Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Choices

Life is full of choices. We make choices every day, and all of them have consequences - all of them. We make choices, which have consequences, and then, we have a choice on how to react to the consequences - if it's a bad thing that's happened as a consequence to a choice we made, we can either try to find the good in it, or we can wallow in a pool of our own self-pitying for the poor hand that life has dealt us.

Today, I broke my car.

My girls had dance practice (not class, because this week is February Break, which means the schools are all closed, which means that all of the extracurricular educational programming for kids are also closed - so no regular dance classes this week). The reason I mention that it was practice and not a class is to point out that today's practice was not a regular commitment.

There had been some spitting snow before we left and a flake or two on the drive out. For most of the two hours we were at the dance school, there was some spitting snow - but no accumulation. Just before we left the school to come home, the snow really started falling in those big, fat, heavy, wet flakes.

On the way home, it was really snowing. The roads were wet from the intermittent snow throughout the day, and the stuff coming down was the heavy wet stuff. The combination made the roads slippery. It's like when it rains down south and the oil on the roads mixes with the water - that kind of slick ... oil-slick slippery.

I was only a few miles from home, when all of a sudden, my wheels just lost traction, I spun 180°, ended up on the grassy shoulder on the opposite side of the road, heading straight for a utility pole. I was certain I was going to hit it head on, but I managed to turn the wheel and miss the pole with the front of the truck, but I clipped the pole with the rear-end. I got the truck back on the road and came home. I didn't stop to see if I'd done any damage. I don't have a cellphone, and I figured there was nothing I could do about it anyway, if there were damage.

When I got home, I discovered that I had knocked off the driver-side tail-light. The whole thing ... just gone. It looks like someone just stuck a crowbar in there and neatly popped the whole thing off. No broken glass or jagged edges. The lights and the housing were all gone, and the wire that attaches to electrical mechanism inside the housing that makes my lights work was hanging out. There's a small dent in the quarter panel and the bumper is cracked in one place.

It was all very exciting, and once I got my car back under control and was heading in the right direction again, I gave thanks ... immediately.

I said, "Thank you for keeping me from hitting the pole head on. Thank you for giving me a clear road and that I didn't hit any other cars. Thank you for keeping us uninjured."

It could have been very bad, but it wasn't, and I could have made it worse by freaking out. As it is, it's actually kind of funny, and the insurance company representative told me it wasn't an "accident", but rather an "incident."

We all have choices, and we have to accept the consequences of our choices.

I chose to go out to the dance school, even though I knew there was a snowstorm coming, because I was confident that we'd be okay. I've been driving without incident on these roads for more than a decade. I'm usually a very good driver. Today, I had an "incident," and I could blame it on any number of things and say I had no control over the situation, but that would not be true.

There are always choices.

We watched the movie The 11th Hour this evening. The movie is about climate change and the human role in the destruction of the Earth as a result of the last 150 years of industrialization and global use of fossil fuels.

Most of the ideas discussed in the film I already know and already believe ... except the last part, where they talked about switching from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources with the expressed belief that we could just switch over one-for-one, that wind and solar power could take the place of CHEAP fossil fuels.

But, seriously? If it were true that solar panels and wind mills could provide the same amount of energy that we get from a single carbon atom, then we'd already be doing it, now - despite the oil company lobbyist or whatever other conspiracy theory we believe is preventing the technology from being fully explored and expanded.

The fact is that we do have the technology to manufacture these systems, but the fact is also that we are currently using fossil fuels to MAKE the alternative energy systems, and that even if we had the infrastructure in place, we'd use more energy maintaining and expanding the system than we could generate - *if* we tried to do it on a large scale, like the makers of the movie would like us to believe is possible, and *if* we continue at the same level of consumption.

Peak Oil Hausfrau asked If anything could be GOOD about peak oil/energy/economy, what would it be?, and my answer is that it will force us to change the way we live. It will enable us to, hopefully, slowly and without a massive die-off, reduce our population to something closer to what the earth can sustain without fossil fuel inputs. It will force us to evolve into sustainable communities.

One of the experts on the movie said (and I wrote it down, because I wanted to remember it) It's easier to design in isolation and then superimpose the design over what exists. He pointed out that nature works in the exact opposite way, and instead, brings onto the palette all kingdoms of life and works symphonically to create an end result.

That's what I'm trying to do with my suburban homestead. I'm trying to work with what I have to create a balance, a harmony on this small space so that my family can survive, and hopefully, thrive, here, but so that we aren't causing more damage than we're creating.

There have been a couple of times in the recent past, when there was the possibility of us receiving a great financial windfall. Of course, the first thing I would do is to pay off my house, but then, I thought, "Would I?" Or would I sell my house, buy a piece of land in the country, and then build an eco-friendly house out there?

I've thought about it. A lot. And I've come to the conclusion that I would pay off my house, and I would stay here. I might make some modifications on my house (within the footprint, of course), like building up and tearing off a couple of the rooms so that my house would be more compact and more energy efficient, but to buy a piece of raw land, and then, build something new ... just goes against everything I've been saying for years, now.

We have a choice. We can work with what we have, even if it's not perfect. Or we can start building new stuff in places where we should just allow nature to do her magic.

Life is full of choices, all of which have consequences, and we are, right now, living with the consequences of a century and a half of irresponsible building and destruction. The question is, do we try to make better choices and fix what we have, or do we make the same choice, while believing that what we're doing is somehow different, because we believe our motives are more noble?


  1. Sorry to hear about your wreck Wendy, but I'm glad you're okay!

  2. Bummer. Glad you're ok.