Why local?

Dear Reader:

A few contemporary writer-philosophers have influenced my current obsession with local living, peak oil, sustainability, and the future of civilization (such lofty topics reduced down to homey essentials like eggs, raw milk, yarn, and wild pickerel!) One of these is writers is James Howard Kunstler who has written non-fiction books such as THE LONG EMERGENCY, a contemplation of what will happen as our oil-based economy begins to run out of juice, and a novel entitled WORLD MADE BY HAND–a futuristic fiction about an upstate New York town after civilization has come to a screeching halt.

Granted, Kunstler is on the fringe when it comes to predicting where our society is headed. He’s an alarmist of the first order. It’s my deepest wish that what he thinks will happen, and soon, will not. However, sometimes I find it instructive to take a long look at a “worst case scenario.” People like Kunstler predicted the recent economic collapse (though I think they saw the collapse coming from an energy-supply issue rather than a real estate debacle), and for that alone, they deserve a hearing. If you are interested, take a peek at Kunstler’s blog

Perhaps civilization won’t crash and burn to the extent Kunstler postulates, but we do need to consider how deeply dependent we are on that black liquid that bubbles up from ancient, underground beds. 

Oil. We live on it. Our food is grown with it. Commercial fertilizers are derived from oil products. Farm machinery is run on it. Our food and other necessities like clothing and shoes and blankets and housing materials are shipped to our communities on fleets of boats and eighteen-wheelers run on diesel fuel. Oil heats our homes. Everything from cookware to clothing to car parts are made of plastic which is an oil-derived product. We travel by plane, train, and automobile–all run on oil.

Up until this moment, we’ve managed to get more and more of the stuff out of the ground, which worked superbly for an economy based on the concept of continual growth. Though there is some debate about whether or not we have reached peak oil production, there is much evidence to suggest we are now on the downward slope. The following artlicle by Colin Campbell for ASPO International explains the theory quite concisely. “Understanding Peak Oil.”

As oil becomes harder and harder to harvest and refine, the cost will go up, the economy will react, and things will change . . . how much they will change is the big question. Perhaps we will find alternative sources of energy and will transition before too much chaos descends. Perhaps not.

I ask, why wait? We can begin to transition ourselves and our local communities now by producing more of our own necessities right in our backyards. Let’s build an infrastructure that will be local and flexible enough to withstand whatever happens in the larger world. Maybe there will be some new oil-field discoveries that will last us for the next hundred years. Great! Maybe we will figure out cold-fusion technology and never need to worry about energy again. Fabulous! Strenthening our communities is a valuable endeavor even in a BEST-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, it could mean the difference between life and death.

2 responses to “Why local?

  1. Shelley this was good. I feel lately we are sucking the life out of our planet. We drill for oil; for natural gas; for water; dig for coal; etc. Why? Because that’s where the money is! No wonder our planet is reacting with earthquakes, volcanoes, and heating up. The planet can’t take much more of its’ insides being ripped out. Too bad no one will listen. They fight us when we try to install a windmill because it “might” kill a bird or a bat. They fight us if we try to build a dam because it “might” kill a fish. Instead they would rather we rip the heart and soul from our planet.
    Great job, keep writing.

    • Thanks for reading the blog! I hope more and more people begin to feel the way we do about where we are headed ecologically–not so much because we “love the planet” but also because we LIVE here. The planet will survive if we suck all the oil and natural resources out . . . but we might not! I’m excited about Governor Baldacci’s plans to build a strong alternative energy sector in Maine. It will be good for our economy and good for our environment. I’d rather see a windmill in my backyard than an oil drilling operation. Birds are killed in oil spills, and all our polluted air can’t be good for any of the animals on the planet. Nothing we do has zero effect on the ecosystem, but if we look at the bigger picture, perhaps we can make wiser choices. That being said, we might also think about population issues . . . but that might be a topic for another day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s