Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Wells Have Run Dry

We really have no idea how much we rely on fossil fuels in this world. When I think of a gas shortage, I think of having to cut down on driving, but really had never thought of just how many products are petroleum based, from toothpaste to ball point pens. Our reliance on fossil fuels is terrifying, and Empty by Suzanne Weyn shows just how quickly everything can fall apart.

Sage Valley is your average town full of middle class folks who work hard every day and live their lives as though nothing in the world will ever drastically change. When a global-wide oil shortage begins, however, they are in for a rude awakening. Suddenly kids are biking to school. Sports teams stop because they can't drive to the opposing schools. Gas costs $40, $60, then $90 dollars per gallon. People can't heat their homes. Medicines are in short supply. Food deliveries stop. Very quickly, people start to get desperate.

Tom is your average second-string football player who only worries about his crush, head cheerleader Nicki. When the gas shortage begins, his biggest concern is not being able to drive her home. Nicki's biggest concern is having to wear her glasses because there haven't been any deliveries of her contacts to the pharmacy in a long time. Gwen has gone from the outcast to the only kid who has a warm house thanks to her brother's black market dealings. As if the gas shortage wasn't the worst problem, the climate change is finally about to get the better of them. Two enormous hurricanes from the gulf coast and the East Coast merge and make their way up the East to practically destroy everything in their "superhurricane" path. Disaster relief is virtually nonexistent in the current times, and Sage Valley is left to survive by its own devices.

This is not only a story of how everything falls apart (although that is certainly in the foreground). It is also a story of how tragedy brings people together. How people in dire circumstances can become selfless. Heroes even. It is also a story of how things need to change if we are to survive. Towards the end of the story, the kids find a "Green" house that was built to be self-sustainable with low amounts of electricity, food production, and heat. Are we prepared for what is going to happen when the non-renewable resources we gobble up are gone?

In the deluge of apocalyptic books these days, this is a fairly good one, especially for adolescents. It directly deals with their lives and can be an eye-opener for just how drastically their worlds can change. Sometimes it is hard for kids to understand how things truly affect them, like wars, natural disasters, etc., until they are in their backyards. This book puts the disaster in the worlds of these kids. It is also a fairly short, low-skilled book that would be perfect for younger or low-skilled students. The plus is that it isn't nearly as depressing as some of the stuff out there. Sure everything changes, but that doesn't mean it needs to be the end of the world! We can still find ways to survive, even in circumstances we never thought we would face!

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