Kurt Vonnegut, the environment and you

Please accept our apols, we were roaring drunk on petroleum.“Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Are you addicted to fossil fuel?  If you live in the west the answer is probably a resounding “Yes”.  There is no way you could live the life you currently live without them and if there suddenly became a situation where there were none left, you would be plunged into a sorry state in no time.

The above quote from Kurt Vonnegut popped up on Twitter the other day and made me think.  It made me think environmental stuff, but it also made me think political, social and even family stuff too…. our addiction to oil is all pervading:  Why has the UK been so keen to stay “in” with whoever is in power in Libya?  Oil;  What is it that props up our fragile financial, economic and political systems?  Oil;  What is it that also corrupts them?  Oil; What is it that is becoming in ever shorter supply and is likely to run out within this century?  Oil;  What is it that our children are going to have to learn to live without?  Oil.  And yet, our politicians, our local leaders and to a great extent, all of us are doing an A1 job of burying our heads in the sand and thinking we can carry on “business as usual”.

So, the bad news is:  We can’t.  Most commentators agree that we have very few years of oil left…. somewhere between 30 and 50.  Lots of commentators seem to just talk about how we have to change and how the change is about Less.  I think there’s also a lot of GOOD NEWS.  The changes we have to make also involve us in valuing people of true value – teachers, scientists, nurses, parents rather than people who add only monetary value…. bankers, the overpaid, those getting million pound bonuses, corporate chiefs being paid thousands of times the wage of their employees etc.  The changes we have to make involve us getting our hands dirty, getting closer to the land, doing things locally.  Crucially, the changes we have to make involve us working together, working as communities, families and groups to make sure that we are all looked after.  All of these things will, in all probability increase the sum of human happiness.  Our society is in meltdown in so many ways – financial, environmental and social; it remains to be seen just how broken it needs to be before human nature sees sense and starts the job of putting the pieces back together.

I for one have more or less given up on change happening from the top.  Movements such as #occupy(insert your given location here) are doing something to draw attention to some of the issues, but I’m a strong believer in positive action and I’ve never been a big fan of marches or demonstrations*.  As a parent I have learnt the power of walking the talk, of demonstrating and modeling the great things I hope to see from my kids (OK so I’m not always a great model, but you get my point)…….

Near us is a small town called Todmorden which has started a movement called “Incredible Edible” – in three years they have planted 1,000 fruit trees, they have gone from 4 egg producers to 60 in the same time frame and have planted up every verge and spare spot of land with edible plants which are available for anyone to pick.  The ethos running through what they do is that Kindness should be at the centre.  There are only a tiny number of people at the core of the group and they have done amazing things for their community.  They have also enthused countless other communities to do likewise and community planners have even come from Christchurch, New Zealand to see what they are doing.

In our community we have a lot of things going on, a new voluntary “Meals on Wheels” service for the elderly, a community run grocers shop, heaps of music, a permaculture farm working with our secondary school, a fantastic day care centre for adults with learning difficulties and lots more….. so much in fact that a local Conservative MP recently visited and sent out press releases to the effect that we are a great example of the “Big Society”…… hmmmmm NO, we are a great example of a society picking up the pieces where we have been totally let down by those in power…. there is a difference, a big one.  Nonetheless, what is happening in our community is great and will hopefully help us be more resilient in the future.

And if all else fails we’ll have our local Morris Side there to dance us into oblivion!

Leaping about and jingling bells in the October sunshine!

*Though I fully recognise that many great changes have occured (at least in part) because of people demonstrating or marching.

I’m really interested in your thoughts on the “Big Society”, whether our Oil-less future is something you’ve thought about (and whether it keeps you awake at night), and if your community is doing anything to make itself more resilient in the face of the coming changes, I’d love to hear about it.

If you like this post you might also like this one about the dire state of our oceans or this one about whether eating meat is worse than driving a car!

I leave you with another quote from Mr Vonnegut “Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe.”



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