Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes it takes a few years

Have you felt frustrated trying to communicate the importance and urgency of the end of the age of oil? We all want our loved ones and close friends to be prepared for emergencies, protected in case of market crashes or job loss, and emotionally ready in the case of black swan events - like an oil shock. Yet the majority seem stubbornly oblivious to the economic and energy disruptions coming our way.

You may have discovered that a full-frontal assault of peak oil hysteria isn't overwhelmingly effective. Even plain and simple logic may not be too effective, as logic is directly counter to the prevailing assumptions of our era. Maybe you switched to more soft-ball and indirect techniques, like encouraging gardening (without mentioning peak oil), giving Richard Heinberg books as Christmas presents, or telling everyone how you lost forty pounds biking to work.

Like most people who become peak oil aware, I am concerned about the well-being of my friends and family in the case of food, energy, or financial disruptions, or just the problems associated with the long energy descent. Several years ago, I had a (gentle) direct discussion with my parents, who responded quite well and now have a large garden, strict energy efficiency habits, an emergency woodpile, and even some food storage. They pay attention to their health and shop locally.

Other family members and friends were not as responsive. Some seem to understand the problem without taking concrete action to address it (the "not taking it personally" problem) and others just blew it off (the "someone would have told me if our entire way of life was completely unsustainable" reaction). I can understand those responses without being judgmental.

I know what it's like to not have any mental bandwidth to address anything more than dragging myself out of bed and going to work, or just getting through another day with a cranky young child. In our society, without a decent safety net or social support, any problem can loom so large that it consumes all our time and mental energy. So many people are depressed, anxious, isolated, sick, unhealthy, overwhelmed, dealing with parents with Alzheimer's and kids with chronic infections, and on the edge of bankruptcy or unemployment that I surely don't want to be the one who pushes them over the edge into a full-blown breakdown.

So, after an initial push of information, I decided to simply be a model and a reference - taking the actions we all recommend, generally being open about what I think, and being available to answer questions. In other words, planting seeds of ideas and knowledge without preaching.

But is this effective? Is this enough?

Sometimes it seems hopeless, and our children, parents, brothers, cousins, best friends will never, never respond to the Just in Case book we gave them three years ago for Christmas or get all the hints we are dropping about food storage.

But then - you might get an e-mail like the one I got from a relative on Friday. Here's the actual text:

1. Can I buy ground beef from you? If not, next time we would like to be in on a cow purchase!

2. What is in your car for emergencies?

3. What is in your emergency backpack in the house?

4. Where do you keep your important documents? (In a fireproof box, safe deposit box, etc.)

5. Do you have a carbon monoxide detector? Where is it located in your house?

If you ever get an e-mail like this, you can respond with all the information you no doubt have at your disposal and rejoice that your patience has been fruitful.

Or you might get an e-mail like the one my husband got after a conversation with our friend, who is a hedge fund manager in another state. He sent us a list of the food storage that our friend's friend had accumulated and asked us about the top 20 survival items. Apparently, the word is getting out. And if you've dropped enough lines in the water, some people will start to bite.


Gavin Webber said...

Great post Christine. I too get frustrated at times with friends and family who do not take the time to grasp the issue, or prepare. I recently wrote a post on my blog about peak oil and energy depletion, titled "The Paradox of Our Age", and the response was underwhelming to say the least. In fact 5 readers unsubscribed within a few hours!

I need a more subtle approach like yours I think.


knutty knitter said...

I have to admit that subtle will maybe get you somewhere :) I tend to just get on with it! Hopefully something will have stuck somewhere.

viv in nz

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

I've tried both direct and subtle. Both have worked, on the right people.

SharleneT said...

That's how I feel about solar cooking. I just do it and write my blog. I don't push it because that's what makes people run in the opposite direction. But, little by little folks are responding and I'm getting calls and letters from people who want to get started. It's a slow but steady climb. Hang in there and come visit when you can.