Let’s Talk About the End

November 2, 2009

A few days ago I received the following correspondence with regards to a fantasy I’ve been having with more and more frequency for an “art motel”—an abandoned roadside motel that has been converted into an artist’s residency site (rip up the parking lot and put in a vegetable garden)—from a lawyer friend of mine currently in her last year of school at The University of Oregon.  Her name is Jilian Clearman.  I feel it sums up in an eloquent manner the general sense of pervasive anxiety accompanying the particular phase of human devolution that’s been in the air lately, as well as offering some useful advice.  In any case, for your reading pleasure:

“I want to reiterate how enthusiastic I am about the art motel idea.  In part because it sounds like a wonderful creative scene and a worthwhile experiment in community, and also because I want everyone I love to make it comfortably through the bad shit that’s going to happen sometime between 2012 and 2020.  I’m not talking about the Mayan calendar end of the world stuff — I don’t discount that, but it’s not why I’m worried.  I’m talking about peak oil and accelerating climate change.  I can tell you in more detail what I think is going to happen and why.  I can recommend things I’ve read by climate scientists and environmental lawyers that have convinced me.  I don’t think anyone knows exactly what’s going to happen, though.  In my opinion the best case scenario involves a lot of ordinary, middle class people waiting in line for charity and government rations for a while until our food system readjusts to the new price of oil.  The worst involves a Mad Max-style total breakdown of law and order, possibly lasting a long time.  Here’s the take-home: stay out of major cities and establish a reliable food source.  I’m dead serious about this.  I think a year’s worth of stored food and the means to grow more is a good goal to work toward.  And you may want to think about an alternative power source, or at least a way to cook properly without gas or electricity.  And you’ll need a gun.  I’m buying a shotgun when I get to Wisconsin.  Northern California looks like it’s going to continue to be a pretty easy climate, so that’s a good place for you guys to settle.  I know that this sounds a little crazy, but it’s not some hippie survivalist fantasy I’m entertaining myself with.  Maybe it won’t be all that bad, or maybe it will be very bad, but either way we are in for some kind of rough transition, when the way we’ve been living finally becomes unsustainable in an immediate rather than an abstract way.

Take a moment to consider the lot of an environmental lawyer at this stage — to understand these issues (and to understand the pitifully slow and inadequate means that our system provides for trying to address them) is to understand that we are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  There’s genuine debate within the community about mitigation versus adaptation — whether it’s useless to try and stop climate change at this point and we should put our energy toward trying to protect the most vulnerable people from the worst of the bad shit that’s already starting, shit that’s too far along to stop at this point.  And there’s the constant temptation to give up and build a little solar-powered compound in the mountains and take care of yourself and your loved ones.  Currently I’m sort of trying to do both.  It makes me wish I was doing this work ten years ago, though.  Or even five.  There was still time then.

Anyway, enough of that.  I’ve made my point.”


Thanks Jil.


Posted by Lily





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