Casaubon's Book

I had been mulling over precisely how to frame this piece for a while, when I read Erik Lindberg’s “This Is a Peak Oil Story.” which admirably gets at the essential point that I’ve been wanting to make – that our collective crisis comes to all of us at different times and different ways than we imagined, and that exemptions are only rarely granted. Lindberg writes eloquently of his own experience of trying to undertake change – and failing in large part because of the precise circumstances he is trying to address:

I had imagined the rooftop farm thriving far into the future. Here, my children would some day learn the wonders of the ecological cycle of soil, to seed, to plate, and then (with the composting) back to soil again. We would be increasingly able to feed ourselves and our community from it. It would be a buffer in an age of decline, a model for bewildered neighbors as they experience the first spasms of contraction. It never occurred to me that the farm itself might be a victim of this decline. This was to be a Milwaukee landmark, I perhaps presumptuously assumed, an enduring symbol of Transition Milwaukee’s earliest days

The investment I would need to keep the building is remarkably small. But try as I have, I am finding only closed doors and dried-up wells. An obstacle such as this, I have been trained to believe, would be but a simple matter. I have breezed by larger ones in the past. Ingenuity, creativity, “thinking outside the box,” not to mention a burst of effort, would certainly shake loose a solution. Maybe it still will. But in the meantime, as the farm slips further from my grasp, I am flabbergasted and astounded, unused to this new loss of control.

The realization has slowly dawned on me the past few days: so this is what life after the peak is like. This is life with limits. Both the symbol of and material source of my family’s personal transition will be gone, taken away by the events we thought we were preparing for. What, I wonder, will The Transition Movement be like as the limits of peak oil and other resource depletion begin to descend more fully upon us, difficult enough to accept and anticipate, impossible, perhaps, to truly imagine in all their dumb blunt force.

What I found eloquent and right about Lindberg’s story is simply that it mirrors my own direct experience and the experience of people and organizations I know – that we who are preparing and doing good work are in some measure not expecting the realities into which we plunge. We speak, as Lindberg points out of “after peak oil” or “when climate change really hits” the way children do of “when we grow up” even though these things have already struck us. We are, in many ways, already living the grand sweep of adventure that we sometimes imagine will come “someday.” Someday, in fact, is here.

In fact, they began to strike a long time ago – the world has been warming my whole life. Since 1979 when real wages began to drop, America has gotten less equitable and standards of living have fallen. The 1970s oil shocks too place while I sat in a carseat in line for gas with my parents before I turned two. I have literally lived with these realities my entire life, and so have a vast number of you – and yet we are still surprised and shocked by some of the realities. Or at least I am. That is what my “Anyway Project” has been about – bringing what I have done into line with what is.

It isn’t just me, or Lindberg, though. Nearly all the major organizations dealing with peak oil and climate change have gone through recent difficulties. Some experience intellectual challenges of their basic premises, or reduced ability to raised funds, or a public perception that it just isn’t on the agenda anymore. Individuals working on solutions find themselves caught up with lost work and high prices and are struggling with the fact that the organizations they work with are often concentrating on repairing a world that will emerge sometime in the future – with nothing to offer the present victims of the circumstances they are preparing for.

Like most of us, I know this and I don’t. I sit on the board of ASPO-USA, with five other people who know a lot about energy depletion and its implications. And yet, we are all of us in some way viscerally surprised when funds dry up from donations and we struggle to keep the budget going. After all, this is important work! If there is money for anything, there should be for this, right? And there probably is if we just work harder and spend more time at it – but of course more time on money is less time on energy, right? I know from friends who sit on the boards of other organizations that the same struggles are played out everywhere, and that the same vague sense that “oh, wait, we’re supposed to have more time” is prevalent everywhere. We knew it would come – but why aren’t we ready as an organization? The people and organizations that articulate best what is to come may have a blind spot when it comes to themselves. What’s our plan for the drying up of funds and resources?

Of course, that’s a common thing. One of the joys of teaching Adapting-in-place for the last few years has been getting to see the inside of many people’s lives and thinking about this. What I’ve learned is that we all make errors – every single one of us. We expect everything to fall apart last Thursday or we assume our job will be exempt. We believe that events will wait until we can afford that house, get our daughter out of college, finish our degree – or we think there’s no point in starting because there’s no time. Everyone has a vision, everyone is committed in some measure to it, everyone is in error in some way.

Including me. Years ago I began warning people that everyone will have individual experiences of the coming events that are different. Years ago I argued we should start speaking in the present tense about events, that we could no longer talk about “when climate change and energy depletion happen” (I wrote _Depletion and Abundance_ in 2006-7 and made precisely these arguments.) I have argued that the long view of history is important – it can allow you to see the overall picture of events, but that it is important to remember that individual experiences of major events vary hugely. In every crisis there is the early victim, the person who responded to the invasion of Rome with a “What are those guys on horseback….arrrrrrrrr!” and the person who saw the story through from childhood to old age. In every crisis there are people insulated from most of the disaster, who are literally unable to imagine what the world looks like to those in the thick of it. Read, for example, Stud Terkel’s _Hard Times_ and Jeane Westin’s _Making Do: How Women Survived the ’30s_ to get a good look at the range of possible perceptions and experiences that existed in some cases in close physical proximity. I know those things, of course, and yet I forget them at times.

Those of us who write about the potential historical and social implications of our societal shift to lowered resource access and a warmer planet draw on historical narratives to guide us – we can look at how large stories full of individual narratives look from a long vantagepoint, and draw a series of lessons from them. It would be easy to forget in our focus on the overall experience, however, how many individual experiences, wide and terrible, good and bad, will make up the long view, and how history elides personal experience in some measure, or takes a few personal experiences to signify the vast whole.

What Lindberg is writing about is a universal experience, as far as I can tell – the banging up of imagined future histories and projections against the world of real people and real lives. I’m grateful that he’s telling that story, telling one story and starting it here, and now, providing critique of narratives that focus on the future. Moreover, his is a reminder of something absolutely critical to any organization that attempts to address peak oil and climate change – simply speaking, they are happening now.

I argued some years ago in an essay about organizations in general that organizations that strive to protect communities against peak oil and climate change that have no response to the early victims, the people already living our joint future will fail – because they will seem irrelevant. Most of us have not fully grasped this point – indeed, I fully acknowledge that my own preparations haven’t always. It is, however, fundamentally true – that the strategies we use now, in the early part of our crisis, must capture as many people being swept away by events as possible, must respond not just to the terrible disasters that may well be part of our future but to the disasters that are occurring today. We must find ways to live within the formal economy right now, even as we strengthen the informal economy for the day when there is nothing there. We must find a way to feed, support, fund raise, insulate, educate, protect, build and tend people and infrastructure today, right now, just as we prepare for a long view in which many of those things fall apart much more rapidly than at present.

In many ways this is a much harder project than the already very difficult project that most peak oil thinkers and organizations have put together – we were able, with some difficulty to imagine our future. That’s hard enough in a society that offers no middle ground between apocalypse and technological utopia. With more difficulty, some of us pulled together a series of possible responses to that imagined future. Now comes the tricky part (yup, that was the easy part!) – adapting not just to what we believe will come but to what is, and being able to shift our adaptations as events unfold. This is tricky for organizations, this is tricky for human lives, and frankly, sometimes we’ll fail.

Moreover, we live in a world where failure is viewed as a personal thing – as much as every one of us recognizes that we will be swept along by events, in some measure our talk of “after” is a bow of submission to the larger narrative that we are primarily personally responsible for our circumstances. I don’t know Lindberg personally at all, but I would suspect that along with his narrative that this is a peak oil story – and it is – there is an inner part of him that thinks “I failed, if I were better and smarter and worked harder i would have done it right and it is really about me…other people seem to be doing ok.”

How would I dare to write that about another person I know only through his writings? Because I too live in a head with those narratives floating through, and I suspect most of you do as well. We live in a society that stigmatizes precisely the events that most of us are going to go through.

What’s the answer? In some measure it is accepting that our personal or collective visions for events may be wrong. In some measure it is recognizing that we have to be the ones to step forward and say “the disaster is now, it is just smaller than it will be.” In some measure we have to provide the reality check to both the hopes and fears of others and to ourselves. Most of all we have to remember this – the sweep of history is one thing. Our lives and our work are another. Our strategies must respond not just to large and sweeping narratives but to bumpy, messy, uncomfortable things, the kind of adventures that Bilbo the Hobbit called “nasty, messy things that make you late for dinner.” We must prioritize the strategies and resources that work when things go as planned, and when things don’t – that serve people now and later. We must do the hard work of adapting our best laid plans to circumstances.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Greenpa
    February 28, 2011

    “I know those things, of course, and yet I forget them at times.”

    It is such an incredible pain in the ass to be human, ain’t it? :-)

    Particularly when all the other humans are such pains in the ass, too.

  2. #2 John
    February 28, 2011

    You’re wrong, and the form of your wrongness is dangerous, though, I suspect, not malicious. Funds are drying up and people are tightening their charity because of the economic devastation of America. To attribute that devastation to climate change is Huffposty.

    Huffposty, adj: supportive of corporatism, privilege, and the status quo in a way palatable to people who consider themselves intellectuals and progressives. Social excuses for yuppies. Attributing social ills perpetuated by the power system from which you profit, to socially acceptable, left-wing villains. Often sounds like “conservatives” in its dismissal of the concerns of the less fortunate.
    “Nobody has any money, it must be climate change.” “Iraq suffers economic devastation because of their stance on gay and women’s rights.” “I’m not racist, but black men DO commit crimes at a higher rate. I blame it on misogyny in hip hop.” “You know those poor people would be healthier if they shopped at the farmer’s market. Buy local ^_^”

    There is no money because corporations and rich people have gone untaxed but highly paid by government for the same thirty years you mention. Because government serves, now, as a regressive wealth redistribution engine. We buy cheap shit from oppressed people, and as the economy is progressively undermined, more and more people join the oppressed. And yuppies wring their hands, say Huffposty things, and make token efforts at improvement… as long as they can get to dinner on time.

  3. #3 Stephen B.
    February 28, 2011

    Wow, John, that sounds all so good, but pretty much off the mark too.

    I simply would say that funds for charity are drying up because of the economic devastation of America which, in turn, is and has been caused in good part by the explosive rise of energy prices due to Peak Oil and also by the fact that we send so many $$$ overseas to pay for others’ oil (and also paid by taxes and young lives wasted via the Defense Department.) We’ve been doing the latter for 2 to 3 decades now and it’s catching up with economy.

    You focus on Sharon’s advocacy of Climate Change as the prime mover of the change she talks about, but CC is only but one of several things at work here.

    There’s also the grotesque concentration of power in government, industry, along with the continual distraction of celebrity worship that, in the modern US, seems to have no bounds.

  4. #4 Sharon Astyk
    February 28, 2011

    John, first of all I hardly attributed it to climate change alone – you might want to read more carefully. Second of al, that’s a very convenient narrative. It is in some measure true, but not all measure, and it is so popular on the left, much as “it is all the fault of the loss of Biblical values” on the right, because it entirely absolves the person speaking about it of complicity. If the problem is the evil right and evil all-powerful corporations, then it isn’t your fault at all. You, good and noble person, have been doing right. The problem, of course, is that it isn’t true – where did the evil corporations get their money to tank the economy? Well, from consumers like us who voted over and over in favor of their rule with our dollars, and who also wanted our piece of the pie, and more than our share of the world’s environmental resources. Stories that are both simple and all someone else’s fault are very pleasant, of course, but that’s not the place to look for real answers.

    The intersection of food, energy, environment and economy are complicated, but there is ample evidence that they are closely linked – even the dullest economist notes that when we start spending 5-6% of world GDP on oil we aren’t spending it on other things.

    That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of other blame to go around, but the inability to restart growth isn’t just an evil bad guy thing, it is a problem of resource base and diminishing returns – like Pogo said, we’ve met the enemy, and he is us.

    Sharon

  5. #5 Greenpa
    February 28, 2011

    See?
    :-)

  6. #6 orjin krem
    February 28, 2011

    1
    “I know those things, of course, and yet I forget them at times.”

    It is such an incredible pain in the ass to be human, ain’t it? :-)

    Particularly when all the other humans are such pains in the ass, too.

  7. #7 greatblue
    February 28, 2011

    Sharon, I’ve been reading you and others for a long time and have come to the following conclusion (not a new idea by any means and one which you have also promoted): the best thing we as individuals can do right now is strengthen our relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. Those bonds are going to give us whatever protection we have and will have against nastiness that’s going on now and what will come.

    I suspect that many writers in the peak oil world have been good students (as I have) and tend to promote concentrating on learning skills as the best thing to do. I think it also works to make friends with a variety of people who already have or are learning skills that are and will be useful. Trust takes time to build so it is useful to start now. And even in the bleakest of narratives (Cormac McCarthy’s _The Road_ or the novels of James Kunstler) good relationships with people are a source of joy.

    If we can strengthen relationships with folks who are like-minded and interested in learning skills we consider useful, so much the better.

    This is the approach I’m using (and it’s a challenge because connections with others don’t come easy to me). The advantage is it’s something you can do right now and something you ought to be doing “anyway.” It’s good to have a store of necessities (food, water, etc.) to get you through a short time of upheaval, but in the longer term we will all have to work with others to make a new way of life.

    I think it’s also useful to get yourself in the healthiest physical shape you can. (This is also a challenge for me.) The future is not going to be a life of ease.

  8. #8 Claire
    February 28, 2011

    Your and Lindberg’s stories belong together. Both are excellent but I think together they are more than the sum of their parts. Lindberg’s personal story grabbed my attention in the way really good stories do, as he uses his experience to point out how our shared culture hampers our adaptation in ways that aren’t obvious to us. Your story adds to the analysis and reminds us that we have an even harder job than we thought because of the uneven way that things are going sour. Thank you for this piece!

  9. #9 Edward Heath
    February 28, 2011

    It is a gray and cold January day at the office of New Ideas and Innovations, LLC based in Connecticut and there is paperwork, drawings, prototypes and finished projects skewed throughout the place. It is here that Edward Heath who is the owner, metal fabricator, chief designer and machinist along with a laundry list of other hats that he wears and jobs that he performs. Edward has been an avid inventor since he was 12 and when he talks about creating things that no one else has and the product is something of value to people, he can not help but smile. He tries not to waste his energy and skills on the mundane and useless. His accomplishments are numerous and he has done things that many people said could not be achieved. Some examples are putting together a brass Shautz clock that was all encrusted in corrosion and broken parts. He made a 60 tooth gear utilizing a hacksaw blade and a small file to enable operation of that clock. He also made parts for an old flint lock rifle that was dropped at his feet in a box. He is not a gunsmith but he figured out on the first try what the two complicated parts that were missing should look and operate like. Back in the early to mid 1990’s he worked on an exhaust apparatus that he patented that fit in the exhaust system and it would work like a vacuum cleaner, (both literally and figuratively). It would apply a low(er) pressure in the combustion chamber so to remove after combustion gasses, allowing an engine to run more efficiently and effectively thus spewing less pollutants into our air. He had a major auto manufacturer interested in it (called the EC-1), but fuel cell technology was coming along and the automobile company dropped their interest with his project so they can go chase another shiny object; that being the still not realized commercialism of fuel cells in automobiles and trucks more than 15 years later. His most passionate concerns are for the conservation of natural resources and energy in all of its forms. They directly include clean water, coal, crude oil and natural gas and if these are curbed then other chemicals and gasses used for manufacturing or use should also be reduced. Edward is not political nor does he represent the hard core radical idealisms of many types of aggressive groups. He is open minded and temperate yet has no time for people who try to bedazzle him with BS. His experiences with State and Federal politicians while he was trying to get funding and recognition for his EC-1, The 1 – 2 Flush Genuine Toilet Water Saver (with which he has invested over $138,000. of his own money, U.S. and internationally patented and is currently at Invention Home.com and Match Product.com ) have left him skeptical of our politicians goals and responsibilities or shall it be said the lack of. Now with his most passionate project that he says he will ever partake in; the ‘EEV-3’. The EEV-3, which is ‘Edward’s Electric Vehicle’ and the 3 is for the three different types of energy forms conserved, (crude oil, coal and natural gas) that if his technologies prove to work as he predicts they will, then he will have made a “Quantum Leap” in vehicle transportation! He hopes to be able to ask Americans to go into their respective wallets and pocket books and delve out $1. to as much as $100. or more if they are happy and comfortable about doing that. He is not setup as a non-profit and he wants people to know this up front that they will not be getting a receipt that is tax deductible but he also wants them to know that any money would go directly into the business, not to him personally. He is not a vacationer nor a traveler per se. Edward states that the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut is seeking 17 million dollars for repairs and renovations after the storms hit that part of the State last year. That is a lot of money for a museum that affects a limited number of people whereas he is seeking $4.8 million that will affect millions of people and the way we save energy, money, our atmosphere and our health while increasing prosperity and national security for the country as a whole. People other than him can operate electric vehicle conversion shops all across the U.S. and that will help the U.S. economy several fold. The U.S. Government states that they are trying to be pro-active in assisting businesses like his get financial help but if you look at government based financial help sites such as grants.gov, the money never goes to a company like his but rather to universities, colleges and big businesses who already have funding from services and /or products that they sell and that leaves the “little guy” behind. We saw the same thing with the Stimulus Package of 2009. Money going to companies that already have money in place, they just did not want to spend that money they had but rather spend the free taxpayers money instead of their own. Pathetic but sadly true.
    The following is my letter to the American people about who I am, what I do and what I want to accomplish with these funds that I am requesting.
    Hello; My name is Edward Heath and I am trying to get the word out about technology that I have that would greatly help the citizens of Connecticut and the whole United States pertaining to transportation; utilizing electric vehicles. This technology is a global game changer if I can get an opportunity to prove it. The technology would allow electric vehicles (EV’s) to travel hundreds to thousands of miles with out recharging its battery pack! It is not based on the untrue notion of “perpetual motion” but rather in very recent advances in battery and other propriety technologies that I would be using in my EEV-3. My other achievements are; 1) A toilet handle that affordably and easily converts a gravity type, single flush toilet into a water, wastewater, energy and money saving dual flush(ing) toilet. 2) An exhaust apparatus that creates a low pressure area in the exhaust system that makes an internal combustion engine operate more efficiently. 3) A means that would allow streams, rivers and creeks to generate electric power very cheaply as allow street and traffic lights and other electrical using appliances to operate off the grid most of the time. 4) Remote control launcher for hobby rockets. 5) Shower and kitchen sink water saver. I also have several other ideas that can not be pursued without funding for equipment, machinery, software and other much needed things to correctly and effectively operate a technology business.

    The following is a comment that I tried to post in the New York Times on the 17th of February, 2011 but the moderator censored it.

    To: Whom it may concern
    For: The American People.
    From: Edward Heath – Owner/Operator of New Ideas and Innovations, LLC
    e-mail: edwardselectriccar@yahoo.com address; P.O. Box 171, North Branford, Connecticut 06471 – 9998

    On February 10th of this year, the N.Y. Times ran an article from an oil executive (William M. Colton – Exxon / Mobil Vice – President for Corporate Economic Planning), and he stated that electric cars can wait, mostly because of the batteries. Well folks, I have been in communication with a high ranking corporate officer of a company that just started manufacturing battery packs that blows everything else out of the water when it comes to Lithium battery performance! The temperature range in which they can perform effectively is much broader; the batteries can be discharged down 99.9%, instead of the 40 – 60% range that is currently in these electric cars coming off the assembly line. Of course Mr. Colton’s opinion is skewed and biased because he belongs to “Big Oil”. We believe him (not!) like the farmer that would trust the fox or raccoon to take care of his / her chickens! The cost is inline with current high tech batteries. Of course there are other mitigating factors that contribute to the range of the current EV’s that are coming off the assembly line and two of them is the vehicles’ overall (curb) weight and driving behavior just as it is with internal combustion engine operated vehicles. For him and Mobil / Exxon, twenty more years of waiting would be too soon.
    Please read on for an offer that I am making to the American people concerning electric vehicles and the possible future of transportation as we know it to take a “quantum leap” forward!
    I believe that I have the technologies needed for “Sustained Ultra-Extended Electric Vehicle Travel”! (SUEEVT) If you are tired of paying $50.00 or more for a fill-up (gasoline or diesel) for your vehicle then I might have the solution and I am asking for your help. I am seeking a total of $ 4.8 million dollars for research / development and to build prototype vehicles (off the lot, not custom made) to prove that my technologies work; (I know it sounds like a lot of money and it is, but it also goes quite quickly- but not to me but for the business, I can assure you of that). The funds would go to the shop, vehicles (initially named EEV-3 for Edwards Electric Vehicle, and the 3 stands for the three different energy forms saved or conserved while driving the EEV-3and they are: coal, crude oil and natural gas), machinery, equipment, CAD/CAM software, international patent protection, components / parts / assemblies, employee payroll and other operating expenses. The estimated completion time from the time that I receive the funds is 8 – 12 months. I request amounts between $1.00 and $100.00 or whatever amount you are happy with. Please send check or money order to address above with your name and address so that I may send you a thank you card and in the event that my technology works, I will send you my “1 -2 Flush Genuine Toilet Water Saver” (retail value $39.99) as my way of saying “thank you” to people who contribute $25.00 or more. The U.S. Government, Venture Capital / Angel Investors, and vehicle manufacturers do not want to assist me in my endeavor so I humbly ask for your much appreciated assistance in this very serious matter! I have been pursuing financing for over a year now. They are all afraid of “big oil” companies. I am not, though I am afraid of getting shot and killed by them. Big oil usually equates to big trouble. ‘Can you say’ “greed” and lobbyists” who are only concerned for their financial well being and not for the overall well being for us as a country, they are very selfish!
    If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email to: edwardselectriccar@yahoo.com I have patents on other energy and / or natural resource conserving innovations and I am a serious innovator, I am not a nut, far from it. I am trying to use my intelligence and engineering experience to make our country great again and to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil from countries that do not like us. This technology will not lose jobs (not even for the oil companies because we as a nation still need kerosene, heating oil, diesel and gasoline for small engines), but rather would increase jobs here in the States by having at least one electric vehicle conversion center in each state. That is something that we do not have right now. The conversion to mostly electric vehicles would take 5-7 years, not just a couple of years.
    I thank you for your financial assistance, especially during this recession and tough economic / financial times! The payoff would be fantastic for our country though if I can prove my technologies by driving across America in one of the EEV-3 retro-fitted vehicles in 3 or less charging cycles! People would not be afraid to purchase electric vehicles equipped with this technology. By the way, in this case you wondering, my technologies are NOT based on the principles of “perpetual motion”. My company has been around for 5 years, working on technologies that save good Americans such as yourself; money, energy and / or natural resources like our clean fresh water with an innovation like my “1 – 2 Flush Genuine Toilet Water Saver”. Please help the United States (U.S.) and us as Americans regain our strength as world leaders in our national security with innovations like this EEV-3 that help all of us live better lives, now and for generations to come!
    Thank you again American people for your understanding and for your financial assistance!

    Sincerely and Honestly Submitted: Edward Heath – Owner / Chief Design Engineer of New Ideas and Innovations, LLC A Connecticut company since 1992.

    Edward Heath _______________________________

  10. #10 Larry Shultz
    March 1, 2011

    Hi, I have been reading your blog for a few months. You have many important things to say. Thanks.

    I would like to point out that the median real dollar wage in the USA peaked in 9-1972. More families send new workers into the labor force to try to keep up. 2 income households became standard. Median houselhold income peaked in the late 1999 in real dollar terms as that 2 income strategy ceased to provide additional income. Will 3 income households and or taking in borders become standard in our future?

  11. #11 Steve in Hungary
    March 1, 2011

    Yes Sharon. I share your fears about how transition will work. I have written about it on my own blog, which I do not publicise.

    What the heck was that huge diatribe from Edward Heath all about?

    I know also the feeling of the time factor. Time to plant seeds, time to dig the ground, time to stop the house falling apart more than it already has…

    How are your goats? It is still very much winter here. My buck gets more agressive by the day at his confinement in his winter quarters, and I suspect that the doe that I suspect to be pregnant is trying to put off giving birth for another couple of weeks.

    It all fits into the picture of why I chose to come here from the UK. Enough arable land that every single person in the village could have a hectare nearby, and my own plot, including house and outbuildings is over a third of a hectare.

    If it all holds more or less together for another couple of years I will buy hand tools. The best. I may not ever use them. I am getting on a bit. It doesn’t matter. I will coat them in anhydrous lanoline and store them in the loft. I will also buy more land and put it down to managed forest.

    I work on a huge assumption that I will not get thrown out of the country. If that happens, well I did my best but fear the worst. If it does not happen then this little plot of your god’s, and mine which are not the same, will be my gift to my grandchildren. Wherein they might find rescue from the storms of Peak Oil which I fear will envelope us soon enough.

  12. #12 Bob
    March 3, 2011

    Sharon:

    I have enjoyed your posts for several years now, but I found this one, and the underlying Lindberg blog to be particularly poignant.

    It brings into sharp focus the harsh reality of transition. As earnest and well meaning people do their best, they will have the ball and chain of our existing system dragging them down.

    This beast will not go quietly into that good night, if for no other reasons than momentum and conditioning, to say nothing of those heavily invested in BAU.

    Abandoned lots and buildings will still be owned by some entity. Rights will be claimed and taxes will be levied, regardless of any intrinsic value. As the beast starves, it will feed on anything it can find.

    Then there is simple failure. Inexperience, overoptimism and unrealistic expectations will take their toll. There are thousands of experiments that failed in times of plenty so the necessity and urgency of transition now does not give one a free pass.

    This is an aspect I had not considered until now and it saddens me. I had this vague notion that transition could discretely skirt around the collapse, as local community bonds are formed. Being a realist on so many levels, I have no explanation for this delusion.

    Being on the side of the angels is no guarantee of success.

    Some create gardens, other raise chickens. Me? I cook from scratch and can anything that will stand still, all in a heavy wool sweater.

    I wonder how many of us are just playing pioneer while our clean water, natural gas and electricity continues unabated.

    It’s customary to end on an upbeat, but I’m afraid none come to mind.

    Regards,

    Bob

  13. #13 Susan Albert
    March 3, 2011

    Thank you, Sharon. Your piece (and Eric’s too) is a reminder that however resilient we are, the universe can up-end us in an instant. But it might help to go back to Tolkein, and the lines that gave you your title:

    Gandalf: “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

    Bilbo Baggins: “I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

    We feel these upendings as though they are terrible setbacks (and they are), keeping us from the ordinary business of our lives–dinner and such. But they’re also part of the adventure. We have so much to learn (as Bilbo did), and that’s part of the adventure, too. It’s not fun now, and it won’t be fun later: I’m not diminishing the pain and fear. But that’s part of the adventure, too. We’ll all be late for dinner.

  14. #14 John LeDoux
    March 8, 2011

    In the Marines, they told us that the first casualty of any engagement is your original plan. The future won’t ever be like we imagine it- all we can do is be the most resilient, resourceful, and prepared we can be. Erik Lindberg, and all of us by extension, need to know that what will get us through is our attitudes ( plus a measure of dumb luck ), not just having the “right” plan.

    That being said, I think we can be sure that more people will recognize that collapse is happening at a faster rate. Now that I’ve criticized the idea of being able to predict the future, let me offer my prognostication: Collapse will hit most people soon not in the form of climate change or an absolute oil scarcity (not yet ), but as economic and political catastrophe. The western world has spent itself into oblivion, both financially and with natural resources, and shows no widespread willingness to change its ways. Governments can be counted on to screw things up even worse with continued idiotic economic policies and greater authoritarianism. Expect folks on the Left and Right to waste time arguing about which half of the scissors is responsible for the cutting. Our job will be to move the discussion past that. Greatblue ( comment #7 ) absolutely nailed it. Practical skills and community are key.

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