Over 150 years ago, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a poem about a famous battle in the Crimean War. The poem was called “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and many of us had to read it in high school or college. One passage was called to mind this morning as I scanned my usual news sources.
Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Today, instead of cannon, we can substitute turmoil. It seems that economic turmoil is firing volleys of bad news at us from one side, political turmoil fires volleys of bad news at us from the other side, and energy turmoil is loading up directly in front of us. Environmental turmoil continues to snipe at us from behind every rock.
Many of the Light Brigade 157 years ago knew their plight to be very dismal indeed. But as the poem said “Boldly they rode and well”. I have begun to see a weak connection between “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and those of us who have been on active duty in the peak oil community for a while.
There are many similarities between the “peak oilers” and the soldiers of Light Brigade. The Light Brigade was few in number, some 600, as recorded in the poem. We in the peak oil community find our number to be far less than needed for the magnitude of the energy shortage challenges approaching. Large caliber media cannons fire at us from every side. Governmental agency cannons fire at us repeatedly, from behind a very thick “smoke screen”. Corporate cannons fire at us from behind “smoke and mirrors media campaigns”. Our closest associates snipe at us from behind every rock. And yet, we continue pressing forward, for we know that there is no going back to the life of wasteful energy usage. Yes, we ride boldly forward with many of us having been wounded by ridicule, or apathy.
The Charge of the Peak Oil Brigade bears many similarities to the Light Brigade, and yet there are many differences too. The field across which we must ride recently filled with economic land mines, a problem the Light Brigade did not have to endure. We cannot anticipate what exact effect these land mines will have as we charge the challenges of peak oil. It is one thing to prepare for a peak oil future when the economic ground beneath our feet remains firm. It is totally another when we have to proceed with small steps, analyzing every inch of ground for fear that the path ahead of us may explode at any moment.
One trait common among the soldiers in the peak oil community is battle fatigue. The survivors of the Light Brigade knew this well. I think that on a regular basis, I really need to stop and step away from the issue a bit and rest, but I find myself drawn back to the issues and preparations like a moth to a porch light. Fighting a war on one front is hard. Fighting a war on two fronts is extremely difficult. We are engaged in wars on both the economic and energy fronts while contending with environmental issues as well..
I think that the large scale Occupy movement erupting all over the US, and now spreading to the rest of the world is a collective cry for relief from economic battle fatigue. Even those still employed are developing this malady, afraid to open emails from the boss on Fridays, afraid to watch the evening news, afraid to open the business section of the newspaper, afraid to look at their bank and credit card statements, and afraid to open their quarterly 401k statement.
What can we do to combat this battle fatigue? I find that working with my hands towards a long term sustainability goal is a great stress reliever. Peak Shrink has encouraged us to take a break from the talking heads on TV, as well as the peak oil sites when things seem to be overwhelming. Good advice. You can’t stick your head in the sand and leave it there like 98% of the population, but you must maintain balance in life. Like the old saying we used to hear; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” The version that we need to consider is “All Peak Oil and no play makes Jack very mal-adjusted”.
We could combat economic battle fatigue by joining a protest movement like the Occupy group, but I think that beneath the surface we realize the economic battle fatigue has roots further down than the financial institutions, The energy monster is what we peak oilers most fear. Gathering in front of banks would soon be recognized as a fruitless venture for us.
How is our charge to proceed? Everyone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. This statement will have to be our marching order going forward. We will need to build our community around us and share the things we can do with others, as they in turn share with us. This is our only practical formula for combating energy and economic battle fatigue.
All the soldiers of the Light Brigade had great fear for the immediate future before them, but they were determined not to be defined by their fears and battle fatigue.
Is your sword at the ready, or is it rusty?