Friday, June 1, 2007

Paying for oil addiction in the Great North Woods, northern NH

Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 3:34 AM
Subject:Paying for oil addiction in the Great North Woods, northern NH

Who Pays for Oil Addiction? View from Grand Bois du Nord - GBN, USA

Ezekiel 18:1 "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."

In other words, our kids, grand kids, and those after them pay for our addiction.

"Grand Bois du Nord" -abbreviated GBN in this story-- is a mythical rural town in northern NH. (In fact, there are signs in northern NH with the sign, "Entering the Grand Bois du Nord" - entering the Great North Woods.)

GBN Today

Actually GBN today isn't a whole lot different from GBN yesterday, a year ago, or several decades ago. The pace is slow; people generally are at the bottom of the economic ladder yet manage to scratch out a living. GBN residents' houses are modest, and built on lots of land, and have shallow or artesian wells for water. Distance between houses makes good neighbors. Distance also provides a place to hunt (in season and out of season), and large lots mean a good supply of trees for cutting and heating your homes. Everyone has a garden. Nobody has cable, broadband or even cell phone signals in much of GBN. Many residents do have satellite television, but that is often their only concession to modern-day luxuries. Everyone has to leave GBN to go shopping, even for basic foodstuffs. Living sustainably? These folks hang onto life from day to day, week to week, and that is the way they sustain their lives. Here is Dan, describing how $6 oil affects him.

"Prices like this hurt, but we manage. Isn't like we'll go out to the movie theatre less. They shut that down year's ago anyway. We'll just have to drive to Walmart once a month instead of every week, and buy our groceries there and in Shaw's next door. I'm guessing that I'd better stock up on some things though like shotgun shells in case there's a run on them. You never know."

GBN, 2027

I decided to make one last trip from DC to GBN, for one last visit the place of my childhood and see Dan and his family again. Getting to GBN from Washington was not easy. The trains still run from Union Station to Boston, provided you can afford the $1000 round-trip ticket. Getting from Boston to GBN was the hard part. I couldn't reserve a ticket on the new hybrid bus in North Station - it's first come first serve-so I stood in line and waited my turn. Luckily I caught the evening bus, along with about 20 other people. Buses are smaller these days and more efficient, , but because they're smaller and are really the main intercity transportation, they are always jam packed. And nobody has to enforce a 55 mile per hour speed limit. They drive at 40 mph max to save fuel.

I made it to GBN late in the evening, and made it to Dan's about 4 hours later after walking from the drop-off down a very dark country road for several miles. It was peacefully dark and quiet. Although it was mid-May, it was much warmer than I remembered GBN even in the summer nights of my youth. My main worry, besides whether I could walk the whole way with my suitcase, was whether I'd run into a bear. The Milky Way shone brightly just as I remembered it, but I didn't remember the haze. Yes, it was probably caused by global warming, with invasive trees and plant growing fast and what I was seeing was pollen.

When I got to Dan's house it was probably 2 in the morning. I was tired and thirsty, and the house was dark, but then it seemed like all GBN was dark and Dan's house never had street lights even before the oil shock. After a few knocks on the front door, I heard Dan call from inside. I told him "Yes, it's Bob." Dan opened the door and let me in.

First thing I wanted was a glass of water and Dan and his wife Mary gave me one and turned on the LCD lantern so we could see each other and talk. "Don't know what we'd do without these things," Dan said. "At least we have plenty of sunshine in GBN, and that means we can recharge the lantern and run the artesian well pump every day, except when it is really overcast. And with global warming, we don't need to chop as much wood to heat the house in winter. You'd never believe how late in the season I was picking tomatoes last year: It must been October, and we watched the last green tomato turn green just before Thanksgiving."

Dan and the folks of GBN were managing surprisingly well, living off the land more than they used to, but there was plenty of land, they never had much anyway, and their sustainable ways sustained them. Dan joked about how much work it was to do the little things. "You know, we're all getting older, but you wouldn't believe how much work it is to work the compost tumbler and keep up with the worm bed. We don't have many table scraps for the tumbler anymore, but the garden weeds grow like crazy since the weather warmed up. And the worms grow like crazy. You can't buy fertilizer anymore, but the worm castings make up for that just fine."

I must have fallen asleep as I heard Dan and Mary chatter just like old times, and next thing I knew it was noon. They nudged me and offered me a bowl of strawberries with milk fresh from their cow. It was really nice to be back in GBN. I wonder if I'll ever go back to Washington.


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