In every war, there are winners and losers. Whether the war is ideological or physical, or even if a truce is declared—there are still battles that end in victory or defeat.
In the United States, and most of the western world, there is an ideological war with dire physical consequences. It is the war on fossil fuels. But, even if you understand (as I hope my readers do) that energy is central to everything in modern society, the war is much bigger than energy. It is about freedom. It is about control. It is about global governance.
In my book Energy Freedom, I make a case for why energy is so important and, therefore, why it is under attack. I posit: “What would the world be like if we could suddenly wave a magic wand and give the environmentalists everything they want?” I then detail how our lives would change and how it would not be the utopia one might first think. I develop the catch phrase: “Take away energy, take away freedom.”
When I speak, I give out an oversized business card that includes a satellite photo of the Korean peninsula—which makes clear that the free-market, democratic, and developed country is light and bright, while the communist country is dark. I often ask my audiences where our current energy policy in America is headed—to which they shout back “North Korea.” It is a good visual and a good talking point. People seem to get it.
While we all know we can’t wave that magic wand, we are headed toward the same result. It is just happening a little at a time—one regulation after another, slowly, with some people, in the name of the planet, willingly giving up freedoms in favor of a promise of security. It comes in the form of the Endangered Species Act, Corporate Average Fuel Economy, and the Clean Power Plan—though the list could go on and on.
Others are not so gullible. They see the bigger plan and are willing to be the brunt of scoff, or even persecution. They fight for the principles upon which this great nation was founded.
This past week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of expats in Mexico. Repeatedly I heard: “If everything goes to hell in the U.S., this is where I am hiding out.” Clearly, they see the need for a plan and are fortunate enough to be able to retire to the moderate climes of Lake Chapala. The “Doomsday Preppers,” perhaps, have the same idea—with a different escape route.
While I was South of the Border, I took a few vacation days and read a novel cover-to-cover—a luxury I seldom have. I read Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun. It was sent to me by the author, who reads my column. It is his debut novel and not the usual light, fluffy stuff I like to read around the pool. I didn’t expect to like it. But I promised I’d read it. I am glad I did.
Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun picks up where Energy Freedom leaves off. Coleman Alderson, using a fiction format, carefully weaves the green narrative into a spell-binding thriller set just slightly more than 25 years from now—when all of the green policies have taken force— and paints a gripping picture of how the Global Energy Enforcement Organization (GEEO) takes control of every aspect of our lives, leaving people struggling to survive a bleak existence.
But not everyone is willing to abandon freedom for the neat and tidy life promised in “Progress City.” They resist being “registered” and moved to work on an organic farm or serve in “the administration.” Even many of those who originally accepted the move are beginning to realize the mistake they made. The friction creates the story as the “retros”—Appalachian Mountain folks, many of whom worked in the now-closed coal mines—resist registration and citification.
I chatted with Alderson about his book. I asked: “Why are cities important?” He explained the view that cities are “manageable regions,” that it is more efficient to have people in cites where they don’t use the resources. They don’t need cars. Instead they use public transportation or bicycles.
One of the lead characters is a young man named Agent Candler Greaves who is sent to round up the rebellious “retros.” Having been raised with the “save the planet” mantra, he genuinely wants to “help guide humanity toward a harmonious existence with the planet.” But, as Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun makes vividly clear, the result of the GEEO’s efforts is a decrease in various public services, more land restrictions, limited availability of food, electricity and medical treatments—while the leadership thrives in spite of it all.
Alderson explains: “You can tell a story and capture people’s emotions. They’ll identify much better than if you read off facts and statistics—which are often hard for people to connect with. But, we all connect with stories. I really tried to dial back on the exposition and instead work it into the fabric of these people’s lives. My goal is to show what happens, what is the impact of these mandates that result in a depopulation of the rural areas and the control of people. Their individual hopes and aspirations are killed in the name of the collective.”
The idea of citizens willingly being chipped (like a dog) and tracked may seem extreme to some, but as I returned to the U.S. and scanned my passport while the kiosk took my picture and printed out a report that allowed me back into the country, I realized it is a closer reality than we think. If you’ve seen advertising pop up on your computer based on websites you’ve visited, or if as you pull out of your driveway on Monday morning, your phone, without your asking it to, tells you how long it will take you to get to work, you know the scenario presented in Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun, while fiction, is totally possible. Unless, like the Appalachian Mountain folks, we get what is going on and fight it while it is still an ideological war that can be won without bloodshed.
The war we are fighting, as Alderson explains in the afterword: “is a saga of two cultures, of two divergent ways of life, and ultimately two paths leading into our future. One way leads to empowerment and living close to the land; the other promotes safety, security, and a global technocracy prescribed to minimize human impact on the environment.”
Alderson is an optimist. In the end, it is going to be OK. If we can figure out how to put a brake on the policies and bring reason into the discussion, we can, then, figure out how to avoid living out the future laid out in Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun. It is that optimism that keeps us fighting.