Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Post-Petroleum Man


"I wake up every morning in a state of profound grief."


When I read that in the interview with Robert Jensen, A World in Collapse? I immediately resonated. I, too, have been in a state of profound grief for over four years now. I grieve profoundly for Earth and for Earth's children and for our immediate future. Yes, I grieve the death of Petroleum Man. Petroleum Man is the only human I know and he is watching (if he opens his eyes) his world collapse around him.

My grief has taken me through all of the "stages" and back around again and again: anger, depression, denial, bargaining, and slowly a dawning acceptance. Life is change and we are facing epochal change right now. When will we personally feel this?

Some already have, of course. One in seven live in poverty in the United States according
to this article. There is no timetable. We could face major catastrophes in the U.S. in a year, or a few years, maybe a decade. Much of the world has been in catastrophe for some time.

For a long, long time, I couldn't talk about it. Who can you talk to about it? Family members and friends get scared for your sanity. "There he goes again with his end of the world schtick."

I wonder if that is what many feel now. It is too dark. Put the lid on it. Shut it out. We grieve:
  • Deny it: "The tar sands in Canada will save us!"
  • Bargain: "If I buy a hybrid car or those curly lightbulbs, will it be OK?"
  • Get Angry: "We would have plenty of oil if it weren't for those environmentalists." Or "We would have green energy by now if it weren't for the greedy oil companies."
  • Depression: You know the ways that is expressed...mostly silent suffering.
Denial is huge. When the light of awareness begins to shine, it is quickly snuffed out (usually by ridicule) and we get caught up in a distraction. I have to say that the Church has been ineffective for the most part. Our denominational leaders, denominational publications, seminary professors, and clergy have little to say. Nothing to say it seems.

They totally ignore the biggest event in all of our lifetimes, the collapse of industrial civilization. We are collapsing and our theologians cannot even acknowledge it. Maybe you know of some I have missed?

If it weren't for Robert Jensen I don't think there would be anyone in my denomination writing and talking about it.
And then, acceptance. Deep breaths.

It is what it is. Life is. Life is change.
We are alive at this moment. At the most interesting moment in the history of humanity, here we are. A new age is breaking in. From the ashes, oil slags, nuclear fallout, poisoned top soil, and coal slurries, a new human being will be born.

Those of us on this side, in the midst of Collapse, will contribute. The worst thing we can do is think we cannot do anything. It is true that we cannot save Petroleum Man. That is over. And it needs to be over. Petroleum Man lived by a very destructive myth: the myth of limitless growth.

What we do now will determine what is left for Post-Petroleum Man.


Now it is important to resist Empire and war, including the fictional "war on terrorism" that is nothing more than war for petroleum. As Petroleum Man collapses and as Empire does everything in its power to keep him on life support, we must not allow Empire to destroy Earth itself. We must do whatever we can to keep Empire from destroying forever what is on top of Earth to get to what is under Earth.

We must also continue our involvement in various movements for justice and peace of all kinds. As Robert Jensen said:

When we know so little about what’s coming, it’s best if people pursue a variety of strategies that they feel drawn to. In Austin, I’m working primarily with one group that advocates for immigrant workers (Workers Defense Project) and another that helps people start worker-owned cooperative businesses (Third Coast Workers for Cooperation). Neither group is focused specifically on the ecological crises, but there’s incredible energy and ideas in these groups, and they create spaces for advancing a coordinated critique of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, all with an understanding of the ecological stakes.
Finally, there is nothing more important now than to wake up and to wake others up. And as we wake up we will grieve. But we will also be joyful. Because we are working for a new day. A new day is coming that maybe our great-great-great-grandchildren will enjoy. The day of Post-Petroleum Man.
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