Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Peak Oil and Us (You, Me, Everyone) Part II - What We Need To Learn

So I hope I made you just nervous enough to keep reading with my last post. Because honestly, it makes me nervous that there's so little conversation about Peak Oil. Scary stuff, that. Just the sheer dependence of our - and other country's food supplies on petroleum is enough to unnerve even the most stalwart optimist.

I'm not a big fan of living on a diet of fear though. Gets tiring and boring and in the way of doing productive things a fair amount of the time. I mean, it's good to learn about Peak Oil, the economic impacts - all of that stuff is good from a macro, being informed perspective.

But the real value comes in being productive about it. And that's where we have to look at some interesting models to start to learn. Most of those models are old. Like, prairie housewife old. But the lessons can be adapted and updated.

We've got a lot going for us heading into The Long Descent. We're a more educated society. Huge strides in medicine, womens rights and nutrition have been made in the last 120 years or so. These are going to do nothing but serve us well as we go forward.

But we have some strikes against us. Most of us have forgotten, if we ever knew how, to fend for ourselves. Those of our families that knew how to capture a wild yeast and keep a sourdough going, or how to bake bread over open flame, or how to raise and butcher our own meat are long gone. And worse, most of us don't know our neighbors and our communities. In a world where supplies are limited, community- the sense of it and the reality of it - is often what stands between us and dire needs that are unmet.

But the biggest strike against us is our sense of entitlement. The sense that manual labor, such as picking crops or felling trees is for the uneducated masses. The sense that somehow we are better than that. The sense that a degree, or a series of them, allows us to insulate ourselves from the unpleasantries of life. The sense that we can buy our way to prosperity. Changing our minds about what 'successful' means is a huge challenge.

But not insurmountable.

This is not a story that has to have an unhappy ending. We can learn, and learn we must.

Where? Well, this is the fun part - there are so many places to learn from. Where do I suggest starting? Don't laugh. Here. Yeah, I mean it. Re-reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's lightly fictionalized descriptions of her childhood will give you new respect for what people are capable of. When you are done with the series, make some of these recipes. If you have kids, or just still feel like a kid, the taffy-pulling and ice cream making recipes are not to be missed.

Then go watch this. Seriously, if they can do it, we can. And we've got a lot of perks they did not - for one, we all don't have to build log houses, and for another, we can skip the corsets.

Then read this. My mothers hosted Carla Emery at their home several times before she passed on, and my sister recipe tested for her. Oh yeah, and read my sister's blog, The Chatelaine's Keys, she's brilliant and interesting, and an actual expert on the stuff I'm writing about. Which, I must add once again, I am not.

Then start a garden. Try baking some bread - this bread will literally take you 5 minutes. And oh, is it good. Read some more.

Look, you can think I'm a loony living in apocalyptic la-la land if you want when you read this. Actually though, I'm not. I'm a disgustingly practical working mom in upper middle-class suburbia who consults for Fortune 500 companies. I'm boringly normal, hardly an unshaven hippie-survivalist. I drive to work through traffic to Boston during the week, I wear high heels, makeup, and I color my hair. And for the record, I shave my legs.

But I think we're in for a wake up call sometime in our lifetimes. No one knows when or how it will come. But I have endless faith that we can learn what we need to.

Coming up: Getting Dirty

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