Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What happens when the oil runs out?

Vegetable gardens in Slovenia (photo by Simon)I am currently reading the Emberverse series by S M Stirling, in which electronics, guns, the internal combustion engine, and gunpowder all stop working overnight. The laws of physics have been tampered with by some unknown power. The books explore the consequences of this strange event, known as the Change. Part of the story follows a small group of Georgian Wiccans who take to the hills; another part deals with a man who decides to set up a feudal Norman-style state. The people who do best are those with some skills in farming, making things, but also, the ones who are rich in stories that help make sense of the world, which help them to build just and cohesive societies.

I think that the Change is shorthand, or a metaphor, for what happens when the oil runs out. It won't happen overnight, and if we are lucky, it will be managed sensibly. But all the current indications are that it will not be managed sensibly. Instead of reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, companies are inventing ever more destructive ways of wresting them from the ground, the worst of these being fracking. We are also not investing in sustainable power sources, or taxing carbon consumption, or anywhere near enough of the things we should be doing. The warning signs of climate change are being ignored.

Rhyd Wildermuth's story, What we built from ruins (part 1 and part 2), in response to the question, what will Paganism look like in fifty years' time? got me thinking, as well. I realised that my response completely ignored the question of what will happen when the oil runs out.

I also recently attended a ritual in my local area that was part of a global magical working to protect the waters of the world from fracking, which is about the most irresponsible and damaging thing anyone could possibly do to the environment. It was a very moving and beautiful ritual, and it brought together eco-activists, Pagans, shamans, and others.

So what can Pagans and other ecologically-minded people be doing to prepare for the eventual crash, or shift?

We can reduce our own dependence on fossil fuels; campaign for investment in sustainable energy sources; campaign for environmental and social justice. But in addition to these, we can do magic (the art of changing consciousness in accordance with Will) to heal and protect the Earth and other living beings, and we can learn skills such as building roundhouses and coracles and boats, raising livestock, weaving, growing our own food, and so on. We can get involved with the transition towns movement and other sustainability initiatives, support organic farming, and check our own ecological footprint. We can build strong communities - not only of Pagans, but including others of good will. And we can engage with stories that show how to build just, cohesive, and inclusive societies. We are already doing all this to a certain extent - we just need to do it more.


Cat Vincent said...

So, Peter Dickinson's The Changes, then? Always worth revisiting the BBC kid's TV version of that - you can find it all on YouTube.

Also of note is John Barnes' DAYBREAK series, where a Luddite terrorist group cause all modern tech to be (mostly) destroyed or made unusable - a thoughtful hard SF look at the problem.

Yewtree said...

Sounds interesting. You would like the S M Stirling books, if you haven't read them already.

Steve Hayes said...

When was it published? Sounds like a rip-off of Peter Dickinson's series, as Cat Vincent pointed out. I read that 40 years ago.

Have you read Earth abides, by George Stewart? It was my introduction to ecology, back in 1961.

Yewtree said...

I think different books can have a similar idea without being a rip-off of each other.

I had a similar idea for a novel myself, before I started reading the Emberverse series.

The first Emberverse novel was written in 2004, and he is still releasing the final instalment. It is the flipside of the "Island in the Sea of Time" novels - also highly recommended.