The more people who are aware and prepared in any emergency situation, the better the opportunity to reduce the overall impact and panic. Startled and frightened and/or angered and vengeful individuals will not be thinking clearly and acting rationally.
The problem is not availability of information but a refusal to see it. Not an overall lack of mental ability, but a refusal to think.
Each of us must shortly choose a new path, or we will be forced into one. Do you want to survive? Do you know what it takes to sustain yourself in a limited resource environment? A little knowledge, and a lot of enthusiasm, can go a long way.
Photosynthesizers are the basic energy source for any ecosystem, which is a complex web of living and non-living factors. These webs are not fixed, like parts of a machine, but the do eventually develop relative stable ranges of numbers of each member of the system. Despite our relative isolation in homes, and cities, humans must nevertheless be seen as PART of an ecosystem.
We need to recycle biomaterials, grow a diverse mix of crops in a multitude of micro environments, with hand cultivation to minimize soil disruption, with an aim to establishing a stable ecosystem.
Where are YOU going?
We can ignore depletion, and continue as we are, have good times until the fossil fuel era ends, and face whatever disaster is presented.
We can personally conserve, but if we do not build for the post oil paradigm, we miss out on the good times until the fossil fuel era ends, and face whatever disaster is presented.
We can personally conserve, and use "excess" resources to take advantage of the remaining time, cheap energy and materials, to step past the collapse, into the post oil paradigm. For the present, it is still possible to "click", or make a phone call, and have services or supplies delivered. After the crash becomes widely apparent, it will probably be too late for individuals to afford significant preparations.
When do you need to act? Back in January 2004, Professor Kenneth S. Deffeyes, of Princeton University, jokingly predicted we would reach the half-way point for the remaining oil supply on November 24, 2005 (Thanksgiving Day). Using best available data, after the fact he has corrected himself. He calculates that we passed the half-way point on December 16, 2005.
We need to effectively and efficiently network and focus our distributed capabilities and resources to maximize all of our transition to a sustainable paradigm.
In the collapse of previous complex societies, when they were geographically isolated, individuals survived by dispersing into the wilderness, and foraging. There was however, always "civilization" elsewhere on the Earth. The collapse we face will essentially occur simultaneously worldwide.
There is not sufficient "wilderness" left between complex centers in which the present population could disperse. Clive Ponting, in "A Green History of the World" writes that a human population of around four million, achieved about 10,000 years ago, may be the maximum supportable by a hunter gatherer society, and that in the abundant wild of the time.
By around 1800, the limits of local, self-sufficient agriculture and fertile land were essentially reached, with a global population of less than 1 billion. Since that time, we have used, and abandoned many marginal farming areas, and in our chemical applications and one-way nutrient flow denigrated what might have otherwise been fertile fields.
In that a hunter forager lifestyle, or even a return to animal powered and manured agriculture requires a GREATER area per person, they appears to be a guaranteed method to a large population dieoff, and perhaps a death-knell for the remaining wilderness.
Epiphany - survivalism Edit
Is dead end thinking
My initial reaction nearly a decade ago to awakening to more detail of our oil dependency was survivalist, with plans for a remote retreat. We purchased a little over 40 acres of remote desert land, and started putting in the necessary support for a remote homestead, essentially a survivalist retreat. It had been part of a cattle ranch, and came with and old windmill, water tanks, fencing, etc. as part of the old operation.
The area received more than 12" of rainfall per year, and had plenty of underground water not very deep. It also had plenty of mesquite trees, cactus, jackrabbits, coyote and snakes. From our highest hill, I could see the three plus miles to the nearest paved surface. In effect, I has hoping that I could run and hide, hoping that someone else would "do something" to take care of the problem.
On a summer afternoon I was there alone investigating the property. Climbing one of our hills, at the top, my chest hurt. I reached for the cell phone to call for help, and had my epiphany.
Even if I dialed 911, and an ambulance was dispatched immediately, the coyotes could be munching on my remains long before an ambulance could travel the nearly 30 miles of paved road, then 6 miles of winding dirt to my location.
Survivalist bunkers, or disbursing the population precludes the interaction among people essential to maintain specialized technical skills and knowledge.
Hiding may still be the best survival step, but in the bigger picture, it's a dead end . We needed a different, and hopefully better "Plan A" than an isolated bunker.
Even if there is some well hidden "Galt's Gulch" retreat for the wealthy and powerful, there are limits as to what can be achieved in a small community. Giver the highly interactive nature of current civilization, the physical limits are not however immediately self-evident.
Even basic information on physical needs was not readily available in a manner relevant to building or reworking for sustainable community. Survival is an inherent aspect of ongoing life, but this treatise is not "survivalist" in nature.
Preserve a stable foundation Edit
If you start immediately, while resources are still abundant, you may be able to create security for self, family, and community during the crash. Hopefully you can initiate or associate with a community structured to function in the new paradigm. It will be upon those who survive, with knowledge, skills, and abilities intact, who are well fed, with excess resources, to create a positive future for humanity, if there is to be one.
The near future Edit
Heinberg presents in his book Powerdown essentially four positions regarding peak oil. Last man standing, waiting for the magic elixir, powerdown, and building lifeboats.
Governments by their nature tend toward the use of force to take what is wanted. It is probable that to AVOID a world at war, a collection of powers, probably “lead” by the U.S., must act as global policemen to enforce a policy that nations will not fight over resources. It could mean maintaining military forces in oil areas for the duration of mankind’s dependency on oil.
There are those who are confident that new technological developments will make oil irrelevant, indeed, that oil companies have suppressed such developments. The conspiracy theorists may be right. We may indeed leapfrog the currently touted "hydrogen economy" into "STAR TREK" technology.
While I do not expect this leap in our immediate future, I acknowledge there is potentially much science for us yet to learn, IF we can maintain functioning civilization, and act intelligently. A joke, which I've seen attributed to Iassic Asimov, is that perhaps supernova stars are not natural events after all, but rather alien civilizations who have an "industrial accident" with a zero point energy device.
Even if there is no explosive potential, each such device is a new source of surface heat. Imagine the effect of billions or trillions of them in operation. But until these devices are clearly demonstrated, we must act within available known technology, products and knowledge.
We can voluntarily reduce our resource demands, both in per person demand, and working toward a smaller population, or we can individually look to the battles of “last man standing”.
Beyond reducing resource demands, we can individually, and in expanding groups, re-work our own lives to eliminate our dependency on non-renewable resources.
Coping with awakening Edit
We sincerely appear to be approaching a crossroad, where we will have to choose between business as usual, leading to a collapse of civilization, and voluntarily changing our infrastructure and lifestyle to one that provides for continued and sustainable development. Perhaps we should apply Dr. Kubler-Ross' 5 stages of grief, to humanities present global situation. The first stage is denial. "There's plenty of oil"… or food… or water… or room on the planet… Next comes anger or resentment. "Who did this!" or "We've been set up!". The third stage is bargaining. "If I can just make it to retirement", or "…get the kids thru college", or "If we impose taxes… or rationing… we can…" delay the obvious outcome, and sooth ourselves by not having to think about it now. The fourth stage is depression. A population sustainable absent non-renewable input and the present infrastructure is MUCH smaller than alive today, no visible program of conservation allows supplies to be stretched to match any "natural" population reduction, and extensive conservation would cause economic collapse of the infrastructure. There is no apparent "safe" landing for most of the planet.
Finally comes acceptance. You can't save the world. In terms of current human society, it may not be worth saving. You may not be among the small percent with the personal knowledge, skills, and ambition to save yourself and your family. Any effort may be futile, but do you elect to do nothing, or calmly analyze what is needed for the future after the crash, and where to invest your energy now for the best return in your future living conditions? If you are looking for someone to be the pioneer for positive change, look in the mirror and realize that some must be those who wake up. Envisioning a high tech, complex civilization from the top down is an incredible challenge. So don't try to.
What to do until the last drop Edit
In disaster preparedness planning, mitigation efforts are those that reduce or eliminate some aspect of the disaster addressed. With proper preparedness, you can mitigate much of the foreseeable personal consequences of resource depletion (such as peak oil) and demand (per person and standing population) exceeding possible supply of renewable resources. While our challenges are global in scope, there is no readily apparent big-picture or top-down solution. Everything from our pollution of the air & water, unsustainable food systems, dependence on “mining” of even fossil water, emphasizes that the solutions need to be implemented starting at the most basic levels in order for the bigger picture to be one of comprehensive, effective, and lasting solutions, such as are appropriate to the local conditions.
You can complain about the situation, and demand someone else act, or you can take personal initiative and responsibility, get your own house in order, and serve as an example and guide to others. You can seed a grass-roots effort to redevelop and rebuild your community. The post-Katrina events in New Orleans included expected riots, theft, and assaults. The complex and expensive infrastructure and controls of the city, and larger governmental entities, failed. There were also though instances of people banding together for protection and mutual support. You must get beyond coping, and act.
1. Accept that oil, and other fossil fuels are a finite resource. Accept they are, and will continue to be burned. Not only can't you stop it, our infrastructure is so dependent that stopping the burning and other fossil fuel uses could trigger the crash of civilization.
2. Don't feel "guilty" about your personal use of fossil fuels, BUT take prompt steps to lessen and "ASAP" eliminate your DEPENDENCE on such. (Including your dependence on the fossil fueled infrastructure, including food and earnings to pay debts.)
3. Select your personal vision of what an oil depletion (and depletion of our other finite resources) scenario looks like, and act accordingly. If you expect World War III, head for the hills, build and stockpile a bunker. If you expect the continued stress of products and services being priced out of the marketplace due to rising cost of depleting resources, plan ahead to live without them and look for alternatives.
4. Wherever you intend to call home, make it such that home can be livable without the need for constant input of fuel or outside energy. Take up the hobby of gardening now. Learn what you can grow in your area, and get accustomed to a diet from your own crops.
5. The job market, good and services, income and therefore tax base are not going to resemble what we see today.
6. What do you need to consider, and to, to create a personal home and local post crash community?
Civilization as a concept Edit
Civilization implies a greater range of knowledge, opportunities, and types of challenges then is applicable to a family or village scale association. There is physical security. There is the opportunity to specialize. There is greater opportunity to express creativity. There is the opportunity to preserve the knowledge and creations of the past, and build upon them. Civilization relies not only on the physical presence of essential physical resources and energy, but on the circular argument of confidence in civilization.
Civilizations tend to develop around a centralizing philosophy . For the long term we need agreed upon law and discipline, an approach to interaction that encourages everyone involved to plan and act along the lines of stability and permanence. We need a philosophy that encourages practical and useful physical construction well integrated and meant to last. But civilization can be fragile, fractured by irrational fear, loss of hope and vision for the future, or even by boredom.
Civilization tends to bring with it though seeds of its own destruction, such as layers of government and organized religion, self proclaimed elite, and it tends to decay into mob rule, or rule by physical force. We see forced labor or taxation to fund projects or programs that aggrandize the leadership, but provide no practical improvement. Can we achieve the benefits of a complex civilization, attained by mutual respect and voluntary agreement? What about resisting those who initiate force?
The skill and will to fight, as well as the tools to do so are essential for preservation of civilization. Peaceful, non-technical civilizations tend to be over-run by those who see it as their right or duty to initiate force, and by those with the technology to overcome such resistance that can be presented. Realistically also, at the individual level those who abdicate personal responsibility, whether for the basics of life, responsibility for their actions, etc., are taking steps toward empowering an oppressive hierarchy.
A Sustainable Civilization is one where the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs using the same resources.
It is one where there are feedback loops, physical and mental, personal, family, and societal which keep in check population growth and encourage building for the future.
In his hierarchy of needs theory Maslow more eloquently states the logic that gasping, dehydrated, starving humans are not focused on esoteric aspects of civilization. Underlying needs must be met first.
1. Physical 2. Safety 3. Love/Belonging 4. Esteem 5. Actualization
1. Do you have under your control or ownership the means to meet:
- the need to breathe - the need for water - the need to eat - the need to dispose of bodily wastes - the need for sleep - the need to regulate body temperature
2. Safety concerns come to the forefront once physical needs are met. These include:
- Physical Security & Safety from Violence - Security of Revenues and Resources - Moral and physiological security - Familial security - Security of health
3. Love/Belonging needs. After physical and safety needs are fulfilled, the social level involves human emotions and the need to be accepted and to belong, generally at a level beyond that of the immediate family.
4. Esteem needs. Humans have a need to be respected, to self-respect and to respect others. People need to engage themselves in order to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution and self-value.
5. Self-actualization is the need of a person to make the most of their unique abilities and to strive to be the best they can be. Imagine the potential of a city of a million self-actualized individuals who:
- Embrace the facts and realities of the world rather than denying or avoiding them. - Are spontaneous in their ideas and actions. - Are creative. - Are interested in solving problems. - Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives. - Feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life. - Have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority. - Judge others without prejudice, in a way that can be termed objective.
No one person, or small group, is going to have all of the skills, knowledge, and opinions we need to get to a sustainable community, or even a definitive place to start. It all starts with an exchange of ideas, success and failure stores, and resources. Energy and resource surety at the community level is essential, but at the present is lacking.
Our government and private sector institutions were created and developed in an era of cheap energy and continued expansion. This either has, or will shortly end. These institutions, and those individuals working for, or benefiting from such, can be expected to balk at the functioning end of their empire.
In Biomimicry, Janie M. Benyus presents 10 "Lessons" humans need to learn, not only as individuals but as a civilization. Nature evolves complex systems, with every niche filled with life, that are "run" by multiple and overlapping feedback loops.
Consider a blade of grass. A single seed can, even if surrounded by a hostile environment; self assemble from the bottom up. The blade of grass serves as a pioneer and life support system for other plants and creatures, each of which contributes to the development of a micro environment, each with natural feedback loops to monitor and check growth.
If non-thinking creatures can act in relative symbiosis to weave a multi layer, multi purpose, season adaptable physical environment, with little energy or resources lost, resistant to outside disturbance, can we learn to:
1. Use waste as a resource. 2. Diversify and cooperate to fully use the habitat. 3. Gather and use energy efficiently 4. Optimize rather than maximize 5. Use materials sparingly 6. Don't foul their nests 7. Don't draw down resources 8. Remain in balance with the biosphere 9. Run on information 10. Shop locally
The late 1990's awoke many to potential infrastructure vulnerabilities related to Y2K computer problems. We are now in the early states of weaknesses showing in the energy infrastructure, upon which all other core infrastructures are dependent.
Y2K became for the most part a "non-incident" due to the pro-active cures put in place prior to the date-certain "catastrophic" event. While an energy crash is not date certain, its existence is certain.
The objective reality is that the community must become self-reliant at least in all of the essentials of life for the relevant local population.
Our sustainability challenge may also have high technology, and social components, but if physical essential are not met we won't get to these.
Get a cup of coffee Edit
Feedback to earlier versions of this treatise included that it does not provide clear guidance on how to build a particular type of home, organize a neighborhood, etc. So, to clarify to new readers in advance, this is not a blueprint, nor is it a step-by-step set of instructions as to how to put together a homestead, or organize a community.
There are many self-help books, and free materials on the web (for now) such that any detailed area you might need to investigate for self improvement or self reliance is readily available. Most of these materials though are on survivalist, or isolated primitive homesteads, not addressing the larger picture of avoiding, or minimizing the collapse of civilization.
This treatise is intended to present a different picture than survivalism, or a “back to the land” approach. The author hopes to spark not only self reliance in the essentials for personal and family safety, but also to inspire networks where warranted, and contemplation of a philosophy of “enlightened self interest”.
I have been asked if/when I might publish a guide such as this. The earlier that people wake up, and the better informed they are, the better not only for them, but for everyone. The author hopes the ten chapters of this treatise, and the various appendices, provide all readers a “jump start” toward making sustainability changes in their lives and communities. This treatise is available free on the web. If you cannot find them, email the author and I will send you the latest versions.
This is intended to get people to think, and for those new to facing the sobering reality of how far from sustainability we are, to present information so you do not have to research how to “re-invent the wheel”. This is intended to prompt YOU to take your first steps, and wake up others. If there has been no point to the script for the rest of your life, hopefully you will find one.
Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand. - Ancient Chinese
A thought experiment: The evening before your next day off, BEFORE the sun sets, make a steaming thermos of your favorite hot beverage, and set the thermos outside. Arrange it so you will wake up with the sunrise. Turn off your utility provided power, water, gas, phone, cable, etc.
Envision the flow of, and benefits derived from fossil fuels have ended, as they sometime must. In the morning, your money will only be numbers on scraps of paper.
Are you safe for the night? Can you provide a meal for your family for the following day? For a week? What about your sewage?
We need to have appropriate steps taken, and changes made, at every level. The human infrastructure IS our "natural" ecosystem, most of us just don't realize it. The problems we face are global in scope. The important life support solutions are however local in nature.
We must be the change we want to see. - Ghandi
If you will indulge a personal peeve, while you've got your television "disconnected" from the babble of broadcast or cable, leave it disconnected. Break the addition to the useless drawl. Talk with your family and friends. Read and research. Sit and think.
This writing is an accumulation of notes and thoughts by someone for whom the challenges of long-term sustainability have been a long term concern. Check the facts presented, and my math, and make your own conclusions, and plans. With hard work, and some luck, we may avoid the worst.
The paradigm of cheap abundant oil is dying, as will be the entire infrastructure dependent on such. Before you encounter this gas station, you must begin to think and act for the long term, starting with the basics and working toward a self-organizing long term sustainable human ecosystem.