Tag Archives: peak oil

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.

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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.

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…

State # 5

17 May

Here’s some light reading for a Tuesday evening.

Transition and the collapse scenario by Dave Pollard

This article is Full. On. I’m not sure I can deal with it. It’s challenging enough preparing for a crisis scenario. But a collapse? Which we won’t start recovering from until 2100? (And by we, I mean my grandchildren, because I will be dead. It’s not likely that cyborg technology will be developed in an energy deficient world to extend my lifetime beyond it’s natural years.) My brain hurts just thinking about it. So I’m sticking with ‘preparing for a crisis’. I can’t do much more. But the article is interesting, anyway.

Preparing for Economic Collapse by Fernando ‘FerFAL’ Aguirre

I’m showing my age and my ignorance here, but I didn’t even know that Argentina had an economic collapse in 2001. Granted, I was only 14. But it’s a strange awareness that something that big just slipped me by. Fourteen year olds aren’t stupid (a little self-absorbed, perhaps), and I’m fairly sure I watched the news now and then. But I had no idea.

I find it interesting when ‘doomsday naysayers’ say: ‘people have been predicting bad stuff for years, and we’re still alright’, when clearly ‘we’ are not. A major South American economy collapsed. Ten years ago, and they are still recovering. We are in a recession that is not ending. Earthquakes and tsunamis are devastating countries. Many fit, intelligent and capable people are suffering extreme hardship and wondering why. Stuff is happening, people! We are not alright.

Alas, I am unable to follow much of ‘FerFAL’s’ advice, as I have no savings to put into bullion, and I am struggling to buy food for a couple of weeks, much less a whole year. But it’s worth reading advice from someone who has lived through such a catastrophic time.

And lastly, The Six Stages of Awareness by Chris Martenson

This one is less challenging than the other two, but still interesting. I think I have gone through stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. I’m fairly accepting these days, although I still don’t know quite how I’m going to be as prepared as I’d like to be, given my current situation. Like the author, I cycle between 4 and 6 quite often. I think I have skipped 5. I get a bit bummed occasionally, but I don’t think I have gotten depressed about it. I’m a bit too much of a ‘do-er’ to get depressed.

And on that happy note, I’m off to watch ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’.

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

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.