Like You Mean It

Sharon December 30th, 2008

I have been very fortunate in the response that I’ve gotten to my writings.  After all, you can pretty much sum up my analysis as “you are going to have to live a radically different life than you are now, let’s get at it.”  You’d think that I’d get a lot of shit for it – and I do get some, of course.  But for the most part, people are extremely nice about the fact that I am telling them something that isn’t a lot of fun to hear.

Now many of the people who are kindest and most supportive of my work, are also people, who, to be blunt, have absolutely no intention of making radical changes in their lifestyle.  It is quite common for me to hear someone tell me just how much they love my work, and for it to become absolutely clear in our conversation that while they may well believe in some ways that lives may change, that I may have a point, at a fundamental and deep level they know that they will not be one of those people struggling, and that their ecological impact and choices are perfectly reasonable, and that there is no reason whatsoever to discuss them. 

Now I am a normal person, and perfectly capable of hanging out with people who respect my work but don’t necessarily agree with everything I say, or who aren’t ready to implement my ideas.  Everything takes time, and people come to ideas in their own ways.  But I admit, it worries me.  I recognize that there isn’t much I can do about the people who outright reject my thinking, or think I’m a complete whack-job, but I find myself genuinely concerned by people who cannot fully imagine themselves among those who need to grow food to eat, or really unemployed and without a safety net.

Don’t get me wrong – I think some people will be ok, and that some people are acting from perfectly reasonable assumptions.  At the same time, I think it is worth noting how rapidly we are watching institutions and people who we once were sure were completely secure simply fall apart – Bernie Madoff ‘fesses up, and one day there are a bunch of old ladies who are pretty much destitute.  One day we are certain that nothing could bring down X or Y business or bank – only to find that six months later, it is in the process of vanishing without a trace.  The fact is, our sense of security as it exists now can be undermined rapidly – and the time to prepare for such an evaporation is when it seems barely possible, not after it has happened. 

I get nervous when people email me and say that they know that they are secure because they work as a teacher or for X or Y business.  They may be right, of course, but it seems increasingly like that states and municipalities may not be able to pay the bills, or that businesses that seemed recession proof, aren’t.  I worry when people tell me that they feel like their investments are probably ok, because we’re near a bottom, or when they say they are sure their house will still sell, or that if they just refinance at the new low, they’ll be ok.  I don’t argue – I might well be wrong, after all, but it worries me.

And because of that worry, I’m just going to ask this.  As you go through and make your resolutions to be a better person next year, consider this one.  Resolve to spend five minutes a week asking “what if I actually had to not just say Sharon might be right, but act it, live life like I meant it?”  You can still think that I’m a little over the edge, I don’t mind, heck you can even praise me less and complain about me more for making demands of you.  But I admit, I’d sleep better knowing that you’d covered yourself, just in case.  Because somehow the strange scenarios don’t seem quite as strange any more. 

I don’t mind if you think I’m crazy – in fact, I’m fine with that.  But if there’s a little part of you that thinks that just possibly I might not be, try, for a bit, to live it like you mean it.  I’ll let you yell at me later if I wasted your time, promise ;-) .


66 Responses to “Like You Mean It”

  1. nikaon 30 Dec 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Case in point re: the biggies suffering – how about Sears?

    “Retailers may close 73,000 stores in the first half of 2009, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Talbots Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. are among chains shuttering underperforming locations.”

    Probably 50,000 stores could close without any effect on consumer choice, Gregory Segall, a managing partner at buyout firm Versa Capital Management Inc., said this month during a panel discussion held at Bloomberg LP’s New York offices.

    The ICSC predicts, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that 148,000 stores will shut down in 2008.


  2. (: Sunshine :)on 30 Dec 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I am! I do! I’m TRYING!

    And I always have, at least to some degree; I’ve always been interested/concerned about my impact on this earth, long before we ever used the word “footprint” in an environmental context.

    My preferred mode of transportation has always been shoe leather (although now that I have a trailer, lately I’ve been pretty happy with my bicycle too!)

    I have ALWAYS had a pantry of SOME kind; even living in a teeny bachelor apartment, I had a long open bookcase double as a wall, with books on one side and my repository of rice, beans and other staples on the other.

    AND, I have always, always, always, been a belt AND suspenders kind of gal; I didn’t just have a plan and a backup plan, but a backup, backup plan. :)

    I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m getting there.

    Reading this blog just makes be better informed and more apprehensive. :0

    (But I do appreciate you, Sharon!)

  3. MEAon 30 Dec 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I like coming here becuase it means there are other people who don’t think I’m crazy.

    What I’m hearing a lot is “well, guess you made a lucky guess about the economy, but of course it will recover in 2010 or 2011 (most people seem to accept that 2009 is a lost year) and if you are right about PO (and maybe you are) that’s great becuase there will be lots of incentive to develope alternative energy, and that will take care of the GCC you keep going on about.”

    I’m starting to think people don’t realize what hit them until they are look at it in the rear view mirror.

  4. Meadowlarkon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:09 pm

    We discussed this before, that even though a lot of people feel like “public service” is a job that will always be “safe”, I don’t buy it. This article bears that out. There simply is no “SAFE” field.

    Thanks for pushing Sharon. You follow your heart even when it my be unpopular, and that is something to be proud of.

  5. KatJon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing your research and time with all of us, Sharon. I have recommended your book to all of my friends and family. Of course, no one wants to hear the “doomsday message”, but that really isn’t the point, is it? What they consider gloom-and-doom really is a call to action. No one wants to believe that our cushy way of life is fading into the sunset. I, for one, am very fond of my clothes dryer, but have opted to hang the clothes out on the line, much to the chagrin of my husband, who has offered to buy me a washtub and scrub board. (I told him that he could get them for me for Christmas.) Likewise with the dishwasher. It drives him crazy that I now wash the dishes by hand (at least until he saw how much it saved us on the electric bill!) I know these are baby steps, but I am also planning a garden, and plan to get goats and chickens to supplement our food supply. I live just outside of a small village, and my doctor’s office, pharmacy, grocery, post office, hardware store and library are all on Main Street. This past summer we even had a farmer’s market. It was mostly craft stuff, but I’m sure it will improve. We homeschool, but I am active in the PTO at the elementary school (actually I’m the president – the principal is a wonderfully open-minded soul). I am also a girl scout leader. I think that it is important to stay active in the community so that when the time comes to implement changes, I will have a group of people who trust my judgement and will back me up. I agree with you (and others) who believe that this crisis will change our world for the better if we can use it to create community rather than hide out in our homes with our hoarded canned goods and wait for everyone else to starve. (Robin Wheeler’s book ‘Food Security for the Faint of Heart’ has an amusing section called ‘Men will come with guns and take your food’ and ‘Women will come with food and take your guns’.)
    So take heart, Sharon. The message is getting out there. Yes, there are many who don’t want to hear what you have to say – they don’t want to hear any bad news – but there are those of us who are very grateful to you for all your research and willingness to share. Peace!

  6. Ginaon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:37 pm


    It was stumbling across your blog ~2 years ago that made me make the leap from “doing the right thing for the enviornment and others” to “moving to a low-impact life for the enviornment, others and *myself*”. I can now clearly see a future where my efforts to grow, pereserve, and store food, live without a car, etc. are a necessity.

    I too am concerned that many persons around me (including close family members) simply cannot fathom a future where they will never “retire”, where they will not have the luxury of driving to a store to find everything only a credit card swipe away, where they will be choosing between food and medicine. As this crisis deepens, I am being more and more open about the measures we are taking to live sustainably. While I get a lot of comments that “this is just another recession” and that “everything will be back to normal in a couple of years” I am also starting to occasionally get questions “how bad do you think it could get?”. I am hopeful that people will start to “get it” while there is still time to soften the blow.

  7. Wendyon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I think you can also stress that even if you’re completely wrong, and even if nothing more than what has already happened happens, that doing the things you have recommended will have very positive consequences – specifically, the things you have been recommending allow for life with less money, which means in modern American society, eventually being debt-free, which is very desirable, even if life as we know it today continues.

    And the flip-side is that if you’re right, and we all find ourselves dropped into the middle of Camp TEOTWAWKI, those of us who have pared down our lives will be much more comfortable.

    Personally, if I have to be in Camp TEOTWAWKI, I want to be the one who packed the toilet paper and extra socks and not the poor sucker with poison ivy on her nether regions and frost bite on her toes ;) .

    And if nothing happens, my house will be paid off, I have some of the most fertile soil in suburbia, my children have learned some very valuable skills, and my husband can quit his soul-sucking corporate job and focus his energies on just enjoying life.

    Either way, it’s win/win.

    And that is how I convinced my husband that I wasn’t crazy … :) .

  8. Abbieon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I’m a teacher, and I believe that if our lives change radically, as you describe, my job may not be secure. I have a 20 minute communte (which is pretty short as many commutes go), and in a depleted world, I may not be able to get to work. Or schools may be regionalized, or more kids may be home schooled, or we may not be able to afford future childcare, or I may need to devote more time to raising food, or I may decide to stay at home. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. No matter how secure you think your job is, it’s good to have a contingency plan.

  9. Steven Earl Salmonyon 30 Dec 2008 at 5:58 pm

    The dangerous devotion of so many leaders to a “business as usual” status quo as well as to unbridled global economic growth and outrageous per capita overconsumption could prove to be lethal for our children also to worship because these forms of idolatry could soon become patently unsustainable on a relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planet like the planetary home which God has blessed us to inhabit……and not to ravage as the leading elders in my “Not So GREAT GREED GRAB Generation” have been advocating so religiously and doing so recklessly in these early years of Century XXI.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  10. Danon 30 Dec 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Hi Sharon,
    On a personal level, wife & I have seen the writing on the wall for several years and have prepared ourselves. We gave up preaching to relatives and friends years ago. Too many silly looks and lectures about paranoia… and the ever expected life saving techno advance that’ll save us all from ourselves.
    We watched everyone scramble and panic after the recent ice storm, watched them from our warm house, the Stanley & the basement stove worked fine, as they always do. The generator was ready before the first tree came down, and an hour a day kept our freezers of home raised pork and chicken nicely frozen.
    The kerosene lamps and battery radio were a nice diversion from the white light of electric lights and vacuum tubes… and gave me a chance to start reading your book!
    It’s nice to know we’re not alone.
    So now, WHO’S CRAZY?


  11. peter in Auston 30 Dec 2008 at 6:13 pm

    An awful lot of people say… if your right… when things change… if nothing happens… etc etc . As Sharon has repeatedly advised of the perils we face along with others , the troubled times are here now and they are very real indeed.JUST PREPARE NOW. regards Peter.

  12. Crunchy Chickenon 30 Dec 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Most people act based on two motivations: 1. they do something because they want to do it (for whatever reason) or 2. they have to do something because they have no choice. Few people will act in such a big way as you are suggesting based on a, basically, nebulous premise: that society will collapse and we must be prepared.

    Here’s the issue: any predictions about the future are just that – conjecture. For any one person (or househould) to weather such dire predictions as you have been making, they would need to most likely move, pay off their homes, change their jobs and a variety of other things. These are huge changes to expect from people based on something they consider to be merely a guess at the future.

    Looking at the past, Americans have no tools for comprehending any major or radical change. During most adults’ lifetimes, there has been little economic upheaval or crises to draw experience upon. Asking them to do something that goes contrary to their view of the world is one thing and it has nothing to do with how “crazy” you are. It’s a matter of convincing people that you are right, or believe that you are right.

    Here’s the problem I have with it. If TSHTF, I would have to move or sell my home if I lost my job, so any preparations like building a massive garden, raising animals or stockpiling food is essentially futile because I couldn’t take these things with me. I am unwilling to prophylactically move out to the sticks into a house I can afford to pay off with enough land to provide for us because it’s a quality of life issue. I wouldn’t be close enough to work to justify the extra hours of commute to pay for said house and critters, etc. And, frankly, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t be able to defend that homestead if things got bad enough that I should be out there in the first place.

    So, where does that leave me? With really just the mental preparation of knowing that I can handle a crisis and the ability to deal with it at that time. If it happens. And I’m fine with that.

  13. sueinithacaon 30 Dec 2008 at 7:00 pm

    We’ve been on on a path to self-sufficiency for several years ago. Sometime in the late ’90’s (in my early-twenties) we looked around ourselves and realized that most of our socioeconomic cohort (middle class white academics) were pretty darn helpless. A bit like domestic cats, but without teeth or claws. And that struck me as awfully pathetic. Here were all of these college-educated, privileged people who couldn’t even cook dinner much less make clothing, grow food, or cope with an emergency. And what’s worse, they weren’t interested in learning (they still aren’t). What a sad way to live.

    That was years before PO/global warming/TEOWAWKO concerns even came into the picture. Now that they are, it’s a little extra incentive to step up the pace.

    We live in a house that is about 1/2 the size of our peers (professors at an Ivy League university), drive old cars, and grow our own food. We are generally regarded as eccentric. Or “precious” as I was recently called (when a friend learned that I’ve been lacto-fermenting the vegetables that don’t get picked up by CSA members). One of my hopes is that we will have prepared ourselves adequately enough to help our friends who did not.

  14. Brendaon 30 Dec 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Oh, ack. I thought for a while reading your post that you were talking about me. Could I be that smug, so comfortable in my place in the world? I feel like it sometimes, as I swing back and forth between “we’ll be fine” and “we need to buy that farm now”, always tempered by “but what if we can’t sell the house?”

    Without getting too schmaltzy, do you know the movie As Good as it Gets? There’s a scene where the Helen Hunt character tells the Jack Nicholson character “give me a compliment, now” (or something to that effect). And the Jack Nicholson character says “you make me want to be a better person” (or something to that effect). That’s how I feel reading your blog and book. So thank you.

  15. virginiaon 30 Dec 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I love Brenda’s quote. You make me want to be a better person, Sharon.

    Of course you realize that in your blog you are “preachin’ to the choir”, as we say down south here. Although I am noticing that the Average American is slowly waking up, gradually, to the realization that life as we know it is changing. Time to think ahead for a change, instead of just reacting.

    Your Dec. 5th post: “Feed Someone Else” made such an impression on me that our annual holiday party Evite invitations this year included a request for donations to the local food bank. And what a haul of nonperishables and canned goods we piled up, next to delicious potluck dishes to share. It was our best party yet. Never would have occurred to me to do that, if not for you. And I here I am, selfish suburbanite with a giant carbon footprint. You truly are a force for positive change. Like Crunchy Chicken, I don’t see myself selling our place to move to a rural environ and go all Sharon. Totally not practical at this point. But, you are teaching me so much. I look forward to your every post.

  16. Con 30 Dec 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Your statements don’t fall on deaf ears for us but even those of our friends who believe, really don’t believe. Not to the depth of a total change in life-style.

    We do this stuff, we are working toward the more rural application, but have a 3 acre farm in the city now. We may not have everything incorporated into daily life but have learned most and have the tools to do so, should the need arise. We have chosen to make that change as fast as we can whether you are right or not. Frankly, to give the sceptics a little space, it is very difficult, resource intensive and exhausting to live two lives at once, especially when it doesn’t seem like you really have to. Unfortunately, that doesn’t buy them any time. But we believe that we will really have to and have been blessed enough to be able to work on it now.

  17. JaneyMon 30 Dec 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Hey, Sharon, I just finished your book – great job! The bibliography looks like my library and it is so nice to find a like-minded person. I have gotten used to blank looks when I talk about Peak Oil, climate change and food security, especially now when gas prices are low. And of course no one wants to hear that the low prices now are setting the stage for shortages and even higher prices later on. Oh well. This year I am taking a Master Gardener course, to learn more about gardening and to connect with other gardeners and the state agricultural people. I have adult children and several grandchildren and am worried about feeding and keeping them healthy in the future. I especially enjoyed your advice for the suburbanite with a small yard. It is amazing how much can be done in a small space. Most people don’t realize how much food you can actually grow in your yard.
    Years ago my family lived in an old house, with a wood stove for supplemental heat, a gravity-feed water system and a gas hot water heater. We had invited our extended family over for dinner on Christmas Eve, and lost power about 2 hours before everyone was due to arrive. We put the food on the wood stove to finish cooking and keep warm, and lit candles and kerosene lamps. It was beautiful and we were complimented on the special atmosphere we had created. No one realized that the electricity was out until we told them! I learned a lot from that experience, and always keep extra water stored for flushing and washing up. I live in a more conventional house now, but have hooked up rainbarrels, have a food storage area, and a wood stove in the basement. The trick is to do what you can do, wherever you are. Don’t be discouraged because you can’t be totally self-sufficient. If you start something in a small way, you can always expand on it. But do something!
    And smile at those blank looks you get. Those same people will be asking you for advice by and by.

  18. Shambaon 30 Dec 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I’ve taken your ideas seriously enough to try a few of them–food storage, cooking from scratch, making some of my own bread!, using a solar oven, etc., etc. And those that I’ve tried have worked out quite well. So, I don’t see why I should stop believing that your ideas are probable now, so I’ll keep on reading you! :)

    Happy new Year to All, With Enough of everything to keep us content but not so content we won’t try something new things,


  19. rhonda jeanon 30 Dec 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Like Crunchy, I believe it’s got nothing to do with you being crazy. I also believe you can live simply and frugally anywhere, even in the city. It takes a change in mindset to live with less, not a necessarily a change in location.

    Having said that though, I live in a semi-rural area, have a year round veg and fruit garden, have no debt and spend very little. We have a grocery and food stockpile, store water in large tanks and have some solar power. I feel prepared but still feel anxious about what will happen.

  20. Jenon 30 Dec 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I came to your site after we had accepted PO, etc., but thanks to you I am starting the RIOT in a few days. We are already at 30% with lots and it’s the electricity I’m working most on. I’m using my dryer for the last time tomorrow:( I do love the dryer. We are also serious about gardening, planted blueberry bushes and an apple tree this fall. In Febuary we are digging up the front yard for herbs and strawberries. I already have my seeds from Baker’s Creek and am planing the beds we built this fall. My amazing 70-something neighbors are right on board with us, but then they were children in the GD.

  21. curiousalexaon 30 Dec 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I suspect a lot of people see your work as “You *might* have to live a radically different life, and here is how you might do it”. Because the things you discuss and warn of are radically outside their sphere of experience and far beyond their comfort levels.

  22. Mrs. M, North Central Maon 30 Dec 2008 at 9:26 pm

    No argument here, Sharon. I just started a small garden this last season as a test to see if it would work. I have a much larger garden planned for the coming planting season. I will be doing a lot of canning and freezing of all that I harvest. I have also been canning and freezing left-overs from dinners that I make now, for another time. I have gone back to making my own breads too.

    I have an area of my garden planned for many different types of herbs. Some are being planted for food seasonings, others to be used in old style herbal home remedies. I know that I will have more than what I will need, so I plan on taking some to the local Farmer’s Market and hopefully making a bit of money selling fresh herbs. I heard from someone who works the market, that many people were asking about fresh herbs.

    I have a neighbor that lives somewhat in the Amish style. He does a lot of his cooking outdoors over a fire pit. He is going to be adding a brick oven to it this spring. He said he won’t mind teaching me about baking in a brick oven, or other methods of baking without electricity. This need came around when we lost power here in the Northeast for days. I can use my stove to cook on as it uses gas. My oven, though, needs electricity as it has digital controls on it.

    I have been trying to talk to many of my neighbors and family members to get them to see what is headed our way. A lot of people often turn a deaf ear to what I am trying to warn them of. Too many people just want to continue living in the same manner that they have been and they feel that nothing is going to change that. SOMEONE will step in and make sure that we will have all the energy we need, or the government will fix ALL our problems, so….no more problems! It has been discouraging.

    Thankfully I do have a couple of neighbors that DO believe. I hope that with us as examples, that maybe we can get others to jump on the bandwagon. I am afraid though, that we may not the time!

  23. peteon 30 Dec 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Sharron and all.

    I don’t comment on here much but you are on the short list of sites that I check in on each time I get on-line. I think I understand entirely what you are saying with this one – and it relates in part to your post a few weeks back about self discipline.

    I’ve been thinking about these issues for many years and it has often struck me how even many of those who are well aware of things like effects of environmental degradation don’t actually always live like we mean it all the time. This includes me. I manage to accomplish most of my personal transport by bicycle – but not all. And what are the circumstances that are likely to get me into the car? Among them is a need to get out of town now and then and get to the national parks for some walking or camping. Same goes for air travell – I can count the number of airplane trips in my life on my fingers, and all within Australia, but half of them were for the purpose of bushwalking trips – is that ironic or what!

    As for preparedness a-la Sharron. Well right now it’s about zilch. I’m renting and there is no space for a real garden – plus I have to be out of this place in march any way – I have a few lettuce growing in a corner that is way too shaddy for them really but that hardly constitutes survival. I’ve been experimenting with seeing how well zuccini and pumpkin can grow largely left to their own devises hidden in the bush on public land. Not doing real well – nothing to harvest yet – Nov was very dry and I couldn’t get to water them much – and the soil around here is poor.

    I’m on the verge of deleting all this as I’m starting to think I sound like a crackpot even on this forum. Well at least I have my camping gear and my bike (and no debt) but the dream of owning land is long vanished. Wherever I go I always keep a lookout for places I could camp for free and undetected if I have to.


  24. Traverse Davieson 30 Dec 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I actually come from a much weirder perspective than most. My father is totally prepped, he lives in the jungle and might or might not have access to electricity at any given time. My mother lives in a commune (albeit an urban artists commune) that has wood for heat to backup the furnace, gas stove that still functions when power is down, grows some of its own food and is a couple of blocks from a community garden. One of the people who lives there, only lives there in the winter as he runs an organic farm the other three seasons (with others, some of whom stay for the winter). I, on the other hand, am woefully unprepared. My house is mortgaged, although it is a small house. It has no heat without power, no way to cook food. I have skills, but don’t have money at the moment. I am one of the victims of the current crisis, actually I expected to be but my partner thought that IT work was secure. Hah! I lived through the IT crash in 2000 so I had no such illusions.
    As a result, I have changed my career focus (I don’t see the IT sector becoming secure any time in the foreseeable future) to security consulting (a skill set I have due to a misspent youth) and am working on further developing my skills (finally learning carpentry in a serious way… hard to believe a small box is harder to make than a long bow).

  25. The Screaming Sardineon 30 Dec 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Like many here, I read your blog every day, Sharon. You discuss things on the average person’s level, and what you suggest isn’t something that requires a PhD to understand or requires taking out a loan to purchase products to implement the changes. It’s common sense, which is very doable.

    Because of reading this blog, I’m going to start a garden soon and will learn about food storage, thanks to your upcoming class!

    Thank you!

  26. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Like You Mean It I have been very fortunate in the response that I’ve gotten to my writings. After all, you can pretty much sum up my analysis as “you are going to have to live a radically different life than you are now, let’s get at it.” You’d think that I’d get a lot of shit for it – and I do get some, of course. But for the most part, people are extremely nice about the fact that I am telling them something that isn’t a lot of fun to hear. [...]

  27. Laurenon 31 Dec 2008 at 12:09 am

    I’m glad I read the comments because someone often says what I’m thinking first, and better. I read your blog occasionally, am in the middle of your book, and I am one of those this post speaks to, but I too struggle with Crunchy’s sentiments. As an unmarried apartment dweller with massive student loan debt, much of what needs to be done is not immediately feasible for me.

    But I take your call to action, particularly this post’s call, to mean (and perhaps this is so that I can sleep better) that I should do more than what used to (i.e. nothing) to become more self-sufficient. So, in my five minutes I logged on and paid double my minimum on my student loan. If I continue to cut my spending in other areas, I can work my way to paying triple. Thanks for the push.

  28. ExRangeron 31 Dec 2008 at 12:55 am

    Thank you for your writing and thank you for caring. The world is a better place for you being in it.
    As for me, I have plan A,B and C covered. Not just for me but my daughter and son in law and girlfriend and I work on it a little bit each day.
    Keep up the great work!

  29. Laurenon 31 Dec 2008 at 1:09 am

    My husband and I spend late-night hours discussing, worrying, planning and wondering. We feel overwhelmed by everything we’re 90% sure we need to do. We both have “secure,” “recession-proof” careers, but that old expression, “In times like these, it’s comforting to know there have always been times like these” doesn’t seem to apply right now. So we worry. We’re driving our hybrid in comfortable suburbia, with happy retirement portfolios (that we’d moved out of stocks before the downturn) and we’re saving for our child’s college education… We have a mortgage that used to represent 40% of our home’s value (although who knows how much it represents as prices continue to fall.) In other words, our decisions have been sensible and we’ve planned appropriately for the world we grew up in, but not for the one we think we’re facing now. If we try to buy land elsewhere, we’d need a home equity loan (yikes) and if we decide to move, I’d need to give up my job (which allows me to earn full-time pay but be a full-time mom — under what circumstances could I give that up?) What we have done: started dehydrating, learning to can, looking at greenhouses, investing in tangibles, starting a rudimentary long-term food storage program, cooking more often from scratch, researching solar ovens and solar battery chargers, searching for like-minded folks in our community, preparing to plant fruit trees in the coming months, planning a garden for the spring, prepping for a garage sale of things we used to think we needed… Every time we take a step, we feel both better and worse. We have lists on paper and in our heads, and they keep growing. We very much want to improve our skills in emergency medical care, food preparation and storage, and a wide variety of other areas. The bottom line is that we feel overwhelmed as we prioritize. We wonder when life will change and whether we will have chosen the right things to do and if we’ll have been able to do the ones we’ve chosen. We wonder whether all of our prior careful financial planning will be for naught. We’re grateful for your site, which provides a calming and consistent voice of guidance and support.

  30. AngieCon 31 Dec 2008 at 5:30 am

    I’m doing what I can do to prepare for whatever may come. Over here in the UK, preparedness is a completely foreign concept to anyone under 50, so undoubtedly many of my neighbours in our small community think I’m a little eccentric, but they’re happy to be able to dip into my food stocks and borrow odd “essentials” like garden tools from time to time. Our houses and gardens tend to be a lot smaller than yours (a 3-acre city farm? That would be bliss! But just one acre would cost upwards of a million pounds, hereabouts) so I’m learning the hard way about what will and will not grow together, here, and how, and having to be quite inventive about storage.

    But for me, the main point, which you’ve made many times before, is that whatever comes, this is what we should be doing anyway, for our own sakes as well as for our children’s futures. Not using power tools makes me leaner & fitter, without the expense and sacrificed time of gym membership. Not eating junk makes us all healthier. Eating good fresh homegrown, home-prepared, home-preserved food will boost our diets in ways the scientists haven’t even dreamed of looking for yet. Keeping the heating turned right down keeps my skin looking younger, without the expense of ointments and unguents. That’s our choice, but then we’re in a cool temperate climate, so never get really cold. Or hot, either.

    Sometimes I try to talk to my friends & family about what the future may hold, but I usually see them glaze over or become quite indignant. It’s easier for them to believe that they personally are to blame for all the different things that are going wrong in their assorted lives than that there’s something drastically wrong with the society that they’re living in. They cannot see the big picture, or even if they can, they want to hang onto it because it represents security & the hope of “things” miraculously getting better. They think I’m advocating a return to the Dark Ages, rather than going forward into a better, healthier, less complicated way of life.

    Living more simply makes me happier, in fact. So even if the “green shoots of recovery” do reappear and some miracle substance or process “saves” the Western way of life, count me out! And thank you so much for being out there & making me feel less of a oddball. Loved the book, by the way, and have left it lying on my kitchen table in the hope that at least one of my neighbours will take an interest and ask to borrow it…

  31. DEEon 31 Dec 2008 at 8:55 am

    Having lived the “less is more” lifestyle since our 70’s hippie days and first move to the country we’ve never lived the consumer lifestyle. Always been riduculed by our families who are yuppies in all their definitions. But we don’t care. Nothing is better than knowing you can take care of your own shelter,food,heating needs. Knowing all your kids have the skills to make it wherever they go. If my DH can do it I want to learn how,too…maybe I won’t be as handy as Mr. Mechancial Genius but he knows how to make bread and I do that better!!! DEE

  32. Greyon 31 Dec 2008 at 8:58 am

    I too, like coming here because it reassures me that I am not alone. I have this pressing NEED to grow a bigger garden every year, a compulsion to learn more and more about self-sufficiency, because I have this big stormcloud in my head that says trouble is coming. Call it a sixth sense, or maybe the Great Spirit really does talk to me, but anytime I’ve paid attention to that stormcloud that creates nearly palpable pressure on my cranium, I’ve been glad.

    So I am learning, Sharon. I don’t know that my husband and I will be in the best shape, but we will be in better shape, because I’m listening to that cloud and he is listening to his (his says to make all the money he can NOW and not turn away ANY jobs, no matter how small). Your blog, and the people who read it, tell me we are not alone, that others see a massive potential collapse on the horizon, and that we are here to support each other and help each other survive it.

  33. elleon 31 Dec 2008 at 9:17 am

    Hey Sharon,

    I appreciate your concern and want to thank you for all you do. You pretty much nailed me dead on. I come here and The Automatic Earth and Denninger all the time. I understand what you are saying and feel it to be true – hell, I even read your book into the wee hours- but I just can’t seem to take the information into my current life. I am going to finish up going into debt to become a special education teacher this year – I feel like I can’t quit now because I have one year left and student loans that need to be paid, but I feel sick to my stomach about finding a job. My husband tells me his job is secure as a computer programmer, but I know in my heart it is not. I have two small kids – no garden, no plan to heat this house. I feel paralyzed under the weight of it all with a husband who is not on board. Where to start?


  34. Mark Burnhamon 31 Dec 2008 at 10:02 am

    Sharon – I’ve recently discovered your website and greatly appreciate your insight into the lifestyle changes coming to us all – willing and unwilling alike. I’m an attorney working in Rhode Island for an insurance company defending people who get sued for car accidents. I’m expecting that work to dwindle in the next few years as people drive less, younger and older drivers drive even less than that. Less miles = fewer accidents. The one thing that I’ve done for 2009 to help me “live it” is that I bought an electric bike that can go 30 miles on a charge – a little farther if I assist by pedaling. My work is 6 miles away so on all clement days I plan on using that as my transportation. 8 cents a day to recharge the battery as opposed to whatever gas is costing that day. Maybe with fewer cars on the roads I won’t get squished. Thanks again for your daily comments. They are motivational. Peace. Mark

  35. Markon 31 Dec 2008 at 10:09 am

    I know that when I first started to “wake up”, it seemed like maybe things will ride it out for a little bit longer. Talking to one of my friends he told me “I thought 2008 was going to be the year, I was really scared for 2008.” Now, we get together and plan how to survive 2009, because it’s becoming quite clear that the collapse is well on it’s way.

    Also, coming to terms with the possibilities, has allowed me to disconnect from this world, in a way. I think the reason we have so much fear is because of how domesticated we’ve become. I’m starting to realize that as a human I have instincts built into me which allow me to overcome seemingly horrible scenarios. And I think that is where rewilding becomes an important aspect of this whole discussion. I think it may be time to break up with civilization, so to speak.

  36. deweyon 31 Dec 2008 at 10:24 am

    Well, I’ve just ordered some book called “Depletion and Abundance,” and I figure having that around will be adequate preparation, right? :-)

    Like Crunchy Chicken, I cannot afford any house and land unless I keep my urban job (unfortunately in one of the worst crime-ridden, anti-green cities in America), but if I were to lose that job, I would shortly lose the urban house too. Still, I am trying to turn the clay hardpan backyard into food-producing gardens. This spring, I plan to put in a couple of dwarf fruit trees, perhaps some strawberries, and more perennial medicinal plants to join those already established. If worse comes to worst, maybe a functioning garden would help us to sell the place for less of a loss.

    My DH has decidedly not been on board. Oddly, though, not long ago he read a copy of Crunchy Cons from the library and suddenly seemed interested. He’s not usually religious, so I don’t know why that particular book struck such a chord with him, but it seems like it might be an effective recruiting tool, especially for those whose recalcitrant spouses are Christian. (Caveat – Dreher thinks that everyone should engage in above-replacement reproduction, which is hard to reconcile with long-term sustainability.)

  37. Rosaon 31 Dec 2008 at 10:45 am

    I feel like I’ve been stuck in stasis, myself (though, the kiddo is finally independent enough that I’m getting to do things like build clean out the closet & experiment with new recipes, so maybe I’m getting unstuck).

    But I have copied your rhetorical techniques SO MUCH, you have no idea. My partner is still saying “No way, we don’t need a wood stove, what a dumb idea” but because I’ve been phrasing it in terms of saving money and blizzard preparedness, he was saying no while telling me which corner of the dining room we should install it in.

    As soon as that’s installed, CHICKENS. I swear.

  38. Sharonon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:00 am

    Deanna, I think you’ve set up a false version of what I’m saying – and you aren’t the only one, so probably the problem is on my end. I’m going to pick on you a little here, even though I know that isn’t really fair, since you are presently dealing with a whole host of other crises.

    But the dichotomy you describe reminds me of a woman being interviewed on NPR about losing her 750K house recently – the interviewer asked her if she felt she’d had no other choices but to buy that house, and her reaction was “Well, I suppose I could have gone and lived in a trailer park!” What’s funny about that is that there’s so many options between the mansion and the trailer that get elided, and that become invisible as long as the dichotomy stands.

    You say, for example, you can’t afford to move to the country – ok, so? I certainly never suggested everyone should – in fact, I routinely suggest people shouldn’t. On the other hand, is that the only choice but losing the house? You couldn’t take in a boarder among those who lost theirs first, consolidate with family or friends? End up with a pay cut or a lower paying job found afterwards? Might not having to buy groceries, for example, make it easier to keep the house if you had to radically cut costs?

    If you did have to move, why is it that you wouldn’t be able to take anything with you? Lots of people get foreclosed on and then don’t have to abandon everything they own – if you moved into a rental or with family in the midst of a financial crisis, might it again not be useful to bring food, maybe some tools? Might not some of the food have gotten eaten during the period when you had little money, and thus, it might be more manageable?

    Might the gardens not be a selling point for a house? Or perhaps might you be able to take some potted and carefully removed plants with you as starters for a new garden somewhere else? That is, why are the only options “everything falls apart so totally that nothing in the middle is of any use to me” or “everything stays pretty much the same?”

    Again, my point is not to argue with you, since you say you are content, nor is it to try and persuade people like you, who genuinely disagree with me about the likelihood of this particular future – as I said in the post, I’m really mostly talking to the people who already agree with me, but haven’t been moved to act. But I think the idea that there is no functional space between “so apocalyptic there’s no point in thinking about it” and “pretty much the same” is false – and when we set up the false dichotomy, it is easy to miss all this rich territory in the middle that might be usefully mined. Again, this isn’t so much for you, but for other people who might feel like there’s no point – I think there is a point in doing what you can where you are, thinking about your potential options, and making rational (ie, if you think that house loss is inevitable if you lose your job, concentrate on things that are portable) choices.


  39. Veritas Luxon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:01 am

    Your destiny is in your mind

  40. Lydiaon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:02 am

    It is difficult to go against “the herd”. America is very ethnocentric. Our way of live has been easy street for years and years. So, given that, I think many people can not hear what they do not want to hear. They can’t abide things that go against easy street. It will be like the husband who abuses and/or neglects his wife and thinks she will never leave, then one day he comes home to an empty house. She left. But the actual leaving had been brewing for a long long time in her head. She tried to tell him in a thousand different ways. She was called “over emotional” silly, a nag, or told she didn’t understand him. At some point he may get an inkling of what she was talking about, but then again perhaps not. He may get a weird sort of uncomfortable feeling toward the end that maybe something isn’t quite right, but he isn’t sure what. Underneath he may fear, and on some level know, she is going to be gone soon, but at a loss about how to fix it or what to do. He has a lot of energy and ego invested in being right, even in the face of his wife not being there. He will still argue that his way is the correct one, if only she will just listen to him.

    It’s what the country has done and is still doing. The warning signs are everywhere, but people do not want to hear it. There is a sense that something is wrong, but excuses are made, reasons that fit the status quo are given in the MSM and people have a lot invested in the status quo. On a national level most folks drank the kool aid a long time ago.

    For those of us who did not, we endure being called “tin-foil hatters” nut cases, crazy, weird, hysterical, ignorant, or worse. Oh, my personal favorite is “pessimist”! You are such a pessimist! All gloom and doom! Never any hope!” As if the act of being prepared is somehow a disease, that the perky optimists who spend their time reading all the “positive” thinking manuals and are better people.

    So be it. I have been called many names, but I won’t be the one going hungry. I guess it takes a pessimist to grow an apple tree.

  41. kathirynneon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:03 am

    Our family motto is “Do It Like You Mean It”. This is right up my street.

    I’ve already planned my veggie patch for next year, and ordered (and received) my seeds. I have too-big clothing and shoes for my children to grow into, and I am mastering the art of scratch cooking.

    All of my plans for spending in the New Year involve things like more quilts, a Berkey, and a campstove.

    Keep up the good work, Sharon. The grasshopper ridiculed the ants, too.

  42. Anneon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:14 am

    As someone else already said, “I’m trying!” But not enough, I know.

    Sharon, your point is well taken. I am taking steps and making lists and reading and contemplating.

    I just finished reading Timothy Egan’s Worst Hard Time about the Depression and dust bowl.

    The book made me appreciate so much how fortunate I am… and that that steps we can take now to live more simply, use less energy, become more self sufficient, etc. are such small inconveniences (if you can call them that) compared to what the people in the dust bowl suffered. And what many people around the world are dealing with today.

    Thank you for gently nagging all of us in the right direction.

  43. Andreaon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:29 am

    My husband’s company is consolidating. He’s been offered a position in Boston when the NJ office closes. But we’ll have to sell our house, move away from family, give up our school and community. I am so torn especially since we could do all that and what if the job disappears in another year? Getting a job now in IT seems unlikely. Any advice?

    We have lived frugally and have a very small mortgage that would be done before our son goes to college in 5 years. At least we have equity and no debt and each other. At least we have choices even if they are hard.

  44. risa bon 31 Dec 2008 at 11:37 am

    “Sharon says get crackin’ — can we go get that last section of fence this week?”

    “Yeah, can you wait till Sunday?”


    “Great, we’ll go then.”

    “That will give me time to charge up the battery on the pickup …”

  45. Motherhood for the weakon 31 Dec 2008 at 12:22 pm

    People think I’m crazy. My husband vascillates between agreement and denial, which is quite frustrating. Currently we are going round in circles about planting some dwarf apple trees. He says no. I say yes. We’ve been going back and forth on this for about 5 months.

    Wait until he hears (or sees) that I’m going to dig up the front yard and start a garden in the Spring.

    You would never know he came from an E. European country where the tradition of a country garden persists even today. Where his father cans pickles and brews his own wine and home remedies.

    I’m trying as fast as I can, but there are an awful lot of roadblocks.


  46. greentangleon 31 Dec 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Everyone can’t be saved. Population is going to crash without our cheap energy economy. Some people will be fortunate to be in circumstances where they can keep on providing for themselves; most won’t, whether we saw the collapse coming or not.

    I wonder about our need to always try to control our lives. I think Mark has the most accurate view of where we’re heading, but it’s not a way of life that most of the current population is going to want or be capable of living.

  47. Susanon 31 Dec 2008 at 12:23 pm

    You have no idea how this rings a chord with me.

    I feel as though I’m living life in reverse — when everyone else was buying into the consumer lifestyle, DH and I were struggling. We had utilities cut off, an uninsured child spend days in the hospital, and nearly lost our house. Ironically, now that the country is in our position for the time being at least, we are fairly secure.

    I was brought up in a mostly sustainable way; we canned, preserved, hunted and froze the meat, made do or did without. I brought my children up basically in the same way, as much as I could manage, and have nearly always had a very anti-consumer outlook on life.

    Except for the years I spent as a bellydancer. I took lessons for years, then when I got the OK from my instructor to go ‘pro’ I upped the lessons to 3 -4 a week (60 miles away), spent money on costumes, props, dvd’s and music, advertising, etc. When I think of how that money could have been spent instead! I knew about Peak Oil then, it’s not like I was oblivious, but I guess I needed to spend at least a year or two being a selfish consumer in a completely unsustainable lifestyle to see how ridiculous it is. I quit dancing professionally last April; I truly miss it but the parts of the ’scene’ that appealed to me the most — the people, the language, the music, and the cuisine — I still get to keep. In fact, I may end up being paid a little more at my job being a medical interpreter for Arabic speaking people…whoda thunk? Plus, most of the favorite things we like to eat grow in the same climate/soil as what we have here.

    So don’t think you’re phrasing it wrong. If both you and James Kunstler can’t get through to me until way late in the game, that’s not either of your problem.

  48. TheNormalMiddleon 31 Dec 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I like your kind of crazy. :)

    Your blog is a treasure-trove for me of info. I already know most of what you talk about, but your style of writing and your attitude makes me want to go from KNOWING what to do, to actually DOING it and getting prepared.

    I don’t agree 100% with everything on any blog I read…that’s just life. It would be boring if we all agreed on everything. :) I find sometimes I get put off by the politics bit because I’m a little like Rod Dreher, I’m a crunchy conservative. Most non-conservs paint all conservatives to be crazy, right wing fundamentalists, evangelical crazies who don’t give a rats ass about the environment. We’re not all like that, and I appreciate that you usually steer clear of the generalizations.

    Happy New Year, Mazel Tov, and much love from rural NC!

  49. deweyon 31 Dec 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Susan, there have been professional dancers for thousands of years, so I don’t see anything unsustainable about that or other entertainment professions, nor anything “selfish” about having engaged in it. Although in a lower-consuming society such people must buy fewer costumes… a laysa kathalika? :) (But now that I think about it, a music CD eats a lot less than a backup musical ensemble.)

  50. WNC Observeron 31 Dec 2008 at 1:23 pm

    For just about all of us, the list of things we could and should be doing far exceeds the resources we have available to make them happen. This is the basic economic problem: how to allocate scarce resources? Most of us try to strike some sort of balance amongst competing needs or opportunities. We can’t do it all; many of us try to do what we can. Will it be enough? We’ll find out. Will we wish a few years from now that we had made some different choices? That is almost a certainty. But how can we know that the same thing won’t be the case no matter which choices we make?

    Do what you can to extent that it is in your control, and be at peace with whatever is out of your control.

  51. homebrewlibrarianon 31 Dec 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Living like you mean it has taken on a whole new meaning for me. On Sunday afternoon, the baseboard radiators in my unit stopped working. Still had electricity and water though. The other two units were fine and over the course of the last three days its been determined there’s a frozen section in my unit. I’ve made do with a couple of space heaters which would keep the place somewhere between 42 and 52 degrees (depending on whether I had one or two on at a time). I’d been keeping the temperature set at 50 when not home or sleeping and 60 when I’m home and awake for more than two hours. What I found was that putting on an extra layer was all that was necessary.

    It got even more exciting yesterday. In the course of repairing a leaky toilet, my landlord and his son-in-law shut off the water only to find that the valve had broken while closed when they were finished. Now we have no running water. I could kick myself for not filling up the various 5 gallon vessels I have for water storage but the landlord and I went to my workplace and filled up a couple 5 gallon jugs. I have two 5 gallon buckets with spigots so one is potable and the other is nonpotable. Since I only flush the toilet once a day, I used gray water from washing dishes and my hands a few times this morning. I think I’ve used less than two gallons of water since yesterday evening. My landlord’s comment was that if he had to carry water in all the time, flush toilets would stop being used very quickly. He reads this blog on occasion, wonder what made him think that?

    Oh and did I mention that the temperature here for the last week has been between -10 and 0 degrees F?

    I’ll freely admit I’m now one of the choir but wasn’t when I started reading this blog almost two years ago. I was one of those people who agreed but didn’t see a need to change the way I lived. But little by little I’ve made changes. The more I read this blog the more changes I make. So now when I have no heater and no running water and it’s mucking cold outside, I’m barely discomfited. For all that I now feel that I’m not doing enough, I see that when push comes to shove I’ve learned how to make do. My point is that people can change their minds and their lifestyles even if their initial reaction is “oh, no, not me!”

    Sharon, you’re a signal light in the perfect storm. That light will still be there when more lives become capsized. They might agree and not act now, but at least they know where to turn when they must act. Thank you for being a nag and not shutting up.

    May continued strength and courage be yours as the new year dawns,

    Kerri in AK

  52. Lacyon 31 Dec 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I only found your blog a few weeks ago, but I am already trying to make some changes. So far? I’ve bought a few extra cans of tomatoes and beans and an extra large jar of peanut butter for emergencies, but it’s a start.

    This year, my husband and I plan to buy our first home, and I hope to keep reading and keep learning from you how to be an urban homesteader (until they come up with a better term!) and live my life like I mean it. Prepared.

  53. Melissaon 31 Dec 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks Sharon for all of the time and work you put into this. I really appreciate it. I’m happy to know that there are others that are looking at things the way I do. :)

    My family is living proof that no one has a “safe” job. I thought the same thing for my dad working as a Director at a Health Dept. in Illinois. The problem with state money is everywhere and that is what caused his lay off this week. When someone is paid through grant funding, and the funding is coming up short..well, guess who loses their job. There were a whole slew of people laid off that were part of the Head Start preschool program also. I think this may be only the beginning, sadly.

  54. eddeon 31 Dec 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Hiya Sharon,

    Your blog is priceless. THANKS!

    For those of us who live “small is beautiful” lifestyles and have for some years, it’s a matter of doing what we want. Our carbon footprint is smaller than 25% of average USA. We just need to finally get the composting toilet built and install the solar water heater, add to the garden, store more food.

    We don’t live like this out of guilt, fear, inadequate resources or lack of education. We live happy fulfilled lives w/o all the stuff. We have no kids, no big house (the small house we built is paid for), no debt, no soul-sucking jobs. We do have an old small fuel efficient car, several bikes, many friends, big family, close community, meaningful work, political activism, etc. We have the time to be ourselves.

    Ignoring mainstream criticism isn’t as tough as putting up with mind & spirit deadening jobs, adhering to foolish fashion, living wasteful, unfulfilled lives, being miserable.

    The rest of the consuming world will catch on. Or not.

    Sing, dance, enjoy life in connection w/earth. Its not about doing without, its about getting to do what you want that actually makes sense.


  55. Emilyon 31 Dec 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I go in cycles – last year, around this time, I started putting away a year’s worth of dry goods. (I love having the co-op bulk section in the house!) I made lists, bought hand-crank lanterns, replaced the burned-out fireplace with an efficient fireplace insert, etc. The first round of “easy” things is done. The harder things – learning how to cook in a fireplace (that isn’t really designed for it), the sheer physical labor of cutting wood – those are more daunting.

    And I’m tired. Tired and heartsick. I want it all to not be true. The crisis is well under way, and we’re not feeling much direct impact yet, and the temptation is to retreat into the hope that “maybe it just won’t get that bad.”

    I need balance between having my head in the sand, and fear-driven preparedness that threatens to turn into depression. I *need* hope. It makes a huge difference to have it again…but I also know I need to not let hope be my only armor.

    I’ve given myself permission to take the holidays off. Then I’ll try to pick up a reasonable (non-depressive) chunk and try one more time to make an edible dinner on my fireplace’s warming mantle.

  56. Crunchy Chickenon 31 Dec 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Sharon – Go ahead and pick on me, I don’t expect you to treat me any differently regarding my life’s circumstances.

    Anyhoo, maybe I’ve misinterpreted what you meant here, but I was basing my comments on a few things you say in this post as well as other things discussed on your blog, particularly your predictions for 2009.

    The following statement led me to believe that you were referring to a sort of fast crash, where things get dire very quickly and with little warning:

    “At the same time, I think it is worth noting how rapidly we are watching institutions and people who we once were sure were completely secure simply fall apart – Bernie Madoff ‘fesses up, and one day there are a bunch of old ladies who are pretty much destitute … The fact is, our sense of security as it exists now can be undermined rapidly – and the time to prepare for such an evaporation is when it seems barely possible, not after it has happened.”

    Under these circumstances, it would be difficult to recover, no matter how well you’ve prepared your homestead unless you are mostly debt free. So, let’s assume for a moment that we aren’t debt free. What sort of preparation are you referring to here that would help out in these circumstances? Nothing I do now will affect me from renting out my basement to another family if I did lose my job, yet it’s unlikely that their rent will cover my $3600 mortgage. What I’m assuming, based on your posts, is that (as you said in your predictions) up to a million jobs will be lost per month. I wouldn’t expect, under these circumstances, to find anything paying remotely what I’m earning now that would be able to cover expenses.

    Why not react “after it has happened”? That’s what I would do – try to find renters to cover the cost and other things you suggested. But all those suggestions would occur after the fact.

    So, what could I possibly do now to insulate myself short of moving out to a cheaper area that has land? I am in no way suggesting there is no in-between from expensive home to trailer-park, but when you live in an over-priced urban area with a LOT of suburban sprawl, you have to move pretty far out in order to get something affordable with enough land to live off of. And then you still need to work to pay for it. The issue here is indebtedness and a place to live/space to subsist.

    I’m already growing a lot of food, but not nearly enough to survive on (but could grow a hell of a lot more if need be). I’m already storing food, but not nearly enough to outlast really any major interruption in the food supply. I’m willing to take in a dozen boarders if that will help with expenses and I’m probably more capable than most to manage my family in securing water and managing without electricity if there are issues with that. But, if I don’t have a house to do all these things in, and little money (or the dollar is devalued substantially) to do it with, all the rest is really just an exercise, or a hobby.

    And, perhaps I just really don’t know what you meant by “living like you mean it”. What are you suggesting we do now outside of what I’m already doing?

  57. Claireon 31 Dec 2008 at 5:04 pm

    My DH and I have been living more simply since 1994, doing a little more each year. We aren’t all the way to where I’d like to be, but it’s already apparent that the changes we’ve made have paid off in a major way. We’ve weathered days-long electrical outages, have reduced our use of electricity by 39% and our natural gas usage by 66% in 2007 compared to our 1990 usage (I used 1990 as the base year because of the Kyoto protocol), and we can live on an income that is so low we don’t owe any federal income tax.

    I appreciate your web site and book. It helps me think of the next steps and prioritize them. In 2009 I’d like to glass in the south-facing front porch for a sunspace and small greenhouse. I’d also like to set up a filter for rain water like the one described in a recent issue of Permaculture Activist. Then we could drink that instead of city water. I keep mulling over the winter-heat issue and whether or not we should consider a wood stove for the basement. If we have that much extra money at some point, I’d consider it more seriously.

    I totally agree, you don’t need to move to the country to make good preparations for simpler living. We were doing it on a 1/8 acre inner-ring suburb lot with a 200 square foot veggie garden for the first seven years. Since 2002 we’ve had a 1 acre lot in another inner-ring suburb, about 10 miles from the Arch. We got it only because I got serious about raising food, and the suburb we live in is undervalued because of being in the inner ring so we could afford to pay cash for the house and land. Now we have fruit and nut shrubs and trees, a much larger garden for annual vegetables, and a separate garden with perennial veggies. I don’t plan to get animals, but my DH grows culinary mushrooms, which are a whole lot easier and from what I can tell, a satisfactory substitute for animal protein. But it’s not even necessary to garden, if you hate it … if I understand Sharon and others, what is best is to think of what you could do to contribute to your own and others’ well-being in a low-energy world, and do that. For me it’s gardening. For someone else it could be playing music, or knowing how to repair bicycles, or fixing houses to use less energy, or mediating conflicts, or any of the other things we’ll be depending on each other for in a low-energy future.

    The thing that I worry about is none of my siblings and few of my friends have any idea that things could change, already are changing, very drastically. I don’t know how to even begin to bring it up, especially with my brothers, who are high up in the corporate world and thus totally invested in a continual growth economy. The best I can hope for is to have some strategies to share when things hit them personally. Maybe I’ll find something in this blog that will help me with that. In the meantime, happy 2009 and thanks for all you do!

  58. elleon 31 Dec 2008 at 6:19 pm

    You know, I have stewed about this all day. In my previous post I made it sound like I am doing nothing, but upon reflection that is not true. We are not buying a new car eventhough we have two older paid off cars and people say – buy a new one!. We eat a lot of scratch food and no meat. I have started thinking about purchases in a different way – no stuff that I don’t need. And the needs have changed from useless stuff to down comforters I saw on sale. We live in a small house that is way below our means. Even this little change of thinking will help – lead to bigger things. This afternoon I started to plan for a garden and to look at seeds online. I can do this – THANKS for the push. I think the next step is to have an honest talk with my husband – maybe give him your book to read!


  59. Kiashuon 31 Dec 2008 at 7:24 pm

    I think there’s a little hubris in this for Sharon, expecting her own words to change the world overnight. That never happens. New ideas just sort of ooze into the world, things change slowly.

    I mean, in 1954 less than half of Americans favoured integrating streetcars and buses. Then in 1970 88% of them favoured it. [source]. What changed? People just went ahead and integrated them, did their own thing – and people said, “hey, that’s not so bad after all.” Over 16 years, the idea of integration just became accepted.

    So even when people seem to be unaffected by your writing and these urgent ideas, well in time they’ll change. But if Sharon had to wait 16 years she’d probably explode.

    I think Sharon is falling into what is fancily called “the fallacy of the excluded middle.”

    “I’m against capital punishment.”
    “What? So we should just let them all go?!”
    “I’m in favour of capital punishment.”
    “What? So we should execute people for jaywalking?!”

    There’s a whole middle ground of possible ways to do things which is excluded by those extreme statements. Just because we’re not all in the country raising our own goats doesn’t mean we’re not making useful changes.

    Plus there’s psychological preparation, which is the most important thing. Someone with some survival or first aid training, however long ago it was, and no equipment, this person will do better in a crisis situation – anything from car accident to a hurricane wiping out a city – than someone with no training and a whole ambulance or bunker worth of stuff. That’s because people who never expected or trained for trouble tend to panic and do nothing, which never helps. But people with some training get their arses moving and improvise.

    So writing like this, even if it doesn’t motivate action, it helps people be psychologically prepared for trouble. And that’s the most important thing of all.

  60. DD49on 01 Jan 2009 at 10:01 am

    Sharon & all,

    Almost finished your book, & enjoyed it tremendously. Since it’s just my wife and I who are near retirement, we are staying put and putting up solar panels for electricity. (Yeah I know you disagree, but we already have the triple insulated windows, a fireplace, a pile of hand tools for woodworking, and 7 raised bed gardens & two fruit tress with more to come.) Rain barrels check. Take the train to work check. Live near a shore for fishng check. Joining the local garden club to get a community garden and support CSA check. Trying to be the community resource is what we are trying to do. I know people get tired of hearing about PO and CC, but eventually it gets through. One of my nieces just told me her boyfriend is the only person who talks about PO beside me. It’s a start. Now we just have to work faster and harder. Happy New Year!

  61. Pamon 01 Jan 2009 at 10:17 am

    Perhaps what you are hearing is not a rejection of your analysis of the problem, but a rejection of your solutions. Some people may be in a position that they are already as prepared as they want to be. That’s me, at least.

    We’ve built our emergency fund to be 1 year of our salary, which could be stretched to probably 1.5 years of expenses. It is in a savings account at a different bank than our mortgage or our checking accounts. Now, if these 3 banks AND FDIC collapses I admit that we are screwed. But that’s a level of risk I’m willing to assume.

    And I’ll second the arguments that many people make about how many of the strategies you advocate take a lot of time. If you are working fulltime (or more) it is difficult to carve out time for starting a new income stream or growing your own food. In some ways I think you are ignoring some of the advantages you have. You don’t have a job outside the home, your husband works for the school system (which includes more frequent & much longer breaks than most jobs), and you’ve been at this for a lot longer.

    I’m not saying it is easy for you to make the changes you have made. But there are 2 sides to every coin – hard work AND opportunity. You are fortunate, you have advantages that others do not. You also have challenges like a special needs child & religious dietary restrictions. I have different advantages and challenges. I leave for work & come home when it is still dark outside. I travel for 2 or 3 weeks at a time which makes gardening a challenge. But I am lucky in that I make a good salary & our only debt is our home. Your reserves are the ability to grow your own food, my reserves are a very small garden and a substantial savings account.

  62. Lisa Zon 01 Jan 2009 at 11:25 am

    Crunchy, you just really put things in perspective for me. Our mortgage–and we live in a small city one hour north of Minneapolis/St. Paul so not the total boonies–is $750/month. And I thought that was too much! Of course, we are able to live well on a teacher’s salary of $50k a year. I would encourage anyone who is able to move to smaller cities and towns that are a good fit for you. The cost of living is so much more reasonable. And that’s why we live and work here instead of in Mpls./St. Paul, where a 1900 sq. foot home similar to ours would cost 2-3 times as much (still way less than yours, though, wow!). I guess perspective makes me appreciate even more that we were able to make the somewhat simple living choices we’ve made.

    Sharon, you should know you’ve inspired radical changes in a lot of people’s lives. I have to say, you sound a little full of yourself in expecting more, and from all your readers…Sorry! (coming from someone who very much appreciates your work)

  63. Anonymouson 01 Jan 2009 at 11:44 am

    I like the way Sharon puts it: “Resolve to spend five minutes a week asking ‘what if I actually had to not just say Sharon might be right, but act it….’ ”

    For us, that means thinking of ways to “adapt in place”, as she puts it. We’ve become block captains in the neighborhood crime watch, in an effort to get to know neighbors better. We’re resolving to watch the spending and keep our house well insulated and able to cope without electricity if need be. Learning to grow a bit of food and cook from scratch. But not out of anxiety for what Peak Oil might bring.

    Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. I could get hit by a bus, the planet could get creamed by a giant asteroid. Who knows! Our lives are fragile and no amount of preparation can prevent suffering and hardship. I think maybe the trick to life is to find pleasure and joy in the small things. To live intentionally in that respect.

  64. Elizabeth aka heathenmomon 01 Jan 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Wow! I’m kind of surprised by a lot of the comments. *shrug* Personally, I was inspired by this particular blog post to set some specific goals for the coming year. I DEFINITELY fall into the category of “yeah, that sounds good … for those OTHER people; here’s the LONG list of why I can’t do it.” Not proud of that, but there it is. So, I am officially declaring 2009 the year of “Elizabeth Lives Like She Means It!”
    - As soon as I finish writing this, I’ll be analyzing my electric usage for the last year; I’ve set a goal to reduce whatever that amount is by 1/3. Not RIOT levels, but it’s a start.
    - I’m going to quit *talking about* gardening, and actually *do the work of* gardening. We have a long growing season here, and there’s absolutely no reason I can’t be growing things RIGHT NOW.
    I have a very long list and won’t bore you all with its entirety. LOL Just want to thank you, Sharon, for lighting a fire under me. I’ve been approaching 2009 with trepidation; now, I’m just excited!

  65. Bill in Tennesseeon 07 Jan 2009 at 7:35 am

    It’s taken me just under an hour to read and digest all the comments to this blog post. I’m physically, and emotionally, exhausted! I’m amazed at the variety of responses, ideas and attitudes. One thing I noticed is an almost total lack of discussion of what happens to us, regardless of our degree of preparation, when the civic order disintegrates. How do we contend with the fact that the vast majority of our “neighbors” aren’t doing any preparation or making even the most modest efforts toward it. Most of the entries I read here are from people who have at least a basic understanding of what needs to be done and are taking positive steps. The fact is, the vast majority of people, not just in the US but everywhere, are living in denial and are clueless.

    Many of these people will be willing, and prepared, to simply take what they’ve been unable get for themselves. When starvation becomes commonplace in the general populace, how will we protect out food stores? Will we have to stand guard over our gardens to protect against those that approach with plunder in mind? Will we be confronted with the possibility of using deadly force against our desperate neighbors?

    I’d like to think things won’t collapse to that degree, that we’ll all be able to come together and cooperate in sustaining what will undoubtedly be a vastly simpler life, that we’ll all behave rationally for the “common Good”, that those of that have will willingly share with those that don’t. Any more, I think that’s just a pipe dream. It could have happened, voluntarily, 25 or 30 years ago. When the bottom truely falls out, I think it more likely it will be everyone for themselves in the chaos.

    We may end up with a society like that depicted in Jim Kunstler’s book “World Made By Hand”, but getting from here to there will involve a process I hope I don’t live to see. Kunstler’s stark but romanticized vision of life post-oil, post-pretty- much-everything has its appealing aspects doesn’t touch much on the horrifying changes on our not-too-distand horizon.

    I’ve made some, but not enough, preparation myself. I’ve stored food and water, but only have space for a rudimentary garden. A year before I retired in 2006, I traded a large, falling-apart older home, for a 900 sq ft earth sheltered home. It has a nice southern exposure, and I’ve discovered that, sans water, I don’t need gas or electric…the interior temp never seems to go below 64 degrees without heat, even in low-teen outside temps. I can cook on a solar oven and have planned a diet that isn’t dependent on refrigeration. I have a couple of solar powered “gadgets” (flashlight, lantern, battery charger, radio, camp shower, water purifier) and a small but growing array of strictly survival tools.

    So, I think I can live fairly well for 6 months or so, and survive much more primitive circumstances for a bit longer. If, and it’s a big IF at this time, civil society can hold together. About this prospect, I have an increasingly dim view. I find it strange that a lifelong pacifist has recently acquired a fairly impressive arsenal and lots of amunition, although I think I’d find it hard to “draw down on” someone who was simply hungry and wanting food, as opposed to a violent attacker. But who’s to say they might not be one in the same? It’s a moral dilemna that I don’t know if I could face. I live in a rural, gun-totin’ place and expect many others here might not have the same qualms.

    I admit I’m afraid much of the time…not to the point of paralysis or panic, but most definitely leery of what’s to come. I guess I’m afraid more for my three kids and theirs, as they seem to unaware of things, or simply in a state of cognitive dissonance about it all. A future such as can be imagined is, after all, not a pleasant thing to think about. I’ve a lot of gentle teaching and urging to no apparent avail Perhaps I was too gentle? Anyway, as things are, I don’t believe they’ll fare well, unless we all get very lucky.

    Now I’m really depressed! I haven’t intended to to sound too grim, or to lecture. But I do wonder why the subject of violent confrontation isn’t more often discussed among the “gentle survivalists”? Thoughts please?

    Thanks, Sharon, for your instructive, and inspiring writings!

  66. Bill in Tennesseeon 07 Jan 2009 at 7:36 am

    PS: Why did this thread stop abruptly on Jan 1? I though y’all were just getting cranked up!

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