Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | December 3, 2009

I’ll Be Doomed for Christmas

    The Holiday Season has entered full swing here in Ithaca, New York, replete with signs of our impending doom.  The weather has been freakishly warm throughout most of November, with no snow in sight.  It’s taken me a long time to learn to just keep my mouth shut when people comment on how nice it is out.  Time was, I’d rant about climate change, how unnatural it seemed, like Santa Claus visiting in July, but now I just smile and agree.  Better to grease the social gears than foul them up for no good reason.  Still, it seems you can’t go anywhere nowadays, without someone commenting on some bizarre phenomenological happenstance or other–Ordinary people notice all manner of things:  birds sticking around long past their migration dates, Ash trees dying for no apparent reason.  In a city garden I help to maintain, there are Snowdrops blooming this December 1.

    One thing I was hoping for in this Great Recession was the demise of those idiotic fucking blow up Christmas decorations–the ones that must cost a fortune in electricity to inflate, what with all that hot air going to waste in a cold climate.  But hey, it’s been unseasonably warm, and I suppose, if you’ve already invested in Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, you might as well blow ’em on up.  Seems they’re proliferating earlier this year, perhaps in an earnest attempt on their owners’ part to cheer us all up, or to foster an illusion of being a member of the Middle Class.  But with the release of The Road, Collapse, and 2012, the word of Doom may yet be spoken in America this Holiday Season…Which brings me to today’s topic, talking to your extended family about the ambiguous future:

What will you talk about at the Holiday feast? If your family is like mine, your extended family is spread out all over the place.  Most of my family is still down in Virginia, which makes them fairly concentrated.  I’m the misfit who moved away.  My wife’s family, however, is all near us, even her great-grandmother.  It’s probably hubris on my part, but I feel like we’re the ones who should stay put if push came to shove in some hypothetical collapse future.  After all, we’re the ones raising the next generation and we’ve planted the fruit trees.  But we’ve also got a mortgage, and the looming threat of natural gas drilling industrializing our whole region and fouling our water supply. Should we even begin to broach the subject of consolidating housing in the event of TEOTWAWKI?

I certainly wouldn’t turn anyone away, even if they might drive me nuts.  Should we be analyzing our skill sets, sharing information about our assets, and developing emergency rendezvous plans?  This presupposes that I’ve already broached the “Doomer Facts of Life” with my parents and siblings.  My wife’s father, fortunately, is already something of a Doomer–At Thanksgiving dinner, he described being overjoyed about the imminent collapse of Dubai.  But did I have the guts to ask my own mother, “Mom, what do you know about Peak Oil?”  Instead, I decided to:

Say it with a gift! I gave my mom a Super Ark Emergency Food Bar and Survival Kit.  In presenting it, I made sure to stress that the pre-packaged emergency food bars are rated to withstand temperatures from -40F to 300 F.  What does this choice say about me, what is the subtext of this gift?  I’m hoping it says, “Mom, I care about you, and am concerned that you live in an area that can be affected by hurricanes.”  Even more, I’m hoping it says, “Mom, we’re doomed.  Better start getting ready.”  It was better than shouting it out during Thanksgiving dinner.

My dad, step-mom, and brothers are coming up in a couple weeks.  I’m debating between the subtle approach of say, leaving The Party is Over out on the coffee table, or simply being honest and direct.  There really ought to be a way to prep for such situations, because, I confess, I tend to get weak knees and lily livered when the time comes.  So many things to consider–I mean, when you delve into the whole Peak Oil thing, you’re really revealing your own world view, your hidden vulnerabilities, not to mention that your family might think you’re weirder than you already are.

Somehow, when I envision asking my father if he believes in Peak Oil, his reaction will be tantamount to if I’d asked him if he still believes in Santa Claus.  So I think I’m going with the hurricanes again, that ol’ stand by.  He lives in Coastal North Carolina, so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched a starting point.  I could get an idea of his preps.  Then we could broach some of the broader issues–finances, water storage options, emergency rendezvous points.  Failing that, there’s always the Holiday Boob Tube.

Many of the classic Christmas movies present opportunities to segue the conversation into Doomer-related themes.  For instance, in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas reindeer are so scarce, the Grinch must turn his dog into one.  This could lead to a conversation about climate change, and how in Norway, changes in the severity of winters are leading to less hearty reindeer, many of whom were drowning when they swam across a channel to their summer feeding grounds.  Now the navy loads them on barges to help ferry them. Or how about Rudolph and a discussion of the possible effects of climate change on the lifestyle of the Abominable Snowman?

And White Christmas! What if every year was like the one in the movie, unseasonably warm and everyone longing for a white Christmas?  It already is, and we already do.  In fact, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, Ithaca generally has a 68% chance of having a White Christmas.  We’re more fortunate than other parts of the world. The odds of a “white Christmas” in temperate parts of the northern hemisphere have diminished in the last century due to climate change and will likely decline further by 2100.

And It’s a Wonderful Life!  Where to begin?  Foreclosure crisis, greedy bankers, real estate speculation?  I could ask my family, would you call me (now make sure you still have a land line!) before you’d consider jumping off a bridge?  Then I could tell them to meet me at the secret rendezvous point.

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