Green Wizardries, What Would You Save? by Maxine Rogers
I gave a little supper party for some friends and the topic of conversation turned to what would people most like to save from our civilization to send down into the future? This is something Druids think about a lot. I have been thinking about it for years and writing articles on organic gardening, food preservation and making medicines from locally-sourced plants because I think these skills are going to be more and more useful as the decline of industrial civilization picks up speed.
For those of you who think that as soon as we use up one resource, such as inexpensive to produce petroleum products, we can simply switch to another resource; I would say there is some validity in this. I know for a fact that when the Russians who were trapped in Stalingrad in the Second World War ran out of food, they used other resources in place of food.
They ate their wallpaper, leather goods, such as boots and shoes, they ate rats and when they got really hungry, they went to government-run butcher shops and got a piece of meat, nicely cut and wrapped and took the meat home to cook and eat it. The meat was from humans. So, there will always be other resources but they might not be as cheap, efficient, convenient or palatable as the resource that just ran out.
There is no resource that will be able to replace petroleum for the inexpensive transportation of goods so we might just be going into a world where things are going to get a lot more local. You may have noticed that the price of oil spiked to 90 plus dollars a barrel lately. That is because the oil that remains is more expensive to produce than the light-sweet crude of yesteryear.
Oil companies need high prices to stay in business but when the price of oil is high enough to support the oil industry, it wreaks havoc on the world’s economy. The price of oil goes so high that demand is destroyed and the price of oil falls back to where it is no longer profitable to oil companies. I expect that oil fields will end up being nationalized but that will not solve the problem.
But, back to our supper party. One of our guests was an electronics engineer and he spent a lot of his career working in the communications industry. He would like to give the future a low-energy means of long-distance communication. I suggested that he might want to teach young people how to build crystal-radio sets. This used to be a popular pastime in the early twentieth century when people were excited by new technology and wanted to participate in it.
I was out walking with a carpenter friend and asked him the same question, what would he want to pass down to the future? He said he would have to give that some thought. My friend is old enough that he began his career when hand tools were still much in use. Now, most carpenters wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have an electrically-powered drill in their hand and a computer-controlled saw to do precision cuts.
My father used to do good carpentry with just hand tools. I remember watching him drill holes in wood with a hand drill. The man had forearms like Popeye. I hope the people who know how to use hand tools will try to pass these skills along to their younger friends and family members.
I recently met a woman who was an Olympic-level dressage rider. She now teaches dressage and I told her I think the skills she is sending into the future are really important. We will have less and less petroleum as time goes by but we will always have horses. Dressage looks pretty but it has a very practical application. Dressage manoeuvres are how you train cavalry horses to fight in formation.
There are all kinds of skills that used to be very common but have fallen out of favour. I wish I knew how to sew, even to do small repairs. My mother in law showed me photos of the wedding dresses she made and of the very smart coat she made my husband when he was little. She used the cloth from her old coat to make him a new one. All the girls in her family were taught to sew clothes to a very high standard.
These skills may not seem relevant now when you can buy fast fashion made by enslaved children working in a locked shop under a single light bulb in Bangladesh. But I ask you, do you really want to participate in such an exploitative exchange?
What piece of our civilization would you like to send into the future and how are you going to do that? If not you, then who? If not now, then when?