True sustainability solutions

We live in a world with very limited solutions to our sustainability problems. I often hear the view, “If we would just get off fossil fuels, then our society would be sustainable.” Or, “If the price of oil would just go high enough, then renewables would become economic, and our economy would be sustainable.”

Unfortunately, our problems with sustainability began a long time before fossil fuels came around, and the views above represent an incomplete understanding of our predicament. When fossil fuels became available, they were a solution to other sustainability problems–rapid deforestation and difficulty feeding the population at that time. Getting rid of fossil fuels would likely lead to very rapid deforestation and many people dying of lack of water or food. If getting rid of fossil fuels is a solution to our predicament, it is one with very bad side effects.

A couple of different events this week reminded me about how deeply embedded our sustainability problems are. For one, I had the opportunity to read a draft of a soon-to-be published paper by James H. Brown and a group of others from the University of New Mexico and the Sante Fe Institute called, “The Macroecology of Sustainability.” This paper points out that sustainability science has developed largely independently from and with little reference to key ecological principles that govern life on earth. Instead, sustainability science is often more of a social science, looking at slightly greener approaches which are almost as unsustainable as the approaches they replace.

A second thing that reminded me of our long-term problems with sustainability was a pair of articles in this week’s issue of Science. There is a research article called, The Aftermath of Megafaunal Extinction: Ecosystem Transformation in Pleistocene Australia by S. Rule et al, and an accompanying perspective article called The Hunters Did It by M. McGlone.  The perspective article explains that there had been a controversy as to why marked changes in habitat took place shortly after humans settled Australia. Some thought that the loss of forest and animal extinctions were the result of climate change. New research shows that the changes almost certainly came from hunting and the use of fire by humans. This is further evidence that humans did not live sustainably, even when they were still hunters and gatherers. (See my earlier posts, European Debt Crisis and Sustainability and Human population overshoot–what went wrong?)

Below the fold, I will offer some ideas about truly sustainable solutions.

Truly Sustainable Solutions

Humans at this point do not fit in at all well with the natural ecology–the natural systems of plants and animals. In fact, we have disturbed these systems greatly, making natural systems “fit” into the little niches we have reserved for them. In order for humans to fit back into natural systems, it almost seems as though humans would have to evolve to become more like monkeys or gorillas. We would need to stop living in houses, wearing clothes, and cooking our food. It would be helpful to be able to live in trees, to stay away from predators. Somehow, this doesn’t sound at all appealing, or likely.

But if we think about the situation, it yields a few ideas regarding where we need to be, if we are to live in an ecologically sustainable way:

1. In terms of local foods, we need to focus on foods that truly grow wild, or with very little support, in our area. We may need to discard some foods that can be grown today, but which require soil amendments which must be hauled from a distance, sprays for insects, irrigating, or much tilling.

2. To limit our ecological impact, we should be eating plants and perhaps small animals (including birds, fish, and insects) that reproduce in large numbers. We certainly should not be eating cows and pigs grown on industrial farms. The food we eat should be minimally processed–not packaged or finely ground. If we could eat food raw, that would be ideal, from the point of not disturbing other systems. The human digestive system has evolved to work better with cooked food, however, so cooking will probably be necessary, perhaps using solar cookers.

3. Our housing should be simple. We certainly shouldn’t be building more huge houses and buildings. We shouldn’t expect buildings to be heated very much, and probably not be cooled at all.

4. Walking should be our primary means of transportation. Perhaps dug out canoes or rafts would also be suitable for fitting in with the ecosystems.

5. Medical treatment should largely disappear, because it interferes with normal evolutionary processes and because it tends to leave a large dependent elderly population. It also tends to lead to far too high a population in total.

6. We probably need to live in smallish groups (<150 people) and have an economy based on a gift economy. With such an economy, people gain status by what they give away, rather than what they accumulate. Land would probably be shared in common. No one would be wealthy.

If Truly Sustainable Solutions are Impossible

If truly sustainable solutions are virtually impossible, then what do we do? There are 7 billion humans on earth. If human populations were similar to those of monkeys or gorillas, there would probably not be more than more than 1 million (with an “m”) humans in the world, mostly living in warm places. Our basic problem now is that there are far too many of us.

Some choices that might slightly reduce our impact:

1. Reduce our incomes. The amount of resources a person uses is mostly determined by a person’s income. If a person cuts back on his income, he will use less. Trying to cut back within the same income is less effective, because the money a person doesn’t spend one place is likely to be spent somewhere else. (This is one reason that many attempts at being “green” don’ t really work out.)

2. Plant at least some food crops. This too, disturbs the natural ecology, but it is about as good as we can do. If perennial plants are planted, it is possible that others will benefit as well. Animals, birds, and insects may also get some benefit from the crops.

3. Share what petroleum is available more equitably. If I use less oil, by driving a smaller car, or by driving fewer miles, it doesn’t mean that petroleum will be left in the ground. What it does mean is that the gasoline or diesel that I didn’t buy will be available for someone else to buy. This rather strange result happens because total oil supply is pretty much “maxed out”–total world oil supply doesn’t increase by very much, even with more demand. Instead, all that happens is that price rises. If I use less, price may drop a bit, but the same amount of oil in total will be consumed. So by using less petroleum, someone else, somewhere can use more. The result is better sharing of what oil is available.

4. Have smaller families. One child, or even no-child, families are to be encouraged.

How about all of the “green” things that we hear about?

I have a hard time believing that most of the “green” solutions presented to us today are more than marginally beneficial from an ecological point of view. Even substitutes like wind turbines and solar PV have their difficulties. Most of the time wind and solar PV  are used as parts of large electrical grids, and the grids themselves are not sustainable. In addition, we have to disturb natural ecological systems to make and use these systems. The intermittent electricity they produce is not a reasonable substitute for petroleum, which is the fuel we are having most difficulty with.

The problem our economy is facing now is recessionary impacts associated with high-priced oil. High priced substitutes are even worse, in my view. If low-priced substitutes for oil are available, they may make sense. For example, if natural gas could substitute for oil that would be a small step in the right direction, but even natural gas has its difficulties–it too produces CO2 when burned and it is out of synch with the natural ecology.

If there are “green” solutions that are helpful and not too ecologically disturbing, I expect that most of them will be smaller and simpler–for example, small windmills made with local materials, or small water wheels. Recycled materials may be used for some of these–perhaps parts of old autos or recycled building materials.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply.
This entry was posted in Planning for the Future and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

119 Responses to True sustainability solutions

  1. John Marshall says:

    Thanks Gail. You are one of the very few who are trying to honestly examine the problems we face. There are others, such as FEASTA for example, who are examining ideas like Cap and Share: http://www.feasta.org/2008/05/29/cap-and-share-a-fair-way-to-cut-greenhouse-emissions/
    and the New Economics Foundation who have suggested a 21-hour working week: http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/21-hours
    The problem is that we need to admit to the dificulties, which are terrifying, as well as remaining positive in finding and implementing solutions.

    • I agree that this is an issue. Everyone likes happy endings, and groups like to present stories that make their readers happy. I’m hoping that Energy Bulletin’s new name, “Resilience,” doesn’t mean, “Biased toward articles with a happy ending”.

      • energycrunch says:

        Yes, I agree with you. In the same way the word “sustainability” has been used to mean many things that are not really sustainable, I wonder if word “resilience” will be co-opted and used in ways that don’t really mean resilience.

        • I have issues with the words steady state and resilience, which both imply that we can keep what we’ve got now–Business As Usual. From the Resilience Alliance’s homepage yesterday (it’s not there today, so don’t bother going to look), a quote:

          “Urban resilience is the degree to which cities are able to tolerate alteration before reoganising around a new set of structures and processes” (Alberti et al., 2003).

          And steady state is a brief climax period in the cycle of pulsing that occurs in all systems. Steady state says we can keep our civilization frozen in time in the current snapshot, when all indications are that we cannot.

          http://prosperouswaydown.com/principles-of-self-organization/energy-hierarchy/pulsing-paradigm/

          Yes, we can try to hang on to what we’ve got, but if we do, the principle of energy hierarchy mandates that we will “shorten the cumulative length of the game the more we steal.”

          http://prosperouswaydown.com/diagramsimages/thermodynamic-laws/

          Game over, man. We’d better start getting the lifeboats out instead of rearranging the deck chairs.

          • You may have seen my post from a while ago, There is No Steady State Economy (except at a very basic level). It made quite a number of Steady State folks angry.

            Regarding your third link, and your statement,”Yes, we can try to hang on to what we’ve got, but if we do, the principle of energy hierarchy mandates that we will ‘shorten the cumulative length of the game the more we steal.'” Isn’t the issue with this one the fact that you and I are alive now, and we probably won’t personally be alive for the whole game? So from our personal point of view, holding on to what we have may help for a bit now, even though for humanity as a whole, it can be expected to make the game shorter. This issue makes it (somewhat) attractive to stay with fossil fuels, despite their many deficiencies. The time before collapse is short enough that any difference in length because of choices we make will likely be pretty minimal.

          • Responding to Gail’s post below mine VVVV (no reply button). I missed that steady state post, thanks for linking.

            Great point about how we will try to use fossil fuels as long as they are available. That leads us to Principle 4 on that linked list, the Maximum Power Principle, that says we will do our best to maximize energy throughputs for the system. As long as fossil fuel net emergy is higher than the alternative, someone in the system will use them. But as surplus energy wanes, cues should lead us to shift from maximizing power intake as the only goal to instead also becoming more efficient, to capture renewable energy wherever possible, and to reorganize into more cooperative, simple arrangements. For example, Odum suggested that “The auto age will come to an end when alternate needs for the fuels running the personal autos become more important than the time saved by having individual cars” (2001). If my choice is between waiting in gas rationing lines for 4 hours a day and biking to work, I’ll probably oil up the bike. The gas will get used somewhere in the system, it is just that goals and priorities will shift, and infrastructure will reorder as we descend. First luxury and waste will be weeded out, with new reward loops that foster efficiencies and frugality. Reward loops may present as high prices that weed out wasteful behavior through consumer choices, or some sort of regulations? Unfortunately, high prices/inflation then create gross inequities between haves/have nots and create terrible strife. So we need to be working on how to get along so we don’t blow ourselves up in the process of this great transition?

  2. The physicist Charles Galton Darwin took a shot at this problem during the 1950’s. One can read what he had to say on the internet at no charge. http://www.scribd.com/doc/405285/The-Next-Million-Years-by-Charles-Galton-Darwin-1953-

    • Thanks! Charles Galton Darwin is the grandson of the earlier Charles Robert Darwin. The book you reference is from 1953, only three years before M. King Hubbert’s paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels. There is a lot of overlap about their concerns–fossil fuel running short, and whether nuclear energy would work, mentioning thorium as well. There is also a list of possible alternatives, that sounds an awfully lot like the group being pursued today, with questions about whether they can really be made to work adequately. A lot of it sounds quite contemporary.

  3. phil harris says:

    Gail
    I have no problem with the general thesis you are getting us to think about.
    Here are some thoughts!
    No denying the human propensity, but it is difficult to generalize about ‘hunter gatherers’ (HG). Mega fauna went extinct because of humans in fragile ecosystems like Australia and on the Siberian glacial Tundra, but HG did not cause similar extinctions in southern Africa over similar time spans. In North America on the fairly fragile Great Plains, the HG and other predators co-existed with bison herds. There must have been some ebb and flow. There is a good discussion of historical human and bison numbers here…. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1615&context=greatplainsresearch
    In the tropics, for example in S America, there is evidence that some people who are now HG secondarily adapted back into their current HG mode. Civilisations though; meaning high density populations arising from an agrarian/gardening culture? Plenty of them and they tend to come and go; the forests of S. America, C. Africa and SE. Asia cover numerous examples.
    I know you are American and writing mostly for Americans, but I have problems with ‘we’. Industrial civilization is relatively new, and the oil-using version is only a few decades old (Peak Horses on the US Great Plains was around 1926). The British population explosion began nearly 200 years before that and was not unconnected with the ‘Agricultural Revolution’, and was initially almost independent of fossil fuels; in those days, coal. This ‘organic revolution’ was relevant to temperate agriculture where soil moisture was not the limiting factor, and was based on incorporation of very efficient (‘renewable’) nitrogen-fixing crops in a rotation system. This innovation trebled the British population ‘carrying capacity’ in about 100 years and allowed much greater urbanization with virtually no use of fossil fuel ‘down-on-the-farm’ (no pesticides either). Twenty two percent of the population (rural) just about fed the rest of the (urban) 18 million in England by 1850. Thereafter of course it was food imports all the way because the population had yet to reach its growth ‘inflection point’ let alone to stabilize and ‘we’ had run out of arable land.
    The same approach to agriculture did not work so well on the Great Plains of N America. From 1920 onwards your growing urban population in the USA increasingly needed food grown using fossil fuels and essential inputs of synthetic fixed-N, supplemented with the mined P&K fertilizers (let alone in some places mined ‘fossil’ water).
    It has become obvious that the vast 7 plus billion worldwide will never, remotely, live like Americans, nor even live like Europeans, South Koreans, Japanese, nor any current privileged minority middle-classes scattered across the globe. ‘We’, the privileged, are going to suffer some serious setbacks to as you put it, more sustainable levels. My guess is that you Americans will continue some version of your agricultural system for another century or so, mostly from local resources, with some of the adjustment to eating patterns that you suggest. That should improve your collective need for medical care in middle-age and for the elderly. I guess you will similarly maintain vaccinations and some degree of Public Health: just my guess, of course. Climate change though could be the big nemesis hanging over your continent’s civilisation, even within 100 years. You will probably not have a global empire any more.
    Rather than the more grand ‘civilizations’, for the longer term I look for knowledge from agrarian systems and cultures, which successfully adapted long term to meagre conditions without gross population overload and without benefit of modern industrially based methods. The Buddhist villages of the Himalayas are just one example. I can just imagine perhaps some of John Michael Greer’s science/eco-tech ‘monasticism’ grafted on to the dual village/monastery systems used in that Buddhist culture. (See Crook & Osmaston book on human geography ‘Himalayan Buddhist Villages’ on Amazon.) The British 19thC agricultural system of course would never feed the latest modern population of 60 millions, but it was relatively sustainable at the scale it achieved in its day, even if run back then by a brutal social system tied to a growing industrial empire.
    I think you are right to mention, fairly gently, changes in the way ‘we’ live!
    Very best & thanks
    Phil

    • You are right, in that improvements in agriculture indeed played a role as well.

      I am wondering about whether you are really right about fossil fuels not playing a role in the growth in Britain’s population. According to Tony Wrigley, the ramp up in coal use in England started about 450 years ago. There was also the use of peat.

      I would expect that the existence of the British empire also played a role in Britain’s population growth. I understand it started in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It allowed Britain to obtain goods from abroad, and in that way, expand the food supplies for its people. It allowed Britain to be quite different from the reset of the world.

      Regarding Hunter Gatherers in Africa, that is where humans and animals co-evolved. There is more of a problem in areas where humans moved into an area, which was new to them. THen, there is the more of a likelihood that humans would kill off the large animals. This happened in many areas around the world. In fact, this article from Science Digest talks about it happening in North America as well.Mass Extinction: Why Did Half of N. America’s Large Mammals Disappear 40,000 to 10,000 Years Ago?. I don’t think the fact that bison were not in the half eliminated disproves the general problem.

  4. Gail, excellent post. We were discussing this topic recently on another blog I visit (guymcpherson.com) and I commented that no one had ever really offered any viable solutions to the problems we face. Other than global warming, you’ve addressed those issues well and I appreciate what you have to say. Of course, the odds of any of these things happening in any meaningful amount is, in my opinion, zero. But, the concepts are sound, nonetheless.

    This topic makes me wonder if the real problem is intelligence. To our knowledge, no other Earth-bound species has ever come close to our level of intelligence. And, no other species has wreaked so much destruction. So is intelligence and our quest for knowledge and understanding what has led us to the place? Perhaps it’s an inquisitive mind which leads to dissatisfaction with current surroundings and lifestyle. That in turn leads us to explore and want more. Maybe this idea has already been explored by others, if so, I would welcome a reference to any works about it.

  5. energycrunch says:

    For those of you who don’t know Gail Tverberg (along with John Michael Greer, Tom Whipple, Dmitry Orlov, Carolyn Baker and others) will be presenting at the Age of Limits Conference: Conversations on the Collapse of the Global Industrial Model, 25-28 May 2012 at Four Quarters, in Pennsylvania (about 100 miles from the DC area). This is not intended to be a conference in the usual sense of presentations to a passive audience. We will instead foster “Weekend Community” through the creation of physical spaces that encourage attendees meeting and exchanging with each other and with our presenters… I encourage you to come and/or publicize the event! Very affordable…around $75 a person for the whole weekend.

    For more information, or to register:
    http://www.ageoflimits.org

  6. John Weber says:

    Another great one Gail.
    It is clear to me sustainability is a living process and a process of living.
    The future may depend on what we mean by sustainable. There are important questions to be asked:
    1. When we use something from the earth can it regenerate itself as a tree can or is it non-renewable?
    2. When we use something from the earth how long does it take the earth to regenerate itself as in rotational farming or the example of acres of trees?
    3. When we use something from the earth how long does it take the earth to assimilate the waste such as computer chemicals and copper processing?
    4. When we call something “renewable” does that include all the fossil fuels used to create the devices to capture the sun or wind?
    5. How large a geographical area does the sustainable definition include?
    6. Is there a holding or carrying capacity to a geographic area and are we willing to discuss it?
    7. How should we value non-renewable resources as petroleum from which tractor and ambulance power comes as well as many medicines?
    8. All life depends on energy. We need an accounting method to determine the value of how we use energy? Instead of payback in money should we assess a payback in energy for any energy devices such as wind and solar collectors?
    We are at a crossroads for the future. This requires hard questions and selfless honesty. We need to be clear about what we mean about sustainability. Faulty definitions create false hopes and dead end decisions.
    From:
    http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2009/01/sustainability-some-thoughts.html

    • I think one of the issues is that renewables have been valued too narrowly. It is really irrelevant what the EROEI of wind and Solar PV is, if the storage issue has not been addressed, so it is more comparable to other energy sources. Also, calling them “renewable” is misleading, because they are made by the fossil fuel system, and function primarily as part of the fossil fuel system. If the fossil fuel system stops, most of their utility stops.

      Admittedly, there are some application that may be temporarily useful. Solar panels can be helpful for pumping water (as can low-tech windmills). Solar panels with batteries can be temporarily helpful for providing electricity at night and refrigeration, but they are not long term solutions, because the batteries are not-long lasting (as in 100s of years). Wind turbines can be adapted to making nitrogen fertilizer, if they are not needed by a grid, but this adaptation continues to work only if the wind turbine can be kept in good repair–something that is not necessarily likely.

  7. Pingback: True sustainability solutions | Sustain Our Earth | Scoop.it

  8. Great post as usual, Gail. Hopefully we’ll have some time to adapt–this probably won’t all happen overnight. You end with a comment about technocracy for those who can keep the lights on and the nuclear fires stoked. I’m more worried about what happens where we don’t keep the nuclear fires stoked. Fukushima alone had 30 times as much fuel as Chernobyl, with a more harmful mix (MOX fuel that distributes long-lived isotopes such as plutonium and uranium). We now have 102 NPPs in the U.S. and 440 worldwide. We need to start decommissioning the old nuke plants now, while we still have the surplus energy to do so, and we need to be adapting to a lower electrical energy basis in a non-emergency situation, before there is a destabilizing crisis (widespread blackout, war, oil shock surface as obvious examples). We can adapt over time to a lot of things, but I’d like to have a choice and some control. Reacting to longterm radiation sickness and increasing biomagnification of radiation poisoning in our foods is an ugly way to go and leaves very few ways out.

    Check out how many NPPs globally are not operating or shut down . . .
    http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/interactive-map-all-the-worlds-nuclear-reactors/

    What could happen in the US in a crisis; 100 minutes without cooling is all it would take . . .
    http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/fallout/

    • I agree that all of the nuclear power plants and the stored waste are major issues. We are not possibly going to have enough money/energy to properly decommission them if we wait–I am not sure that we even have enough now. Building more, when we can’t take care of what we have, is idiocy. And we have seen at Fukushima what can happen if electric power for cooling pools is interrupted.

  9. Ted Howard says:

    The 6th Mass Extinction now underway at a rate never seen before in the geological records, plus Peak Everything, makes it very clear: as homo colossus/homo economicus our task is to become indigenous again (people of the land) as fast as possible, or join the die-off.
    I chose not to have children, live on a 1/3 of previous income, and work mainly as a Permaculture gardener/designer/asst. teacher, doing what I can to regenerate/rebuild healthy landbase food systems. And that’s not enough. The real elephant in the room is the dominant insane culture, aka Global Industrial “Civilisation” aka Empire. It’s pathologically, suicidally insane. We need to pull it down, re-localise, rebuild and defend our landbases as if our lives depended on it, which they surely will.

    The Lord of The Rings ha nothing on the mythic story we’re now being asked to embrace. We are the little people, with the burden of this ring. Our task is to take it back and give it to Mt.Doom, give it back to the Earth. As in LOTR with the knights and kings, if we let the ring get anywhere near the present business and political leadership, they go insane with power and do great damage. We require a grass roots revolt/rebellion/dis-obedience on a massive scale.
    Without a culture of reisitance, this present dominant one will continue to kill us, our communities and the biosphere…
    Resistance is fertile! Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!

    “We can have a healthy biosphere, or industrial ‘civilisation’, but not both” Prof.Guy McPherson

    • Guy McPherson is working on a model of hoarding what he needs (12 pair of pants, n pairs of shoes, etc) plus gardening/ farming in a fairly warm part of the country. I agree that this model can perhaps kind of work for a few people, but not for everyone at the same time. Part of the issue is that there is not enough to go around, and part of the issue is that many people could not make the intellectual leap to make such a change.

      I think that this model will have a hard time surviving, because it will not have the necessary institutions built up to support it. The current forces are pulling down our current systems (financial systems, political systems, electricity, international trade, local trade, etc.). At every time in the past, systems have been built up slowly, over time, building on the framework of other systems. For example, a store will be built, to take advantage of a need to transfer goods from producers to consumers, and the availability of a suitable building, electricity, etc. It will be the lack of replacement institutions, as much as anything, that will be a problem, as I see it.

      Also, year to year weather variability is likely to be a problem. If there is a governmental organization in place, it could set up long-term storage and methods of taxing places which are not affected by bad weather to help those supported by bad weather elsewhere. (Think of Joseph in ancient Egypt.) If old systems have disappeared, and new systems not been set up, there could be much more of a problem with starvation when times are bad.

      • Joe Clarkson says:

        Aloha Gail,

        Our family has a plan for the next 50 years or so that is very similar to the approach taken by McPherson. While you call purchase and storing of a few key products available now from our industrial culture “hoarding”, I prefer to call it preparation. After all, “fortune favors the prepared”.

        You are right that it can’t work for everyone and can’t work for more than the functional life of those key products. For those of us who live in a warm climate, have extensive garden/farming acreage, have no dependence on the electrical grid, have on-site water collection and distribution, and are generally far away from masses of people who don’t have the advantages we have, our plan can help ease the transition to what will eventually become the new normal, a very primitive life of subsistence agriculture and hunting/gathering.

        If we are very lucky, our preparations will allow us and some members of the next younger generation to keep ourselves in water, food, clothing and shelter and perhaps even a few luxuries, such as electric lights and indoor plumbing.

        I believe that our preparations may not be sufficient, but they are certainly necessary for us to have any chance at surviving the next couple of decades. Would you deny us this chance to avoid “starvation when times are bad”? We just want to get out of the way of the coming train wreck and hunker down as far away from the tracks as we can. Is that so bad?

        • My only problem with this is that it can’t be a solution for more than a small percentage of the population. It is probably not feasible at all in many parts of the world–Europe, China, and India, for example. (I know when The Oil Drum ran articles about some person’s long-term preparations, most of the strong objections came from non-US audiences.) This solution favors the well-to-do and educated; others can’t afford the land and materials needed and can’t research the many topics required. Some simple omissions (dentistry, for example) could lead to huge problems.

          It is obviously not something that a government can suggest to its people, because if very many run out and make preparations, it will create less for everyone else.

          Ultimately, things will work out however nature intends them to work out. This approach may help a few to increase their own, and their family’s, chance of survival.

        • Stu Kautsch says:

          Although we should be mindful of the ethics behind our actions and plans, I think what you’re doing is fine:
          — Most people would agree that a “pantry” is a good idea. Storing things of value is just an extension of pantry-ism.
          — Although an widespread use of this strategy could drive up the prices of some necessities, it at least as likely to divert productive resources from some of the complete crap that’s currently produced into things that have survival value (like tools, for instance), and that’s a *good* thing.
          — We all need to contemplate our own survival and that of our families or we’re guilty of shirking our most basic duty. If, knowing that our civilization is crumbling, I don’t take steps to help my own family, how can I expect others to do so? (Of course, this does not get us off the hook from attempts at getting our wider communities to take steps, or to try to exert cultural influence, but “walking your talk” may actually influence a *few* others.)

  10. energycrunch says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about reducing incomes.

    For virtually all of my adult life so far (I’m 32) I have lived on a level of income around the federal poverty level, out of my own choice. Still, I acknowledge my current lifestyle is more luxurious than what many others in the world experience and still probably will seem very comfortable to many people in the future. My money generally goes to paying rent, food, public transportation fare, and not much else. Occasionally I spend money on something extra, like a book I really want, or travel.

    There are lots of other ways I think I could be preparing myself better for the future, but this is one way that I feel might help me (at least a little bit) in the future, simply because I have less distance to fall in terms of lifestyle. Still, I sometimes contemplate how my current $10,000-or-less-a-year lifestyle (where I still have access to a large variety of foods I can buy from far-off places, clean water, electricity, access to Internet, emergency health care, etc.) is still very fossil fuel dependent and dependent on a ultra-complex growth-based economy. I remind myself I’m far from being poor; I’m still living very richly.

Comments are closed.