Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do Lemmings Grieve?

The part of the below was written in the late 90s, I think for the old RunningOnEmpty mailing list.

Do lemmings grieve? Do they deny the cliff? Do they bargain with silicon chips or with the god of technological progress? Do they fall into the hole in their heart counting the ways to die, the percentages, the exact time? Do they rant in the face of their helplessness?
(yes, I know lemmings do not commit suicide, it is a metaphor)

I grieve. My grief is for my species. My grief is for the glory of our achievements, our soaring. My grief is for my way of life. My grief is for the next ones. And the inevitability of it all. And the spiral/cyclical nature of it all.
And my grief is deeper now. Perhaps informed by my age and the bone deep sense of my own leaving.

I have known of the population/resource depletion/environmental degradation interplay for 30 years and have taken many steps to honor it. It has been a grand adventure. Yet, the dull drag of some distant future collapse has turned into the gravity of Jupiter pulling at my insides. The peak is not the end of oil that my mind had prepared for that would have cause disruption sometime just beyond the end of my life. The peak is yesterday or today and is a shrill grinding of the machinery reacting to the cliff of no oil. Preparing like lemmings to eat,chew, bomb even nuke each other as we rush the cliff.

Today, I have dinner with two dear friends with four children who have lived similar to me (off the grid) almost as long as I have. They know the information I know. They are in deep denial. Denial is of course the psychological equivalent of the shock that the body experiences with trauma. There are little denials; there are big, life blinding denials. They, we, live in life blinding denial because it hurts deep in the marrow of our bones like a fever of 103. And we can only do this, because to come to the acceptance of the inevitability, to wrap our minds around the magnitude of the hurt takes an acceptance that I have not reached.

And we will laugh and play and kid around. We will talk about the coming gardening season (she is a master gardener). We will talk about the renewable energy and sustainable farming fair we are involved in putting on. I will tell them of my plans to build a self contained cabin on my friends land by the lake.

Will we be lying? No, we will be humans who love each other, who enjoy our lives, who are enjoying the moment as humans have done forever.

My life has been a grand adventure thus far as I said. I have dared where some would not have. I have done many things and enjoyed many people.

I love to eat greasy fried chicken. To split wood for my heating and eating. To explore new ideas and learn new things. To smoke a good joint now and again. To ride/fly my recumbent bicycle down a hill. To watch my new puppy Streak bugging my older dog, Bandit. To enjoy ecstasy with another. To hear the geese heading back to Canada. So much, so full. The joy, the humor, the sadness, the anger all of it must be inorder to honor for my own fullness.

I have tried to set up a model (not an ideal). I live using 3/4 kilowatt of electricity a day and live well. Have designed my home/land for my living today and for someone else's tomorrow. I plant fruit trees that I may never see bear. I have developed a library so just perhaps all will not be lost.

So much of the discussions on this list, on energy resources and on the old ROE had/has an implicit dream/hope of maintaining our level of living at the top of the energy pyramid. Ah, denial. Yet, there is much that can be done at a much lower level of energy consumption that can make life less brutish. A 1/2 horse power 12 volt DC motor can pump my water, grind my grain, vacumn my home. 100 gallons a year of ethanol can rototill the garden, blow snow, cut wood.

I have proposed this measure before. It is one I first saw in Odum's Energy Basis for Man and Nature. It is the Human Energy Equivalent (HEE) which is 10000 joules or 2388 kilocalories. This is the energy we need to live daily in food intake. (yes, I know that nutrition is not just quantity, it is also quality). What level above this could we use individually and in community to not have a brutish life. 10 HEEs? 20HEEs? And in suggesting that we consider this, I give away the obvious, yes, I still dream about our future. Yes, I still hold hope because that is what I do. I am human.

Since writing the above:
In February 2003, I was diagnosed with lung cancer and given little time to live and poor odds even if I did treatment. I did radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. It took almost four years to get over the debilitation of the treatment. I thrive.
My partner, now of ten years, and I are developing a orchard and truck farm. We have reconditioned an old home on the place for living and a small country store. (We live on a nearby lake). We are developing this for the next generations.

The below was written as the notes to myself for a speech at the cancer RelayForLife.

The theme is hope. To me Hope is Doing.
I am a back to the land hippie from the 60s. During treatment for the cancer, I was splitting wood because I needed to cook and heat. My neighbors did do most of it but I still need to do some.
For me, hope is not words all though the kind ones and the prayers are welcome. Hope is not statistics.
Hope is doing. It is doing the things you have to, for me like splitting wood. And it is doing the things that arise in you and really are doing you. First, for me it was talking to kids all around Minnesota about not smoking. Now it is putting in an organic orchard for future food for people. This isn't heroics it is living.

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