With Donald Trump running amok inside the American political machine, soaking up the admiration of an entire social class that has been discarded like so many pairs of worn-out gym socks in the race to the dream, I want to take a moment to talk about an alternative route to the future. Fortunately, it has precious little to do with politics.
It's frustrating to watch cycle after cycle of politicians plucking at the heart strings of the electorate, lying to the faces of millions of people who desperately need them to be honest, promising that land of milk and honey that seems to slip faster and farther away every election cycle. And rightfully so, because it IS slipping farther out of reach every election cycle. Unless we're talking about a land of actual milk and honey, that is.
What the industrial world needs now more than anything else is a prominent and responsible figure to stand up and tell them what's up: that the modern industrial way of life is going down by the stern and that seats in the life boats are available, but we're running out of time to get you safely aboard.
Now wait a minute here. Does that mean that everyone should panic and start pushing the boats off before everyone who could be aboard is in fact aboard? Of course not. Does it mean that there is some sort of event horizon when it will be too late to put the gin fizz down and actually get on that boat? Again, no, probably not. Does it mean that we need to hoard up all the amenities of the industrial age in a lifeboat for ourselves, and wait in the dark with the pistol cocked for the thieving zombie hoards to inevitably barge in, eat our brains, and take our stuff? Don't be absurd. But every election cycle, every year actually, that goes by without meaningful change consigns you to a worse position on the life boats than need be.
And someone who matters needs to tell folks that time is of the essence. There are plenty of players out on the fringes of society who have been pushing people in the right direction for years, but not enough people are reading them. In fact there are at least as many on the other end of the spectrum, shouting down the people who really are trying to help at the top of their lungs.
To wrap up the Titanic analogy (thank you, Tripp!) there are plenty of things that can be saved, time still even to put a few of your favorite but non-essential belongings in the pocket of your overcoat on the way out. But the rest of the cargo needs to be seeds, and tools, and small livestock, and books, and forgotten skills. We need to make friends with the neighbors. Fruit trees need time to settle in and reach bearing age. Breeding programs need to be tailored to the new realities of energy descent, not some flashy hyper-efficient and unnatural industrial formulation. Effective (and organic) crop polycultures need to be worked out over years of trials. And worked out without the use of modern (and expensive) machines and additives. And then, after that's done, we will need to invest that much time again, to build resilience in our life-support systems. As an example, I have a few fruit trees that are now of crop bearing age, but that tend to bloom too early and get hammered by late frost. Later blooming cultivars are on my list of items to acquire this spring. But they won't be ready to fruit any time real soon even so.
The way we've done business in the industrial world since the end of WWII only made sense under the specific environmental and market conditions that existed up until recently, but continue to unravel at a hastening pace. Kudos to us for being so successful under those conditions! But contraction is a very different animal than expansion. Whole systems tend to behave in radically different ways under different energetic trajectories. What we're dealing with here isn't an economic hiccup or a trendy stab at simplification, and we need to stop thinking that. We need to stop being lied to about that. What we have before us instead is a long, slow, ragged decline from the giddy heights of the fossil fuel age to some deindustrial version of what would be to us an unrecognizable way of life.
If we want to continue living in a land of milk and honey - and who doesn't - we'll have to build it for ourselves, preferably right now, where we are, with what we have. If you have a cube truck with 4 tons of cargo ready to roll out when the zombie hoards show up, where will you run that could possibly be better prepared than home? Will the protective and nurturing community you've been working on be ready to roll out with you when you give the word? Or will they just think you're a reactionary nut? Productive organic garden soil is a lot easier to come by when you've spent years developing it just outside your kitchen door. And you can't dig up a 5 year old peach tree. At least not in a hurry.
It is heart-breaking to see the very poor twiddling their thumbs day after day, not even a tomato growing in a bucket or an egg bird wandering around, waiting for help to arrive when we know good and well that help will not be forthcoming. Not from the politicians who don't promise it, nor from the politicians who do. Politicians only say what they need to say to get elected, and nobody serious about getting elected is going to tell us the truth about the future.
But a smart fella (multi-billionaire, remember?) like Donald Trump is willing to bank his campaign strategy on a forgotten class of blue collar folks who've had their jobs sold to third world sweatshop hellholes or given to illegal immigrants for peanuts in compensation with no legal recourse against being stepped on and underpaid. That being the case, I'm guessing Trump doesn't believe the official unemployment statistics any more than some of us do. And Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh are listening. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he will do better in the northeast and midwest states than he did in Iowa. And he didn't do too badly there...
Milk and honey have always been available to those who go out of their way to secure it. But if you're thinking that someone will just give it to you, or that it's your birthright as an American, or even that paper money will always be able to buy it for you, the future might end up being a disappointing place for you.
Me, I'm gonna be adding honeybee hives to all three of my projects this spring. I like honey. And milk.
Peace, beautiful people.