So like most of my "brilliant" ideas, this was conceived in a moment of madness, and committed to without really any plan. On Saturday, I slipped out for a bit to see former grad school friends, and while I was waiting for them to arrive, I met Andrew, the CSA farmer of song and story. We were chatting, and some how I got on to my theory that the peak oil movement needs to pander more. I had been very much annoyed by a section of David Orr's talk (not because it was in any way inherently annoying, just because it hit one of my buttons) describing all the terrible ways that the current administration, corporations and the right use sex and power amd fear to manipulate us. And this reason this annoys me is because I hear that outrage so often. But let's be honest - all of us, even we environmental and peak oil activists, like sex and power. I like sex, and I think I could get used to power too. To me, when we complain that the "other side" (a misnomer, but I'll use it) is using these terribly unfair techniques, that we won't use because we're so high minded (and really, that wasn't what David Orr said at all - this is just me riffing) and noble, we really mean that we're bad at using those techniques, so we're going to call them out of bounds.
Seriously, PETA has become a mainstream movement in large part because of a lot of naked models who will strip rather than wear fir. They could be our role models (that's really the only good thing I may ever say about PETA). So could the anti-tobacco campaigns showing the woman in her 30s dying. We have, as I said in my talk (I have largely forgotten my talk, and will never ever be able to reproduce it, except for this one short section, which I sort of remember, and a quote from Thomas Paine which I had to write down anyhow), got all the good stuff on our side (I'm going to write much more about this later, because I think it may be centrally important) - the images of the farm, and world war II levels of cooperation, of victory gardens - and truth and justice. I said something about pictures of cute kids holding baby lambs, I'm fairly sure. And then I think I mentioned sexy dairy maids and muscular men planting vegetables (the whole thing is really a total blur - that I didn't fall on my ass is a miracle). All of which came out of this conversation with Andrew the day before, where somehow we'd gotten to joking about a "Men of Peak Oil" Calendar. And G-d help me, I said something about it on stage. It definitely got a laugh. And I was still wired and insane enough to actually ask Richard Heinberg to do it (I'm sure the covering of his face and turning away in horror was a "yes").
But now, 30+ hours later, I still think its a good idea, from a slightly cooler perspective. First of all, because peak oil needs its first fund raiser - if we're ever going to get people to start associating us with lambs, muscles and little house on the prarie, which is absolutely essential (here I am not joking), that costs. And while women are the traditional models on these things, there are two reasons not to do that - a. It would be 12 months of Megan Quinn (no bad thought, certainly it would get a following, probably a big one, but that seems really unfair to her, and there's no one else) and b. the boys started this - they should skin for it.
Actually, the real reason that this would work is simple - the peak oil movement needs women more than anything in the world. Think that's an exaggeration? I don't. Because an enormous amount of the social capital (I hate that word, but we'll use it) in the world comes through women. They tend to be the organizers in small communities. They run the church functions, the synagogue sisterhood, cook the food, administrate the PTA, call people in emergencies, drive the carpools, spend time with the kids when their values are forming, talk about their worries with friends and families - including peak oil. They pick the clothes and decorate the houses - they do the grocery shopping and run the appliances - most of our energy consumption is managed by women. I don't mean to stereotype, but whether they work or have kids or neither, they probably do most of the household labor and most of the "processing" and maintaing of relationships - and those are big, big things for us. This cannot be a guy's thing and succeed. There were many, many, many women at that conference who I know just from speaking to them have organizational skills that this movement should be tapping, who have contacts and power that they don't think of as a potential asset but that they should. And because a lot of women (not all, there are plenty who can) don't have my willingness to talk loud in front of crowds, those skills aren't seen and gathered up and in.
I have no idea whatsoever whether any of these women really want to see the gentlemen who have done so much for the peak oil movement naked or not (actually, a few of them told me they did, but I don't know if they constitute a quorum or not ;-) - but what they want is to *laugh* (no, no, they aren't going to be laughing at your ummm, accoutrements...I'm talking about the kind of good natured laughter that women...oh, just go rent The Full Monty if you don't understand.) But the calendar would make some money, it would bring peak oil to some more mainstream people in a lighter, less scary way, and it would also say we're serious in a different way - that we're willing to embarass ourselves for a good cause. The other thing that I do remember from my presentation (oh, lord, I rather wish I didn't) was me pirouetting, showing off just how fat and flabby I am, in order to prove that many, many people can grow food - that it really isn't that hard. If you don't think that that scared me to death, well...let's just not talk about it)
I'm sure there are better ideas - in fact, I've got quite a few more serious ideas. For example, if you pushed me I might admit that we could get even further with some of them, and that I'm just fixating on this because it is so much fun. But I think that something funny-serious might not be a bad start. Because peak oil isn't just a fact, now its a movement, and people aren't they want to move when the whole thing is so depressing. Lightening things up just a little might do some real good. I keep thinking about the "Scenes From a Liberal Apocalypse" article in Harpers a few months ago (about last year's conference), in which the article attempted to dismiss peak oil because the whole thing seemed so humorless, so sincere. That article is the one thing that no one talked about at this conference (we should have, IMHO) and that no one talks about on the lists I'm on. We're afraid of being made fun of, because we think it takes away our credibility. But we're a lot less easy to be made fun of if we make fun of ourselves first. Satire is powerful. So let's steal it for a good cause.
I'm going to ASPO. I'll be seeing Richard Heinberg again (I was wondering if he'd remember me, but now I suspect he will ;-), and I'm going to ask him to introduce me to Matthew Simmons. I wonder if *he'll* take his shirt off ;-).
Sharon in upstate NY, who has had very, very little sleep in the last few days, and may regret this post later, particularly when she finds out that no one important in the peak oil movement will ever speak to her again.