November 26, 2011
Last Tuesday, I turned seventy-one. Not a big deal; I felt no discernable difference –
physically or mentally – between being seventy the night before, and seventy-one that next morning. Still, I was surprised to find, as I went online to read the (mostly dour) news of the day, a sudden rush of gratitude to be living in these extraordinary and interesting times.
I blame it on curiosity. With twenty-nine years to go before I turn one-hundred, I find I do still want to stick around as long as possible just to see how it all turns out.
I know, for example, that Europe faces economic calamity now, with all the dire implications for both the Europeans and the rest of the world. And, as some point out, for democracy itself. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/24/inevitable-eu-democracy-survive-mess Yet, I remain curious as to just how long the technocrats and oligarchs and other movers and shakers can continue this delicate dance toward the cliff of financial collapse without actually slipping and plunging over it.
And, with the fossil fuel industry’s claims that we have a hundred years of oil, coal and natural gas right here at our fingertips, I can’t help wondering why they have spent so much time, money and energy in places like Kazakhstan’s coastal waters with so little return on investment http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/for-big-oil-a-cautionary-kazakh-tale-11232011.html and are contemplating even more dangerous and expensive places like the Arctic Sea as global warming takes its toll on the Arctic sea ice. Even at seventy-one, I find myself curious as to when or whether these movers and shakers of our oil-dependant world will ever grasp that, in a post-peak oil world, they are increasingly vulnerable to the battle between energy returned and energy invested, just as I wonder about their consummate abilities to deny the growing evidence supporting global warming and climate change http://www.climatehotmap.org/ and its relationship to our dependence on fossil fuels.
I’m curious as to whether their economic ideologies and worldviews convince them these events can’t happen simply because they have too much to lose, or their hubris makes them believe they will be exempt from the consequences as they do happen.
Mostly, though, I’m curious about the rest of us – the ninety-nine percent who are not technocrats, oligarchs or movers and shakers. We do, after all, have the same propensity for denying what challenges the stability of our own little worlds that they do.
Even as I pare down and rearrange my life in preparation for what I believe is coming, there are creature comforts I’m not willing to do without just yet. I will unplug my microwave and my television to cut off the residual power when I’m not using them, but I like the convenience of the microwave and the belly laughs I get from watching the fractious, socially clueless nerds on The Big Bang Theory. I’m not willing to give up my old and cranky computer yet, though I am (fortunately) too poor to buy into the multitude of i-everythings with which the world of commerce would like me to replace it. And I must confess, I’m happily munching corn chips dipped in cheese sauce and sipping a diet soda as I write this blog post. What I’m not willing to do any longer is deny that these events are occurring, that their effects on our collective way of life will be dire, that the window for meaningful change is fast closing and that all of us will be called upon to make difficult choices about who we are, what is truly important in our lives and what the relationship is between us and our fellow human beings if that window slams shut.
The failing economy has already pushed many of us into making those choices. Though it may be the area of the country I live in, so far I think we are doing pretty well in helping one another through. I am curious about whether we can maintain this as state governments – and eventually, the federal government – are forced to further cut back programs that support us in those endeavors. And I’m curious whether those of us who are more prepared can resist the fears of those who suddenly find they are not. I hope so.
Perhaps my own belief that we can is as ideological as the beliefs of those who do not feel they are so obliged. I suppose that’s one of the things I will be most curious about over the next year, as I head for seventy-two.