Monday, 11 July 2011

Anatomy of a Climate Depression - Part 3, It's Not Just the Climate, Stupid

My original blog, Copenhagen Follies, is proving an invaluable resource in my visits back to the start of my climate woes. I hardly ever go back and visit earlier posts, but it's a perfect timeline of the evolution of it all, and I'm actually quite impressed how well I wrote in the throes of such a huge existential crisis!

To continue, after my second son was born in July 2007, I had a complete meltdown over the climate in October of the same year. I was a sad and crying mess, friends were starting to be concerned, I started feeling more sad than happy for having put kids in the world. There was a certain ebb and flow to it, so after the initial rough patch, I learned to live with it, sometimes even forgetting it, and going happily on with my life. But it would always come back to a certain degree when I read about climate in the news.

I did start to act upon my climate fear, not only writing about it, but also being more aware of unnecessary consumerism on my part, and deciding to take a family vacation to France by train instead of plane to cut down on carbon emissions. It was a small start.

However, what I'd experienced in October of 2007 was peanuts compared with what came in March 2008.

On a regular old weekday, I'd been home with both boys, messing about in the kitchen, stirring something up, while simultaneously messing about on Google. I was searching after information about Dr. Udo's oil (healthfood store staple of different omega oils), and something about Peak Oil popped up. I started reading. Shouldn't have done that! (Well actually, I should, and I did. If you don't know about Peak Oil, you need to google it. Another good resource is The Transition Towns Movement, but please try to find a broad spectrum of resources, for balanced input)

The notion that the world was going to run out of oil wasn't new to me. I'd even bought this book at an airport bookshop (the irony) years before getting married and having my kids, which I'd dutifully read, though for some reason I didn't find it particularly alarming at the time. In trying to understand how that could be, I can only guess that I was such a product of the consumer society I was a part of that I was duped like everyone else into thinking that everything would be ok, and things would eventually be taken care of.

After reading one too many google hits on peak oil, I experienced what a can only describe as a full blown anxiety attack. I threw up. Twice. I broke out in cold sweats. I couldn't stand up. All this, with a 2 year old and a baby to take care of. Why the notion of peak oil hadn't bothered me before, but caused such a physical reaction to me then I put down to the additions of having children and climate change in my life. Feeding the world is largely an oil based activity in this day and age, stop and think how much farm equipment is run on petrol, and imagine how the world can continue agriculture on such a large scale using manual labor only. Feeding ourselves is going to be the new black, or rather an all encompassing factor, and not just a hobby or an afterthought as we order our favorite numbers from the pizzeria around the corner. And naturally, I think about how my kids are going to eat, now as in the future. Throw in climate change, and the fact that less oil will no doubt mean more coal, the real carbon sinner, and we have just about as many post-apocalyptic scenarios as there are Hollywood movies that provide them for us.

How to describe the first physical feeling that overcomes you when you realize something of this magnitude? Before the spewing, that is. It's like having a huge bass string running the length of your body, from the very top of your head to the soles of your feet. And The Hulk is plucking it. "Doing!"

I somehow managed to call my husband, between vomiting and dragging myself to the den where all I could do was turn on the tv and find something to satiate my kids for a while. The baby was hungry though, and my oldest was constantly asking me to read a book. None of which I was capable of handling alone. I told my husband to come home ASAP, and bring dinner with him. I have no recollection of what happened after, I stayed an apathetic lump on the floor the whole night.

In the morning, I remember waking him up, and in all seriousness telling him that I wanted to find a place in the country where we could live and grow our own food. What a wakeup call. All of a sudden, all that mattered was getting back to basics, taking control of our own primary needs, instead of leaving them outsourced to an unsustainable paradigm. Peak Oil will change everything the industrialized world does. But no one is taking account of that fact. Our lifestyles are still based on a finite resource as though it were infinite. And like climate change hardly figures on political agendas, peak oil hardly gets a mention. It's not a secret or anything. Since the first oil well ran dry, humans have known that oil would one day run out.

Peak Oil and Climate Change present two different sides of the same challenge. Our need for energy has tipped the natural carbon balance of our planet. So we can't address the one, without addressing the other. And the implications of both mean big changes for society as a whole. The sooner we realize that, come to terms with it, and embrace it, the less scary it can seem. I'll deal with that later on in this blog, I need to wrap up the "Anatomy" series of blog posts first.

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