Get the F*** Off Fossil Fuels

Almost all conversations with every other parent of late includes "Have you read Go the Fuck to Sleep yet? Have you heard Samuel Jackson read it?...." It is safe to say that the book touches a nerve. And it is extraordinarily funny, and it does evoke precisely the reactions that most of us have trouble acknowledging publically. We all have to ruefully acknowledge that we see some part of ourselves in this - the book is about those parenting failures that are hard to speak about but part of our lives.

It is, all in all, an awesome book, and precisely the sort of thing I wish (and I suspect every other writer wishes) they'd thought of first. ("Hey, I've been sleep deprived and bitchy too! I can write doggerel! Why didn't I write it first?")

Sadly, Adam Monsbach beat us all to it, and he deserves a great deal of credit. But in the spirit of jumping on bandwagons (a fine American tradition) I feel that there are other potential humorous children's books on the same general theme that could be brought about. If rueful acknowledgement of parenting failures in humorous poetry is a new trend, I've got a big one to jump onto. And before someone else publishes derivative parent books like "Just shut the fuck up and eat it already" and "Take your goddamn hand out of your pants right now!" Me, I'd like to get there first with a stolen sequel called "Get the Fuck off Fossil Fuels."

I know a few parents whose kids might want to read it to them - I give you permission to use profanity in front of Mom and Dad, just this one time for good effect.

"Get the Fuck Off Fossil Fuels!"

The lamp glows bright in the darkness, my sweet.
As the Sara Lee pie on the windowsill cools.
The coal plant in the distance reminds us
To get the fuck off fossil fuels!

Daddy is on his commute now, my darling,
On a packed interstate full of fools.
He'll be home in two hours - if you're still awake
Oh, we gotta get the fuck off fossil fuels!

A lone frog in the creek is croaking his song
A single calling bird pules.
The rest are all gone - it is too warm here for them.
We really should get the fuck off fossil fuels.

Grandma is singing low songs in her rocking chair
Far away by the Senior Home pool.
No, we can't go to visit this year, I told you,
Because we can't afford the damned fossil fuel.

Your asthma medication is there on the table
Even though the a/c is on cool.
I'm sorry you can't breathe on hot nights, my baby,
It is all from this fucked up fossil fuel!

And yes, I have heard about Hubbert
That peak and his linear tools.
We're just hoping the gas lasts a few more years because
We can't get the fuck off fossil fuels!

The fracking is going all night now,
Offshore drilling sucks oil up from pools.
It is getting hard to pretend it isn't destroying us
But please drill me some more fossil fuels!

Some of the old trees are still there yet.
Some fish are still left in their schools.
We haven't killed everything yet dear,
That's why we're still on fossil fuels.

Great Grandpa went to war against slavery
Great-Grandma marched for self-rule.
But hey, I'm no hero, not like them,
To get us the fuck off fossil fuels

This room would be dimmer without power.
And the temperature not quite as cool.
You can't ask your Mom to give up stuff
I need my damned fossil fuel!

Yes I know that you'll want it for things too -
some medicine and metal tools.
But I need a flat screen right now dear,
And I'm eyeing a new pair of red mules.

We kept you safe in your carseat my love,
We followed the new Mom and Dad rules.
The SUV was for you, not for us, dear.
You should have mentioned you'd want fossil fuels!

For all that they cause global warming,
international conflict and duels,
are making us broke, send our babies to war,
We still love our sweet, sweet fossil fuels.

Your Daddy and I are much too old now
To be out there reducing our joules.
We're past 40 you know - now it is your chance.
To get us the fuck off fossil fuels.

The good news is that it'll be easy for you, love
When we're dead or so old that we drool.
They'll all be used up, so no trouble -
You'll get the fuck off fossil fuels!

In a world that's four degrees warmer
And poorer, a place of misrule,
I'm sure you won't mind that we used up the gas,
You'll be proud to be off fossil fuels.

When you are older we hope you'll be understanding,
Of the failures of parents and schools,
And governments, leaders and loved ones,
Who used up your last fossil fuels.

Our parents passed the problem to us dear,
And so history must unspool
But I guess the buck stops with you now,
As we're headed to peak fossil fuels.

It pains us to see you bear this burden
It would be most awesomely cool.
To pass this shit on to our *GRANDKIDS*
Let THEM get the fuck off fossil fuels!

Happy fourth of July all!


More like this

Very nice, Sharon! My very last lecture in Physical Geology every semester is about the limits of growth and Hubbert's curve, so at least a significant portion of each graduating class has heard about them each year. I'd use your poem, too, but somehow I don't think the Administration would appreciate the profanity (although I occasionally use a colorful word in my lecture for emphasis, or to shock them into paying attention).

You've misplaced a quotation mark in a very unfortunate spot... unless, of course, you meant to write "Take your goddamn hand out of your pants right now, I'd like to get there first"...


I agree we should abadon fossil fuels. However, telling the average person to "stop that" isn't helping. Most people have no control over it. I myself NEED to use fossil fuels almost every day if I'm going to keep surviving. It's as necessary as electricity and water. Telling me I need to "cut it out" without offering me some WAY to cut it out is just being preachy.

So tell me. What exactly am I supposed to do? Buy a new car? That's really not an option for me, or a large number of people. Most people can't afford to buy a brand new battery powered car. Use public transportation? Calling a cab every single day out here would break the bank pretty fast, and there's no public bus stops anywhere close by. I can't walk to where I need to go, and I can't bike there either. I can't move close enough to where I need to work either (if I could, I wouldn't live where I do now, where housing is affordable). This isn't just a "woe is me" pity party. This is a reality for a lot of people. Most people simply can't AFFORD to save the planet. Lose the car, lose the job, lose a house, lose food, lose life. It's a short and sweet chain reaction that happens to lots of people around here every day.

I agree, something should be done, but this is the sort of thing that only government and large businesses are going to be able to do anything about, not the common person on the street. It's not like littering, where avoiding it literally costs nothing. It's a matter of not even being able to make small changes that add up. Not everyone lives in a metropolitan area with widely available round the clock cheap public transportation as an option. The impression "just stop using it" gives is that the people giving this advice just don't understand or CARE about the living situation of the average person.

At best, we can VOTE for candidates that will help fund research into getting rid of fossil fuels. That's about it for the vast majority of people.

By Dark Jaguar (not verified) on 04 Jul 2011 #permalink

I don't have any solutions, but since I've been overseas I've certainly gained a different perspective. It's amazing to be in a country where you really can survive without a car. Granted, plenty of Koreans have cars and traffic is pretty bad. But public transportation is cheap and convenient. Cabs are cheap and plentiful. You can take a high speed train for far less than a tank full of gas. Most people live in high rise apartments that certainly don't take as much energy to heat or cool as American McMansions do. A lot of it has to do with the high population density here. I don't think their transportation system would be easily adaptable to a country as spread out as the US.

If we want to reduce fossil fuel use, we need to recognize how wasteful urban sprawl is (particularly suburbs, which don't exist in Korea). A change in lifestyle requires getting everybody on board, something unlikely to happen in the States.

By Eric in Korea (not verified) on 04 Jul 2011 #permalink

"Pass it on to the grandkids"?

How? There might not be any at the rate we're going.


Eric (#5): "Granted, plenty of Koreans have cars and traffic is pretty bad."

Nice fantasy, but the Koreans are as wasteful as North Americans, if not worse. I lived there for four years myself.

Traffic is "pretty bad"? Koreans are as bad as the French for sideswiping parked cars and driving away. And the entire sky in Seoul is brown, seven days per week. During spring and summer, on about half the days there are warnings about pollutants in the air from traffic, not just the "yellow wind" from China.

Most processed foods in Korea are double wrapped - not just the outside, individual items like cookies are wrapped one by one. Saltine crackers don't come in long sleeves like they do in North America, they come wrapped in tiny packs of four to six crackers, and large boxes with only eight to ten packs in it. Half the sugar sold in supermarkets comes in tear open paper sleeves, not loose in a bag.

Koreans throw away furniture and appliances when they move. I lost count of the number of near-new and usable couches, TVs or refrigerators that were left at curbsides for removal because people didn't want to move them, or they were "last year's model".

The amount of waste that goes on in Korea is insane. It has become a culture of consumption and disposal.


@ Dave Jaguar,

Things you can do. Either move close to your work, or only work close to where you live. The long commute is a fantasy created to serve corporate interests -- the big housing developer, the car maker, the centralized or uncaring business.

Examine what "advancement" or "ambition" mean in your life. Corporations and big developers want you hungry, and buying on credit. They want you paying for a car on payments, not saving up for a cash purchase, they want you in a bigger house than you can afford, because they make more money that way. And companies want employees to be more productive -- turning assets like cheap energy into company revenue. But non-company people, like farmers and other craftspeople, want just a bit more security, the joy of a successful harvest, and the satisfactions of family and community.

Beware of what the government and marketers promise. They each promise to either mimic the life of the wealthy, or to keep you ready to live the wealthy life. The reality is that most of us are better off without the burdens of the stuff and stigma of that artificial plateau. Is this voluntary poverty? In a corporate/marketing sense, possibly. In terms of security, satisfaction, self knowledge, and self determination (and joy and appropriate security), not so much.

A new hand scythe or push reel mower is expensive. The cost to learn to use each well, including when to use them and when not to, is high in terms of effort and time, and very low in terms of dollars for the training (or entertainment?) time. Pulling weeds instead of using herbicides on the lawn or garden takes time -- but produce a sense of accomplishment (for the day, and maybe some chickens delighted to pick over your 'harvest) instead of a toxic patch.

Using compost and cover crops to maintain fertility and enrich the soil, instead of trucked in and increasingly energy intensive or expensive mineral fertilizers is another approach to reduce relying on fossil fuels.

Why elect politicians to fight the good fight? How about working in your community to encourage stores and employers near housing, to reduce commute times, to fight the petroleum profligate big housing developments, the centralized business, shopping, and industrial regions that impose massive commutes on a region. Work to assure your community permits responsible small livestock keeping in all areas. Help focus your community on conservation and low-energy alternatives, rather than just wishing for magic sources of energy to maintain the profligate energy profiles we indulge in today.

How about weatherizing your home and business, to need less energy from any source to remain comfortable, and adjusting your thermostat to what is needed for healthy living, instead of using the thermostat as a profligate display of affluence.

Plant some squash, some corn, some beans, some cabbage. With moderate approaches, what you bring in from the garden is that much less that you bring home from the store. The energy you aren't using to travel to the store, the store uses to prepare, store, and handle the items, and the producer and distributor used to get that item to your store would then be available for something else -- or avoided, in the future.

How about an owner occupied store? I don't see many of these today, but it would cut down on the commute.

Possibly even examine how many people you are sharing a roof with, whether your home or residence should include additional people to share facilities and energy, to share tasks and skills and opportunities, and to increase security.

Longer term, you might look at helping children that need a home to grow up under your care, that you teach your values of responsibility and ethics to. Raising your own children, providing foster care, adopting, or even taking in an unwed mother or young family might help your community, a few people today, and set the stage for a smarter tomorrow.

Get in the habit of reusing stuff, of bartering instead of buying commercial stuff, of trading skills and efforts with friends and neighbors. Forget recycling, since recycling anything but glass burns more dollars and oil than making new does, and all recycling burns tax dollars. Instead, focus on using what you acquire well, on cherishing a rake in good condition from the flea market over a shiny plastic rake from the store. Make your own repairs, from sewing to painting and basic carpentry. Patch, repair, and resize clothes rather until they really do need replaced, and not replace because they no longer look new; use clothes in a "good clothes/everyday and public wear/private work clothes/golly I hope no one see me in this" progression of wear. Get a can of linseed oil and a can of turpentine, and keep garden and hand tool handles in good shape and protected from drying out. Keep tools clean, and stored appropriately to minimize loss and damage from rust, weather, and misuse.


@Brad K. The advice "move closer to work or work where you are" sounds really good but just isn't feasible for a whole lot of people. In many suburban or rural areas the only jobs going are ones the involve the question "would you like fries with that?". For many of us it's not a matter of giving up some luxuries but a matter of whether you eat or not, whether you have the health insurance that's keeping your diabetic kid alive or not. I'm all for the simple life but it's just not that easy when you have family that you are responsible for.

We need to work and lobby to have public transport move up on the list of priorities for governments local and national. We need to make sure that jobs are created that don't require people to work 2-3 of them to make ends meet. And indeed we need to continue to try to raise awareness that you can make life work with just one car per family and fewer consumer goods. Quite frankly though I don't see any of my American friends living high on the hog, they exist from pay cheque to pay cheque. I'm lucky I can take the bus to work every morning, my Mother lives with us and takes care of our daughter and brings her to school and does shopping and other things so that we can have a decent life. Quite frankly I don't know what we would do without her, actually I do know we would be running our collective assess off just to keep our heads above water. Time to count my blessings again I think.

By Eva Elisabeth (not verified) on 05 Jul 2011 #permalink

"As we're headed to peak fossil fuels."

I thought we were there already.

LOL, you know I've written close to 2000 blog entries between this and my other site precisely on *how* to get off fossil fuels. I write one joke post without any explanations and I get "but you didn't tell us how..." ;-).

The good news is that I'm about to re-start the Riot for Austerity (August 1), and since last time over 1000 people found that they could cut their fossil fuel usage by 50-90% if they really worked at it - even if they were poor, even if it was hard, even without solar panels and lots of money, I'm guessing most of us can too. The problem with protestations that we only use fossil fuels to survive is that we know that's just not true for most of us - even those of us trying desperately to get by. There are places where we can consume much less.

The other relevant point is that while Eva Elizabeth is right - we need to do all those things politically *too* - ultimately, we need to get off fossil fuels EVEN IF THOSE THINGS DON'T WORK. The cost to ourselves and future generations is simply too high. That is, even if people who are struggle have to struggle harder, even if it hurts, even if we get little help, it still has to happen. It would be nice if governments and everyone pitched in equitably, but if you wait until that happens, we're all screwed, and screwed for several reasons. First, because the crash is much harder if you don't have practice using vastly fewer resources, but also because the moral price is just as high as the material price.

It isn't that I don't think this is hard - I do. But hard isn't the issue - sometimes you have to do the hard, sucky thing because you have to.

Preachy? Maybe. Unfortunately, the laws of physics are no respecters of persons. My personal preference would have been for my parents to have done this job - it would have been easier 30 or 40 years ago, much smoother transition, much happier. They didn't, and the buck has to stop somewhere. Someone has to make sacrifices - often more than their share.


Mark, we're probably past peak oil. We're not yet at peak fossil fuels - when the coal and natural gas will peak is debatable, but almost certainly not yet.


"require people to work 2-3 [jobs] to make ends meet."

If the ends don't meet, move the ends. There are any number of ways you can do so, some with more and some with less effort. There are probably thousands of ways to do so. I believe it took Amy Daczyzyn (sp?) three books to cover a lot, but hardly all, of them.

Most of us have to make some kind of compromise in order to have a viable lifestyle in this society. In most of the US, that means one car per driver, and the stress that goes along with having to own and operate a piece of heavy machinery (whether or not you get any satisfaction from doing so) in order to get to a job that pays for the cost of maintaining said heavy machinery. I am fortunate to have found a way out of that particular trap--I can walk to work--but the price I pay is living in a house which is bigger than I really need. Apartments and condominiums in this town fall into one of two categories: (a) student rentals, which are overpriced because four or six students (many with the aid of Dad's money) will pool their resources to rent the place, and (b) places which are restricted to people 55 and older (I'm too young to qualify).

Retrofitting our existing living spaces so that we can deal with less fossil fuel use is going to be a difficult task, made all the more difficult because we didn't do it 30-40 years ago when we should have done it. But it's something that will happen, whether we do so voluntarily or it is forced upon us. I am certain of this much: it will be a lot less painful if we do this voluntarily.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 05 Jul 2011 #permalink

we're probably past peak oil.

Unadulterated nonsense. We've recovered less than 10% of the oil in the reservoirs that we know about, and we've only explored less than 1/3rd of the earth's surface. We'll be using more oil in 100 years than we are today.

Why are people like you obsessed with taking us back to the 17th century, and back to 17th-century living standards and levels of wealth?

By Bart Johnson (not verified) on 05 Jul 2011 #permalink

Adulterated nonsense, Bart ;-) - feel free to document any of your claims, all of which are ridiculous. We've only explored 1/3 of the earth's surface? Are you kidding? Even deepwater reservoirs are fairly well mapped, and as we all know, that's not that easy to access. Most of it takes 10+ years to develop, which means that more and more other nations are past their peak. No reputable geologist claims we've used only 10% of the oil - there is certainly considerable debate about peak oil (although one recent survey of geologists suggested that a majority believe we are at or past peak - and the IEA has suggested that we're facing considerable supply constraints). Assertions cost nothing - feel free to document.

Even if we had all the oil in the world, you've heard of global warming, right, or are you also a denier? The reality is that we can't go on as we are. You have to be pretty blind to believe otherwise.

@ Brad K.:

I can't speak for Dark Jaguar, but I find your advice (though clearly well-intentioned) to be irrelevant for anybody who has to keep their current job to keep their family fed, housed, and healthy.... in other words, is not relevant to pretty much all Americans.

"Get a job near where you live"? "Get used to the time-expenditure of growing your own food"? Might as well say "invent cold fusion and save us all." You can't seriously expect people to take what very little family time they are currently left with and devote a major chunk of it to plowing fields and churning butter--much less moving to a new house when they don't *have* to.

People can worry about global warming while still realizing they have more immediate concerns. They're not going to sacrifice their family lives now for its sake.

Part of Bart's confusion might stem from the fact that a large portion of the oil in any well is unrecoverable. Long after peak oil, there will be a meme that "there is plenty of oil in the ground, but the Masons, Warmistas, Big Hydrogen, Illuminati, Evil Gubermint won't allow us to pump it"
The rest of Bart's confusion seems to stem from willful stupidity.


By Blind Squirrel (not verified) on 05 Jul 2011 #permalink

Blind Squirrel: "The rest of Bart's confusion seems to stem from willful stupidity."

No kidding. The "true believers" of rightwingnut nonsense willingly turn a blind eye to grade school math that even they are capable of. I'm no expert and even I can tell that the "drill baby drill" mantra is stupidity.

I've explained the pointlessness of ANWR drilling in this way, and it goes in one ear and out the other with such people:

USGS average estimates of ANWR oil: 10.3 billion barrels
Current US consumption of oil per day: 19 million barrels

10.3b / 19m = 542 days of oil (1 year, 6 months)

USGS highest estimates of ANWR oil: 15.9 billion barrels
IF US daily consumption were halved: 10 million barrels

15.9b / 10m = 1590 days of oil (4 years, 4 months)

The numbers don't lie, but the idiots do. Even if you take into account oil still coming in from other sources, ANWR oil would only last about a decade and would still take a decade to extract. To call drilling in ANWR a "long term solution" or "oil independence" requires blindness to reality or VERY short term "thinking".


Really enjoyed this piece, Sharon!

Yes, I think all of us who are concerned about peak oil need to utilize a little more creative edginess in our public communication/education tactics. While being overly preachy often backfires, I think we need to have the guts to challenge people more (including our own selves) to do more and more to get off fossil fuels.

While everyone has certain constraints, just because it's impossible to achieve 100% perfection in divorcing ourselves from fossil fuels, doesn't mean one can't work to do those things that are within our power to do. We got to start somewhere and continually challenge ourselves to do more and more. If it's all overwhelming to think of everything one might do at once, just pick one thing to start with and work from there.

I think we have a lot more power than we sometimes acknowledge. Yes, we live in a society that has been largely designed around the automobile; yes, corporations have too much influence over all aspects of life. Not denying that. But we still have power. And to the extent that we do, why don't we exercise it to the extent possible, whatever that may be for each person?

By energycrunch (not verified) on 05 Jul 2011 #permalink

TTT, people have historically sacrificed a great deal, including family time, in order to preserve their children's future. Consider my grandparents, who went away and risked death (and sometimes got dead) in WWII to preserve their children's future. They spent 3-5 years away from their babies and wives. I'm not going to sacrifice my family time just so that my kids can have a future is ummm...ironic at best.

It is true that most people can't get a new job that easily these days. On the other hand, most people can do a great deal to cut their resource usage without getting a new job. Most people could find someone to carpool with. Most people could spend their family time doing something productive, rather than spending money on cable and video games - millions of people already garden for relaxation. People could spend their family time cooking from scratch together - and save some of that precious money not to mention improving their children's health.

The postulation that we can't cut our resource usage because we need every single bit of it ignores the fact that people live and lived good lives in much the same places we live now without consuming nearly as much. It pretends that all choices are driven by pure necessity rather than habit or desire - true of very few people. And it pretends that the best thing we can do for our children is keep the status quo - being concerned about global warming isn't worth anything. Concern is a cheap emotion - everyone is concerned with things. More pressing is human action.


" People could spend their family time cooking from scratch together - and save some of that precious money not to mention improving their children's health."

Last year, at my son's IEP (I have an autistic son as well), his teacher told me that he answered the question, "What are your favorite things to do?" with "Cooking with Mom and playfighting with Dad." I was pleasantly surprised at his answer-I would have thought he enjoyed the arcade or the drive-in more, I guess because I have been programmed with the idea that if it doesn't cost a bunch of money, it's not fun.

Terrific poem Sharon,
I have been investigating ways that I can cut down on my own fossil fuel use, by taking the bus to work. I am in a great urban location that is close to most things that we need. So far, I have gotten the bus schedules and plotted out my route. I was sad to discover that the closest bus stip is really far from my house, public transportation in my area is very limited, and the bus trip to work is going to take at least an extra 1.5 hours (each way). This is bad, because I get paid by "billable hours" and the number of hours that I could work to earn the maximum amount will be severely cut back by taking the bus. (There are only so many hours in the day.) However, I plan to try this out at least once. We plan to move in a couple of years, and we will be looking at homes that are closer to the bus route. Maybe that will make taking the bus more practical.
Hopefully, as gas costs rise, more people will take the bus, which will lead the bus company to add more routes, which will eventually lead to taking the bus being a practical solution for more people.

I have to keep my current job to keep my family fed, housed, and healthy.... in other words, pretty much like all Americans. And I do take the time to cut my FF usage. I have 70K+ in student loan debt, and I'm the single paycheck for my family, my average work week is from 50-60 hours a week. There are some areas where I'm very limited in what I can do, that's normal. I know there are other areas in which I can do a lot, so I focus on those.

Comparing cold fusion to growing veggies? Really?
Even a shitty gardener can put a ton of food on the table with as little as 6 hours on Memorial day weekend and 1 hour a week during the summer. With things like perennial berries and tree crops, the time expenditure is even less per week.

I don't plow fields, I have a hoe, and I hoe my 10x20 garden plot once or twice a year, that's about the extent of it. I certainly don't churn butter, unprocessed milk is illegal in my state. I DO go to the local farmer's market. I WALK, with my FAMILY. It's a lot of FUN. We get tasty local food, catch up with some other gardeners, get a little family time and exercise. There is no down side here. What are we missing? Saturday morning cartoons? Nope, because we don't own a TV.

Moving to a new house is of course a large step to take. Others have said it, but what about carpooling, biking, or telecommuting, those are options for many more people than you may think. As for your claim that moving isn't a step people "have" to take, I guess that depends on how long you can afford to commute should gas ever get to 6 or 8$ a gallon. There is something to be said for keeping you house. Can you turn it into a profit center instead of a cost? Growing your own and making your own can help with that.

You seem very interested in telling us what can't be done. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
It can be done, as a family, with no loss in "family life."

Eleanor, I used to ride my bike to the nearest bus stop. Have you considered doing that? The commute time is a lot, do you have any work you can do with both hands free on the bus? Hand sewing/quilting or knitting that can offset the time expense? If you have 10 hours guaranteed every week with no kids/driving/dishes, what can you do with that time? :-D It could be an asset instead of a downside.

Good poem, great responses, but most exciting to me is that you're starting another Riot for Austerity group! I have August 1 marked on my calendar!

By Mary Ellen (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

Good job, Sharon!

lol! I like it. Now who can we get to narrate this, I wonder... Colin Beavan? Al Gore? :)

I'm with Jennie. Gardening is actually pretty easy as long as you don't expect perfection and start small. I've lost some stuff to animals and erm...accidents... but the little garden is still looking pretty full even though i've only done about 10 hours work on it and only started this year.

Don't forget that gardening is also a hobby and exercise and a learning experience and a talking point as well as putting some food on the table. All rolled into one.

By Richard Eis (not verified) on 19 Jul 2011 #permalink

Fun little ditty, but I guess I need to rename what generation I belong to, since I don't seem to have much in common with the 40+ set, and never have.

By Heather G (not verified) on 01 Aug 2011 #permalink