Archive for the ‘Intro’ Category

cc: Getting out the post-carbon message

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Crunchy Chicken asks – how to get the message out about man-made global warming and peak oil.

There are a lot of niggling details being argued over in climate change and environmental circles. 350 ppm. Peak oil dates. Number of species gone extinct.

But, I’ve come to the realization that many of these details are, for the most part, irrelevant. We’ve got a much bigger problem. And it’s called apathy. Actually, it’s much worse than apathy because apathy suggests something more hopeful. No, what we’ve got is distrust, disbelief, the desire to prove wrong and more, importantly, hatred.

Until these issues are addressed our message (whatever it is) will just bounce off the heads of those we are trying to educate or encourage.

One commenter chimed in with

Carbon taxes. People change their behavior when money comes into the picture. Mental change follows action change for most folks anyway.

- – -

On a personal note, I don’t hold that global warming is man-made. On the other hand, Peak Oil, the loss of wealth from the world as demand for oil on a given day overshadows the ability to produce oil on that day, will drive nearly all the changes that the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) worriers propose. The AGW argument runs in two directions – stop burning fossil fuels and producing methane, and sequester carbon and CO2 already in the atmosphere. Peak Oil expectations are that cheap energy – coal and oil – are getting more expensive and will become too expensive to continue life as we know it.

Most of the proposals for sequestering carbon have been energy intensive. Anything energy intensive has to be re-evaluated under Peak Oil.

Someone pointed out that cows produce methane – so feeding cows has become somewhat of a point of dogma for AGW mitigation proponents. They don’t seem concerned about swamps and compost heaps that sequester carbon – and emit methane. In quantities to obscure what can be measured from all the cows in the world. This is just one of the politically correct and facile arguments I object to.

- – -

Barry Goldwater had it several years ago, “You cannot legislate morality.”

Carbon taxes won’t work. Look at how punitive taxes have failed to reduce smoking, or the dangers to young and old smokers. Smoking sections in restaurants, now, made a difference. Smoking sections demonstrate, publicly, that smokers are harmful to others. That visual cue – the smoke in the air, the segregation, is an image easier to carry into home and family life, implying a credible message to smokers and bystanders.

Cigarette taxes barely inconvenience sellers and wealthy – and impose real hardships on the middle class and poor. And fuel a black market that gangs, thugs, and organized crime exploit.

If you want to shut down coal-fired power plants, the obvious step is to stop using electricity. If you want to shut down steel plants, stop using steel. And if you want to save the planet, stop sending scrapped machinery and cars to China. Re-use, repurpose, rebuild and restore, instead.

If you want to stop burning diesel and gas in cars, stop commuting for shopping and for work. And school – return to the one-room school within walking distance (a mile or so), put up the teacher in a nearby home instead of a “living” (euphemism for Union) or “comparable” wage, forgo the weekly (out of town!) football and basketball spectacles.

(I can see how consolidating schools makes for career advancement for administrators, for consolidating authority, but it fails to take into account the impact of longer travel times and fuel usage on the community. I have a lot of respect for teaching and teachers. But teachers unions seldom pressure a school to improve education results, and they do *not* keep money in the local economy.)

If you cannot choose, en masse, to live a sustainable energy lifestyle – how strong is your message? Really?

I mean, you have to allow a transition, a period where people expecting to live in a post-industrial age find the adaptations – the devices, the community planning strategies, the building codes, the school building construction concepts, the bicycles, the shoes not made of petroleum in third world countries and transported around the world, for goodness sakes!

I have a drawing in a book, “Farm Appliances You Can Build”, that shows a wooden frame to stuff straw or hay – to hand build hay and straw bales. My neighbors that bale and feed hay use the big bales that require heavy equipment to pick up, store, and dispense. I don’t begin to know how to make my own twine.

The flip side to “carbon tax” is the devaluation of human effort. Real wages have to return to the value of the food required (at the rice and beans level of nutrition) for that day, plus 10-20% so the “wealthy” can afford to feed a family. Wages cannot be kept at a level where the average worker buys a house, buys a car every five to ten years, pays for college for every child, and buys them computers as their school requires.

As a nation we may have to evaluate whether some jobs should pay enough for a worker to have a family, or be married. I expect this pressure on wages to redefine a lot, including selection of mate and circumstances for “dating” and marrying – and having children. I expect the home to become not an investment, but where you expect your descendents to live. This may come to overturn our current approach to real estate taxes – which today assume a level of affluence that is not going to persist.

That kind of re-adjustment to “real wages” is what is needed. Does that have to happen today? No. Today we have to adapt to a “hideously expensive” energy society. And the first things to look at are employers and city planners oblivious to the distance people commute, and that fail to take responsibility for their impact on fuel usage in cities.

That is how to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in personal life. Not employing more union labor to build big factory cars that burn less gas – or coal-fired electricity – to repeat the same rubber-consuming, time consuming, resource consuming commuter lifestyle we have taken for granted since the boys came marching home from WWII and Sears created the myth of the single family dwelling, and corporate America invented mass commuting.

The ship doesn’t go where the captain doesn’t steer. If we don’t like this ship, the answer has nothing to do with harassing the guy at the wheel. I just don’t see that many people getting off the “cheap oil” ship. That Cheap Oil ship has to stay to the established trade routes – it cannot get to the “uncharted wastes” where people could live without massive use of fossil fuels.

A Carbon tax is a politically correct bandage. It serves the “Tax the rich” mantra, and it keeps union workers on the take as we build new cars and new coal-fired power plants to take advantage of the new economic leverage ploys you create. And it is my understanding the national electricity grid is someone inefficient, delivering some portion of the energy it starts out with. So-called “clean” electricity from wind power is quite a bit more expensive – and oil intensive – to build and maintain. And requires coal-fired plants to serve when the wind isn’t blowing where it is needed.

Like recycling plans for plastics and paper – without government subsidies, you wouldn’t see the wind turbines going up – or operating. I understand the wind operators in Texas, some of them, *pay* the grid to take their electricity, making up the difference from federal grants. That is what “sustainable” means to me.

ar: End of a (cheap energy) era

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

John Michael Greer writes persuasively about the end of the era of cheap energy: Peak Oil.

That is, the availability of massive amounts of energy, readily available, have dominated human culture and society since the discovery of charcoal and coal, and later oil. Today we revel in nylon, and polyester, in commutes to jobs, regional “local” medical facilities, stores, and manufacturers that operate “just in time” rather than stockpile – conserve transportation costs – materials and supplies. We think nothing of an airplane flight to “save time”, or utilize toys and clothes and personal vehicles made hundreds or thousands of miles, or continents and oceans, away. We chucked Grandpa’s push-type reel mower for a motor-driven lawn mower – without considering whether the pushing – and results – are actually easier. Riding mowers, bigger engines, these trade the use of cheap energy – often transported to us from thousands of miles away – for “time”.

So – what happens when the trucks bringing sheep from Wyoming to the local grocery store, or cattle or hogs from slaughterhouses in the Midwest – cannot get fuel? What happens when the tractor dealers serving the great farms and heavy farm equipment in use today – cannot make enough money to keep service technicians employed, or to replenish repair and maintenance parts? What happens when the cost to make and transport fertilizer to grow the expected crops today, make the cost to plant greater than the best possible harvest?

What happens when the farmer cannot afford the cost of sending the crop to buyers?

Food security – the risk that changes in oil availability could mean not enough food is available – is one concern about economic instability, and especially Peak Oil.

Today, and for decades in the past, houses have been built on the assumption of central heating and air conditioning. What happens, in one prediction, when by 2012, the average American family cannot pay their utility bills? In Iowa I lived in farm houses that were built when single-room, oil stoves were the expected heating unit, and central furnace was added after the building was built. The rooms all had higher ceilings than modern houses. The windows were taller, and substantial storm windows replaced screens each fall, to be swapped back each summer. One or two rooms were heated, and frost in the bedroom wasn’t that exceptional. Lots of blankets helped. Anyone notice that kids today have more asthma, than kids in the past?

So, I just spent a week working around the Cheyenne, OK area. West of the little town of Cheyenne, on state road 47 at US Highway 283, is the Black Kettle Grasslands, and the Battle of the Washita Overlook.

Then Lt. Col. George Custer – this was 1868, before his grandstanding at the battle of the Little Bighorn – let the 7th US Cavalry, about 500 troopers, in attacking a band of Cheyenne under chief Black Kettle while sleeping in their winter camp. The day before the leaders of the village had returned from asking for peace and freedom from Army attacks. The Indian Territory command couldn’t grant them anything – it seems General Sheridan up in Kansas faced roaming bands of warriors – and intended to track them down when they returned to their home camps. Which Custer did. Sheridan’s orders were to kill or hang warriors, his unstated but well understood orders were to kill women and children as well, to take no prisoners. All ponies, supplies, etc. were to be destroyed. That is, something of a “scorched earth” approach. Anyway. So, Custer attacks, and likely 16 warriors, and 40 women and children are killed. One intrepid officer, Major Joel Elliot, likely without orders, pursued a band of warriors with 20 men. About a mile from camp they “met resistance” and were all killed.

Most of this story is engraved on the markers at the battleground overlook tourist site, on the OK highway 45a loop just west of Cheyenne, OK. There is more on Wikipedia.

A couple of thoughts came to me, reading the markers at the site. One is – when Custer had the (largely civilians) at a 500 soldiers to maybe a couple hundred (sleeping) warriors, chiefs, and families – he kicked butt. The Army usually does, ask around in Iraq and other places. But when 20 troops and an intrepid leader got separated, and ran into Indian warriors – they got their clock cleaned, hard.

That is, there isn’t an obvious superiority between the Cheyenne people in their winter lodges, and the Army troops. Any superiority has to do with weapons and numbers; the people are reasonably equivalent.

One obvious difference, to me, is that Custer enjoyed an energy superiority. It is cheap energy that mass produces Army weapons, uniforms, and gear. It is cheap energy that envisions and supplies forts and troops far in advance of the farms and merchants that made up America at the time.

The Amish today live apart from much of American society, by choice. Most live without cable or electricity running to their home; they live pretty well. They eschew much of modern medicine, and government intervention. Many use kerosene, some gasoline and diesel engines. They use coal, and charcoal, and burn wood, I imagine. But their daily use is much less than mainstream America.

That Cheyenne tribe, living through the winters in their lodges and villages, with their families about them and their rich cultural heritage, they managed without much cheap energy, at least in today’s terms. Where food is available, animals and even slaves or other forced labor are sources of cheap energy, not much seen in the affluent Western world based in cheap energy and especially cheap oil.

Today JMG paints a picture of the future in pessimistic terms. He claims that the end of this era of cheap energy means starvation for some, displacement and hardship for many. If we as a people can no longer afford to commute via private vehicle to work – then how long before the protection of fire and police efforts are limited to a short distance around their sites/offices? The national economy component of national security will, necessarily, crumble, since it is built on the free flow of cash as cheap energy flows about the industrial, commercial, and private sectors. Which means that more emphasis than ever will be needed to provide adequate military security. The risk of foreign invasion as well as internal interference to destabilize states and the nation will increase. We will need to divert much oil and other energy to military needs.

Some few, as always, will be able to take advantage of the situation and those around them. For the rest – I imagine that family and community ties will enrich some folks, the traditions of playing music instruments, and telling stories and songs as a means of preserving histories will enrich other lives.

Much of the Western World is based on an assumption of insatiable personal ambition for money and symbols of affluence. Perhaps we can choose to trade this (oligarchy imposed) sham with a more meaningful view of life and family, and community.

ar: Some new words I am defining

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Just words.

Over the past couple of weeks I have learned a couple of things, learned while responding to John Michael Greer’s Archdruid Report articles on Peak Oil, the economic decline and speculation on the coming post-industrial society/culture. JMG refers to the current changes in America as “becoming a third world nation.”

  1. Affluence. This is the distance between a person and rote labor.
  2. Efficiency. This is the elimination of waste that affects return on investment, almost always measured in currency, and taken from the perspective of the owner/investor in a commercial or industrial venture.

The Archdruid Report.

JMG uses the term household economy to describe the production, exchange, and consumption of goods and services amongst the home and family, that doesn’t involve a cash flow. This is somewhat akin to Sharon Astyk’s informal economy, which I prefer. Setting an informal economy in relationship to a formal, cash-based economy makes the distinctions easy to label and to comprehend. The term informal economy has the additional benefit of identifying why it is disparaged by those involved in maximizing profits for employers, investors, and tracking cash flow for governments.

Can there be affluence in an informal economy? Yep. If affluence is avoiding the need to perform physical labor, then have kids. As the children mature, put them to work. Presto. Work gets done that Mom and Dad don’t have to do – affluence.

Today JMG advocates many families re-evaluate the cost of that second income. He points out that, in pure cash terms, it makes sense for many families to abandon that second income, and keep one adult at home. Reduce paid child care and housekeeping costs, qualify for a lower income tax bracket, and garden and cook from scratch instead of ready-to-eat dishes and meals.

And JMG laments that no one will take this eminently sensible advice.

Affluence.

There have been people in recorded history that turned from a cash-based affluence to lead a “simpler” life. Others refuse to leave enlisted ranks in the military, or advance into supervisory or management roles, because they prefer the craft and skills they exhibit every day, to the affluence and isolation of a strategic, rather than a tactical, definition of their work life.

But most people are driven to accumulate more assets than they consume this week. The taste of “running out” or sometimes lessons from elders that survived shortages of food, water, shelter, and other necessities of life, warns us that in bad times, we may need to rely on things saved in better times, when more assets were available.

Formal economy forces turn this cultural drive to conservation into . . ambition.

Ambition.

Ambition comes in many forms. Ambition is the need to build up the pantry, so that low-cost food is available when needed. Ambition is investing in a growing business, so that more money is generated for later times. Ambition is a community or business recognizing that good managers and supervisors are able to increase the efficiency (rate of cash return to the investor) of an organization. And convincing people that they are worth more to the community and business in advanced levels of responsibility and authority – and thus ambition has come to be a societal imperative to advance one’s career. To improve the efficiency of the company. For more efficient returns of cash to the investor, the owner.

A change in perspective.

A couple of points JMG overlooked, in advocating single-family incomes. While he acknowledges derision about becoming a house-husband or house-wife, he only recognizes that choosing to abandon outside-the-home income is a sacrifice. That is, choosing to live with less cash and greater home autonomy now because the need is coming soon anyway, and getting a head start while society still provides lots of options while gathering tools and implements to better survive coming harsh times just makes sense.

At the same time JMG describes his household economy he doesn’t make plain that it is described in different terms than the formal, commercial and industrial cash economy. Sharon’s informal economy, however, makes fairly plain that the services and goods are evaluated on a barter system, on an ad hoc basis. Applying my own, new word – I would contend that affluence, avoiding rote work, is present in the formal economy by hiring or buying necessities. What affluence there is in the informal economy is expressed by doing work one enjoys, or that can be traded for what is desired.

A different affluence.

What JMG suggests – reducing unemployment, reducing the clutter and waste of pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods and goods, reducing out-of-home costs by choosing one partner to function at home, is nothing less than redefining affluence from dollar terms, to a more fundamental “distance from rote labor” – and recognizing that we aren’t really all that affluent today.

Thoughts?

What can I grow in a garden?

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Radishes, carrots, potatoes. Easy – scratch some dirt, plant some seeds, watch the soil that it doesn’t dry out, watch the drainage so water doesn’t stand when it rains. Pull the weeds.

Pulling weeds is simpler if the ground is kept looser – hoeing cuts off some weed roots (you don’t hoe where your crop roots grow). And pulling weeds is more effective if you pull when the weeds are small – once a week might do, more often is better. Weeds are much more problem on soil that has not been a garden long.

Keep the weeds; compost them. You need to keep trimmings, even kitchen scraps for compost, too. Because when you harvest in your garden, the veggies and fruit you take, take from the soil. Working the ground takes minerals, takes fiber – compost helps keep the soil healthy, ready to grow more of what you want. Which is why it is better to get the weeds early – they rob your plants of less moisture from the soil, less nutrients from the soil, shade out the sunlight that makes your plants grow less- if they are enriching your compost pile sooner in the weed’s life.

Tomatoes. Learn to grow tomatoes, and many years you get a nice return. The more attention you pay to growing tomatoes, the better, most years, the harvest.

Beans. Beans are a great source of protein, many types dry well, and are easy (and cheap) to store for long periods of time. Great fiber, beans can be the center of meatless meals, if meat becomes difficult to come by (i.e., no refrigeration if the electricity is off, and you don’t have an Amish or RV ammonia-cycle freezer/refrigerator).

Peas. Peas are easy, shelling peas for fresh use is a time-honored family affair, easy and pleasant to share with a parent or child. Peas cook well, can be canned for storage, or dried.

Squash, gourds, melons, pickles, cucumbers,pumpkins. These gentle vines can be a bit irritating on the skin to handle. Give them lots of room – plant a few seeds in hills several feet apart. The good thing is that most cover the ground well – keep the weeds down as they start growing, and when they cover the ground they shade the soil so densely that weeds won’t be a problem. But separate species – these vines will inter-pollinate, and you lose the distinctive characteristics. Separate as widely as you can, species from species. Pumpkins here, squash there, watermelons over there, and the ButterNut squash out in the corn field.

Lettuce, cabbage – for garnish, cabbage fresh or kimchi or cooked or pickled provides vitamin C.

Bok Choi, rutabaga, yams, beets, celery, bell and other peppers, horseradish, rhubarb, these all grow in gardens, in various regions.

What about tobacco? Tobacco is grown in fields in South Carolina. Most people know that. It grows in Turkey, too, I guess. But what about your garden? The price of $4-15 a carton today makes me wonder why people aren’t growing the stuff in their garden.

Especially since tobacco has a long history of uses in healing – antiseptic, drawing infection, and other uses. Prepare and store tobacco for smoking in a pipe, for rolling in cigars – or if you have the papers even rolling in a cigarette recall the old-time ‘plug’ of solid-rolled tobacco? Manage the moisture when storing to keep the virtues of the tobacco intact. If nothing else, growing tobacco will leave you something to trade to those looking for an version of it.

Celery grows. In gardens. I found if you stick the heart of a stalk of celery in a glass, it will throw roots – and mature in a window box. Maybe a living room scented with growing celery isn’t the first thought that comes to mind, but like an aquarium or bird cage, adds an air of life, of shared space. And celery is very good, for dipping or spreading with peanut butter, cheese, refried beans – or honey butter.

Isn’t it Marigolds that you can plant around your garden? – and keep out many insect pests?

The old song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ that Melanie recorded some years ago, the lady that gave us, “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates/You’ve got a brand new key”. The song includes a line about ‘Farmer, farmer, put away the DDT. Leave the spots on the apples, but leave me the birds and the bees.” DDT was a nasty pesticide, and many in use today have to be handled correctly – all of them kill or maim *something*, including hopefully the targeted pest. But the issue was only partly about spots on apples – yes, an unblemished apple sells quicker, usually, outside a Farmer’s Market. But what about an apple with a worm? Or a bell pepper or cucumber or tomato? The cost to plant and till the soil is the same – so what about the 1/4 to 3/4 of the crop that withers or is consumed by weeds or insects – when the cost in labor and materials to raise a crop falls short of the return in food or sales, it gets stupid to plant the crop. Thus, for many crops, pesticides will be with us. Learn about this class of poisons, how and when to use them, what they mean about cleaning or using treated plants or animals. Choose wisely.

Right now, ‘fertilizer’ is something in a bag that Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware and the local garden center sells. Steer manure? Expect the local farmer to have some, but not in bags, not dried, and sterilized, and prepared. It still works well. Even sheep, and goat, and horse, and other livestock droppings. Maybe you can work out a deal – rake a pasture regularly, keep part of the droppings that would otherwise sour and kill the grass underneath it, gather a part and scatter the rest. Help keep down parasites and benefit the pasture, while gather some useful .. fertilizer. Throw the result on your compost pile, and biologic away!

Soil amendments include adjusting the pH of the soil – whether it is acid or alkaline (excess acid or deficit acid ions, compare to an even-steven balance of 7.0) – and mineral content. Potash, lime, and other materials occasionally come available.

And some plants change the soil around them. Legumes, such as beans and soybeans, alfalfa, enrich the nitrogen content of the soil they grow in. A walnut tree can amend base soil – note this is *not* a quick solution! Your county extension office or garden center can help you plan soil enrichment and amendment. You may want different soil balances for different crops. Some things prefer partial sun – plant in the shade of leafier, taller plants. Some like more acidity, others less.

Some garden products are perennials – trees, for instance. Strawberries. Rhubarb. Asparagus – be prepared to sow a bit of salt with the cuttings for asparagus.

Plan your garden. Lay out on paper, the amount of space for each packet or handful of seeds. Calculate the row spacing – some things need to be close, others can be, still others – cucumbers, tomatoes – need lots of space for one or three plants. When you plan, allow for when things mature. Today, we can read on the packet this one comes in in 45 days, that in 65. Try to plant time-wise, to stagger the crop – perhaps a row of lettuce is planted a bit each week, so that fresh lettuce matures over several weeks or months. Tomatoes will be good fresh – but you will want to them to be mostly ready to can all at the same time. Peas are nice fresh, and you can stagger the planting to extend when they will be ready to eat.

Sweet corn comes to mind with ‘fresh from the garden’. Corn, sweet or field corn (also called ‘dent’ corn) takes a lot of resource for the yield. If you have the space, then by all means, corn is a very good crop. Especially if you want a few rows of corn to space out some melon or pickle patches, or something you need to shade. Dent corn can provide livestock feed, corn meal, and wild bird seed.

And wild birds can be part of your post-Peak Oil program to manage insect pests, both garden pests and general people-type pests.

Did you know, with planning, that parts of your garden can be weeded by geese? Once the plants begin maturing, the geese look for newly-germinated plants – weeds. Quite efficient. And geese can be easy to keep, and pretty good for watch animals – it is *tough* to sneak up on a couple of geese.

You will want to consider fencing for your garden – to manage neighbor kids, and to control the theft of food by rabbits, squirrels, and other four-foot raiders and destroyers.

And maybe most important of all you can grow in a garden – is personal satisfaction, and a wholesome place to raise children, re-train adults, etc. “He who plants a seed and waits, believes in God.” My mother tacked that up in the kitchen, back home.

PO: Peak Oil, and Sharon Astyk

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book, is awesome.  Sharon potently advocates preparing for Peak Oil.  Peak Oil is a code phrase, or description of the event that will cause immense economic rearrangement.  Change is measured in pain.  The gist of Peak Oil, is that inexpensive energy – fossil fuels in particular – will soon reach (or have reached) the ‘peak’ availablility, while demand for energy will continue to grow.  The result will be that, as we saw last summer, other nations and new applications will introduces undreamt-of levels of demand.  The result?  The end of ‘cheap’ energy.

Where today a single family dwelling is the ‘American Dream’, suburb life and horrendous commute to work in mostly single-occupant vehicles, and easy access to cooking and heating fuels, and access to the electric utilities grid, will all be challenged.  Sharon advocates growing your own food, re-learning canning and housekeeping from times before the first electric appliances, and relying on ecology-friendly approaches.  Other Peak Oil views expect a massive shortfall in food availability – farmers that can’t afford to plant for the low price of produce, and transportation costs so high no one can afford the available food.  Loss of municipal water sources, fire and medical services may well follow, making the Great Depression and the attendant deaths from starvation and disease and suicide likely to reappear.

Me?  I think we should plan for something like Sharon plans for.  That rural communities and groups of families and neighbors will gather to share resources, skill sets, tools, and trade labor.  I grew up in 1960′s NW Iowa.  Some of our neighbors had a flat-rack (made for hauling hay bales),  A few had a baler.  Dad helped three or four neighbors bale their hay, then they helped bale ours and put it up in the barn.  No muss, no fuss – and no begging off.

That is certainly doable again.

I enjoy working with draft horses.  Working draft horses can be the center-point of a rural lifestyle of hard work, rewarding life, and a great place to raise kids.  Ask the Amish - they have believed that for centuries, Their Anabaptist forbears were persecuted for witchcraft in Europe – when their fields outperformed their neigbors.  The Anabaptists introduced what became today’s modern agriculture.  Simply rotating crops, devotion to maintaining soil quality, fertilizing – were weird and suspect practices, and caused many martyrs before they migrated to the New World.  Today their lifestyle mingles only lightly with the modern world.  And they still believe that working the soil is the right way to raise children.

We have Amish examples that we can live today without the electric utility that some Peak Oil analysts believe will be too expensive for half the families in the US to afford, by about .. umm .. 2012.  Three years, give or take.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents that lived through the Great Depression of the 1930′s, and the food rationing of World War II, grew much of their own food.  Even in cities and apartments, there were ‘victory gardens’ to supplement what food was available.  And there are many people that concede the Peak Oil worries are valid – that are already growing their Victory Gardens.

For a number of years, people have been  interested in a slower-paced life.  Small Farmers Journal, published quarterly in Sisters, OR, covers rustic skills and early recipes, working and training workhorses and oxen and goats, etc.  Rural Heritage magazine from Jackson County, TN, covers an Appalachian perspective of regressed living styles.  The venerable FoxFire books detail the elder skills and implements for those looking to retreat from modern life, Mother Earth News helps the back-to-nature people find their way.

I think, if Peak Oil hits as the analysts claim, that we will see prices skyrocket – then return to a higher level, then keep ratcheting ever higher.  Companies will lay off workers and close doors as costs to provide services and produce and transport products put them out of business.  Those few tilling the land in the old ways will have the best access to the food – that they grow.  Small communities of like-minded neighbors will share work and resources.  Many will find themselves sharing a home with others, some with families, some with others.  Ready, continuous access to propane, natural gas, electricity, heating oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline and ethanol will become intermittent and prices will become prohibitive.

Most food will be locally produced.  To assure the best availability of local food, the time is now to begin preferring and seeking out local producers.  Establish the market now, so that production increases to keep up – and will be available when food from other counties, other states, or across the ocean will become rarities.

What is the down side of preparing?  If it doesn’t happen in our lifetimes – we recover some skills from history, we learn to live with less reliance on fossil fuels, we (eventually) live healthier, more active lives, we save a ton of money.  And we provide a useful, sane role model for our kids.

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