Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Don Sanderson: Some random thoughts

In Around Mendo Island, Mendo Island Transition on July 30, 2011 at 9:01 am


Our modern society appears to be saturated with fear, which is quite reasonable it seems to me. On the far right, the Tea Party and its wealthy supporters are attempting to build barriers to keep the world out. On the left, we are more inclusive, but are also searching for ways to shield ourselves. Yet, on both ends and in the middle, we are attempting to escape while taking at least the rudiments of our lifestyles with us. I reflect on so-called transition towns. Can you think of such a community, say a possible Ukiah, without electricity and or natural gas? We can’t live long without water, but without electricity the city’s wells would cease to function – as would its sewer system. Would we carry our water from Mendocino Lake or the river? How would we cook our food, if we can find any, with fire wood? How would we cut it without a chainsaw? How would we burn it in our houses as mostly are presently constructed? How would we haul it out of the woods? From where will we get our clothing and shoes when they wear out? If you think these would be difficult, think of attempting to survive in San Jose.

So, we depend upon high tech engineers to develop solar, wind power, and biofuel solutions.  But, the development and maintenance of such depends upon cheap, available fossil fuels and electricity in so many aspects. We, our modern lifestyles, are so locked into such expectations. Even the most radical of us can only dream of returning to earlier times maybe only a century past in much of the country when human and animal labor were preeminent and most communities were small, at most a few hundred residents living close to the earth. Imagine most of us attempting to transition to such farm villages in the little time we apparently have left. It won’t happen until it is forced upon us and can you doubt that most won’t make it? Some I believe will, particularly in the less developed parts of the world.

There are those of us who are attempting to find an escape who are concentrating on saving our families and close associates – and just let the world outside burn. That, I claim, won’t work here in the United States, if only because we have been too locked into our present lifestyles and there will be no time to relearn the old self-sufficient ways. Anyhow, when the crash comes, those who now live in urban areas will be flooding out desperately searching for water and food and loaded with firepower.

Others are dreaming of somehow converting humanity in some way which will permit us to painlessly adapt. In the past decade or so, our world population has grown by about a billion to seven billion. Desperate people have children as a protection from facing the world alone, so we shouldn’t be surprised if population growth increases ever more rapidly. Like a bunch of rats, we’re eating everything in sight and the cheese is nearly gone. Maybe somewhere hidden in the Trinities there is a place that can shield a few from this for awhile yet, but surely not here. I don’t deny and indeed expect that some of us will make the transition to a new more peaceful world, but most won’t, can’t because there would be no natural world left to devour.

So, what is left for us? The prior question: why are we here? To fight for survival at all costs as evolutionary scientists tell us? If that were true, it would be such a sad world, so much suffering without hope of personal gain. I not only believe, I’m certain that there is another answer, one that has been pointed out to us in all regions and all times of which we are aware, yet which we’ve persistently ignored because we were too busy with surviving until we die. It all has to do with love… actually radical empathy not only for fellow humans but also for our precious Earth and all its beings. We are here to learn by interacting with, creatively cooperating with Gaia. Instead, most of us like undisciplined children are intent on trashing our school, figuratively burning its books. If Gaia is to survive, and it surely will, most of us are going to have to go and soon. But, as our sages have patiently told us, we are made of stuff that doesn’t die, so let us not cry for our lost companions. Rather, let us feel sadness for their lost opportunities. And, let us use the time we have left more creatively. We actually each are wondrous as is our world, but we’ve mostly not noticed, forgotten. Let us wake up, grow up and stop playing these childish games.


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