I had a tree conversation all set to go for today, but decided instead to get these thoughts down while they are in some sort of coherence.
The past six weeks have seen me spending more and more time outdoors, “Rewilding,” training for my 26-mile Ultimate Hike a month from now on the Pacific Crest Trail (if I don’t raise $1000 more by then, I’ll stage my own local 26 miler), and tapping into sustainability and ecopsychology readings. I can’t help but hear this all as cries by Mother Earth to envision our lives beyond oil. North America uses the greatest amount of the world’s oil. The demand for oil is only increasing as modernity spreads, with some estimates of 64 years available in earth at the current use rate, politics aside.
Many people around the globe including indigenous cultures drastically impacted by fossil fuel harvesting are speaking up about the cost of our culture’s dream (Indigenous Women March 160 Miles).
Recently I viewed a TV show on the History Channel titled What’s The Earth Worth? From the title on down I had to overcome my feeling that watching it was as abhorrent as trying to apply a commodity price to my own mother, but some intriguing points were made about the elements we value in our shared home and what the nature of our civilization actually is. One spokesperson in the film made the statement (paraphrasing): “Oil is civilization and civilization is oil. Without it we will return to the early 1800s and do everything by hand.” After we decimated the ocean’s mammals for whale oil, finding oil in the earth was salvation.
That haunted me. Is human civilization really oil? Is humanity really on the edge of complete destruction if we don’t have oil reserves at our disposal? I know these two men’s bank accounts would be a tad smaller: Koch Brothers Exposed.
During this same week, I forked over a paycheck worth of oil for winter heat, and a little lightbulb went on over my head. Ding!
Inside the lightbulb was the question: “What would your life be like without oil?”
Each morning I have woken quite literally imagining my day to day life without oil, and while Hollywood and TV shows are betting on apocalypse, I am feeling quite honestly free when I stare that potential reality in the face. I imagine my day without the work I currently do sitting at a computer keyboard because I assume my power grid would be affected and so would the clients I serve.
Instead I envision meeting with neighbors to grow enough food to feed every family on my block and try to help coordinate a system for every block. I would be pooling my resources leftover from oil-culture (like processed foods, trucked in clothing, and plastics) and would meet up with people who have honest-to-goodness skills in things like how to build solar panels and other forms of heat/fuel, people who can milk cows, set up water filtration, people who know how to work with Earth’s gifts. I would be rising and sleeping with the sun. I would be lighting candles to read. I would be working hard physically and sleeping soundly from exhaustion knowing I did my part for the people around me. Come to think of it, I would actually get to know the people around me if we weren’t all holed up in our homes watching our color boxes.
Okay my utopian dream may be a bit far-fetched and maybe we are all headed toward some post-oil lifestyle apocalypse, but I prefer to believe humanity can rise to the occasion and our society might actually move beyond oil to something greater than money can buy.
Stay tuned for the next conversation with trees tomorrow. I’m sure they have a lot to tell me. After all, many have been around far longer than any of us or our (refined) oil.
Look here for further information about debunking the “abiotic” theory of oil production that has traction in some circles: Is Oil Renewable Resource?, Scientific American Blog – Oil Might Be Renewable?