yours for the apocalypse

The war has started. On the way to the supermarket, a firing-squad worth of shots ringing through the air, then, laughter. New Year’s Eve on our doorstep, and not a teenager without a handful of explosives.

Last year, I spent New Year’s Eve right in the heart of the battle. A night of poker and whiskey, then out into the Frankfurt night to giggle and drunkenly throw fireworks into the street (and at cars, and our friends). This year we have decided to flee to the south, where we will remain in hiding until the battle is over, the piles of red paper cartridges all swept up, the fireworks packed away safely for next year.

New Year’s tends to get me feeling apocalyptic. Ever since that mess in ’99, I guess, when everyone thought the world would end (or that at least all the computers would crash, which for a lot of people is the same thing) and my friend’s moms were stockpiling bottled water and canned food. When we all woke up to a completely normal 2000, feeling a bit silly about having believed it, even just a little bit, and fanatics tried to drum up suspense for the following year with the cry of: „The new milenium technically doesn’t start until 2001!“ But really, New Year’s Eve just hasn’t been as exciting since.

So, for this new year, I present you a new set of apocalyptic musings. It all started with wood. Just like every morning, afternoon, and evening, if I want to be warm, starts with wood. Getting the wood. (“Did we order enough for the whole winter?” “Does that stuff behind the kitchen belong to anyone?” “I saw a dumpster full of leftover wood today, want to go pick it up later?”) Chopping the wood. (They say that you are not a true Bauwägler until you have done two things: Drunkenly tripped over the wagon drawbar and hacked your hand with the axe while, also drunk, trying to chop wood in the middle of the night. Of course if you manage not to suffocate yourself with carbon monoxide the first night sleeping with the wood stove on, you get a few bonus points.) And, finally, coaxing the wood into flames. (“The fucking oven went out again!” “The wood is too wet!” “There’s fucking smoke everywhere!”)

Luckily, there’s wood everywhere, and you don’t even have to cut down any extra trees to get it because the ever-dependable excesses of capitalism makes sure that there is free, burnable material being thrown out all the time. There is newspaper in the recycling bin to get things started. There are thin wooden boxes behind the grocery store and at the farmer’s market for kindling. And there is construction site after construction site with container after container full of wood that they are going to have to pay to throw away. If all that stuff is going to get torched at the dump anyway, you might as well torch it in your cute little wood stove and make a warm winter night of it.

(I used to work to pay for heat. Hahahahaha. Now I just stay home and play with power tools and fire instead.)

Some people say, “Yeah, well, you’re putting a lot of Co2 into the atmosphere, heating with wood.” To which I have a sack full of retorts. But what’s the use? I do what I do because it feels right, not because it’s the all-seeing, all-powerful Righteous Answer to Everything. Our friendly neighbors (office workers who spend their smoking breaks cackling at us from the student center’s balcony) complain that the wood-stove smoke bothers them. It’s unsightly, and it smells. I say take a trip to the power plant supplying your home’s power and take a look at all the black, soul-less columns of reeking smoke your electricity puts into the air. Just because you don’t have to see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In fact, maybe it would be better if everyone did have to see it, because then maybe we would all be a little more concerned with the consequences of our standard of living.

There is no clean electricity, no electricity that is truly environmentally friendly, not really. (Hear me out, bike-generator owners and solar-panel lovers.) Most people think of, to take a common example, solar energy as being pretty clean. And I reckon it is cleaner than coal and nuclear. But consider this: How was the glass in the panel made? How was the metal holding the panels together made? Where did the metal come from? How was the metal taken from the ground? Processed? Transported to the solar-panel-making factory? How did the people who designed and built the solar panels get to work? Did any part of this process involve large machines? (Machines that were also made out of metal, that needed to be taken out of the ground by other machines, and more people who had to get to work somehow.) Did any of this involve oil? Or plastic? (In which case it did involve oil.) Did it involve electricity manufactured, not by happy hippy solar panels, but by the power plant down by the mines, the same ones spewing black muck into the sky (or leaving uncountable years of radioactive waste in its wake)?

The same questions could apply to „oil-less“ cars, energy-saver light bulbs, and those little stickers that cheerfully remind us to turn out the lights when we leave a room. Buying solar, buying hydro, powering your car with vegetable oil, none of this is going to make much of an environmental difference. These are phantom solutions; solutions that lead us to believe we’ve done our part when what we’ve really done is bought another heap of plastic and metal that will eventually need to be replaced by another, all of which will require mind-boggling amounts of pollution to manufacture.

What could help is never making another car. What could help is never making another straw or paper napkin or plastic bag (seriously, what the fuck? PURE, INSTANT WASTE). Recycling bottles isn’t going to help, recycling paper isn’t going to help, recycling plastic isn’t going to help. What could help is never making another bottle or can or not printing millions and millions of newspapers daily. Heating with wood won’t help, powering your computer with solar won’t help, living off the grid probably won’t even help (though it does wonders for your sanity, tell you what). What could help is having no electricity, no computers, no light bulbs.What could help is a much smaller ppopulation with a very, very different lifestyle. If we wanted to „save“ the planet, that is. And by „save“ I mean, „keep pleasant for human life.“ Because the planet doesn’t need us to save it. The planet probably doesn’t give a shit if the polar caps melt and the world becomes a desert or if another ice age is approaching. We’re the ones who give a shit about all that, because we’re the ones who need things like ozone and potable water to survive. The earth would probably be better off without us.

I’m not saying not to recycle or use solar energy or to leave the lights on when you leave the house (I say, do whatever your conscience tells you is responsible), and I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad (though it all happens to make me feel terrible), but don’t fall prey to the belief that remembering to turn out the lights or recycling paper makes any of us environmental saints. The best thing you could possibly do with books like 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth is to use them to light your wood stove.

If the environmentalists are right, there are probably no small changes that could stop the polar caps from melting or the ozone from slowly disappearing, or cultural changes that could stop timber corporations from clear cutting forests and factories in China from making cheap, plastic shit. Seems that radical change is in order, and it seems like that’s just not going to happen.

I reckon that the change, this apocalyptic end that environmentalists whisper about, the revolution that radicals plan and pray for in secret meetings, the economic crash that has the bankers wringing their hands, I reckon it’s probably going to be forced on us all one way or another as our own system and environment buckle under the pressure of myths like the American dream, and come crashing down around us, long before we’ve tried to change, and whether we remembered to turn off the light in the living room or not. Hopefully, by then, we’ll all have already learned how to grow vegetables and skin deer.

So ends my yearly dose of apocalyptic musings. This is our final broadcast for 2008, cut, end transmission, see you in January.
Yours for the apocalypse,
Click Clack Gorilla

0 Comments on “yours for the apocalypse

  1. Ugh I hate that book, even though I own it and its companion, “50 More Simple Things blah blah blah”. They also published the Recycler’s Handbook, which is actually the most helpful of the three, because it allows me to put down the people who are all like, “but it has a recycling symbol on the bottom, why can’t it be recycled?” And I get to say things like, “first it’s POLYSTYRENE not fucking styrofoam, which is the trade name for something it is now illegal to produce (CFCs), and second, just because they put a recycling sign on something doesn’t mean there’s someone out there who will bother to recycle it. It’s too expensive and inefficient to recycle something like polystyrene which is a really shitty complex polymer that never should have been invented. But they put the recycle sign on there anyway to make you feel better about yourself, and then people like me have to sort out all the recycling to take out the stuff idiots like you think can be recycled, because everyone seems to have this idea that recycling is a magical way to solve the waste problem, like a fairy is standing there waving a magic wand and making it all better. Why don’t YOU stand out in the cold rain up to your elbows in stale beer and rotten dairy products, sorting recycling, and then you’ll get a good idea of how the magic fairy lives.”

  2. That is exactly why I love “As the World Burns (or Fifty Ways to Stay in Denial)”, and why it lives in the happy little book carousel next to my blog. Which by the way, is supposed to be there to somehow make me money, hahaha.


  3. ts- holy shit, I also used to be a recycling technician (if that’s the job you were referring to hen you were up to your knees in beer cans). I worked for the Virginia Solid Waste Authority shoveling bottles and running the cardboard compactor. And yes, recycling is just a fucking band-aid for our ginormous problems that does absolutely nothing to stop the steamroller of doom that is our culture of consumption, spreading like wildfire across the globe.

    I reckon it’s probably going to be forced on us … long before we’ve tried to change, and whether we remembered to turn off the light in the living room or not. Hopefully, by then, we’ll all have already learned how to grow vegetables and skin deer.

    I don’t think vegetables will be able to grow. By that point. The bare soil that does exist between power plants and culdesacs will be so contaminated with nuclear fallout that nothing will grow. The deer will have three heads and live on carrion. Our species will be merely a memory in the mind of some ancient tortoise that once lived in the San Francisco zoo before The Fall.

    Happy New Year! Woohoo!!

  4. Lark- Its worse, if you can imagine. I’m the recycling coordinator for an entire college, so not only do I get to design and run the recycling program, I also get to buy all the bins and fight with contractors and employ a small herd of students to pick the stuff up. And pretend I care! If the other half of my job wasn’t teaching kids how to survive after the apocalypse, I would have quit long ago. Cause if we manage to survive (at all), I imagine it will be cause there’s enough land somewhere to grow some veggies, and there will always be cockroaches for protein.

  5. ts- Ha! That does sound rough. But you teach kids how to survive after the apocalypse and hunt cockroaches for a living? How neat.

  6. Lark- Well, I have yet to teach anyone how to hunt cockroaches. I am not sure I myself have this knowledge, though one of my roommates in college had a bizarre vacuum type device intended for the purpose. The one time she used it she flipped out and refused to empty it because it was too gross. So that was the end of that experiment.
    Nikki says she is happy we are going back and forth on her comments, but if you care to switch to another medium to carry on the conversation, I’m all for it (I’m her cousin, Tara). My actual base of knowledge runs more toward rope and net making, in addition to vegetable growing and eating.

  7. Oh dear. You’ve got my apocalypse nerve going again. I used to lose sleep over shit like this as a teenager. I remember my high-school science teacher, who was a slightly insane vegan who kept his microwave in his shed and looked more than a little bit like a corpse, talking about composting toilets and electricity generation when he was supposed to be teaching physics, and how we’re all screwed and might as well give up and go and live in caves and prepare for the end of civilisation. I felt ill with worry for weeks. Since then I don’t think I’ve ever looked at society in quite the same way, and have always felt a little bit hopeless about the future, and like perhaps I really should buy a wind-up torch, a tent a find a cave somewhere at the top of Scotland where the nuclear bombs would never strike. 

    It’s that mentality that led me to vow, as a neurotic 16 year old, that I would dedicate my life to wiping the virus that is humanity from the planet. Ah silly teenage dreams! Of course, that was before I had a child and started to see that life isn’t as hopeless as I’d thought, and that you might as well get on and make the most of it. We’re screwed anyway! 

    I have to agree though. For our own sanity it’s important to do some things that at least make us feel like we’re not making the situation worse. Like at least we’re not being hypocrites. Even as the rest of society blindly consumes and never gives it a second thought. 

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