Saturday 3 December 2011

Being Part of it All

Everyone reading this post will know our modern world is made of oil, from this computer to my toothbrush to the global food and transport systems. We are utterly dependent on it.

Responding to Peak Oil on a community level is one of the original drivers of Transition together with climate change. These drivers are what made a group of us in the pioneering Transition Circles spend 2009-2010 explore ways of cutting our personal carbon use to half the national average. And write about our experiences.

But what about the kind of people we are now after 150 years of cheap fossil fuel energy and all the perks that have gone with it - aeroplanes to cars to i-pods? I'd just assumed before my Peak Oil moment(s) that the "stuff" around us would be around forever. And that I would carry on not having much to do with anybody beyond my immediate circle. I had my own life, my own interests, my own world. I didn't really have to deal with other people. But this was an illusion.

Seeing through this illusion of being isolated, individual units in control of our own world as if we had no connection with or impact on anything or anybody beyond it is one of the biggest human challenges right now. We’ve had the energy and wealth (at least in the West) to keep ourselves apart from our fellow humans, ignore the planet that sustains us, whilst using up its physical (and human) 'resources' (hate that term) and cocoon ourselves in a web of consumerist products made of those resources.

This illusion of independence from the physical world casts a powerful spell. I meet a friend occasionally for a drink. We get on well and enjoy each others’ company. But I also have a strange and mysterious Power: the ability to bring the conversation and the evening to an abrupt end at any given moment. And not because I am endowed with any magical secrets. All I need do is mention the FINITE NATURE of the PLANET’S PHYSICAL ‘RESOURCES’, quite gently, throwaway even, and a restlessness ensues and suddenly it's time to go home.

I don’t do that on purpose. I just don't seem to be able to keep it out of the conversation.

My own separatist defence systems (which are not really my own, more conditioned social responses) have been breaking down slowly and surely over these past years in transition. I wouldn’t even be sitting with that friend four years ago. I probably would have been sitting at home on my own.

I would also not be visiting the Occupiers in Norwich or going to the workers’ rally in Lowestoft, or speaking with the local MP about climate change, or taking people on bee and wildflower walks around Bungay, writing these blogposts, working with a group of people on the Low Carbon Cookbook, or be part of the Transition Network Social Reporters’ project. I wouldn't be talking to Frank and Jeremy about chia, or keep forgetting to send helenofnorwich the photos I took of us picking sloes when she came down to visit with her girlfriend.

Or going over today to Kris and Eloise’s with Sustainable Bungay and the Norfolk Permaculture Group to help out on their work day chopping wood, moving compost and making soup...

Pics: Sunrise Autumn 2011 (MW); Me, Helen, Jo at Walberswick by helenofnorwich

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