Keeping the Lights On: What Choices Do We Have
As “modern Americans” we expect at least the standard of living we learned to live with while growing up–if not way better than that. I can’t think of any group of adolescents that would accept the notion–much less strive for–having LESS, and maybe far less than their parents’ upbringing has made them believe is their entitlement. We want more, better, faster, cushier. It’s the face of human nature, though perhaps not its most flattering profile.
I think about this necessary and inevitable near to mid-term future downwardly-mobile shift–in all likelihood a rapid Great Depression-like decline–that will at some future time take place.
Our over-built over-shot and toxic economy goes one step too far and the house comes tumbling down. While we urgently need to get back to living within our and the planet’s means, we will not en masse make this downward move on our own unless forced by external pressures–that we have made possible by a long series of very poor household management decisions. Climate chaos is chief among these bad “choices” we’ve allowed to persist well beyond the time we could no longer say “we didn’t know.”
Sadly, that one unfortunate just-at-the-wrong-place generation of middle-aged adults (could it be todays ?) will see a significantly austere belt-tightening because we’ve reached political and financial gridlock against a thousand interlocking issues of insurmountable complexity.
There may be communities–especially inner city but also suburban and “helpless rural” communities that can’t feed themselves during the weeks or months of emergency recovery. And such emergencies occur more and more often over this uncertain bridge between political and economic ways of dealing with earth-and-people matters.
I think about this, pointing the finger at myself. What are YOU doing, Fred First, to walk your talk about living simply, cutting back, living with less? While many of us make the effort to recycle, change to more efficient light bulbs and maybe drive more efficient cars as few miles as possible, all these actions, while worthwhile, do not hit to the root of the matter.
Today’s way of being in which you and I are enmeshed and our brains are programmed after every three minutes of TV depends onÂ our turningÂ a blind eye at the waste or pollution impacts of our consumption. That would be bad for business, one party says. The economy is driven by consumption and growth. The bigger our footprint, the better. To correct this, only the very few radical dystopian pioneers will sell everything and live in a hollow tree. Some of them live in forests in Floyd, most likely.
And so I’m imagining a coming generation of children after the big melt-down whose grand-parents lives were shattered by it. The children of those wrong-place adults who were already born at melt-down came along knowing some of the “good life” from their earlier but not their later years.
Then THEIR children would be the first Americans to know nothing of the times of plenty, of unrestricted travel, of ubiquitous Internet, twelve grades of schooling for every child, and the luxury of energy slaves we once had in the Fossil Fuel era.
And this is when the new normal of human civil existence will be in its infancy. And it could very well be a better quality of living than the middle-class huge-footprint lifestyle of today, in many ways.
We need, it seems, the brisk slap in the face it takes for a sleepwalker to come to their senses. And we will likely get such a smack. And when we come to ourselves, if we haven’t buggered up the engines of the natural world beyond repair, we’ll find a better path towards sanity and well-being than the destructive path we’re sleep-walking along the edge today.
So I’m possibility thinking as I consider a fictional future. It does not have us entirely crashing and burning, but hitting a wall and waking up. Nature has a few things up her sleeve that will serve this purpose. But once we hit the rocks, the boat stays afloat. What will that world look like, ya think?