Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Refuge and Community

I had some time to get out of my usual grooves today, following the links of several peak oil sites and blogs. One of them is written by Dimitri Orlov. Here is a bit of his latest post:

"You compare the US to the Soviet Union, but didn't the Soviet Union fail because of its backward Communist system? We have the free market, we can innovate and solve our problems in ways that they just couldn't even imagine!"

"The central planning system in the Soviet Union was quite inflexible and inefficient, and caused hoarding and black market trading. It directly allocated resources to things like central heating for entire neighborhoods, public transportation and government services. Market psychology had nothing to do with it: these were all physical flows of energy.

Our system is certainly better during normal times, but when key resources become scarce, it suddenly becomes much worse: people are priced out of the markets for the things they need to survive, hoarding and profiteering become the norm, municipalities are driven into bankruptcy while oil companies make record profits and find nothing better to do with them than buy back their own stock, and so forth."

"But still, can't we innovate our way out of this? I was shopping for a new car yesterday, and there are all kinds of new hybrids and electric cars appearing on the market... when there is a crisis, the free market system responds, and gives us products that solve the problem!"

"The idea that the problem of too many cars and too much car dependence can be solved by making more cars is preposterous. What makes the problem insolvable is that Americans have been conditioned to treat access to private automobile as a birthright, and taking away their cars is about as advisable as trying to take away their guns.

The most commonsense thing to do would be to ban the manufacture, import, and sale of new vehicles, except for some specific fleet vehicles used for public services, as was done during World War II.

But this problem will work itself out to some extent: it takes a lot of energy to make a car, and new cars are still affordable only because the new oil prices haven't percolated through the entire economy yet." (clip)

"If you were sent to Washington to fix this, what would you do?"

"Please don't send me to Washington: it's not the place to go to get anything useful accomplished. Centralized, political efforts are about as likely to succeed as Gorbachev's Perestroika. There, there was the one Communist party, which killed all private initiative and entrepreneurship.

Here, we have the two Capitalist parties, which kill all public initiatives that impinge on the prerogatives of private capital or the free market. This makes just about any good proposal politically impossible. The best thing to do about national politicians is to completely ignore them and wait until they go away. This approach worked really well with the Communists in Russia."(clip)

"Boy, you must be a real hit at cocktail parties! It's all doom and gloom, isn't it?"

"Yes, there is that aspect to it, but my message is really quite hopeful. What I want people to walk away with is the realization that it is possible to live a rich, happy, fulfilling life even in the midst of collapse. All it takes is some preparation and a different attitude.

It is hard to get started, and shift from looking at the big picture to leaving it behind and making your own arrangements, but once you take a few steps in that direction, life actually gets easier, because with each step, you gain some peace of mind. "

I was led to this site by this review of "Crash Course: Preparing for Peak Oil" by Zachary Nowak. The book has a concise introduction to the concept of Peak Oil, followed by what I see as the strength of the book: an interesting discussion on scenario planning, rounded out by an extensive guide to the skills and knowledge that will be necessary to make the best of a less-than-ideal future.

Scenario planning is something that I think is vitally important for everyone to perform on an ongoing basis. (clip) In "Crash Course," Nowak outlines four separate future scenarios for planning purposes: The New Green Revolution (most optimistic), Powerdown USA, the Great Energy Depression, and The Crash (most pessimistic).

He then discusses the merits of planning for the future via a "refuge" or through fostering "community." (clip) The answer seems to lie in planting seeds of personal refuges that, from the outset, are intended to anchor the networks of sustainable community, knowledge sharing, and local solution development that will one day grow into resilient local communities. "

So, it seems we should plan for both: refuge and community.

And, if you don't live in a community that is forward thinking and capable of turning its streets into bicycle and bus ways, its 7- elevens into local food market centers, its vacant lots into community gardens, and behaving in a rational intelligent way, then find one now.

I'm convinced that my community can respond to the challenges ahead in creative and humane ways.

As for refuge, that might mean solar panels on your roof, or it may mean a home in the mountains of Mexico.

But, by all means, make some arrangements, take a few steps out of the Matrix. Life actually does get easier, because with each step, you gain peace of mind, and you gain confidence in yourself and your ability to perceive the truth of things.

With that peace and with that truth,

we become capable of acting without fear,

we see what we have become,

and where we must go.

To our Refuge within the Community.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post, thanks. SP

8:41 PM  

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