“You are always learning; there is a lot of grey; don’t take things for granted.”
- title quote – Lisa Marie Presley
Elvis Presley, according to what sounds like a really smart guy on Wikipedia, exploded onto the music scene in the 1950s with records that “contain the seeds of what rock & roll was, has been and most likely what it may foreseeably become.” Indeed, Presley was at the forefront of a musical revolution that sent music in a direction that had previously been unfathomable. Imagine if the parents that watched Presley’s circa-1955 gyrations in horror could skip ahead a mere twenty years from then to see what punk legend Johnny Rotten was up to.
Presley’s daughter lived through this all and, to her credit, came out the other side fully able to make sensible quotes like above. You’d think she’d had it all; wealth, fame, looks, and a last name that guaranteed her at least a huge advantage in any endeavour she chose to pursue. But one of her major life lessons out of all of this, personified in the quote above, was that living such a metamorphic life has a value in the metamorphosis itself. That is, maybe people need to go through some sort of hurricane to see the value in what she’s saying: there is a lot of grey, and we take a lot for granted.
The energy world personifies this to perfection. There are no simple answers to reinventing the energy world; there is no magic, easy solution just as Ms. Presley’s life was not magic and easy just because it appeared it must be so. People have made similar assumptions about an energy revolution, when the world was humming along and every conceivable luxury was affordable to ever more people. But there is a lot of grey, and we need to learn that.
We live in a western world that has been so well taken care of that it can take everything for granted – endless supplies of food, clothing, heat and shelter, and these basic needs have been so consistently and ubiquitously distributed that we treat them like oxygen. On top of that, we have a whole new layer of what we consider necessities: telecommunications, social safety nets, stable governments, entertainment, rights to protest, air conditioning, you name it.
That is part of the human condition, to take for granted that which someone else provides for us.
The past few generations, ones that are more spoiled than any in history, have provided a wonderful petri dish for social engineers to ply their trade as they have for generations. That’s because we have time and energy to worry about things, and at the same time have had a stupendous safety net to maintain our standard of living. Add to this mix the fact that there is always, always, something to complain about, and there is always, always, something to be scared about.
COVID 19 has caused a serious refocus. Last year’s dismissal, and in some instances disdain, for our supply chains has disappeared into thin air. We are learning what is optional and what is not, what is a luxury and what is not. Toilet paper became a famous symbol of this reawakening, a kind of ironic and weird magical talisman that caused a light bulb to go on in the west’s collective consciousness: this shit doesn’t just fall from the sky (sorry).
There is a lot of grey, and we are always learning. Nothing makes us learn like scarcity or going too close to the flame. Run out of gas and walk for a few miles as a result, and you’ll learn the value of checking the fuel gauge and not taking it for granted.
We needed a crisis to be able to learn the lesson about all we have in our life as well. Prior to last month, I’ve never in my life had someone tell me they were happy to get some toilet paper. No one probably ever even thought that. But there is always lots to learn.
Now that we’re in a crisis, things are getting a bit clearer. We are finding out what it is like to live without life’s options, or a lot of them anyway. And we can see that it is possible that they go away entirely.
The big lesson here is that if we want to get back to a “normal” life, or close to what we did before, we now know, or know a lot more about, some of the underlying support mechanisms that make it all possible, ones that we never thought about for a second in the past. Some of those support mechanisms are smelly and ugly and industrial, and many have an environmental footprint that is less than desirable.
But at least now we know what the choice looks like: Do we want to make them better, or do we want to live without them? As the coronavirus cloud eventually disperses, we will find out where people cast their votes.
We can do this everyone! Stand by each other, call a friend, support small businesses. Delight shut-ins with copies of “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” available at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com