Crazy Optimistic Apocalyptica Joins ScienceBlogs

Earlier this month, while I was distracted managing mom's transition from assisted living to hospital stay to rehab and preparing to escape for my annual beachy vacation, a new star was added to the Scibling firmament. And she's a shiny one. I'm talking about Sharon Astyk, writer of Casaubon's Book. I like pretty much every single thing she's written over there so far, but I really love this entry. Here's a sample:

A lot of people are dismissive of personal choices and personal actions, and as I argue in _Depletion and Abundance_ it isn't an accident that all the things we decide are unimportant personal choices happened to be traditionally associated with women - they are measures of our contempt for women's traditional work (consider the attention still given to the individual vote, in comparison, which also doesn't matter, except all the times that it does). Perhaps more importantly it is enormously profitable for industry to pretend that individual choices are unimportant. After all, if they are unimportant, there's no reason to constrain them, no reason not to stop at Wendy's on your way to the climate change demonstration, no link at all between all those cows and global warming...

Thus we put "agricultural emissions" in the category of *big important issues" and say we can't do anything about it personally - of course "industry" doesn't acually eat. In fact, I'm pretty sure that 100% of all meals are eaten by individuals ;-).

Which is all a really long way of saying that I'm definitely going to keep posting recipes, even if, as one of my prior critics claimed, he feared he'd wandered over to Lady's Home Journal, rather than an energy blog. As I've argued before, we can't change our agriculture, or improve our health without changing the way we eat - and we do that by teaching people to cook again, to make good use fo the food they do have, and by helping them make ethical food choices. And that requires small and homely things like recipes, which have their place even in SCIENCE!.

Of course, Casaubon's Book is written by someone Known To Be A Girl, and a theist, and furthermore she is just telling me stuff I like to hear, which PZ Myers would never do, and on top of all that, she has posted recipes. So I am pretty sure that means she must be wrong or stoopid or non-scientific or maybe even a creationist so I can't wait till the New Atheists get her straightened out.

I like Casaubon's Book because it deals with cheery stuff like how our lives as we know them just can't continue and how the change is coming faster than we want to admit and how peak oil has long since been reached even though no one will say it out loud. It's all good times over there! If I hadn't just come back from my planet-killing beach vacation, reading this blog would be a real downer.

Sharon has written three books with all sorts of handy advice on how to survive in the coming world post-peak oil. You can find links to them on her blog, and I recommend taking a look, they all seem very interesting and useful. Unfortunately, I did not see anything in any of them to indicate that she has included even one chapter on "easy-peasy painless suicide methods when the resource wars wash up on YOUR doorstep!" or "how to take yourself out in one simple step when your gas tank is empty and the running-car-in-locked-garage method just isn't an option anymore" or even a side chapter in that preserving food book on "let one batch go bad and keep it on hand for the REALLY bad times!"

I fear she is not completely rational. Because, she outlines a future where the oceans will rise and peoples' water supplies will be compromised and much of our agricultural production will be jacked and subtropical infectious diseases will be rampaging all over the place - and yet she also seems to think many of us will still be blithely out on some farm somewhere, raising our goats and chickens, planting our heirloom seeds, putting up preserves in the late summer and fall, and rediscovering the joys of hanging out laundry on the line. While not being gunned down by the survivalists who have been hoarding ammo for years on end and who have suddenly showed up to take our food and wimmin. Say, now, THERE'S a suicide strategy - "I'll just take these clothes outside to hang on the line - no, no, I don't need any bullet-proof vest! la la la la la la la!"

I guess that's why I love that crazy chick. She has looked right square in the face of the coming apocalypse, and said "fuck you. I'm planting veggies, milking goats, hanging laundry, and nurturing my kids." I might still lean towards the viewpoint of a friend of mine, who wonders whether getting through the coming crisis is even something to be desired, and suggests saving that 5 gallon drum of gasoline to do yourself in when the time comes - don't be pressured to use it for a vacation, or one last run to the grocery store for supplies! But I'm glad that outlandish optimists like Sharon exist.

More like this

Thank you so much for the incredibly kind words. I will consider your suggestions for chapters in the next book - it does seem so much easier to just keep, say, a gun and at least a couple of bullets than to rely on your canned goods killing you - they might, but then again, they might just make you wish they had. I'm not sure whether "gun owning" (hey, I'm a farmer, it goes with the territory) added to those other adjectives will put me over the edge, but hey

At precisely this moment, it is fairly safe to hang laundry at grow gardens at my abode - as long as you don't do it in the woods wearing deer-colored clothing. If that changes, I'll write a post ;-).

Thank you again!


I have a feeling, and it's only a feeling mind you, that goats will be useful far longer than blogs.
I think I want goats now.

So, just out of curiosity, are we planning for all the excess population to die off so that the rest have room to all have farms?

Because let's face it: large agribusiness monoculture farms ARE what feeds the current world population. Moving to a small farm model assumes that either much of the current world population is gone, or soon will be from starvation. (Which is going to involve stripping every nearby ecosystem of everything above the level of bacteria on the way.)

It's a lovely model for a smaller world. For the world we're in, it's either an idealised utopia for subsistance farmers in low-population-density areas, or for the privileged Westerners who can afford land and either have independent wealth or who don't mind otherwise being (really) dirt-poor and working very hard all the time at physical tasks. And I say this as someone who has lived and worked on a farm.

Yes, I absolutely agree that our current lifestyle is unsustainable, but it seems to me that the first thing to tackle is the absurd expectation of a perpetually expanding economy, which is inevitably driven by more and more and more consumption. By trying to eliminate intensive farming, rather than the basic cultural expectation of disposable luxury goods, you are more likely to hit the urban poor and lower-middle-to-middle classes with a massive penalty on food. Seriously, is the assumption that these people who rely on mass-produced food will all simply die?

Incidentally, I also have to disagree that we are post-peak-oil. Close to at, but there are still too many new proven reserves to say post.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 30 Dec 2009 #permalink

Hey, we have almost, almost bought a gun. For hunting...and who knows, we might need it (I live in the sticks, not too far from Sharon). Hunter safety course for hubby, taught by the local yahoos, was the final step. Next year, when Bambi steps into the garden for a snack -

Luna, I think your points are right on. Just read a book review today in the Inquirer by someone who interviewed defectors from North Korea, about surviving the famine there...I think that experience is instructive. Starving mobs are not going to let those who've retired to countryside to engage in subsistence farming carry on their privatized farm lives unmolested, I think. You can shoot the first 1000 or so of them who show up on your property...and then what?

outlandish optimist, indeed.
putting 4 kids to the world, you'd have to be an optimist...