The Time is Now

Sharon July 25th, 2007

Cheery news on the climate change and peak oil front this week. If you aren’t actually witnessing climate change in all its glory, say in Britain (massive flooding, officially confirmed to be connected to global warming) China (massive flooding some places, drought and desertification elsewhere), the Amazon (drought), The Southwest and Southeast US (drought) or somewhere else, there’s increasing evidence that the Arctic Ice will be gone within the next decade or so. This is not good news. Add to that the new study that suggests that the Amazon Rainforest may essentially be destroyed within the next few years, and we’re facing two climate tipping points - not at the end of the century, but in the next few years.

Virtually all research suggests that most climate change isn’t very gradual at all - the IPCC report imagines linear, slow, moderate climate change, which is scary enough. But there’s ample science suggesting that in fact, what happens is radical, quick change, in non-linear ways - ice melt, for example, simply doesn’t proceed the way the IPCC report has presumed. It is not at all out of the question to imagine that we could experience massive climate change over the course of decade - arriving suddenly in a world we don’t recognize. Oh, and just plain old pollution is getting nasty - 75,000 Chinese people a year, 30,000 in the US:

On the peak oil front, The Oil Drum suggests a more significant decline in Russian production (up until now the only major oil producer not showing significant declines in supply) than otherwise expected: #node/2716. If Russia starts declining as Mexico and Saudi Arabia have, we can expect to see radically higher energy prices very soon. Goldman Sachs reiterated that we could see $100 barrel by 2009 , and Pat Robertson apparently told his 700 Club listeners to get bicycles, that peak oil was here. And a newly translated book argues that the collapse of the Soviet Union was caused largely by too many farmers leaving the land: . Sound like anything anyone has heard of?

If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you know that the price of food is way, way, way up. Last week the price of powdered milk rose by *300%* - and almost everything else has risen by 25% or more over the last year. I’m starting to see working people ask how they are supposed to get by. And that’s a real question. Tens of thousands of Americans and Australians are now experiencing “transportation poverty” - that is, they spend so much on gas getting to work that they can no longer buy basic essentials. And if you are struggling to make ends meet, well, you can feel you are in good company - the UN last week announced that because of the ethanol boom and its effects on food prices, it will no longer be able to provide food aid to millions of hungry people That is, we’re going to let millions of people starve to death so we can have more gas in our cars - and realistically, ethanol is a very short term boom - as fossil fuel prices rise and the environmental consequences become clear, ethanol, which provides a very, very minimal energy return, if that, is going to disappear. One of our last big build outs was wasted making booze for our cars. I’m sure we’ll be glad we did that. Since food production is expected to halve in developing nations over the next 20 years, due to environmental constraints, the UN will certainly have more people not to feed: We’re warned that unless we lower our rate of consumption of just about everything, millions of people will starve. How much *do* we want that spongebob basketball set? That steak? That beer? Those shoes?

And does anyone still eat industrially produced food? There’s botulism in your chili, plastic in your dog food, salmonella in your peanut butter, and ecoli on your bagged spinach. Leaving your food production to corporate America can’t just kill you by giving you cancer, heart disease and diabetes - it can do it instantly! Whee!

We’re more indebted and our economy is shakier than at any time since right before the Great Depression. China and Japan are showing signs that they don’t want to prop up our economy forever. A new film suggests that without credit cards, many middle class people would be genuinely poor. Up to 60% of the British economy and 70% of the American is directly or indirectly tied up in our housing,,2133131,00.html. And there are few people who think we’re anywhere near the bottom of the housing market, or the foreclosure crisis.

Now it is perfectly possible that a few or some or even the aggregate of all this information is wrong. It is possible that magic bullets will be found, comfortable forms of adaptation will occur, and that everything will be less severe than the most acute forecasts. And realistically, I think that’s even likely - for some of us. The thing is, these circumstances won’t hit everyone the same way. Some of us will still be mulling over whether to install the sustainably harvested cork floors in their new “eco kitchen” while most of us are wondering whether the kids will have shoes.

Now some of you are on board, of course, but I’m sure there are plenty of readers here who think I’m overreacting - after all, the world is always going to hell in a handbasket, isn’t it? Why not just watch “24″ reruns, and not worry about it?

So we come to the question of when and how to act. And I’m going to suggest that everyone who reads this take 10 basic actions to provide for their security right now - this year, whenever possible. I could be absolutely off base, but it seems like the combination of peak oil, financial instability and climate change is going to strike us hard, and soon. Now maybe you disagree - you expect technological solutions, or things to be gentler. But even if you do, there’s good reason to hedge your bets, invest a few resources and a little energy into preparation, so that just in case the crazy lady on the blog was right, your family, your community will be a little bit better off.

All of these things are ideas you can implement with very little money, very little time and without people thinking you are a weird-assed loon. They don’t even have to notice. So if you aren’t yet willing to come out and admit to anyone that you’ve been reading my site ;-), just do me this favor - make a few quiet plans, spend a little bit of money, and then laugh your ass off at me if I’m wrong. It will make me feel better, and I think you, too. Because, after all, the consequences of my being wrong are pretty small - a couple less dinners out, one less magazine subscription and you wait on the new car lease for an extra six months. The consequences of me being right on your family, however, could be pretty big. Life and death. So why not indulge your own family’s security just a little.

1. Wherever you are, begin to adapt to lower energy living. I’ve written before about my basic assumption, which is that regardless of any apocalyptic visions of grid crash (which I have no strong opinion on), poor people get their utilities shut off a lot. In fact, shutoffs are rising dramatically all over the US right now, and tens of thousands of people are now in debt to their utility companies. A lot of us may have to choose between food and electricity, and it would be insane to prioritize electricity, which is merely a convenience. Here’s my take on the issue, if you are interested: #26246.html.

At a minimum, you should get prepared to be able to get water from the sky or your well without power, keep yourselves tolerably warm or cool without central heating or a/c, etc… For those who aren’t convinced, this can be a fairly low input project - a pvc pipe turned into a well bucket costs about $5. Cap it with a plastic cap, make sure it is smaller than the diameter of your well, and ta da! Or try this: Alternately, get some rainbarrels and a gravity fed filter - camping stores have them. The filter may set you back a bit ($75-100 for camping style, $200+ for a good table top whose filters will last a year, but clean water is a good thing.

Make a homemade composting toilet using leaves and a bucket.

For heat, go to yard sales and thrift shops and buy blankets, long underwear, and warm clothing. If you can, you might put in a woodstove, but you *can* live in a house with no heat without freezing to death. People have done it for centuries. Dress warmly, move around during the day, and at night, rig a four poster bed, with cloth covers over your bed and hung for curtains will create a small, tight space that is well insulated and heated by your body. Try not to let anyone sleep entirely alone - kids can sleep together or with parents. Or encourage the cat or dog to join you.

For heat, you’ll have to stay outside most of the time, open windows at night and keep them closed during the day. Do your cooking in the early morning and at night, and eat cold things during the day. Don’t do heavy exercise during the day, if you can avoid it, and keep a close eye on small children and elders, who are much more vulnerable to heat than most adults. Use cool water to cool people down.

2. Start a garden. It isn’t too late to start one today in most cases. Build some raised beds, or sheet mulch (cover with newspaper and a lot of organic material - manure, grass clippings, non-weed seed yard waste, compost), and let it all decompose. Or plant some herbs and vegetables in pots. But whatever you do, start thinking ahead to your long term food security. Every meal and nutritious bit of produce you grow is something you don’t have to buy. Many seed companies have fall sales - stock up on extra seeds for yourself and your neighborhood, just in case next year your food budget is stretched.

3. Store food. With rising food prices, it would be nuts not to. Buy local and organic when you can, but store bulk local grains, local honey, dried beans, and put up some other items. Food storage doesn’t have to be costly - each week, alot $10 to food storage. The first week, you might buy 10lbs of organic, whole wheat pasta, or 20lbs of organic rice. The next, a 5lb box of salt and two bags of dried pinto beans. The following week a bottle of vitamins. As it gets cooler, and fall produce starts to come in, a cooler on your back porch will store bulk potatoes and onions that often can be purchased at very little. Buy a little extra of everything you eat, and practice cooking it. Remember, one of the consequences of hard times is family lose their homes and security. You may want this food not because there’s none in stores, but because you have no money, and the food pantry is stretched to the limit, or you may want it because your sister in law and her two kids are sleeping in your living room after their house was foreclosed upon, or perhaps you’ll want to be able to continue to give to charity, even when your resources are stretched by rising gas and food prices. Don’t forget to put some water in old soda bottles and other heavy duty beverage containers, and store it in your freezer or add a little bleach and put it in a cool, dark place.

4. Get out of debt! I can’t emphasize this too strongly - make some cut backs and start paying down your credit cards. Get rid of the cable, the dinners out, the Sunday drive, the hobby expenditures. Pay down consumer debt first, car loans next, then your mortgage. The more equity you have in your home, the less likely you are to lose it if you stop being able to pay the mortgage.

5. Get to know your neighbors. Talk to them. Make friends with them. Find out about them. Have an open house, a barbecue, a neighborhood party. Start a local community group, a home church, a local minyan. Get the kids together to play. Start thinking in terms of neighborhood solidarity - can I pick up some stuff for you at the farmer’s market? Why don’t you borrow my vacuum cleaner, instead of replacing yours? Can I feed your cats/help you out, etc… You need them and they need you. Start carpooling. Start a community garden. Get together to knit, or can or just talk. But start something.

6. Have a plan. That is, think about what you would do if your income was halved or prices doubled? What if someone lost their job? What about health insurance? What if the power was out for an extended period, or like millions of Britons today, you had no safe water supply? What if something happened when the kids were at school and parents at work - how would you get in touch with one another? Cell phones may not be working - do you have a meeting place? If you had to evacuate, do you have the basics - copies of id, enough gas to get somewhere safe, food and water for a few days, changes of clothes, basic medical care? Think about what is most possible in your area, and be prepared for it.

7. Get on your bike and start riding, on your feet and start walking. Most of us aren’t used to getting around by human power anymore, and we need to be. Suburbia is often pretty feasible if you have a bike. A 5-10 mile bike ride is quite doable for most healthy people, and even many unhealthy ones can cover a few miles on an adult trike or recumbent - my father, overweight, with lung disease and severe arthritis and nearly 60 rides his every day. A five mile round trip walk should be doable for most of us. And most of us do have some resources within walking distance. It just takes practice and energy. Cheap bikes are widely available, although investing more money will often get you a more comfortable one.

8. Gradually start to replace powered items with human powered ones. Get a manual grain grinder for grinding flour for bread - fresh ground tastes better anyway. A push mower for the lawn. Some hand tools. A crank flashlight or two and a crank cell phone charger. You don’t have to go crazy, but as things need replacing, used items come up or opportunity arises, make sure you can be comfortable.

9. Protect the vulnerable. Breastfeed your baby if at all possible, and don’t wean early - disease proliferates where hunger or flooding or other problems come. If you run out of food, you’ll make milk for a little while in a crisis. Keep the lives of babies and young children as stable and secure as possible, and watch their nutrition carefully. Prepare for older children in an unstable situation - buy clothes and shoes in larger sizes at yard sales, and help them understand what is happening. Be prepared to teach your kids at home for a while if necessary. Also be ready to take elderly people into your home, to check on neighbors. Stock extra medications, and have backup plans for caring for seniors and the disabled.

10. Support your local poverty support programs, and build new ones. Local food pantries and fuel assitance programs are stretched to the max. Show up at yours and help them find new sources of food - grow food for them, volunteer, raise funds. You may need them someday.

Now the neat thing about all of this is that if you do these things, you’ll save some money in the long run, get more exercise, eat better, have better tasting food, a happier neighborhood, and a greater degree of personal security. Most of these preparations can be undertaken for very little money - and some are free. So get too it, folks - mock away, but protect yourselves.



33 Responses to “The Time is Now”

  1. Anonymouson 25 Jul 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Well- these are all good things to do no matter what really. The only thing I would caution about re: storing food, is only store what you actually eat and be sure to do it-you know the whole rotate your food supply mantra. I got into storing some food back when the Y2K bit hit- just wan’t sure what would happen there- and I wasted quite a bit of food(and money) by not storing it properly so mice got into some, storing food that my family didn’t eat in general, and not using it up. I felt sick at the waste that resulted and have hopefully learned my lesson and am passing on what I learned.

  2. Weaseldogon 25 Jul 2007 at 6:24 pm

    As Anonymous said, all good advice at any time.

    I’ve been looking into water options such as cisterns. But money is getting tighter for us. We’ve less than a year of bankruptcy to go, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that there won’t be a cave in.

    In the mean time, I’ve continued to expand my gardens. My chicken population is holding steady at 9 + 1 birds. One is a semi-permanent visitor that escaped a neighbor and prefers my coop. I’ve returned her, and she comes right back.

    I’ve learned to butcher roosters, though as long as it takes me, I’d be fired from a farm in short order.

    this last year has been horrible for my garden, things looked good until the great flood came. After a few squash and cucumbers, I ended up with lots and lots of nothing but beans. That’s all that’s produced on cloudy days with daily showers.

    Now I’m sifting a compost pile and thinking about my fall garden.

  3. Anonymouson 25 Jul 2007 at 6:32 pm

    One think I like about your blog, Sharon, is that it gives hope — not the false hope of “the energy fairy is coming” — but hope if do certain things, life may go one for us and we may be able to help it go one for other people.

    Everything you list is doable (or being done) by me. (Except I haven’t gotten bleach into the water b/c I hate the idea of buying it.)


  4. shadowfooton 25 Jul 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Just posted on disaster preparedness on my journal last week! Friend of mine was suggesting doing something of the sort, with feedback/further ideas in the comments. Worked out pretty well. I didn’t give the whole disaster preparedness list (some of it’s dependent on the individual’s situation and location), but gave key words to use for their research.

    Then went into suggestions for water, food, shelter, clothing, etc. Tried to come up with more than one solution, since some people live in houses, some in apartments, some own, some rent, etc. We tried to come up with things that weren’t too expensive, since lots of people don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on preparations (Thank you, Freecycle!).

    L and my’s major weak spots are debt and long-term food stores.

    We’re working on the debt (and trying to spend less). I’ve been wanting to add more to the food stores, but have been putting it off this summer, because of work and packing up the house. Although I am doing a little canning here and there. Too much rain right now for dehydrating stuff. Lots more when the tomatoes start coming ripe!

    Currently we probably have only a month or two of food supplies (depending on how creative I got).

    The good news for us is, assuming things go well for a relative’s house bid, is that if/when they move, we’ll be taking over the 2nd floor apartment at L’s folks’ house. Then we can sell our house, pay off the card, and save up some money. (Keeps fingers crossed!)

    Oh, the farm has a cistern, a well, and a spring. But my FIL’s interested in trying out a rain barrel system too, which could be helpful for the truck garden (which will be getting expanded, if/when we make it up there).

    There are a few in our group of friends who are looking to move to the same general area, so that we’ll have a known network as well as whatever we can each build with the folks already there. It’s my hope that we can set ourselves up well enough that if need be we can take in a few more folks in the future.

    Heather G

  5. shadowfooton 25 Jul 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Oh, and not that I’m nearly as good a writer, but here’s a link to my preparedness post, if anyone’s interested:

  6. RASon 25 Jul 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Great post Sharon. I’m *trying* to do most of what you suggest. Composting toilets are very, very illegal here and I’m trying to find a way around it that won’t get me locked up it I get caught. My roof is made of some kind of icky toxic stuff so the only thing I can use rainbarrels for is ornamentals. (Thinking about doing it anyway, though.)

    I do have a couple of questions:
    1.) Do you know where to buy bulk grains, beans, etc, if you can’t find local sources?
    2.) How do you *properly* store these things? The only things I’ve been able to find on storing these items says not to store them in your garage -but not where or how to store them! aargghh..

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom with us!

  7. Weaseldogon 25 Jul 2007 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you for posting that bit about the ethanol boom causing starvation.

    I’ve been assured countless times over the years that this will not happen, because there’s just so much gosh darned unused farmland that could be used. We surely wouldn’t simply redirect food, straight into ethanol production would we?

    Now we see that in practice, it is a choice between driving and eating.

    So now, every time we fill up our tanks, we’re starving people to death in other countries.

    We are creating our own version of the Irish Potato famine. We have plenty of food, just not for eating.

  8. Weaseldogon 25 Jul 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Here’s a blog post on storing beans and grains.

  9. Anonymouson 25 Jul 2007 at 8:03 pm

    This post scares me. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and my husband does not make much. As is, we have no debt, no cell phone, no cable, old cars, a rented home–none of the American standards really. We do have a small garden, and we buy the bare minimum and pay for a few trips home each year. I don’t know what we will do if prices go up much more. We do a lot of what’s done in the name of the environment–but mostly it’s done b/c we are trying to survive on a very small income. I don’t know how hirable I am after so much time off of work. So anyway–if you have a reasonable amount of money, you are lucky. This news scares the heck out of me and all the others who are teetering on the American edge. Of course, I can hopefully go back to work if need be. Some are teetering without that option because they are already working and are still just scraping by.



  10. LimeSarahon 25 Jul 2007 at 9:16 pm

    As others have been saying, this is great advice regardless of the origin of the emergency.

    We’ve been starting to work on storing food…eating in bulk more is lending itself naturally to having slightly more nonperishable food around anyway.

    We’re also going to ask if we can install a rain barrel. I don’t have much hope for that, but if we get a good enough water filter, there’s the whole Charles River a short walk from our apartment.

  11. Red Cloudon 25 Jul 2007 at 11:54 pm

    I appreciate your reference to transportation poverty.

    The farmer from whom we buy our lamb and chicken told us that the price of feed is going up and that getting alfalfa and hay is difficult because much of the farmland that produced feed grass and corn is now being converted to production of crops for biofuels.

    Our enamorment with biofuels comes at a cost - the cost of the food we eat.

    And of course out here in the Willamette Valley, where we have some of the finest soils in the country and a geography that will make it even more valuable as farmland as climate change makes agriculture in other parts of the country more difficult, what do we do? We enact ballot initiatives that foster changing farmland into subdivisions.

  12. Anonymouson 26 Jul 2007 at 12:02 am

    I agree with much of what you write but I think you give the casual reader too much credit for intuitively knowing what you mean. For example, referring to water storage you wrote:

    “… add a little bleach and put it in a cool, dark place.”

    What is a ‘little’? Is this a teaspoon to a quart, a cup to a gallon? Or perhaps even just 2 or 3 DROPS to a gallon? Please clarify for those of us who are learning. I’d hate to poison myself (grin)

    Duane in West Michigan

  13. HRDeaneon 26 Jul 2007 at 12:23 am

    Thankyou for such an informative post…I do hope that in a decade we are all having a chuckle about how bad we thought it might get whilst having made some really positive changes to our lives. With all the available information, it does look as if these changes will have to be made regardless of any clever short term technology. Giving people the skills and knowledge now to prepare is a wonderful gift and your posts are probably the most successful in not framing the whole topic within a context of fanaticism and desperation. I suppose the most important thing is for everyone to keep their head on straight and to encourage a community response, which i am glad you emphasised. If neighbourhoods pooled their resources than I think a lot of the fear and anxiety would be manageable. You write exceptionally good, memorable and important posts , thankyou again.

  14. Kiashuon 26 Jul 2007 at 5:30 am

    I think there’s merit in what she says. A lot of talk of climate change and the like assumes quite gradual change, where in fact natural processes often have quite sudden changes.

    I think for example of a “supersaturated” solution. That’s where you add something to water, and normally that something would form crystals once it reached enough concentration. But sometimes it doesn’t - it goes past that level, and you keep adding and nothing changes. But then you add a tiny seed crystal and WHAMMO the whole test tube just got filled with crystal. Or perhaps you just tap the glass, and that tiny bit of turbulence you created was enough to send it over the edge.

    It’s the same with lots of other sorts of physical and chemical processes. I don’t see why the global system would be any different. I mean, we’re not talking about Day After Tomorrow nonsense, of course, but still.

    It doesn’t hurt to prepare, so long as you know that “prepare” doesn’t mean “sit with my assault rifle alone on top of a pile of tins of spam”, but rather build community, build skills, build resources.

    I thought the thing was well-summarised on the webpage of the house of Jeremey Cleby-Williams here, where he laid down the costs of his water recycling, solar panels and so on as $37,000 or so, then said “compare to Landruiser for $42,000, Pajero for $50,000″. So we seem quite hapy to spend money to be dependent, but not so happy to spend money to be self-sufficient…

  15. Alanon 26 Jul 2007 at 7:07 am

    To RAS and everyone else: Here is a link to the most recent version I can find of Alan T. Hagan’s “Prudent Food Storage FAQ”. This is a very useful and authoritative resource on food storage. I recommend it highly.

  16. Anonymouson 26 Jul 2007 at 10:58 am

    RE: sources for buying bulk grain,beans, rice, etc- if you don’t have a local grower- go to your cooperative foodstore- most areas have one- they will generally let you special order whole bags of grain, beans, etc- anything that they sell in their bulk bins actually- and will have it for you to pick up at the store when it comes in with their orders.

  17. chaos girlon 26 Jul 2007 at 11:43 am

    Hi Sharon-

    I linked to your blog from No Impact Man, who annoys me for a reason I can’t quite explain. But, that’s beside the point.

    I love your blog. I think you do a great job providing such valuable information.

    Your entries are written in such a way that first induces pretty severe panic in me, as I’m prone to helpless panic. But, then, with the way that you provide useful info on preparedness in such an accesible way, I find myself inspired to do something about my panic.

    So, my point is just to say thank you for sharing your knowledge here.


  18. Anonymouson 26 Jul 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Excellent. Most I already do, but some I’ve never thought of.

    I would add catagory #11: learn to sing, narrate books, direct skits and plays, or some other morale-boosting group activity. Games: Charades, board games, card games, etc; will all be useful. Whatever can be done joyfully with other people may save lives, also.

    A water-preserving formula calculated from data in Handbook of Chemistry & Physics: 1 tsp Chlorox in 5 oz water. Then use 2 tsp of the mix per 5 gallons of water. We used this once for about 2 years in roof-runoff water, and it didn’t kill us. Let the mixture sit open overnight before using. And don’t expect Sharon to feed you every step of the way. She gives the whats, but the hows may vary, and that’s your responsibility.

    Keeping food from mice: Metal garbage cans, washed or lined with a plastic bag, and tightened with a bungie cord. The cans can be stacked if you turn the lower can’s lid upside-down. Mice can get in if the lid isn’t tightened somehow. Small amounts keep well in canning jars with their metal lids. Canning jars are some of the most useful things in the kitchen anyway. Everyone should have several cases in different sizes. That’s what I used to store my water-preserving formula. But there are lots of other ways. Think.

  19. Weaseldogon 26 Jul 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Sharon some of those links you posted look to be trimmed by the editor.

    If you use the Create Link Button, you can highlight any text and turn it into a url that can simply be clicked on to activate.

  20. Anonymouson 26 Jul 2007 at 5:20 pm

    we may need this!

  21. Anonymouson 26 Jul 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Great posting, Sharon. I’ve been seeing your blog linked at for some time, and always read it with interest.

    RAS, you and others asked about where to get bulk foods. Walton Feed sells nitrogen-packed grains and other foods. Wheat, for example, in their 45-pound SP bucket, will store for 10+ years if kept at 70 degrees F. or less.

    Here are two links, the first to the Walton Feed site, the second to Walton’s page on how long foods can be stored (and the variables for that).

    Walton Feed

    Storage Life of Dry Foods

    Also, in terms of growing one’s own food, here’s a family of four in Pasadena, CA who are growing 3+ tons per year on 1/10 acre. Their web site has lots of helpful information, and is quite an inspiration:

    Path to Freedom

  22. Weaseldogon 26 Jul 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Anonymous, I am amazed at how much they get out of that plot.

    But they also truck in a lot of compost. It seems they have a neighbor who keeps a giant compost pile in his backyard.

    Still this is neighborhood cooperation at work.

    And it is very impressive.

  23. Anonymouson 27 Jul 2007 at 1:44 am

    Hi Sharon and thanks for a wonderful, solutions-focused, contribution to the unfolding crisis. I think a really valuable thing to do is get active now. We need to organise ourselves around existing groups (eg Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace - at least here in the UK) and carry their campaigns to those in power. This will help those who feel disempowered/disenfranchised to become engaged, rather than trying to prepare alone and feeling helpless, as some of the follow up contributors appeared to feel to me. I also feel it is more realistic; won’t debt (mortages etc) be insignificant in a post peak and/or climate destroyed world. For example, I can’t imagine that a starving person who has been booted out of his or her home is going to refuse to steal from a mortgage paid household. Fleeing for the hills won’t work either. What we need, I feel, are political solutions. I know the USA has voted for Bushy twice now, please don’t do it again. Then we’ll try not to get similar twats in the UK.

  24. sharonon 27 Jul 2007 at 11:52 am

    I just discovered this blog, and it’s great to come across a discussion of the many possible collapse scenarios we may face from a feminine perspective. The menfolk are all about self-defense preparedness against the urban hordes, wilderness survival, and, in many cases, going it alone or nearly alone.

    Sure, we do need to realize that a time of collapse will be a dangerous period, but community is far more critical to survival than repelling enemies and competitors.

    There is even one blogger out there who feels that food-raising is a bad idea, that it will make you a target. What I believe is that both your produce and your skills will make you an asset to your community.

    I live in a rural area about an hour (by car) outside a large city, but I think that the dreaded urban hordes should be considered as potential assets to rural communities. Rural areas have thousands of acres of land, which will be perfectly valueless without mechanized agriculture and which should be treated as commons. The urban hordes have hands.

    One suggestion I’d make to anyone who is into storing food is to get into converting bulk dried soybeans into soy products: soymilk, tofu, and tempeh. These are all easily made at home, and it’s good to reflect that a bunch of dried soybeans can be converted into a nutritious substitute for meat, milk, eggs–even soap. The whey left over from tofu-making was traditionally used in Japan for washing hair, clothing, dishes, floors–in fact, everything.

    To make tempeh you need an incubator, and the kind used to hatch poultry eggs works great–not only for making tempeh, but also for making yogurt and keeping bread warm while it rises. Such an incubator could, of course, also be used to hatch eggs. They do operate on electricity, however, so the truly prepared may want to have an inverter (at a minimum) and, preferably a small solar panel and a hot (preferably marine) battery and charge controller. There’s lots of stuff on other sites about setting up a minimal solar back-up capability that is not completely unaffordable.

    I have a cistern, since I live in the country, and I have a rainwater collection system partially set up. Some of it needs to be re-done, because I was unaware that you can buy downspout adapters especially intended for rainwater collection. Right now I have patched-together fittings that were quite unnecessary. But their replacements are now lying in the yard waiting to be installed.

    I’d appreciate some input from weaseldog about keeping poultry. I have had very bad luck with this.

  25. RJon 27 Jul 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Great stuff Sharon..
    Keep it up..

  26. shadowfooton 27 Jul 2007 at 1:44 pm

    For Tara:

    It is kind of scarey, if you don’t feel you’re prepared for emergencies or a major change of life. But the fact that you don’t have debt is a HUGE positive. Most people do (I do - school loans, mortgage, and one credit card).

    Just a few thoughts to send your way:

    1) Do you use a clothes dryer or hang your clothes up? Dryers use a lot of electricity (or coins if you go to a laundromat). We have some lines out back, plus a wood dryer rack indoors (amazing how much it can hold), and in winter I get creative and hang things from the bed frame (rectangular ‘canopy’ style), the shower curtain rod, etc.

    2) Try buying some of the extra food/water for storage a little at a time. Even one or two items per shopping trip will eventually add up to more food security, without breaking the budget.

    3) Any chance of moving closer to “home”? Any jobs that are at least comparable to what your husband earns now? That could save you some money on those few trips home, plus if things really do get worse, your network of help is closer by — and so is theirs.

    4) If you can’t move, see what’s available in your area for community outreach, free activities, ways to connect to people in your area. Build community. The more people you know, and who know you, the better off you all will be. And who knows? Opportunities to save money, make money, share in some cooperative project, etc., make come up as a result of these connections.

    To Red Cloud:
    Does the farmer you know do any grazing of his lamb and chickens? Chickens are a little tricky, but he could make an enclosed area, or cages with little rollers on the bottom edge. Grass is good for both lambs and chickens, and will help bring the feed costs down a little. Yes, we tried it ourselves — brought some grass in to give the chickens, just to see if it was worth the effort of grazing them, and they went for it. Up to 30% of their diet can come from pasturing, if the pasture’s decent quality.

    Heather G

  27. Scoton 27 Jul 2007 at 3:25 pm

    I want to add to this list. It sprung to my mind at your ‘get to know your neighbors.’

    In a world that is going to have less oil, we really need to recommit ourselves to community and by that I mean what I will call ‘The Commons’

    What has happened in the modern economy is that we have become individuals consuming goods, rather than persons in a community.

    I can give an example. A book at borders that I buy vs. a book at the library I can borrow. The bought book is read once and then it generally sits on my shelf forever or until I give it to goodwill or throw it away. The book at the library gets read over and over and over. Bought once by the community and read by individuals for FREE. That is the commons.

    Car vs. public transport. I go and buy one car, that I use only when I need it. It sits unused most of every day. Or I can ride a publicly used vehicle that gets used by everybody all the time. From the standpoint of subsidy, the roads and cars are far more heavily subsidised than the public transport is. In many places public transport is again free.

    The common garden. The common transport mode. The common library. What we need to do is reconnect again as a community, and provide our basic services outside the economic exchange. That is what makes us feel ‘wealthy’ rather than money. An individual consuming goods feels wealthy only if they have lots of money. A person in a communtiy feels wealthy all the time!


  28. Weaseldogon 27 Jul 2007 at 3:47 pm

    New Sharon, here’s a wonderful site where I learned a lot about chickens from.

    If you have any questions or want to talk about the troubles you’ve had, feel free to send me an email at:

    [email protected]

    I’m in a suburb in the D/FW metroplex, so I don’t have some of the problems others have. Predators are few. I’ve raised my dogs with chickens and they protect my flock. One dog is a border collie / Rottweiller mix who thinks he’s responsible for them. He loves to herd them back to the pen when they get loose. At a year old, he’s getting chicken herding down to a science.

    I keep ten birds in a pen that I’m told will hold 30 birds. I also have a second area that I let get overgrown and seed with leftover garden seeds. Then when it looks like it needs mowing, I let them forage there for a while.

    And finally, I’ve learned their normal behaviors and I can tell when they aren’t acting right. I Also pay attention the their poo, as that’s where you’ll often see the first sign of parasites.

  29. Homebrewlibrarianon 27 Jul 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I’ve been reading these blogs with interest for a while. All good advice but for one thing - there’s only so much you can do in Alaska. I have a number of useful skills (I actually CAN sew my own clothing well but it took doing it for many years to get to that level of skill, but knit? What’s that?) and can create connections and relationships within my community BUT…

    Alaska is not the best place for growing your own food. That’s not to say that some folks haven’t been successful at it but they are very few. They also have to have greenhouses to get things started in advance because the ground isn’t warm enough to plant seeds until late May. I have done gardening in more generous climes (south central Wisconsin) but to make it work so that you can feed yourself through the non-gardening season in Alaska requires very intensive gardening on a pretty good sized chunk of land. Unfortunately, I live in an apartment with almost no yard with a new property owner who is not interested in me digging up a good sized chunk of the south facing property (which just happens to be on the front side of the building). So I subscribe to the local CSA farm (about 50 miles away but they have a drop off in town once a week) which will be good until the first week of October. Most of what I’ve been getting from them is salad greens which really don’t lend themselves well to long term storage. I have also subscribed to a CSA out of Washington state that has a pretty impressive distribution network in Alaska but I suspect as oil prices rise, that option will become too expensive for most Alaskans.

    In my quest to locate and use local and sustainable foods, I’ve joined a raw milk group (we all own cow shares) and buy eggs from a woman who lets her chickens forage on their two acres of land. Trouble is, the farm where we collect milk is nearly a two hour drive and the lady with chickens is easily an hour a way. At least with the milk group, we all take turns running out to the farm to get milk for the whole group but I haven’t found anyone near where I live who has a side business of selling their chickens’ eggs. I have yet to find anyone even within two hours that sustainably raises meat animals. I’m thankful I don’t require a lot of meat in my diet. One good thing about Alaska is the availability of fish. Many people I know fish for salmon and halibut and almost always have more than they can consume. I’m happy to make trades or just be a lucky recipient.

    Oh, and there are a few community gardens here but nowhere near where I live and the waiting lists are enormous. I have a friend with land out about an hour from here but that’s not really feasible unless I were to move there (but then the commute would be dreadful).

    Given how much of an effort it is to eat locally much less sustainably, I have begun to think about my options should costs rise beyond my means. Certainly, I’d work with others to make it work for all of us but I think if it truly got hard, I’d have to leave Alaska for less harsh conditions.

    And just this week a report about the effects of climate change on Alaska’s infrastructure was released:

    The report isn’t about next year but the next couple decades or longer. Still, I’m worried.

    Virtually everything needed to operate in Alaska is shipped in. There’s no manufacturing industry, very little agriculture and almost no processing facilities for finished products such as lumber or metal pipe. If there was widespread collapse in the US, frankly, we’d all be screwed. Then there’d be either a mass migration out or desperate situations or both.

    Even the Native Alaskan population would have difficulty since they’ve been successfully seduced into the “American way.” Many native peoples have completely lost all knowledge of their traditional subsistance foodways. In some ways, they are worse off than the Anglo residents because they don’t have a history of eating a varied (mostly Western in origin) diet. If any group of people has trouble with obesity, it’s the Native Alaskans. As a group they also have serious health (physical and mental) issues. So it’s not like the non-Natives can turn to them for advice on appropriate Alaskan subsistance living.

    Nonetheless, I’m the eternal optimist. I ride my bike when the conditions allow and, even though I own a car, I’ll be looking into bus transportation for the winter. I recycle or reuse almost everything. I compost - at a friend’s place since I can’t have a composter here. I unplug or turn off as much as I can around my apartment. I’ve been teaching others how to lower their footprint on the planet. Even if times got bad, it would still be possible to live here successfully, if way more frugally.

    Sharon, I know you can only speak from your own experience and that is valuable in and of itself. Much of what you recommend would work anywhere but some key things (growing your own food and harvesting your own water to name two) would be more than just changing your lifestyle and putting out a little more effort to do in Alaska.

    Just a little different perspective from the Last Frontier. Thanks for insights.


  30. Kiashuon 28 Jul 2007 at 2:25 am

    Another Sharon said, “The menfolk are all about self-defense preparedness against the urban hordes, wilderness survival, and, in many cases, going it alone or nearly alone.”

    Hey, not all of us menfolk. I was on one site where eople asked what was being done to prepare, and one bloke described his sixteen different types of firearms - that’s right, sixteen.

    I call it the “Assault rifles & Spam” idea of preparation. I tried to point out that one man with guns and a lot of stuff will lose it to two, and two to three, and so on, so that really more important was community and skills. But they weren’t keen on that.

    Even supposing a Mad Max scenario (which I don’t think is realistic or likely), having skills means the crazies want to keep you alive; and in the more likely less violent scenarios, skills are always useful. And a community is good for sharing skills, no-one can do everything by themselves. But more importantly, it’s not enough to be able to live, you need something to live for, and a community is that.

  31. Alfredo Armando Aguirreon 30 Jul 2007 at 2:03 pm

    14Hi Shanon: If you can read Spanish,you can see that I came saying similar concepts from long time ago.
    Please pay a visit to my paperslist:
    Greetings from argentina

  32. jewishfarmeron 31 Jul 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Kerri - You make an excellent point - thank you! All preparations are local - and the more localized our lives are, the more local our choices will have to be.

    I don’t know much about Alaska, but I would tend to guess that in your case, “forage your own food” might be more helpful than “grow” - in a place with lots and lots of wild foods and not a great growing season, maybe it would make sense to think in terms of wild foods. We do this too, but you have so many more options, and so much less human-habitation to disrupt them.

    But yes, this is a useful and important critique.



  33. Anonymouson 04 Aug 2007 at 2:49 am

    Hey Heather G.,

    Thanks for your response. I am going to do some of what you recommended, and we are working on moving. Thanks for noticing how scary some of this can be.

    All the best,


Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply