Thursday, January 11, 2018

The future ain't what it used to be

Yesterday evening, after dinner, I headed out into the dark to feed the horses. I was overwhelmed by a rush of love and sadness. Working with these magnificent beasts, and the associated feelings of mutual respect and symbiosis, has been one of my greatest joys. Yet, I feel like I no longer have reason to continue it.

The world I'd hoped to build with them is not to be. The farm I'd hoped might one day provide a meager income has proven itself not to be capable of such. Even in a post economic collapse world where basic necessities are of greater value, I don't see the farm working.

I've lost much of the purpose behind my homesteading endeavors of the last decade. Though I still see some value in everything we've done, I no longer feel compelled to grow or raise our own food, tan my own leather, construct my own outbuildings, farm with horses, or learn the various skills that we've lost as an increasingly industrially-dependent populace.

Jake sending some of his special air freshener my way.

You're thinking, "Aha - I told you so!  Nobody ever likes to do that much work!  We knew you'd come around sooner or later".

It is a *lot* of work, no doubt.  It's an overwhelming amount of work, if you consider that the "make it yourself" approach will typically require an effort easily an order of magnitude greater than the conventional sit in your cubicle for 40 hours a week and use your paycheck to buy it approach.

But that's not why I've given up.

"Well then... maybe you're just feeling your age."

While I am older, that's not it, either.

"Scared by the horse injury?"

No, it started well before that.

"Midlife crisis?"


Though there are multiple reasons, one stands out much larger than the rest. It's not belly up just yet, but our life support systems are failing, and will collapse much sooner than I'd anticipated. We've dumped so much CO2 into the atmosphere that the earth is now emitting half again as much as humans are, as various systems die (forests dry out and/or burn) or change state (permafrost melts and emits methane). This means that we're still on the same doomed track even if we were to eliminate all anthropogenic emissions (which is about as likely as Donald Trump suddenly becoming a genuinely good person).

The farm, the homesteading skills, and the life I was trying to build were in large part an attempt to survive or thrive in an economic collapse. Environmental collapse, on the other hand, is not something that can be prepared for.

Since about age eight, I've been obsessively fascinated by environmental issues. A decade ago, our environment looked like a plane slowly losing altitude. Now the wings have come off and it's spiraling downwards. If humans last beyond mid-century, I'd be surprised. Exxon's scientists have advised the company executives that they should expect 5 degrees C by mid-century, whereas scientists have long questioned whether 2 degrees is survivable. Some scientists now suggest our future will be less than a decade. While I like to think they're wrong, each day brings news that they're closer to the mark.

Wherever you look nowadays, you'll see a failure of stability. The jet-stream, which dictates weather patterns at our temperate latitudes, no longer runs perpetually to the east as it did when I was born. It now meanders north and south far more than ever before. This is why our idiot-in-chief tweeted that "We could use a little bit of that global warming" as the eastern US set record cold temperatures. Do you think anyone mentioned to him that Alaska was warmer than Florida at the time?

When a patient receives a terminal diagnosis from their doctor, it's never a good thing. It's a point at which some people simply wither away. Others, if they're able, take such a diagnosis as an impetus to do what they've always wanted to do, and not to put it off for the tomorrow that they know will never be.

Considering my diagnosis, I'm hoping to be one of the latter, as our world still has much to offer even in its diminished state. For me, that's the return of a dream I'd long held, but put off in favor of the homesteading endeavor when economic failure was the leading contender in our apocalyptic contest.

I'd like to sail again, and fill the remainder of my life with experiences (both good and bad, no doubt) worth remembering. Will I make it? Will I give it up again as economic malaise pulls ahead?  It's tough to make predictions -- especially about the future!

My last sail on our old boat -- photo taken by a passing sailboater who asked for my email address so he could send it to me.


Brian said...

Yep, I can't say I disagree. Although, I still find our old farm a good enough place to reflect on whatever is the outcome. Happy sailing.

Катя said...

Whatever you decide, David, please keep writing.

Shirley J said...

It is so sad to read your blog today, David. I guess it's true that it's better not to know too much. I often think how thankful I'm to be at the end of life phase (75) and feel for what others behind me will have to endure. I think you, Rachel and Henry have earned a ride in a spaceship that will whisk you all to 'never-never' land. Hope it comes soon for you. And, yes, please let us know about your trip.