Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Crazy Scheme, Part 1: Big Hairy Deal

Ok, so as the TV blares on about spiffy HDTV sets, and sparkling jewelry, and stylish cars as the perfect Christmas gifts, and everything seems to be structured around buy more, sell more, everybody wins, ain't it cool economic growth, I see some major issues lurking in the misty background.

[Here's where you stick your fingers in your ears and say, "La-La-La! I'm not listening!"]

Now I'm not claiming I'm squeaky clean, nor better than anybody else on this front. But I'm becoming more aware that it's physically impossible for this to go on indefinitely. Which generation foots the bill for this party?

So, after thinking and reading a lot, I have come up with a Crazy Scheme to Save the World.

Or, at least, a Crazy Scheme. But first, I want to outline the problems I wish to solve.

Patience. All will be revealed.

Meanwhile, pardon me whilst I wax philosophic, in Part One of my four(?/!) part tome.

Problem #1: We All Need to Eat.

I'm stating the obvious here. Food is a requirement of life. Food used to mean pick an apple from a tree, or pull a carrot from the soil, and eat it. Now food means grow a kabillion tons of corn and soy, feed it to machines, turn it into a hundred different substances, combine them in various ways for lifelike texture, add in a dozen other components from hither and yon to make it taste just like homemade, or better, add in a little more chemistry to make it last a long time, wrap it, pack it, and ship it worldwide so it's on every grocery store shelf in every city. Then buy it and eat it.

But I feel that there are a myriad of ethical problems around most of our food supply. From unconscionable treatment of animals (and humans for that matter), to overuse of antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides, growing health problems, soil depletion, groundwater depletion, chemical exposure to workers, a subsidy system that is a mess, huge dependence on fossil fuels (and thus huge dependence on numerous political quagmires, not to mention pollution and climate change)... Shall I go on?

I don't think we can (or should attempt to) continue down this path forever.

Problem #2: No Man is an Island.

Most of us tend to be lacking in community. We give a friendly wave to the neighbor in the driveway. Maybe we exchange Christmas cards with one or two people on the block. But as a culture, we've become adept at creating cocoons around ourselves. We each have our own personal home theater systems in our family rooms, our own play structures in our back yards, our own sets of tools and books, our own traditions, even individual bedrooms and bathrooms in many cases. As Mia described so well a while back, it's often very hard to connect with the people who are geographically closest to you.

We drive in our glass bubbles of anonymity, raging against some other anonymous @&#%! driver who made us hit the brake pedal, and encountering thousands of others every day with whom we share not even the slightest hint of connection or recognition.

[A quick aside... I want to have a button on my steering wheel that is the opposite of the horn. When I push the button, I want blue lights to turn on - a highway equivalent of saying, "Oops! Sorry!" But back to the universal anonymity problem...]

We don't care about people we don't know, and we don't know anybody. There's no accountability.

Once upon a time it might have been, "Hey Jimmy! Nice catch last weekend. Your mom over her cold yet?" But now it's, "Hey kid, get outta my yard!" or "No, you can't walk to the Kwik-E-Mart. I'll drive you."

We need other people... Even people we don't like or agree with. It takes a village and all that. Especially if there's a crisis. 9/11. Katrina. Sometimes people pull together. Sometimes they don't. Who knows why. But the odds of pulling together seem higher if we can call each other by name.

Problem #3: Money sucks

There are a lucky few who don't have a mortgage, or who don't have bills to worry about. I haven't run across very many. Everybody loves money. Everybody hates money.

We perform services or we produce goods, and we get money. We use that money to buy the necessitites of life. (And then some.) We take somebody else's goods or services in exchange for that money, to buy what we need (and want). Money is a useful mechanism, but sometimes it's inefficient. Sometimes too much is lost in that exchange rate from my labor to money and then from money to your labor. Money isn't fair or equitable, and it doesn't have morals. Money doesn't care whether you make your mortgage or not. But it sure can cause stress and grief and headaches.

Problem #4: Limitations

Are we reaching the limit on how much cheap petroleum we can pump? Have we maxed out industrial grain production? Are we depleting aquifers? Or topsoil? Are the oceans being overfished? Have we put too much carbon into the atmosphere?

Has the world's population gotten big enough, or efficient enough at using things up, that we're actually going to start running out of certain resources? It's hard to know what to beleive. We've never used up anything before, except maybe dodo's. We're in uncharted waters.

Ok, enough problems. On to some actions...

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At 11/29/2006 5:56 AM, Blogger Beo said...

Looking forward to the series, and I think you know my anwser to each question in your Limitations section!

At 8/14/2010 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm. The 'no man is an island' thing...? I agree ONLY after the riots/die-off is over.

Say you're right. Say peak oil causes the meltdown that you're expecting. We see loans harder to get, food prices go up, people can't afford groceries, companies can't afford to stay open, joblessness spikes, homelessness rises... the government goes in the hole and can't afford the hand-outs like WIC and Welfare and the like. Transportation costs go up, stuff on the shelf isn't available and fights break out, stealing is on the rise. (Oh, wait. That'd be now.)

The next step is to take from those you know HAVE. You make yourself known as a sustainable living person, with crops of food and livestock, you're now a target. Neighbors will NOT pull together, they will take, because it's easier to take than to work, especially when you don't know how to do the work and don't want to expend the effort.

It's dangerous to advertise in such a situation. Laying low, being quiet, and not drawing attention is the best. Being an island is better than being robbed, hurt, or killed.

Community with those who come out the other side of the crisis - yes. Community with the golden horde? Not so much.



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