We’ve all heard how many man hours of labor a gallon of gas contains. But statistics can be misleading. As I watched the tines of the tiller chug through the ground, I realized how terribly inefficient the machine I was operating actually is. A vast majority of the energy that machine produces is wasted when compared to the efficient way a man with a sharp hoe would move through the same ground. Likewise, when you consider a car, the weight of moving that much iron and the friction created by the speed at which we travel in an automobile makes the machine terribly inefficient. We can and will get by on less energy.
I know for a fact that a healthy man with access to fertile soil, seed, a supply of good water, and hand tools can grow more food that he and an average sized family can consume from a garden plot. Coupled with an array of animal products, that family can do much more than just survive, it can flourish. Cooperative efforts on larger plots of land can and will work as well, despite the opinions of naysayers.
I also know that oil is not going to run out entirely overnight, everywhere, at the same time. I do think the time will come when a dystopian society is formed, denying the benefits of the cheap energy oil provides to many of us, so I am considering ways to use less. But I also know that the ground where I live has some oil remaining below and will have for years to come. There will be those that figure out how to extract and use some of that oil outside government and corporate control of the resource.
Those that focus on the law of entropy without also studying the mechanisms of rebirth and reconfiguration on this planet miss valuable clues to our future. Plants take water in the presence of sunlight and chlorophyll and create glucose which forms the basis for simple sugars, complex carbohydrates and fats. Throw in nitrogen which certain plants can also extract from the air and store in their roots and you have the basis for all proteins. Herbivores consume grasses and redeposit nutrients into the soil. Put these equations to work in sensible and well thought out arrangements and you will eat.
We can’t save everybody be we can save ourselves if we choose to do so. Our biggest enemy will prove to be those that choose only to take from others and offer nothing in return. I know I will lose some of you with this, but so be it. While I believe certain prophecies of gloom and doom will be fulfilled, I do not live in fear of these events. I expect a dystopian society to emerge, perhaps a one world government. And I expect that society to fail catastrophically. In the same way natural disasters or occurrences plagued the ancient Egyptian empire of Moses’ day, today’s disasters may prove the only hope for those desiring freedom in the face of tyrannical government interference, subjugation and inequity.
It took great faith for Moses and his people to walk away from the comfort of homes and the food supplies they had become accustomed to into the uncertainties of an empty desert but they did what they had to do. I expect many of us will face similar challenges.
If the Jewish parable doesn’t work for you, consider the prophecies of aboriginals elsewhere. Just about any culture has its seers. And if that doesn’t work for you, then at least consider the past and the cyclical nature of the rise and fall of empires. We are headed for a fall. When we fall, we're taking the rest of the world with us.
I look forward to a time when local communities rise from the ashes and come together to find new and better ways to get along with this planet. I may not see that day, but I feel confident that someone will.