I admit it. My hands are raised, my white flag is up: I am a wasteful builder. Even when I recycle scavenged materials. Even when I dumpster dive. I am still a product of this culture in this time. I still drop a screw and don’t run to find it in the grass. Every time that it happens I see myself, as if from a cloud above my head, watching and shaking my head. Watching from some time and place when screws aren’t a dime a dozen and the power tools have long since stopped functioning. If the world ever really does go to shit then I am going to be lamenting just how wasteful I really was. Then again, so will we all. It’s the very rare person who lives in a way that wouldn’t be embarrassing to someone trying to survive post-industry.
Even when I am conscience of it, I still don’t climb down the ladder to pick up a dropped screw. I see the screw fall, I see it disappear into the grass. I shake my head at its loss, think about the implications, and then I take another screw out of the pouch attached to my belt and get on with it. After all, I have 200 of them, and the building supply store has thousands and thousands more for a couple of bucks. Why bother? Climbing up and down the ladder is annoying, as it bending down, as is the fact that my baby-free time to build is far too short for any sort of interruption. What absurdity! What laziness! And when I start thinking about all that had to happen for that screw to exist—mining, transport, creation, packaging, more transport—it all becomes more embarrassing and awful. And I still don’t bend down to pick up that screw.
When we burn scavenged wood, I don’t pull all of the nails out of the ash tray later, straighten them, and keep them in a big jar. (Though this guy does.) Sometimes I think I should, but I’m just not that person yet. I may never be that person. The world is still full of things (that would be rendered completely irrelevant should a collapse ever occur) that keep me too busy to do scavenging on that level. I don’t remember the last time I even used a nail. As it is I am glad to know where I could get them, should that knowledge ever come in handy, and I continue to float down the easy-as-hell river that is life in the year 2012 (in this part of the world).
Sometimes I daydream about being that self-sufficient, that capable. Then if industrial civilization were to end tomorrow, I could just continue on as I always had. Ho-hum. As it is that would not be the case, though part of me thinks, fuck it, I’ll enjoy what I can while I can. I don’t hoard food, not on a meaningful level, though I’ve always been a bit of a squirrel when it comes to having a full pantry. What I do hoard is knowledge. I read books about storing root vegetables and building compost toilets. I dabble in gardening. I dabble in foraging. I casually wonder if i should buy some sort of water filter someday, just in case. I daydream.
Post-civ that sort of knowledge would be gold. Then again, surviving something that disruptive of the status quo would also have a hell of a lot to do with luck. No amount of knowledge is going to stop an accidental death, which can come so quickly, so easily, from so many angles. We are certainly lucky to be living in times when death isn’t such a constant, in-your-face threat. The more you get to the bones of what a life post-civ would be, the easier it becomes to appreciate the good bits of the world we live in now. Though it still seems like a collapse might be our only chance—as a species to keep from fucking up the Earth beyond being able to support us, for people who would really like to see this form of government dead and buried—it would also mean a lot of sweat-blood-and-tears work. I’m up for it, but I can admit something else: the lap of luxury isn’t such a bad place to be. For now.