It's 2013 and I have a feeling that this will be a watershed year in many important ways. Personally, Tasha and I have vowed that this will be the year that we get off the hamster wheels of our jobs, buy some land in the country and stop contributing to the ongoing slow-motion disaster of modern American life. Slow motion, so we thought, anyway, until the weather events of 2012.
Last year was the hottest year on record, ever. It started with a completely snowless winter, with some of the warmest days in my memory. I remember days in the 80s in March. And it stayed hot, throughout the summer and into the fall, punctuated by freak storms like the completely unpredicted derecho front that slammed into the mid-Atlantic on June 20th and knocked out power for days. Superstorm Sandy was icing on the cake, though Maryland was spared much of the damage inflicted on New Jersey, New York and elsewhere. It doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.
But weather is just one facet of our predicament, even as it contributes to the global social, geographic, and demographic shifts that are accelerating every day. Last week, the nation went over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” even if hours later a solution was retroactively implemented. Setting aside the fact that this was pure political theater, a made-for-TV stunt from the get-go, a puerile, partisan game of chicken, the American public was at least reminded of the fact that we are bankrupt, and in more senses than the merely fiscal. As far as America’s fiscal determination goes, we are indeed in a bad state. Regardless of whether we can successfully raise taxes against the 1% or whether we cut every social program to the bone, America is still on the road to becoming a much poorer society. This is because there is no real money here to fund anything.
The mechanism that drove the last 300 years of industrial expansion was based on access to cheap fossil fuels—coal, methane, diesel, gasoline, whatever. The crowning achievement of high modernity was the extraction of petroleum and its by-products and their myriad uses for everything from fuel for passenger cars to plastics to “green revolution” fertilizers. Our current consumer-driven economy is based on trading various abstract products and services for consumer goods and foods produced at bottom dollar, often half a world away, and the complex logistical networks essential to their delivery, which are utterly reliant on cheap fuel.
When these products can’t be produced cheaply, let alone shipped anywhere because of the cost of fuel prices, then this system crashes and everyone starves. Peak oil and the realization that global oil production probably peaked around 2005 are gaining traction in the same fashion that climate change did a few years ago--rapidly moving from scientific theory to generally accepted, demonstrable fact. But regardless of whether or not peak-oil-induced scarcity does or does not materialize in the coming few years, we have come to the realization that we can no longer take from the planet in the way that we have become accustomed to, that we have been conditioned to since birth.
Instead, we’d rather live off on our own, outside of the artificial timescales and deadlines of the rat-race. We’d rather be working our own land to provide food for ourselves and others, producing something of concrete, definite worth rather than something of dubious, abstract value. This is not to say that there is no value in the abstract. On the contrary, we’re looking forward to have the time and space to do more writing: but writing that is reflective of our spirits and our minds—not “content” to be consumed and quickly forgotten by a Ritalin culture bent on entertaining itself to death while the world burns. So it seems to me that the way back is the only way forward. Let the journey begin.
Subscribe via RSS