Practice Losing Farther, Losing Faster: Everyday History in a Crashing Economy

Sharon September 18th, 2008

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;/so many things seem filled with the intent/to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/of lost door keys, the hour badly spent/The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:/places, and names, and where it was you meant/ to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch And look! my last or/next-to-last, of three loved houses went./The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,/ some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent/I miss them but it wasn’t a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture/I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident./the art of losing’s not too hard to master/thought it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

- Elizabeth Bishop 

I thought it might be worth getting a discussion going on how this looks to all of us.  It is hard to know exactly where we’re headed – whether this is the first step in a long slide or the beginning of a fairly rapid reorganization that moves us to a much lower level – or both.  In some senses, as I’ve always argued, it doesn’t really matter – all the discussions of whether we’re like Rome or whatnot can help us gauge the comprehensive sweep of history, and the way it will be looked at going backwards.  They can remind us that history, while lived, is experienced both more slowly and more rapidly than most of us can really process.  But historic sweeps don’t really tell any more of the larger story than localized narratives – for someone who moves from lower middle class rapidly to starvation (as happened quite a lot during the Depression), the world *did* collapse. Sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly – but the large sweep of history can’t really account for the not-insubstantial percentage of those who have already had collapse or are on the brink of it.  For those who died for reasons that seemed mad to them based on their prior worldview, the world *did* fall apart, the apocalypse did come, the horsemen came marching.  In some neighborhoods, in some places, right now, any claim that peak oil and its related financial disaster won’t really be as bad as we said, that it will take a century or two, would be laughed off rather as the dead killed in the first sacks of Rome might laugh at the idea that Rome wouldn’t fall for a good long time yet.  Falling is all a matter of perspective.

The problem with sweeping historical views is that ultimately, they must come down to a narrative account that has to be summed up by “the poor are always with us” – that is, the first stop on the disaster train is always to make those who were just barely getting by move to hell, and not get by any more.  Some of them die, and some of them just suffer hideously.  If we imagine that the disaster has only taken place when a significant portion of the most privelege have been equally discommoded, if the stockbrokers have to be as hungry as the janitors, we will indeed be waiting generations for the disaster.  In fact, most likely we will miss it altogether - we will say “but there were always poor and hungry” as though the fact that there are more, that the world really is falling apart for a percentage of the populace doesn’t matter.  After all, history tends to be written by the educated and priveleged, not those who eat out of garbage cans.  An account of the experience that sees it through the eyes of the earliest victims is in many ways as legitimate as an overarching view, narrated back – but far quieter.

Most of my readers will recognize John Michael Greer’s _Long Descent_ as the clearest articulation of the sweeping historical vision, and I truly think it is one of the best peak oil books ever written.  It provides a useful corrective to a perspective that is real, if not quite as widespread as I believe Greer thinks it is.  And it seems to be truly penetrating the narrative of peak oil discussions in a deeply productive way, which pleases me.  I do, however, think it is worth articulating the ways in which a larger vision might also be unhelpful to us – not because I think Greer’s work itself is insufficiently nuanced, but because the versions of stories we tell to ourselves about how the world works always gets oversimplified.  As people read his book and begin to nod and recognize that perhaps the zombies aren’t actually on the march yet, I think there’s a danger that some people may give up getting zombie-ready ;-) .  This (and I assume you all know that by “zombie ready” I mean “increasing pantry and warm clothes” not “home-scale tactical nukes”), I think, could be dangerous for the people most likely to be impoverished, to experience peak oil as a true collapse – because there are always early victims, often large categories of them, who experience their world as collapsing, because their particular sphere of it is.  And IMHO, it is always wisest to assume you might be one of them.  If not, you can enjoy being pleasantly surprised and donate your preparations to others who were not so blessed.

My own interest, I admit, is in what might be described as the “underarching narrative” – that is the experiences of ordinary people as their losses accellerate.  I’ve been watching people send me personal stories of foreclosure, their first visits to a food pantry, their fears of death by freezing and hunger, the job losses, the increasing desperation.  And under the overarching narrative, their experience provides a useful, and terrible corrective to the sense that we are just beginning something.  We are, of course, but just as we are beginning the disaster as a whole, those who always stood closest to the precipice are falling firmly into the hole, and crashing to the bottom. 

So I thought it would be worth asking my readers – what is your experience so far?  Are you watching the markets with polite interest or watching your children’s college funds and your retirement disappear?  Are you already unemployed, or are things still booming?  What does the world look like in your neighborhood.  It is not all the story there is to tell, but it is part of the historical narrative too – what we experience now is part of, not a single story, but the thousands of historical narratives that will arise from these events.

 Sharon

96 Responses to “Practice Losing Farther, Losing Faster: Everyday History in a Crashing Economy”

  1. Lisa Zon 18 Sep 2008 at 8:42 am

    Things are still pretty much booming here in my little city in Central MN. We just opened a grand new library (that is a “green” building but with no windows that actually open!) in our downtown area just blocks from my house. Other commercial and municipal buildings are being built or renovated (old downtown buildings are looking fabulous due to some development that’s still continuing), including a new police station. Our city, being just an hour north of Minneapolis, has been growing in population and still is, so new buildings have been “needed”. Though I expect that to discontinue soon. City budgets are getting tighter and of course, since much of the building money comes from a local 1/2 cent sales tax option we voted in, with consumers spending less that will mean less for the city’s coffers.

    My family’s personal finances have never been better. Thanks to peak oil and the Riot for Austerity and all that, we’ve gotten ourselves on track to be completely free of all debt but mortgage in three years or less. I don’t know if we really have that much time, but I feel great b/c our payments are reasonable for us right now and we are not getting ourselves into more consumer debt at all.ever.period.

    We are able to use this time and money to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. I’m trying to get the pantry from a 3 month supply to a 6 month supply in the next couple of months before we have to pay to the natural gas bill to heat the house. That adds about $150 to our utility bill from November to March. I feel better prepared for that than ever!

    Thanks for all you’re doing to help us along, Sharon. It really is invaluable to my family.

  2. Chileon 18 Sep 2008 at 8:43 am

    In my city, I see more people riding bikes than ever before. The lines at the Food Bank, when I accompany my friend, are longer each time. The Food Bank discount store is adding a second register to meet demand. It seems a few more small businesses and local restaurants have closed their doors lately. The listings for pets and horses grow longer every month on craigslist as people can no longer afford their food and care, or are losing their homes and cannot take their animals with them.

    Personally, we worry about the continuing crash of the housing market as we lower the price on our house for sale once again. We stress about trying to find a new place to live that we can grow food and make a living. And, as I emailed you, a place we can be safe. The drug cartel wars in Mexico threaten to spill into Arizona and residents along the drug routes through the state already experience considerable burglary and violence on a regular basis. As times get tougher, I suspect this will only get worse.

    But, our health is good, we are not destitute at this time, and we have the ability, awareness, and motivation to continue to prepare. We still struggle for the balance needed to live in the present, though, as well as prepare for the future.

  3. Sarahon 18 Sep 2008 at 8:45 am

    For me, things are currently fine, but Brandeis is starting to be pinched. We’re watching our student worker budget dry up at the library, while the student applications sound more and more desperate because some of them are helping their families pay for necessities rather than just wanting a job for book money. There’s no talk of full-time staff cuts yet, but while I wouldn’t necessarily be the first to go, I’m still pretty junior and don’t have my degree yet, so I’m kind of worried about my job. I’m also worried that whatever the trust fund that’s paying for my education is in will collapse…I’m paying tuition off as fast as I can rather than worrying about it when I’m done, but it wouldn’t take too many factors to leave me unemployed and in an awful lot of education debt. I am, however, being very very glad that I don’t have children or any debt other than tuition.

  4. SurvivalTopics.comon 18 Sep 2008 at 8:48 am

    Having to live in tent outdoors for a year during the recession of the late 1980’s (which was a depression in my neck of the woods) I know that nothing is permanent.

    For many people life has been pretty easy in the larger sense, living comfortably numb paycheck to paycheck with plenty of food a given, a warm place to live, steeply rising home value as a cushion for retirement when the gold watch for 30-years on the job is given. Now times are more uncertain, forcing many people from their comfort zone.

    But there is one thing I know. In adversity is when the human spirit truly shines. When some people are shaken from their norm they rise to the occasion and become better for it. History shows this after the Black Death of the middle ages: then came the Renaissance.

    The coming months and years are going to be very difficult for many people. But I predict in the long run we will come out of it much better on the whole. There will be casualties along the way. Life is like that, it is just the way it is and nothing is certain. Overall this stage in history is pointing to greater things that we haven’t even yet envisioned.

  5. We’re doing okay. The spousal unit has a job that is well paid and secure for at least the next 8 months. We’re debt free except for the mortgage, and we have a very ambitious plan to reduce the principle drastically during the 8 remaining months of guaranteed employment he’s got. He has a few job offers on the table as well.

    Still, I’m increasingly nervous. I feel very grateful that I put in the largest garden I’d ever worked early this spring, before the meltdown got properly underway. I’m glad I decided this was the year to add laying hens to our mini-wannabe-homestead. And I started canning and drying food this year. We’re looking into replacing some non-edible landscaping with fruit trees and berry canes, and mulling alternatives to our oil-based heating system. I’ve finally begun stocking up on a few very long storing items other than food. But I’m really not prepared for anything too drastic to happen. If the electricity were to be cut off long term, fr’instance, I’d be lost.

  6. Karinon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:10 am

    We are doing okay. But I think that is because we have made changes along the way. We’ve paid down debt, ramped up food preservation and production (thanks to the IDC Challenge). WE heat with wood and have a free source of wood. We live simply. But we worry. My husband is the only wage earner. He is a school music teacher. A position that is easily cut during tight school budget years.

    But Maine is expecting a heating oil crisis this winter. 85% of the homes use heating oil. The federal government just approved an increase in Liheap funding. 7 million dollars is to come to Maine. When spread out over the projected demand for aid, it comes out to an extra 100.00 per applicant. So one fill of heating oil. Over a 4-5 month heating season. And for folks that don’t qualify for liheap this winter is going to lower the standard of living for many.

    The state has never been economically strong. So with the current turmoil, I could see a cascading effect here. Starting with retirement accounts not providing the security promised just a month ago. We are a demographically old population in Maine. So with folks struggling even more than before, they won’t be spending on anything other than essentials. That effects state tax base. Which effects funding for infrastructure and schools.

    On top of all this my small town experienced a major fire of it’s commercial district. Five stores gone. That is significant for a town of 2,000. That is local property taxes that can’t be collected. Now we will have drive 20 miles to get to a hardware store.

    But we plug away on our homestead, work hard to prepare for winter and enjoy autumn in Maine. WE are going apple picking today!

  7. Texicalion 18 Sep 2008 at 9:11 am

    Things are definitely slowing in the regional economy. The City of Sacramento is cutting back on all services, including fire and police. The State just passed a sham of a budget (mostly borrowing from next year). I work in planning and environmental review for new development and redevelopment. The work is still there, but there is less of it. Our company let a contract worker go last week because there was not enough to keep everyone busy. I am trying to better prepare for tougher times because eventually the work will dry up, though we may get by doing contract work for cities as they lay off fulltime staff. I will be emptying out a small Roth IRA and moving the money to a bank. I haven’t made much of anything beyond the principle so there wont be much in the way of a tax hit. The only reason it is still there is all of the money was a gift from my father-in-law, who believes in investing. We have only talked vaguely about the state of the economy, but I think he will understand what I am doing. I am not worried about the bank going under. It might but the government will stand behind the FDIC even if it means hyper-inflation. To do otherwise would result in a massive run on any banks still solvent and a collapse of the entire system. So the money is in danger of getting inflated away, but unlikely to disappear altogether.

    I see things happening in bursts of activity like we saw this week and weekend. Something bad happens, government scrambles to keep up appearances. That fails over time. Bad happens, government scrambles, and on and on. When you have an economy entirely based on debt and debt based spending, the bottom falls out when people can no longer get loans or are unwilling to spend.

  8. Barefoot Gardeneron 18 Sep 2008 at 9:11 am

    We are doing okay….we are both still employed and there are no worries about making mortgage payment or keeping food on the table. We are (well, I am) doing our (my) best to take precautions that providing food and heat will not be an issue. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my family and many of those in my area are gardeners and hunters. It is a lot easier to deal with these kinds of changes when you are already accustomed to providing a lot of your own food. It leaves more resources available for paying for the things you can NOT provide for yourself. I do worry about the rising costs of things, but know that we are in a position to give up a lot of non~essential items in order to free up cash flow for the essentials before there are real problems for us.

  9. Anion 18 Sep 2008 at 9:14 am

    One of the main things I’ve noticed has been the sheer number of houses for sale- and they are not selling. Our area didn’t participate very much at all in the boom in terms of all those risky mortgages- but stuff just isn’t selling. This is creating difficulties as many of these people have legitmate reasons for needing to sell such as a new job hours away, a need to get a special needs child into a different school system, etc. Not sure where this will end up but it doesn’t look good. Part of it is that they are all trying to get a somewhat inflated price imo for their homes- less than a year or two ago but way beyond what they would historically have sold for here- as the huge price increases did happen here to some degree as well.

    A number of companies have closed down and/or laid off workers. The food shelf has had lots of demand and less food. I’ve noticed fewer people attending events such as shows and conferences- way fewer than in the past. So it is showing up here.

    People are very worried about heating their homes this winter- lots of new wood stoves being installed plus people buying wood who generally didn’t use it much at all.

    For me personally- I don’t know really. I’m not in debt- and have a frugal lifestyle. I saw this coming and bought wood for two years and filled the propane tank up after the snow melted. I’m not sure where I’m going work-wise other than the farm- have mostly stopped adjunct teaching and am sorting out what I want to do next when the farm winds down by winter. I am concerned about my son a great deal in terms of the economy as he is a young adult just out on his own……

    I guess I’m concerned for everyone- I feel that as a country our vast wealth and resources were plundered and wasted- and that due to this we are not going to be able to do what needs to be done in terms of alternative energy etc. All that money has been wasted in propping up Wall St., payments to CEO’s of assorted crooked mortgage companies, etc- I do feel we are looking at the erosion of whatever remained of the middle-class- and that mostly when the dust clears there will be mostly lower income people hanging on by their teeth and a small number of very wealthy folks- feudal lords and serfs perhaps? It very much feels like we are heading back to that way- and I don’t like it.

    I also recognize that even though I have my home paid for, etc- I still have to come up with the money for property taxes- a huge chunk of my income- as well as everything else one has to pay cash for. So I am trying to be careful in what I spend money on- but am putting it into things I consider to be of value.

    Last night I car-pooled with a friend to a music jam that was quite a distance- but the car got over 40 mpg- so I figured it was like getting 80 mpg with 2 of us in it. My friend expressed concern over how far we were going for this jam- but I figured it was worth it- we got a great deal of pleasure out of playing with our friends- and sharing a meal with them- and I almost feel like I need to take advantage of all chances I get now to do these things as I don’t know when I won’t be able to anymore- at some point the drive might be too prohibitive- although we can just pick up others along the way and fit 2 others in the car as well- that will help for a bit! I did notice that 3 others car-pooled together- and someone else has taken to using a motorcycle- so there is increasing levels of consciousness re gas and the economy I’d say. Mostly it feels like people are waiting for the other shoe to drop around here…….. Also, we have a very tourist focused economy- fall foliage, skiing, etc- so this could really be problematic in that sense for our state economy.

  10. bridgeton 18 Sep 2008 at 9:32 am

    My family has been debt free for 1½ years, with the exception of the mortgage. I work for a transit company, so my job seems relatively secure.

    Our household has cut down a little on driving, but we still drive most trips. The rising cost of everything – food, fuel, heat/electricity – has been hitting us, and there are fewer indulgences. And, we are just wondering if we will ever retire, and if our parents may be spending their retirement in our house. I had wanted to ‘get aggressive’ with the mortgage, but now I don’t know if we can or if it makes the most sense.

    Personally, I am very worried and stressed out. I just don’t know WHAT to do. I spend my days working, and my nights canning. I am exhausted. I worry about being able to visit my family across the state. I worry about the money in the savings account. I try to figure out if we should try to move to the country or if we should stay in the city, close to stable employment. My job is the thing I am least worried about – we are already understaffed and I am one of the more versatile employees in our department. I worry that I am WORRYING TOO MUCH.

    Next week is vacation to see the grandparents; I hope it is relaxing.

  11. Jimon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:39 am

    Sharon and friends,

    Yes, lots of homes for sale, often for months, and none selling, and the rental home across the street has cycled through a number of renters in three years. There are still crowds at Disney, the beach, House of Blues, etc, but more and more people in horrible deep debt, living on the edge, and desperate. A part-time teacher, a local man, came to me yesterday and asked how he could get out; he can’t get a job anywhere else, and is going mad living in the desert with no money.

    More homeless, including students: California has food stamps for students and so on, but it bothers me that there is no work for them and that more than half of the state’s residents can’t afford to live. Anywhere.
    Our student body have ballooned, with hordes cramming classes on the first days and then dropping like concrete flies. Depression desperation students, I’m told.

    I have applied for jobs back East. I’m not the only one. My ex and I talked last night and he said I’m reasonably safe (tenured in a school with water rights!) and unlikely to end up in a cardboard box. I hope he’s right.

    I planted a large garden and some of it yielded. Two monsoon rains have made me glad I used a Zuni waffle garden design.
    Well, take care,

    Jim

  12. Anonymouson 18 Sep 2008 at 9:40 am

    I’m in the bubble of a private university and you’d think we’d be shielded, but not so. The bad neighborhood that used to leave us alone has been seen wandering on campus. The first emergency poles were installed this summer. There are daily “Security Blotter” emails full of muggings, car thefts, and creepiness.
    Last year 40 students worked in the library on work-study. This year, 70. The work hasn’t increased but the number of students qualifying for work study did.
    I will graduate next year and be only about 30,000 in debt. This is nothing compared to others in the hundreds of thousands.
    I worry because I’m working two jobs and four classes and I still don’t have any money.
    I’m far from home (which, thankfully, is a small farm) and I worry about being able to get there.

    I spend a lot of time hoping that things hold together long enough for me to graduate (would I have started this if I knew then what I know now? Probably not.) and get my debts paid off. Perhaps long enough to buy a little more land.

  13. Hausfrauon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:44 am

    Oklahoma has a heavily oil-and-gas based economy, so in one sense we are ‘booming’ here. Unbelievably, Devon Energy has decided to build a massive 37-story skyscraper in downtown.

    I have been noticing a lot more small cars being driven around town. Although, with the recent dip in gas prices I began to see more SUV’s again with temporary tags (just purchased).

    My husband’s employment seems secure for now, and my business, although definitely reliant on people having disposable income, has not slowed down yet. We continue to pay down our mortgage and I continue to drive my 15 y.o. Geo Prizm. Our retirement appears to be disappearing right before our eyes, but luckily I have already somewhat resigned myself to that.

    We are making slow but steady progress on our preps – food storage, small garden, stored liquor, cash on hand, nifty solar power gadgets and tools. Now we need to put in a rocket stove and mini-root cellar.

  14. olympiaon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:47 am

    I look at the misfortune that has befallen both myself and those around me this year, and it can be hard to discern how related it all is to the descent of the world. Some of it (my SO’s taking a pay cut and facing job uncertainty, my sister’s SO work in auto sales is, unsurprisingly, tanking), is clearly related to the failing economy. Other stuff- namely, my mother developing a pill dependency, losing her job and facing legal trouble, at face seems unrelated to the greater problems of the world. In a way, though, I think it’s very much related. My mother’s a baby boomer whose life has followed the classic baby boomer arc. The fact that she’s becoming more dependent on others now- well, it’s the direction her whole huge generation is headed. Which, of course, is a huge, huge, concern.

    Northwestern Vermont seems stable for now. There does seem to be an uptick in robbery in my area (I was a lucky recipient of this a few months back), and I know food shelves are pinched. My own crappy customer service job has remained surprisingly unthreatened, which I’m grateful for. I don’t expect this to last forever, though.

  15. Greenpaon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:47 am

    hi, Sharon. As you know, I’ve been studying the “big picture” for a long long time- as well as living the details.

    At the moment, I’m really kind of mesmerized by the daily financial events. One shoe is dropping immediately after the other- very very fast. Most of them don’t hit the real public radar for days. Did you know Washington Mutual put itself up for auction- days ago? And Morgan Stanley is in talks to merge with Wachovia- which is a losing proposition from the get-go? Desperation everywhere.

    I’m feeling like Bambi in the headlights, as I wrote over on TAE. Still am. Most folks, even here, don’t quite grasp the extent of the changes happening; or how fast it is. We wake up, and the neighbor is still mowing his lawn; it all looks normal.

    But. I don’t think so.

  16. squrrlon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:52 am

    Things are still comfortable for us here, but we’re painfully aware that that’s a position predicated completely on my husband keeping his job. He works for General Dynamics (high-tech defense contractor), which currently is booming for obvious reasons, but if defense spending decreases after the election, as we both hope it will…well, he’s certainly not the most senior person there. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom to our one year old, that would leave us high and dry with substantial mortgage payments. And if we lose our house, we lose all the preparedness work we’ve done, and a home we really do love. The neighbors are just as precarious…again, single earner, in their case two kids, and his job is in the building industry, but of course they’re blissfully oblivious and still buying the kids $400 toys on credit. So, yeah, things could come toppling down pretty fast.

    On a more regional scale, the only things I’ve noticed in my area are a large number of yard sales (but this is yardsale country) and a fair number of for sale signs. A lot of that might be increased sensitivity on my part, though.

    Oh, and our “reliable family car” keeps needing to go to the shop about every two months (another $225 today), so if anything goes really wrong there, that’s the sort of thing that drains a bank account in a right hurry.

    Basically I guess what I’m saying is that even as a solidly middle-class family we are keenly aware that there’s little between us and the precipice.

  17. Traverse Davieson 18 Sep 2008 at 10:03 am

    Here on Canada’s east coast we got hit with two disasters relatively close together about five years ago, so people started taking preparation seriously (each disaster resulted in a week or more without power for much of the population… one of them was in winter). Houses aren’t selling very well and people are starting to drop prices, but our economy is in pretty good shape.
    Our debts are not crippling and both of us have well paying jobs right now. I am in the midst of developing my antidote to the bunkers and guns sets view of survival (making myself as fit and as mentally flexible as possible so that if the survival situation doesn’t call for bunkers and guns I am not too put out… plus I’m scared of guns)/
    Where I work is another matter. The company I am on contract too is in great shape (they produce technology used on 97% of the land based oil rigs in Canada) but the company I actually work for has a number of clients. The largest of those clients is Morgan Stanley. Many people I pass in the halls seem very stressed right now and while odds are that the company I work for can survive the death of Morgan Stanley if it happens, a lot of our clients are in the financial services sector (we had contracts with both Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers) so who knows how many more hits we can take.

  18. Fernon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:04 am

    Well, we’re taking more money out of an IRA – will have to pay penalties – to live on today. Food we have, but no money for rent or utilities.

    Son commutes to U of MD, so I read the student paper. Hiring freeze there, and there are complaints that the students on the food plan (which I admit I don’t understand because I don’t have to) which cost more this year are finding that their ‘points’ aren’t going as far. Son has scholarships and is the only grandchild of a Jewish grandmother, and eats with us at breakfast and dinner and packs his lunch from home, so my husband and I only pay for his books and gas costs. With his ADD, efforts to work while he’s in school haven’t turned out well, he’ll see how he combines volunteering with Engineers Without Borders with school before he tries a job again.

    Our home based business just delivered custom software to a client in Russia, who apparently has venture capital. Or had it – the stock market there has closed at least temporarily … he says that his money guy is in Greece and won’t be back to wire us our money for 2 – 3 weeks … I responded with hysterical laughter. They owe us over $21K.

    OTOH, the small IRAs I control are doing well. But I looked towards coming collapse and invested mostly in puts, a option that goes up as stocks go down. I don’t consider my option investing the most ethical type of investing (options don’t produce a product at all, and I consider ‘production of goods’ more ethical) but I can do this with little money.

    Fern

  19. Rosaon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:07 am

    We have and make more money than I ever thought I’d see, both of us in fields that do better in recessions (me in education, him in open-source software for large corporations). We have enough in savings to live on for two years, barring health disasters. We have all the large equipment we need, including bikes & bike trailers, room for up to 3 roomates if we wanted to be landlords again, a rising rental market, and a former roomate who would move back in with us if we asked, who has a good job & always paid his rent on time when he lived here before.

    But my neighborhood is unraveling. The city was having budget issues before – closing libraries, closing schools, cutting back in the parks, raising bus fares. I worry that if we have a snowy winter they won’t plow as much (last year they declared no overtime for snowplow drivers, and the car commuters had some ugly mornings.) Foreclosures and small business closings started here two years ago when ICE started leaning on the immigrant communities; we’ve had one foreclosure on every block this summer, near as I can tell. One of the first signs of recession here was less crowding -young men from Mexico and Central America used to come up here for work in such numbers that they lived in tents in people’s yards and all the volleyball courts were full every night. Not this summer. Our renter neighbor across the alley, who’s lived there for more than a decade, is moving away to live with her parents. Someone came down our block and stole all the kids bikes from back yards, and we have old immigrant women picking through the trash and picking up aluminum cans every day.

    I’m not worried about us, but I worry about the people around us and I feel like I’m not connected enough these days that people would ask us for help if they needed it, which makes me feel bad on a moral level and makes me think that, if something bad *did* happen to us, I don’t have the connections I need to make it.

  20. Taraon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:08 am

    Our area seems fairly stable (Dallas-Fort Worth) for now. I have seen some small tightenings of belts, but nothing serious. I’ve noticed far more motorcycles on the road these days (no bikes, though – very un-bike-friendly). By and large, most people are still in love with their trucks and SUVs here. I do know that a lot of people on the Fort Worth side are being raped by gas drilling in their front yards. I work for a catering company, and we’ve seen a bit of decline in business, but not a substantial one. Mostly the declines have been in business catering – companies aren’t spending the money on that sort of thing as much. Individuals, however, are still having weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, etc. No real declines in that type of business.

    As for us, we’re doing just about as well as we ever were. Our jobs are as stable as they can be, we have almost no debt, and even our mortgage and our one car note will both be paid off next year. Gas prices hurt, and we just moved and are working through those expenses, but all in all, I don’t feel like we’re struggling. My retirement keeps being whittled away, but in my mind that money is already gone, so if I end up with anything I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    My family is another matter. They also live here and are all in dire straits. My sister is unemployed and trying to support herself on her own. My father is a custom homebuilder and hasn’t sold a house in a year and a half. He’s sitting on five or six houses now that aren’t moving – plus, people are breaking into them and stealing copper pipe and wire and such. My mother, a baby boomer, took ALL of the money her parents left her (which was substantial) and opened a cafe with it, rather than saving it for her own retirement/elder care. She put all the money into the build out and was basically broke on opening day. Of course it’s not turning a profit yet (if it ever will), so she seems on a fast track to financial ruin. We tried to warn her, but what more can you do? My brother is going to be fine, but he’s always lived on an extreme shoestring by choice. The worst thing about all this is that I know if we offered them help they’d refuse it. Either out of pride, or because they don’t realize just how bad things are. DH’s family is struggling with money a bit too, but they’re a few states away, so it’s hard to tell if it’s any worse now than it has ever been for them.

  21. Meadowlarkon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:22 am

    I thought I was doing fine, until I read everyone’s comments.

    We have some debt to include student loans, mortgage, one vehicle (can’t be sold… it’s a truck) and some credit cards. We’ve made huge inroads but now I’m not so sure how survivable we really are.

    My job is iffy (telvision) but hopefully crime will continue so husband is fine for a while. (yeah. Bad attitude. I know. And somewhat tongue in cheek. But more callouts last night)

    Garden wouldn’t support us, and no greenhouse. In the suburbs, so no livestock.

    That said, it is what it is. I suppose I’ll survive because I’ll do what I need to do to make sure that happens. But I am a bit disappointed at the “no home-scale tactical nukes”. :(

  22. Theresaon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:30 am

    We are doing ok, slowly reducing our debt and becoming accustomed to living on one salary, building up our stores, learning to garden and preserve food, building up the woodpile, etc. But even here in the relatively sheltered tarsands-based economy of Alberta, things are changing. Housing prices have decreased significantly and there are tens of thousands of houses on the market that hardly anyone is buying. Just this morning there was an announcement that a major tarsands oil upgrader project may be delayed or canceled due to huge cost overruns. This makes me personally very happy, because it means that some of the Florida-sized boreal forest/wetland area might be spared, and there may be less industrial load on the river, and less farmland stripped and made into instant housing developments.

    The banks here are run differently and so there are no immediate concerns about them going bankrupt or requiring bail-outs, but we’re trying to get our assets out of them anyway. Food banks are having problems meeting demand and there is virtually no safe and affordable housing for low income people. There are more and more homeless people and the jails are overfull. In short, things are more chaotic and unstable and the unpredictability is making people nervous, because this has been a place of predictability for many, many decades.

  23. Lanceon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:33 am

    For the person who steps off the curb
    at the wrong time
    Unlooking and unheeding
    The world ends that day, that minute
    And never seeing their loved ones again
    Nor their loved ones seeing them
    Multiple worlds end that day

    -Lance

    Ok, so much for my little riff in response to Ms. Bishop (I LOVE her poem, never hear it before, but it is wonderful..thanks Sharon!)

    Well I lost my house some years ago, several jobs and careers, many friends, and things I cannot (will not) speak of in a public forum yet more dear than all those other things. I laugh and joke with my good friend and traveling companion Hugh Briss. The older you get, the more you realize it is all illusion anyways.

    I have two things that help me in this Plain of Megiddo, of scorpions and snakes, that is my dwelling place…the writings of Qoheleth of Ecclesiastes (for all is vanity ultimately, yet do not despair but enjoy the DAY (the hour and minute and breath) that God has given you! Some people see Ecclesiastes as a downer, but I see it as really very joyful and an antidote to Hugh Briss :-)

    And my alltime favorite, an Old Inuit song:

    I think over again
    My small adventures, my fears.
    The small ones that seemed so big,
    For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
    And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing:
    To live to see the great day that dawns,
    And the light that fills the world.

  24. Hummingbirdon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:34 am

    Just wrote a long post, then hit a wrong key and it disappeared.

    Suffice it to say that things are about the same here. We are watching things deteriorate with some dismay. We always knew it was coming but thought we had “a few more years.” Now we’re not so sure.

    We are on Social Security and expect that will continue so long as the government is functioning. House and car/truck are paid for, we have a fair amount of stuff stored and few expenses. Unsure of the banks. Keeping savings in local banks and some cash hidden away.

    It is one thing to speculate about things falling apart, quite another to watch it unfold.

  25. Hummingbirdon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:37 am

    (Just found my original post–it wasn’t gone–just hidden. It follows below.)

    As I wrote at the end of the book club thread, here in southern Indiana/northern Kentucky we had a serious windstorm associated with the passage of hurricane Ike last weekend. Hundreds of thousands were-many still are-without power, schools closed, roads were blocked, gas stations ran out of gas. We were OK because of preparations made for emergencies, but in the city hundreds were flocking to food banks and emergency feeding stations because their food spoiled in the refrigerator or they couldn’t get to the store.

    As to the general perceived situation, my partner has four adult kids in various areas of the country and all are experiencing money/job insecurities. Jobs are disappearing and replacements hard to find, especially for those in retail or manufacturing.

    No homes for sale in our neighborhood yet-these are all established clans-but many sprouting in the area-many of those vacant as former residents were foreclosed upon.

    We are on social security and feel that will continue so long as the government is functioning. We are less sure of the banks and have savings spread among 3 local banks (all of which were recently acquired by out of state banks), so we have no idea any more of their financial situation. We have a pretty large sum of money in cash, well hidden. The house, car and truck are paid for, but old.

    We are watching the energy-financial-foreign relations situations deteriorate with dismay. Not unexpected, but always thought it would be safely “a few years away” yet.

  26. MEAon 18 Sep 2008 at 11:02 am

    Frankly, I’m in a head-spinning state.

    I live in a little enclave of older houses, the core of a small town that had pricely developements build around it, and it is communting distance of both NY and Philly. While the larger, newer houses are not selling as well as they once were, the little houses in my neighborhood, in walking distance to the train station, are moving quickly, and for good prices.

    For the first time in my life (I must have been one the very last people to go to college on a full schoolarship) except for the now paid off house, I’ve taken on debt for the “new-to-be-car.” Right now, as long as I keep getting freelance publishing work, I can make the payments. Once that dries up (and I can’t see mid-list books lasting for ever), I can either cut into charitable giving or my older daughter’s music lessons. (The young daughter’s went already to pay for extra theapy, which is going very well.) I have to confess, it’s a hard, hard choice. Already, while the planned for giving continues, there is less of the pick up a package of socks for the soup kitchen in the dollar store because I have a little money left.

    My hopes to be transfered to a banch in walking distance have not been realized, but I may be moved to one where I could car-pool at least 2x a week. That’s a blow to my hopes to drop my driving to complience with the 90% reduction, and to my planned gas budget. I realize it must sound very petty to people who must chose between eat and heat (or have lost both options), but the one place I’m spending any extra money is music lessons, and the thought of ended or cutting back on those is very painful. I think it’s partly becuase that means I’m starting to hit rock.

    As far as the schools are concerned, I’m already well into my consumer goods budget for next year — the requred tee-shirts for band, sports, etc. cost a lot more than last year ($15.00 each, up from 7 or 8, or free if you were on the lunch program–I hope they still are free), they are charging for a student director (as opposed to a class list), and they want a lot more supplies sent in from home — tissues and wipes and things like that.

    The district is talking to 2 other districts about combining bus routes, esp. for the Special Services district that serves the whole county — an idea that should have been impliented years ago, IMO. There is talk of fewer class trips, or charging more for them.

    The soup kitchen in Trenton is swamped and desperate for cash, and has woken up to the fact that this isn’t a temporary blip, but may be the face of things to come.

    As I talk to people in the neighborhood, I hear more and more stories about their relatives with one or both parents out of work, nieces and nephews coming home, etc. though as far as I know the only doubling up in the neighborhood occured a couple of years ago, when a widower across the street invited his then out of work much younger half-sister to move in, and even though she as work now, they are both happy with the arrangement and expect it to continue.

    My own family — oh yikes. My oldest brother has started pharmacy school and is hoping to hang on in NV 3 more years to get the degree before coming back to NJ. He and his SO have been together 24 years, and have always lived where she wants to as my brother is pretty easy going, but he told me that this time she’s going to have to put with with moving out East (which she claims is a phoney place to live) because he doesn’t see the South West as being tenable for them.

    Middle brother’s business, doing museum restorations, is struggling. Big house, lots of debts, unable to see that buying stuff you don’t need isn’t saving money even if you get 2 for the price of 1 — I’m frightened reality is going to hit hard. They just brought a new SUV because they are so cheap right now.

    Youngest brother, the one I gave my old car to so he’d have a way to get to work — wife out of work, step daughter who lives with them, out of work (both quit at the being of the summer because they wanted some time off, planning to start job hunting in the fall), more debts. My parents pay for their housing all ready. I don’t see how they can hang on much longer, esp. as his job is in the food industry.

    My parents are worried, too. They’ve spent their safety net more or less down, and say they can manage only one more disaster — theirs or their children’s. Both a dependent on medication, as is my younger brother and my younger daughter — no meds, your dead sort of depended — some would go quickly, so slowly.

    I still have my IRA, but no other real savings (for the first time as an adult no real safety cushion) and the IRA is loosing value. I may yet have to turn it into cash — and I know I’m very lucky to have it.

    What I do have is a fantastic housemate, parents close by, a paid for house, a pest-proof garden that is prodcuing the first of the fall beans(!), good neighbors, and a plan for almost everthing (haha) except for getting a composting toilet.

    I’m seeing more requests for bikes, moving boxes and bed and other bedroom furnishing on Freecycle, as well as children’s clothing, and shoes — people never used to ask for shoes.

    Around me I see very few people who are worried about the long term — most people think we are in for a short term series of financial hardships that will someone work out.

    Those who feel, like me, that we are in for something much hard and longer and stranger, shared my deer in the headlights feeling. It’s very strange to been waiting for the final shoe to drop, knowing it could be months away, and that we may never know when it drops or what it was.

  27. Karenon 18 Sep 2008 at 11:19 am

    We aren’t even looking at our 401K statements anymore. In fact, we stopped contributing so we could us the money instead – right now – to get rid of our monster credit card debt. Ugh!
    We cashed out my son’s college fund and used it right away after it lost more than $3000 – and that was last spring! So he’ll have no debt from this first year, but there’s no reserve waiting for him.
    We have no savings right now and hope to have our debt gone in 2 years. Our health care bills are astronimical – and we have good insurance.
    Just can’t seem to keep ahead of it all…

  28. Shambaon 18 Sep 2008 at 11:26 am

    Now, it’s getting REAL personal! I have an IRA–not very large–that’s lost money I know over the last year. I have a retirement from the state and they are known for being real hardnoses about keeping a tight reign on the retirement fund. That’s what I live on. I hae some savings but then will that CU last well throughout this whole thing. Other event have happened to people I know in the last few months.

    –Our state and local governments have had real cutbacks in personnel and some service and our paper is talking about the local city cutting back more before christmas–their fiscal year is July to July.

    –Talked to Richard, mom’s broker, he expects housing won’t recover for at least two years probably longer; the stockmarket will probably or could go down to about 9000, He is more sure that it will go down to that than not. He said we’re in for a rough ride and is confirming everything I expected. He moved a fund of my mom’s money into the money market, that means it’s in cash right now. He’s been a busy man the past couple of days! I’ll bet!
    News from friends about other they know losing in this market:
    –Linda’s music friends include a lot of real estate people on the east Coast, Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg, VA. One custom home builder has gone under in the past year, all their personal money was used to try to save it but they lost it all. I don’t know if that means they lost their own home or not.
    –A respected yoga teacher of many years came to our studio to do a workshop this past weekend. I couldn’t go but my friend Barb said that she has lost a lot or weight and her beautiful head of hair is much thinner. Her husband and she have both been ill the past two years, they are not young, and lost their several investment properties they had near where they live in Sedona. I was very sad to hear about her and her husband. She’s travelling and teaching again because she needs the money. She’s a wonderful teacher and I hope to see her again.
    –D. in Tennessee said her husband has lost his job and they don’t know if they’ll have to move again or not.
    –I’m waiting to hear about the enrollment in our health plan in the next month or so. How much will it increase?? :/

    cheers,
    shamba

  29. Christy Oon 18 Sep 2008 at 11:29 am

    We are doing well financially. We just sold our house after 5 months on the market and are moving to a farm in GA at the beginning of November. I’ll admit to feeling panic at times that we won’t get moved in time. Or that our buyers will back out because of all that is going on financially. Things just need to hang on for 6 weeks….

  30. Maeveon 18 Sep 2008 at 12:07 pm

    We’re a bit on the stressed out and worried side of things. Not because we have much in the way of investments (we don’t), but because it’s unnerving to watch the economy of one’s nation nosedive into a major depression, while the environment is out of whack, and wars are being fought over dwindling resources, and basic costs of living are increasing seemingly exponentially. Getting a raise at work doesn’t even mean maintaining the same level of earning power. It’s scary, and unstable, and we’re oh-so-very-thankful that we bought a house we could afford, and that we weren’t foolish enough to buy one in an area with covenants that don’t allow things like gardens and clotheslines.

    My great-grandmother dropped out of school in her teens to help her dad raise her siblings when her mother died. Her brother wrote about electricity coming to their part of the city, and about the ‘honey dippers’ who came around in the night to scoop out peoples’ “out houses” by the alleys. She survived the Great Depression, and raised a family of her own. Through it all, she always managed to grow a garden, to keep people clothed and fed, and found the Joy in living.

    I look to them, even though they’ve long since passed away, for inspiration.

    People CAN survive. They mostly always have. They just need reminded of it. A good mantra for times like these:

    ” I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain. ”
    -from Frank Herbert’s “Dune”

  31. Susanon 18 Sep 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Here in Northern Arizona the community I live in hasn’t seen much of a change; we purchased a home in an area by necessity as DH was required to live in the fire district in order to work for them. Neither of us work anywhere near our community any more, but our mortgage is so incredibly reasonable in comparison to anyone else’s we know that even with rising gas prices we still have no thoughts of selling at this time (well, hubby asks every week or so if we can move somewhere else — basically anywhere else). Not to mention the fact that we couldn’t sell our house for anywhere near what we still owe.

    However….I went to Prescott to go grocery shopping yesterday and passed a building with an enormous sign hanging from it advertising a foreclosure bus tour. I was sickened. I mean, we have had a ridiculous buildout here in the last decade, and I knew from the water supply point alone, that it was unsustainable, but I really thought we here in AZ were a little more insulated from the crisis than we apparently are.

    Chino Valley is considering (if they haven’t already) passing an ordinance preventing people from planting gardens due to the water shortage…I mean, come on! How about mandating the placement of water harvesting equipment? How do they think people are going to feed themselves? And why aren’t the farmers under the same sorts of proscriptions? I feel lucky because I live near a creek that flows year round…I can haul water if need be, and sterilize it before use.

    I work in Phoenix at a large community hospital in the ED. We are seeing more and more psych patients, and we end up holding them for days because there simply aren’t enough beds in the entire Valley to house the psych patients who need them. We are getting more and more people who don’t have health insurance who are using the ED as an urgent care or doctor’s office, and we are getting more sicker people who also stay in our ED for days because there aren’t enough inpatient beds to house them. Our boss dropped the news that we are going to be facing budget cuts next year which means staffing cuts — which means that the nurses that are left are going to be even more unhappy and probably try to go elsewhere. It’s a very stressful environment, and I keep telling my coworkers it’s only going to get worse.

    Also regarding my job, I am hearing from coworkers that spouses have lost jobs and aren’t able to find new ones; one bought in a newer, fairly upwardly mobile area that is now foreclosure/renter heavy and has the drug/burglary problems that go with those. They can’t get out because they can’t sell, but they are sitting on a property that is losing value by the minute almost.

    My son worked at a car dealership and was let go last month; I am not sure whether he’s found a new job yet — he won’t ask for help so he won’t call unless he’s OK. My oldest son lives near Oakland and is struggling; he and his wife are trying to move to a smaller place and get a room mate to share the bills with. I have told both of them they are welcome to move back home if need be; we have extra bedrooms, beds, all the stuff they would need if it came down to it. DH just lost one of his two jobs last Friday, and his other job isn’t calling for work like they did at this time last year.

    I am expanding my garden (over hubby’s protests) even more this fall, am planning to build a couple of cold frames for veggies/salads over the winter, and plan to plant even earlier this year for summer harvests. I got chickens for eggs. I changed my withholding at work so I could take home extra pay which is paying for home maintenance, repairs, and improvements that will help make us more energy efficient. I prebought a year’s worth of propane, and if I am careful with our use, it may last a lot longer than that. We changed our stove from one with a pilot light to one with electronic ignition. I have shopped the thrift stores for real wool sweaters, and long underwear, and plan to heat myself rather than the house this winter (DH is fine with that, he prefers living in the temperature range of a cave anyway). I have put up jellies, jams, vegetables, and stocked up on beans and rice. We purchased a Prius before gas went through the roof and while our payments are a little steep, they are still cheaper than what we were paying in gas for our van before. My car is paid off. I am paying double payments on our credit cards, and my job will pay my student loan payments in return for a time commitment which I haven’t taken them up on but I think I will try to do. For as long as they will let me, that is.

    I am truly worried for my job but I know that I can get another one — nurses are in short supply still, and there’s still a huge need for them.

    In short, things are getting a little bad here in the Grand Canyon state as well but I still think we have it really pretty good compared to other places in the nation.

  32. Robyn M.on 18 Sep 2008 at 12:33 pm

    How are we doing here? Hard to say. Our town is for crap, but then that’s not new. It’s a very poor town, always has been. In fact, it’s experiencing something of a renaissance right now, as folks are beginning to find value in doing things *here* rather than elsewhere.

    In our own lives, we toodle along. We’re much like Greenpa, watching the markets with a sick sort of fascination, paired with a knot in the stomach. Financially right now, we are fine. My husband’s job and my own continue until the end of the academic year, and I believe he gets paid into sometime during the summer. After that, it will either go very well or very badly indeed. If we have to move–I really can’t imagine how that will go, but I don’t believe it will be good. We have no consumer debt, but we carry both a mortgage and student loans nearly the same size. We can’t get out from under those any time soon. We won’t be able to sell our house for enough to pay off the mortgage, mostly because *nothing* is selling around here. I guess time will tell. Truth be told? I prefer not to think about it. I’ll just buy my massive quantities of wheat and can things. I work and plan, all the while trying hard not to think about why I’m doing all these things.

  33. Frostwolf in Troyon 18 Sep 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I feel that, in my own reality, this is the elephant in the living room. Part of this is my own fault, I think. Sometimes a person just has to blunder into a situation and discover that I’m not on the same page as someone else. Mostly, I just keep quiet, though I have my copy of “What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire” waiting for anyone who might be getting an inkling.

    I live in a small city, and I only moved here a couple of months ago from Albany. Partly because I feel Troy is better positioned in lots of ways. Still, as I share the nabe with RPI and Sage students, I’m not sure what the reality is. There is a strong communal feeling here, and Troy is the home of Uncle Sam (the icon was “born” here, as was “Twas the Night Before Christmas”). This is just intuitive, but also on a practical level it’s easier to get to know people in a small city like Troy, r/t a larger one like Albany.

    My partner seems to be slowly awakening to what I’ve been sensing these last few years, and as I sit here typing this, I’m thinking about our most recent conversation. He was angry with me about something that I do, probably too much. And he’s right. Still, I wonder if there isn’t an underlying anxiety re: all this stuff we’re not talking about? That reality which sites like this openly ponder. The thing that I’m being called to question on is that I don’t spend enough time in the real world–I do spend quite a bit of time with guides in a trance state. And I want to spend more time doing things that matter to me, like home repair and maintenance. Performing my body-percussion music at open mics and really getting to know my neighbors. I’m frustrated because my life is set up for … whatever it’s set up for as it revolves around $900/mo in debt repayment.

    (Yet I have a talent for trance, and with the way things are, can I really be blamed if I don’t want to take a journey to other realms?)

    It feels plainly surreal, to be honest. As far as this economic sitch goes, I’m not really sure what to make of it regarding my own position. I work in a law firm that has offices in several locations–Syracuse, Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, NYC. It’s positioned as a regional firm. Not like the white-shoe firms in NYC, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Sao Paolo–and yes, the last firm I worked for in NYC had offices in all those places as well as London, Paris, Duesseldorf, SF. (Yeah, Duesseldorf! And Berlin and several other places as well.) So, b/c it’s regional I think it might have a bright future, at least as far as all this goes. And it has a lot of different practice areas that will probably be all right.

    Have no idea whether I’ll be able to afford heat and electric over the winter, but my priorities are rent/utilities, food, and then whatever else I have left over can go to debts.

    Frostwolf, Troy, New York

  34. Meadowlarkon 18 Sep 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Susan, wonder if they’ll put those same limits on water in swimming pools. GRRRRRRRR.

  35. MEAon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Well, here in NJ another shoe is dropped. Looks as if the 4 branches of Trenton Free Public Library are to close — keeping the main branch open, for now.

    One of my great-grandfathers used to live on lane out outskirts of a small farming village. On the map it was call Night Soil Lane, but everyone called it Shit Alley.

    MEA

  36. Veganon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I have a feeling of impending disaster, the same angst I felt in the early 1970s in college while learning/contemplating the enormous problems facing our times. Worse now because I’m older and I get an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach which I didn’t get then. I recaptured that exact angst feeling and memories the other day when my husband had AOL radio on and they were playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata — a gift I received from a girlfriend in college. I listened to it again and again as a freshman …

    Collapse of different systems — financial, climate, political, etc. — is unraveling at a more accelerated rate than I’ve recently anticipated. In reality, I’ve been expecting the collapse of our civilization since the 1970s. My eyes were opened then by Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful,” Spengler’s “The Decline of the West,” “Limits to Growth”, etc.

    I’m scared for my family and myself and for all the sentient beings in our planet. I know the suffering will be intense in the coming years. Most of us would like to see the suffering of others alleviated.

    On a personal level, I’m grateful that my family is debt free due to our frugal/simple lifestyle (plus luck) and that my husband has a good job for now. Our county has experienced shortfalls and positions have been frozen for more than a year. Thirty-five part-time library employees and many more throughout the county were layed off a few months ago. As you know, Florida is experiencing an excess of foreclosures along with a precipitous decline in home prices which cuts county revenues. Fort Myers (north of us) is the number 2 place in the US for foreclosures.

    There are currently four houses (out of 25) foreclosing in our exurbia/rural mile and a half long dead-end street. The young families who lived there bought their houses at the height of the housing bubble and lost their jobs recently. I don’t think they had a decadent bourgeois lifestyle.

    I worry about the safety of our savings account at Bank of America (AKA, Lynch of America!). I also feel guilty and complicitous to have money in such a corrupt institution. I’ll be glad when our money is used up. We’ll be using our hard earned cash to buy land and build a tiny house in VT soon. No bank is safe (see The Automatic Earth site). The government could institute restrictions on account withdrawals anytime, especially if a run on banks start. FDIC with their $50 billion is a joke.

    Well, that’s all for now.

    Peace!

  37. lindaon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:08 pm

    In my world, it is about gas and food prices so far. Husband is still working (construction) however, we got cut off of medical insurance, as it turned out, because his boss/owner of the company, hadn’t paid into the union account for several months. Why? Because developers, who have pocketed the money from the banks, have not paid him in 6 months. He had enough to pay his workers and he is struggling to stay afloat.
    We managed to get our children covered by medical through the state but not us. We are resigned to having to do without a doctor until our insurance is reinstated. this is big since both of us need medical care for back injuries.
    We have a friend who lost her job and who has 3 kids. She got around 100 dollars a month of food stamps but was denied medical insurance for them, despite the fact that two are bipolar and one has an ulcer. Another friend got cut off of food stamps because her son now makes 60 dollars a week working at a movie theater.
    So far, we are witnessing cuts in welfare but also in schools. Since the cuts in the high schools are a definite thing, they are passing on the cost of things to parents. So much for public schooling.
    I can see things eroding at a slow and steady pace here. These are just small examples. I keep a watch out everyday. I am getting more and more prepared while we have the money, the car and some strength to do the things we must do. I don’t think in terms of when the world will end. I have said this a thousand times. I ended my old world myself a while ago by changing the way I see the future and what I do with the present in terms of being prepared.

  38. Anonymouson 18 Sep 2008 at 1:29 pm

    I moved back to my parents in Miami. Its not really all that bad, I’m still in my second year of college, and I didn’t go in debt to pay for it, so personally, I’m ok. I know that there are two mortgages my parents are paying for but I don’t know about any other debts hanging in the shadows. I’ve been seeing a lot of motorcycles and scooters, though there is still quite a number of SUVs around. I cycle to school, and its alright since the vast networks of sidewalks around here are mostly devoid of pedestrians. I had a shock recently when I went to the mall, it was very empty compared to a few months ago, it reminded me of Orlov when he wrote of the quietness of Leningrad in the summer of 1990. At the moment, I have my money in an financially iffy bank, and I’m walking that bank and learning about the fascinating realm of Mattress based economics ;) I’m watching the deflating balloon of the economy with great intensity, ’cause I don’t want to get smacked by it :) I really ought to visit the rest of the family and see what they’re up to.

  39. Wendyon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I keep hearing, in my head, that assertion that one can determine the health of an economy by the roads. A neighboring community has just repaved their portion of Route One, and they are rehabbing the sidewalks, as well.

    Things here seem to be going along pretty much business as usual, but the economy, increases in fuel prices, increasing food costs, decreasing municipal budgets for things like school, and other related topics are oft discussed – and openly with allusions to Peak Oil (although that exact phrase is seldom used). These topics are actually even trumping political rhetoric that would normally be on everyone’s lips.

    I’m watching the news with interest, and I’m always aware that but for the grace … it could be me, which is why I’m making preparations, and if we end up untouched or just slightly inconvenienced, all of the things I’ve done for my family will enable me to use our cash to help someone else.

  40. deweyon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Where I am in the Midwest, property values have hardly dropped (yet). However, rent is going through the roof; I’ve seen two average apartments near my work for $800 a month (and pets forbidden), which is about equal to my mortgage minus taxes and insurance. Apartments like that were $600 not long ago. I don’t know how a single person can afford housing now. I work for a nonprofit and we’ve been told to plan for budget cuts next year, and I really wonder how bad things have to get, for how long, before I get laid off. I’ve been paying extra money on the mortgage when possible, so would be pretty angry if I lost the house.

    One of our major shopping malls, which has one complete wing with almost no stores left and the AC shut off, reportedly plans to rip off the roof and convert itself into an open-air mall. Two versions of the story about why: to save on utilities or to reduce gang activity which is supposedly drawn to closed malls. Don’t know which is true, but gang activity here has reached the point of packs of 30-40 “youths” running amok, gang-stomping people at bus stops just to take their wallets and terrorizing people on sidewalks in the business district. This is already a high-crime city by American standards but I suspect it could get much worse in a depression; I’ve seen Pretoria. We also have infrastructure problems: we are told to expect water/sewer bills to triple because EPA requires improvement of sewers in next few years. Coincidentally, Midwestern utilities are saying among themselves that heating/utility costs will triple.

    I had a table-sized garden this year, plus some medicinal plants, but the former was not very successful. I plan to learn from my mistakes next year (land mines for the ****ing rabbits!) and put in a couple of dwarf fruit trees. Our heating bills have been about 50% of previous owner’s costs, but I hope to make further improvements this year. We pretend to be spending $60/week on food and gas, but this does not include cheats. I am not stockpiling a lot of stuff because (a) I feel like we have excess stuff already, and (b) if I lose my job, I will not have time to use up that hoard before I am kicked out of my house, and what will I do with it then? But there are certainly particular things that I could stand to buy if funds permitted. Unfortunately, my beloved spouse is one of those people who expects to die five minutes before the party is over, and he rarely shows much enthusiasm for preparedness. (Of course, having suffered through my embarrassing little Y2K Tuna Stockpile episode probably colored his viewpoint.)

  41. AVon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I rarely post but this is too good to pass up.

    I am doing rather well. Like one of the other posters I put some money into a reverse fund last fall and it has (obviously) done very well. I intend to roll out of it when the Dow hits the 9,000s. I think there will likely be more down side but I don’t want to get too greedy. But that money is not accessible until I retire (or I take a huge hit on it) so that may not be terribly important to where I am now.

    Currently I have a decent job and get paid a decent wage. But my wife and I separated last month. Get this – one reason we separated was her anger over us not owning a house. She has been wanting to buy a house for the last two years. She has good business connections and would keep telling me that “so-and-so” says that now is the time to buy! There is no housing bubble! But I refused. Now she is arguing that she is hearing “this is the bottom, its time to buy!” My standard response at this point is to ask her what the track record of the people she is listening to is.

    Anyway, the only debt I have is student loans. I do not own a house. I own some gold and silver (physical) and keep a couple thousand on hand in case of bank failure. I am invested in a reverse fund. But I do not have any investment or ownership that would provide necessities such as food. What I would love to find is an investment opportunity where I could be a minority owner of an organic farm that pays dividends in produce.

    I probably saved my wife from complete disaster as she will likely buy her house in the spring of 2009 which might be close to a market bottom (it might not be too but it will be *closer*). I’m worried about my brother who has a degree in wine making and is living in Portland, Oregon but is having trouble finding his first job in the industry. I have a number of friends who are marginally or unemployed. All of them are *just* getting by on food banks, loans from families and under the table work.

    The next big leg down will likely be October. I might have an opportunity for contract work in Baghdad Iraq about that time. If given the opportunity I don’t think I will be able to pass it up. First, someone has got to do something to help end that fiasco and it might as well be me. Second, the money would wipe out the last of my debt and might provide enough cash and experience to set me up for the next slide down. I worry about friends and family who can’t take another hit. I worry about friends and family who can take the hit (financially) but may not be able to take it mentally.

    But in the long run I have faith that there is a grand design. That design has no particular disposition towards me, America, or even humanity. But knowing there is a pattern give me some comfort.

    AV

  42. WNC Observeron 18 Sep 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Western NC reporting in here.
    With regard to my small town, life seems to be going on so far with minimal impact. We have lots of retirees here (double the US average, proportionally), most of them living on more than just Social Security, so as long as that cash flow continues (a very big and uncertain IF), that sets a floor under the local economy. Since most of the tourism (the other big economic prop) is from people not much more than a day’s drive away, we have so far seen that decline only a little. I am thinking that a lot of affluent people that would have hopped on a plane for an international vacation are instead vacationing downscale and closer to home, thus offsetting some of the formerly middle class folks who used to come here but now can’t afford to do so. Obviously, this game of musical chairs can’t go on very long, and then the local economy really starts hurting. I’m very worried about our lack of passenger rail access. We used to have it decades ago, and must get it again before gasoline becomes so expensive or unavailable that all travel to and from the mountains becomes impossible. So far, though, hardly anyone except me seems to really see the urgency of this.
    WNC has one of the largest and most active concentrations of folk artisans and craftspersons in the US, which is one of the things that draws the tourists. My wife has gotten into a small sideline making handmade paper and using it to produce handmade greeting cards for sale at one of the local shops. I’m pretty much all thumbs and not very artistic, but I need to be thinking about some sort of craft I can get into to produce something for sale or barter once the income from the job goes away due to retirement or worse. I am assuming that once the tourists are no more, neither will imports from China. Once that happens, our local craftspersons will have to stop tarting up their stuff for the tourist trade and instead just produce useful household goods just like they did a century ago. WNC is pretty well positioned for that aspect of localization.
    As for housing, I’m not seeing much evidence of foreclosures yet, although the number of houses on the market has been increasing. What has crashed is new construction. Several big developments have been canceled. There just isn’t the demand even for modest middle class vacation homes, and people that want to retire here can’t sell their present home for enough money to swing the move. Thus, it is looking that it will pretty much just be those of us already here that see things on out, except for the lucky few that can still afford buy in.
    I am hearing that the local food bank and relief charity has more clients than ever. One thing that our town is doing to help with that is to dedicate half of the community garden plots for food bank production. Students from a local college provide volunteer labor for course credit to plant and tend the plots. This is a model that more communities should copy.
    Our town’s farmer’s market is growing by leaps and bounds. More sellers, more buyers, and more things for sale than I’ve ever seen before.
    With regard to myself, I’ve already been in a giving up and letting go mode for some time. The latest and biggest thing has been to give up driving to work and to walk instead. It is a little less than 2 miles each way. I did it mainly for the exercise, but also to lessen our dependence upon and vulnerability to gasoline supplies, and also to keep our old cars running for as long as possible by minimizing the miles that we put on them. What I have gained in physical and mental health by walking so much each day more than offsets the “sacrifice” of motorized transport.
    I’ve been having to pay off debts incurred from a failed business venture, and am on track to have those paid off in less than three years now. I wish I didn’t have that burden and could be moving on to liquidating our mortgage instead, but that will just have to wait until we’ve gotten these business debts paid off. My wife and I both have jobs that are somewhat more secure than most, so hopefully our luck and income will hold up for a while yet. One good thing is that is has forced us to become really frugal and to give up a lot of things that other people seem to feel are essentials. Good practice, I guess. I am assuming that by the time we’ve paid off the business debt and the mortgage, there won’t be enough income to expand our lifestyle to any extent anyway, so we might as well get used to it.
    Gardening was a mixed bag this year. I had great success with my peaches and my beet and winter squash crop, but didn’t do very well with many other crops due to the drought. This was my first year to try growing vegetables in containers on our deck (which is the sunniest part of our property, and easiest to water daily), and had fairly good results, but also learned that I’ll need to try some different varieties next year. I’m going to need to cut down a couple of trees in order to get some sunlight on my garden, and plan to break some new ground to expand this fall. Even with that, I’ve decided that I’m going to have to just focus on those crops that grow well for me, and rely on our town’s farmer’s market for most of the rest.
    My first beehive was a great success; I harvested 2 gallons of honey! I’m planning to add one or two more hives next year, and with any luck might get to the point that I actually have a little surplus to sell or barter. Once I’ve got the apiary up to full production, my next goal will be to get a rabbitry started. While I live in town, it is a small town with pretty lax zoning enforcement, so those at least should be no problem. Chickens would come next, but they are still busting people for roosters. A place I walk by every day was busted for having a rooster a few months ago. People just are not that hard up yet to force a general change of attitudes and zoning codes.
    I used some of my stimulus check to put storm doors in, and will be doing more caulking and other weatherizing this fall. I also hope to start fabricating insulating shutters & shades for the windows. We really tried to get by without air conditioning as much as possible, and replaced a dehumidifier with an energy star model; as a result, our electricity use was down about 40-50% from last summer. I’ve got lots of downed limbs to saw and several cords of wood stored up, and hope to use the woodstove a lot more this winter than we have in the past. I’m still hoping that I can get solar water and space heating panels up within the next few years, but that is hard to swing when I’ve still got that business debt to pay off.

  43. Veganon 18 Sep 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Hummingbird said:

    “We have a pretty large sum of money in cash, well hidden.”

    GOOD IDEA!!

  44. Kation 18 Sep 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Fairbanks Alaska: I wouldn’t say that things are “booming”, but we did just receive our dividend checks, and an additional $1200 per Alaskan to be placed toward one’s electric & heating bills for the year. (Those who qualified for dividend checks, qualified for the energy allowance.) Unfortunately, a great many it seems did NOT “invest” their money in heat & electric, or even in items to improve their home’s fuel efficience, their food situation, or other wise purchases. My hubby and I shelled out a BIT as “mad-money”, but we also called for our year’s supply of heatting oil, we’ve got a list of home-improvements and vehicular-maintenance that we’re hoping can be paid for with the money, and at the very bottom are “extras” like that “LCD big-screen TV” the hubby wants, and an Ipod for myself. If the money reaches that far, of course. This weekend we’ll be doing some of the “smaller” big item shopping: a couple of long-overdue medicine cabinets in the bathroom, as well as storage pieces for inside cabinets and on top of counters; upgrading a bed for the kiddo, so that her old dresser can be moved to our room, and we can get rid of the hubby’s old POS; letting the kiddo pick out her birthday present. Ya know, smaller things that’ll make our home more livable.

    The hubby’s job is coming into it’s busy time, and things are looking fairly steady at least for the winter. My job is in the library, and while I didn’t get the library position here closer to home, my job in town is still there.

    We’re not so worried about losing our home as some. We bought 9 years ago, and the mortgage is owned by a small Alaskan bank. (Not saying that it couldn’t happen, but for now that’s a little less of a concern for us.) My FIL is somewhat worried, as all his insurance policies are through AIG. His house and land is owned free & clear, by him and the MIL. (Actually, by the MIL as the property is part of her family’s old home-stead.) FIL started stocking up ages ago, and even to Sunday when ridiculed (by the MIL) for his stock of canned & dried goods, he commented that at least he knows that he’ll be able to eat & help his family eat if things get any more rough.

    My hubby and I have never really counted on our 401(k)’s or pension plans actually BEING there when we’re of “retiree” age. We’ve known it’s too ridiculous to assume that the government or banking industry wouldn’t find some way to screw us out of them. I’m well aware that it’s unlikely I’ll ever ACTUALLY get to “retire”. That’s ok, I’ve always said they’d have to carry me out of “my” library in a pine box. Now that goes for my home and garden, as well.

    Watching the financial news on yahoo has been eerily remeniscent (sp?) of reading recounts of the Great Depression. I see the pictures of the faces of the floor-traders and stock brokers, and they remind me of the faces in pictures from 1929. I don’t suspect we’ll see a rash of folks jumping off roofs to their death, but I’m guessing closed casket burials will be a necessity. We’ve always been too “poor” to invest, but we’re not feeling too badly about it. We’ve got a small home, but it’s more ours than a lot of other people can lay claim to. We’re not eatting lobster every other day, but we’ve been gardening for 5 years now and have had some decent successes this year. We’re not dressing in fancy clothes, but we’re dressed and shod. We don’t get to vacation in exotic ports every year, but hunting and camping and fishing is good enough. (Most of the time. Though I DID enjoy my visit to Spokane this summer.) I’ve got some handi-skills I’m comfortable with, and a stock of yarn & fabric and easy sewing clothes patterns.

    I’m concerned, but I’m not freaking. Our world may be different in the morning, but it WILL still be here.

  45. madisonon 18 Sep 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I live in an Oregon town of 35K in the Willamette Valley. Unemployment is rising slowly, and as the farm harvesting work winds down, many families and individuals will have to rely on welfare again (in a yearly cycle of the seasons in an agricultural state). I myself live in a travel trailer and am trying to weatherize it and make it as livable, frugal and efficient as possible keeping in mind that blackouts, fuel shortages and rationing might be around the corner. I’m giving ideas to all my neighbors, both those who are really wealthy and drive/own beautiful RV’s and trailers in the $70K+ range or those that are very poor living in trailers because they have no other options (like me). As we gear up for the rainy (winter-fall-spring) season, I am deeply apprehensive about so many things, I don’t know where to start. A major concern is not having land to garden on – rented, owned or borrowed – and not having the room for many as many preps as I’d like. As a single mom, I worry most about my son and his future.

  46. Phil Plasmaon 18 Sep 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I am always impressed with everything you write and do, Sharon. With the wealth of replies you get to open ended questions like this I can only imagine how much of your time is eaten up by your on-line presence.

    Here in Montreal there is very little other than high gas prices to indicate that anything is going badly. We hear stories about things happening south of the border and we question how it will impact our lives and our local economy, but other than the talk, there is nothing really changing. So far there haven’t been major job losses, the housing market has slowed but not gone into reverse, personally my wife and I are still fully employed and doing reasonably well at keeping our expenses down. Like others who have replied our only debt is our home mortgage.

    What we do occasionally hear, since many Canadian companies serve American companies, is that contracts are being reduced or cancelled. This will have an effect on employment in the medium term unless the Canadian companies can drum up contracts with European or Asian companies.

    With respect to winter heating, I don’t know what the ratio is, but houses in Montreal are heated either with electricity, natural gas or heating oil. I have a heat-pump that does some of the heating and an oil furnace that heats the house when it is too cold for the heat pump. Our heating oil supplier estimated 2600$ for the winter season based on last year’s consumption and projected oil prices. This is still within the realm of affordability for us.

  47. Emilyon 18 Sep 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I am strangely, surreally calm. Sometimes I think to myself “Ah. So this is what it looks like.” Sometimes I think, “I’m glad we have stocked up some food.” Sometimes I think, “All that retirement money was imaginary, anyway…and I have years to get it back. Or I might just die in the meantime, so why worry?”

    Sometimes I think, “I’m glad the waiting is over.”

  48. Shambaon 18 Sep 2008 at 4:18 pm

    I have an extra 10% off anything I buy at Safeway, 1.5 miles away, until oct 15. It is part of some promotion and they sent me a card and when I signed up I got an extra 8 weeks of 10 percent off. I had been using my Mom’s Safeway card up to then–she doesn’t need to use it herself anymore.

    So, everytime something happens in the news these days or I’ve finished reading this blog and some others that day, I end up going to Safeway. I go in and end up buying some kind of food item marked down, or on my food stores list, and I feel like I’ve done something to stave off anxiety about the future and it is food or goods that’s a little extra off the present price. :) It’s silly but it’s a way to feel lilke I’m doing something to prepare. And I’m running out of cabinets to put past it.

    It’s really sobering and fascinating to read about all the things people are doing around the country these days.

    cheers,
    Shamba

  49. Rebeccaon 18 Sep 2008 at 4:43 pm

    As far as this area goes, it depends on where you look. There is a LOT of money in this town, thanks to the army. The city’s entire tax base rests on the arsenal and space center. It’s boomed in the past few years thanks to that. If you’re lucky enough to work for the army or get swept up in the tide, times are great.
    Then there’s the ones who aren’t doing so well. The mayor tries to claim there’s no poverty here (ha!) but there is a lot of it and more is creeping in everyday. There are lots of people out of work -the factories are slowly shutting down and so are a lot of retail outlets. More and more people are getting their utilities shut off. The food banks stay empty. No one but the army is hiring and that’s specialized work that involves killing people for a living.

    Myself, it is getting to the point where I am about to be in a rather dire situation. I haven’t been able to find a job. I have my little PRN job (brings in maybe $150 a month) and some odd jobs. That’s it. I’ve got my house up for sale but if it doesn’t sale in another month or I can’t find a job I’m looking at foreclosure. I have nowhere to go. No family. What I’m going to do if I can’t sell the house or get a job I don’t know.

  50. Rebeccaon 18 Sep 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I forgot to add that my one serious disagreement with Greer is that he does take such a broad view and doesn’t seem to understand that if you’re one of the ones who die in such a crisis or lose everything, it hardly matters if the apocalypse has come for the entire world -it certainly has come for you!

  51. kasaon 18 Sep 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I’m actually visiting LA this weekend for an info session on a grad program here. I’m not sure if I’ll even be applying now though. Cali is broke, so the oh so attractive educational funding they had here is disappearing. While I think the program I am looking at would provide me with a highly rewarding and possibly good steady work, I don’t know if I would be able to get the loans for the degree in the first place, much less pay them off. But, I have no degree. No skills. No family on this coast. I rent a teeny apartment. I’m a receptionist. So, I don’t feel like I have any choice but to go back to school.

    My mom worked at Red Lobster her entire life, and it has killed her body. She’s only 54 and she can’t even walk the dog around the block. My one goal in life was to someday get out of labor/customer service work, and that dream has completely evaporated in the last few months.

    Thank god I live in Seattle. We have relatively strong local food sources, a mild climate, lots of rain, and I can walk pretty much everywhere. And with the exception of my mother and a couple close friends, everyone I care about is here. I know that if I lose my apartment, someone will take me in – no questions asked. They’ll feed me if they can – and vice versa. I’ve never appreciated my support system quite so much.

    Still. There’s only so much I can do to prepare. I guess it helps that I’m young and relatively debt free, with no kids, but I also have no house or degree or job or land or partner to fall back on. I feel like I’m standing in the pat of a Mac truck in an alley – I see it coming but there’s nowhere to go.

  52. Erikaon 18 Sep 2008 at 7:24 pm

    I’ve learned to keep mum about my thoughts on where our economy and lifestyles are headed when I’m around my MIL. Today, I was putting some harvested produce in my car, which was also the resting place for a mop bucket – the kind with the “ringer outer” that are usually bright yellow – my MIL asked what I was doing with it, and I explained that I have no intentions of hand-ringing my clothes out if/when the use of a washer is cost-prohibitive. She couldn’t believe me; I’m surprised she could hold her laughter. Her view of our local area is “just fine.” She (and the rest of my family) think I’m pretty much nuttier than a $h!t house rat for attempting to prepare my husband and I for much tougher times. We have our mortgage and I have a student loan, but we also have investments that could easily take care of the loan, and keep us in mortgage payments for a while. We are also starting the process of building a home on several acres, and I am, frankly, insisting that things be put in place for when we don’t have the conveniences that we have today. I don’t think my husband realizes not only the significant differences that exist between city and country life (he grew up on one acre, I grew up on a farm), let alone the differences between our life now, and country life after things have continued to decline.

    We live in the Pacific Northwest, and have a shared garden, as well as a small victory garden; we are planning a MUCH larger garden for next year. I am continually attempting to prepare our pantry and closets for rough times. I’m improving my knitting, sewing, quilting, cooking (from scratch), gardening, and improvising skills and attempting to sway the thoughts of others in my family – to see the reasoning behind my “madness!”

    I feel as if I’m rambling… I’ve noticed that the local bargain stores are much more crowded than they have been before, and that the ‘higher end’ stores are much less crowded. The carts at Costco are piled lower, and the lines shorter. There is also a restaurant in town that provides free dinners at the end of the month – the news paper ran a story on it a while ago – their free meals have skyrocketed, and their paid meals have slowly decreased.

    I think the second most important part of preparedness is mindset. I’m determined to survive whatever happens – without that determination, all of the preparation (the most important part) is for naught.

    Thanks so much, Sharon, for all the wonderful insights, encouragement, and all your knowledge!

    –Erika

  53. TheNormalMiddleon 18 Sep 2008 at 7:50 pm

    I hate to be crass or rude, but I frankly get tired of the “we’re in good shape because we’ve always been frugal” comments.

    I had always been frugal too, until I gave birth to my second child who had such huge health concerns it almost bankrupted us because our insurance is crap and we’re too “middle class” to qualify for any real help. Then, top that off a few years later when my husband gets put on short time hours at work (think: working, but 10 hours a week, 15 here, maybe 30 if we’re lucky).

    For those of us drowning slowly in this economy, it isn’t always because we’re spoiled rotten brats who need gadgets and can’t live the frugal lifestyle. I did it for YEARS and it still isn’t enough in our situation right now.

    I live in a small town in rural NC. No jobs here. What we had was furniture and manufacturing, but it is drying up (thank you Walmart!). My husband works in the school bus industry, and with fuel issues, no school system or municipality is buying buses right now, hence the short time and layoffs. My husband went from making $70K seven years ago, to maybe $30K this year if we’re REALLY lucky.

    Frugality, my ass.

    I quit my role as a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler to return to the classroom as a teacher. Education is one of the few things around here that is stable. And I can get somewhat decent insurance to cover us (all for the low, low price of $600 a month—and don’t forget the $40 copays everytime my special needs kiddo visits a doctor or therapist, etc)

    Sometimes things spin out of your control. And no I don’t have cable and gadgets and go to Disney once a year….

    Yeah, I’m bitter. But I get so sick of the people who stare down their noses and assume I’m poor because I’ve caused myself to be this way.

    They don’t realize we sold our house to pay medical bills, moved in with family for a year, and still are barely scraping by.

    But, God is Sovereign and I know that something will happen and I will be okay.

  54. DEEon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Country boy(and girl)can survive…here in the Ozarks things are alot like always. Never has been an abundance of good paying jobs anyhow; only a few really have excess money–or the appearance of it! We,actually are considered “rich”…for that I have to work out-of-town on the weekends nursing to make a living wage. But we have the gardens,greenhouse,13 cord of wood in the stack,chickens still laying, a year or more of stored food,full freezer,plenty of honey and the kids now live close enough to help on the farm– and receive help if they need it. They were brought up in the country and all are handy,frugal,responsible. Pretty sure my 401K has sunk but figure my job is pretty secure unless they plan to kick all the residents out of my nursing home. DEE

  55. Hokeyon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I’m seeing, in the working class and ‘formerly’ lower middle class, more people giving up their cars, not voluntary, but because it will break their budgets. They are riding their bikes but went really cold snowy winter comes, that will be impossible, and they will not be able to get to their present jobs.

    There are simply Not enough jobs to go around that are walking distance for most people in most communities.

    The old pattern of a long commute for a decent job has not collapsed yet.

    This is going to be a killer winter for many people without cars. They will have to ‘bum’ rides to get to work.

    Car pooling for some, by the wide scale use of car pooling is simply not in place.

    It’s this transition period that will be the worst. We’re not here nor there.

  56. Susanon 18 Sep 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Unemployment is up in the PNW and the housing market has gradually slowed to a crawl — both happening much more slowly than much of the rest of the country. I notice that the houses for sale in my neighborhood are simply not selling, and hear on NPR all the time that the food banks are short on donations and long on people who need them.

    I’m currently in an excellent position job-wise. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m trying to make the most of it while it does. I expect to pay off all but my mortgage by the end of January. I have a hard time believing that I’ll have such good fortune for that long, though, so I’m doing what I can to prepare for hard times. I’ve stocked up on dry goods and canned goods, pet food, toilet paper, toiletries, and some frozen foods. I’m getting chickens next week (the city allows three) so that I’ll have a steady source of healthy protein in the eggs — so long as I can keep the chickens alive and well. I have a couple of bikes that I don’t use often enough, and work at keeping the heat low, the water use down, and the lights to a minimum.

    About 60% of the time I’m focused on preparing for leaner times and worried about how soon they’ll arrive and how bad they’ll get. I am grateful for every hour I have in which I can say, “I’m okay. It’s not happening yet.” I read other people’s posts and I know that I am so much more than okay, and I am even more thankful. But about 30% of the time I find myself thinking that that’s all crazy talk and the world as we know it is in no way going to end any time soon and I should just relax, stop reading Sharon’s crazy-ass blog ;) and go sign up for DirectTV, buy a new car, and go out for a fancy dinner. I have, in this state of mind, indulged in some home improvements that are more aesthetically pleasing than they absolutely needed to be, while also being functional. Sort of practical indulgences.

    Really, I have no idea what to think. The people around me don’t seem to be overly concerned about the economy and continue to spend on shows, restaurants, clubs, lessons of various kinds, manicures, pedicures, waxing, vacations. If they’re worried, they’re not talking about it, and they’re certainly not cutting back in obvious ways. It makes me wonder if I’m crazy to worry, or if they’re crazy not to.

  57. nor'easteron 18 Sep 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Weeeell, we’re doing fine, but my relatives in PA have a few problems. My grandmother’s house has been foreclosed on, and everyone seems to be blaming my uncle, who’s a co-owner. And I guess I would too, if I didn’t have a slightly different perspective on things. I’m not happy that my grandma’s moving to a rental apartment, of course (and she would never want me to be chatting about this in public, hence the pseudonym), but blaming the victim(s) will never be my thing.

    My grandfather (who lives alone) assures me that he has enough oil so far for the winter, but he’s the most frugal individual I’ve ever met, so that’s not surprising. He actually closes off the rest of his (very small) house in the winter and lives in the kitchen/living room to save on heat. He apologized in advance for not being able to send me the usual amount in his Christmas check/gift, and I nearly started crying. He shouldn’t feel bad, I’m provided for.

    My job is very secure, I just got a raise to compensate for “increased cost of living”, we have a month or so worth of food stored in our tiny apartment, we have a community garden, we have a CSA, we have lots of friends. We have no debt and no reason to incur any. My husband is fermenting 20 gallons of wine in our living room right now. We’re young enough, healthy enough, and flexible enough in our ideas of what to expect next. We’re blessed. I hope we’re strong enough to carry a few friends through what’s coming.

  58. homebrewlibrarianon 19 Sep 2008 at 1:50 am

    In Anchorage, AK, it’s little things around the edges that are changing. Food banks are seeing more demand and fewer donations. Houses for sale stay on the market for longer periods of time in some parts of town (like where I live) and not so long in other parts. I’m not getting the feeling that jobs are disappearing except possibly in the tourism sector. Lots less tourists came through Anchorage this year but the ones that did come were mostly from other countries. American tourists were staycationing, I suspect.

    I live in a neighborhood full of people that are probably one paycheck away from disaster. So far, no large scale disasters have befallen the neighborhood so things are somewhat stable. The neighbors on both sides (all renters) haven’t changed and it doesn’t appear that any plan to move. Crime levels seem to be about the same although there was a bit of a hoohah a few weeks ago over a shooting (not sure if it was because of a disagreement or drug related or both). Kids, with and without their parents, walk to the elementary school across the street without fear. Kids play in the streets near their homes and there’s some sort of football practice held in the elementary school yard every day.

    Since it’s still summer (in Alaska if it isn’t snowy and icy it’s summer), it’s tough to tell if there are more bicyclists and walkers than normal but the number of bus riders has increased dramatically and I’ve never seen so many people on motorcycles of the non-Harley variety. Gas is around $4.18/gal so I expect motorcycles to be out until the snow flies. Normally they start to disappear when the temperature gets into the 40s but I suspect I’ll start to see a number of bundled up riders before winter hits. What those folks will do this winter, I don’t know.

    I work for the state in a grant driven position. The grant is non competitive and can be renewed and I expect to keep this position for at least another year or two. The hope is that the library network I’m helping establish will become self supporting at which time the position I have will disappear when a director for the library network is hired. Lots of assumptions here that I can’t count on. I can’t count on the library network creating enough revenue to get at least half off the state dole nor can I count on being hired as the permanent director. I’m thankful the state is very supportive of the library network and is doing what it can to help. I serve at the pleasure of the state so it’s anyone’s guess how long I’ll stay employed.

    But for now, I’m flush with money because I have no debt, have few reasons to spend money and live in a building owned and lived in by a long time friend. I’m also the only one here with real gainful employment. My friend is retired and we figured that if none of us gave him rent, all his retirement money (from working for the feds) just pays his monthly building expenses and credit card debt (which he has stopped adding to but only recently) IF he doesn’t buy groceries or fill up the car’s gas tank all that often. That discovery sort of acted like a “come to Jesus” talk for the four other adults of us living here. Of the other three adults, one is a young stay at home mom with no outside employment (daughter of the owner), one is her young husband who works at the bottom rung of the ladder in the construction trades (he’s been not working more than working lately) and one is their roommate (best friend of the husband) who is working as a clerk in a liquor store. The daughter and the roommate understand that it is only by the grace of God and the goodwill of my friend that they have a roof over their heads since their payment of rent has been very spotty for quite a while. The husband might but he mostly has been worried about his seeming inability to be the major breadwinner. He was raised to believe that a man’s measure is made by his ability to provide and if that’s the case, he’s not the man he thinks he should be. He seems to be drinking a bit more and being a bit more belligerant when he does so. I think the roommate acts a buffer when he gets riled up and hear that on occasion the two of them have gotten into some tustles. At least the daughter and the young son aren’t getting it directed at them so much. Life is not pretty upstairs.

    Alaskans got the annual Permanent Fund Dividend and the Alaska Resource Rebate last week and while many people went on buying sprees, the folks upstairs paid forward (or back, depends how you want to look at it) on the rent, paid some the daughter’s college debt and bought some flooring to cover up the bare wood of the subflooring (the carpet was in such a bad way they ripped it out over a year ago). My friend is sending most of that money towards his credit card debt. I’m using mine to pay for weatherization upgrades to the building. He’s close to paying off the mortgage and has every intention of making this a permanent residence. We’re becoming a rather close knit group and don’t see much reason to move because we know we couldn’t find anywhere else affordable.

    On the plus side, we can do whatever we want in the yard. We’ve got a couple raised beds in the backyard plus some potato plants in tires, some currants and blueberries planted this year in the front yard, eight potted crabapple saplings (we tried to graft eating apple scion wood to – three of the eight grafts took) that we’ll plant next year, a couple potted plum saplings and three potted cherry saplings, bean and pea beds along the south wall of the building and ten potted tomato plants. The yellow raspberries we transplanted last year produced fruit this year and seem to be doing well and we just transplanted some red raspberries in a raised bed in the front yard. Because I just could not get my act together, a bunch of perennials that have been living in tiny little pots for months got planted around the raspberries just to overwinter. If any survive til next year, I’ll find a better place to put them. This is the experiment year so I haven’t been working very hard to put up most of what we’ve grown. I am going to try to save seed of some of it to plant next year.

    I’ve got some physical gold and silver and cash but not enough of either to get me (and the rest of us) through a lengthy period. I’ve been buying up bulk items and storing them, plus freezing the salmon I caught earlier in the year. I’ve been learning how to can but don’t have much to show for it yet. I’ve done more dehydrating but not lots of that either. We took down some cottonwood trees before they leafed out in the spring and between all the men here, most of it is split and stacked against the north wall of the building. Mind you, none of us has a wood stove at this point, but I am having someone come over to see if it’s feasible for me to install one in my unit. Our heat is baseboard radiators all from one central boiler that runs off natural gas. Given that an electric pump moves the water around, having a back up heating source is not a bad idea. My friend owns a woodstove (that is currently not on the property – don’t ask me) and has a chimney he could have it installed into but hasn’t put much energy into that project. Nobody upstairs much thinks about heat except to keep the temperature above 70 degrees year round (I break out in a sweat anytime I go up there). They are very reluctant to turn the thermostat down even when advised that they could be helping out my friend by not costing him so much on heating every month. Then they complain that they’re always cold when they go outside! Well, some changes are going to be harder for some folks than others. I’ve advised the roommate to just turn the thermostat down a degree and not say anything then drop it another degree in a month or so but I don’t think he’s ready to risk that just yet (he complains about being too warm, too).

    Mentally, I go from feeling ever so slightly behind the curve to fear that the collapse of the financial markets is going to have drastic, prolonged effects and I won’t be prepared. It’s worrisome to look around and very few of my friends and coworkers have a clue that we’re living in a thin film of veneer that could disappear overnight. Maybe not today or this year or even next year but we’re in the process of collapsing and eventually it will become obvious that things aren’t like they used to be and they’ll never be that way again. Then I take a deep breath and go harvest some fava beans.

    Kerri in AK

  59. Colleenon 19 Sep 2008 at 2:35 am

    I am in WNC so I ditto much of what WNC Observer had to say. I will add that there are very tight gas supplies here. According to 11pm local news, one station is limiting sales to EMTs & law enforcement only. I filled up a few days before Ike and have 1/4 tank left. So I hope I missed the worst of this fury. Prices seem to have settled down a bit in my area & the bags are coming off the nozzles…not sure about ‘in town’-Asheville. Local news showed lines for gas…limits on how much you can purchase…only premium available at some places…etc.

    As WNC Observer noted new construction has slowed. ( I admit part of me is tickled that many of those high-end gated communities will not be built or built-out due to real estate/Wall St. fallout.) However, you couldn’t tell it from my house. What was a little 3-4 acre wood across the street from me last winter is now a 4 house subdivision…2 occuplied and 2 under construction. Several more are under construction a bit further up the road. Will be interesting to see what the new tax assessment will be on my place in January. The last assessment was in January ‘06.

    I work in the flagship store of a natural foods supermarket headquartered in WNC. Last week 2 members of our new(6 mos.) home office leadership team made themselves available in store to talk to employees. I took the opportunity to give them a copy of Dmirty Orlov’s ‘When All Your Best Employees are Going Broke’ and a few ideas to implement. They seemed receptive.
    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2008/08/when-all-your-best-employees-are-going.html

    The farmers with whom I have my CSA, are making a 1st time offer of an 8 wk fall extention limited to 50 folks. I signed up right away. Yeah!

    Due in part to IDC, I have lots more put up this year than last and have a larger garden that is producing longer. I am even saving some seeds as I go and learning from my mistakes. IDC has been a great way to carry Carla’s legacy forward. Thanks for honoring her, Sharon. She was (still is) one of my ‘heros’.

    I took up fermenting vegetables last year after a workshop with Sandor Katz at Organic Growers’ School. This year I am trying my hand at meadmaking without benefit of hands-on learning or sampling. So far I am quite pleased with my results – I love the fizziness of young meads. It is also a tasty way to administer herbs and preserve fruits.

    Trying to hang in there.
    Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst. : )

  60. Paulaon 19 Sep 2008 at 6:47 am

    Hi from Wisconsin. I’ve noticed, like many on this blog, that not much has changed. People are still being typical consumers-complaining sometimes-but still being consumers.

    My husband knows several people who’ve just boughten new vehicles-SUVs and trucks to be exact. I don’t know what the hell they’re thinking, but I guess they have to fill the tanks, so have fun! We’ve actually heard a few used auto salesmen tell prospective victims that oil prices are going back down to $70 soon.

    We have had to tighten our belts because I just quit a full time job to attempt a start-up biz at home. We also have medical bills out there to pay off (sucks), despite our insurance.

    Things I’ve noticed that make me think trouble is ahead?

    -Every street in our city is full of homes for sale
    -Spec homes sitting unfinished
    -Aldi’s has lines to the back of the store, at times
    -the Wal-Mart store-brand breads are always wiped clean first
    -local car dealers have cut employees, hours of operation
    -food pantries running short

  61. Chileon 19 Sep 2008 at 7:53 am

    Susan in Northern Arizona – one big problem in our state is that it’s only midyear and the state is already in the red. By law, we can’t deficit spend here which means cuts are coming. Anybody working for state government or the Universities better keep their fingers crossed, as well as anyone dependent on any state programs!

  62. Anonymouson 19 Sep 2008 at 8:34 am

    TheNormalMiddle –

    I think a lot of us don’t take into account that we’ve also been lucky.

    MEA

  63. Whereawayon 19 Sep 2008 at 9:24 am

    My wife and I are doing OK (In Colorado Springs)

    In February, I took a job 3 miles from my home, and ended a 102 mile round trip commute. We made our last car payment in August, and for the first time in 23 years, we don’t have a car payment. The job involved a pay-cut, but between savings on gas, being slightly more frugal, and ending the car payment, we’re actually ahead. I’ve pulled out my old bicycle and had it tuned up, and I could do most of my errands (outside of major grocery shopping trips) on it if I need to.

    My wife has a web based craft business. Her sales are off around 30% from last year. She’s looking at developing smaller gift items for sale, it’s pretty clear there’s less money in the economy for higher end hand-made home decorating items.

    Over the summer, we increased our stored food from around 2 weeks to over 2 months worth, and we’ve stocked up on supplies and tools that will allow us to function without power for some periods of time.

    Unfortunately, we’re still paying down debt. We’ve made good progress this year, but that’s a risk for us.

    The food banks in town are hurting, donations are down while clients are up. We made a couple of significant donations this summer, and plan on continuing to do so as long as I’m employed. My job is not at immediate risk, the company I work for is currently exceeding planned revenue for 2008. That could change next year.

    I also agree with Rebecca that John Michael Greer, in the vision he presents of catabolic collapse (which I think is the most likely future we face) misses that for individuals or specific groups, that type of collapse can still be Armageddon. Western civilization survived World War II. But, the Jewish population of Poland (5 million in 1939) didn’t.

    Michael

  64. Patrickon 19 Sep 2008 at 10:22 am

    I haven’t read all entries so far, but I plan on it. I can speak for the southeast Tennessee region. Things in Chattanooga, TN are decent at the moment. My specific community is somewhat more affluent than the rest of the city, but the real estate market is still terrible. Tons of houses for sale and no buyers. The median home price is probably $270k and there’s no way the median income is 1/3rd of that, $90k. Lots of new and old homes over $600k and I just can’t imagine who’s going to buy them. Where are they getting the loan? Are these people cashing out investments to buy? I’m not sure. Most people are oblivious and fully disconnected to Wall St. I’m not sure people understand their 401ks and pensions. How could these people understand their 401ks and pensions and not be at least a little concerned?

    Anyway, my wife stays at home and I have a fairly secure job at a large hospital. I drive a scooter to work (13 miles each way) and it’s been nice of late, because probably 1/3 gas stations are experiencing shortages. The day before Ike even hit TX all gas stations within a 10 mile radius were completely pumped dry. I didn’t understand how that was possible at the time and the only conclusion I’ve reached is that it was due to public panic. People don’t seem to realize that we’ve had hurricane issues almost every year previously, but that this was the first ever to cause gas shortages in our area. Again, a clueless public.

    Anyway, back to my work, the hospital situation has deteriorated tremendously. It was only 6 months ago that life was good, budget was easily made each month, we were showered with capital dollars, and our employment was increasing. Fast forward to today and we’re cutting entire departments each week, we’re missing monthly budgets by $2-3,000,000, we have $0 capital dollars, and all expansion has been indefinitely put on hold. I’m the most recent hire to my finance department and while I think our department as a whole is basically indispensable to the hospital, it still doesn’t mean at least 1 job could be cut. If that happens it’s obviously not good for me.

    What would I do? Not sure honestly. Luckily, we live cheaply and our only debt is a car and a small house with 2 acres. Depending on our short term oil situation, which I know is not good, but then again nobody is in the position to predict the next 6 months, I have the thought to just turn the car in and be done with it. We have another car that is paid off and it would work just as well.

    Anyway, back to what I would do in the event I lose my job, I have to say I think I could scramble for a few months doing odd jobs and make it work. I would definitely leave my professional sector and try to find work on a local farm or as a skilled technician/laborer.

    To end, I sense that people are starting to realize something is amiss and they’re just not sure where to place the blame. I think those that are sensing this are the most opposed to the situation, and their decision will be to cling to the past for as long as possible. I feel reasonably safe in making the prediction that things will limp along here until next Spring upon which we will resume our oil climb, jobs will be lost at a faster rate, and I suspect gas rationing will start to be discussed. After that happens I think a panic will be upon for us about 2 weeks, after which, things will settle down and everyone will start to reshuffle their lives as will be necessary. Long term, our climate is mild, the growing season is long, the soil is fertile, sprawl is limited, and our population is decently educated. I think we can make it work. Personally, I’ve been buying high quality hand tools, installing water catchment systems, setting up beehives, expanding our garden, and planting a small orchard. And, like others I assume, I somewhat morbidly welcome a change, because I don’t really enjoy the current system. Be optimistic and stay well.

  65. Susan in NJon 19 Sep 2008 at 11:02 am

    The changes here in old suburban southern NJ are somewhat hidden. Houses sitting on the market for a long time even in desirable (for schools) towns, a number I know are foreclosures but the town polices keeping up the properties so its hard to tell from the street, a lot of houses for sale in the area that got hit hardest by recent property tax increases. I’ve had to counsel clients to please use foodbanks if you need them. There seems to be less driving during weekdays (my office fronts a busy commercial corner), and while some major shopping complexes seem dead, the new ones are hopping at least trafficwise (this particular shifting of commercial attention to newer shopping concentrations seems cyclical in NJ). At the grocery stores, I notice fewer attractive loss leaders and those that are a good deal are picked clean within a day or two of the circular coming out. We personally have been lucky — I’ve the only salaried job in our family and while it’s on life support, it was supposed to end a month ago and will probably go on a little longer. My assistant though is down to working one day a week. On my street, there seem to be a lot of men too young to be retired who are home during the day but I don’t know them well enough to say whether that is a layoff, a downturn in contract work, or something unrelated to the economy — it is a change though. I’m getting a lot of calls professionally about employment situations/terminations that indicate a struggling job market in the mid- to lower manager range.

  66. Ameliaon 19 Sep 2008 at 11:54 am

    Three of my husband’s co-workers were let go last week, one of whom had been with the company for 22 years. He’s taken on some of the responsibilities of one of them, so we’re hoping that means we’re secure for a few months yet.

    Two of our son’s friends have had to drop out of school: the college funds were wiped out by stock market losses in one case, and another lost his funding when the bank that handled his student loans decided to get out of the business. We’re still managing to pay his tuition, and fortunately he’s halfway through and has a job to cover his books and other expenses — if our luck holds, he’ll graduate in 2010 with no debt.

    The university is offering annual transit passes to full-time students, and can’t get them printed fast enough. Traffic on campus is lighter this year, the buses and light rail standing room only during rush hour. Houses in our neighborhood are still selling briskly: we’re on two of the major bus routes with connections to the light rail and commuter rail services within walking distance, and there’s plenty of shopping within four blocks.

    Further out, two major mixed-use transit-oriented developments have stalled due to lack of funding: there are two rather large holes in the ground with fencing around them and shiny signs that are rapidly becoming targets for graffiti.

    Most disturbingly, a local ordinance was modified allowing unaccompanied minors to spend the night in homeless shelters (their parents or CPS must be notified within 8 hours of registration); many of them report that they were asked to leave their homes so that the remaining family members could be fed and sheltered.

    (My own nephew spent the summer with my sister in Austin; my brother finally sold his house, wiping out the family debt, and R. is home for his senior year of high school — but it was profoundly upsetting for everyone.)

  67. Rosaon 19 Sep 2008 at 1:19 pm

    TheNormalMiddle – I don’t think anybody’s discounting luck, we’re just all scared to think about how close we are to the precipice.

    My son was tested for CF because of lack of growth during his first year. While we waited for the test, and then for the results, we took the first steps towards moving to Canada – talked about transfer opportunities w/my partner’s company, totalled up our points, filled out the first round of forms – because we knew the health care costs would hurt us, and the American insurance system would severely limit his future choices if he had a chronic illness. And, like I said before – we’re not poor. We are firmly middle class, making more money than I ever dreamed possible. But every one of us is one disaster away from homelessness.

    I noticed another boarded-up duplex on my way to work this morning. That’s two more families out of their homes, on a block with 2 foreclosed houses and one by owner duplex with sale signs on the front. I think the prospect of heating costs is pushing people out, despite rents going up.

  68. nikaon 19 Sep 2008 at 1:26 pm

    The spectrum of stories here is simply amazing. I am a scientist and did not participate in any of the recent financial festivities (as in the dot com boom).. I have not experienced personal wealth in any way – only personal debt (school debts, house, car, all while living frugally – our family has never been on a vacation, period, we do not go out to eat) .. we have had a mortgage since 1995 so I have been living with the implications of that these past 13 years.

    I think I need to get one thing off my chest.

    Whether things are booming or not, losing your job and then losing your house has been a real possibility for most of us for many years. We middle class have been living on that edge all our lives.

    Don’t imagine that this is something new. Its important to not ascribe this sort of scenario only to the collapse paradigm.

    Why? Because if you get all wrapped up in it that way you will lose any chance at resilience.

    I guess its about waking up.

    Part of waking up to peak oil is to realize that our consensus reality has been holding us back. That middle class consensus reality masked the edge-nature of our existence. We chose to believe that we were entitled.

    We are not.

    – Repeat after me –

    We. Are. Entitled. To. Nothing.

    Our gift right now is of time but its not really about bunkering down.

    Its about releasing the entitlement mentality and embracing change and then understanding resilience and cultivating some level of optimism.

    I am a mom of three – last winter, when I GOT peak oil on an intuitive level, the first thing I mourned was peak education.

    I had to realize that there is simply no way that I could afford to put even one child through college (I went to school on Pell Grants and scholarships, my parents didn’t pay for the core costs tho they did cover food and dorm – never cheap – don’t know what Pell Grants are? Ask the republicans and Reagan specifically).

    I panicked and then did that V-8 head-bonk thing .. I have known this for a long time but was never able to articulate it. It was freeing in some ways to realize that the cost of education has become CRIMINALLY expensive.

    Not only do we homeschool, I intend to steer my children into organic farming internships and agricultural sciences. Not so much because that is how we will survive but because those activities will make SENSE. My job .. it doesn’t make SENSE in the transition. That’s ok, I have learned one important thing in grad school – how to learn.

    I am not saying that things are peachy or that it’s the apocalypse nor am I saying that you should not prepare.

    I am getting ready to buy a year or two’s worth of bulk white rice (228.1 pounds/year) that will shore up our food budget. Our protein comes from our laying chickens; our dairy comes from our dairy goats. We will be picking up our three breeding pigs in a couple of weeks. We need to lay in bulk purchases of feed for these animals and I need to get an agreement squared away with neighboring fields to plant mangels and greens in the spring for the animals (perhaps some wheat too).

    We JUST installed our high efficiency Seton wood fired boiler in our basement. We are now 100% oil free (we live in rural MA – it gets a bit cold here – you will be hearing a about the north east this winter and you might ask yourself – why didn’t the states do anything? Yeah, so will we. If we have to, we will shelter neighbors who cant afford heat). Word has gotten around the surrounding towns about our new fangled boiler – people are asking my husband about it at town meetings. Seems they are all waiting to see how it goes. Not sure what their metric will be but I think that there will be a demand especially because the state will be changing the rules to NOT allowing outside polluting wood boilers that have proliferated here recently. Our set up is as expensive or less and much more efficient.

    I will update about all this on our blog (and will be posting this comment there as a post later today) – if you are interested in learning about Mr. Seton’s fantastic wood fired boiler that takes unsplit 4 foot long tree logs and is so efficient that it just goes in your basement and no real smoke out the top – drop me a note at my blog. http://www.peaknix.com Here is a link to some pics of the boiler http://flickr.com/photos/nika7k/sets/72157606921461650/ before it was hooked up to the system – will be shooting the boiler this weekend now that its installed.

    I feel like we are all squirreling away our little nuts and getting our little spreadsheets balanced.

    What I don’t feel yet is that whole community thing and I don’t think that will happen while we are still, as a class, waiting for the housing market to come back, our money market funds to rally back, the oil prices to come down, the interest rates to drop, etc etc.

    If you live in the MA region and would like to learn about some Transition Town stuff going on – Rob Riman has been working really hard in Cambridge to bring TT training going in the Boston area – here is some info on that:

    The events currently scheduled for the Northeast are as follows:
    Tues. Sept. 16th – GreenPort Forum: Transition Towns Intro (Cambridge, MA)

    Sat./Sun. Oct. 4th/5th – Training for Transition course (Cambridge, MA)
    Sat./Sun. Nov. 1st/2nd – Training for Transition course (Cambridge, MA)
    Sat/Sun. Nov. 22nd/23rd – Training for Transition course (Cambridge, MA)

    To learn more and to register visit this link http://permaculture.meetup.com/95/

    If any of you all choose to do this please let me know so we can meet up and network!

    Resilience. Hope. No Entitlements. Transition. Action.

  69. deweyon 19 Sep 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Nika wrote:

    “a year or two’s worth of bulk white rice (228.1 pounds/year)”

    Yep, we can tell you’re a scientist. That “.1″ gives it away right off the bat. :-)

  70. nikaon 19 Sep 2008 at 5:41 pm

    LOL, sorry I guess I am a geek on some deep level that I didnt realize

  71. Gracieon 19 Sep 2008 at 5:44 pm

    We are in a small town in rural Kansas. It’s always been a small town, but it’s getting smaller as the years go by. Many houses for sale. Nothing moving right now. Jobs are hard to come by. My husband retired this summer, due to a massive heart attack. He worked in aerospace for many years, so we are very concerned about his retirement. We wonder how long it will be available.

    I’m disabled. I have lupus, and last year had cancer. So our gardening isn’t what it used to be, although we are trying to do more all the time. We have been planting extra, but I still wonder if it will be enough.

    We have expected this small crash of the economy for years now. We could see it coming. But it’s like the deer in the headlights. There’s not much we can do about it. So we have prepped. I guess we really started prepping before Y2K, and it’s just kind of continued. I feel fairly good about our preps, but never feel completely satisfied.

    The one thing we haven’t done yet, that I would like to have done, is a well dug. We had planned on this a few years ago, and my health got in the way. Maybe next year.

    Our economy in this small town isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either. We know many people, and many people know us. We have friends who are farmers, friends who are ranchers, and friends who are just about everything else in between. We can get just about anything we need to eat right here locally if we need to.

    As of this time, there’s been a bailout. I don’t expect it to last. In fact, I expect it to get much worse. They can bailout the housing/mortgage mess, but they can’t bailout the derivative problem, and that’s what’s going to eventually get us.

    Here’s hoping all of you are safe tonight.

  72. peaknix » Archive » Are we entitled?on 19 Sep 2008 at 6:15 pm

    [...] Astyk recently wrote a blog post entitled “Practice Losing Farther, Losing Faster: Everyday History in a Crashing Economy” at her blog Casaubon’s book where she asked her readers how recent financial [...]

  73. Kathyon 20 Sep 2008 at 12:44 am

    Well, I’m not sure how relevant our experience is as we live in Melbourne, Australia – so far our local economy and financial markets don’t appear to be following yours directly down the rabbit hole (we trend more towards what’s happening in Japan and China these days) but of course, anyone who’s invested in the stock market is seeing a change in values. This includes all of my family’s superannuation schemes, which have all lost a lot of value in the past 2 years, the past 3 months especially. What this means is that my parents, who had planned and hoped to retire at 65, will be working (health permitting) for at least a couple of years beyond that. My husband and I, being younger (more time to make the difference up) and less about putting all our eggs in the super basket, hope and expect not to be as hard hit by this.

    In terms of work / employment, things don’t seem radically different than they were 2-5 years ago. The housing sector is cooling and there have been closures of a few manufacturing plants and job losses there, but education and some retail sectors are growing and picking up the shortfall. Our joblessness rate is officially around 6% but it only counts those seeking fulltime work, not those who can’t work or have chosen not to for whatever reason.

    My family – mixed bag. My dad’s a veterinarian and while his small-animal practice has dipped a little, he’s seeing lots of chickens, sheep and cows instead (his area is outer-suburban and borders a semi-rural zone, and lots more people are keeping food animals domestically out there again). Overall, his practice takings are stable. My mum runs his practice and is the vet nurse, so their incomes are linked! My brother is a sound engineer and has recently been moved from a fulltime job to casual employment with the same employer. Right now it’s not biting him as they are super-busy and he gets a better hourly rate (so if actually making about 25% more a week than he was), BUT he knows that it makes him less stable and vulnerable in the long-term. His big plus is that he has no debt whatsoever and currently no dependants at all, and lives in a friend’s home paying controlled rent to his friend.

    My husband is the services manager for an environmental consultancy, running their IT, HR, admin, fleet and occupational health areas. At the moment, there could hardly be a more secure sector in Melbourne. The government here is engaged in several enormous, high-profile projects (mostly to do with water – a large river-to-dam pipeline, dredging of the port, a desal plant etc) that all require large environmental inputs. His office has more work than they can handle and are busily hiring every stray botanist and zoologist they come across. Barring a total collapse in civil order, we’re optimistic his job is safe for at least the coming 5 years. He earns a very good salary and gets performance bonuses each year that have been substantial. We can – and do – easily live on what he makes, including servicing our mortgage, running our single car etc.

    I am more precarious. I work part-time in the state government as a legal policy worker. There’s oodles of work and my position is permanent – but redundancies are being floated again, and part-timers are always among the first to be snipped. I’m also about to decamp (in December) on 12 months’ maternity leave with my third child. If my job goes the way of the dodo, it won’t matter financially, UNLESS something were to happen to my husband or his job.

    And that is where the earlier commenter’s point really hit home hard to me. Where you are in these situations is only partly about planning and management, and is also to a large degree about luck. I have two healthy children with no special needs, a healthy husband to whom I am still married, and normally healthy relatives. Even if any of us were medical timebombs, I live in Australia, which has free universal healthcare (and WHAT a difference that makes). We would not be bankrupted by a heart bypass or a special needs child. Whenever I hear these stories I always think there but for the grace of God …

  74. Steven Earl Salmonyon 20 Sep 2008 at 8:33 am

    Empower the family of humanity by choosing to do things in new, different and better ways: by living SUSTAINABLY.

    We in the family of humanity are going to be forced to do better in our efforts to communicate in a more reality-oriented way about ominously looming threats of an human-driven, global calamity of some kind. If we keep doing precisely what our leaders are saying and doing now, the future for our children looks bleak. We can surely do more and do it better. After all, human beings are remarkably intelligent, ingenious and adaptive.

    Before we can determine what new and different to do, perhaps a brief analysis of our current, distinctly human-induced, global predicament is in order. Consider for a moment some of the ways in which my generation of leaders has gone so terribly wrong.

    First, the leaders in my generation of elders wish to live without having to accept limits to growth of seemingly endless economic globalization, of increasing per capita consumption and skyrocketing human population numbers; our desires are evidently insatiable. We choose to believe anything that is politically convenient, economically expedient and socially agreeable; our way of life is not negotiable. We dare anyone to question our values or behaviors.

    We religiously promote our widely shared and consensually-validated fantasies of `real’ endless economic growth and soon to become unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, and in so doing deny that Earth has limited resources and frangible ecosystems upon which the survival of life as we know it depends.

    Second, my not-so-great generation appears to be doing a disservice to everything and everyone but ourselves. We are the “what’s in it for me generation.” We demonstrate precious little regard for the maintenance of the integrity of Earth; shallow willingness to actually protect the environment from crippling degradation; lack of serious consideration for the preservation of biodiversity, wilderness, and a good enough future for our children and coming generations; and no appreciation of the vital understanding that humans are no more or less than magnificent living beings with “feet of clay.”

    Perhaps we live in unsustainable ways in our planetary home; but we are proud of it nonetheless. Certainly, we will “have our cake and eat it, too.” We will own fleets of cars, fly around in thousands of private jets, live in McMansions, exchange secret handshakes, frequent exclusive clubs and distant hideouts, and risk nothing of value to us. We will live long, large and free. Please do not bother us with the problems of the world. We choose not to hear, see or speak of them. We are the economic powerbrokers, their bought-and-paid-for politicians and the many minions in the mass media. We hold the much of the world’s wealth and the extraordinary power great wealth purchases. If left to our own devices, we will continue in the exercise of our `inalienable rights’ to outrageously consume Earth’s limited resources; to recklessly expand economic globalization unto every corner of our natural world and, guess what, beyond; and to carelessly consent to the unbridled global growth of human numbers so that where there are now 6+ billion people, by 2050 we will have 9+ billion members of the human community and, guess what, even more people, perhaps billions more in the distant future, if that is what we desire.

    We are the reigning, self-proclaimed masters of the universe….. the thousands of greedy little kings of capital concentration, big business potentates and governmental sinecurists. We enjoy freedom and living without limits. Of course, we adamantly eschew any talk of the personal responsibilities that come with the exercise of personal freedoms or discussions of the existence of biophysical limitations of any kind.

    We deny the existence of human limits and Earth’s limitations.

    Please understand that we do not want anyone presenting us with scientific evidence that we could be living unsustainably in an artificially designed, temporary world of our own making….a manmade world filling up with gigantic enterprises, virtual mountains of material possessions, and boundless amounts of filthy lucre.

    Third, most of our top rank experts appear not to have found adequate ways of communicating to the family of humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the rapacious dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of the planet’s environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding at breakneck speed toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global political economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic `wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

    Who knows, perhaps we can realistically and hopefully hold onto the expectation that behavioral changes in the direction of sustainable production, per human consumption, and propagation are in the offing…..changes that save both the economy and the Creation.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/index.php

  75. Noahon 20 Sep 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Hello, Sharon.

    Sometimes what is good for an individual, or a few individuals, works against collective interest. In isolation, preparation for disaster is effective, relying as it does on national currency, international trade (in the form of imported goods), public goods (national defense, infrastructure maintenance, medical care, and emergency services), and foreign investment. However, if taken in concert by an entire nation, hoarding would halt the possibility of disaster preparation for most individuals (grocery stores would run out of food, people would not go to work, banks would be run). Thus while advice to prepare for disaster can help a few people, it cannot help most.

    Personally, I can liquidate my assets, go on a spending frenzy (to guard against inflation), move from dollars to gold, or just hoard cash and wait out the financial crisis. Any of those actions, if taken collectively, would crash the economy.

    However, my only current need is for the FDIC guarantee to be good if my bank closes it doors. You know what would help? More of my tax dollars! And yours too.

    It is true that collective action to pay more taxes, particularly among corporations and the very wealthy, would ease this financial crisis and others to follow. You and I, not being very wealthy, can only help so much, but help we must.

    -Noah

  76. Chileon 20 Sep 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Since I have recently mentioned (and whined) about this in comments here, I wanted to share that we finally (after 9 months) got an offer on our house today. While it is not what we’d hoped for, it is realistic in today’s market. And, assuming it goes through to closing, it will buy something for us and my sweetie’s mom, with enough space for a good-sized garden. At that point, I’ll feel like we can totally dive into all aspects of the Independence Days Challenge. It will be such a thrill to finally be able to really commit to a big garden and community involvement!

  77. Sarahon 21 Sep 2008 at 9:52 am

    Today at the grocery store, I noticed that almost all of the women’s/parenting magazines in the checkout aisle had articles featuring tips for saving money on food. That’s a topic that comes up from time to time anyway (yes, I compulsively read the magazines while waiting in line), but not normally in all of them at once.

  78. Veganon 21 Sep 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Chile, congratulations. That is good luck!

    I have also noticed the astronomical increase in food prices lately. For example, bulk organic rolled oats sold for $.99/lb. at Wholefoods a month ago, yesterday it was $1.69/lb.!

  79. Ginaon 21 Sep 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I’m still reading here, but I thought I would throw in a few cents and let you know ow it seems here in Indiana. Like many of said, tons of houses for sale, but I don’t know if it is due to foreclosure or not. We actually have a property up for sale (for about a month) and have had no one view it. I plan to list it on a few sites because it is close to an urban area, but rural and it comes with several acres, small house and barn, plus a price listed $10,000 below what we paid for it in 2004. I am hoping to not have to heat it this winter.

    Other than that, my husband is in distribution and after a long slump (he is paid by caseload and miles), his paychecks have returned to a close to normal amount. Unfortunately, this amount was normal before gas & food prices jumped. However, we are frugal sorts and are compensating in many ways (IDC, foraging and growing our own). I am a biologist and am working for the feds. I am a “term” employee (and would be one of the first to go). i work a 13 month contract with renewal every four years. Sadly, the area I work in has increased across the US this year which means each state’s funding is reduced (the pot has more hands, so-to-speak, not to mention how the program will be affected by all these bail-outs). If cuts are made it will be in February (I have a review coming up as the fiscal year is ending and plan to ask about the security). I am very quickly paying off the little debts which will leave us with mortgage and student loans.

    Jobs are shrinking rapidly in this area and my office is next door to one county’s unemployment office and in the two years I ave been in this position, I find it harder to locate a parking spot on some days. Indiana, expect for a handfull of cities, is mostly small town and rural, so public transist is non-existent.

    I can say I relate to much of what is being said here. Particularly the sad realizations that I will probably not have a retirement and be able to pay for my children’s college. I like the idea of steering them towards agriculture internships and such.

    I have felt the need to prepare for the worst in the past, but the big difference this time is that I notice as I add to my stores, I am actually using them up at the same time. We have not ate out (other than small meals at ‘fast’ restaurants) for at least six months. I am making many things completely from scratch which is not easy to do when you work nine hours (plus two hours commute). I have canned and froze (and will soon be drying apples, elderberries and pears and possibly jerky) probably more than I ever have, but it somehow feels insufficient. I have been buying some things on sale too.

    Someone noted that they see the loss leader items cleared off the shelves rapidly and I have noticed that around here as well. Clearance food items go very quickly too. Canning jars have been cleared out and the lids were gone by August. I bought loads of extras for IDC, but still wish I had obtained more.

    Oh, and maybe the worst thing, one thrift store has gone under. A salvation army closed in one of the small towns near to me. Sad day as this one was one of the less picked over ones.

  80. Ginaon 21 Sep 2008 at 7:42 pm

    LOL, I had to comment on Erika’s post because I am experiencing something very similar with my husband’s family (and a little with my husband too). Is anyone else having issues with people calling you “negative” and telling you it’s all depression (as in the kind in your head?)

    Me, I think ‘they’ are living in denial and are going to be glad I stocked that extra toilet paper!

  81. Jerryon 22 Sep 2008 at 2:22 am

    Reading all of these comments has been fascinating, particularly the interesting little group in Alaska. It is especially lifting to read that so many of you have invested so much energy in trying to help others as well as yourselves. You are all the examples that so many others need.

    One negative point…to the individual who suggested that we should all be jumping to pay more taxes instead of `hoarding`, I have a few words for you. First of all, little of what has been mentioned in the comments here constitute hoarding. Most of what has been said or suggested, involve efforts to become sustainable, not to hoard as much as possible. Some have mentioned stocking up on basic essentials but that is called preparing for lower energy consumption. What can be more accurately described as hoarding are the actions by the greedy and power-mad/hungry corporate and banking CEO`s who take ridiculously gargantuan bonuses and severance packages while the rest of us get screwed and/or end up PAYING for the whole mess. This brings me to my second point to you; when those folks mentioned above are no longer rewarded for creating these messes and when their wealth is stripped to try to repair the damage of their actions, I will gladly accept my share of responsibility to society via taxation. Until then, I pay what is demanded of me in protest and only because I believe one must work within a system to ever hope to see it evolve into a better one.

    I am reporting from what is likely one of the least affected of all areas in North America. Here in NW Alberta, and especially here in Grande Prairie, one does not see much change. Growth is still the name of the game and one still sees Hummers on the road every day. Grande Prairie is an oil patch city now, full bore, and is the center of activity for a wealthy region. Truth be told, I often feel spiritually and even physically ill at what I see around me here. Where 20 years ago one drove for 15 minutes past farmland (albeit unsustainably farmed) between the hamlet of Clairmont and the City of Grande Prairie, industrial development now spans the entire distance…effectively linking the town and city. Massive housing developments continue to sprout up, tho they seem to be slowing significantly now, and many of these developments are decidedly “higher” class. The rental market is opening up again, where there were next to no vacancies for the last 10 years. I do not think that base consumerism has slowed significantly, but there are starting to be signs of fiscal stress even here. Tales of keys to new properties simply being left at the banks are once again circulating. I run a business which contracts casual labor and I am seeing more and more skilled workers responding to my ads.

    I had left the area to pursue career and life elsewhere, but opportunity drew me back. Since then I have re-awakened to Peak Everything (even before high school from 88-91 I could tell what was coming but in college came to kind of shove my head in the sand for a long time) and have been altering my own personal efforts to try to prepare for the coming transitions.

    It is somewhat of a trying situation as some family land, that I believe is of incredible future potential, is likely soon to be sold as the family members in control are all beyond retirement age and looking to some kind of assurance for their last years. I understand their reasoning, especially in the case of my parents, yet cannot help but see it as a long term loss for the family and perhaps the community in general. This land is so well suited and situated for a village style sustainable community, it is not even funny. I can see it so clearly in my mind, but without the interest and investment, it is a hazy dream indeed.

    Thanks to the apparently ongoing stability here, I have seen a new opportunity and will be spending the winter preparing to unveil a new small scale greenhouse and permacultural landscaping business. Thanks to some other family land, I can do this with a fairly small amount of initial capital. This other family land will also provide the opportunity for me to create my own small permacultural farm and greenhouse operation, even if I cannot create a larger community. This land is also far enough from the city/town to be safe-ish, should things one day crumble to roaming violence.

    I feel that I am very lucky to have been born into a family that had come to own decent amounts of good land, and which also believed in caring for the land not just taking from it. Because of this, I have the personal AND physical (land) foundations with which to approach this coming transition.

    What worries me is how far will we go with wars as we run more and more out of the resources by which our global society is fueled, as well as how much devastation we have already caused. I am worried about how much freshwater remains, and how much breathable air. Perhaps of more immediate concern, I worry about just what the ramifications of our genetic experimenting will be. Genetically modified organisms have become so prevalent in our world that many suggest that the entire food supply of humanity may be compromised already. This is my greatest concern. I urge EVERYONE to demand and exercise the right to save and trade seeds (and to accept the responsibilities inherent to these rights).

    Peace to all.

  82. Noahon 22 Sep 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Hi, Jerry.

    Well, we can probably agree that corporations and the very rich need to pay more taxes, and as far as the effect of preparing for low-energy, there’s certainly plenty to do, though disaster preparation is not one of them.

    Take care,

    Noah

  83. Ailsa Ekon 22 Sep 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Agreed with Jerry. Putting food by and laying up wood for the winter isn’t hoarding, it’s natural.

  84. Lorion 22 Sep 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I live in Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin was once mayor, LOL. I commute to Anchorage for work, and there are still many, many people on the road with me in the mornings. Gas is at $4.09 a gallon in Wasilla, $4.05 in Anchorage, for regular. My husband works construction, and says that business is definitely slow. He is seeing lots of coworkers leave and not have anyone hired on to replace them. Alaska lost somewhere around 800 construction jobs last year, and unless the pipeline gets going, I expect it will be worse this year.

    As a couple of other people have commented, Alaskans got their PFD’s and Energy rebates last week, and all the retail centers have been PACKED ever since. We took our kids out and got winter coats, Sorels, gloves, snowpants, sweatshirts, fleece jammies, etc. There were many more people buying electronics, furniture, etc. It is discouraging that people seem intent on throwing their money away, confident that they will get more next year. Meanwhile, the PFD principal, which is invested in the stock market, lost almost $1 billion this week.

    We had the coldest, cloudiest summer we have had for about 30 years, and my garden failed miserably. My broccoli never got heads, the green beans never flowered, my rhubarb wilted and died. Cauliflower bolted without ever making a good head. Keep in mind that I am a complete novice at the gardening thing, but I really expected things to be better than this, though. I did get TONS of snow peas, some green peas, and some nice raspberries and a few strawberries. It was chilly enough that we had a fire going in the wood stove several times throughout the summer. One local radio station is calling it the “summer of suck”.

    Next year: raised beds.

    Not many people that I come in contact with are talking much about what is going on on Wall Street. I am very worried because my retirement money is in the stock market… I have no choice… I can only choose which fund to flush my money down the toilet with. I wish every day I could pull it out and make it useful before it is gone.

    We are doing what we can to get the partially finished off-the-grid cabin we live in finished and winter ready. We have a good huge covered stack of firewood, and I am looking forward to the day I can actually buy meat in large quantities (when it is cold enough to stay frozen outside), instead of just enough for today, and maybe tomorrow, so it doesn’t go bad in the cooler. We have LED lights that we carry from room to room, and we will be getting our propane range/oven this week sometime, so the Coleman stove can go back into storage with our camping gear. Not so excited about the propane, but not quite ready for cooking with wood fulltime, either.

    Lori
    Alaska

  85. Aaronon 22 Sep 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I’m at DEFCON 3 and I won’t be punching in the firing sequences on the tactical nukes until DEFCON 2… so until then I’m just keeping my eyes glued on the radar for the latest sitrep.

    In all seriousness though, things are okay. My wife talked about writing some letters to our infant son to describe what’s happening in our lives at this historic turning point… sort of a “We were doing blah, blah, blah when the financial markets rolled over and expired….”

    Rising costs and our infant son have prevented us from putting away more savings for the last five months. And our savings have gyrated wildly with the market volatility but as a pool of capital it is still holding up just fine – at least this week. And historically it’s maintained its value in the face of inflation.

    We’ve begun an earnest search for a farm and have had some interesting opportunities turn up already. If everything blows up tomorrow that’s ok – I’m happy with the way my life is right now and even though I know it must change, I will do my best to accept that change.

    I need to revisit a regular exercise routine – ultimately, dark leafy greens and exercise are what’s going to see a body through the hard times since good health is the greatest asset.

  86. Noahon 22 Sep 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Hi, Ailsa.

    Well, your particulars seem harmless enough, in isolation, particularly if you’re coppicing (if that’s the term) where you get your wood. In the mountains of Nepal, wood is a scarce commodity, but that’s far far away.

    If you’re growing the food, canning it is an obvious choice. Wherever food is delivered by truck, canned food is a scarce commodity, but your probably grow your own food.

    Where I was going, for anyone curious, is:

    Individual actions to use resources require collective management.

    Collective action is distinct from action for the benefit of the collective.

    Some individual actions hurt/benefit the collective only if/whether or not everyone in the collective performs them.

    Some individual actions benefit the individual only if/whether or not everyone in the collective performs them.

    Effective individual disaster preparations can:
    * hurt the collective if everyone prepares.
    * benefit the individual only if few people prepare.
    * bring about the disaster they are a preparation against if they are collectively performed.

    An example of effective individual disaster preparation is: moving to a state predicted to have the better weather in 10 years so you can grow your own food and not starve. If everyone prepares that way, they all move, there’s too little food grown for everyone living there, and everyone starves in the state with good weather.

    In my oceanside town, bumper stickers read “Surfing sucks. Don’t try it.” In your town, I doubt the bumper stickers read

    “Wood stoves suck. Don’t use them.”

    or

    “Farming sucks. We hate it.”

    Good for you.

    I’m not about to stick a bumper sticker on my bike that says “Running banks sucks. Don’t do it.”, but I could.

    -Noah

  87. TJon 23 Sep 2008 at 4:06 am

    I’m of the school that thinks that the end of peak oil is a ‘finally!’ thing.

    As a result of easy resources and easy energy, Americans developed an attitude and an infrastructure that, ‘in the end’, wasn’t sustainable. This *distortion*, having led us to leave behind what we once had, has brought us where we are. We mined the non-renewable resources, we ate the non-renewable energy … and a lot of renewable energy (i.e. hydro). You could fly over any major city at night and see security lights from horizon to horizon. And roads. And extravagant houses, built of manufactured materials for 40 years.

    Yet the population kept increasing. Obviously this game had to wind to an end. We weren’t strong enough to decide it, so it got decided by the inevitable. Old skills have to be revived, old approaches have to be abandoned.

    A new time. New possibilities become necessary. If we face them together with courage, we won’t have to face them separately with fear.

  88. Camon 24 Sep 2008 at 12:31 am

    We’re holding our ground here. My husband was laid off in late May, from what should have been an extremely secure job, and has just found another position this week. That’s the good news; the bad news is that his new salary works out to be a 25% pay cut from that of his previous position. I have a health condition that limits my job prospects significantly, but I’m picking up a gig here and there. Meanwhile, our savings have had an interesting week in all the financial churn.

    We were well-placed for him to lose his job, and we’re well-placed to take an income cut. It’s nobody’s favorite thing, but it’s okay. Nothing’s quite biting us yet, but it’s all very worrisome. On the other hand, having him laid off was a little bit reassuring in that it showed us that we’re both psychologically flexible.

    We’re a couple in our mid-thirties, no kids, with a big scary urban mortgage. On the other hand, that’s our only debt. When we were more flush, I think we made some pretty good choices. We built a sturdy chicken coop, a woodshed, and several raised beds. We stuffed a woodstove insert into our fireplace (hard to find room for a freestanding stove in our tiny house, alas), installed a solar hot water heater, and invested in some good wool blankets. I’ve started picking up the kinds of hobbies that produce good Christmas presents.

    When the car died a couple of years ago, we didn’t replace it. My husband’s turning into a bicycle fanatic. It looks good on him. :) I’ve been seeing a lot more bicyclists on the roads around here, even on rainy days.

    “For sale” signs go up and they stay and stay and stay.

    Seattle’s also had the Summer of Suck, though to a lesser degree. I’m finally getting the ultra-early tomatoes now, and the plums are coming in like gangbusters at last, almost a month late. It wasn’t the summer of canning and pesto-making that I was hoping for, but we did pretty well with the cole crops. Our chickens aren’t laying yet, but they’re bright-eyed and healthy-looking. Everybody laughed at me for planting blackberry bushes, but the joke’s on them: they’re bearing this year and they’re incredibly good.

    My dirt is coming along at last: I’ve established a relationship with a local coffeeshop, and now we’re dragging home a few dozen pounds of coffee grounds every week. (Thank you, Xtracycle.) Slowly, slowly, we’re building up the soil here, turning it from terrible to passable. Too slowly: that turns out to be a mighty large heap of composting coffee grounds. I’m working out the best way to handle those grounds, and I have some interesting ideas to play with there. I hope to get a really slick and novel system going and then start teaching classes through the Seattle Free School within a year. It’s even occurred to me that I might have a future career at the intersection of urban agriculture and mycology. We’ll see.

    I just wish we had more time. Time to rebuild my health, time to rebuild my soil, time to rebuild connections with my community. Time to pay off that mortgage. Time to learn to cook more from scratch. Time to learn everything I want to learn, really.

  89. Steven Earl Salmonyon 26 Sep 2008 at 10:44 am

    What are we thinking and doing? What is to become of our children?

    Our children’s future is being mortgaged and put at risk by leaders in my not-so-great generation of elders. Is there no end to arrogance and adamant avarice of the greedy kings of wealth concentration, their bought-and-paid-for politicians, their many minions in the mass media?

    Somehow we and our children have got to find more effective ways of communicating about threats to human wellbeing that are being perpetrated before our eyes by self-proclaimed “Masters of the Universe” among us.

    Good and able people are not saying loudly, clearly and often enough what they know to be true………not speaking truth to power.

    Many too many politicians are posing for the public and pandering to those with great wealth; too many investment brokers are devising economic bubbles and pyramid schemes, skimming millions for themselves…….”breaking” the financial system and threatening the real economy; and the mass media has been turning a blind eye to the entire mess.

    Such woefully inadequate leadership needs to be named, shamed and replaced.

    Perhaps more people will stand up, remain standing, and speak out loudly, clearly and often about what they see and know to be happening.

    Our children could soon be confronted with an economic and/or ecological wreckage of an unimaginable kind; but, because so many people are not reasonably, sensibly and responsibly communicating with one another now, the chances for taking the measure of certain ominously looming economic and ecological challenges and finding adequate solutions to them appear to be diminishing day by day.

    Perhaps there are at least three questions worthy of consideration by young people and their elders today.

    Is it possible that the wondrous planetary home we inhabit was given unto the stewardship of humankind simply for the purpose of allowing the greediest people on the planet to fulfill their unending wishes and insatiable desires, come what may for a good enough future for their own children, coming generations, billions of less fortunate people in the family of humanity, global biodiversity, Earth’s body and environment? Are the greedy kings of wealth concentration and power politics, who consume, possess and hoard a lion’s share of the world’s wealth, the only people who matter? Are the selfish among us, the ones who are about to be “bailed out” this week despite their unbridled avarice and obscene behavior, supposed to be source of our primary concern?

    At least to me, it is crystal clear how so few have stolen so much from so many.

    Not ever in the course of human history have so few people been so greedy by having taken surreptitiously and then hoarded so much wealth that rightfully belonged to so many less fortunate people.

    Clearly and evidently, the colossal global economy is an ever-expanding, artificially designed, manmade construction. For whom does the world’s human economy exist? To fulfill the wishes and insatiable desires of those with ill-gotten gains? Only to provide security for the greediest among us?

    And, of all things, for many too many leaders of my not-so-great generation of elders to extoll the virtues of their unbridled avariciousness and applaud each other by passing out ‘awards’ to each other for the triumph of their greed, all of this is plainly outrageous.

    In light of what has occurred in the both the financial system and the real economy in recent years, can someone please explain what the terms “fairness” and “equity” mean? Can anyone find examples of these phenomena in the distribution of wealth by the organizers and managers of the world’s human economy today?

    Who knows, perhaps change toward common sense, fair play and sustainable behavior is in the offing.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/index.php

  90. Danon 28 Sep 2008 at 6:54 am

    Running out of time to post after reading all these great responses ;)

    Here in the Denver/Boulder area, seems like business as usual for many. Whole Foods is still busily at work expanding their store. Driving through Longmont, the finishing touches on a new mega-strip mall seem to be wrapping up nicely. Gas prices are down and I’ve noticed quite a few “temp plates” on SUV’s. The student restaurants around CU seem just as populated. And as always, there’s a long wait at the library for anything by Kunstler.

    And for us?

    I’ve had to come to the harsh decision with my wife (of two weeks today), that we can’t/shouldn’t afford for her to attend massage school this fall. We’re holding out hope that if we save enough she can go this spring, but debt is not looking good, and with stories like the one about the yoga teacher above, massage may not be a valued service in the years to come. It breaks my heart because its postponing (or killing) her dream. But she is dealing with it and looking for other ways to fulfill the desire with something that takes less of a monetary investment. Accepting the world you wanted and planned for may never exist is hard.

    And we are trying to get out of our $1,300 lease on a townhome and move closer to my work and into a $600-700 studio or one-bedroom. Saving gas, saving time, preparing us for the cabin we hope to build in the years to come.

    And we are cutting everything to the minimum to save as much as possible for as long as possible. Learning how to cook with staples, trying to figure out how to adapt to the world that’s coming. Moving money to the sock drawer and out of the on-line savings accounts.

    The hardest part though is being away from friends and family as we watch this all unfold…and not knowing how we’ll have the means to leave safe jobs to try to go live closer to them when that means taking so many chances on the unknown in these risky times. But how do you put a price on the community you need and on having support to give/receive for those you care about?

    It’s consuming every conversation, every decision. Our time is spent reading the news, posting ads on craigslist, and wondering when the next shoe is going to drop.

    All the while still having to hold up the “life is normal” facade at work and to certain family members.

    And yet through it all I rejoice in the fact that I’ve married the most wonderful person in my world, that I still have money coming in, and that I’m somewhere close to the front-end of starting to prepare for what’s ahead…at least mentally.

  91. feonixrifton 30 Sep 2008 at 4:45 pm

    My personal life is having a lovely boom. Things are going well and getting better all the time. The area, though… Is of two minds. We’re getting transit projects completed, which are a great boon, and some lovely shops moving in. Lots of redevelopment. But also lots of empty storefronts, for sale signs, and crowded buses. People occasionally ask me how much passes cost, or how I get by doing groceries like this (a question that has become more relevant, now that I’m on a cane for a few months). I cook more, because restaurant quality is down a little, but it always varies and is often lower near the start of Fall. There is an undercurrent of anger, but again, Angelinos don’t always react well to the first seasonal rains. So none of this is really surprising to me. Seeing a few small cars (Smarts, NEVs, etc.) around, and a few more bikes. The weather is still unbearably hot, now with extra humidity, so people aren’t out unless they can’t avoid it.

  92. legitimate stay at home employmenton 15 Oct 2008 at 8:01 am

    legitimate stay at home employment

  93. emgraon 19 Nov 2008 at 1:25 pm

    emgra

    Although I understand the gist of what you are trying to say in your post titled Adverse Credit Mortgages – Home Loans For People With Poor Credit at eZerk, there are still a few points that I need further clarification on.

  94. emgraon 19 Nov 2008 at 3:16 pm

    emgra

    I found your post titled Red Red Whine ” Back-to-work blues. interesting and share most of your views, but just dont get your second point.

  95. links for 2008-11-24 « Amy G. Dalaon 24 Nov 2008 at 9:05 am

    [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Practice Losing Farther, Losing Faster: Everyday History in a C… [...]

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    Would ’s room help some new design and reorganization? Most could, but it can be hard to copulate where to begin and what to use. Obviously, the age and of , not to mention budget, decide impose much of the design . But where and how to begin?

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