Friday, November 14, 2008

A sense of urgency

I usually strive to seem like a fairly calm and sane person, but inside I feel a serious sense of urgency. Not that I necessarily believe in either a "fast crash" or a "slow motion" scenario - I just believe that both are possible. And the results of a fast crash would be very ugly, so it's best to be prepared.

Lest you think that a "hard crash" scenario is completely unthinkable, chew on this: there are at least three vital chokepoints in the vast oil pumping, processing, shipping, refining, and transportation industry. These are: the Abqaiq processing plant, the Ras Tanura terminal in Saudi Arabia, and the narrow oil shipping sea lane Strait of Hormuz . If one or several of these were to shut down from an act of God or man, up to 18% of global supply could be interrupted, overnight.

If any one of these things happened, or a number of smaller things, we could wake up to find that oil is $400 a barrel (that estimate has no data behind it at all, btw). Trucks couldn't run. Grocery stores would be empty, in some places, within days. The economy would shut down almost completely.

Or we could dodge all these bullets, the system could prove resilient, our leaders could become enlightened. We could abandon our "American lifestyle is non-negotiable" approach to energy and get realistic. We might see a graceful transition to a lower-energy future. It might take years to see the effects of peak oil.

Or not. Oil could resume it's steady climb, marching past it's previous highs of $140 to achieve new records, year after year. We might see a slow, grinding, descent into poverty and despair. We might see food riots and the Greatest Depression. I just don't know.

So I don't know what will happen, but I think it's sensible to prepare for emergencies and start the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition to just the common sense of being prepared, I believe in the "Theory of Anyway" promoted by Sharon Astyk and others - the idea that many of the things we are doing to prepare for peak oil are things that we should do even if peak oil didn't exist - because we want to help the environment, because we want to achieve financial independence, we want better tasting and more nutritious food, and we want to leave our son a better world.

Because my sense of urgency is increasingly driven by my worry about the environment. Every day, species and habitats are disappearing forever. Every week, scientists unveil a new ecological danger - like the brown cloud floating over Asia, threatening food harvests, or the ocean acidifying, or the permafrost thawing. Every month, the state of the planet gets a little bit worse and the planet's temperature rises.

No matter how hard environmentalists work, how many programs we implement, we're fighting the tide, because the dominant paradigm remains the same. And while Nature may be resilient, she can't bring back the beauty of elephants or gorillas, once they become extinct.

So at the same time that I fear peak oil's effect on humanity, I also hope that it will soon force us to reduce our consumption, our energy use, our destruction of the planetary biosphere. It seems that nothing else, besides the current financial crisis, will.

On a personal note, I have posted my Peak Oil Goals 2009 in a prominent place in our kitchen, along with my Riot 4 Austerity envelopes for tracking expenses. Here's a picture:

You can see I decorated my goals with smiley faces, and my Riot envelopes with pictures of endangered animals (for motivation). If you are curious, my six strategies for peak oil are:
  1. Reduce dependence on electricity
  2. Reduce dependence on gasoline
  3. Store 6 months of food (I need to take a recent inventory - not sure what I've got!)
  4. Grow our own fruits, vegetables, and herbs
  5. Make our own food (yogurt, cheese, bread, etc.)
  6. Reduce dependence on formal economy

What are your goals and strategies? Do you have a sense of urgency?


Theresa said...

Wow! You are seriously organized!

d.a. said...

Well put. I've googleshared this entry, so others who visit my blog will see it. Kudos!

Hausfrau said...

Thanks d.a!

Verde said...

Yes, I do feel a sence of urgency. Right now I hear someone grinding grain in the kitchen...and fresh grain beign poured in (I bake, they grind).

We've got to get our new stove piped in (through the bad roof).

I'm buying lids for the canners while they are plentiful - could be shortages next year. We burn an oil lamp at night to get used to it and to see how much oil we use that way.

I know that those of us who prepare will have a better time than those who don't but I'm not sure we can adequately prepare for the worst.

One Dog said...

I feel very much the same way you do -- I really have no idea if any of the bad stuff is going to happen, but I think there's a chance it may, and with two little kids, I *have* to prepare. Thanks for the post, it will help me to organize and push forward.

Gracie said...

Great post! Oh my gosh, a sense of urgency? Yes, definately. Time is short. I have this huge feeling of something about to happen, and it's getting worse as we go along. Now I know that it could be just anxiety. But I don't think so. I had the same feelings right before 9/11. Not saying I know the future or anything, but I do think that if people have to ability to know when something big is coming. It's like that 13th monkey.

So we are prepping as much as our limited income will allow us to. And hoping for the best. Some of this could be the onset of winter also. Dreary cloudy days seem to add to the feeling of gloom.

Our stores are being used daily. Hubby retired in August due to a massive heart attack in April, so we are eating through our stores, and have only limited income to build them back. This is where our gardening and such will have to supplement. For us, it's not a matter of when. When has happened for us. It's a matter now of doing what we have to do. It is survival for us at this point.

Hope you are all well.

Until next time.

Chile said...

Yes, yes, yes. And if you really want to freak yourself out, you could read Last Light. I reviewed it a few months ago (including spoilers and a subsequent comment from the author himself.)

We have been working hard to prep for hard times. Our biggest item left undone on the list, though, is to find a little piece of soil to move to so that we can grow food on our own property. I sense that renting is not the most secure option (depsite the owner being a nice person) and especially not in a city of 1 million mostly unprepared people.

Hausfrau said...

Gracie - Chile Chews has a good article on getting free and discounted food on her website. Check it out. It's under July if you can't follow this link.

MeadowLark said...

Hausfrau, For some reason lately I've been extremely melancholy over much of this. It's a sense of urgency combined with a desire to smack the crap out of stupid people. (sorry)

The oil prices? Where everybody is saying "Hurray, prices are dropping!!". I just look at them and think CAN'T you see? Don't you know that it's part of the manipulation of the sheeple? That if oil prices were to rise at the same time that consumer prices were rising, and especially before Christmas shopping season, we might have a rebellion on our hands. But if you drop the fuel prices til we get through the holidays, we'll just merrily follow the other guy off the cliff, happily spending away.

Yeah, I'm rambling but it just makes me crazy.

LisaZ said...

My sense of urgency waxes and wanes (think goodness because I can't be in panic mode all the time!). Right now, I'm feeling pretty calm and fairly well prepared, but there's always more to do and even in the calmness I feel as if my feet are pushing at the accelerator. Get to payday, get more food, get more fuel, get that water filter, get this done, get that done, etc.

I do like the sense of preparedness I've accomplished. Now I'm considering telling family and friends much more directly: have 6 mos. of food stored at all times! I think over the holidays, or maybe before, I will start doling out this advice. Until now, I've been afraid of looking like a looney. But really, they all think I'm that anyway!

mnultraguy said...

Yes, we too are also feeling a sense of urgency or something. We are good for food for a few months, but would need to ration to make it through to the Spring harvest of radishs, etc.

Gracie said...

Thanks for the heads up on the site...I will check it out :)

Anonymous said...

Most definitely. I feel like I've been watching a tape rewind and suddenly we're past the halfway point where it speeds up dramatically. Can I get it all done before the rewind stops???

I finally got my grain mill, Lehman's has been on back order for months; now to get bulk grains to put in my buckets with gamma seal lids.

Shamba said...

thank you for your thoughtful post today!

the question I don't want to ask and get an answer:

what exactly are we rewinding to? What's going to play after we've rewound???


Kaat said...

If the electricity goes out, for whatever reason, we'll be without heat in 20 F (and slowly getting colder), because we're relying on an electrically regulated oil burner. I wanted to buy a wood burning stove but we ran out of money - bad budgeting, darn it. Now today I bought an avocado, on a whim as a treat. They were on sale. We live on $125 a week for groceries and luxuries. And now I feel bad about it...
Sense of urgency? Every day.