Friday, May 09, 2008

Thunderdome or Eden?

Wendy over at Home is asks “What would you be willing to give up.” While I applaud what she’s doing, I think the question itself is telling. What would you be willing to give up? I’d ask, what are you willing to give up, today? and what have you given up already? That’s why I applaud the 90% folks in so far as they really reduce stuff, which can pretty much broadly be lumped into consumption. I prefer that the question be out of the hypothetical and about what you are willing to do right now to meet the challenges as you see them. Because for sure, we also see the challenges differently.

One thing I don’t see how people can not see is that there is a crash and it is going on now. So this isn’t going to remain an intellectual exercise even for people who think themselves very well off indeed.

What would I be willing to give up? In the hypothetical the thing I would most LIKE to give up would be cars. How would this happen? A Kunstler type crash, maybe. If there is no gas, there are no cars. But also, as prices rise, public transportation (private businesses that transport the public, not government boondoggles) should become feasible. I should be able to walk about three miles and catch a bus which would be totally cool by me. Also, there could be bulk delivery services for those of us in the boonies like this -- most probably someone who lives out here who goes to town every so often and brings back everything everyone needs for a little cut of it. Another favorite of mine is horses of course. I think with our geography, saddle and pack horses make more sense than buggies by and large. I am ready to be wrangler there. Trains could provide efficient transportation for places like Lowe's, Wal-Mart, and Southern States (feed store), all of which happen to be directly on railroad spurs already. Of course, just in time marketing wouldn't work anymore. And Wal-Mart might become a mom-&-pop again and storekeepers would live in their shops. Whatever it is, it certainly won’t be what it is now. But my point is there wouldn't have to be no gasoline for no personal passenger vehicles on the road to be a reality. As it is now, however, we must maintain a vehicle, and occasionally fuel it.

What I have given up, the one thing that I think makes absolutely the most difference in the most dimensions is personal income. Last year our income, for a family of six, was about $6K. That is very little, let me tell you, and hopefully this year it will be a bit more than that. At that level there simply isn’t even the temptation to consume. Still I’ve maintained a stockpile of food, and we’ve increased substantially our every day eating off the place. Money has had an artificially high value for far too long and in its devaluation we find that real skills really are valuable, far more valuable than cash.

There are, of course, tons of other things we’ve “given up” -- but the truth of it is that it is embracing a positive way of life rather than giving up a negative one.

Maybe I’m just the Klingon on board the ship that is disintegrating, saying, “Invigorating, isn‘t it?” Yes, that’s it, CG is a Klingon. It is like the Olympic games, except for real. The tsunami, the cyclone, is coming and what you choose right now will make a difference in how you make it through. Or don’t. If you are going to trust the government to look after you, you are going to end up in the Superdome. But for those who got themselves back to the garden, it could be a post-industrial utopia. Or something quite like it.


Alecto said...

The train thing is interesting. We have spurs off the main line all over the place but unless you live in that particular town and get on the nine year waiting list then you're just going to get in your car and drive 40 minutes to the next largest station. After having bashed my town up one side and down the other I just read an article about plans to create parking or commuter parking around the stations so that more people can commute from these rural areas to the cities if we must. Can busing to those stations be too far behind?

Wendy said...

We have a train stop right downtown - about two miles from my house. But it only stops here from May to October - during tourist season ;).

It does go all the way up in Canada and all the way down to Boston. So, if it were running, it would be great to use.

Of course, even with gas prices what they are, it's still cheaper for me to drive the five of us in our small SUV that gets 22 mpg. That may not be the case in the very near future, but at the moment, it's sad to note that driving my car is more economical than taking public transportation, and given that I'd have to walk two or more miles for either the train or the bus, it's more convenient to use the car, too.

Ren said...

I like phrasing it as "what are you willing to do?" rather than "what are you willing to give up?" Good point.

That's why I get cranky when I see that video being passed around, about global warming and the final message is "you don't have to do anything. Just contact your legislature...write letters, etc.." blah, blah, blah.

Real change has never happened when people waited around for the G**damn government to do something.

Novella Carpenter said...

hi cg;
i used to feel like you too. like a kligon, kind of celebrating peak oil. because all this excess is ugly, isn't it?
but since i work in the energy sector (selling recycled veggie oil based biodiesel) i've been experiencing the crunch directly. it isn't pretty when people who have everything suddenly have that taken away. we sell biod for about $5/gallon, and i've had the nicest, sweetest people turn very ugly. imagine the mean, unruly, greedy people when you take away what they regard is their birthright. i fear this time of change because of people's fear and greed in times of scarcity.

CG said...

I hadn't really thought of trains as personal transportation. Although my grandmother once carried my grandfather's gun for him on a train from one mountain town to the next. He was on his way to visit his girlfriend, but he and my grandmother were married not too long afterward.

Those were narrow gauges, but they were there for coal and logs and happened to carry some passengers too. Passenger trains are notoriously, umm, well, can you get more wasteful than AmTrak? Because they are good at heavy things. BIG things. Passengers have to be combined with freight and can't stop at every little burg. But they can be run by steam engines.

Around here THE thing governments claim to fame is to make "trails", usually scenic biking trails, from old tracks. hahahaha

Novella, I don't disagree with you. Which is one reason I'm glad to live way out. And to live in an area of the country where just about every household supports the second amendment.

We have, folks, just been without power for 36 hours. NBD around here. I still like my freezers, and my running water, though.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

I would MOST like to give up my car too. However, I am still trying to figure out how to do that without walking 18 miles one way to get most things. No public transit anywhere close to me currently (and I live fairly close to a good size city!!)

laura said...

i had a dream last night that it was the end of oil. there was an actual "it's there now it's gone" moment when it ran out. we were driving on a dark road and the gas just disappeared. there was rioting and we were locked in a small room and people were trying to get in at us and we were very scared. but when they came in they realized we were just people like them and it was okay and i can remember the dark road part. just it being so very dark and we couldn't see the road or anything. we were just lost in the dark.

i can really see you as a klingon. i'd never thought of that before. K'Ehleyr to be exact. she was the mother of Worf's son Alexander. very strong klingon woman, but half human. so i see you being a lot like her. hard and soft.

CG said...

I like that la. The Klingon-human mix.

Not the dream. And of course, it isn't likely to happen like that dream. Although gawd knows how it is likely to happen. It keeps getting more and more expensive, and food shortages is my guess. Kunstler, in his novel, made it somewhat neater by having a couple of big bombs take out LA and DC and then a couple of epidemics take out another 50+% and so in his scenario, it did sort of just disappear. Who knows.

Anonymous said...

Laura:"...there was rioting and we were locked in a small room and people were trying to get in at us and we were very scared."

"When a man's verses cannot be read, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room."

Anonymous said...


I didn't mind kissin' my car goodbye
not long after the pumps went dry.
Cornbread and beans have gotten dull
but at least I've kept my belly full
but barley and hops don't grow round here
and I'd sell my soul for an ice cold beer.

Anonymous said...

No barley or hops
That much is plain
But you need not be dry
Among the sugar cane

Don't sell your soul
Whatever things that are be
Like Capt'n Flint say
"Fetch aft the rum, Darby"

Or maybe some corn
Why I just bet 'cha
You could figure out
How to make some chicha.

And those African bees
You have there, indeed
By Odin and Thor
You could brew up some mead.

Invoke old Bacchus
Fill the crater with wine
The vintage awaits
In those muscadines.

No brewski? That's bad
But we can say at least
There's no reason to go
All joyless your feast.