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A note to future readers

wwo, world without oil, mia
This journal, miawithoutoil was formed as a fictional component of the World Without Oil project, documenting 32 weeks of a global oil crisis. Each day of livejournal posts corresponds to a week in the life of Mia, a young girl in Bristol England as oil prices soar and society creaks under the strain.

To truly enjoy this story, you have to start at the bottom of the second page, as the first entry in this diary is also the last of the story. Alternatively, below is a link to each story in order to aid easier reading.

Mia Without Oil:

1. 'The first time I noticed'
2. 'No fuel day'
3. 'Blackouts and tanker crashes'
4. 'Speaking to Dad, Uncle Andy and shouting Out'
5. 'Cheap cars'
6. 'Staying positive and a new Prime Minister'
7. 'The world isn't all bad - But what can I do in it?'
8. 'A walk through the city and a lecture'
9. 'Concern for a friend and coming Of age in a world without oil'
10. 'Moving, but not far'
11. 'A lack of food and an overabundance of trouble'
12. 'UK goes back in time, starts rationing'
13. 'Our first ration shop and Dad's silly reaction to it all'
14. 'To the slow food market with my rations!'
15. 'The news we're getting from across the pond is worrying me'
16. 'A journey'
17. 'Uncle Andy and the Middle East'
18. 'Slow changes'
19. 'Coping in the UK'
20. 'On conspiracy theories and why this happened'
21. 'Some fun photos and a challenge!'
22. 'A new direction'
23. 'Dad, New Zealand and an unexpected twist'
24. 'New lives for a new world'
25. 'The crossing paths of two netizens' 26. 'We're not there yet, people'
27. 'The individual doesn't matter'
28. 'The Future'

I hope readers enjoy this look at a world that could be closer than we realise. If you enjoyed my work you can also now find me blogging for Futurismic or reviewing for SFCrowsnest. My short story, 'The Shogun and The Scientist' will be published in the anthology 'The Awakening' in January 2008.

The future

wwo, world without oil, mia
(posted this on my blogger account first due to livejournal issues. Here's the last post, to complete the story. Took me ages to get livejournal to accept this...)

July, 2019

Mia wiped her brow in the early summer heat, leaving a streak of brown earth across her face from the land beneath her feet. She dusted off her skirt and put the last of the vegetables into the wicker basket and headed out of the allotments. It was midsummer and many of the little vegetable gardens were alive with produce.

She rushed up to the stop just in time to squeeze onto the tram as it reached the top of Whiteladies Road. As always, the electric trolleybus was full of students, shoppers and those like Mia who had an allotment on the Downs. She flashed her ration card across the conductor's reader and grabbed a handrail as the tram lurched onwards.

The market was busy, as ever, full of ramshackle stalls and semi-permanent shops where the cars once drove. Security walked prominently amongst the crowds of shoppers, subtle but conspicuously watching. Little boys chased in amongst the stalls, enjoying their fun whilst their holidays were on.

Mia lived in Clifton, in a house that had once been one tall Georgian home but after heavy retrofits was now occupied by four couples. she entered the kitchen/living space and put the basket of fruit and veg on the counter. She reminded herself to make sure she had enough electricity rations to use more than two rings on the hob.

She splashed some water onto her face and called into the flat's only other room.

"Alex?" she said. "You done with the computer?"

"Sure," came the reply. "You logging onto work?"

She went into the bedroom and put her arms around her husband's shoulders as he logged off his workstation and got up to let her use the computer. She gave him a long kiss welcome.

"Thanks," she said. "How'd work go?"

"Alright," he said, scratching his neck. "We're getting close to having enough people signed on to make the panels now."

"Excellent," she said, giving him another kiss. "I'll let you know when I'm done."

"That's ok love," he said. "I've got to go check out the shipment of raw materials makes it here safe. I'll see you later."

"'K." She watched him leave, his powerful body distracting her.

Alex had been American most of his life, although he now tried to hide it. His English parents had sent him to university in Bristol with the last of their savings after the third oil crash. After the fourth, they came to the UK to join him permanently.

Mia had met him at university. He studied engineering, she did biochemistry. They were both part of the students wing of the local energy conservation project. They got to talking and then to other things. When he finished university, Alex went to work for Greg's local solar company. After Greg died in the Bird Flu epidemic of 2016, Alex took over the company, trying to encourage local craftsmen to build the panels in small batches, using the bare minimum of imported materials.

She logged on to the power-saving computer - a small lcd screen and a low powered processor to use as little energy as possible. She checked her emails. A few related to her work on the ecosystem of the new Severn barrage - she was trying to cultivate a family of fish that would be farmable and help solve the silting of the reservoir. There was also one from Uncle Andy.

"What trouble are you in now?" she wondered. Andy had gotten more and more into the open source drug scene, an underground movement to reverse engineer medications and release them as creative commons licensed recipes for anyone to use. Needless to say the drug companies heavily clamped down on it, and now Andy was having to dance around their checks, again.

'sorry kiddo,' the letter read 'looks like we're under the cosh here again for a few months - nothing more than potatoes and sheep on the farm, I promise! It means your little delivery isn't going to make it, I'm afraid. Lots of Love, Andy.'

That made her sit up and take notice. Her 'little delivery' was her contraceptive pill - far cheaper by open source than what it costed from the government, even if they did try to push it on everyone to reduce the population targets. The government pill didn't suit her - gave her cramps. This was going to be a pain. She put the thought to one side and read over the days reports from the students working at the reservoir. The barrage was soon to open and they'd been trying out a number of breeds of fish in small enclosures to see which survived the best.

Rapidly absorbed in her work, she was only stirred by the blinking light that told her the power credit for the computer was running out. She saved her work and let the screen power down silently. No point in wasting any more rations - she could do the rest by hand.

Alex returned. She put a finger to her lips and led him out to the window of the living room. He frowned.

"What?"

"Alex," she said, "what do you feel about a child?"

His look was stunned. She explained the situation with the birth control.

"But you've never wanted to bring a child into the world before," he said. "You've always said this world is too dangerous to bring a new life into."

Mia looked out of the window with Alex's arm around her, thinking about the events since the first oil spike. She thought about the Iran war and the bombing of Jerusalem. About Alex's stories of the corn famine in Alberta, when the biofuel crisis kickstarted the third oil crash and the breakup of the USA. She thought about the clashes between Cascadia and the remaining states, about the billions starving across the world. She thought about her mother and Greg and nursing them during the flu crisis, and their deaths. About the flooding of Bangladesh and the electricity riots of 2013.

Then she looked around at the small but comfortable house and the husband she shared it with. She looked at the streets, empty of traffic, where kids played in the road and every house had something growing. She thought of the barrage and the power it was going to supply, as well as the food from the fish. She thought about Alex's work with fitting locally made solar panels on local roofs, and the vast number of local businesses thriving in their own little ways.

A dark shape appeared in the sky, sending a shadow down onto the streets. They watched as the supply airship drifted languidly into view, fresh from dropping off important components and materials such as those Alex needed. Its vast helium balooon meandered lazily across the sky, heading back to its home port slowly but using very little fuel. The underslung cabin caught the dimming sunlight, glowing deep red as it passed over the city and out towards the Atlantic. Mia turned away from the window.

"You know," she said. "I think we're ready."

"Really?" Alex didn't look convinced.

"Yeah," she said. "We've lived in a world without oil for 12 years, with all this doom and destruction but we've survived. Our life isn't rich compared to what my parents had, or yours. But it's rich enough. This world's not perfect, but it's ours. I think we're ready to bring a new life into it."

"Ok," Alex said. He hugged her and turned towards the kitchen table. "I traded some of our potatoes for some quinoa the airship brought in. You want that tonight?"

"Sure," Mia said, "that sounds good."

She moved away from the window, and the moment was gone.


[author's note: week 32 (or 632, if you like)

I've been planning this for a while - a look into the future without oil (does that count as the letter 'f'?). I want to end it with a cautiously hopeful note. There is a world out there without oil where people can live their lives. It won't be as material rich as ours and it may take a lot of struggle to get there. But ultimately, we will get there, because we must.

I just want to say how much I've enjoyed the experience of wwo and a big round of applause for all the guys running the site and everyone contributing. Together we created a world. That's a hell of an achievement - and I hope that it leaves our real world a little more informed and aware than it was before. I hope so.]

The individual doesn't matter


I've seen some great things over the course of this crisis. Many of the people reporting in have revealed great acts of bravery, ingenuity and survival. Ingenious solutions have been suggested to help supply food, shelter, heat, electricity... you name it, on less oil than before.

That's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the many other people who haven't been making changes. There are a lot of people who have altered the bare minimum of things in their life and essentially continue exactly as they were, using too much resources and wasting what we have. People are still driving. The richer ones have even kept their SUVs and sports cars. So they pay a little extra for gas, so what? they can afford it. The same with food - there are a lot of people who quite happily spend a little extra on the air-freighted stuff because to hell with the environment and the poor people that are suffering, it's me time, damn it!

You know the problem? There's a lot of greedy people out there. Many people will choose what's best for them over what's best for everyone. While there's a lot of people that want change and are doing it in their own life, that means nothing unless we get the others out there who won't change. Some people need to be made to change.

And that's why we need politics. As much as I've loved wwo and the people I've interacted with, and admire many of the things that they've done, the truth still remains. All of us can try as hard as we can to change things but without government changing it too our efforts are lost in the tide.

Our fridge died today. It was barely 5 years old. Mum said that the one her parents owned in the 60s lasted 25 years and probably would still have gone on if they hadn't upgraded to the newest model. She said things lasted longer back then. And you know what? I think she's right. Everything I buy these days, be it a mobile phone or a saucepan, seems designed to break. Our consumer culture, living off cheap oil and plastic, means all those companies WANT their products to break, so that in a year or three we can buy their latest model.

We can go back to the old way, of designing things not to be state of the art but to do the job effectively and economically and LAST. But we can't make the companies build such things. Only government can do it. Only they can for instance make longer mandatory warranties on products, so that companies are forced to design ones that need less repair. We may end up spending more money on a particular product, but we won't have to buy it three or ten times as often. How many new, good kitchen knifes have you had to buy? I bet if they're good quality, you'll have ones that are decades old, because they're designed to last.

We need that mentality now. We need to conserve not consume. But the way the world works means companies want us to consume - they make more money that way. Only by good government can we change that. And that means that even the most-politically-averse of us MUST take part, because politics and government is the only way to make what we know to be common sense apply to everyone.

government can charge heavily to companies that import via aeroplane. They can ration food grown far away using energy-intensive methods. They can charge for road use, and for driving a heavy car. They can give incentives and encouragements to local business and trade, and to favour the small farmer over the big one. But they won't, not unless we make them.

This will be my last post. It's a cry, a desperate plea from a teenager growing up in a world that has changed so much in the last 8 months. At first I denied it existed, this oil crisis. Then I was angry at those that had caused the problem, those who had let our culture run unchecked without checks or balances, without any thought to stop spending our planet's precious resources.

Now I'm channeling my anger, and I urge everybody to do the same. We must make those at the top listen to our pain and our anger and our fears, about what the crisis has done and will do to our lives. Because if we don't force them to make a change, they won't. Now is the time for us to begin crafting a new world. The individual doesn't matter unless the whole world follows in her footsteps.

-Mia

[author note - week 31. This is Mia's last post in her own words. I have plans for something special tomorrow but it will not be a post by Mia. there's no commentary to this one. All I want to say is in her words.]

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We're not there yet, people

wwo, world without oil, mia
great posts last week fromCeeGee, lead_tag, meggido_tell and the war is in words. They've made me go out and look at what's bad in Bristol since the crisis.

I've been a bit guilty of concentrating on the positive - of which there's been a fair bit, like the new Severn Barrage, the food rationing, the new allotments and the new, more practical teaching in our schools. I've learnt more about cooking, growing and building than I ever knew before the crisis, and I feel far less stressed out since they removed some of the exams.

But there have been consequences here that haven't been so good. Like others say, whilst some people have profitied from the crisis (like Greg's solar company) and most people have survived so far, those close to the breadline before have had their worlds pulled apart.

The number of student houses still with letting signs up is incredible - usually the streets of Redland and Clifton are packed just before christmas with students but although there's a fair few still around, they are quieter - that student loan's got to spread even further, I guess. I wonder what'll happen when I'm applying to university next year - will the whole system have changed again? I'm enjoying biology the most now - coupled with the stuff I'm learning about growing plants. It's looking like a good option to study further.

There was a report in the paper saying that a lot more students were applying to their home unis than ever before - it used to be most students would move to a different city on their parents' money but apparently there's been a big shift this year. Some kids I met on holiday in France said nearly everyone studies from their home university there, so I guess we're just catching up with the rest of Europe.

Scary stuff from around the world, especially Venezuela and the prospect of war with Iran... it's all too much. Can't we just all get along? I guess not, when the oil is running out.

There are positives though. Mum was saying it's been a long time since she heard about a car crash. I had a think then. Of all the people I know who died that weren't over 50 or in the army or something, they were almost always killed by a car crash. With people driving less, so long as we keep a decent grip on healthcare and crime, could this crisis actually reduce the number of deaths?

A lot of angry programs at the moment on the tv about the lack of oil, mostly the more infamous b-list celebrities complaining that their lifestyles been cut down. Another positive then!

We're entering a new world. There are positives and there are negatives. As oil gets less, there will be hard times. But I think as long as we're prepared to adapt, there will always be positives.

Update: As Prudent RVer linked to this article, so will I. It's a great look at how we can change things but we'll have to make a few very hard turns to do it.

[author's note: week 30. Two days to go!

A short one with my last two exams coming up. Expect tomorrow's post to be very small or missing entirely.]

The crossing paths of two netizens

wwo, world without oil, mia
I forget to say! Remember last week when we said goodbye to Uncle Andy, and he put something into my coat pocket? I didn't want to look with mum and greg there and when I got home the email from lucy1965 got me too excited and I forgot about it. Then a comment from inky_jewel reminded me. I rushed to my coat pocket to find a note from Uncle Andy, and wrapped up inside of it, 6 £50 notes! To me that's an absolute fortune - as much as I'd make in a few months saturday work! The note read:

'Mia,

Here's something to keep you going. Don't worry too much - the oil company is paying for it! Buy something nice but don't spend too much of it - you could be very glad of it over the next few months.

Good luck with school. Keep working. Hopefully when I see you next the farm will be starting to produce some food!

If you ever need me, I'll be here.
Lots of love

Uncle Andy'

It took a little bit of willpower but I only ended up spending ten pounds of it. With Mum and Greg both working from home the computer's been in use most of the time so the time to post these messages has been few and far between. I decided I'd go and get something to write in during the day that I could then copy up. I came up with this:

moleskine

It's a leather bound, acid-free paper Moleskin, like the one Hemingway used to use! It opens up to have a surprising number of pages, which I've been writing my journal entries in when we've run out of power rations!

moleskine open

Later in the week, I got to finally meet lucy1965! she sent a message saying she'd landed in Cardiff and we arranged somewhere to meet for lunch. I knew mum wouldn't understand, so I slipped out and told her I was going to Lindsey's.

I wandered down to the juice bar on Cotham Hill, which despite being a tiny place was still going strong through the crisis. All that local organic produce is good for business.

"Mia!" A lady with greying brown hair worn up in hairsticks came over to me as soon as I entered. She smiled and her face dimpled. She hugged me with a warmth that seemed like I'd known her forever.

"Hi!" she said, after we'd ordered and sat to wait for our drinks. "The train was a nightmare, it's nice to sit down. So how are you? Did your dad wind up in New Zealand?"

"He left last week," I said. "He rang to say he'd got there ok - obviously whatever strings Emma - that's his new wife - pulled, they worked, they're into the country. I'm just glad I'm not there. I couldn't leave Bristol."

Our drinks arrived - A pot of tea between us and two rich juices, mostly of locally harvested berries. Lucy sipped at hers and her eyes sparkled.

"Mmm!" She said. "Someone's doing something right around here! How do you think things are going in Bristol? I know what the papers say; I want to hear what you think."

"It's ok," I swung my legs subconsciously, enjoying the taste of blackberries and raspberries. "I mean, we don't seem to be struggling like some people are saying. There's nothing here too bad - lots of crime in St Paul's, lots of homeless people. But all the poor people has its upsides - there's hardly anyone out drinking the night away anymore, so there's far less fights! The police keep saying a lot of the time they have less to deal with - even if it's more serious when something happens."

Our food was brought over by the student serving behind the counter, who was dressed in a lovely pastel coloured skirt and a massive smile that made me jealous. I had lovely hot quesadillas and Lucy had a quinoa and courgette salad. It was, needless to say, gorgeous.

I hummed along to the jack johnson tune playing in the background. Lucy noticed.

"What bands are you listening to?" She asked. "I ask not for me, for I am approaching senility, but David and Emily aren't familiar with the music here."

"Same as everywhere I guess," I said. "A lot of American stuff though - a lot of the British bands these days sound like Rolling Stones clones. The cheap internet downloads means you can listen to pretty much anything, but there's hardly any foreign bands on tour in the Uk anymore."

"So any names I should be dropping?"

"A lot of angry stuff," I admitted, "Punk like Anti-flag, Greenday, The Hold Steady, Biffy Clyro... but then once I've got my anger out things like Iron and Wine, Sigur Ros, Appleseed Cast, Explosions In The Sky... pretty ambient stuff. There's British ones too - Radiohead, Mogwai, Oceansize... After all that revolutionary music I need something to cool me down!"

"Radiohead, Greenday and Sigur Ros I recognize -- I don't know if you're familiar with Christopher O'Riley's transcriptions of Radiohead for classical solo piano? Remind me with an e-mail and I'll send you a .zip file with a copy; you might find some of it interesting -- but the rest I don't know."

"Sounds good!" I said. I was surprised to see her actually write some of the names down - I hope it goes down well with her kids or there'll be hell to pay! She looked at my steaming cup of Earl Gray and the other people in the cafe drinking hot drinks.

"How the hell is England still getting tea?"

I laughed and sipped at the magical green stuff. "I don't know, I guess our need is great enough! It's not as if it goes off - they probably just ship on massive slow boats from India."

"True," she said. "We've been having trouble holding onto coffee but that stuff goes off much quicker -- some of my friends have had a very difficult time coming off their morning mocha fix. NOT pleasant to watch!"

''seriously," I said, leaning forward across the table, "how is it in the US? We’ve been getting such mixed reports.''

"Remember, love, we're talking about a very large country, and the situation varies state to state: it's rather like saying 'How is it in Africa?'" She stopped smiling then. "Overall? The worst of the violence is past. People are starting to come out of the shock and realizing that they have a LOT of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. An inherent suspicion of the Federal government is a deep-seated part of the American psyche -- there are enough people left who remember the Japanese-American internment camps that only the very desperate have gone to the FEMA settlements -- and so no one's expecting anyone from Washington to step in and straighten things out.

“Unfortunately that means a lot of duplication of effort, all around the country, and if the winter's bad --" She stopped and sipped at her tea. "A lot more people are going to die before things stabilize. Spring's going to be hard: we're only a handful of generations removed from farming, most of us, but that's time enough for a lot to be lost. The whole culture's changed in only 50 years, and parts of it are going to have to change back much more quickly."

'Do you already have a house lined up? Do you have a garden?'

"Oh, Mia, I'm sorry -- that was terribly gloomy of me!” She smiled. “Yes, I do have a house lined up, though it isn't finished: there's some trouble with the filters on the rainwater tanks and the clay plaster on the walls can't be finished until the masonry stove is run through its test firing, so we won't be moving in there for at least another three weeks. Bryan and Jayne have a MIL apartment as an extension on their house, and they've asked us to stay with them: it's just up the hill from the clinic, and after the initial team meeting Scott will be working from home.

"And there is a garden: the enclosures for the houses and the lot have been designed as hedgerows -- though they're still very small. Because the property was originally a car lot, the rest has been designed for raised beds until a soil amelioration team can come out and have a proper look, and see if we can clean it up with cover crops or if topsoil would have to be replaced. I mean to start some things in the sunspace as soon as we're settled; I had to leave my garden behind, but now I have a new space to play with, and a lot more vegetables will grow here without having to be nursed along!"

"Speaking of vegetables --" here she grinned at me. "How's the cooking going?"

"Not too bad," I felt a little embarrassed. "I cooked a paella yesterday - we used our rations on prawns - a bit naught but it tasted so damn good... There's been some good lessons on cooking in school lately."

"And school's going ok?" She took another sip of juice. "Do you feel like you know what you want to study?"

"I don't know..." I shrugged. ''what do you think I should study?''

"You know I'm likely to plug the biological sciences!" she laughed. "I don't think you have to throw over any established ambitions and take up agriculture just yet: there's always going to be a need for doctors and engineers and plumbers --"

"And midwives?"

"And midwives, unless the people screaming for zero population growth are determined to till with their Zimmer frames! I don't think there's going to be as much use for degrees in media studies or MBAs, but the world hasn't shrunk as much as a lot of people would like to think. There's still room for a great many sorts of jobs; what's happening now is that they're being revalued in light of energy becoming expensive again.

"Whatever you choose to study, history should be on the list -- remember what I said about 'duplication of effort', and pointing out to you and inky_jewel that there were already programmes in place to help all of you learn how to garden? We don't have time to keep reinventing the wheel: being able to make connections and get information to people who need it is going to be a matter of life and death for some time to come; that sort of synthesis needs to be encouraged, and history is very good at teaching you to connect disparate events."

‘‘How do you think this'll all end up? Are you feeling good about this new life?''

"You know, it's funny, but I am. I'm moving to a house that's half the size of the one I left, we’re earning between the two of us about what Scott used to make on his own -- but we both have work we love, our son is married and happy and they both have work they love, all of us can eat and stay warm and even have some time to goof around, and most of our friends aren't on the other side of the ocean from us any more.

"We really didn't fit our neighbourhood, before; now when things go wrong we won't be forced to deal with them on our own. I know that the attitudes towards privacy here have meant that someone could go 20 years without speaking more than a handful of words to their next-door neighbours, but people are going to have to rely on the ones around them to get them through, again -- and while sometimes that's intrusive and claustrophobic and just damned annoying, it's not an entirely evil situation."

Her phone buzzed after a little while longer. She got it out of her dark green satchel at her feet and looked at the screen.

"I've got to go," she said, "Scott's finished with his friend and we really need to get back on the train!"

"Ok," I said, finishing the last of my drink. "Well it was really nice to meet you!"

"Me too," she said. She gave me a warm hug. "You take care of yourself Mia."

We left the cafe and she went one way down the street, me the other. We stopped and waved at each other a couple of times, then she disappeared out of sight.

And that was that; a fleeting meeting with someone I had only known as a page on the internet, an email buddy, there for a lunchtime with me. Another person starting a new life in the vastly different world without oil.

[author note: week 29. Many thanks to lucy1965 for collaborating on today's post.

The moleskine is mine - if you look carefully you can read a paragraph from my novel, Iridescence and Light! I bought it from this site. It used to be that Moleskines were hugely popular - writers like Hemingway did all their work in them. The company went bust in the eighties but recently an Italian firm started making them again using the traditional acid-free paper and quality leather and traditional methods. It's the kind of small scale operation that produces lovely items worthy of my purchase.]

new lives for a new world

wwo, world without oil, mia
I received a pleasant email earlier in the week from lucy1965, one of the other netizens! She's been trying to get over to the UK for months now and with all the problems with immigration, it's only now she's coming, to be an EMT midwife in South Buckinghamshire. Lucy's been one of the people in this crisis that's been most supportive (I've also had wonderful correspondence with Sam the prudent RVer and megiddo_tell, jimboboz, lead_tag, gracemominnh, gerben1974 and a few other great people).

She emailed to say that she was flying into Cardiff and would be stopping off in Bristol on her way to her new home! She asked if I wanted to meet for some lunch and of course I said yes, so we're going to be meeting next week!

Another person is making a change this week too. Similar to what rdy2rte is saying here, Uncle Andy's getting excited about the farm he bought off dad. He's setting off today, taking a bus into the heart of Wales with a couple of bags to start a new life.

I asked Andy why he was taking so little things - his phone and the solar charger Greg gave him, his laptop and another solar charger (although greg made him pay for this one - it's about £2000 pounds worth of panels), some clothes, a toothbrush, straight razor and about ten books.

"What else do I need?" he said. "The farm'll have food and enough power to to eat and keep the lights working. Apart from an internet connection and some heating for when it really gets cold, that's all I want."

I envy him. He looks happier than he's been since he came back. The stuff that happened in Saudi really screwed around with him but it looks like now he's going to go off, set up a homestead and make things alright again. In his head more than anything else.

"I could come with you," I said, when he was at the bus station. He shook his head. He pressed his hand into my coat pocket.

"Stay and study," he said. "Learn something that'll work in this new world. Come visit me in the holidays, and in the summer. Until then, I wanna see you learning something useful, ok?"

"Ok Uncle Andy," I said, and we all stood back as he threw his bag into the luggage compartment under the bus and jumped onboard.The bus was packed, as they all are these days. Used to be you could get the 'megabus' for a pound if you booked early enough. Now it's more like 20-30. Andy waved as the bus struggled up the hill and quickly out of sight. I wondered when I'd see him next. We started the wander home, feeling the one person less than before.


It's December and it's cold. The old georgian (and earlier) tall terraced houses are pretty here in Bristol, but they aren't warm.

School's much better though. The stress that had been growing amongst us with all the tests and mounds of homework has gone away - we've still got exams but thanks to the changes the local council has made, there's a lot more time to just explore - a lot of kids haven't got as much internet access so there's a couple of hours a week structured browsing - heavily monitored for naughty stuff! I've spent a fair amount of time just learning about the crisis and the things we can do to stay afloat - making clothes, cooking, growing! I've got lots of plans for the allotment next year. Things are looking up.


[Author's note: week 28.

As Mia's journal went on, Uncle Andy has become just as important a protagonist in my eyes, mainly because as an adult he's far more linked into the effects and changes of the world. Being on a terrorist-attacked tanker in the middle east doesn't hurt either, mind.

A couple of journals picking up on the political theme lately. Participating in wwo is no good unless we actually let our representatives know what problems may face us and that we as citizens want them to address them. Grassroots activism on this issue is important. My prize of a mix cd to anyone that contacts their representative and asks them about Peak Oil still stands - megiddo_tell comes closest so far - he sent an email to his Senator, Carl Levin! No idea if you want the cd but let me know the response!

French blogger and expert on energy and economics 'Jerome A Paris' has a great diary today on the way economics and the idea that 'greed is good' has shaped our world today, far too much. Daily Kos is a good port of call if you want to start getting involved with politics at a grassroots level. I'd suggest a corresponding right-wing site to go with this left-leaning one but as much of the world's problems have come from the right wing arm of US politics I don't think it would be appropriate.

His call to contact our representatives is a good one that I echo. Although wwo has been a great experience and told some amazing stories, there hasn't been enough coverage of the governmental handling of the crisis to really get a good picture on what's happening in the US on a broad scale. I tried to implement UK policies in Mia's story I thought would happen and effect her but I'd be even more fascinated to see what real politicians respond. I'm planning to email my MP Stephen Williams once my exams finish on thursday.]

Dad, New Zealand and an unexpected twist

wwo, world without oil, mia
I arrived home from college to find a familiar looking land rover parked at my gate. Dad's springer spaniel Jasper sat on the back seat, wagging his tail at me. The rest of the land rover was full of baggage and possessions. I didn't feel especially good about the situation but gave Jasper a quick wave and went into the house.

It could have been mistaken for a war zone by the things being shouted across in the kitchen. I could hear mum's voice raised and dad's familiar boom. I stood at the door, ear pressed to the wood, listening. Greg cut across the argument as I started to pick up on words.

"Look," he said, "You can't just come waltzing in here after all the time you've been away."

"And who do you think you are?" Dad said. "You're not her father."

"Are you?" Greg said. "You've hardly seen her in ten years. You don't support her. You rarely even call."

"She's my daughter," Dad said. "And she deserves to be given a new chance away from all this?"

"For Christ's sake Paul," Mum told him. "Do you really think it's any different in New Zealand? Even if you get into the country, it's just going to be the same problems. Nowhere is getting through this. The world's changed, Paul."

"You and your defeatist bullshit," Dad said. And as Greg protested, he cut across. "This is all the fault of our government. It's not as if oil prices went up that much. They're just using the opportunity to raise taxes and limit our freedoms, as usual.Me and Emma have had enough. Mia's coming with us."

I listened with horror at the door. They wanted me to go to New Zealand? I mean, no offense to those down under but I rather like it here! I started to open the door, ready to storm in and join the argument.

"I wouldn't love." I turned to see Uncle Andy standing at the foot of the stairs, looking down at me.

"but they want to send me away!"

"I don't think your dad's going to win this one, love. Come on." He walked past me and into the kitchen. I followed him in. My dad and his new wife Emma stood at one side of the table. Mum was sitting down, cradling a cup of tea. Greg stood near the stove, a glowering look of anger on his face. It was the most expressive I'd ever seen him.

"Mia!" Dad came over to me, arms wide, an unnaturally large grin on his face. His hair was cropped short and it made him look very different, much older and more careworn than his old shoulder length hair. His clothes were less hippyish too.

"Hello dad," I said, giving him a reluctant hug. He stood up and smiled.

"we've got some exciting news," he said.

"No," mum cut across, glaring at him, "we don't."

"Come now," dad said, "don't be like that."

"Paul!" Uncle Andy, who'd been pretty much ignored since he entered, thrust himself across the room, shaking dad's bewildered hand. "How are you doing? So did you sell the house and the farm then?"

Dad looked uncomfortable, and squirmed. Emma, a younger wife with one of those faces that looks like it's smelled something bad, looked even more affronted.

"No," Dad admitted. "Not yet."

"Couldn't find a buyer, huh?" Andy said, still shaking Dad's hand. "I suppose you're planning to sell it whilst you're out in New Zealand?"

"Of course," Emma said. Even her voice was haughty. "We know some very reputable Estate Agents that assure us house prices will have stablised in a few months."

Greg all but snorted into his drink. Andy's smile grew wider, in direct response to my dad's face growing ever more nervous.

"And New Zealand's just going to let you in?" Mum said.

"We have a lot of friends out there," Emma replied, making it very clear that we were not considered friends in quite the same way. "My father has already moved out there and he's making arrangements."

Arrangements sounded like it involved a lot of money. When Emma was involved it usually did. Mum always said Dad ran off with her because he loved the idea of a young fling that paid for him to go on holiday with her.

"So the phonelines are working out there," Andy said, "What with the crisis and all? I mean, you do have a plan for keeping track of the seller?"

"We've got a plan," Dad said, but he didn't look sure. "We've got a place to rent in New Zealand, for me and Emma and Mia."

"But I don't want to go!" I said, feeling like the luggage in the middle of some vast tug of war game. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"I'm your father," dad said. "Your mother hasn't exactly been taking good care of you, has she? She's had to start sleeping with the guy next door just to find somewhere for you all to live."

"Paul!" My mum said. Greg put down his mug and drew himself up to his full height, looking ready to punch dad right that minute.

"So you're saying," Andy said, seemingly oblivious to the growing tension in the room, "That you're going to take Mia because you don't think we can look after her properly, that we don't have the money?"

"Exactly," dad said. "I mean look at you - you get laid off and come running back here to sleep on her boyfriend's floor? She deserves better."

"I agree," Andy said. Dad looked oddly at him, starting to notice that the biting sarcasm wasn't getting through.

"So," Andy continued, reaching into his pocket, "What if I buy your farm off you?"

The room's atmosphere changed from tension to surprise. Everyone's eyes focused on Andy's hand as he pulled his wallet out of his pocket. It was much thicker than it should be. Thicker because it had a large roll of 50 pound notes in it.

"Uncle Andy..." I stared at the money. It was more than I'd ever seen in one place. "Where did you get that money?"

"That's what I'd like to know," mum said, exchanging a glance with Greg.

"The Oil company paid us off," Andy said, unrolling the bills. "Insurance. You get a lot if you're injured in a terrorist attack. More if you tell them you know about how lax their security was and that the papers would be fascinated."

We stared as he placed the roll of money into Dad's hands.

"£3,000." he said.

"I'm not selling you the farm for £3,000!" Dad and Emma shouted near simultaneously.

"That's to start." Andy said. "I'll pay you 30,000 more than the asking price. Cash. But you have to leave Mia here with us. That's the deal."

The look between Dad and Emma told the whole story. Andy reached over and squeezed my shoulder. He winked.

"It's all going to be alright love." He whispered.

I have no idea if that's true. But it certainly feels a lot more alright than it could have been.

[Author's note: week 27

This is an event I've been planning for a while, to begin wrapping up the story arc. It's a few days later than planned due to revision but here it is.]

a new direction

wwo, world without oil, mia
Yesterday, we reached a population milestone. More people now live in Urban areas than in Rural, according to research by North Carolina State University.

The government announced big plans today. The river Severn is being dammed! the Severn is about 10-20 miles from Bristol and apparently has the second biggest tides in the world. There's been plans for a barrage for years, Andy was telling me, they've just been constantly overruled by the environmental concerns. I guess the crisis has changed that.

You know the incredible thing? This one barrage, ten miles long, could power as much as one TENTH (although more likely around 6%) of all of Britain's power supplies, as much as three nuclear power stations. There's also plans to build smaller lagoons around Wales... The government have been touting how this is such a major step - where before they would say 'it's environmentally friendly' now the buzzword is 'self-generation'. It's been a big part of the white paper brought out, that we need to get rid of all these things we're importing from around the world.

It's still going to take as long as 20 years before the whole thing is done, though (even if it could last as long as 200 years). I hope we can wait that long...

-Mia

[author's note: week 25. Another short one - these exams are killing me. This was meant to go out yesterday but livejournal's being weird.

The 10% quote is true, by the way. There's that much power in the oceans. the Severn has a tidal change of 14m, more than anywhere except one place in South America. Actually what causes it is rotation of the earth.

With the rationing of energy in wwo it will probably end up being more than 10% too. As I researched this today I found out that my hometown of Swansea in Wales is producing a mini tidal lagoon over the next few years that could potentially power a large part of the city.

two very good op-eds in the British papers today. One by Tony Blair in the Times on energy futures and the other by Al Gore in the guardian about how misguided the policies of the Bush administration have been. I wish gore had been made president in 2000. There's little doubt the world would be a better place than under the current president. I hope he runs in 2008. ]

Some fun photos and a challenge for you!

wwo, world without oil, mia
green toothbrush

I bought a new toothbrush with disposable heads - it's a cheap as a normal toothbrush but without the wasted plastic throwing away the handle every time. The fibres are natural too!

bikes

A lot more people using these nowadays. Lots of slim people here in Bristol! meanwhile the debate over road charging continues.

Postman's bike!

This was a great sighting! Our postman has given up on his van to ride this bicycle to work!

Richard Heinberg's post last week was scary. It made me realise that our problems are going to be far less immediate and 'hollywood' style collapse. Not being able to drive isn't going to kill us. But not being able to eat will. There's a lot of mouths to feed in the world right now. It scares me to think that our world will die not in some massive crisis over a few weeks but in a long, drawn out starvation.

The efforts in Cuba since their petroleum based fertilisers ran out to change their country to a small-farm based one makes me optimistic but we're going to have to overcome all the greedy corporations running the massive industrial farms if we're to get there. a lot more of us will have to become farmers, and live more simply. But will that not cure some of the problems of our lives before? People were stressed working in high-stress low-reward meaningless jobs, sitting in an office pushing paper all day, seeing no evidence of what they were working for. Almost all of the profits went to the select few at the top whilst those at the bottom had little freedom or autonomy, simply cogs in the machine! Maybe if we go back to the land, we'll remember what it's like to live slow. I can't help but feel a strong appeal. I'm definitely going to learn how to grow things in the new practical lectures at school.

I made a prize for someone today! I made a mix tape based on the crisis. It's a lot of angry protest songs mixed with a few on a more hopeful note. The song list is in the cut below:

WWO mixtapeCollapse )

Now, you could always make one with the same songs - but where's the community in that? I'll post someone a copy if they can complete my challenge!

The Challenge: to call up, email or write to your representative in congress, senate, state senate, parliament, council, whatever. Ask them what they think about peak oil and what your government is doing about it. Obviously calling/email is preferable because it'll hopefully get a response before the wwo project finishes. The first person to post a response gets the cd! (if there are more than one good responses, I might be tempted to burn a few more!) Either put your representative's response in one of the miawithoutoil posts, or email it to me at darrkespur@gmail.com. Feel free to post it as a contribution to wwo too!


-Mia

[Author's Note - week 24. The road congestion is from yesterday's news. I think it's a great plan, as long as they siphon the money into public transport. In the UK we've run out of room for cars but the alternatives are expensive and badly managed. I think this kind of road charging scheme, combined with huge increases in spending on trains, buses and new trams, etc, is the only way to go in the end. If we do it quick enough, we may even start the trend away from the automobile before peak oil even occurs. Now the government is pushing this excellent legislation forward, we just need to overcome the stupid shortsighted opposition of many of the nation's motorists. There was one of the biggest political petitions ever when this bill was first announced. It makes me really angry. This could be a great thing for the Uk. If people took a step back and let their attachment to their vehicle go for a few seconds, they would see that this could only be a good thing for the country - we've seen a lot of positive things on wwo about people finding alternatives to the car. If we can do that without the upheaval of an oil crisis, so much the better. Part of me is hopeful, another pessimistic.

Incidentally, for anyone interested in US politics (and at this strange time in the world's history I feel that should include everybody), the most important witness in the US Attorney firing scandal, Monica Goodling, testifies in Congress today. With all the scanadla surrounding Gonzalez' Justice department, this could be a crucial moment. Goodling was the one that fired the 8 attorneys last year, which many people believe was done for political reasons, either because they weren't pursuing (mostly false) accusations of voter fraud against Democrats, or that they were pursuing (mostly true) accusations of criminality and corruption by Republicans.

The important part in terms of history is less that act and more the administration's response - to refuse to testify to congress. When Gonzalez took the stand he said 'I don't remember' to nearly 100 questions. Goodling has refused to give up documents detailing her actions, despite being granted immunity so that she could testify. There's a huge constitutional crisis brewing because a lot of these justic department officials are refusing the constitutional right of Congress and the Senate to perform oversight. There's a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest that the reason Bush is so keen not to let Gonzalez go is because a non-partisan Attorney General might uncover a lot more illegal activity by the Administration.

I know it's not strictly wwo-related but I urge anyone to follow this story and pressurise your government if you're American. This could be as big if not bigger than the Watergate scandal. UPDATE: Here's a link to the transcription liveblog on Daily Kos following the hearing live.

PS: I loved the image the wwo site gave me yesterday - of an atom and its orbiting electrons. It was ironic because I wrote the post about an hour after my particle physics exam.]
wwo, world without oil, mia
The cinema was back open this week and doing good business - with all the power restrictions, a lot of people are thinking twice about turning on their TVs. Plus the cinemas dropped their prices a ton during the crisis, meaning you can go for £2 and the place is almost always packed. We saw the harry potter film that was supposed to be out in the summer - it was surprisingly fun, even if the moments in the real world were sad.

On my way back from the cinema with Uncle Andy, we were approached by a man that asked us for the time.

"Sure," Andy said, taking it all in stride, "It's 9.15."

"Where you guys been then," the man asked. "I'm Delroy, by the way."

He shook our hands. It felt rude to say no.

"the cinema," we said. It was odd to be approached in the street but the guy was strangely disarming and I didn't feel too unsafe with Uncle Andy there.

"it's nice that we can still go to the cinema after all that's happened," the man said. "It's like they're trying to keep us happy."

"Who's they?" I asked.

"Well, you know," he said, his eyes focusing on something that wasn't there. "This world is an amazing thing. You know, science tells us that energy is in everything, and that we're aware, right?"

"Yeah..."

"So if we're made of energy and aware, and you know there are particles where if you separate them, no matter how far apart, they know what the other ones doing? There's this quantum field yeah? and that means that everything's connected, everything's aware. You get me?"

"I understand the words you're saying..." Andy said with a half-grin on his face. "I just don't understand what you're suggesting it all means. I mean, how does all this come together?"

The man looked insulted, as if somehow we were supposed to follow this stream of consciousness speech perfectly. I hung back and let Andy deal with it.

"It means that if everything's connected, the whole world and energy, yeah?" Delroy continued. "That means that there must be something more, right? That it all means something, that it's all part of a higher force."

Oh god, I though, religion. Andy smiled. he seemed to be enjoying this.

"So you're saying this is all for a reason?"

"Yeah man, definitely," Delroy said. "I mean - look at all the CCTVs and the shrinking computers whilst they grow in power. Biotech and genetics? They're controlling us man. They could have done something about this crisis, they've known for a long time it's coming. They just wanted to take away some of our rights and possessions -we were getting too much freedom and the had to stop it."

"So all this was planned?" Andy was struggling to avoid laughing.

"All of the leaders of the countries and companies are in on this," Delroy told us, whispering like it was some deadly secret, eyes serious and preaching. "They want us for our money and our work but they want to control us."

"Nice talking to you Delroy," Andy said, pulling on my arm. "We got to go now."

"Don't forget what I said!" Delroy called after us. "We're all connected! This isn't random - there's something going on bigger than us we've got to wake up to!"

We wandered home, not quite sure what to make of the experience.

I understand how Delroy feels - wouldn't it put us out of responsibility if this was one big conspiracy to destroy and control the world as we know it? If we know there was some vast secret group scheming so much that nothing we did mattered? It's both orwellian-style scary and strangely attractive. Why attractive? Because if some group is controlling our destiny we have no responsibility and so can put away our guilt over what's happened and not feel bad about looking out only for ourselves and no one else - it was the evil overlord's fault!

If the companies knew that the oil was running out, and so did the governments and they conspired to organise the crisis, to take away our rights, then we could give in to the despair - because if we're being controlled that much, there's no hope of individuality surviving - we're pawns in this massive game.

But that's not what's going on. I don't believe it. I don't believe the people in charge, even the bad ones, are perfect or evil enough to plot such a massive scheme - it's silly. While some of the bad stuff has come from oil people and politicians looking to profit or being greedy, it's not part of some vast worldwide conspiracy. It's simply a lot of greedy people ignoring the consequences to get rich in the short term. And these CEOs and stockbrokers and oil executives are the ones to have lost the most in the crisis.

Whilst that means there's no easy guilt-remover, it does mean that we as normal people have the power to do what the greedy rich people did not do: make a change. We should have done it earlier, before it was too late. We shouldn't have let those in power take too much when they didn't deserve it. They didn't do it because they were part of an evil masterplan. they did it because they could. They did it because we gave them the opportunity. In future, we need to not let them have the chance to ruin everything.

There's no great conspiracy. If you were in their position, you might get greedy too, if there weren't enough safeguards to stop you overstepping your boundaries. There's no great conspiracy but there's a lot we can do to prevent those people from grabbing too much for themselves from us.

-Mia




[author's note: week 23

another action item from Daily Kos about US food, for those interested in making a positive impact now: As featured in this diary the USDA are trying to legislate to water down Organic standards in America - meaning you wouldn't have to use organic intestines in sausages, or organic hops in beer. This is basically a way for organic food to be pretty much wiped out as a class of foods. There's some talk of it being prompted by the drugs agencies because they make money from unhealthy people but take that with a pinch of salt and read Mia's story for today on conspiracies! whatever the reasoning behind this, any of you guys in the states that care about food production would be well advised to sign the petition and try and stop this legislation.

The Delroy character actually exists, under a different name, in Bristol. I've talked to him a few times whilst coming home from my girlfriend's or a bar. He's very friendly and interesting, even if what he's saying doesn't quite add up.He's basically a preacher for David Icke, as weird as that sounds. It's strange, a little disturbing but mostly fascinatingly odd.

The people-powered motif is an important one, one that can help us try and avert this kind of crisis in the real world. Accountability from the voting public is probably the most important thing we can do to stop it. In recent times politics has been pushed to one side by many people as 'not my business'. This has allowed those who would take advantage of it to gain much more strength. We can't let that continue. As the people of the world, we need to hold the greedy people accountable and keep them in check otherwise the real crisis could end up worse.]

About miawithoutoil

Miawithoutoil is the blog of a fictional character, Mia, in the alternative reality game 'World Without Oil'. Every day in the real world is a week in the game, where oil prices are spiralling out of control and the world struggles to cope with the implications.

Mia lives in Bristol, England. She is 16 and lives with her single mother, with her father away in a farm in the mountains of Wales. Newly finished school, Mia is struggling to come to grips with the changes she's witnessing but dearly wants to make a positive difference.

This blog is the creation of twenty-something science fiction writer Tomas L. Martin. His real blog can be found under the livejournal name 'darrkespur'. Thanks for reading and enjoy the story!

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