Friday, February 29, 2008

Growth careers

Will attorneys, cosmetologists and life coaches be employable in the future? How about hedge fund managers and kitchen designers, oh my? Even my own profession, neuromuscular massage therapy, which I think will be extremely useful when drugs and surgery are no longer an option, will not exist in the same form anymore.

Here's my take on some careers that may be exploding in the near future:

1. Thrift store owner / Resaler

Since nearly every consumer product in the future will be sold in a thrift/consignment store, there will be a lot of opportunities to start such stores. At least one every few miles will be needed, since people will not be able to get much further without cheap and readily available fuel. What might be useful? How about used tools or other specialty items? Any type of store that helps people "do it yourself" will be appreciated.

2. Brewmaster

I predict the demand for beer will not decrease. Get yourself some brewing equipment, about 1000 bottles, a few hundred pounds of wheat and hops, and a few solar water heating/ solar panels to ensure cooking electricity is available - and you've got yourself the start of a brewery. You could even stock some of those kits to start off with and move towards more home-made ingredients. Grow your own wheat and hops and you've got a long term occupation you can pass on to the grandkids.

3. Garden starter

There are a lot of clueless people out there who have never seen a vegetable growing before. They don't know what a fertilizer is and they don't know what compost is. Take pity on them and offer your services - for a fee. Get in there, create a garden bed (or plot), plant a few dwarf fruit trees, some seeds and transplants and leave them the packets. Tell them how often to water and fertilize and build them a compost pile. Include a veggie cookbook in the package. Voila! They are on their way to surviving!

4. Security guard

People tend to like to keep themselves and their property safe. If they feel threatened, but have little ability to move away, they will be willing to pay for security services for their neighborhood. I see this as the future for able-bodied vets and police. Have you been to the gym lately?

5. Delivery person

It is more energy efficient for one person to go to the "store" or farmer's market and bring back enough for the neighborhood. But how will you deliver the goods? A Prius or other ultra-efficient car is one interim option. In the long term, it might be nice to have a rickshaw-like contraption with plenty of extra parts. Don't forget a nice pistol.

6. Repairman Jack

Can you fix plumbing? Solar panels? Bikes? Repair tools? Hang a window? Well, then, learn how now and you will be in demand when it is difficult to find anything "new" available.

Don't limit yourself to these options. Think about who will be able to pay for your services. But be civic -minded - payment may not be in money anymore - it may be in food, goods, services or even IOUs and goodwill. Those will be much more useful than money or gold.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Extreme living (arrangements) Part II

One of the sad things about our society today is the emotional and physical isolation. Physically, we are all alone in our little (or big) homes in the suburbs. We travel alone in our cars to and from work, and well, everything else too. We interact at work but don't reveal our true selves. Well, that describes me anyway!

Sometimes, when I am lonely, I think positively about a future in which another likeminded family will live with us. Then there will be 4 adults and 2 kids in this 2000 ft house, which I think is more ecological than just the three of us currently living here. Together the other Frau and I will hang our laundry, wash dishes, cook, garden, preserve food, organize the neighbors into starting their own gardens, and drink a margarita 'round 5 sometimes. We can watch each other's kids when we need some alone time. One of us can stay home when the other needs to run errands. In the evenings we can do jigsaw puzzles, word games, play cards together. Yay! What fun!

Anyone else out there ever lived with another family?

The Sheet Mulch Project

In last year's garden (and landscape), weeds ran amok and ruled supreme. We happened to have a record rainfall and at the same time I neglected to mulch as I should have, and in addition I was in my last trimester of pregnancy when those weeds were starting to take hold.

I have taken a vow to prevent weeds this season. In OKC, the hardest weed for me to deal with is one that every lawn company and homeowner plants - the devil Bermuda grass.

My aggressive approach is to cover every inch of exposed soil with newspapers, fertilizer and straw (garden) or cardboard and woodchips (landscape and paths).

This method can actually be used to improve your soil. Since I neglected to double dig my garden, the soft soil only extends down about 6 inches. I hope to increase that by another several inches, while at the same time suppressing weeds, through sheet mulching.

My sheet mulch depends much on what I've got on hand and what is available in bulk 'round here. I plan to use (in this order from the soil up): wood ashes, newspaper, cottonseed meal, leaves/grass clippings, compost/manure, all topped with straw. Technically I should have made this last fall but I had an infant then. New parents, you can sympathize with me - on a good day I could brush my teeth, take a shower and maybe do a load of laundry. But no sheet mulching.

Anyway, after I get the sheet mulch established I will plant my transplants in little compost "wells" in there, and by April 15th or so the mulch should be slightly decomposed, making a nice soil around the transplants.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Extreme living (arrangements)

When the going get tough, the tough get creative.

I have a friend who is extremely athletic, high-energy, and makes a good living. One day, I was telling her about a neat web article featuring a guy who converted his van to a portable house. He calls himself a Vandweller.

She surprised me by telling me how she lived in her van for over a year. She slept in the van in the parking lot of her work, which had showers available. She was constantly on the road so had little need to maintain a permanent living space, which would just have been expensive storage for her stuff. My friend seemed to remember the van fondly.

It just goes to show how you can live on a lot less than you think you need. For desperate, quirky or creative people there are all sorts of strategies you can use to get by.
  1. Think Fight Club. 40 people living bunk style, gardening the land and scavenging goods.
  2. How about house-sitting? You get paid to live in a high style home!
  3. Nannies sometimes live rent-free.
  4. Of course, vandwelling as noted above.
  5. Any type of occupation where you are paid to live in hotels. I.e. consultant. Just volunteer for the out of town jobs - no one else wants them.
  6. Live in a less-expensive region. Rents in OKC/Tulsa are at least half the going rate in other major cities.
  7. Rent a garage or MIL apartment. Be a perfect guest/renter and your rent won't get raised too often.
Well, there's some starter ideas - what are yours?

The Breastfeeding Diet

Well, I dropped all my pregnancy weight + 4 lbs and am now back at my "wedding weight" at 6 months post delivery. Now if only I could get back to my high school weight! Ha. Since I have not been exercising or dieting, I have to blame it all on breastfeeding.

I had heard that breastfeeding would accelerate the post-pregnancy weight loss, but I was surprised by how easy it was. I've never been hungry and never broken a sweat (although that is probably a negative, and I do walk and do yoga). The main key is to not INCREASE your calories by too much, while still getting quality nutrition (fruits, veggies, eggs, nuts, beans, whole grains). There's a rumor floating around that breastfeeding requires an extra 500 calories per day. If it does I haven't noticed. Make sure to ask your doctor or lactation consultant :).

Altogether I've been very satisfied with my breastfeeding experience. I realize that it might be much easier for a mostly stay-at-home Frau like myself because I don't have to pump as often (only about 3-4 times per week). Still, as a stay-at-home Frau, I can't believe I would ever be interested in bottle-feeding unless absolutely necessary. It's convenient - no waiting to make a bottle while baby's crying, no cleaning out bottles and nipples, no warming bottles in the middle of the night. Did I mention no periods?

How breastfeeding / nursing ties into peak oil: it doesn't depend on a supply chain, doesn't require oil to create, package, and ship the formula, and can be done without hot water or electricity.

We had a terrible ice storm here in OKC back in December and power was out for about 5 days across the city. I can only imagine the havoc a mother of a small infant would experience if she were trapped in her home, running out of formula, with no hot water. How frightening!

Fortunately breastfeeding was brought back from the comatose/dead through the efforts of La Leche League and other advocates. What's missing, though, is an entire generation of women who know how to breastfeed. Instead they were taught that chemical formulas and rubber nipples were better than their own bodies, that it was better to purchase a product than to rely on nature, and better to hide babies eating than to let anyone see. The feeding of infants, like everything else in the world, was industrialised to meet the needs of capitalism. These women - my mother's generation and to a lesser extent my own generation - can't teach their own daughters and granddaughters how to do breastfeed.

Which is sad, because in a world of declining energy availability they will probably have to.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Natural" Childbirth as a Necessity

I can only hope that epidurals, anesthesia and painkillers will be readily available to those who need them in the uncertain future. They have proved to be both a blessing and a curse to us in the last 40 years. But our current healthcare system is under strain even now, with the most available oil and energy - EVER - available to us. This surplus of energy has allowed us to pretend that we can all have our healthcare cake and eat it too. It has allowed us to ignore the hard choices that inevitably result whenever demand exceeds supply.

One group of people who might have to do without medication is women having a normal, healthy labor. Currently, a miniscule percentage of women in America deliver their children without medication.

What kind of energy is required to support the electronic nest that most women deliver their children into? Hospitals, fetal monitors, IV drips, anesthesia and C-sections all require energy to create and operate. On the other hand, childbirth itself requires very little besides loving support, an experienced caregiver and clean hands.

Contrary to popular superstition, natural childbirth is not just for natives or anti-drug hysterics. How do I know? I happen to be one of those few women in contemporary America who have delivered without medication. I'll share my story here not because I think that an unmedicated birth is always superior - I don't - but because if you plan to have children in 5 - 10 years you may want to think about preparing for natural childbirth. I am not superwoman, I don't have a high pain tolerance, and I am not an athlete. Fortunately, none of those things were required. What was required was planning, preparation and a supportive group of people - my husband, a doula, and my hospital-based midwife.

Proper planning included selecting a supportive caregiver. Obstetricians are surgeons by training and many of them prefer to deliver in the medical model - that means Pitocin, epidural, IV drip, fetal monitor, episiotomy and increasingly, a C-section. (I had none of these). So, if you plan to deliver naturally, you NEED someone who has experience delivering naturally. That means not choosing someone who will show up 5 minutes before the baby pops out. That means not selecting someone who insists on all the medical / liability / convenience procedures glossed over as safety measures.

Essentially my preparation can be summed up in three practices:

  1. Exercise (mostly walking 5 days a week)

  2. Stretching and yoga (including squatting and hands-and-knees practice)

  3. Relaxing - and I mean practicing EVERY day for the last 3 months

The key to pain relief during labor is NOT laying on your back. (I have heard waterbirthing is great as well. Doulas help, too.) And the key to not getting too tired is relaxation. If you scrunch your face, fists and all your muscles every time you have a contraction, you will get worn out pretty quick. If you don't, you will be more likely to have energy to get through the pushing phase.

I had a fairly normal, 12-hour labor and delivered without any medication. It was tough, and sometimes (heck, most of the last 3 hours) I wished I had some painkillers. I was exhausted by the end. But I did it. And I believe most women, if they wanted or needed to, were in fairly good shape and practiced relaxation, and had real, experienced support, could too.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Attention: Skills Needed

In the recent past, valuable skills might have included the following:

  • Score well on standardized tests
  • Look confident in an interview
  • Juggle multiple credit card payments
  • Purchase the latest consumer goods to fit in
  • Find your way through an airport to a flight
  • Avoid getting stabbed in the back at your work

The future will not look much like the recent past. The future will be about adaptation, not to the latest technology, but to rapidly changing economic and social conditions. As with all new skill sets, half of the preparation will be mental. Take a look at the following skills and assess your competency - or your willingness to develop competency:

Attitude

  • Stay calm in the face of crises
  • Give up your expectations from the past
  • Be willing to do what it takes
  • Look at the future as an opportunity and a challenge
  • Be flexible and adaptable in your thinking

Social

  • Develop new alliances
  • Work together for your own and the common good
  • Assess the intentions of strangers
  • Communicate goals, stratetgies and expectations
  • Be able to live with more people than the current norm
  • Know people who have useful skills
  • Teaching others new skills

Health

  • Maintain the energy to get prepared
  • Maintain flexibility and balance to prevent accidents
  • Build strength to perform needed physical tasks when "oil slaves" are no longer available
  • Build endurance to be able to work long days when needed
  • Obtaining needed nutrition - calories, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals
  • Performing first aid and childbirth

Garden/Farming

  • Designing an integrated system to increase resilience and reduce work
  • Preparing soil for planting
  • Planting seeds and transplants
  • Mulching
  • Harvesting
  • Composting
  • Protecting crops from weather fluctuation
  • Irrigating
  • Crop rotation
  • Integrated pest management

Preserving/Cooking

  • Dehydrating
  • Canning
  • Baking your own bread
  • Cooking for a crowd
  • Root cellaring

Defense & Emergency

  • Presenting a small, unobtrusive or unattractive target
  • Training all members of family for an emergency
  • Having exit plan if evacuation is needed
  • Avoiding dangerous or isolated situations
  • Fortifying your domicile against intruders
  • Recognizing and assessing threats
  • Caring for and shooting a weapon

Home maintenance

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical skills
  • Insulation
  • Roof repair
  • Rainwater cachement
  • Vine shading
  • Solar heating

Children

  • Unmedicated childbirth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Cloth diapering

Craft skills

  • Home brewing
  • Home winemaking
  • Cider making
  • Sewing
  • Re-purposing items

Home economics

Doing all of the following without chemical supplies or electrical appliances:

  • Cleaning floors
  • Cleaning dishes
  • Washing & drying clothes
  • Cooking
Well? Get busy!

Friday, February 15, 2008

What I didn't know about gardening....

Since there are so many gardening books which neglect to tell you the basics (I mean the really basic basics, for someone who has never seen a vegetable growing) I thought I would take point here and lay down What I Didn't Know about Gardening (until 3 years ago):

  1. Some vegetables are easy to grow, some are not. Which are which depends on your climate, your garden, and your gardening practices. For example, here in Oklahoma dill, basil, okra, and sweet potatoes can take over your garden if you are too nice to them.

  2. Some vegetables like cold weather. You can start growing your cool-weather garden in February or March here in OKC. (!!)

  3. A few herbs and vegetables come back year after year - these are called perennials.

  4. Vegetables need lots of sun, lots of water, good drainage, good soil, and fertilizer.

  5. Vegetables need to be protected from competition from other plants (which we call 'weeds'). Weeds will steal all of the resources listed in #4 from your plant.

  6. Vegetables need to be protected from critters who will eat the seeds right out of the ground and the fruit straight off the plant. (Birds, squirrels, rabbits, mice)

  7. Some vegetables like to be direct seeded straight into the ground; others need to be grown indoors and then transplanted when it gets warm enough. Transplanting means you can get tomatoes in July instead of September here in OKC.

  8. Many different varieties of vegetables exist. Different varieties are suited for different areas of the country and for different attributes (i.e. drought tolerant, disease resistant, bigger fruits, etc.). This is where garden catalogs come in. :)

  9. Some vegetables you can eat all season long (Swiss Chard) and others you need to harvest all at once.
  10. Vegetables can get diseases. The best way to prevent this is to plant each type (or family) of vegetable in a different place every year (except the perennials).

The easiest way to get started is to plant a small (maybe 8 x 4) double-dug raised bed garden made with compost and organic fertilizers in full sun, near a faucet, with easy to grow vegetables that you like to eat. Then mulch it and water it! In this space my MIL grows 2 tomato plants, jalapeno plants, and onions - a salsa garden.

Don't make the mistake I made - starting with 3 beds so giant that I didn't even plant 2 of them the first year. Trust me, if you are a new gardener - plan big but start small. If you start small you can do justice to the business of double digging. Starting small also gives you time to make mistakes on a small scale. And this way you will not have to look at the Titanic sized weeds that will grow if are too ambitious.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Devious communication tactics

Peak Oil threads usually feature someone asking "How do I tell my family and friends about Peak Oil?". Responses can range from the "I don't even bother anymore" to "I sit them down in front of the TV for a Peak Oil DVD marathon followed by a 30 minute Power Point presentation featuring M. King Hubbert". The key here is that everyone is different, and will respond better to different methods of communication. It's also important for you to understand yourself - some ways of communicating are easier to pull off than others.

Logic and reason don't work on everyone, while emotional appeals don't work for others; some people have to be left to do their own research, while some people need to be spoon fed and have their every objection answered. So how can we introduce the idea of peak oil, and preparing for peak oil, in an easy non-confrontational way?

First, KNOW your target! What do they respond to? What turns them off? What motivates them? Who do they resonate with? What do they fear? Assess your target, and pick one or more from the following tactics to try.

1. Bragging

Envy is a powerful motivator, and so is the fear of missing out. If you happen to hear someone reporting how their retirement has been pushed back by 15 years, you can tell them how you've made a fortune investing in gold, oil, and alternative energy. Assuming that's true. Make sure to tell them why your system works.

Here's one I use - Wow, I'm sorry your heating bills are so high. Us? Why, our electric and heating combined never go over $97....

2. Current Event Chitchat

Hey, did you hear that oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever? Gosh, did you hear that the people in New England will be paying twice as much for heating oil this winter? Did you hear about the tortilla riots? Seems like food prices are so much higher this year...

3. Gifting

Good for birthdays and holidays. Books, DVD's, etc. The present doesn't necessarily have to be Peak Oil oriented; it could be an environmental book or a book on local food. Let it spark up a conversation.

4. Leaving media around

How about laying out your copy of "The Party's Over" when the relatives come over? How about leaving up LATOC or The Energy Bulletin on the computer when you check your email at your sister's house? Or have your friends over for movie night - but have the second half of End of Suburbia playing when they get there? Just say, "Oh, do you mind if we finish this off so we can mail it back?". The movie can be playing in the background while you pass the chips and pour the drinks.

5. Skip the peak - get to the prep

If you shy away from talking about peak oil, start encouraging the preparation for peak oil. Many reasons exist to prepare for a crisis, start a garden or insulate the house. Use the environmental angle or the news of a recent natural disaster.

You can also involve your family or friends in your own preparations. You can baldly tell them what you are doing, without trying to persuade them to do the same. Ask them to come with you to the store to top off your 3 month food storage. Offer to split your seeds with them. Give them the business card for the insulation guy when they complain about their heating bill.

6. Start a competition

The folks at the Riot for Austerity are the masters here. But it doesn't have to be as extreme as a 90% reduction in your carbon footprint, even though that's possible.

For example, my husband started a hyper-miling competition at his work to see who could use the fewest miles per gallon. This type of strategy works well with the testosterone overloaded sorts.

7. The tortoise approach

I know you feel an urgent need to prepare, and get everyone else prepared, but some people don't respond so well when you show up with your sirens on and red lights flashing. For these people, you're in it for the long haul. Send them news links, preferably from well-known news media. After that, use any or all of the above. Over time, as they notice gas prices going up, they'll come around.

Remember, marketing research shows that people have to be exposed to a new idea many, many times before it will start to sink in. Don't be discouraged if your efforts aren't immediately rewarded with action. People have to internalize the idea of peak oil, mull over the implications, be convinced that someone else is not going to save them, and start to think about change - before they can change.

Principles for preparation

At some point after really researching Peak Oil, when you realize that solar and wind alternatives won't completely bridge the gap and and corn ethanol is quick way to starve the Third World.... you realize that just about everything is going to have to change. Change in ways that we can't even imagine. That can be overwhelming, to say the least.

A lot of obstacles can stand in the way to preparing for peak oil: lack of time, money, knowledge, or initiative; feeling out of the norm or hopeless. So to get the most bang for your buck, use the following to help guide you on your way:

1. Focus on the essentials.

Don't worry so much about running your car. It will be uncomfortable for awhile to have no car, especially if you live in a city like OKC, where there are no bike paths that actually go anywhere, where highways dominate the landscape, and the public transport system is a wee bit underfunded. We'll all be in the same boat on this one, and eventually cars will be rusting relics of a wilder time.

What would you need to survive with a measure of comfort? Food. Water. Shelter. Knowledge. Defense. Cooking. Community. Hygiene. Transportation. Focus on these essentials and leave the solar panels and hybrid car for later.

2. Do many things for one essential (Having a backup plan)

Food, water, shelter, etc. should be provided for in multiple ways. Be flexible in your thinking and ask "what could go wrong?" with your primary plan.

Example 1: Heating.

We have a geothermal system for heating and cooling. It uses much less energy than a typical furnace, but is just as prone to failure from electrical blackouts. So it would be wise for us to have a backup ==> we are debating solar heating and wood heating. Having both would be nice, one dependant on the sun and one reliant on availability of wood. But in OKC, where temperatures never drop below 0 degrees, and usually get up to 45 degrees daily in the middle of winter, we could survive easily indoors with layered clothes, down comforters or sleeping bags, warm food, and hats. So we have these things in abundance.

Example 2: Shelter.

After choosing your home so carefully and lovingly Scheming to make your land a post-Peak paradise, you won't want to hear this. But, all locations are subject to disruption, whether from natural disasters, nuclear fallout, or rioting in the streets, and you should be prepared to re-locate. We have 2 backup plans:
  1. Living with family in other locations. We will bring seeds, low energy technologies, books and food to make ourselves useful and welcome.
  2. Having a tent, sleeping bags and portable water filter. We might have to rough it on our way to Backup Plan #1. In the meantime, these will come in handy for cheap vacations.
3. Take advantage of low-energy technology

Our ancestors would have paid through the nose for so many of the low energy technologies that we can get for dirt cheap. $400 for a grain mill may not seem cheap, but in the past the grain miller might have been the second highest paid man in town, because he owned the right technology that no one else could afford.

Here's a quick hit list of low energy technologies that can make your life easier in a post-peak world. Let me know your suggestions and I'll add them:
  • Bike. Requires no feeding or grooming. Fits even in an apartment. On the other hand, doesn't generate any fertilizer.
  • Books. An easy way of storing knowledge for when you need it. An easy way of passing on knowledge.
  • Garden tools. Oh, the riches that are available! Rakes, hoes, shovels, pruners. They will last if you buy quality and take care of them.
  • Food preparation. A Sun Oven will substitute the sun's energy for wood or fossil fuels. A sturdy hand grain mill will give you flour. Cast iron cookware will help you get your daily dose of iron when no meat is available for weeks at a time, and will last a lifetime. A good Solar dehydrator is a low-energy way to preserve your fruits.
  • Buckets. Good for so many purposes. Hauling water if the water lines go down. Storing food away from light, heat, and critters. Emergency, or long term if needed, sanitation measures.
  • Insulation. Insulation for your body means taking advantage of sleeping bags, down comforters, polar fleece, Gore-tex, etc. to keep you comfortably warm under any kind of condition. Insulation for your house means not wasting the fossil fuels and / or wood you are currently burning to keep the place warm or cool.
  • Passive solar. Site your house the right way (long axis south), with enough windows and a good thermal mass, and you will need only minimal additional heating. Remember to have wide eaves or trees for shade in the summer.

4. Don't delay

While there is only so much time available, and only so much peak oil Scheming your brain can handle, don't put off what can be done this month. Already, oil, gold, and food prices are rising. My grain mill was actually on backorder due to demand. Hey, who knew there were so many of us out there? You might consider giving up on the 401K and putting the money somewhere useful. Don't wait so long you have to start competing for the good stuff.

It may seem ridiculous to go to the trouble of storing salt when it only costs $2. We are used to judging the worth of items by how much they cost. But trust me, salt is an essential you won't want to go without when processed foods are not available and you have to bake your own bread. In addition, it's fortified with iodine, another essential nutrient.

5. Use regenerating assets

Money and gold may or may not be worth much in the future. Center your plan around things that are intrinsically valuable, such as seeds, fruit trees, etc. Instead of planning to buy manure, fertilizer and straw forever, plan to be more self-sufficient. A chicken or rabbit will provide both manure and meat/eggs, as well as heat if you can figure out a way to use it. Comfrey will become both fertilizer and mulch. Bamboo and grape vines can be made into furniture, poles, twine, etc. Herbs can be used as medicine. Trees and grape or kiwi vines will provide fruit and shade if sited correctly.

Solar items would fit here too. Solar lanterns, solar heaters, solar water heating, solar cell phone chargers, etc.

6. Create a functioning system

Eventually, we have to forget our current paradigm of the throw-away society. There is no away. What we thought was "Away" is now a plastic cesspit the size of the contiguous 48 states floating in the Pacific ocean, killing marine life for the forseeable future. What we thought we were getting from "the store" was really a strip mine, an oil well, a decimated forest - the inheritance of millions of years burned up in 2 generations.

So close the loop. Inputs need to equal outputs, with very little waste generated and very little new inputs required. Learn to recycle your waste, and I don't mean by putting it in the recylcling bin. Learn to save seeds. Learn to preserve food without energy in reuseable containers. Learn to compost.

Don't just buy things to prepare. Learn the skills you will need in a post-peak world. Many of you won't be willing to do these things until you have to - but give it a try. Make it an experiment (this is a good strategy to convince your spouse) :). And, at least know how to do what you will need to do when TSHTF.

7. Incorporate others into your plan

Ensuring your own survival and comfort first prepares you to teach others, and also puts you into a position to help others when the time comes. Frankly, it took me 3 1/2 years to get to the point where I feel like I can start to help others. But despite the correct and natural urge to plan for one's own first, eventually others must factor into your plans.

Depending on your level of a) charity, b) sociability or c) paranoia, this principle may top your list. No Frau is an island, and you can't act like the hordes will be happy to let you live in comfort with your solar panels and Prius while they starve in the cold and dark. Alternatively, would you really be able to let your brother's toddler go without food or your parents live on the street? What are you going to say when your friends ask "Why didn't you tell us?".

You can achieve a measure of synergy here. Family, friends and neighbors can work together to achieve what they can't do so easily on their own. You and your neighbor could combine your yards for a super-garden and switch off chores. Your elderly friend down the street could watch your baby in exchange for your errand services. You and family could agree to put each other up if the need arises.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Peak Oil Denial

Most peak oil psychology discussions begin with a summary of the 5 stages of loss/grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My impression is that most people never get past denial. Peak oil is not something that we HAVE to confront every day. It's not a cancer in our bodies, causing pain and impelling us to go to chemotherapy treatments. Most American people can live quite comfortably denying peak oil for quite some time, at least until gas is $5/gallon. Maybe even then.

The peak-oil aware report their anguished attempts to communicate with loved ones, random people and others. "Don't you get it? Everything must change!". Nope, sorry. I'd like to just get through the day without losing my s^&t. The 70's provides a very handy denial-enabling mechanism - the failure of the world to end after the Oil Embargoes. This strategy is mostly used by the Boomers, since members of my generation (X) rarely have a memory longer than 5 years. That may also be due to the fact that our history classes start in 1496 and end before we get to 1950. Stuff that happened after 1950 might be considered controversial, at least here in Oklahoma.

So those of us who would rather not risk anguishing ourselves over the pig-headed peak oil denial of others, create BLOGS instead! My blog is a great way to deal with Stage (4) Depression. Let's just skip anger and bargaining and get to Peak Oil Depression.

Before depression can really begin in earnest, implications of Peak Oil should be internalized. The Depression candidate should realize that one can't do jack s&^t in America without fossil fuels. Cars run on oil, obviously. So does the truck that brought you the Whoozit and your Pepsi. The high-fructose corn syrup in your Pepsi was grown with chemical fertilizers (made using the Haber-Bosch process from fossil fuel feedstock), and harvested with giant farm equipment running on oil, processed using electricity (generated from coal or natural gas) and put into an aluminum can which was mined and created using oil. Ditto for all products you might buy in the store. Did you know that plastic is made from fossil fuels? So right about when you realize that the only thing you can do "conventionally" without oil is walking around naked and shoeless in your backyard, then you are ready for a good old fashioned Peak Oil Depression.

Peak Oil Depression often begins with a semi-antagonistic hedonism - Screw it, I'm gonna get my sushi and margaritas while I still can!! (I speak for myself here). This might never get old for some people. Others feel the emptiness of mindless consumption and realize it is partially the cause of this GD mess, and move on to a new more frantic stage of Depression, which I call "Scheming".

Scheming is a highly adaptive stage of Depression, and I recommend it. It stems from the urge to not let your 6 month baby starve in the cold or be eaten by Reavers (kidding, partially). Maybe, if you scheme hard enough, you can even help out your family who never listened to you (See Denial, above) when TSHTF and they would then have to eat crow and be grateful for your Scheming skills.

Scheming takes a lot of time if you are going to do it right, since the folk in my generation have never learned how to do anything by hand, from scratch or without the use of the Internet. Let yourself be motivated rather than demoralized by the realization that your 75 yr old gtandparents could survive easier than you could when TSHTF . This is because they know the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga and know how to line dry clothes.

Scheming usually involves a lot of listmaking (which, if you become a dedicated Hausfrau reader, you will soon be subjected to). Lists of things to buy, things to learn, vegetables to grow, technologies that work without electricity, places to move which are no doubt superior to your current location, people you will be inclined to let move in to your PO lifeboat when they lose their homes, etc, you get the picture. This exercise can be highly satisfying as well as useful, and no doubt can become dangerously obsessive. Dangerous because your spouse may whack you when you wake them in the middle of the night with a proposal to buy a $400 grain mill.

After a good bout of Depressive Scheming you are ready for a little Depressive antidote, known as taking action, and which can be counted as part of the Acceptance phase. Even just a wee bit of action, like buying a big sack of rice or a 10-degree rated sleeping bag can be very therapeutic in warding off lethargy or misery.

So, we come to the focus of the newly inaugurated Peak Oil Hausfrau blog: Scheming and Action. How does a Hausfrau in the urban suburbs prepare for peak oil on a budget and without moving to a big ole farm? How does a Hausfrau with a time consuming baby learn to garden, preserve the harvest, bake, cook, clean, defend and care for her family in a world of declining energy availability? How does an undercover Peak Oil Hausfrau slyly promote low energy activities and purchases to family, friends and strangers without scaring, depressing and antagonizing these folk? How does a Hausfrau manage to mangle so much grammar and yet entertain her readers? We shall see.