Tuesday, November 27, 2012
When I first learned of "rewilding", as it's known, I thought of it as an over-reaction to the clear shortcomings of our increasingly industrialized and dehumanized civilization. Perhaps it had some useful (and certainly interesting) ideas, but it wasn't really a path of interest for me. The movement seemed to be mostly comprised of young urbanites, generally clueless about the practicality of feeding, sheltering, or clothing themselves.
As we've continued with our farm projects, however, I'm beginning to see it in a different light. While the agrarian society I'm personally working towards is certainly in a better position on the sliding scale of "sustainability" than the heavily industrialized society that now dominates, it has significant shortcomings. Much of what we do is still fully reliant upon an industrialized manufacturing base. Steel plows are still made with coal. The steel is mined with fossil fuel. Even if we don't use the fossil energy directly, we're still using it, and we're still threatening the lives of all future generations.
Even if I wanted to see the continuation of industrial society (which would require complete ignorance of its inevitable conclusion) there are ominous cracks. Witness the economic condition of ours (and most other) industrialized countries. Even if we were to eliminate all non-essential federal spending, we would not be able to balance the budget with our current tax revenues, much less pay off the blossoming federal debt. The hull has been breached, and we're sinking. Slowly.
Industrial society has some mortal wounds. It's not dead yet, but the lifeblood of cheap fossil energy is rapidly disappearing. Yeah, we may have enough fossil energy to run ourselves for another few decades, but we'll be digging our own graves if we do, and we've already dug a very deep hole. I suspect that the systemic collapse precipitated by increasing energy prices will ultimately be what keeps the oil in the ground. Not the spectacular spike as envisioned by many in the peak oil community, but rather a steady downward oscillation as smaller price spikes collapse various portions of industrial society. As the costs of energy extraction continue to rise with lower quality reserves, many energy companies will fold. The inevitable collapse of the grid will be the biggest and most noticeable drop, I would think.
Witness the conundrum with oil sands or shale oil production. When the price of oil rises enough to make these resources economically recoverable, the economy takes it in the shorts, dropping the price of oil below the cost of recovery. These aren't bountiful new sources of energy (as a corporate media likes to suggest to gullible investors); they're the desperate last hope of a society of addicts.
When it comes to natural gas fracking, investors are the ones being drilled. The cost of production there far exceeds the revenue of gas production, to say nothing of the fact that leaking well casings will render the groundwater un-drinkable for the next thousand years or more. What a deal - we get to heat our homes for a few more years, at the low low cost of poisoning the groundwater for generations to come.
So... whether we want it or not, I think our future (if we manage to preserve it) will be decreasingly industrial, both as result of circumstance as well as the necessity of true sustainability. This is where rewilding comes in.
Miles Olson lives on the outskirts of a city on Vancouver island (Victoria, I think). He owns no land, but squats wherever he's able. He's been studying the activities of hunter-gatherer societies, and has managed to live using many of their techniques. His book, "Relearn, Rewild", will be a real eye-opener for most. Part philosophy and part how-to. Anyone that's going to eat road-kill (or maggots!) must first understand why it might be useful to do so, and his philosophical argument is quite strong. I'm not 100% on-board just yet, but his suggested path is among the best I've seen. His book is definitely worth a read.