Living in Two Worlds

You’ve learned about peak oil, about catastrophic climate change, and about overpopulation. You get it, you understand that it’s a triple threat that’s going to change our lives in fundamental ways. You’ve even begun the ticklish and tedious task of changing the minds of those around you. So do you quit your job? Do you withdraw from society?

No, you live in community. So you listen politely as your friends talk about the vacation trips they’re taking, the new cars and trucks they’re buying, the plans they have to move to a bigger house. You crank up the weed eater, the lawn mower, and the leaf blower, and you do what you have to do. But you do it all with a different set of eyes and ears.

You read or hear about the wild fires in California, or the drought in the Southeast U.S., or a new strain of staph infection having its way with hospital patients and even high school athletes, and you listen for the news reporter to look behind the headline and connect the dots, to say, “and this may be happening because we keep burning fossil fuels that are heating up the earth to historically high levels,” or “and this could be happening because we pump all the beef, poultry, and pork we eat with antibiotics so we can raise them shoulder to shoulder on food they were never meant to eat.” But it never comes.

If you’re like us, you’re learning the subtle and disquieting skill of living in two worlds. We both have full-time jobs. Lee is a lawyer helping people survive divorce; Amanda is a communications consultant. We¬†have an active social and church life, and many of our friends are unaware of or only marginally aware of our post-petroleum work. Yet Amanda spends much of her spare time, and Lee spends virtually all his spare time, planning for a future dramatically different from what the culture expects.

Living in two worlds keeps forcing you toward the future. It’s remarkable how much more time we spend than our friends do thinking about our lives and the lives of those we love in the next 10-20 years. Sometimes it seems to us that many of our friends and colleagues are incapable of imagining a future any different from the present. And that’s human, isn’t it? Chris Skrebowski, editor of the UK Petroleum Review, says “As a species we’re not very good at predicting the future and even worse at acting on it.”

Here’s our brief tour guide for living in two worlds:

  • Know that it’s okay and that it feels really weird. Don’t let that deter you.
  • Seek out the company of a small group of like-minded friends who are comfortable talking about the Triple Threat and the changes that are coming. If you don’t you’ll drive yourself, or your loved ones, or both, crazy.
  • Pick your fights carefully. You come in contact every day with some people who simply aren’t ready. Why frustrate yourself and mystify them by trying to explain a concept they won’t understand. And then there are others who are not knowledgeable but who are ready to hear your message. Those are the ones on whom you spend your time.
  • Expect peoples’ eyes to glaze over when you bring this up. As you know from the page on changing minds, that’s their job when they first hear about all of this.
  • Go ahead and indulge in a few of those treats you know will be unavailable soon. Our favorite is out-of-season grapes. Just do it with a delicious tingle of gratitude and remind yourself how special, how fleeting it is.
  • Give yourself a break every now and then. The more you think about the Triple Threat, the uglier it gets. Get away from it every now and then.