The most crucial part of creating fire by friction is to get a hot coal.
A burning ember.
The contact of two sticks creates dust to collect into a divot in the fireboard while friction creates the heat. When the compacted dust and heat get oxygen, you have your starting point. More oxygen in the form of blowing, more fuel in the form of wood or grasses and there you have it: fire.
The first time you get that flame, you realize how much work it takes to create fire. It’s as intense as the flame itself: dancing with energy, bounding on the edge of destruction as it consumes anything flammable laid before it. It’s enough to evoke wonder and awe alongside the warmth it offers.
Matches. Lighters. Combustion engines. We have a lot of technology that allows us to completely take fire for granted. To remove ourselves from the effort and rob ourselves of the awe. It keeps us from appreciating how even the most simple of reactions—one that has been a part of our tool kit as a species well beyond the era of Homo sapiens—can really impact the world.
In the shadows cast by our indifference, our world increasingly moves from burning embers to one engulfed in flames. The friction begun by domestication spreads its scale as fields fell to cultivation and forests became fields. Mechanically amplified and chemically fed, the embers overcame the peasants, slaves, and workers. The forests went from ash to coal. The deserts dried and the grasslands became deserts.
At times there were flames, but civilization runs on coals.
There’s a fine balance necessary to tend the social machinery of civilization and keep things moving. The friction is always there, at least enough to enforce the hierarchies, but ideally not enough to cause uprisings. It becomes suppression on the ground, cosmological release into the sky.
Over time, the balance tipped beyond the point of no return. Climate instability tips the scales and it doesn’t take much for the embers to catch. The world increasingly turns into premature fuel. All delusions of control go out of the window.
And then we have wildfires.
Decades of suppressing naturally occurring fires created more undergrowth to slow the movements of burns: feeding flames, increasing heat. Matches. Lit cigarettes. Engine fires. Industrialism. The stage is set for hotter, prolonged burning as the world becomes tinder. Any ember will do. When the embers cede to flames, they take on a life of their own.
Inevitably, it becomes uncontrollable.
Everywhere our world is either burning or on the edge of burning. Literally, figuratively: it gets increasingly meaningless to distinguish. When lost in awe of the flames of a burning coastline or the dumpster fire of a ludicrous socio-political reality, it’s hard to do anything but just stare, observe: to become a spectator of.
I’ve written enough of these op-eds that it feels inevitable to say that each time things just get hotter and disconnect increases while the fragility of our reality increases. It can feel like trite nay saying, yet it’s never untrue. The cracks in the veneer grow exponentially, both in politics and disrupted ecologies. Everyday feels like a new low. Each day feels like the bottom, but there’s always tomorrow. The new blaze—bigger and brighter than yesterday’s—grabs your attention.
The fires grow. The planet burns. Day in, day out.
The domesticators and programmers can deny and lie all they want. They can even believe their lies. As we know from the collapse of past civilizations, it doesn’t matter. The fate of those wielding social and political power was set at the origins of domestication. Every growth in technology—and its ability to destroy the fragile ecological bounds upon which civilizations are maintained—increases the severity of the collapse.
This doesn’t end peacefully. Those in power don’t cop to their attempted omnicide. They don’t own it. They don’t step down. They don’t cede ground.
They don’t learn until it’s far too late that the limitations of social, political, and religious power end with the civilizations that make them possible. All civilizations are dependent upon the ecology that they parasitize upon. Those who tout any semblance of control must deny that reality. They destroy. They kill. They wreck a home they never acknowledged. They can pretend they are tending coals while they fan embers.
They can attempt to control wildfires, but outside the realms of politics and religion, they have absolutely no say. Though they might try to suppress them all, the fanned embers will catch. The fires will blaze and spread. The façade of control too will burn.
As the state of the world rapidly declines and the ability to have its downfall streamed before us increases, it gets harder to look up. It will continue to get harder to think ahead, to not be stunted by the new daily low, the new chaos of an unbridled might unraveling towards unilateral destruction. As the world burns, it can feel impossible to not burn with it.
But we can recognize that we too are embers. We can succumb to it or we can own it. We can stand in awe of fire once again instead of passively consuming it.
We can re-emerge with the wild. We can become the friction: we can become the fire.
It begins when we stop ceding ground. It begins when we uncover our roots and become grounded again. When we rebuild community and find ourselves within it. When we realize that we aren’t going to do all of this alone. When we realize that we aren’t alone.
Gathering dust. Increasing friction. Stoking the flames.
It’s an honor to open another issue of Black and Green Review. We have grown in size, as should be noticeable, but we’ve also given a little more breathing room and switched to an annual publication instead of bi-annual.
As the world gets harder to keep up with, the exhaustion can become overwhelming. That is the feeling I got pretty universally over the past year as we pulled this issue together: how to stay focused as things get worse daily. I don’t have an easy answer here. I’d be lying if I said that maintaining attention isn’t constantly more difficult.
Yet there’s never been a more crucial time to stay on point and to not let up. In a flood of unending wretchedness, so much can slip through the cracks. Under pressure on all sides, it gets harder to keep track of what ground you’re standing on.
And yet the shape of resistance reemerges in an old form: communities of resistance, most notably in the form of blockades. The weaknesses of civilizations have always laid in their ability to harness energy and sustain themselves. There have always been those who starved the machine and bled its infrastructure. Their successes boiled down largely to how much life a civilization is willing to throw onto its sacrificial altar.
At this point, the programmers, politicians, and priests have shown their willingness to sacrifice everyone else. The question is, how much longer they can hold out? How much longer can they pretend that our world isn’t burning? How much longer they can pretend to not see that the threat a significantly hotter world is killing their crops? How much longer they can build and enforce borders as current and future climate refugees render them obsolete?
For better or worse, we all live in a very unique time. A time of unthinkable devastation, teetering on the edge of mutually assured destruction, either nuclear or ecological in nature. Our goal isn’t to pretend that things are or will be okay, but our fight is to show that we are closer to home than we have been trained to see.
There are no guarantees, there may be no victories, but the wild beckons. It still exists. It still fights. It demands that we stop ceding ground: that we burn the machinery of civilization to the ground.
Our goal with Black and Green Review is to show that we aren’t alone. We don’t have to pretend that we are anymore. The fight is ours to join again.
For a wild existence through passionate resistance.