Overall, watching the film reminded me of having a long conversation with a friend over all of the important issues of the day. To me, most of the concepts were very familiar. I suspect some viewers of the film would be surprised by the peak oil concepts that were introduced, but the overpopulation and global warming or climate change themes should be readily recognized. The film also focuses on the issue of the mass extinction that we are causing on the planet.
Much of the film reminded me of thoughts that have been buzzing in my head for the past couple of years. Once a person understands the ramifications of peak oil, it is difficult to impossible to see the world in the same way ever again. But peak oil is not the only issue that we are facing or about to face. The entire structure of society, culture and civilization are likely to change, in a manner that few people in the industrial world have ever considered or entertained.
After the film, my infant son and I took a little walk of our own into the neighboring woods. I chatted, he made faces and pretended to listen. I am, of course, concerned about his future as well as my own. I am almost totally unprepared for a sudden collapse in any of our current systems... a loss of food shipments... electricity... home heating fuel... security... money... any of these would leave me and my family in a world of hurt. That is probably the same for most families. We are so dependent upon this system to provide for everything, that few of us have ever considered the possibility that we might have to transition quickly to a world without.
On my walk, I chatted with my son about the food situation. In the event that nation-wide food shipments were disrupted, there would be areas were the food calorie flows would falter. By food calorie flows, I am thinking of the way in with food calories move from the growers to the grocery stores. Right now, the grocery stores with their stocked shelves are the calorie storage of our society. What happens when some stores run out of food? What happens when all the stores in a community or in a county or a state run out of food? How will people react? It reminds me of the Jericho TV series a bit. Things will most likely not go well.
I explained to my son that there are three essential things that we need to survive, and we are really in bad shape in relation to a couple of them. We need fresh water, a way to keep our bodies warm, and a source of food.
Water is actually the easiest. We live less than a mile from a lake that has pretty good water. And within a bike ride, there are a dozen other lakes that have good water. Of course, hauling that water would be a pain... and I would be concerned that the water sources might quickly become polluted if the sanitation systems failed, but still, water (luckily) would be the easiest to address. I should install a hand pump that has an anti-freeze valve thingy... that would be well worth the price... if only I knew how to or who to talk to.
Keeping warm would be the next trick. Where I live, temperatures in the winter can go below freezing for weeks on end. The house we live in would get extremely cold. We have no backup heat source... if electricity were out or the heating fuel were to run out, the house would get very cold within a couple of days. We do have plenty of clothes, and could bundle up like the Inuit, but the pipes would freeze, and we might freeze as well. Our only solution at this point is to keep our fuel tank full, and to buy a generator that could keep a little electricity flowing to the house. I actually looked into generators this week. I figure it would be possible to make it through one winter, if our tank were full of fuel... but after the fuel was gone, the generator would be practically worthless.
Food would be the most difficult challenge. If all the food in all the stores were to vanish right now, we would have only enough food in the house for about a month... perhaps two if we stretched it. After that, we could maybe starve for a month or two. Luckily, neither myself nor my spouse are scrawny... so we might be able to make it for a couple of months. Unfortunately, our infant son would probably have difficulty surviving during that time as I suspect breast milk would not be very nutritious if his mother was going without food. If we had the great fortune to make it to next summer, it would be a struggle to provide food for ourselves. We do not have seeds to plant. We do not have good soil. We do not have an irrigation system that would work without electricity. We would probably die. Complicating matters would be that I suspect our neighbors would be in similar or worse positions than ourselves, which means we would probably end up sharing, and entering our starvation phase even earlier. The short term solution would be to have a better stocked pantry, but if we were sharing, it probably would not last much longer. More important would be to have a way to grow food, gather food, or hunt food. I think buying some heirloom seeds, and getting what we need to have a real food producing garden, is probably a smart thing to do.
The film is not necessarily about this scenario, but it did bring back to me my various concerns about what will happen as we transition from our current society to the post-peak oil society after the Eosawki. Of course, the long term course of humanity is of interest as well. Where will humanity be in 1,000 or 10,000 years? Will we have small agrarian communities? Will we still have free time? Will we have a humane solution to population control? Will we be gatherers and/or hunter-gatherers again?
I recommend this film, especially to those who are interested in getting a big perspective on what is going on. It doesn't make sense to go blindly forward into this undiscovered country, but rather to know everything we can about our current situation and the possible endings that await us. I personally would like to be prepared for anything, after all, what is the use in knowing that something life-altering is coming without doing something about it? We will all see. I hope it doesn't happen anytime soon... but I'm afraid it might.
Aaron Wissner is a teacher, educator, organizer and guest speaker. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with emphasis on mathematics, science, and education. Mr. Wissner has taught and consulted for sixteen years in public school, in areas ranging from mathematics, science, computers, to leadership and television news production. He is the founder and organizer of the grassroots Local Future Network, a non-profit educational outreach organization dedicated to saving Earth through culture change.