Friday, February 5, 2010

Warning Bells

The usually sober and historically-minded John Michael Greer has uttered his pronouncement: Endgame is near. Not just historically near, as in the scale of the centuries-long Roman Empire collapse, but immediately near, as in, batten down the hatches - now. Of course, some people have been predicting this for many moons now - but Mr. Greer has now cast his vote. Coming from him, it's rather shocking.

His advice to us:

Those of my readers who haven’t already been beggared by the unraveling of
what’s left of the economy, and have some hope of keeping a roof over their
heads for the foreseeable future, might be well advised to stock their pantries,
clear their debts, and get to know their neighbors, if they haven’t taken these
sensible steps already. Those of my readers who haven’t taken the time already
to learn a practical skill or two, well enough that others might be willing to
pay or barter for the results, had better get a move on. Those of my readers who
want to see some part of the heritage of the present saved for the future,
finally, may want to do something practical about that, and soon.

Currently, the extent of the collapse depends on where you live, your employment and financial situation, and luck. But as municipal and state governments succumb to the fiscal malaise, and unemployment continues to spread, the middle class dream will go into a coma and people will begin to hang on just for dear life (those who aren't already).

So my question to you is: what can you do now that you've been putting off? Maybe we should all "pretend" that the quality of our lives depend on the decisions we are making now, and figure out our top three priorities for the next seven - thirty days. Maybe we could "pretend" that we might face situations that, at one time, seemed wildly impossible (like a 40% decline in the stock market, or 15% unemployment, or California/Michigan/Nevada going bankrupt and stopping critical social services), and prepare accordingly.

My thoughts:

1. Make sure you have everything ready for your garden, including seeds, tools, and fertilizers. I've already read at least one article about potential seed shortages this year.

2. As so many peak oil bloggers have pointed out, stock your pantry, and don't forget to include water storage!

3. How can you protect your health and the health of your loved ones in a critical and stressful time period? Check Your Health is Your Wealth for ideas.

4. If you are pregnant, consider seriously preparing to do a natural childbirth. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't go natural (unmedicated) - but if you are prepared, it will go much easier on you if for some reason an epidural isn't available / affordable. Note: I know several women personally whose epidurals never "took" or that faded halfway through their labor.

5. If you are expecting a baby, consider stocking up on formula. I am a staunch advocate of breastfeeding, but for the same reasons you stock up on food - you should consider stocking up on formula. (This is actually a suggestion from Sharon Astyk).

6. Prepare to undergo a radical cash-ectomy, as so many people have already in the last two years. What costs/expenses could you cut to save more now? What would you do without a steady income? What would you do if you had to take in relatives who've lost their jobs / homes? Are there any steps you could take now to soften the blow? Are there ways you could live lighter now that might also save you money?

7. Are there any critical purchases you've been putting off - not because you can't afford them, but just because you haven't had the time to get around to them? Such as, perhaps, a way to cook off the grid, a cord of wood, a book with critical information, some sturdy shoes, CFL bulbs, or your spring seeds?

8. If market volatility, debt, and financial issues are a concern, what steps can you take now to protect yourself, your savings, and your investments?

9. Do you or someone you love depend on aid or income from a city/state/federal government agency that appears to be rapidly drowning? What will you, or they, do without it? Is there something you can do now to prepare?

10. What skill could you learn, or begin to learn, this month? Many people start with gardening, baking and cooking, or food preservation. Health - related (low-energy) skills are always valuable to a community. What else?

11. Have you been putting off that delicate talk - you know, the one where you break the unwelcome news about energy descent and financial decline to your family? Think about some ways you could let them know they might want to put off or reconsider that UAL stock investment /Hummer purchase /$200,000 of college debt / McMansion in the exurbs.

If you were "pretending" you NEEDED to get something done in the next 7-30 days, what would it be?


nika said...

I dont watch Greer for my barometer, I calibrate, with some filtering, against The Automatic Earth. Its much more white knuckles at TAE but more technical, something I like, others might not.

Anyways, its been clear that 2009 was all about throwing good $ after bad as well as smoke and mirrors (and trust me, I still love Obama and am a staunch progressive, I just do not like the taste of kool-aid, am not a "Card Carrying Party Member").

That created a pause in the collapse. It also built up anticipation and anxiety for most who have been waiting for the other shoe to drop - a dynamic that can lead to precipitous changes in the stock market (fools that they are).

The trick is figuring out:
1) if this crap REALLY effects you
2) if it does, how exactly it will
3) how you can reduce your exposure and possibly buy yourself some time to learn how to tan hides or shoe horses (or breed them!).

For example, I watch the markets and read TAE but I have no $$ in the market so changes in market do not effect me. I AM long term under and now unemployed so we are substantially less resilient than others who still have a job and who have not already cut every single ounce of fat from their budget. I try hard to not think about how my state is considered "insolvent" because there is only so much I can do about these things.

Finally, I can attest to the fact that epidurals dont work sometimes, my last child, damn doc shot me twice ... only thing it did was make me sweat like I was kicking heroin or something (not that I actually know what kicking heroin is like).

I highly recommend hypnobirthing to all moms. Worked like a dream on the second child. It was working fine for me on my last child until they informed me he was frank breech. I used my hypnobirthing superpowers to flip him, painlessly, avoiding a c-section BUT by that time my brain was so messed up from fears of c-section my hypono-brain was off, thus pain!

Ok, in summary:
1) be prepared but do not freak out (dont panic) - not all bad news relates to you
2) learn extensive first aid - that is a skill few of us have and which is something you WILL need sooner or later
3) try to cultivate a stoic mind in the face of change. Change will be constant and its rate will be picking up.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Nika -

I used Hypnobabies with my son, it was very helpful. Thanks for adding your 2 cents about childbirth!

Chile said...

This reminds me of when Verde did her 21 day ticking time bomb scenario a while back. The premise was that supposing you knew everything was going to fall apart in 21 days, what would you do to prepare. Each day, she tackled a different aspect of prepping. It was intense but helped us fill in the last few gaps in our preparations.

Our last remaining HUGE gap is not having our own little doomstead. We watch the MLS listings every. single. day but the stuff coming up is still overpriced and/or in neighborhoods we feel are unsafe for permanent relocation. Please hold off on the total collapse until we find and close on a place, ok? Thanks. :)

Nature Creek Farm said...

Greer is pretty good. He's also probably right about the timing. It's hanging in the air like an ion storm and making everything we touch sizzle to dust.
The key is that everyone is listening to the economists.This is the plague we have begun. There are two ways for human beings to live on this earth: Sustainably and unsustainably. There is no 'middle' ground. We are either contributing to the future of our resources, or we are taking away from them. Economics is based on money, and money is a tool based on the rate at which we use up resources. Ergo, any economist is either working to increase the rate at which we use resources, or to increase that rate even more. An economist is an impedence matching device between existence and extinction. Any compromise between these two things is merely moving toward extinction. The 'speed of money' is our rate of extinction, then. Just something to think about whenever someone talks about 'stimulating the economy'.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Chile - I'll work on that for you!

Deanna said...

Good prep trigger. I just made my personal challenge February checklist, including ordering more garden seeds and supplies and learning to use my new solar oven.

What is the link for "Verde" and the 21 day ticking bomb?

Wendy said...

I have five children. The first was a c-section (considered an emergency due to failure to progress). The last was a planned mid-wife supported homebirth, but the mid-wife was late and my husband "delivered" our daughter.

I strongly recommend the book "Birthing from Within." Childbirth doesn't have to be scary, and yes, it hurts, but by the time the pain gets really unbearable, it's time to push, and the pushing takes the pain away.

@ Deanna - the 21 Days 'til collapse exercise was on Verde's blog in 2008 and started here. As Chile said, it was a great exercise in preparedness.

Anonymous said...

We are a retired couple who have always been frugal, house paid for, stockpiling complete, garden, carbon neutral (offsets cover fossil fuel use), etc. What we can't decide is what to do about stock our market investments. Should we cash everything in? Then what to do with the money? Our RRSPs are locked in and stock market based also but we haven't yet drawn on them (we live in Canada). Even our pension is stock market based. Any advice?

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Anon - Sorry - I won't give specific advice re: investments. But congrats that you are so much further along than the majority of the population!

Aimee said...

get the solar power on.

Nature Creek Farm said...

Anonymous: I'll throw in some advice: Go to and

In general, stocks are gambling. I have some. They are also a tool for putting your money where your heart lies. It is up to you to see and act on the risks according to where you think your money is going to do some good. Counting on being paid money just because you have money is the usual paradigm, but paradigms don't always last. The old paradigm was also based on unlimited resources to play those games with money.

Sharlene T. said...

Good post. Hope more people understand just how important it will be to be self-sufficient. Gardening is definitely a good start, but can be daunting to many. Have used my solar oven for more than three years, now, and can't imagine life without it. The drop in my utility bill was enough to keep my focused and I've since discovered that there is very little that can't be done in one. For something that will last a lifetime and is FREE for that period of time, I don't understand why more people aren't taking advantage of such an incredible appliance.

dandelionlady said...

I read Greer's post yesterday and I have been thrown into preparation mode. Restocking my mostly drained food stores, getting water storage and rotation set up, and reminded me that I need to generally get my butt in gear! Probably a good thing no matter what happens. I also plan to buy a number of medicinal herb plants this year so that I can medicate myself and my family if we did lose our insurance. Medicating with herbs is a lot more work than with standard medicine, but it can be done. It was funny seeing you mention Michigan, I live in Lansing a few blocks away from where our legislators are attempting to figure out what important programs to cut now. Seeing them struggle and fail to come to useful conclusions, I am really coming to realize that I need to reach out to others and help my community start to learn to take care of it's own.

Nature Creek Farm said...

Dandelion Lady: This is for you:
Aaron Wisner did a lot of good work in Michigan. I wish I had someone on this side of Wisconsin who was just as well grounded and motivated.

Gavin said...

Great post Christine. I too read Greer's post, and have been following JHK for a while as well. I didn't realise how close collapse was in the USA, but looks like well grounded people like you are ringing those bells to warn others who might be blinkered.

I realised that the bailouts were just a small detour in the road to collapse, but didn't figure that it would come so soon.

What I am most disturbed about is that where the US goes, Australia usually follows, however, our banking system is relatively intact with no bailouts given to them. Thank goodness for heavy regulation. Also, being China's quarry, we have ridden on their coat tails during the recovery, and the economy is surviving at the moment.

However, when PO hits after the plateau ends, there will be no where to hide, as we are well past our oil peak in OZ.

Stocking up on all sort of essentials as well as seeds. Even learned to make our own soap the other day. Hygiene is essential, as well as a good knowledge of first aid.

Anonymous said...

this is rather funny for non-Americans
There is a slight chance that your future life will resemble the life 95 % of worlds people have lived for years , and you fear the world will collapse.
We have to pay $1.40 for 0.26 gallons of gas, and the world is still turning.
drying your laundry on a rack is normal an not heroic, same as not using air condition or cooking a decent meal instead of ripping up packages.

For years a public health insurance has been boycottet in the U.S. and now you can see the price you have to pay for such ignorance.
And even this will not make the world go down, you just will have to live like all those people who could not afford health insurance in the past.

a careful handling with our natural resources is important an so you are on a good way, but your panic is right over the top

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Anon - I believe that you are right in that Americans are headed towards a lifestyle that more resembles what the rest of the world has. That doesn't mean that we should give up on priorities of public health and health care.

I think you are missing the point here. I'm not talking about the cost of gas in this post. I'm referring to the fact that many states and cities are having to cut quite a few of the jobs (income) and services that people depend on, due to the financial crisis.

You are incorrect if you think I am panicking. This is simply an opportunity to reinforce what I already recommend: emergency preparation, financial prudence, and sustainable living.

dandelionlady said...

Just want to thank Nature Creek Farm for the link, I'm checking it out. Seems like most of the talk was about a year ago, but I'm sure those people are still there.

I'm not panicking either, BTW, but I do think that the lives of those I care about could get really nasty on the way down to lower energy use. Also, personally I'm all for universal health care. However it's not that simple when the main growth industry in your town is insurance companies.

I am stocking up, I jJust bought 50 lbs of rice, and I've got 50 lbs of beans on order. Life goes on.

tearmunn said...

One thing that I'm getting done in the next 30 days is visiting my family back in Europe. I'm considering it my last visit - if there is another opportunity all well and good, if not, then at least I've seen them one last time. I've meant to do this for the last 3 years :)