On Friday I heard a short talk about disaster preparedness - make sure to have an escape ladder in the upstairs bedroom; change the batteries in your smoke detectors; buy a whole bunch of safety stuff and keep it in a gaint tub in your backyard.
I didn't want to interupt with my rhetorical questions but, damn, when do we talk about preparing for economic collapse, martial law and pandemics? Is there a handy list for what to bring to the refugee camp?
I spent sometime reading Sharon Astyk's blog this morning and had to share some stuff along these lines:
I know some of you don't really believe in collapse. After all, the 20th century meant the invention of world-scale collapse, and ever since we discovered we could actually kill pretty much the whole human race, we've been fascinated with it and going on about it. If you are a baby boomers, you've lived through nuclear annhilation drills and ice age predictions, an energy crisis, worries about epidemics and y2k, and you are still a middle class guy with a mortgage. So why believe in this one?
Are you nodding your head? Saying "Oh Jennifer, I love her but she's a bit extreme in the doom and gloom department."? Read on:
I'd say for two reasons. The first is that the odds are so good - again, look at the models. Remember, TLG [The Limits to Growth, a 1972 book by the Club of Rome] didn't predict a likely collapse in the 1970s - news reporters fixated on TLG did. The timing proposed wasn't radically dissimilar to the one we're actually seeing. Is collapse inevitable? No, it isn't. But there is no question that if you start using up your capital, someday you will be broke. And we're using our capital at an alarming rate - we're depleting the soil our kids will grow food on. We're burning the forests that they will use to modulate temperatures. We're polluting and using up the water they will want to drink. I do not think we should bet on ths problem never coming home to roost - or on their forgiving us for it.
But more importantly, look back at your parents and your grandparents. How many of them went through their lives without something that resembled a major disaster - a war or three, a depression, a pogrom, a decolonialization, a revolution, a monetary collapse, inflation, or something more person - hunger, disability, disease without safety net. Why is it that we've come to believe that 3 generations of peace and prosperity means that nothing bad will ever happen again? I'm pretty sure that during the prosperous late 10th and early-to-mid 11th century in Britain, most of the peasants thought nothing bad would ever happen again too. After all, Britain had been at peace and prosperous for nearly a hundred years, or so they thought in 1065.
FYI - that was the year before William the Conqueror invaded, followed by the Crusades and fun stuff like the Inquisition and the Black Plague.
So.... what should we do? Can we stop the crisis? Can we prepare for it adaquately?
Sharon Astyk is now helping organize a project called "Riot for Austerity" that I'm thinking of joining. Here's her description:
Miranda, over at SimpleReduce and I have decided that someone has to do it - and it might as well be us. Our goal is, over the next year (but continuing steadily over time...this isn't something short term) to reduce our emissions down to 7% of the average American's. Now obviously, this is one of those things that would be vastly easier with the help of social programs and new initiatives - but we're going to do it without those things, to prove that it is possible to live and live well without destroying the earth.
We're still working out the parameters, and would welcome advice and suggestions on how to set things up. At the moment we're talking about making 93% reductions in emissions in 7 areas - sometimes by simply not using a thing, other times by using renewables, or by a combination.
3. Heating fuel
4. Food energy
6. Consumer purchases
7. Garbage production
We're still figuring out the exact metrics for calculating the consequences of our lifestyle, but we invite others to join us, and to write a weekly update on your blog (or post one in the comments sections of one of ours). We'll link blogs together and talk about how the project has gone for all of us. And at the end of this, we can at least give the lie to the notion that "Americans would never do this."
I think this is going to be fun - optimizing your life so that you get the most out of the least inputs is one of the most fascinating projects I can imagine. Plus, the world needs a few more good riots, even quiet ones.
more details about how to join the "Riot for Austerity" here
And lastly here is something exciting about an old technology rediscovered and scaled up - "A fuel cycle that converts waste to usable, transportable energy while absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and locking it into a highly fertility enhancing soil amendment. Wow."
This little flash animation explains how it works on a large scale.
Treehugger's onto it too