Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fearlessly Facing the Latter Days

One of my favorite topics at the Exponent II feminist retreat was introduced by Victoria Grover of Maine. Victoria's workshop was intended to provide "the keys to surviving and thriving in the unknowable future." In this session, fifty women were entranced by Victoria's portrayal of the economic realities of the day. She explained pointedly the conditions of the U.S. economy since World War II and the exponential growth of debt.

The Bretton Woods agreement of was an attempt to stabilize money. After the Great Depression, developed countries met together to plan a post-war economic order. The United States wanted to make the dollar the standard in a world economy. In exchange for this, we agreed that foreign countries could exchange their dollars at a fixed rate for gold. This worked for a number of years. In 1971 in response to the Vietnam War and accelerated inflation, Nixon abolished the gold standard. Thus the dollar became unrestricted. U.S. debt has gone up dramatically since then, until we now have a deficit of over 9 trillion dollars. (Please follow this link to better understand just how much a trillion dollars is!) Victoria convinced us all that every civilization that has faced this type of situation has responded by inflating currency (devaluing the dollar). Societies can go through depression, she warned, but do not survive hyperinflation.

In addition to these problems, Victoria addressed the issue of finite resources. Peak oil is the rate at which oil producers can extract oil at the maximum level possible. U.S. oil production reached a peak in 1970. Some people believe that world oil production peaked in 2005. From now on, there will be less oil available for an increasing population. Victoria briefly covered each of the remaining options (Ethanol, Coal, Hydrogen, Nuclear, Solar, Wind, Animal energy, Firewood, and others) and why each of these will soon be exhausted or are not feasible at the present time.

This may all seem like doom and gloom to you. But Victoria actually presented this very matter-of-factly and with the idea that the decline of the U.S. was a foregone conclusion. After all, from 1900 to 1970, we had all the oil, and that was why we had all the power. Now our position is not so secure. It actually made me feel better to just accept that we are in for a depression. Now we can decide how to handle things spiritually and physically.

Victoria's conclusion is that the seeds of our present decline began in the early 1800's. This is when population began to grow exponentially, when we began to rely on industrialization, and when humans began to be the only species on earth who are a detriment to the planet. She sees the Restoration as the Lord's answer to how to navigate the problems that await us. The disasters will come slowly, a bit at a time, and we have time to learn how to conserve, to grow things, to form networks, to learn how to produce commodities.

As an illustration of her suggestions for us, she told of her family and a group of her neighbors who got together to buy an oil press from Europe. It fits in someone's barn, and the group plans to grow canola and rapeseed and make oils out of the plants. Right now these oils are mostly imported. By starting this business they will have a commodity to trade when the economy fails and a necessary food product made locally.

I appreciate Victoria's concise and valuable history lesson and her leadership in showing us how to be wise stewards and to navigate the Anthropocene epoch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is off subject, but I had the privilege of know Victoria for five years while we lived in northern Maine. She is a very wise lady and I learned a lot form her.