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