In the event of a crisis

When I took eighth grade biology, my science teacher, Mr. White, liked to freak me out by throwing dead frogs my way. My dad was a teacher as well, and I grew up knowing most of the teachers I would have before ever stepping into their classroom. Mr. White thought grossing me out a bit with a dead frog was hilarious. I still remember the smell of the formaldehyde, the squish of the skin beneath my fingers, the impossibility of distinguishing the delicate leg bones…I loathed every second of it. However, thank God I didn’t have litlove’s son’s teacher, who has been educating her students about the possible impending energy crisis – to this day I’m still not good with thinking as broadly as she is teaching her students to do. Litlove and her son have created this meme, and I have been tagged to complete it. Before I begin, though, I want to share a short memory. D. and I grew up right on Lake Huron, and spent the summers of our childhood at various stretches of beach throughout northern Michigan. Our parents have always been intensely environmentally aware, and so even as a little girl I knew the concepts of zero population, recycling, protecting rivers, etc. One of the ways my brother knew to upset me would be to threaten to “empty” out whatever lake we were at…bringing me bucket after bucket of water in one of those plastic beach pails. I was sensitive enough to believe with enough time and effort he really could empty out the lake and it always set me crying. In retrospect, the thought of my small, blonde brother emptying out Lake Huron with his beach pail seems ludicrous but we may very ruin our fresh water supply in other ways, if we aren’t careful.

What do I fear about a serious energy crisis? I’m much less fearful than I used to be now that I’ve moved to an area where I feel I can sustain my life more easily than I could in Detroit, but I most fear man against man. While I would hope a serious energy crisis would bring out the collective good, and neighbor would help neighbor, I fear we would turn against each other. I fear further war, further violence, our baser instincts overriding our decent human natures. I fear fear ruling us instead of humility and neighborliness.

What would I miss most in a world with rationed energy supplies? Easy heat. This winter has worn me down and I am tired of being cold – I would miss easy heat. Desperately. And, you know, in many ways, I’m an American girl…I would miss our Western excess, I have no doubt…eating what I want when I want, driving if I feel like it, instant, and I do mean instant, communication…the ability to hop a flight, vacationing…I would miss my life as I know it. I’m certain I’d miss almost everything.

What can I do to help? Well, as litlove and others know, this is my year to make a “green” change every month – I imagine this will actually extend beyond 2008. In January I stopped buying coffee (or, at the very least, if I do buy coffee, it goes in my commuter mug) and bottled water, and I’ve thrown away nearly 100 fewer things than I would have previously. This month I moved to Pittsburgh and I have driven exactly 30 miles since I moved here….considering 30 miles is just short of my commute one way to work every day in Detroit, I think this is remarkable. I haven’t put gas in my car in three weeks and have 3/4 a tank left. Upcoming changes will include switching to clothe bags, recycling even more than I do, finding local food vendors, ensuring many of my meals are vegetarian….we already have all energy saving light bulbs…and thanks to a great tip I read somewhere (and please shout out if it was you, it’s ridiculously early in the morning here and I can’t remember) I’m going to put rain barrels out and collect rain water for my plants. Right now all of my cleaning supplies are “green” brands but I hope to take it a step further and find all natural alternatives. But you know, this can’t all be done at once, I would collapse from the strain. So for now I drive substantially less, and I don’t buy toss-able drinks.

If you would like to complete this meme, please do, and post over at Litlove’s that you have done so.

You know, while this subject is overwhelming and worrisome, I’m glad I’m a reader. I’ve read enough “end of the world” literature to have man’s determination to survival firmly planted in my head, and in the event of any sort of crisis I’ve always sort of pictured myself as one of the survivors. Plague? Bird flu? Energy crisis? Nuclear war? I’ve read a book about survivors in all of these cases, and I have just enough hubris to be convinced of my own infallibility. A great thing about literature…it can help us imagine ourselves in all sorts of scenarios, and make us aware of all sorts of possible grace.

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6 Responses to In the event of a crisis

  1. Katie says:

    You could always use white vinegar as a cleaner. That’s what my mom did for the ceramic tile floors. Smells awful though. I think there are different recipes for around the house– baking soda, etc. that would be biodegradable.

    That’s amazing that you’ve only driven 30 miles since your move. I am now carpooling (with guess who) and am thrilled to only fill up twice a month. That’s huge in Metro Detroit!

    Miss you!

  2. Cam says:

    I mentioned the rainbarrel thing, but I can’t take credit for the idea. I heard it at a speech given by someone from ClimateProject.org (Al Gore’s organization). I’m listening to the snow melt running through the gutters and wondering why I haven’t done this yet.

    I am amazed by all of the things you have set out to do on this issue. It’s inspiring.

  3. Litlove says:

    I knew you were doing some fantastic stuff for the environment, Courtney, and it’s a real pleasure to read about it here – thank you so much for doing the meme. And I will tell my son about the dead frogs – I think you will have all his sympathy!!

  4. Stefanie says:

    Yay! What good things you are doing. And since you have only driven 30 miles since you moved, does that mean you have more time in your day to read books because you are not driving so much? 🙂

  5. Courtney says:

    Katie, twice a month in metro Detroit IS huge. We all have to do the best we can and you are doing amazing with your February project. And I miss you, too!
    Cam, well, I have to achieve my goals, first off, so don’t give me too much credit, yet. And yes, the rainbarrel idea…I read it on your site!
    Litlove – I hope he feels a little calmed by all the people who responded to your meme!
    Stefanie – well, the job is a bit over-consuming right now but I am confidant once I know what I’m doing/where I’m going I will have more time to read. In fact, I’m off to do so now!

  6. Emily Barton says:

    Yes, I’m afraid of the violence and man turning against man, too, but you put it more eloquently than I did. Good for you for not buying coffee or bottle water. We’ve given up bottled water, too (except for seltzer, which it isn’t possible to get unbottled). And I’m glad D. didn’t manage to empty Lake Huron, as I plan to visit it one day.

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