Saturday, November 03, 2007

off and up out

"Sit, be still, and listen for you are drunk and we are at the edge of the roof." - Rumi, Sufi mystic

My friend Jared once asked me if I secretly desired the destruction of industrialization and the failure of the automotive way of life. That was years ago and I have yet to give him a straight answer. In an effort to remain consistent, nor will I today. In fact I'm planning to dodge his question in part because I think it will soon be moot. My crystal ball is in the shop but as I look out into the world, especially the world according to most mainstream economists, I see trouble up ahead. There is still plenty of bread and circus but the bread is getting more expensive and the batteries of the circus are running low. I think others might notice soon too. By the way, if you like well polished blog posts or inspirational direction on what to do, this offering might disappoint you. If you like reading the rambling thoughts of others as they deal with the issues of our era you might just enjoi the following.

We here in the U.S. have adopted a way of life that cannot be sustained, regardless of what some will say. The neoconservatives have had their chance to play last-man-standing and it hasn't worked. The U.S. is beginning to feel the pinch of peak oil and will soon have to deal with the peak of all sorts of other resources. Then the changes of climate created by global warming will further disrupt what many have come to regard as normal- more, bigger, faster. The latter half of my life will be about doing with less, smaller and slower. The model of industrialization based on growth capitalism is cracking under the strain of resource depletion and peak happiness and it is going to fail. I doubt it will happen in a spectacular flash of the moment, nor will it take decades to settle in; somewhere in between. I am not especially excited about it. I am not actively calling for the dismantling of this way of life because I imagine it could be quite a rough ride at times. But I must admit I am not answering his question- ‘Do I want it happen’- in large part because it does not matter. It is headed our way.

The last few weeks have felt different from the former f
ew years in regards to the issues of energy and those who are following them closely. As we approach the record cost of a barrel of oil, perhaps the collective American psyche is catching on. Or perhaps the smoke in the theater is getting easier to smell. But there’s been a change in the behavior of those who have been aware for awhile of what is going on. Once upon a time the debate was about whether or not the theory of peak oil was correct. Proven accurate, the talk turned to possible dates of peak oil. Oil extraction, in the form of total liquids, peaked in July of 2006 and unexpected depletion rates in countries like Mexico, (third largest supplier of crude to the US) coupled with unforeseen national hoarding tendencies mean we are very unlikely to ever eclipse that production peak. The era of oil, and with it the era of abundant energy, is now in decline. Throughout the rubbernecking of the peak oil incident there has been a running discussion of what could and should and would be done. Debates like, ‘Move to the country vs. stay in the city’ or ‘We are doomed vs. we’ll be fine.’ I have enjoid the conversation. But I’ve noticed that while there are a whole host of newcomers ready to talk about the peak oil and its repercussions, many of those whom I have gotten to know are quietly stepping off center stage. Many are becoming increasingly convinced that “they” aren’t going to show up to save us with alternatives. Others have become too busy with making real changes in their own life to spend great gobs of time writing about the change. I am set to become one of them.

I have been sprinting. I entered this race several years ago without knowing the distance- just started running. But in retrospect my pace has been awful. It is way too fast. This has allowed me to learn lots and help others do the same, but it has also alienated me from some of my family and friends who aren't receiving the same sort of advances warnings my antennae are picking. It's funny to be able to talk about peak oil in conversation now; to be able to express ideas that might have been considered crazy just a few years ago but are now treated as a bit odd but perhaps prudent. But my previous pace is still unsustainable. I cannot continue to sprint. I am moving far too quickly to be able to properly address all of the aspects of life, including enjoiment.

I am a distance running and so I know the difference between running real fast for a few minutes and stretching out the experience over the long haul. At the end of a good long run I can remember much about what I experienced. I feel engaged, alive and thoughtful. In life, sprinting is sometimes necessary but does not come with the same sort of rewards. When I'm finished a sprint I'm just glad to be done. I don't want my life to be like that, to just be happy when it is over. So it is with conscious effort that I am stopping my sprint and resting briefly before starting off on another sort of a run. My friend Sharon struck at it exactly when she described it as The Marathon.

I had my little "enough" moment two weeks ago, I apparently wasn't alone. That is, a number of the people dealing with these issues seem to be struggling a little with their own confrontation with reality… for so long there has been the hope that if we just worked fast enough and hard enough we could avoid the worst consequences of our inaction. And even though I know better, some small part of my mind had hoped that if I just worked hard enough now, I could fix what was broken, and come to a moment at which things are "ok" again. On every conscious level, I knew that was wrong, but denial is a happy space in your head…

Of course we cannot fix it. We are just going to have to live in it and deal with the change. We must set the past appropriately. My marathon will continue to include posting here at powering down. This is where I work out my thoughts on what is happening and what I think about it. But I will not be offering much; maybe a couple of postings a month. I am planning to contribute a few overdue book and movie reviews for Groovy Green. But the bulk of my writing will be dedicated to a book I am working on. I need to focus on this the most important offering I have to make to the greater response of our nation to peak oil and climate change. I hope to be mostly done before the arrival of my second child in March of next year and the subsequent planting of a spring garden. At my paying job I am laboring to retool the idea of development and exploring how existing communities might retrofit their neighborhoods for the lower energy era. At home we are engaging in renovations to both increase our quality of life and address the issues I know will soon be knocking at our door. To finish out this update I am including recommended reading of other people I find interesting and useful. Or you can cruise the the 'Sites of Interest' in my sidebar. I am also offering a few charts and links to back up my claim that the near future will not be like the recent past. I wish you all the best.

Energy Bulletin - energy info clearing house

The Oil Drum - energy info clearing house

The Raw Story – news

Cryptogon – important stories you might have missed

Urban Survival – economic news in the know

The Archdruid Report – the big picture

Casaubon’s Book - the big picture by the woman

James Howard Kunstler – weekly biting response to these issues

Jeff Vail – energy and more

Ran Prieur – smart thinking about lots of stuff

Warning: None off the following is a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any financial instrument.

the price of oil (with an update)

the price of gasoline in my area last month

up and away with food prices

the U.S. dollar

Mortgage means 'Death Pledge' in French

what we owe


Wendy said...

Is it sick that I find the French translation of "mortgage" a little funny?

Certainly explains why I'm so eager to get out from under ours ;).

Anonymous said...

Today Oil is well over 95 a bbl, the stock market is in a down turn, the fed is calling a slim winter,and it's in the high 60's here in Colorado in November. I now feel the changes, now it's real.
I have been growing a big garden for years now. Kind of practacing for the big crash. But the big crash is happing in slow mo. Just like a car crash one can see everything in slowmotion, and can't do much about the outcome. Here we go.