Archive | 10:19 am

Time for a list

12 Apr

I like lists. They help make things simple and clear. So here is a list of things I want to do this year to be more prepared.

  • Take a pottery class. I figure making bowls and things is a practical skill that I would also enjoy doing. Cost is $150 for an 8 week class so I may have to take it in term 3 instead of next term.
  • Study permaculture and put in a garden. I figure if I can learn from a small scale city garden it will be easier to put into practice on a larger scale. Our landlords are so lax with the many maintenance issues we have had with this place that I’m not even going to bother asking if I can put in a garden. From what I have read so far I really like the idea of zoning, and keyhole gardens, and spiral herb patches outside the door and whatnot. I have a poor track record of maintaining gardens so I’d better get practicing.
  • Build up my business. I am really passionate about my business and I believe it will work. But it is not an easy economic environment to be starting a business in, so it is an unknown. I hope to make enough money to save up for things like solar panels, electric bikes and woodstoves, while they are still being produced, and for a piece of land. That requires a huge amount of money, but I have hope that we can at least make a deposit…
  • Foster connections and join local groups, here in Wellington and in Motueka if possible. I want to sign the baby up for Playcentre and Steiner School, and I have already joined Transition Towns online. I also want to join a community currency group, as well as simply network with all the wonderful people out there who have so much knowledge and goodness that I aspire to.
  • Learn more about homesteading and self sufficiency. I want to know how to survive, like my ancestors. It makes me sad that my generation (in general, of course) hasn’t learned the useful skills that our grandparents and great grandparents and great great grandparents had. I want to reclaim that.
  • Get fit and healthy. This is such a broad term and such a common goal that it’s almost cliche. But I have started eating a mostly raw diet, and it is working wonders so far. I will write more about that in another post.

OK, so that’s quite a detailed to-do list, and fairly broad, but it still lays out my immediate goals in front of me.

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The quote that got to me

12 Apr

I’ve been reading Adrienne Langman’s book ‘Choosing Eden: the real dirt on the coming energy crisis’. [A very good book, by the way.] It’s about a middle aged couple who up-sticks from their comfortable Sydney lifestyle to move to northern New South Wales and establish a self sufficient farm after learning about Peak Oil. In it, she quotes her friend Richard Embleton:

Even if we could get every last drop of oil there is out of the ground, at the current rate of consumption (the rate of demand actually increases by 2 – 3 per cent per year, but has run closer to 5 per cent these past two years), the estimated trillion barrels of oil remaining [in the world] would last less than thirty-three years.

I’m no oil expert, but even I know that they can’t extract every last drop of oil, and even if they could, it would be so costly that us ordinary folk wouldn’t benefit anyway. Not to mention that demand is increasing… so there’s a max of thirty-odd years, in a best-case scenario. We’re not talking best-case scenario, and I don’t know (does anyone?) exactly how many years until Peak Oil really hits us, but I’ve suddenly been made aware that it’s not far away.

I feel like I go to the petrol station far too often these days; $10 used to last me a week, and now it lasts me a couple of days. I’ve been seeing far too much of my petrol light lately. I’ve stopped going out as often as I used to, because I can’t afford the petrol. Already. Those who have more money may take longer to start thinking about Peak Oil, so maybe it’s fortunate that we aren’t rich.

I’m not a nervous person, but I feel anxious at the thought of rising costs of everything and how tough that is going to be on an already strained financial situation. We literally spend all our money on rent, bills, food, my car, the baby, the occasional flight home to visit parents, and maybe once in a while there’s a little bit left over for a movie. I don’t think we could cope with rising food costs without being forced to have an unhealthy diet full of 50c packets of spaghetti instead of a $1.50 head of broccoli. And even that cheap packet of pasta won’t be so cheap.

It may seem an obvious solution to those on the straight-and-narrow for me to just go out and get a job. Put my kid in daycare. He’s over one now, ‘he’ll be ‘right’. But that isn’t really the solution I’m looking for. To become even more dependent on ‘the system’. I’d like to become more self sufficient, not just have more cash in the bank. Who knows how long that will retain it’s value anyway?

And yet to contemplate a life that’s so back-to-basics we may as well be going back 100 years in time, is scary. It may not be that way to start with, and it may not go that far, but it’s possible that’s how it’ll end up. I grew up with all the mod cons and having what I want at my fingertips. I’m used to flicking a switch, buying from a shelf, or paying someone else to do it, whether it’s bake my bread or fix my car. But then I tell myself: my ancestors did it, and survived long enough to be my ancestors. Not only have I got evolution behind me, I’ve got history and knowledge.

There is a lot to learn.

The question of poverty

12 Apr

OK, so here’s the problem. (Starting with a problem may not be the most positive of attitudes, but the solution is something to work for.)

The negative impacts of Peak Oil are going to take effect at some point in the not-too-distant future, and my family lives in a rented house which is totally dependent on the grid for power and water, with no vege garden or fruit trees, a bike that doesn’t even work, and not a chicken in sight. What’s worse, we have no money.

It’s easy enough (OK, maybe not easy, but do-able at least) to head out to the countryside, install solar panels and a rainwater tank, get a chicken coop and a cow and some beehives, plant some fruit trees and a vege garden and buy an electric bike if you have money. My question is: how does one prepare for Peak Oil when one has no money, few practical skills and not even a piece of land to call one’s own? I don’t foresee a web designer and camera operator being highly sought after when the markets collapse and there is no food.

It would be nice, to ignore it all. I did just that up until a few weeks ago. Despite the evidence, I chose to believe that it would all be alright. Maybe things would be a little tight and we’d have to do a bit more walking, and it might get a little warmer and we might not be able to eat mangoes at all times of the year, but it would be alright. It would be really nice to remain in ignorant bliss. But now that I am no longer ignorant, I can’t ignore it. I just can’t accept that point of view anymore. There’s a precious little boy asleep in his cot in the room next to me who deserves a chance at a good life, not a short one. I can no longer be an ostrich, I have to be a mama bear, fighting for my baby. If that means composting toilets and chopping wood and gasp! getting my hands dirty in a vege garden, then so be it. If that means working so hard that my hands get cracks in them and I can never get the dirt out, so be it.

The trouble is, I just don’t know how. How do we buy a piece of land when we are on a single income living in the city, paying high rent? If we move somewhere that is cheaper to live in order to save, we wouldn’t have an income at all. If we move to a two bedroom instead of three bedroom house, I won’t have enough space to run my business, which is the lifeline I am holding onto in the hopes that I can actually bring in some money we can save. And if we can’t buy a piece of land, there’s no way we can build a house, and if we can’t build a house, there’s no point in having solar panels, even could we afford them.

It’s all well and good to say ‘Peak Oil is coming, run for the hills’. Self-sufficiency is a great thing to strive for. But in practicality, it’s a bit trickier than that.