You wake up tomorrow and discover that all the hydrocarbons in the world — all the oil, gas and coal — have vanished. Evaporated. Crumbled into dust and blown away.
Since it’s dark, you have to stumble around looking for a candle, hoping that all your candles aren’t made of paraffin, and wonder how you are going to light it when your butane lighter is now empty. You have water, for now, but your fridge and freezer are not working, so you start to guess how many days’ food supply you have left and how long before it spoils. You estimate that after two weeks you’ll be relying on dry goods and canned goods, and expecting that they’ll have to do, since by then the stores and restaurants will be empty and abandoned.
You’re cold in the dewy morning air, so you add a few layers of clothing, and then wonder how, from now on, you’re going to keep them clean. You remember from your university days washing your clothes by hand in the sink and hanging them to dry. But even then the detergent you used was petroleum based.
You wonder whether to make a run for the store before everyone else empties out the shelves. But it’s a long way on foot, and how much could you cart back, anyway, even with your bicycle, which has no carrier on it?
You’re puzzled by the fact your cell phone isn’t working, even though it has some charge left in it, and there are no radio stations on the air. You have no idea if TV stations are still broadcasting, and the morning paper hasn’t come. You rummage around for the non-portable phone you keep for times of power outages, but you can’t find it in the dark.
You stagger outside, seeking to find some meaning for this bizarre event through conversation with others. All your neighbours, at least those who slept at home last night, are out at the end of their driveways, looking bleary-eyed and bewildered, talking quietly. The cats and dogs seem enchanted by this strange occurrence, and the dogs rush, tails wagging, between the huddled groups of people who are munching various foods they’ve scrounged from their cupboards and fridges, hoping for morning treats.
What you notice most is the silence, the incredible peacefulness of this morning scene. You can hear birds that you’ve never noticed before. Although it’s past daybreak, you can still see the stars. There’s a sense of exhilaration, not dread, among the people you meet, as if they’d been liberated rather than deprived of the fuel of their civilization. Work responsibilities that yesterday weighed heavy are no longer important. It is as if everyone has discovered they have all the time in the world.
Within an hour, plans have been formed to pool the neighbourhood’s perishables, to keep them in one cool shared place, and to mete them out, fairly and carefully so they last as long as possible. Henceforth, all meals will be communal, shared with neighbours whose names, yesterday, you hardly knew.
The parents of one of the neighbours, you learn, are farmers with dairy cows, free range chickens and several acres of vegetables. An expedition is formed — a bicycle brigade — for the ten-mile trek to this farm, to see if the owners are well and safe, to offer services to replace those once done with oil-powered technology, and to procure supplies for the coalesced neighbourhood group. This group of 35 people includes a bed-ridden senior, a child with Down Syndrome, a two-month-old baby, six people with various allergies, three diabetics, and a woman in an electric wheelchair (now powerless).
These people lives within five minutes’ walk of your home, but you didn’t know most of them existed until today. Now they’re your community. So are six dogs, four cats, and various furred, feathered and scaled creatures, animal companions now dependent on your collective largesse.
This is not what you’d expected. There are no looters, no gangs, no crazies with guns trying to protect what’s theirs or take what’s yours. You’re not sure what will happen next, or even if this is all a dream. But you do not feel terribly concerned. You have a plan, as part of this quirky new, quickly-assembled community. You are doing what you can. No panic is called for, and there’s no point in it anyway.
The silence is astonishing. You have time, space and opportunity to think. There is no hurry any more. There is no worry, either. There is a sense of comfort, connection, security, self-control, independence. It will be winter, soon, but there’s plenty of wood stacked up, and unlike the other sources of fuel and heat, it seems to be intact. You know wood is bad for carbon emissions, but you have high-efficiency fireplaces, and besides, with no more oil or coal being burned, will global warming still be a problem?
In an hour you’re going to take your dog for the longest walk of her life, as you join the ten-mile bicycle brigade to the neighbour’s parents’ farm. You’ve never milked a cow before, and your dog’s never even seen one.
You are singing to yourself: “Now she’s wild with expectation on the edge of the unknown“, and you know the song’s about you. “It’s enough to be on your way, it’s enough just to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.” You’re on your way.
You feed your dog, eat some cereal, drink some juice, kiss loved ones goodbye for awhile, and cycle over to join the group, loaded with water, blankets, baskets, ready for the trek. One member of the group has a crank-powered mp3 player, yesterday a conversation piece, today a staggeringly valuable rarity. You are missing your music, already.
You wonder how all the people, all over the world, are coping. The people you know and love, and now cannot talk to, and may never talk to again. The people you’ve never met, in struggling nations, who will find this day not terribly different from yesterday, people who have spent their lives learning to live the way you’re just about to begin to learn to live. You feel a sudden affinity with these people.
You are becoming someone else, someone you could not have been yesterday. Someone more connected to the land, to the people in your community and all over the world, to all-life-on-Earth. The sun is shining, now, and the colour of the skies and the trees and the eyes of the people beside you are richer, more real, different from anything you have seen before, and you’re sooverwhelmed with awe and wonder and you’re laughing and crying and so present it’s almost unbearable.
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Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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