A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its
place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being “green” and the recession.
The neighbor with the dead battery has been involved with a local
semi-official flea market. The people running it are conscious of the
fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second
hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking
for ways to be more so, for example sourcing “plastic” bags made of
plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood
how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that
led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth,
government and banks and the stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.
This in contrast to interactions with neighbors over the past couple
years: the neighbor in the 10ft long trailer who blamed all the
countries problems on “the liberals”, the neighbor who couldn’t see any
possible reason to run bio-diesel instead of petrol when it costs more
– even when I pointed out that even if he doesn’t live long enough to
see environmental harm affect his life his kids might, not to mention
the narrowly avoided fist fight and the 3 year old who buried his dads
Like I have written, its funny that global warming is the thing that
finally got peoples attention – even though there isn’t hard scientific
evidence that human activity will change it in a significantly more
dramatic way than the natural climate cycles already do – when we have
known for many decades that our use of resources is totally
But whatever. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than not doing the right thing at all.
Now combined with economic changes, ideas I have been thinking about
all my life are becoming more and more popular. What will life be like
after the credit based economy has its debts called in, and we no
longer have the capacity to exploit natural resources at an
unsustainable level, (as is absolutely vital for the American way of
life as we know it)?
Of course there were always others who imagined it coming someday, with
varying levels of serious – movies like Six-String Samurai on the one
end, cults and militias on the other.
But now I am finding it everywhere.
The Gubbins Experiment, a blog I read about a guy who has given up not
only driving, but also accepting rides in any motor vehicle for a year,
wrote his most pessimistic post ever. My boss, a small business owner
with a contract with BART to run the BikeStation seemed to imply that
the end of civilization as we know will happen within the next 20
years, and that it will hit dramatic and fast when it does. I met my
most recent friend in part via (literal) dreams of a post-apocalyptic
And now, even here in the trailer park, people are thinking in global terms about sustainability and economics.
Contrast it also to discussions I have had recently with some single
issue activists, who I found by and large narrowly focused on not just
one issue, but one side of one issue, unable or unwilling to consider
other points of view, ignoring historical and current contexts that
don’t support a pre-determined conclusion, and offering more criticism
than real solutions.
Maybe I had it wrong all along.
Maybe it is the general public, the random ordinary everyday people in whom our potential salvation rests.
That is the most encouraging possibility I have come across in many years.