Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peak Oil and Us (You, Me, Everyone) Part V.II - The Beginning

So what happens after we enter a period of oil decline? Is it predictable?

Well, some things are. But a lot isn't. A classic lesson is how Cuba survived the US oil embargo after the collapse of the Soviet Union. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Community:_How_Cuba_Survived_Peak_Oil is a fascinating documentary and potential lesson on how we might address similar shortages. That said, I have my doubts that our completely polarized 2-party system has either the will or the foresight to enact policies that would help average citizens improve their chances. They are too busy pointing fingers at each other, and the Cold War dinosaurs still in political power seem to ignore Sun Tzu's most basic lesson: know thy enemy.

I could debate whether Cuba is an actual enemy, but the premise remains that our leaders - and many of our citizens - have a blind side when it comes from learning from other political models. The risk of seeing yourself as the best of something is unwillingness to continue to improve and learn from those who are less successful. It's a dangerous path to take, to assume that there's nothing to learn there, but it's one that our political leadership has embraced.

So if there's no political will, how will we as a society adapt? I think this one is going to be grass roots, by individuals and by smaller, agile organizations both in the business and nonprofit worlds.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, organizations that can help businesses adapt before things get bad are good places to be in and join. Helping large companies institute greener practices, remote work models, and manage risk is going to be an ever-growing arena.

Developing skills to actually produce one's own goods and services - from raising a food garden to knitting to animal husbandry to wine and beer making is both fun and a potential source of income in the long run.

Broadening horizons - such as medical professionals developing proficiencies in battlefield medicine, herbal remedies and historical medical practices (spiderwebs, anyone) is never a bad thing.

Knowing your community is the ultimate protection. In our small town alone, are experts of all shapes and sizes, and resources for all kinds of goods and services. Support local community and expertise so that it doesn't get lost. And besides, often making friends is an excellent byproduct.

Eating local helps in reducing food miles, supports local farms and keeps knowledge in the community. It can be a bit of a challenge to learn to eat locally and in season, but there are many resources on canning and preserving and eating in season and from the garden and farmers markets.

Involve your whole family. We recently picked up a copy of Roots, Boots, Buckets and Shoots: Gardening Together With Children, and we can't wait to plant next year's pizza garden.

The best part of this is that this process can be enjoyable. Peak oil does not have to equal a life of bleak deprivation and drudgery. Maybe, just maybe, it will help us with priortizing what is important in our lives.

And that's something most of us could use a little more of.

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