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Making a Stand

31 Jul

Making a Stand for a Renewable Energy Future

Speech given by Katerina Seligman
at the Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining)
30th July 2011
Motueka, New Zealand

Katerina's speech

This information was put together by a group of local people in Motueka who are very concerned about what is happening here in NZ in regard to mining. This is our third public event and we plan to have an event of some kind on the last Saturday of every month at noon. Our goals are to protect our beaches from potential oil spills, and to highlight the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and towards a renewable energy future. If you want to be on an e-mail list to get information about future events, e-mail: no.oily.beaches@gmail.com

NZ is on the brink of a massive fossil-fuel-extraction binge. The government has laid down a welcome mat to international mining companies…. “please come and mine at our place”. And the mining companies have responded to the call. Companies are lining up to drill for deep sea oil, prospect for minerals and dig up coal all around NZ. New Zealand is pockmarked with new new exploration sites on land and sea. About 70 petroleum exploration permits are current with about 23 more pending. Many permits have also been granted for coal and mineral exploration.

In regards to oil, the government is encouraging prospecting in very deep waters. To put that into perspective: The deepest offshore oil well off Taranaki is 300 metres deep. The Deep Water Horizon Well in the Gulf of Mexico which went terribly wrong with a massive oil spill, was 5 times as deep …one and a half km. Humans can’t go that deep. All repairs were attempted by robots. 6500 ships responded to the spill disaster. It took almost three months to plug the well-head. The proposed drilling off our coastlines is twice that depth, 3 km deep! That is sheer madness for a country that simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with even a very small oil spill.

It was reported in the very reputable newspaper the UK Guardian ( 5th July 2011) that serious spills of oil and gas from North Sea platforms are occurring at the rate of one a week, even though the companies claim to be doing everything possible to improve the safety of rigs.

We currently have Anadarko test drilling off the Otago and Canterbury Coasts and Petrobras have just finished exploratory drilling off the East Cape. Greywolf was refused its permits here in our region because the company turned out to be too unreliable, but the government is very willing for a more reliable company to come in and do the job.

What about coal? There are companies bing granted permits all over the country, some mines already in operation and some rearing to go. I’ll just focus on just one of these: the proposed lignite projects in Southland, on 4000 hectares of farmland that has been purchased by the Government. Lignite is very dirty coal. It’s half water, high in ash, and takes a lot of energy to turn it into anything useful. If all the lignite at the proposed mine site in Southland were burned, anywhere in the world, and export is certainly on the government’s agenda, it would put over 8 Billion Tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s over one hundred times NZ’s annual emissions from all sources!

Solid Energy has applied for a pilot briquetting plant, and is planing a second plant ten times bigger than that . They also want to make urea and diesel from the the lignite. Collectively Solid Energy’s projects, if they go ahead, would raise NZ’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. This at a time when we should be trying to reduce our emissions. This is an State Owned Enterprise that you and I own! But it gets worse: The government is going to use our taxes to meet its Kyoto obligations. Solid Energy tells us it will “meet its climate change obligations in full”. But that’s easy because by current laws it has almost no obligations.
The reason the government is willing to subsidize this kind of development is because it is central to its economic growth strategy. This is a much bigger and harder issue to deal with than the Mining- in- the- National- Parks issue that we saw recently.

Where will the capital come from for this Southland development. It’s going to cost billions!
Neither Solid Energy nor the government has the money. The plan is to sell about half of Solid Energy to an overseas company, almost certainly a Chinese one. We already have a free trade agreement with China. If a Chinese company were to run the show, and some subsequent government brought in new environmentally responsible laws, the Chinese could sue us in a secret tribunal for loss of investor profits!

John Key is currently doing his very best to negotiate a similar agreement, The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the USA who would be even more likely and able to sue us than the Chinese for making responsible laws in our own country .

With rising Green House Gases, we are heading for an environment that will no longer support the lives and livelihoods of communities. The poorest communities of the world are already suffering the most with increased droughts famines and floods. But even here in New Zealand we are experiencing more extreme weather events. You might think this latest cold spell is reassurance that global warming is not actually happening. But unfortunately climate change is not about short term changes in the weather. Changes in the Climate which are a result of global warming, are happening. Unfortunately climate change is now very evident in many parts of the world and is undeniable. James Hansen, one of the world’s most highly respected climate scientists who visited NZ recently, claims that we still have time to turn things around. He says that coal, world wide, is the biggest cause of climate change. He thinks that we could still burn the remaining easily accessible oil and gas, as long as we don’t start any new extractions from tar sands and deep-sea drilling, and as long as we phase out all burning of coal to zero by 2030. To do that we would need to put all of our ingenuity, resources and will towards creating a renewable energy future.

Some ask: why should we be the first in world to stop mining and using coal?
The good news is that if we took that courageous step, we would not be the first. Resistance to coal and extreme fossil fuels extraction like deep sea oil has been growing worldwide for quite a few years.

In June 2007, Florida refused to license a huge coal plant because it was looking like it would be more expensive than investing in renewable energy generation. This led to the withdrawal of four other coal plant proposals in the state.

This is just one example of thousands worldwide where governing bodies have responded to the people’s demand for common sense to prevail. Leading investment banks in some parts of the US have stopped funding new coal mines. Existing coal plants are being closed in New York State because of that state’s very sensible energy efficiency standards. The phasing our of coal plants is making some progress in Denmark, Hungary, Canada, Scotland.

If we keep pumping green house gases into the atmosphere, it is the young people and future generations who will suffer most. And young people world wide are making their voices heard.

A courageous group in the USA, fronted by 15 teenagers, is suing the US government under the Constitution for failing to protect the rights of future generations. (Google: Hansen, The Case for young people and nature.) Young people here in NZ and world wide are getting active to try to secure their own future: groups such as the NZ Youth Delegation, Generation Zero, The 2050 Alliance, Regeneration, 350.org, and CANA, (Coal Action Network Aotearoa) and a number of others. But we don’t want our youth to be the only ones fighting for their future. It’s time for all people to inform themselves, to get active and to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

Of course, jobs and money are vitally important for the wellbeing and of individuals and communities. No one is denying that. But a community that depends on jobs and income from unsustainable activity has no resilience and will eventually lose everything. Communities who are dependent on renewable resources that will never run out for their jobs and incomes are the ones that will survive in the longer term.

So what are the alternatives to fossil fuel extraction?
A report from The Political Economy Research Institute in the US estimated that 100 billion dollars spent on clean energy over a 10-year period could create two million new jobs, compared to just half a million jobs if the money were invested in oil and gas-related industries. That’s four times as many jobs. The Center for American Progress, has estimated that renewable energy and efficiency improvements create twice as many jobs (per unit of energy and per dollar invested) than traditional fossil fuel-based technologies. In other words, money invested in clean energy can create two to four times as many jobs as money invested in fossil fuel industries…

Policy-makers have the opportunity to create viable new markets, boost private investment and innovation in renewables, and stimulate the economy. Governments around the world are redesigning their economies to embrace a cleaner way of doing business. Governments like China, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Germany, who are offering incentives for renewable energy initiatives, are establishing stronger competitive positions in the global clean energy economy. According Investment New Zealand, approximately 250 companies and organisations are researching, developing and commercialising clean technologies in New Zealand and least 60 of these companies are potentially world class. An economic crisis is the breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. Many very successful companies (Microsoft, Nokia), were born during during an economic downturn.

We need to demand from our government that they abandon their fossil fuel agenda, and put all of their efforts into creating a renewable energy future. It’s just the right thing to do.

What can you do?

  • Inform yourself. Let everyone know what is happening and build networks of people willing to take action. Check out the government’s New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website
  • Keep informed by signing up to the CANA e-mail list (coalactionnetwork@gmail.com)
  • Talk about it to family and friends,
  • Write letters to editors
  • Write submissions on consent applications. CANA will send information to help with this .
  • Write to Fonterra letting them know that they should shift to wood fuels rather than burning coal. (to make their milk powder etc)
  • Write to oil companies..let them know that you will only buy diesel from those who do not make it from lignite
  • Write to fertiliser companies letting them know you don’t want urea made from lignite.
  • Make this an election issue. Ask candidates where they stand on coal mining and oil rigs.
  • Be ready to turn up in person at events like this ( at noon on the last Saturday of every month) and be ready to turn up at the mine site in Southland one day if necessary. It may come to that!
  • Google the following inspiring groups: awakeningthedreamer, pureadvantage, commondreams, generationzero (www.generationzero.org.nz), happyzine
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Ride for Renewables

30 Jul

My son and his Nana

Today my Mum and I took the toddler to his first ever protest. We attended the Bike Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining) in Motueka. He rode on the bike seat on the back of his Nana’s bike. He is just so cute in his little helmet! It was way past his naptime but he handled it all really well. It was fun. I know it’s a serious topic, but the event itself was fun. A few dozen people showed up on their bicycles, many with kids in tow. We pedaled along High St, two abreast, with plenty of cars honking on their way past. It is a stunning day today, perfect for a bike ride.

My friend Katerina Seligman gave a great speech about mining and renewables. I didn’t get to hear all of it due to an overtired hungry toddler who needed to be fed and kept happy, but I’m looking forward to reading it on email. Then local MP Damien O’Connor said a few words. It’s good to hear a politician agreeing that we need to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, not just frantically try to find more oil and coal or other energy source, and that environmental destruction is not OK. As far as I could tell (while I was busy with the aforementioned needy toddler) he didn’t really say anything except that he’d take our views to parliament. I suppose that’s what politicians are for… I personally don’t think he went far enough, but then he is a Labour MP, not a Green one!

I took a whole bunch of photos (some of them while I was riding!) and put them up on flickr here. Katerina is going to let me publish her speech here so I’ll upload that when it comes through.

A gardening misdemeanour

9 Jul

I am flabbergasted. I cannot believe the stupidity of the human race sometimes. Check out this story of a woman who faces misdemeanour charges for… having a vegetable garden in her front yard.

Um.

Umm.

What???

Good on her! I love that she decided to put her vege garden in the front yard instead of the back yard, so that her neighbourhood could share the experience of growing vegetables. Kids ride their bikes past and check out the plants? Awesome! Whether intentional or not, she is making a statement about home grown food, reducing her dependence on oil and processed food. With 6 children it’s no wonder she can’t afford to feed them all organic vegetables. I think she is doing a wonderful thing for her children; they won’t be the sort of kids who don’t know the difference between a potato and tomato.

Look like a pretty respectable front yard to me!

What a pompous jackass the Oak Park city council official is. Spouting the dictionary definition of suitable, to claim that only common ‘beautiful trees and bushes’ should be grown in the front yard. He clearly doesn’t have a clue. The whole concept of perfectly manicured front lawns with a few useless shrubs is an absurd concoction of ‘safe’ suburbia. Further, the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines suitable as ‘adapted to a use or purpose’. I think she is acting with utmost suitability. Someone on the Facebook page (there’s always a Facebook page!) made a very good point. They can’t tax the tomatoes you share with your neighbour. There’s the trouble.

It is a basic human right to grow food to feed oneself. This isn’t just a council code issue, it is much bigger than that. Julie Bass owns her house and she should have the right to put a vege garden wherever she wants to. The world is in desperate need of more vegetable gardens, and the idea that this woman could go to jail for hers is ludicrous. I can’t imagine that she will be convicted once it goes to trial… surely a judge or jury wouldn’t be as narrow-sighted as Kevin Rulkowski? May I point out that a vegetable garden is so much more beautiful (and infinitely more productive and valid) than a patch of grass. Ugh, conformity.

If you read her blog, she states all the things she didn’t do, because Oak Park doesn’t allow it. Bees, chickens, goats, compost, windmill… I feel so sad that she has her own land and wants to do all these things for her family and the planet, and some bureaucratic nonsense means she can’t. In an ideal world, she’d get an award for what she’s done, not jail time!

However, I think it’s great that she is getting so much support from all over the world. Goes to show there are plenty of aware people out there! A pity they probably don’t want to work for city council. Imagine what could get done!

I say we all plant vege gardens in our front yards in solidarity!*

*To be honest, I don’t plan to be in this flat for long, so I don’t really want to go to the effort of putting in a garden. But I am growing veges and herbs in pots on my stairs and porch… which you can see from the street! 

Farm for the future

7 Jul

Very interesting documentary: Natural World: Farm for the Future

Asks some very valid questions, and answers many of them too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some encouragement to keep doing ‘this’

27 Jun

I wrote the title of this post and then thought “What is ‘this’?”

‘This’ can alternately be described as ‘turning into the kind of hippy my teenage self would be horrified at’, and ‘becoming a responsible citizen’. It seems that nowadays, being a responsible adult means paying your bills and keeping the wheels of the industrial cog turning. That’s not enough. It never was, but particularly not anymore. So for me, ‘this’ is learning how to live a good life. ‘This’ is following the green dream, and turning it into the norm.

Sometimes it’s really hard. I’d like things to be a bit simpler sometimes. But let’s forget all the difficulties for the moment. The important thing, when it comes down to it, is that this is all important stuff. And in many ways, it’s really exciting and challenging too! (Challenging is usually a positive word in my vocabulary.)

Today I started reading this cool little e-book: Ten ways to Chillax and Have Fun as you Live Your Green Dreams. I recommend checking it out. I think the title is pretty self explanatory, so enough from me.

The Story of Ten Ways to Chillax and Have Fun As You Live Your Green Dreams from Happy Writers on Vimeo.

When will it sink in?

23 Jun

Yesterday a friend posted a Facebook status about the high price of her grocery shop this week. Someone posted a reply saying ‘It’s gonna get worse apparently’.

I can’t help but wonder exactly what they are thinking; they and all the other people who complain about the cost of food and fuel and go on living their life the same way they’ve always done. Albeit with more grumbling and probably more debt. Do they not wonder why? Why it is that in the 50’s families could live comfortably off one income, and now it’s a struggle on two? Why food prices get higher and higher on a monthly basis, when wages just aren’t creeping up to match? Is it all attributed to normal inflation?

I want to know when people will realise that there is something more going on. That we aren’t just in a ‘little recession’ and things will go back to normal in a couple of years. That the landfills are filling up and now they’re even building toxic houses on them. That our society is unsustainable and therefore will not be sustained.

When will I stop feeling like the slightly mad one who is given to hippy-ish flights of fancy about the end of the world as we know it? When will everyone else stop feeling a bit ‘put upon’ and realise it’s time to take responsibility? I feel sometimes as if I’m walking round in a bubble, where I can see things with clarity from somewhere else, and yet I can’t escape them. I am doing my best, but it’s not enough. Or am I? I reduce, reuse, recycle. I live in an upstairs flat but I am growing brassicas in the middle of winter in pots on my steps. I am learning how to make things from scratch. I am networking. I am raising a beautiful child with all the goodness and consciousness in me. But at the end of the day, I’m still dependent on my car, the supermarket, and the government benefit that gets paid into my account each week.

‘It’ has sunk in, but I haven’t climbed out yet, to be terribly metaphorical about it all.

Chaos

18 Jun

People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
The reason the world is in chaos,
is because things are being loved,
and people are being used.

I really like my car

8 Jun

Today I had a busy out-and-about-day which involved a job interview for a part time nanny position, grocery shopping, taking a meal to a sick friend with a sick baby, dropping my son off to a friend for babysitting, going to an info evening about Home for Life, and picking my son up and taking him home well after his bedtime. I am so grateful for my car. I could not have done all that with a toddler on board if I had to use public transport.

I didn’t get my license until I decided I wanted a baby. I had driving lessons with a rather large bump, and sat my test while a friend took my 4 week old newborn for a walk. So it’s been less than two years that I have been independently driving. For many years I walked, cycled, used public transport, or got lifts from friends. It was fine, because it was all I knew, but once I started driving life became a lot easier.

The day after I got my license, this is what I did, with my newborn son in the backseat, while parking at the library.

(The numberplate wasn’t mooshed. I photoshopped that bit.)

I got a hell of a fright. My baby didn’t even wake up. So much for acing my test; I crashed the car while parking, for goodness’ sakes. Why did I press the accelerator instead of the brake? I don’t know. I had freedom and mobility for a whole day, and then it was back to being stuck at home because the Auckland public transport isn’t even worth bothering with. $750, a wrangle with our insurance company, and a few weeks later, my car was restored.

It’s a good car. Getting a bit old, but it does the job nicely. I’m going to be sad when I can’t use it any more. I almost wish I didn’t get my license, because then I wouldn’t know what I was missing out on in the future when I can’t afford to use it anymore. I know that I should be taking more steps to reduce my dependence on my car, but it’s hard! I know I should reduce my carbon emissions, but I feel like I am being forced to restrict my driving anyway due to petrol prices, and I shouldn’t have to reduce it even more. I’m entitled, right? Isn’t that what my generation expects? I live in a city. Many of my friends are far away. I have a toddler. I can’t give up on my car yet. But I hope I am ready by the time I have to.

The Fracking Song

5 Jun

I like it when people explain things in a way layfolk like me can understand:

Schooling in the context of Peak Oil

5 Jun

With all this thinking I’ve been doing about homeschooling, I have come to the point of considering it particularly in the context of Peak Oil. I’ll be honest here; if I thought society were to continue on as it currently is, then I would be more reluctant to homeschool. I don’t want my kid to be the weird one. I was the poor hippie kid with a single mum and was bullied at primary school and while this is part of the reason I am interested in homeschooling, it’s also part of my personal stigma against it. I wanted my kids to be normal.

Despite the fact that I now recognise the goodness of much of my childhood and appreciate the great things my alternative mum did for me, I am not quite over the desire to just fit in. The other day I was at the Southern Cross for a free mama massage, and a mother there had pikelets for her daughter. I thought ‘what a good snack idea’ and resolved to make some. Mine were made with wholemeal flour, A2 milk, free range eggs, honey, and oats and raisins, rather than white flour and sugar. I watched my son devour them and thought ‘uh oh, I’ve turned into that parent’. I’m glad that my son is eating more nutritious pikelets, but part of me still wants him to be the normal kid I never was.

However, I have been thinking that by the time my son would be due to start school (2015), there may not be the option of public schooling anyway. If there is, it could be so radically different that it either becomes really valuable and I won’t need to homeschool, or even worse than it already is because there are fewer resources but parents have to send their kids there. I don’t know exactly what impact the energy crisis will have on schooling, but it will be massive, just like everything else.

In the post-crisis world, I foresee that my kid won’t be weird for not going to school. Perhaps we will have a return to more traditional tribal / village life; where the kids learn what they need to know to survive. He won’t be the odd one out. Of course I will teach him to read and write and other academic things. But he will get much more use out of learning about how to grow vegetables and build a compost, how to bake bread and preserve fruit, how to carve wood and weave baskets, how to fix things and build things, how to mediate and listen, care for chickens, and understand the weather.

It definitely sounds like I am leaning more towards unschooling, but I think as many homeschoolers have found their own paths, I will find my own path too.

It also sounds like I have made up my mind, which I haven’t. But perhaps I have and just haven’t admitted it to myself yet.

Homeschooling / unschooling

3 Jun

It’s getting kinda late and I really should be in bed, because I have a toddler and I don’t get to sleep in on a Saturday morning. But a friend just posted this fascinating article on Facebook and I can’t stop thinking about it.

No Thank You, We Don’t Believe In Socialization! by Lisa Russell from The Mystical Kingdom

I have wavered between thinking that homeschooling or unschooling is the only way to go to truly help my son become the kind of adult he’d like to be (and help him create a better world), and thinking there is no way I could cope with homeschooling him, provide a rich enough education, and that after five years of full time parenting, won’t I deserve a break?

It’s interesting to note that the two opposing thoughts are: what is best for me, and what is best for him. If I am really honest with myself, I think that homeschooling him is the best thing for him. IF, and only if, I can remain motivated, dedicated, and have a spirit of joy and curiosity while helping him learn. But for me? Perhaps it’s because we are only just out of the very demanding baby phase and into the very demanding toddler phase, but part of me is really looking forward to him growing a bit older and being able to be away from me for periods of time. This subject is really far too big for this meagre blog post at 10.26pm, but Lisa’s article has really got me thinking again. I really want to read the rest of her blog posts but I really will go to bed after this post.

What she says about socialisation, the ‘real world’ and bullies makes so much sense that I wonder why I have any doubt. And I tell myself that although things can be pretty tiring now, he is only 15 months and likes to be carried. A lot. He can’t really talk. He can feed himself food that I give him but he makes one heck of a mess. He’s in nappies. By the age of three, these factors won’t apply. And I don’t even have to have a strict or structured curriculum; we can learn together. If we live in a village then he will learn incredibly valuable skills just by being part of village life and having the freedom to pursue the things he is interested in. So: pressure off, tiredness dismissed.

In the context of the looming energy crisis, we don’t even know what kind of schools will be available. So perhaps it is better for me to prepare myself for homeschooling than to keep wavering until the decision is made for me, either way.

So many more thoughts on this, but for now, bed…

Living in legoland

1 May

Edward Scissorhands' suburbia (at least it's colourful...)

Yesterday morning I strapped the baby into the carrier and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I don’t often do that; it’s very boring around here. We occasionally go to the park down the road but they don’t have any baby swings and there isn’t much else he can do at a playground. As I was walking along the ridge and down to the newer part of the suburb, I was a bit ‘grossed out’ by how ‘legoland’ it is.

I’m accustomed to seeing row after row of not-very-well-built-but-trying-to-look-fancy houses (especially in this area), but the thing that struck me yesterday was all the cars. Every other house had a car parked in front of the garage with it’s bum sticking out over the pavement. I had to keep stepping around the cars as I walked along the footpath. (Footpath? Bootpath, apparently.) I wondered what was in their garages, that they couldn’t all park their cars in there. Another car? A boat? Boxes full of stuff? I hoped some of them had workshops or something, but I doubt it.

I had this sudden Edward Scissorhands vision of them all pulling out of their driveways at the same time and driving to work. What a strange place I live in.

It’s becoming so clear

21 Apr

Photo by Sipa Press / Rex Features. AERIAL VIEW OF AMAZON RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION

The more I learn about Peak Oil and climate change, the more it becomes clear what a stupid society we live in. As I think about the things we (in the developed world) do that have such massive and often negative effect on the environment and other people, I realise that continuing on in this way of life, even if they were to find another few oil fields, is plain old irresponsible and foolhardy.

I feel it regularly, and have for a long time, although I haven’t always known what to do about it. The lack of community, the isolation of the nuclear family, the work commute waste of time, the ‘retail therapy’ mindset. I mean, really, retail therapy? I’ve never been much of a shopper: although I’m not immune to buying things, going to the mall for fun has never been my ‘thing’!

Yes, they could frack the heck out of North America. Maybe they could figure out how to get every last drop of oil out of the wells. Maybe there are untapped oil resources in the Arctic. Maybe there will be enough electricity / hydrogen / ethanol / vegetable oil to fuel alternative cars. But there are so many things wrong with the options presented by Peak Oil skeptics. How about we just leave the Arctic alone? How about we get back on our horses and bikes instead of clutching desperately to our cars? How about we don’t destroy the environment and cause more pollution by fracturing rocks?

Not to mention the fact that many of our products are produced by sweatshop labour. Someone on the other side of the world has toiled away in misery so that I can ‘have it easy’. And cheap. I don’t want that responsibility on my conscience. Hundreds of animal species are endangered or extinct. Amazonian forests are being cut down at insane rates (something like 6 football fields a minute, if I remember correctly) to make space for grazing beef cattle to make more crappy McDonalds burgers. Honestly, people, what are we doing?!

When you look at the issue from so many perspectives (environmental responsibility, human rights, personal health and happiness, animals rights, etc.) it seems ludicrous. I, for one, am ready to renounce this ‘world owes me a living’ consumer lifestyle, and start living sustainably and ethically. Now to figure out exactly how and when…

Great transition photos

20 Apr

Being led through the ‘Peak Oil wayfares’ of the internet, I came across this fabulous photo essay of the Transition Town Totnes (UK) by Ed Thompson http://www.luzphoto.com/story.php?titolo=totnes_thompson. Thought I’d post the link as a bit of visual inspiration.

Totnes was the first Transition Town, and is the ‘most ecologically developed city in the world’.

I think this is my favourite photo. It pretty much encompasses my hopes for my son.

Copyright Ed Thompson

Copyright Ed Thompson

Why I want this anyway

16 Apr

I have never believed that living life in fear of the future is any way to live life. Take Wellington, for example. I know people who won’t live here, and won’t even visit here, for fear of ‘The Big One’. Well, Christchurch had a massive earthquake (or big few) and no one saw it coming, whereas here in Wellington we are stable. [Touch wood.] If I had allowed fear of an earthquake to get in my way, I may not have made an album, done a tour, started a business, learnt web design, and met my husband. It is part of my philosophy that we should seek happiness, not live in fear or duty.

So when my husband pointed out that a lot of my motivation for moving to a farm or village is in anticipation of Peak Oil, I had to stop and think. Was I going against my philosophy: was I arranging my life around fear? I have decided not. Here is why I would do this anyway (oh man, another list…):

  • Finances. I’m weary of feeling like we never earn quite enough to keep up with the lifestyle we have or the lifestyle we want. We don’t have huge debt and we can pay rent and bills and eat healthy food, but we don’t have any spare. In the city culture, this is stressful. I’d like to live somewhere there is less of a strain with money; due to increased self sufficiency and decreased ‘needs’.
  • Community is such an important and beautiful thing. I’d like more of it for me, and I’d like more of it for my son.
  • It’s more natural. I have always felt this, although often denied it to myself and others. But living more rurally, sufficiently and sustainably is a more natural way of life and a healthier one, too.
  • The baby deserves it. He loves the outdoors. Even when he was a newborn, he would immediately stop crying when we took him outside, and would be more relaxed and go to sleep easier. My guaranteed way to get him to sleep was to put him in the mei tai and walk to the end of the street and back. It was a 2 minute walk. He loves crawling around outside, seeing the trees and the clouds. He bawls his eyes out when I shut the front door, and often crawls over to the ranchslider and bangs on the window, or stares at the trees. For his sake, even more than my own, I want to live in a village.
  • Organic, locally grown, seasonal food. This stuff tastes the best and it is the best. It’s so easy to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever I want, and if they don’t have what I want, to feel almost angry. It’s amazing, really, how far we have come from what is natural.
  • It’s environmentally responsible. It’s somewhat excusable to live a consumer lifestyle if you really don’t know any better. But I know better.
  • Stars. You don’t often see the stars in the city, or at least not as many as in the country. There is nothing quite like the incredible stillness at night when you look up into the black sky, covered with dots of light, and you could swear you’re the only person around. And then you smell the woodsmoke, and hear a dog bark, and you know you’re not, and that’s magic too.
  • Seasons. I never really notice the seasons in the city. Sure, it gets colder or warmer. But you don’t really feel them. There isn’t a proper awareness. I miss that. It’s so much easier to be ‘in touch’ in the country.
  • Self sufficiency. I would like to know that if the proverbial hits the fan, I’d be OK. But I also like the idea of being more responsible for myself and my family even if no fan gets hit.

I think this list is likely to get longer. But that will do for now.

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.