Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pulling the coal barge

Translated and readapted from "Attack on Earth"




Pulling a barge upstream was hard work, but you had to do it. You pulled because someone had to pull. You pulled because it was less expensive than having a mule pull, you pulled because you had to eat, you pulled because if you didn't pull someone else would pull and be paid for it. You couldn't avoid to pull until you couldn't do it any more, until you fell on the ground, until you died of exhaustion...


If you have five minutes, think about letting yourself taken in by the fascination of this splendid video assembled by BasileMarie. It is the song of the Volga boatmen with the famous 1873 painting Ilya Repin in the background. The clip shows the details of this fantastic painting that, in a single image, manages to tell not one but many stories, nearly without end. Just as without end was the work of the Volga Burlaki, those who were pulling the barges upstream.

Think about that: for the whole 19th century, the century of coal, commerce was all based on waterways. Everything was transported in that way, including coal. Everyone of us has ancestors who pulled heavily loaded barges along rivers. Volga or Arno, or others, it was the same. It is strange to thing that it has been crude oil that freed us from this destiny. But just for a short time and we are paying a high price for that. And the real bill still has to arrive.
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Now we fell the stout birch tree,
Now we pull hard: one, two, three.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Now we pull hard: one, two, three.
As the barges float along,
To the sun we sing our song.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
To the sun we sing our song.
Hey, hey, let's heave a-long the way
to the sun we sing our song
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Volga, Volga our pride,
Mighty stream so deep and wide.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Volga, Volga you're our pride.
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!
Once more, once again, still once more
Yo, heave ho!
Yo, heave ho!


4 comments:

  1. The irony is that, at least here in the United States, many of the artificial waterways built in the 1800s have been filled in and built over, so we can't easily go back to using them.

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    Replies
    1. BTW John, today I was checking the spam page of the blog and I found several comments of yours there. For some reason, blogger has a bad opinion of you! I released all your comments, but for several of them freedom came really too late. Sorry about that, I'll try to be more careful in the future

      Delete
    2. Thanks for doing that, and thanks for letting me know. I'm not too surprised about blogger, with all the comments I leave on different sites I am acting a bit like a spammer, only what I'm selling is not a product but a vision of a positive future with greatly reduced consumption. I'm certainly not a bot, though!

      Delete
  2. Besides, we would have a hard time filling the waterways with climate change causing droughts and floods

    ReplyDelete

Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)