Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's Been Crappy Before

Last weekend, we ate dinner with a couple who were on their way to a big move. They were moving to Savannah the next day. He will be a hospital doctor, and she will probably go back to teaching once she feels comfortable leaving her one year old for the day.

We got to talking about what I did, and that brought up the movie the Inconvenient Truth.

The young mother asked me, what did I think was the greatest weakness of the movie?

I responded with a technical response, the fact that Gore did not make it clear that the historical record shows a relationship between CO2 and temperature, not a causal relationship. Right wing nut balls have used this to show that the movie's science is flawed, which it is not.

"NO, NO "she said. "Nothing that technical."

"What bothered me about the movie is that it left me depressed."

I remembered that the movie did leave a laundry list of things we can do, but she must have seen through the limitations of those personal things in light of the titanic changes that loom before us. She knew that this problem was a big problem, one that would require substantial political and social effort, and she was concerned about the future for her new child and family.

As should we all.

That led me to talk about the beginning of the last century.

At the beginning of the last century, everything was pretty much the way it had been for centuries. The horse was still the main appliance for personal transportation. I remarked that at the beginning of World War I, cannons were pulled into place using horses, and by the end of the war, we were shooting each other out of airplanes.

At the beginning of the last century, there was no electricity, lights were still run by oil, much of it from whales. If you wanted to communicate, you did so with pen and ink and the post office. Farms were powered by the hay that was fed to the animals. There was the "iron horse" of course, which had been around for almost 100 years. And, it had changed life quite a lot by opening up new territories and by creating thousands of new railroad towns. It also created a new class of millionaire, which ultimately turned "railroad" into a verb.

But in the early 1900's, life was pretty much the way it had been for centuries.

Then the War came, and it killed millions.

Then the Influenza Pandemic came and it killed just as many. Perhaps 10% of the people on earth at the time died. Then came electricity, and cars, and refrigerators, and radios, and TVs, and Pac Man.

The World Changed.

And its going to change again.

I went into my speel about this exciting new future that is before us, and how we will soon be able to coat our buildings with power paints that convert photons to electrons. I predicted that our electric grid will soon be beefed up with utra caps into what I call the Unified Photonic Energy Web. I went on about how climate change will force us to reevaluate our materialistic culture and how new inventions of social contract will come about which will ultimately grow into "social beings" that will compete with the "corporate beings" that presently dominate the planet.

I think it was about then that I could see that our young couple's eyes were beginning to cross and they were showing signs of getting a little dizzy. The baby began to squabble too.

Still, they left the dinner table somewhat satisfied, knowing that even though the future may indeed be rocky, it has been rocky before and most of us survived. They were somehow relieved to be reminded that the times and events that lay before us now have existed in one way or another in our history.

As the Lounge Lizards sing, "things have been crappy before".

And the changes that will arise in the beginning of this century,

Will be as profound and as unpredicatable as the changes

that occured in the beginning of the last century,

and the century before that.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way" Dickens 1859


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was eyeopening when I learned about how the Easter Islanders destroyed their environment by using up all the trees to roll the monolithic sculptures to the shoreline as protection from enemies. A misguided defense appropriation brought about their demise. Last night on the History Channel it was revealed that the ancient Mayans also misused the trees--to make lye for the bright red plaster paint they used to adorn their monumental temples. Without the trees the topsoil got covered with clay silt through erosion and they could no longer grow enough food to sustain the huge population.
Civilizations come and go due to environmental hubris. When will we learn?

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one of your best. only thing is I'd tell that young mother to stay home and take care of her one year old; they grow up so very fast and nobody else will tell him the stories and sing him the songs and walk him on trails like she will, or if they do, he will hear the other persons' stories, smell the other person's body, learn the other person's songs and the mother will come home exhausted and then it will be gone and he will be in school and she can't cuddle him very much any more. our kids were mad because I wouldn't send them to day care. I said they were my first and main job and we stayed together, sang together, read together, grew gardens and chickens and bees together, cooked and sewed together, went to the library and the botanical gardens and the parks together, dealt with neighborhood problems together.....but I loved your story today.

11:11 AM  

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