Doomer porn: Bigger, longer, uncut

Apologies to the South Park fans.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was out of town last week in order to deal with the settling of a family estate down in Virginia. Though not overtly religious, my parents (the decedents) had apparently considered themselves something other than mortal and had not made the most basic preparations for the day that, you know, they might have to move to assisted living or worse. Being in that house for days in a row would have been unpleasant in any case. The house has no Internet access worth speaking of, and the bills for various services (TV) had either lapsed or were bolluxed up to the point they didn’t really function. There was also (to put it gently) a ‘pet odor’ problem which was exacerbated by a mold problem and a dust problem (my parents had employed a ‘cleaning woman’ who was apparently blind to dust). And because my parents were children of the Depression, one had to go through every box and piece of paper, no matter how mildewed or tattered, in the possibility that money or other valuables had been salted away secretly somewhere. I had a great uncle who dealt with the OPEC Oil Embargo of 1979 by burying jerry-cans full of gasoline in various locations in his backyard. It’s not clear that all those had been dug up once he shuffled off this mortal coil. My sibling and I knew those stakes and knew that we might not find gas but we also might not find insurance policies or other bequests absent a search through tons of old paper.

And being media-free added to the whole unreality of the clean-and-purge situation. There’s a special feeling one gets upon opening a large dusty cedar chest hoping that it might contain jewelry or insurance forms or even photographs or mementos worth keeping and finding instead that it is full to the brim with every personal check written from 1957 to 1960 (carefully stacked and wrapped with rubber bands), along with the matching bank statements, pay stubs, and original bills (and ten years worth of Christmas Cards). I should point out that from 1964 to 1993, my parents had moved FIVE TIMES and just kept moving this cedar chest full of their old checks and  Christmas Cards  (I suspect the collected paperwork has a carbon footprint of no small size). Having a TV blaring Judge Judy or a Real Housewives reunion might’ve helped ground me in reality upon these discoveries. No such luck.

So I returned home with a certain… darkness? Is that the word? a certain cold place in my heart. Tried to reconnect with folks. Spent a lot of time in my own head. Got my Facebook updates.

And that brings me to Doomer Porn. Since 2005 I’ve been one of the lonely folks who accepts the concept of Peak Oil (and peak fossil fuels in general).  People like me have been accused of nihilistic behavior and thoughts, and many of the writers who’ve advanced these ideas (primarily James Howard Kunstler and Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute) have been accused of spinning a web of  ‘doomer porn’–exaggerated ideas about the demise of the underpinnings of civilization. So there’s doomer porn about oil; doomer porn about climate; doomer porn about chances for revolution and the prospects for economic recovery. Doomer porn about oil scarcity takes on a very special feeling when you’re in a place as thoroughly suburbanized as Virginia.

I’ve come to the conclusion recently that thanks to the atomization of popular culture through our different media sources, we’re all porn addicts. And it isn’t just the old in-and-out–someone can satiate a special taste or affinity through hundreds of TV channels and millions of websites. Are you a crime porn freak? It’s likely that you can find some lonely station playing Law and Order reruns at virtually any hour. Project Runway, What Not to Wear, etc. are all fashion porn tailor made to keep the fashion franchise going. Don’t even get me started about food porn–does a nation full of obese adults really need to learn how to cook better with butter and bacon?

So here’s the doomer porn on my  mind at the moment.

* This guy predicted ten horrible consequences of Global warming last spring. A hurricane Sandy event was #6. Addressing these problems will cost billions; ignoring them could bring the world economy to a halt or worse.

* Those enamored of the science of plate tectonics, look here.  New oil slicks around the Macondo wellsite that was home to Deepwater Horizon. When the well was capped, there were some in the oil and geology biz who prognosticated that the oil was coming from other locations–that in fact the seabed above the field had been fractured by the methane gas explosion, and nothing short of a nuclear blast could seal it. But that’s the least of the problems–geologists have been noting unusual seismic activity in many parts of the world. A giant sinkhole  ‘showed up’ in Louisiana a few months ago and just keeps growing. What if (through fracking and other extractive practices) we’ve somehow managed to fracture tectonic plates in various parts of the world?  This is not a problem that can be solved with duct tape. It may in fact be a problem that can’t be solved.

* Did you know Fukushima is still bubbling away and occasionally catching fire? Bad news that. Meanwhile, satellite imaging of the downwind path from the Fukushima disaster indicate that TEPCO may well have poisoned much of the Pacific ocean, with fallout hitting all the way into the US and Canada. How is that not a story?

There–feel better about Sandy?

Please note that all of these crises can be made worse by human interaction–if the EU decides not to accept American agricultural products because of radiation contamination, there’s going to be more than a hiccup on the Chicago Mercantile exchange, never mind Wall Street. A continued cracking of the tectonic plate (or an explosion in one of the many salt domes near the sinkhole) may spark a mass exodus of people away from the Mississippi. Where will they go? The history on such migrations is not pretty–America didn’t do so well with the dustbowl refugee Okies, in case you missed The Grapes Of Wrath.

I think the Kinks said it best back in the 1970’s The news is bad and growing worse.  And instead of dealing with it, we’ve become inured to the bad stuff. What do we do if we’re looking at doomer reality instead of doomer porn? The one thing my parents and my great uncle could say without doubt is that they never wanted to see another Depression. There are actors waiting in the wings to bring one on.

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