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This is My Prairie: Living a Sustainable Life

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My buddy, Fish Griwkowsky and I shot a video for my song This Is My Prairie a couple months ago at my cabin up near Barrhead, Alberta, Canada. I'm not sure what the thing really even means. I mostly know what the song means, and I guess the video roughly mirrors the song.

The story of the song is about land ownership, oil and gas, big business, individual rights vs. the state, all that stuff; it's not too hard to figure out. The issues underneath are harder to get a handle on. It's a tricky one for me. I have some close relatives and good friends on family farms and ranches, and I've got some in the oil business, too. I've got some that are in both. They all have kids, and they're not evil people.

It would be easy for me to stand here and say the little guy is always right and that oil companies are always wrong. I'm no fan of unfettered corporate power and I'm often the first guy in the room to rant about that stuff; I've annoyed plenty of friends and audience members talking about it. Plus, it's pretty clear to me that we need to change fuels sooner or later.

I think how the big oil business is structured and handled is as big a problem as the oil itself. I hate how we allow big companies to behave these days. But here's the other side of it: Do you drive a car? I do. Do You heat your home with petroleum? I do. Do you get on airplanes? I do. So as far as the petroleum goes, most of us are hypocrites. And until they figure out solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, tidal, fission, fusion, hamster wheels or whatever, clean and economically, I don't see how we get off petroleum.

I don't like it, but that's what it looks like from here. And with a couple billion Chinese and Indian people just starting to figure out how good we've had it over here the last hundred years and wanting to catch up, I don't see it getting better.

So how do you fix that? Sort out population growth? Find a new source of infinite and cheap energy? Maybe clean nuclear is the answer. I hope so. Have you read about thorium as a cleaner reactor fuel? I think solar and wind are fantastic, but it's hard for me to imagine them powering the industry necessary for 7.5 billion people. My foggy memories of Biology 101 remind me that it's pretty standard procedure for a population to start getting pruned one way or another once it starts getting to large for its environment and starts messing up its nest. I think we're there.

So to bring it back to the poor sap in my song who's trying to scratch out a living on the family land, and they wanna come through and pollute the place with impunity, how can you not side with him? I've read horror stories about what Big Oil has been up to in the third world. It's less bad here, I think only because we have a more advanced legal system. Sometimes, maybe.

Ask the natives in northern Alberta about that. And even when they've messed up your place or screwed up your water supply and you take them to court, they've got you out-lawyered 10 to one. My mom is very active in trying to at least slow down some of the oil and gas stuff happening in some of the more sensitive areas of the foothills where we're from in Alberta and it's good work she's doing, along with the nature conservancy group she's a part of. More and more people in Alberta are feeling the tension present here; economy vs. ecology. I know I don't want to see the Eastern slopes torn up any more than they already are.

So you sort of end up in a 'common good vs. the individual' kind of a situation, sitting there wondering who's running things. I think about this kind of thing endlessly. I wonder who is really in charge. Who it is that has a meeting with Bush or Obama or Ron Paul or whoever the new president is, the day after they take office? Gives them a top secret folder to look over, puts a hand on their shoulder and says, "Mr. President, you need to have a few things explained to you."

How does that work exactly? Bismarck-style real politik, I guess. I stop short of believing in the ancient alien lizard people living among us, but the more I try to learn, the more confused I get, and I read a fair amount. When I see the odds stacking up against us as a species, I try to remember Kennedy's ambitious, 10 year 'call your shot' moon mission and the Manhattan Project. We're pretty quick when we have the will to be. And, so, about 40 per cent of the time I think we're gonna figure this stuff out; find the optimal level of population, have peace on earth and social justice, feed everyone, explore the stars, populate the universe and live happily ever after.

The other 60 per cent of the time I think we're beyond the tipping point, and have no chance as a sustainable species. Or maybe there will be a violent setback in our technology and culture where we remake society at a less developed technological level. That's what happened in Britain after the Romans left; they couldn't figure out how to fix the aqueducts and the roads all went to hell. I dunno.

But hooray for me, I made a video.

This Is My Prairie, by Corb Lund

This is my prairie, this is my home
I'll make my stand here and I'll die alone
They can drill and they can mine o'er my smoldering bones
But this is my prairie, this is my home

The water is poison, my calves are all dead
My children are sick and the aquifer's bled
They want a big pipeline right thru Pop's grove
This is my prairie, this is my home

I can't blame the riggers or the guys drivin' truck
For feedin' their families and makin' a buck
But take a close look at the stocks that you own
'Cuz this is my prairie, this is my home

I don't got the money that lawyers can buy
I don't got my own government's laws on my side
But I got this old rifle that my granddaddy owned
And this is my prairie, this is my home

This is my prairie, this is my home
I'll make my stand here and I'll die alone
They can drill and they can mine o'er my mouldering bones
But this is my prairie, this is my home