Saturday 24 October 2009


We have all been busy preparing for our second annual Feile na Samhna (FAY-la na SAU-na), the Halloween Festival, where I and several other people will be giving talks about .... well, the situation we're in.

What do you call it anyway? It's not just peak oil, the fact that oil supplies are reaching a global limit and will decline. It's not just climate change, the fact that the atmosphere has been transformed into something that has not existed since Earth was an alien world. It's not just that this world that had trouble handling one billion people now must support seven billion. It's not just the economy, as defined by news reports and Wall Street numbers. All these are part of something larger.

I have been interested in these issues since I was my daughter's now-age, as long as I have understood what happens when you pour several cups into one cup. When I first saw the hundred-year-old elm in our backyard fall, and realized it was older than anyone alive -- and that once it was gone, the yard felt different. When I tasted the difference between our tomatoes and ones from a supermarket. When I realized that I was the last kid at school to walk everywhere.

Some people refer to the crash or the collapse, but I have tried to avoid these --- they are rousing and get the Michael Ruppert crowd, but they avoid the main point, that this is not a sudden danger we can swerve and avoid. We must not wait for it to hit -- "it," the thing that happens, when we suddenly become characters in an action movie.

Others refer to the Transition, and that captures the idea that it will be gradual and may result in something better. I personally like "Restoration," as in the title of this blog, although it might sound too much like Charles II's reign. Also, nostalgia for an earlier era works with Americans, as does describing the picturesque life of Irish villagers -- when you are speaking to actual Irish villagers, as I often do, it doesn't work. What is traditional is not exotic to them, and the memories of pre-Celtic-Tiger poverty are not appealing.

So here it is: How to present the image of this situation to hundreds of festival-going families in an Irish town, in a way that is family-friendly, upbeat, and will not drive people away. Ideas?


swan said...

Yeah, one thing we all have in common, that cuts across all those eras - love of the natural world. I have struggled with the same problems you talk about. How to say this in a way that people will see it and DO something?

It seems to me that people will do anything to save that which they love. Reminding people of their connection to the natural world can be a good starting point. A clean river is something to love just for itself.

cecelia said...

two things - remind them of the famine - if anyplace on this planet - any people on this planet - should understand the dangers of a loss of biodiversity - it is the Irish. They planted ONE kind of potato - and that ONE kind of potato was particularly susceptible to the virus - if they had planted just two or three kinds of potatoes - they would not have suffered as they did.

Two - did you read Sharon Astyk's recent post re: Noah? For people of faith - that is one powerful message.

I suspect too that using myths - myths that are "updated" can be a way to communicate truths about our history and our values.

cecelia said...

ran out of space - perhaps trying a version of the beliefs behind Samhain - the idea that this time of year the portal between our ancestors and us opens wider - that we can receive better the wisdom of those ancestors - (not just the evil spirits who have to be driven away by the bonfires etc)
what would our ancestors do if faced with this ? what can we learn from their struggles and experiences that help us with this - you are a great storyteller = tell a samhain story

Ronald Langereis said...


Maybe, a message in words is not apt for the occasion. What you are planning to do is preaching Doomsday to a festival crowd, which may not be a recipe for success.
As the occasion is a Halloween party, why not put your message into a mime, played by kids? It'll be a family happening, ain't it, so make it funny for all to watch, be it with a touch of suspence.
I can see it before me, the people like you, impersonated by a couple of simply dressed folks, tending their stores of apples and green stuff and pumpkins, stirring a cauldron of pumpkin soup on the right side of the stage, and a crowd of the frivolous on the other, making fun of them. They dance, they sing songs, they're making merry.
Then, the plagues you mentioned will enter the stage with their fanciful outfits hidden under black cloaks and hoods, mingling silently with the crowd.
At the menacing roll of drums, they'll suddenly rise up and declare themselves for what they are, shedding their cloaks. They give chase to the unsuspecting merry-makers, catching them and leading them away from the stage by a gate with an eloquent sign over it.
There will be every opportunity for shrieking and moaning, which can be funny and shivering alike.
At the end, the simple couple is left on the empty stage in silence and starts to share out their soup and apples to the audience. Throw in some music to enhance the dramatic effect.
Afterwards, when the kids have had their fun, the adults can answer the questions. Maybe, it makes some people think...

Anonymous said...

Sharon Astyk gives a lot of thought to just this problem. Many of her blog articles, as well as books, deal with this subject.

I can't say I can always hold to this idea, but the basic plan is that bad times are coming; we've overshot the carrying capacity of the earth, and wishful thinking won't save us. BUT you can provide for your family and your community, to soften the blows. And this is very much worth doing.

I'm thinking of the twelfth fairy in the Sleeping Beauty story. She couldn't overcome the curse of the bad fairy, but she softened it to have the princess sleep for 100 years, not die. We can't undo the multitude of bad choices that got us to this situation, but we can keep our good humor and work together to soften it as much as within our power.

Lynnet from Colorado

Maya said...

I absolutely love the play idea! But for a term, what about "reclaiming"? It's positive, it says we WANT to take back sustainable ways, rather than being forced into them because we have no other choice. It says we welcome a return to simplicity and the joy of community and sharing. We take this notion as our own core value because it makes sense. Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

You can’t present this in an upbeat way. That’s the sad reality.
How on earth can anyone make the unpalatable, palatable?

When I first realized the peak oil problem, I too wanted to engender understanding of the situation in friends and family. The desire to create a focus and community of purpose against this is so normal that we are crushed (as I was) when we are not only ignored but ridiculed. I now live a dual life, where I maintain normality for the gaze of others, whilst internally I try to strengthen myself for all conceivable eventualities. Not easy as you already know.

The only constructive idea I can make is that you should present the ideas of peak oil in a distanced way. For example say “It is believed that peak oil...... etc” not “ I believe that peak oil is .....etc”
Why do it this way? I’ve found that if you come over as authoritative and evangelical on peak oil, people will try to put you down. Whereas, if you, create a kind of humility, in appearing to be unsure where your thoughts lie on the issue, people will try to put you right.

Why does this matter? In their desire to put you right, they will put more effort into thinking through the issue, than a simple slapping down. And in the process you will have sown a seed. And that’s all you can do. / Manchester / UK

William Lawson said...

The BBC produced a short film by Rebecca Hosking, "A Farm For The Future," that has been beautifully tailored to artfully overcome both the ignorance and denial that still characterizes this issue. This film is exactly the kind of presentation that is capable of 're-tuning' almost anyone who sees it. Perhaps an abbreviated (TED-like), slide-show re-telling of her story (or at least the basic storyline) is a worthy consideration...especially given its UK focus and origin.