Star’s Reach: A Novel of the Deindustrial Future by John Michael Greer

I’ve seen John Michael Greer’s name around and have probably heard interviews with him before, but this is the first time I’ve read one of his books.    A couple weeks ago I heard him on the Kunstlercast talking about his latest book and decided I’d check it out.

The story takes place about 400 years in the future in what the author describes as a period that would be towards the upswing of a Dark Age in America where society gets more stability and things are starting to look up.   The industrial age is long dead and climate change has radically altered the land.  The protagonist is a “ruinman”, one who makes their living disassembling the wreckage of the ancient (see: modern) world who finds a document that could uncover the mystery of “Star’s Reach”, a place where the ancients may have talked with aliens.   A quest begins to figure it out with all the usual trappings of a quest story.

The story itself is pretty good but what stuck with me about the book is the ideas in the way of language, mythology, culture and even astrobiology that the author weaves into it.    I think this book will stick with me for a while because of this.

The story mainly takes place in the Ohio River valley and the place names have changed but are still mostly recognizable.   If you think about it, a lot of our place names come from Indians and mean nothing to us except that specific place and the words we use have probably morphed a bit from their original pronunciation to suit our needs.    What’s an “Ohio” or “Cincinnati”?   I live in Des Moines, Iowa.    It’s two French words, but not pronounced like someone from France would and they don’t have any meaning to the people who live here.   “Iowa” is the name of a long-gone people who inhabited this general area.    I did feel kind of stupid for not getting one place described as a great center of learning from the ancient times name, even though it’s the city technically my degree was from (did it online so I never stepped foot in “Belumi”).

I also thought some of the mythology was cool, especially surrounding what we know today as the Washington monument.   We don’t always understand why people in the past did they things they did and do our best to explain them.    There’s a few instances in the book where seemingly trivial things from the modern world pass on into the future, especially circus related stuff (which is kind of funny, since a lot of that is holdovers from the Roman era).    It’s kind of interesting to think about what can be lost by time and what can make it through.    I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head, but we have tons of sayings, customs, etc. that we do today that come from the past that we don’t associate directly with their older meanings.

Greer predicts some major climate change to this patch of land we’re sitting on – modern day Arkansas becomes a jungle, Kansas a desert and the Ohio River Valley gets a rainy subtropical climate.  The coastline changes drastically to the point that a lot of the Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard is underwater.     The major shifts in climate and the end of the current era leads to new religious movements and new holidays based around the weather patterns (as ours are today if you look back).   I didn’t know that Greer was a big shot in the druid world while reading this, but it makes sense now and that kind of earth-based spirituality runs through the book.

He also brings up a lot of interesting thoughts about astrobiology and who the aliens that humans may have contacted would be.

I read one of his books, “Not The Future We Ordered” after this one.   Interesting guy.   I’m going to have to pick up a few more of his.

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Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles

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Colony Collapse Disorder Hits Close To Home

Ok, I don’t know if it’s exactly “colony collapse disorder” but one of my two beehives died last week and the other one took a beating and is way down.    The state apiarist estimates (tongue twister?) that 70% of the hives in the state will die this year due to the stressful winter…and it was a brutal one.   Not only was the winter rough, the past couple of years have been hard on bee colonies due to drought.

I’m watching my other hive to see how they’re doing.   I’ll probably crack into it again next week and see if they’re reproducing and do whatever I can do to make things a little more comfortable for them.  I didn’t do much supplemental feeding last year, but I’ll probably give them some sugar water to help out.   Hopefully the hive will be able to build itself back up and I’ll be able to split off and rebuild the other one.

It seems like colony collapse disorder and the general plight of the pollinating insects has gotten a lot of mileage on social media and such over the past year or two.   It is good that people are starting to care, but I think sometimes the focus is a little off target.  Yeah, reposting something about how evil Monsanto and pesticides are isn’t a bad thing and there should be discussions about these things, but in the meantime please plant something that benefits pollinators.    Seedum, sage, mints, clover, whatever.

Since seeing my bees die, realizing I have a ton of plants that need pollinators, having a girlfriend into prairie plants and talking with a guy who’s raison d’etre is planting milkweed for the dwindling monarch butterfly populations, the idea of creating better environments for bees (and other important insects) has been on my mind.   I know there’s all kinds of doomsday scenarios thrown around about the demise of the bees (and yeah, they really are that important) but it just feels a little more real as I’m pulling handfuls of dead bees out of my hives.

Also, I have to say it was really cool this winter to look outside on sunny days above freezing and seeing the bees getting out of the hive.   It was good to know that they’re still there.    It sucks that they had to suffer through a colder-than-usual Iowa winter stuffed up inside a wood box in my backyard just to die once everything started the flower and the good times were ready to roll.    See you in Valhalla, little bees.



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