Monday, October 02, 2006

The one thing we did right...Was the day we started to fight

I've been watching the rerelease of _Eyes on the Prize_ which I haven't seen since high school. And I recommend to everyone that you watch it to. Because not only is it a brilliant representation of our history, and one of the best documentaries of all time, it is also an inspiration for what could be the future of peak oil.

Because peak oil is not about petroleum geology, or economics when you get right down to it - oh, those things matter, but they aren't the center of things. Peak Oil is a justice movement, plain and simple. It is about fairness, morality and justice - we in the rich world have chosen to steal from the poor in our own country and other nations, and from our children and grandchildren, and we need to stop it right now. The stakes are very simple. Our children's lives. Other people's lives. The food in their mouths and the medicine that keeps them from dying unnecessarily. If we keep consuming resources as though there is no tomorrow, there will be no tomorrow, and those who are too young or too weak or too powerless to demand anything be saved for themselves will die. They are dying right now, today in third world countries as we in the west extract 38 billion dollars of wealth from them every single year. And that is a drop in the bucket compared to the number who stand to suffer and die because of climate change, peak oil and economic disruption. Don't believe me? Take a look at the actuarial projections the insurance industry is making - 40,000 extra people a year dead from climate change. It can't always be someone else. Your kids. My kids. Other people's kids - children just as loved as yours and mine.

And why? What do we get out of it that matters so much? Not love, or happiness, or freedom. We're not the happiest people in the world (the US the 74th happiest nation in the world - is that sad or what?). We have the 27th freest press. We're not the healthiest, we don't have the best marriages, we don't have the highest quality of life - by every measure of what we say matters, all we get out of this is things, and convenience.

And even people within the peak oil movement often believe we can't give up our convenience, even to save a life right now, today. Not even if it were life of our own child, our own grandchild, our own niece or nephew. I hear reasons - from my own voice - why I can't do X or Y thing that would save something for the future.

But if you or I believe we can't give up our cars, or our heat or air conditioning, or our jobs that produce nothing and give wealth to the corporations we pretend to deplore, watch _Eyes on the Prize_ right now, and watch a 65 year old maid with diabetes and varicose veins tell with pride how she walked 8 miles round trip to her job scrubbing floors and serving people, and never, ever took a ride on a bus no matter how tired she was. Watch a 7 year old girl walk past a row of people screaming obscenities at her and throwing things. Watch an old man face death threats to walk into a courtroom to testify. See people face down dogs and firehoses and men with guns who want to kill them and link arms and march forward. We all know people did this, but what EOP does better than any other single source is show how ordinary those actions are.

Those people were no different than you or me. They were ordinary people with ordinary fears and an ordinary degree of courage. What they had is integrity in the literal sense of the word - the belief that their deeds must be fully integrated with their beliefs and sense of ethics.

What would the world look like if all of us who worry about peak oil and climate change showed true integrity? What would it look like if the millions of people who know what is coming refused to participate? What would happen if had the courage of our own convictions and stood up and said "I will no longer steal from the future and the poor, I will live only on what is mine by right and in justice."

There is no doubt in the world we could do it. I'm trying to find my way there. Who wants to come?



Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon,

I often read, and I've been enjoying your recent posts very much.

I travel in a leftish Catholic circle of acquaintance, and there's a lot of talk about "social justice". What this translates to, apparently, is donating to charity and going to rallies. I've been trying to explain over and over that real social justice is growing food and driving less, but there's a wall that seems insurmountable. I'm pretty fed up, really. They drive across the country to go to a charity rally, but can't find time to put in a garden. They call it my "hobby" and think I'm a crank.

Anyway, I really appreciate this post. This is the truth - we are stealing and grinding the poor beneath our heels in order to maintain our incredibly luxurious lifestyles. We're disengaging as quickly as we can, but it's a sticky web.

Amy said...


I hope you don't mind, but I put a link to your blog from mine. You say what I'm thinking so well and with such clarity that I had to pass it on.


Panidaho said...

Sharon - Thanks for linking this as a re-run from your newer "vacation" post. I'm a rather new reader, so I hadn't seen it the first time around.

Anonymous, join the Crank Club. ;-) Although these days I have to confess to an almost Zen-like acceptance of this stuff. Yes, people will begin to die sooner than they might have otherwise because of the climate changes we've triggered and the preparations we as a species did not make. But, life on this planet will adapt and go on, there will just be fewer of our kind. Because I'm human I find that sad, but it's simply reality - I guess we can't expect to live as if we're immune to the laws of nature forever.

I've linked to your blog, Sharon, thanks for the thought provoking commentary. I look forward to reading more when you get back from vacation.

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