James Howard Kunstler over at Clusterfuck Nation does good work. His book The Long Emergency is a must read. Kunstler writes about how our Culture of Leisure and Happy Motoring is predicated upon easy access to cheap energy. This is going to end sooner or later (all signs point to sooner...), at which point what happens to the suburban sprawl, planned obsolescence, and the general toxins and detritus left behind from 60+ years of rampant consumerism? Look around you at everything that is plastic. “Except for a small amount that has been incinerated...every bit of plastic manufactured in the world in the last 50 years or so still remains.” (The World Without Us, Weisman) This plastic, a large portion of which ends up in the ocean, concentrates pollutants in the environment and as it degrades enters the food chain at the smallest levels. Now, just so we are clear, these are compounds that have a shelf life greater than the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Aqueducts. These tiny pellets and everything that we make out of them has an expected life that is measured in terms of a geological scale. Say 100,000 years. To put this in perspective, 100,000 years ago we were living caves; we were far from the only bipedal hominid; and (although still contentious), we (as Homo Sapiens) began our mass exodus from Africa. Your cell phone, plastic bag from Safeway, and potentially the majority of the buried newspaper in landfills, could be around long after our art, philosophy, and science have been reduced to dust and ash. Our great legacy will be sun bleached plastic and garbage that has reduced to the size of krill food and, the elimination of biodiversity that is being called the sixth great extinction, the Holocene extinction. This anthropogenic event promises not only to be a dark legacy of our over-consumption, but also promises to make it much more difficult for us to return to a sustainable way of living. Even after we kill each other in the streets as we run out of energy, fresh water and food; even as the coastlines rise and displace or kill millions; as the era of mass production ends and we are left with a wide swath of aggrieved, unemployed peoples looking to scapegoat someone (always the Other...); even after desertification, floods, malnutrition, AIDS, obesity, and cancer wipe out large portions of a soft, artificially-supported population; there still might not be enough for those who are left. Those that live into the Long Emergency may look out upon a world that resembles more McCarthy's The Road than Mad Max. Those left will rummage through the great wastes of the 20th century culture looking for things that will help them grow or catch food, capture or filter water. I-pods, digital cameras, laptops, 20 pairs of shoes, and $12 cocktails will be revealed for the decadence and luxury that they are. History will not look kindly upon us as we rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic whilst talking about how to resist as the world around us ended. Already we enjoy too much at too small a price to us and too high a price to everyone and everything else. Our sporting events, muscle cars, personal electronics, fast food, and Cult of Convenience come at a price. That price is the degradation of environment, the loss of biodiversity, the subjugation of peoples half a world away, and endless background noise of wars that we no longer (or ever did) understand. Our enemy is the Other (be it the Terrorist kind or the Faceless Government Bureaucrat); we wonder why they hate us or why they send poor, brown children to kill and die for us as we listen to NPR podcasts on our techno-fetishist accoutrement while riding our ridiculously expensive bicycles (because we're Green!) to political rallies protesting the cause du jour or the bar to get drunk, get laid, to be seen. In this way, the literate, angry, rational among us are worse than the fat, burger-eating, nose-picking, reality show-watching, shuffling, gray mass of humanity; we have a moral responsibility not only to affect change directly and to resist constantly, but we have a responsibility to lead our lives by example. We have no room for laziness or excuses like, “Progress, not perfection!” How many people have died in the name of progress? How many die each day as we assuage our guilt with the petty, insignificant acts that have come to define resistance? Eat vegetarian, ride a bike, go to a protest, plant a garden. These First World choices are not enough. Do more and get ready, for night is coming. Watch the unemployment rates around the country, especially in impoverished areas. Watch what happens when a country that has moved from manufacturing “things” to a “service” based economy reacts to contraction that is permanent. What is optional resistance now will be a matter of survival soon. It will start with people pissed off because they can't have the Blue-Ray deluxe edition of the new Michael Bay explosion montage and end with people pissed off that they can't cheaply procure white fish (or any other sort of fish, which should be a luxury item) that was caught in the Great Lakes and processed in China. I fully believe that our way of life is so unsustainable and will end so abruptly that I'll dispense with the rest of this rant about broken I-pods, green Chartreuse, and the regular reoccurence of these fits in my life. We all read the same books and listen to the same podcasts. You know what has gotten me particularly agitated. I'm going to go finish my book, take some valerian root, then fall asleep with the tenuous hope that tonight is not the night that my neighbors kick the door in or simply burn my house down. Tomorrow I'll think more on how resistance is no longer an act of self-congratulatory idealism, but the groundwork for survival as the lights dim.
Edit: I'll learn to like paragraphs when I learn to be coherent. First things first. Sorry.