Monday, June 2, 2008

How to choose

With limited funds and limited energy, yet limitless choices and limitless needs to prepare for peak oil and climate change, how does one prepare? How does one pick what to buy and what to do?

First of all, the biggest preparation is mental. Just knowing and accepting in advance, understanding what is going on, can keep you from panic. And panic is the worst emotion in a crisis situation... especially if it seems like the situation keeps getting worse. Another emotion to get over with now is despair. When the world changes so radically, life can seem hopeless, not to mention pointless. Have something to care about, and hold on to it. For some, it's social justice and helping others prepare. For others, it's their family. For me personally, it's my son.

Adjusting your mindset to gradually let go many of the things we have been conditioned to strive for, to think of as normal, can keep your anger level down as things deteriorate. Let go of expectations. Things like, you know, retirement. Air conditioning. Cable television.

It's probably pretty safe to prepare for problems that are already occurring. For example, we get frequent blackouts (well, maybe five times a year). And, of course, energy prices keep climbing. And Oklahoma is definitely a target for natural disasters like tornados, ice storms. So it's a pretty safe bet to go with FEMA recommendations for preparedness, have a "Bug-out bag", have alternative sources of light and cooking (this could be a camp stove or a sun oven or even a grill), an insulated ice chest for keeping food cold, a pack of cards, a car kit in case you are caught out on the road, two weeks of food and water, etc. This is stuff to do even if you don't know anything about peak oil.

Another fairly safe bet is to hit up all the low-hanging fruit for reducing your energy bill/carbon impact. CFL's, clotheslines, biking, insulation, adjusting the thermostat. Changing your habits can be pretty cheap, can even save you money, but won't necessarily be easy.

There are many approaches to preparing to peak oil. I'd say here are some of the most common:
1. Preparing for your prediction of the future
2. Sticking to the basics
3. Prepare - doing what you love
4. Prepare - doing what is cheapest
5. Prepare - for what you fear the most (here's where the gun aficionados come in :)

One approach is to visualize the sort of future you predict. What is most likely, in your mind? What is a worst case scenario? Will electricity, water supplies be interrupted? Will food shipments be scarce? Will everything cost ten times as much? Do you worry about evacuating from your home, or gangs of cannibals? Prepare accordingly.

Another approach is to go with the basics. What do you really NEED to survive and be safe? Food, water, shelter, warmth, cooking. Look beyond the normal. You don't necessarily need a fireplace to be warm - you might just need thermal underwear, a hat, and sleeping bags. Then look at what you need to feel comfortable. Little luxuries like a solar shower and a manual coffee grinder could be just the ticket to feeling snug as a bug in a rug.

Another approach is to go with what you love. Do you love gardening? Do you love getting to know new people? Do you love books and learning new skills? Are you in a health care field, do you love helping people? Then by all means turn your skills to a peak oil focus! One person cannot do everything, especially not all at once. Build your skills one by one and start with your strengths and interests.

My personal approach was a little haphazard. I was most afraid of going hungry so I really focused on storing up food and learning how to garden. First, we moved to Oklahoma to cut down on expenses, be able to save more and be near family. Then I planted my fruit trees, grape vines, and got my beds going (several false starts on that front). Then I started storing up just regular food (cans of vegetables, bags of rice and beans). Then I moved on to bigger investments (grain mill, solar oven). Right now I can hear alarm bells going off so I do as much as I can get to. I hedge everything like crazy and get a little something for any scenario I can imagine - tents and sleeping bags for evacuating, but also insulation for the house.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts on how to prioritize.

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