Hearts and Thoughts

I have found it difficult to write of late.  Its not that nothing has happened –  my CSE group has met and maitained its momentum (virtually all of the original members returned for the second meeting), I attended a weekend long strategic planning meeting for Sustain Jefferson, and on top of the typical holiday madness associated with a retail based career I have upped my reading pace.  But neither am I overworked.  I am leaving much time for reflection, something I feel is uterly imperative in these unsettling times.  No, my lack of posting stems not from lack of time or material, but from either a reluctance to post inconclusive thoughts or, perhaps, a reluctance to actually put my fears into a more permanent form than ethereal thoughts.

One risk always associated with upping my time allotted to reading is the commensurate amount of effect it has on my psyche and thought patterns.  The past several winters have found me reading non-fiction/practical gardening/farming/soil science books with some “lighter” anecdotal/philosophical books from the likes of Gene Logsdon, David Holmgren, John Ikerd or Joel Salatin.   These are practical and inherently hopeful books that fill the dark days of winter to overflowing with the potentialities of the coming Spring.  But this year is different.   The Great Unsettling that occurred in August/September shook even the likes of Greensban, so I, being prone to doom and gloom, am by no means immune.  As many of the books that I am ripping through have introductions by Peak Oil pundit Richard Heinberg (of Power Down, and The Party’s Over fame) my mindset is sliding distinctly south of optimism of late.  And that is with me reading rather hopeful books like the Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook and the Transition Handbook.  When I combine the belief in Peak Events (Oil.Water.Soil.etc.) with Climate Change on top of the lack of Global Will to Change and then look into the eyes of my two young children after coming home from a day in Fortune 500 Land fielding questions of when (not if) my team’s hours will be cut… things are getting rather –real.

I’ve been sliding this way for several weeks, months if I am honest.  But it all came rushing into stark clarity while at the Sustain Jefferson retreat this weekend.  The board and “fire souls” of the group gathered that weekend are mature (most are 50% older than I), intelligent (engineers, public officials, educators), and practical people -well read , experienced, and willing to Work For Change.  These are people I look to for advice and have earned my respect.  Late in the afternoon on Day 2 soon after the formal planning had completed, a retired engineer posited the following question -how are we going to help our community weather the coming storm- failing economies with their rising social costs, the end of cheap energy and the strain it will place on non-resilient towns like ours, and the lack of social cohesion that will be necessary to negotiate the The Natural Step Resource Funnelclosing of The Funnel (right).  Hearing someone whom I think of as educated and level headed give public voice to my Dark Thoughts was extremely sobering to me.   So much so that I had to go for a long , cold hike to shake the  existential nausea that had overtaken me.   While the planning meeting accomplished an incredible amount of work in a short amount of time towards setting our organization on a more productive course, one of the real results is that I am personally more concerned than ever about what Change I will see in my lifetime.  

The difference is Tipping Points or Overshoot.  As recent as 6 months ago I felt we had time to work at the grassroots level to educate and inspire so that we could begin the urgent, but gradual change towards a more sustainable future.  CFL’s, hybrids, Victory Gardens – little things done by a growing number of people adding up to Real Change.  Now I am moving beyond that to Life Boats -what skills will we need to survive Overshoot.  Moving from adapting our lifestyles to something akin to survival.   Why?  Climate Change pundits often speak about Tipping Points -the abledo effect being one (when temps melt the arctic ice, which reflected much of the heat from the water, and the oceans begin to heat even faster); methane released from melting permafrost rapidly accelerating the Green House effect and the news of late is that the scientist are in awe at the rapidity of the current change -its making a mockery of their models.  My fear on the Peak Side is in Overshoot: when the we, in our hubris, “cross the streams” of the funnel – when resource use exceeds resource availability (finance, food, water, oil, soil) – we survive blindly for a time, only to come crashing to reality as the bubble bursts and we are forced live within our means not unlike overpopulated deer overbrowsing a habitat in the depth of a bitter winter.  The food riots of last year and the $140/brl  oil spurred Economic meltdown come to mind.

Like I said – dark.  Thus far I am still able to channel the malaise into energy to keep going.  To learn ways to produce energy from Biomass; to eck out literally tons of produce from suburban backyards; to produce liquid biofuels from waste products from permaculture farms… to build the tools that may (will?) be necessary to soften the landing of Overshoot.  Optimism and Hope are now, if it was ever doubted, very necessary skills to have in your urban homesteading tool box.  

May your hearts and thoughts stay positive and hopeful.

May you continue to Be the Change.


5 Responses

  1. If I let myself get too overwhelmed with all of this, I start losing it. I also read mostly nonfiction, but have for the last year added fiction and more poetry along with the real, true stuff. I couldn’t go on without allowing fresh air and sunshine in. There are good things going on out there and no one has to carry the whole load on his or her back. All we can do is what we can do and to be happy is one those things. I hope you find some peace.

  2. Good post, Rob.

    Like you, I’ve been watching the events of the last few months unfold and I cannot believe that we will emerge at the far end of this ‘process’ and find life-as-usual waiting for us.

    We have become a pampered and lazy nation, and I fear it will take great upheaval to shake us out of our collective doldrums. The American nation has a backbone of steel, but it’s buried under a lot of fat right now, and it’ll take some work to get back into fighting shape.

    Having optimism (tempered by knowledge of what’s coming and what must be done) is a must… for our children if not for us.

  3. Thanks Rob. Similar thoughts from me and the reason my blog has fallen away lately. It’s a tough situation. On one hand I’m happy that I saw what was coming, and that we got somewhat prepared (although not as far as I hoped) but on the other hand I see what kind of impact it will have on those around me, and it concerns me. Really concerns me.

    I still talk to people every day who don’t get it. They are talking about buying stocks on the dips and looking through the ads for good prices on sale items. Try to talk to them but don’t want to get labeled too much as a scary guy. So, I just bide my time and wait. It’s especially gut wrenching when I look around at work and realize that almost non of them is prepared to be let go, but we work in the mortgage department at a life insurance company. It’s just a matter of time, in my opinion.

    You’ve been an inspiration to me to get more involved locally which started this summer and is still rolling.

  4. I took a hiatus from posting for about two months for exactly this reason. What is important to cling to at this point is Hope, even irrational hope. Prior to my epiphany of empowerment I had a long fight with parts of me I’d just assume have never met. I learned something though, apprehension and caution are good, but despair gets us absolutely nothing, nada, zilch. Hope, even irrational unfounded delusional optimism means we at least aim for a solution, and if we fall short…well then we remained human to the last.

    Look what happens when we collectively let fear make decisions for us. Seven years of living like PTSD victims lashing out at anyone who doesn’t agree. Lord knows the next batter on deck to take a swing at leadership isn’t as progressive as I’d prefer, but his desire to truly unite may just be the most desperately needed progress of all.

    Thomas Crumb wrote in The Magic of Conflict, that any conflict is the result two entities who have not reached the fullest potential of their relationship. It is important to keep separate the ways in which we express our grievances from the genuine source of that grievance. Look no further than Greenspan’s obtuse refutation that his core philosophy of objectivism, the notion penned by Ayn Rand that any impediment to free exercise is bad, that those who have and seek more are righteous. The idea that one need not be hindered by such things as egalitarianism and regulation in the sake of fairness, his previous “model” was no longer valid. If Greenspan, the most powerful proponent of this insidious system of “I got mine, its your own fault you’re so behind” can crack, the foundation is not healthy either.

    If nothing else comes from the current financial situation, at least it dealt a blow to a codified system of piracy that has plagued western society for far to long.

    And as Thomas Friedman said, “Its not too late, as long as we start now.”

  5. I hear you. You’re certainly not alone.

    Keep your hands in the dirt. There is sanity there.

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