Monday, August 8, 2011

Downgrading

The other day, Deus Ex Machina came in the kitchen. "Standard and Poor has downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+."

I just grunted. It's not news. They threatened to do it several months ago and didn't, but obviously, it's something that's needed to be done for a while.

AA+ is probably still too high. I think S&P is being kind to the US.

With no manufacturing and almost nothing we can export (except our war machine, which costs us a lot more than we're being paid to provide the muscle), we don't have anything for sale. Any business person worth his ilk knows that in order to have an income, one must have a product. For the past twenty years (or more), our "product" has been pieces of paper that we've been "selling" to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world is starting to realize that what they're getting is paper - slightly used, of the kind that usually goes in the toilet.

In response to the news, the stock markets across the world have dropped by 2%. That may not sound like a lot, and perhaps it's not the initial percentage that matters, but the ripple effect. In what ways will that 2% drop in the markets effect what happens tomorrow and the next day and the next day?

The thing is that none of this is new stuff. None of what's happening hasn't been predicted over and over ... and OVER since before 2006. In 2006, when I first started following this sort of news, there was already a lot of it on the Internet. It was not "mainstream", and I had to look for it, but by 2008, everyone (even some well-respected intellectuals) was talking about "collapse."

Let's just say, we've been warned. The collapse, regardless of the cause, is happening, and whether we like it or not, our economy is failing. Our time to make choices about how we will live in the "new world" is running short. That means that very shortly the choices will be made for us and our future will depend on the choices we made as we slid down the path.

In his most recent post, James Kunstler states: you can be sure Nature is telling you to get local, get smaller, get finer, downscale, solidify your friendships, and drop your stupid grandiose fantasies about running WalMart on algae.

I'm currently reading Logan Ward's See You in a Hundred Years. The story follows the adventures of a New York City couple (and their toddler), who decide to move to a farm in Virginia and attempt to recreate life in 1900 for one year.

It's a familiar story. Eric Brende describes his similar story of voluntarily embarking on a year-long quest to live the simple-life in his book, Better Off. Colin Beaven and his wife spent a year learning to live the "simple life" in New York City (and having been to New York City, I can really appreciate some of the rather unique challenges Beaven encountered, particularly with food acquisition - it's harder to grow and store a years' supply of food living in a small Manhattan apartment than it is in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse on forty acres in Virginia - or even in a 1500 sq foot suburban home on a quarter acre).

What all of these authors have in common is the time-frame ... one year. They drastically change their lifestyles for a year, but so far, all of them (and I'm not finished with Ward's book, but at this point in the story, with a month left to go in the experiment, the plan is to transition right back) have gone back to mostly living the lives they lived before.

The difference between their experiments and the real life we are all going to experience in our lower energy future is that we won't have the luxury of going back. "Things" aren't going to "get better" - that is, it's not going to ever be exactly like it was. The only thing we can do is to be ready to live differently, which means, with less.

Like most of her citizens, our country's credit rating is shot. Congress just approved a budget that included raising the debt ceiling, which is kind of like my going to the credit card company and saying, "I can't make my payments. Can you raise my credit limit so that I can borrow more money to pay my bills? Collateral? How about this piece of paper that says IOU? That's good enough, right?"

China wrote us a nice letter that says, basically, what the credit card company would say, "Um, sorry, but you need to figure out how to live within your means. No more credit for you!"

Live more local, live smaller, live finer. Good advice ... I'll take it.

2 comments:

  1. Great post! Said everything that I would want to, although much better than I could have spit it out :-) I just get too frustrated and irritated to write anything coherent :)

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  2. I couldn't agree more. We've had a very difficult decision about whether or not to buy a home this year (the ink's not dry yet, so our saga is not over). My husband's career is in the medical field, which has notoriously been a safer bet than other areas because there will always be sick people, right? Of course, the question is, will these sick people be able to afford care?

    Ultimately, we decided that the price of the house was a really good deal (it's a short sale, so we're getting it for much less than it is actually worth, supposedly), and it is on 3 acres in a somewhat 'rural' area that is still only 30 mins or so to work for my husband.

    We're hoping to get off the grid and are considering an electric that we could charge ourselves - assuming we are able to get off the grid 'in time' before TSHTF, as it were.

    We know we're taking a risk buying a home in these questionable times, but we didn't like the idea of paying nearly exactly the same amount in rent to someone else, either.

    We'll be getting to know our neighbors and taking stock of what's available in our new area, while keeping our passports dusted off 'just in case' (and hoping we only ever need them for vacation, instead of in an 'emergency')

    I plan to try to grow as much as I possibly can on those 3 acres and am pondering some sort of livestock for meat and possibly eggs. We realize the world is most likely going to look very different in 5 years, and we want to be ready for that.

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