I finished prepping for my southward trip to the Henge of Keltria’s annual meeting at the end of the month. And an expensive trip it is: flying out on a Thursday to Atlanta and returning Sunday morning. It necessitates not only airline tickets, but a hotel room for a few nights and a rental car, all now arranged.
And I wonder: do I have a right?
My husband and I discussed this a bit at our annual sojourn to Drum’n’Splash. That event, which lasts the better part of a week, is held at Four Quarters Farm, a Pagan church. The church member who started the enterprise is a believer in the peak oil phenomena, which can be summarized as such: 1. We will run out of petroleum shortly. 2. Alternative energy will be unable to fill the gap, either because a lack of political will or, simply, “it sucks.” 3. This will create a maelstrom of declining harvests, riots and, ultimately, mass death, during which industrial society will be utterly destroyed and we will be thrust back into the pre-industrial age, dependent upon farming, weaving and barter. Straw hats and suspenders are optional. 4. The virtuous will survive. (Don’t they always, in Armageddon scenarios?) 5. You can become virtuous by living a post-apocalypse lifestyle right now.
Now, I love Four Quarters Farm and find the staff and attendees to be lovely people. But I’m not a Peak Oil Believer ™. Perhaps I’m a Pollyanna, but I have faith in human ingenuity. Yes, oil will run out. But I do believe in alternative energy, and that progress is being made on those fronts. (As it happens, due to my day job, I’ve seen some of that research firsthand.) Birthrates will ultimately fall as education becomes more common for people, particularly women, across the world.
And time is a spiral. It may appear to loop back, but it never really does; it’s a process, and goes forever forward. We aren’t returning to the days when we all lived like the Amish. Perhaps I’m a bad Pagan, but I don’t want to return to such a state anyway. I rather like living in a world where we don’t have to work 24/7 for basic survival, and where education and even (gasp) arts, music, religion, hobbies and intellectual pursuits are possible. I like living in a world where we can regulate our reproduction, and where women aren’t regulated to an existence as mindless clothes-making and food-preparing baby machines. Where “survival of the fittest” and “nature red in tooth and claw” aren’t the driving forces of human society. Where the weak are cared for and educated. Not to mention indoor plumbing, modern medicine, etc.
Is modernity perfect? Hell no! But agricultural pre-modernity was, for many people, hell. People died young. Women often died after repeated childbirth. (No birth control then, you know, unless you wanted to tell your husband where he could stick it, and not in you.)
I wouldn’t want to live in the world the Peak Oil folks imagine, especially coupled with violence, mass death and societal breakdown. Quite simply, if that scenario plays out the way they predict, I’ll happily take the next ticket to the Otherworld. “Here, shoot me and take my stuff! Best of luck to you.” Life has to have a value beyond that of mere survival.
But I am aware of the resources I use traveling, resources that could be spent in better ways. Airplane fuel is probably the worst part. My husband and I drove five hours to Drum’n’Splash, and that wasn’t lost on us either. We brought that up with another attendee who was discussing environmentalism: do we have a right?
“Well, you can’t just stop living your life,” he said.
But why not? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Stop using resources and having children, opt out of industrial society and live in accordance with our ideal model, the world of our ancestors?
I don’t believe in the peak oil end times scenario, but I do believe in conserving where I can. Is the Keltria trip justified? I’m not sure; I suppose it depends on how you’re making the judgment. I certainly want to go and meet with my co-religionists; Keltrian Druids are few and far between. And ultimately, spiritual community needs to be more than virtual, in my view. There’s something special and irreplaceable about meeting other humans face to face, exchanging ideas with voice and gesture, doing ritual with each other in the flesh. That’s what society is.
What’s your view?