Progressive Writers Bloc

How will we survive?

By Carolyn Westmoreland

Looking at the thin wire that stretches from a pole in the alley behind my house to the roof of my dwelling, I'm wondering what will happen if electricity fails to come through that line? Immediately, I know that I would be writing this out by hand in the gloom of a late, overcast afternoon. Reading about peak oil and the ramifications of what that actually means is scary. I worry about future generations of people who will be dealing with the reality of little or no oil. I wonder what they know about soil, growing food, or how to survive without the conveniences of what we consider necessities today?

Looking for solutions is a lesson in futility. Nuclear power leaves behind lethal waste. There is no way yet of making it safe, and even though we have sunk millions of dollars into plans for a possible depository for this waste, a safe place to store it has not been found. Wind, and solar will help a little, but they can not provide energy in the amounts that are required to fuel our economy the way oil does today. Many people seem to think that human beings are creative enough to provide the answers to this problem before it is too late. Knowledgeable people are working on energy solutions as I write this, but it is hard to have faith that this will happen while I watch our government side step this issue to milk the last dime out of remaining oil for profit. Conserving. That word has not escaped from their lips yet and that is, in my opinion, a big mistake. Hydrogen and biofuels won't be solving end of oil issues either even though together, along with solar and wind energy, they will help. All of these technologies require oil, the solar panels, the machines that generate electricity from wind are a few examples. Oil from plant material is not a sustainable solution, even cultivating land to grow the crops that would provide this fuel requires energy.

I wonder why our elected politicians are not talking about the real problems that will be faced by our population with the depletion of oil? Surly they know that oil reserves sink to new lows every year and new technology isn't in place as a safety net. Food, water, nearly everything we use everyday requires some amount of oil, and as a nation we use more than our fair share of it. Instead of meeting the problem and starting the work it will take to ease some of the hardship that is inevitable, the people we have elected are looking for more oil anywhere it exists. Countries that happen to be sitting on what is left of global oil are in jeopardy. War is the result. This has already happened and there is no promise that it won't happen again.

So, what can an ordinary citizen do? Downsize. Drive less, and get into the habit of doing more with less. Buy used items. Plant a garden, or reward people who are good stewards of our planet by buying their produce or other goods. Don't buy things that require huge amounts of energy to produce, like aluminum foil, bleach, plastic items, or pesticides. Plastic is a hard item to give up. I'm using a computer made of plastic, my phone is plastic, and so is the printer I use. But, I don't buy plastic wrap or plastic bags…a very small commitment by one person, but think of the impact this would have if thousands were participating in cutting back on superfluous plastic items. Investing in basic hand tools, tools that will be operable whether electricity is available, or not, is a good idea. Tom Brown's field guides are good reading and full of survival tips that can be used by anyone. Look at your home and consider what you can do to make it more efficient. I'm sure there are other things that you can add to this list and I hope you will.

Last and perhaps the most important of all is community. I know people who have lived in the same neighborhood for decades and do not know the people living next door, except to smile, or wave occasionally. An age of individualism, and being unto ourselves behind fences and walls has left us without the human connections that might be a vital link to our survival. Living in a world where oil is scarce or not available at all, will require combined human energies to produce the things needed by all to sustain life.

And here is an endnote for those of you who are thinking that I am an alarmist. If you are wondering why you should even consider making life changes when things are perking along just fine, just take a critical look around at all of the things you use in your own home and then consider all of the cheap energy that it took to make and even operate those items. Check out the number of cars in your driveway and then magnify that by the millions of other people who are living lives similar to your own. When you get that picture in your mind please ask yourself how this kind of energy consumption can continue with the absence or scarcity of oil.

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