Saturday, January 14, 2006

Future as a Verb

Hi Jon
I saw your statement at the Energy Bulletin website that collects interesting energy/environmental articles for people like me who like to keep up with peak oil-related news. They are also apparently thinking about new directions. I live "in the country" outside Bellingham and teach an energy course (along with astronomy) at the local community college. In the energy course, we begin with a world overview, emphasis on oil and natural gas supplies and related geopolitics and all those apocalyptic future projections from Heinberg et al. (...)

After a couple of weeks of doom and gloom, my students start begging for ideas they can implement locally. If you're still thinking of avenues for future blogging that might be a tip. You might get folks like me, who have been thinking and working on adaptations locally, to relate what we've done that makes sense and what we've not done that wouldn't make sense, along with mistakes. Even though that would be a local emphasis, people in similar climate and topography situations around the world could learn from it. At this point, there would be dozens of folks in Bellingham who might participate, and probably hundreds in Seattle, and hundreds more in Portland, and so forth. The Post Carbon Institute "outposts" would be a place to troll for participants.

-John Rawlins

Thanks for the email, John. Here are some of my thoughts on personal responsibility in the current era of imminent depletion.

- - -

Any discussion of Energy depletion correctly identifies doom and gloom as the base scenario, the one which is effortlessly taking place. This is similar to some of the shrill (frightened) warnings coming from consensus science regarding global climate change. Callow business as usual is steering us towards disaster in both cases.

As a commentator, I am interested in the hefty global issues, and I wish to maintain a realistic yet positivist attitude towards our predicament. The impediments humans battle in maintaining civilization are primarily cultural, not technical, and these barriers thus represent a fatal defect in our so-called civilization which MUST be resolved.

Unfortunately, taking a postive view of the overall global situation is not enough for the individual. One cannot avoid or duck planning for a shitstorm if all the signs point towards a shitstorm. There is the question of how one should prepare as an individual.

Everything one does in their life on planet earth in 2006 ideally will serve a dual purpose -- living a satisfying life in the here and now, yet at the same time preparing for the reasonable spectrum of negative possibilities.

Living in a negative future before it arrives is NOT a healthy way to exist. It also feeds that negative future.

Enjoy the wine from South America, the cigars from Cuba, the delicacies and knick-knacks shipped 4000 miles to your door. Take a trip. Don't overlook thoughtful and simple technical solutions, such as wind energy and conservation.

Meanwhile, identify and learn skills that might become useful in the near future. Plant your victory garden. Connect with communities. Look into modes of living that require less energy. Remember that food, water and a sweater are the bare minimum; everything beyond that is a luxury.

Here are a few examples of positive activities in the Pacific Northwest:

Seeds Saltsprings Eco-Village
As members of SEEDS, we are working towards creating a planned ecovillage of a sustainably appropriate number of adult members (approximately one adult for every two acres), that is moving towards complete sustainable responsibility, supports a healthy, loving family-based culture, and functions as an educational model for the broader community. The underlying principle of our ecovillage vision is a deep commitment to the sacredness of our relationship to the whole web of life."

Renewable self-sustaining community up in B.C. -- I'd love to get a first hand report on this group. I believe they are trying to buy up enough land on an island to sustain their culture.

Students Flock to Campus Organic Farms
"In the last decade or so, student-run farms have cropped up across the country, at almost 60 schools in 27 states. Foodies call it the latest sign of the seasonal, regional food movement's influence, even on a collegiate landscape that's virtually paved with Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts and leftover pizza."

Starting an organic farm now is a way to lock in incredibly valuable knowledge years before it is needed. Also, check out what is doing in Portland with locally grown food.

Awareness and Community - SeattleOil
"Seattle Peak Oil Awareness is a local citizens action network offering information and practical ideas for living in a time of reduced energy availability. Working in small, focused groups we advocate healthy, sustainable living choices for all interested residents in the Puget Sound region."

Speaks for itself -- social connections are important.

And the list goes on from there -- there are wind farms in Eastern Washington, which in many cases do not interefere with farming and ranching activities underneath. If you live in Washington State and get your energy from the PUD, you can option to pay a little extra for green energy, and support efforts like these.

I'd love to see more ideas for local action posted here.


At 11:48 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous speedbird said...

"Everything one does in their life on planet earth in 2006 ideally will serve a dual purpose


food, water and a sweater are the bare minimum; everything beyond that is a luxury."

- That's the most sensible advice I've read in months. Keep it up.

At 11:57 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support the suggestions you make, but disagree that we should continue to live our lives much as before (take a trip..).
We really are getting to the bottom of multiple barrels and our past consumption patterns are not acceptable. We are rapidly burning our kids inheritance, AND perpetuating the hyperconsumption habits that got us into this fix, making ourselves less than useful in creating the sustainable society we hope to see.
Ian Lowe, the scientist head of the Aus. Conservation Foundation, claims a 90% REDUCTION in current energy and resource use is whats required. Shocked? I was, but only because I'm used to everything being relatively easy. Its like thinking that attending a rally and wearing a button will reclaim democracy.

At 12:49 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Speedbird, thanks. I probably should have added that a waterproof sleeping bag is a good idea too.

Anon -
I understand and respect the position you are taking.

Unfortunately, I believe that we are all so enmeshed in the system as it is, that we are clearly participating to some degree simply by being online in the western world. What does your computer imply? Choosing to participate in some aspects of the present and not others is really just a matter of personal choice.

I singled out travel, because for now, one can. In the future, travel may well be impossible.

I have kid(s) and if I don't spend their inheritance, someone will.

Don't worship the remaining liquid fuel. It will deplete. Clearly, we need a path to something better.

Hyperconsumption will exist until it physically cannot.

At 10:46 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous John Rawlins said...

Things my wife and I have done:
1. Fewer car trips, more errands per trip
2. My next car - none, bought an electric bicycle and an electric scooter and plan to reduce to one car
3. Buy local - get Washington state wine instead of California or French; get hardware at locally owned shop vs. big-box hegemons
4. Drastically expand food plantings, including nut and fruit trees; experiment with forest gardens and other permaculture ideas.
5. Buy less and less of everything not related to bicycling and kayaking and eating :)
6. Use local food coops, participate in local currency options if available.
7. Vote Green, except for the rare politician who promises to deal with Peak Oil/Gas.
8. Heat with our own wood in an air-tight stove - only works if you have several acres of trees though.

Except for item 1, if enough people take similar actions, we can help shift markets to essential local production and distribution - a requirement for the long-term.

At 11:35 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a long list of things you can do and learn:

At 3:38 AM, January 24, 2006, Anonymous John Zyskowski said...

If you, any of your students, or American consumers for that matter want to direct energy policy, you need to visit at
Through this program everyome can increase the generation of domestic renewable energy at no cost to them, simply by shopping online. Check it out.

At 8:58 AM, February 07, 2006, Anonymous Bill said...

Hi Jon:

First time on this site so hope there is continuity in terms of the placement of this post.
You said" The impediments human battle in maintaining civilization are mainly cultural
not technical...
I found this an amazing statement to be found on a discussion of Peak Oil where most folks seem to be talking about physical survival and techno-fixes or the lack thereof. Can you expand on your statement? How I understand it is the centerpiece of my work ( so your comments would be very appreciated.



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