Wednesday, June 24, 2009

There's Never Enough Time or Money

I eluded to a "project" I was working on with a deadline of July 4, and many guessed correctly that I was writing. What else is a blogger to do, eh? ;).

Today on the Portland Permaculture Meet-up group, the list moderator posted an article with the headline It's Official - the Era of Cheap Oil is Over and a link to this article.

I responded that I thought the admission from a "reputable" organization was a good thing, except that some people will read the headline and think, "Oh, well, time to trade in the SUV for the hybrid." Sure, that's great, BUT ....

And I thought about the fact that most of us really just have no clue as to the impact that a lower energy world will have on our lives. Even me, and I have a little more of an understanding than many of the people I know, because I've been imagining it for a long time and trying to make changes to mitigate the negative affects on my family.

I have a clue, but only a vague one.

Luckily, for me, I also have a sort of veiled glimpse, which I share in my book. Here's the excerpt:

Economic collapse does seem inevitable, despite the news stories. In fact, even the upbeat news stories support the decline of economy.

In 2006, I met a homeschooling mother from Zimbabwe, and I had the unique opportunity to witness, through sporadic email contact, the collapse of their economy. When we first met, life there was difficult, but bearable. She lived on a farm, and so they had plenty of food. But as the economic and political turmoil worsened, little necessities became harder to find. First, there were shortages of things like toothbrushes and school supplies, and she asked me to help her set-up a home school resource center for others who might wish to home school in her country by sending used books, pens, pencils, markers, crayons – anything. They weren’t picky, as their choices were very limited there. I sent her some clothes my children had outgrown, when she told me that clothes and shoes were hard to find, and charitable donations from countries like the US ended up being sold rather than given to the needy.

Their money was all, but, worthless, and an average weekly grocery bill could cost in the millions of dollars. She started sending me links to web sites that told of food shortages and rioting and political upheaval. Electrical service became sporadic, and weeks would pass and I wouldn’t hear from her. When I did, it was all bad news. They were likely to be evicted from their farm, and her husband was jailed. When I last heard from her, she was looking to emigrate.

The point is that it took a long time to go from a peaceful, happy life as home schoolers living on a productive farm to refugees. It did not happen overnight, or even over the span of a few weeks or months, and while historians may look back and pinpoint one significant event that seemed to be the catalyst to the whole collapse, it was actually a series of events, many of which will be overlooked by people who will later study it.

As the price of oil per barrel increases, there will be less mobility, which means that the all of these things we take for granted as just being there, won't be. Like the mom in Zimbabwe, finding simple items, like a toothbrush, will become more difficult.

I don't point this out to scare anyone, or even to encourage people to purchase a case of toothbrushes, but it is really to our advantage to consider that we use oil for a lot more than just getting to work and heating our homes. Our lives are saturated with the stuff.

I'm happy to see people are starting to take it seriously.

But I'm also a little sanguine. While it's nice to be heard (finally), it's also one of those things I would rather have been wrong about. I may, still, be proven wrong, but more and more legitimate organizations, like the Energy Information Administration, are picking up the torch, too, and people who, at first, dismissed my commentaries out of hand (and had pet names for me, like Fundy Wendy ;), are starting to say and do things in support of my crazy rantings. It's a little disconcerting.

It's raining in sheets here today, for the fourth day in a row. Maybe the weather is getting me down a little.

In 1987, George Michael sang, Hanging on to hope ... when there is no hope to speak of.

I think there is still hope, but maybe we all should be praying for time. We still have a little, but not much.


  1. I think there are reasons for hope. I think ( or hope ) that decent will look like the steps down that Sharon Astyk wrote about recently. Not that I imagine it easy in any way but there will be some adaptation to circumstances. The increase in home gardening is one example. The attention given to efficiency, while not the whole answer, is at least a step in the right direction.

    On the whole, I don't think there is any magic bullet to get us out of the mess we are headed to. I recently saw a graph on The OIl Drum that put depletion ( the bottom of the curve) in the next 30 to 40 years because the energy needed to extract those last few drops out of the ground would not be available. That puts all this in my life time. So while there is still abundance and time I keep plugging away on building my knowledge; like how to take care of your teeth without a toothbrush.

  2. Yeah I'm among maybe the naive hopefuls. If I starve to death toothbrushless and in the cold (although I've always advocated if I'm going to chose a way to die--dying of hypothermia would be my choice), I'll do it hopeful that it can still get better.