Flipping the Question

The summer I had my second daughter in 2005, the term “peak oil” surfaced in my world, first from a neighbor who came to see the baby. The term itself wasn’t so disturbing, but the potential social unrest was mightily so.

I’m sure Vermont has more than its share of the country’s population battening down the root cellar hatches and stocking the ammo cabinet to bursting. While I’ve been joking for years that my garden isn’t merely spiritual succor but also our homeland security project, I sometimes wonder if these hard-core survivalists just might be right, and I should be mapping a route out. What’s my reluctance? Laziness? Immersion in magical thinking?  Lack of ready cash to invest in an underground bunker equipped with a five-year supply of Spam? Or just, where the heck would we go? 

Evan Osnos writes in the recent New Yorker about ultra-rich disaster preppers, then winds up chatting with Stewart Brand, hippie cult creator of the “Whole Earth Catalog.” Osnos writes:

At seventy-seven, living on a tugboat in Sausalito, Brand is less impressed by signs of fragility than by examples of resilience. In the past decade, the world survived, without violence, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; Ebola, without cataclysm; and, in Japan, a tsunami and nuclear meltdown, after which the country has persevered. He sees risks in escapism. As Americans withdraw into smaller circles of experience, we jeopardize the “larger circle of empathy,” he said, the search for solutions to shared problems. “The easy question is, How do I protect me and mine? The more interesting question is, What if civilization actually manages continuity as well as it has managed it for the past few centuries? What do we do if it just keeps on chugging?”


Morning commute, West Woodbury, VT

2 thoughts on “Flipping the Question

  1. This post is excellent and timely. Thank you, Brett!

    Do we stick our heads in the sand, or reach out to our immediate community, region, and then, out even more, to the world? Yes!

    In Yeat’s poem, “The Second Coming,” the poet laments a world spinning out of control, “the gyres,” which signify the loss of stability in a Post-war world. Indeed, he argues, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” and the self (childhood, “the ceremony of innocence”) is ripped from our origins, “the center,” which “cannot hold.”

    The Biblial imagery suggests the stability of time, however in the modern world, these images are distorted and devoid of life, an allegory to the chaos in the world and the suppression of the Irish in their war of independence. Yeats’s mystical view of the world reveals a Modernist poet at work, but now, in our post-modern world a hundred years into the future, the gyres are spinning again. Survival comes from deep within, a slouching, defeated beast, that swings, dirge-like, into the future, with momentum; not a creature that retreats into bunkers and arms itself with provisions of survival.

  2. Poetically said, as usual, Dede. I also read your commentary about the Women’s March in VT Digger with great interest, and suggest readers check out Jules Rabin’s terrific commentary as well.

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