Energy crisis

            Believe it or not, I am actually doing a meme.  It probably helps that no one tagged me for this, so I can retain my illusion of free will.  I found it over at Tales from the Reading Room, and I could not resist.  If you would like to pick up this meme, answer the following three questions:

What do I fear most about a serious energy crisis?

What would I miss most in a world with rationed energy supplies?

What can I do to help?

My answers are long (go figure), so I will post part today and part next week. 


 What do I fear most about a serious energy crisis?

            Once upon a time, when I was young and childless, I was teaching a class of college students.  It was actually the last class I taught, and they were a phenomenal group of kids.  I was pregnant and I had to tell them right away because, well, classes got cancelled for a week due to my bed rest and then I had to sit while teaching for almost a month.  Something about them knowing I was expecting created an openness and comfort beyond what I have experienced before.  Either that, or they were just a wonderful class.

            Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower was on my syllabus.  (She ended up on my syllabus a lot with one book or another.  I loved having an excuse to focus on her work.)  Raise your hand if you have ever read something by Butler.  Yeah, that’s three of you.  The rest of you need to stop at the library this week.  Trust me.  When was the last time someone recommended an African-American, female science-fiction writer to you?

            Parable of the Sower is a futuristic text, set in southern California.  While the whole world has been affected by an energy crisis and environmental disarray, the total social collapse of southern California is the worst.  I won’t tell you much more except to say that this is the book that turned me into an environmentalist.  It will rock your world, so go read it.

            Anyhow, the way I started each class was to have students turn in questions about the text, which we then used to guide discussion.  One day, a very sweet young man (and brave, as most of the boys had dropped my class) wondered “What has happened in the past twenty years that has been drastic enough for the world to be like Butler portrays it in the book?”  I looked up.  I tried no to stare. 

            “You don’t believe that things are dire enough in the world to create this kind of a social collapse?”  And he didn’t.  I was teaching at a very homogeneous, very privileged college.  He had never been down the road a few miles to West Philadelphia, so he had no idea that the economic conditions necessary for this kind of disintegration already existed.  And, it was just before everyone except for George W. Bush finally accepted that there is such a thing as global warming.  This young man was so secure in the world he had grown up in that it never occurred to him that it could all disappear.

            I wonder about him now, in a post-Katrina world.  Does he now know that it could happen?  Does he now realize there could be street warfare over gasoline?  Does he now understand that, without alternative forms of energy, we are poisoning our air, polluting our water, manufacturing wars, and creating an economy that can topple like a house of cards?

            What do I fear most about a serious energy crisis?  Read The Parable of the Sower.  Octavia Butler was way smarter than I am, and she said it best.

16 responses to “Energy crisis

  1. *Raising hand, waving it wildly*

    I’ve never read “Parable of the Sower,” but have taught “Kindred.” I’ll have to pick up the former from the library when I go today.

  2. I worry all the time about it.

    One book that stayed with me was Z is for Zara. Ok so the title didn’t stick to well. (I read it over 20 years ago) It’s about a girl that (as far as she knows)is the only one left on Earth. For months I built different stories in my head on what I would do in her shoes.

  3. I will have to check on the book. It is amazing how sometimes our advantages can blind us from realities that are not a very far drive from our doorsteps.

  4. You’re a smart woman, and your students were lucky to have you. I’ll have to check out the book.

  5. I’m pretty excited to read the rest of your answers.

  6. Well, as meme’s go, this is a great one. Thanks for the book reco…

  7. Haven’t heard of Butler. But then, I’m not really into science-fiction books. Perhaps now, I should check it out.

  8. Idealism is often synonymous with a sheltered life, though not exclusive…I remember those days. Since ten, I’ve seen more fragments of the world. I’ll be checking out the author.

  9. You have made this book, sound most interesting. I will have to check it out too!

  10. Another of your un-literate readers. I wonder, too, how that student of yours is doing now.

  11. damn. another book to add to my “must read” list.

  12. Emily – thank you so much for doing this, and doing it so wonderfully well. I am most certainly going to read the Octavia Butler, and I look forward to the rest of your posts on the topic, too.

  13. I’m not a science fiction reader.

    But I will check out Butler, because you have reccomended her so highly.

  14. Pingback: Energy crisis (part two) « Wheels on the bus

  15. A reader friend of mine has been recommending Butler for years but I just haven’t gotten around to reading her yet. I’ll have to get to the library!

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