Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sobering Predictions

I didn't make any predictions this year. I made predictions last year, although I kind of cheated, because they were all about what I thought would happen in my family. I was probably 50/50 with calling it right.

Economically, We did have some job change stuff going on, but our income went up as a result rather than down. We don't have more disposable income, however, despite what Deus Ex Machina claims. We have about the same. We're just not putting stuff on credit like we used to do, and we're being much more conscientious of where we buy when we buy. We've become quite the thrift store afficionados ;).

As I predicted, prices did go up, and also, as I predicted, the price increases were so subtle that we didn't even hear a peep about them until just recently. Now, the price per barrel of crude is over $90, which nearly anyone who has an opinion on such things says is the price at which significant economic problems will occur.

Our living space did contract, but then, it expanded, again, and over the past week or so, we've been moving things around and doing some serious decluttering (in fact, we took several bags and a couple of boxes of books and DVDs to a local shop that buys such things and now have $35 worth of store credit ... for stuff that we would have discarded or given away. Score!). As such, it's expanding again ;).

We didn't make any changes to our infrastructure, and we didn't add our own power generation equipment (hopefully, this year!), but we did reduce, even further, the amount of electricity we use, and we broke some habits that were wasting energy (like the television, which is no longer in the house, and the dishwasher, which is now a drying rack ;).

We did add bees, but lost the colony, and we did harvest a bunch of mushrooms (which was very cool!) and have several jars worth of dried Shi'take in our cabinet.

We made some progress in foraging, although we're still not getting any significant amount of food from the wild. We harvested several pounds of blackberries, we brought home and ate Japanese knotweed, several greens, and some wild edible flowers. We also identified a couple of tree mushrooms and wintergreen, which we made into tea ;).

As for breaking deeply entrenched food habits, we've made more progress in this area than my family even realizes, and the amount of bread/pasta/wheat-based foods we eat has been significantly reduced over the past few months :). The goal, for me, is to reduce our grain consumption to only those things we can grow, and so it will be popcorn, for the most part, which we can grow, and which is delicious :). This year, I hope to cut wheat completely out of our diet.

I don't have any predictions for 2011. It's going to be a wait and see year for me. On the one hand, I believe all of the scary, horrible things other people are predicting will happen if we, as a species, continue on our present trajectory, but what's just as likely is that those things will happen, just as has been predicted, but rather than being these catastrophic, life-altering events, they will happen so insidiously that we will adapt at the same time that it's happening, and the result will be that most of us won't really recognize that TEOTWAWKI is now. As John Michael Greer observed in a recent post, the things that are currently happening in the world were unthinkable ten years ago, but from where I sit, life isn't fraught with misery and despair.

I just don't see a single sh*t-hitting-the-(proverbial)-fan event that will bounce us into the depths of hell-on-Earth (like a nuclear holocaust or a caldera eruption).

There was a movie a few years ago, based on a true story, about a fishing boat from Gloucester, Massachusetts that went out and didn't come back. The movie was based on Sebastian Junger's book and in doing his research, he spoke with a meterologist who described the phenomenon:

  • warm air from a low-pressure system coming from one direction

  • a flow of cool and dry air generated by a high-pressure from another direction and

  • tropical moisture provided by a hurricane.

The phenomenon was dubbed a Perfect Storm, and that's, what I think, we have right now:

  • Peak oil/resource depletion;

  • Catastrophic climate change, increasingly more severe and violent storms, and widespread natural disasters (including droughts leading to crop losses);

  • Worldwide economic disasters.

One is feeding off the other and making each seem much worse than, perhaps, one of them alone would be. For example, if we had a stronger economy, we could invest in alternative energies, and then, the problems associated with energy depletion wouldn't be so dramatic.

But we don't have any of the "ifs." What we have is that perfect storm, and all we can do is to get ready to live more simply, more quietly, more closely with the Earth with fewer gadgets, traveling fewer miles, and having far fewer things.

And we need to change our lives, now, voluntarily.

I'm a doomer. I believe we're in a for some serious challenges in the future, and I waffle between believing that Alex Scarrow called it in his doomer novel Last Light (and that Grandfather Stalking Wolf, Tom Brown Jr's mentor and teacher, is, also, therefore, correct) and thinking that the more likely scenario is something closer to Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Either way, for most people, the future won't be terribly comfortable, if we don't make some drastic changes to our lifestyles and our expectations.

I won't make any predictions about the coming year. All I will say is that, regardless of what happens, lowering our cost of living (and by "cost" I mean the burden our existence here places on the Earth, i.e. our "footprint") is a win/win situation for all of us, and perhaps, in the process of learning to tread more lightly, we'll save the planet ;).

It can't hurt, right?


  1. I agree with you 100% that "for most people, the future won't be terribly comfortable".

    Our household has become more and more self-reliant when it comes to food - I'm growing more, preserving more and buying less from outside sources. Even my friend who has laying hens was upset with me when I told her we're going to get our own birds for next year.

    As for electricity/natural gas usage, I know we can still go a long way to cut back...Little steps ;)

    Great article, food for thought...

  2. I admire your commitment to weaning yourself off grains you don't produce yourself. I can't bring myself to do this, yet. I do so love my wheaten foods. And I rationalize my lack of attempt with the fact that wheat and spelt are grown not all that far from where I live, and the fact that hundreds of years ago, such goods could be and were traded, and that at least I bake all our bread. I know this makes little rational sense - as I said, it's a rationalization. I think it was Ben Franklin who said something like: humans are rational beings, for we can always find a rationale for whatever we want to do. I am considering flint corn for this year though.

    More power to you on the dietary changes.

  3. Hmmmm, I have to say that how "comfortable" our lives are in the future largely depends on what we consider to be "comfortable" now. What makes us feel safe, what kind of living arrangement we feel we "need", what types of foods we consider "staples". These all add up to a feeling of comfort. Something tells me that you folks would probably come out feeling considerably more "comfortable" than many others, all things considered. :)

  4. Great post. Lots of thinking happening in my brain now.