I can’t think of any moms I know (and even those I don’t) who would sprinkle a dose of poison on her kid’s food. I can’t think of any who would blow mercury particulates in her kid’s face. Nor any who would wish for her child a lower standard of living in the future than she now enjoys.
Who does? Moms are the super champions of kids, wanting only the best for her offspring.
Your kid’s future looks bleak
Yet because of a future of decreased energy supplies and increased energy prices, any mom with kids under 25 can expect that her own kids’ futures will have markedly fewer opportunities across the board, creating a harsh and unmistakable marker between the lives of today, and the lives of the future. Sadly few women know about this and so, like poisoning her children’s food, or blowing mercury in their faces, she is going about life doing the very things that will contribute to hastening her own children’s depressed opportunities.
Harsh words, I know.
It’s a man’s world
I don’t mean anything by it, moms. What I really want is your attention. Hopefully I’ve got it now.
Part of the problem is that your attention is not on energy. The energy companies who drill for the stuff using dangerous and toxic methods like hydrofracking and deepwater drilling don’t have your attention. And the policymakers who both subsidize and regulate the energy industry don’t have your attention either.
Energy is kind of of a man’s world. It may be stereotypical, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Think of the oil workers, the roughnecks manning an oil rig on a Gulf platform. Or picture an energy analyst giving his dry report on some money show. Even solar and wind guys seem mostly like, well, guys. Not that it’s that way definitively. Nor does it have to be. But for a few rare exceptions that’s the reality on the ground. Women are the distinct minority in the energy industry.
Worse, overall women play a very small role in the energy conversation. When they do, it’s too often in the vein of a Condoleeza Rice, dutifully drumming the corporate line and then blushing in girlish glee when her name adorns an oil tanker. Or brain-bimbo Michele Bachmann bragging like a clueless idiot that she alone can bring gas prices down to $2 bucks a gallon if elected Madam President. And no one can say “drill, baby, drill,” without thinking of the GOP’s female empty suit, Sarah Palin.
They give women in energy a very bad name.
We can guzzle it like the big boys
On the opposite side, on the use end, we women are indistinguishable from men in terms of how much and essentially how unconsciously we consume energy. We might even consume more with all our beauty products and shuttling the kids around to ballet and soccer and whatnot.
Sure, we’ve got the intellect and ire to be able to grouse about gas prices like any stodgy dad on his way back from the office. And we can grow just as complacent (if not wrongly optimistic about the economy) when those same gas prices take a temporary dip. We’re also savvy enough to evaluate our home energy use and yell to the kids,
Hey, shut the door, we’re not heating the whole world, here!
Our voice matters
But none of that is very helpful. None of it drills down into the essentials of energy awareness, and energy literacy, and how this plays in to our entire economic paradigm. And it’s that failure that keeps women in the dark about just how vulnerable we are, how vulnerable our lifestyles are, and how vulnerable our kids are, to the inevitable energy shocks now haunting the backgrounds of our lives.
Yes, there are a few key women figures who are really telling the energy story—in the peak oil community in particular; Sharon Astyk, Carolyn Baker, Nicole Foss, Gail Tverberg and Dr. Kathy McMahon come to mind. But a broader lack of energy literacy among women in our society keeps us out of the energy conversation in a meaningful way.
Why should I care?
Maybe none of this would be so bad if energy was a small part of our lives, or tangential to the essentials of our existence. If it was a minor home or business expense. And if we could just give it up like a bad diet or a low life TV program.
But because energy touches every aspect of what we do, how we live, and what we consume, it’s embeddedness in the entire fabric of our lives is like air to our lungs. We don’t spend the whole day thinking, “Oh my gosh, if the air supply is cut off I’m going to choke to death.” We just breath.
We’re equally unconscious about energy.
But like air to our bodies, when fossil fuels become even scarcer—the International Energy Agency said peak oil hit in 2006—and when, because of that, prices spike, it’s going to be like catching our breaths after narrowly escaping the Boston Strangler.
The energy shocks that are coming have the potential to turn our world upside down OVERNIGHT. Picture trucks not delivering food to the grocery store, rolling blackouts to parcel out energy, your damn Droid not able to pick up a signal for days.
And those are the easy things.
So before I go on and on with currently unimaginable but all-too-painfully likely scenarios that will scare the freaking bejeesus out of you, let me just say it’s important that women become 21st century energy literate. You need to know just how deeply oil coats your whole life, and just how linked that is to every inch of economy—not just to filling your tank.
Just the facts, ma’am
You need to know how much mercury spews out of coal burning plants, blowing mercury dust in your kid’s face. Yet ironically, how coal is also running out and how it supplies over 50% of our electricity. Also how we have no plan in the US of Decay to replace it with renewables. Or even if we did, how different concentrated fossil fuels are compared to diffuse, intermittent sources like sun and wind, however attractive those options otherwise are.
Or just how many fossil fuels go into our industrial food system and how many fossil-fuel based poisons get sprinkled on your kid’s food before traveling immense climate-changing miles to get to your house all packaged in ten different layers of disposable packaging.
You hear the word “sustainable” and it sounds like just another word for “green living.” But what it really means is able to be sustained. You know, able to endure. And when you hear the word unsustainable, what you’re getting is “unable to endure.”
The scale of our fossil-fuel use is unsustainable because it poisons our air and water (last time I checked we need healthy versions of these to live and prosper) and fills our world up with more trash than we can manage. And guess who gets to inherit the mounting poisons, dead waters, fish die-offs, radio-active foods, and heaps upon heaps of trash? That’s right, your sweet little babies (and mine). In a growing population, there’s that much more of all the bad stuff to litter the world with cancer-causing agents and harmful filth of all kinds.
Energy is to economy what oxygen is to our life forms
Moreover, without the jobs and abundance that cheap fossil fuels have provided, and an economy in escalating crises due to fractional reserve banking, our kids stand to move into a potentially very bleak future. Think no travel or college except for the very rich. Think sporadic health care at best, none at worst. Life expectancy down by ten years or more. Third world level environmental degradation imperiling their water supply, soil and foods.
I don’t know how much of this we can stop or change at this late date. But the decline of fossil fuels, while good from the climate perspective, is terrible from the lifestyle perspective when we have failed as a society to put viable alternatives that preserve quality-of-life in its place.
Some combination of relocalized economies, simpler living, mass transit, clean energy, conservation, new national priorities and self-policing on the consumer front can help change this. Of these, probably conservation is the most important—home weatherization, using public transit or living near work, giving up 75% of your consumer purchases and upgrades, and buying local food whenever possible (while giving up most processed foods altogether) is necessary.
Speak up, lady!
But the other key ingredient is energy advocacy by women. Women are the voice of the voiceless by advocating for ourselves and our kids.
Women gained rights as much because of industrialization and the need to work outside the home as we did for philosophical and human rights reasons. That means fossil fuels played a key role in our ascent, and the decline of these resources could be mirrored in our own. We women can regress more quickly than we progressed if we fail to address this vulnerable front in women’s rights and equality. I shudder to think what this might mean for our daughters.
As to children, corporations have no real, fundamental prior-existing interest in the healthy, whole lives of our children. They can talk up a good PR line like the slickest Madison Avenue creep but the bottom line is the bottom line for them. Profits above all with a little claim to social responsibility thrown in to put a little spit and polish on the greed.
If we do not start demanding the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, with a shift of the same budgetary numbers to clean energy subsidies, we’re going to set our kids up to lose out significantly in the coming energy crunch.
If we do not start demanding a shift to rail our kids are going to find themselves high and dry on the roads to nowhere.
If we do not start advocating for and supporting locally grown, organic foods at a much higher rate (while denouncing industrial methods and packaging), we’re going to find our adult kids dying before we do because their little bodies had to take up the increasingly excessive industrial toxic buildup.
And if we do not start demonstrating to our own kids a willingness to buy less yet live more, we’re only going to teach them to be as unconscious about energy as we are, setting them up for a crippling shock in the years ahead.
Moms, you’re needed now. You can start by reading James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency. You can also look into what Transition Towns are. Know the term peak oil inside and out. And put conservation at the forefront of your existence.
Time’s a wasting. Let’s not do to our kids what no decent mom would ever do—let them go off a cliff without a parachute.
We can do better. But it’s not going to happen by itself.
–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice
Cross posted from Lindsay’s List