There’s an interesting post at OIFS today in which Jim discusses his transition from viewing his lifestyle choices as trying to be morally superior to seeing them as the most logical way to prepare for the changes that are coming. He mentions me in that post as one of the people “actively preparing” for that future, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to give people a hint as to what I am doing.
A quick look at my profile shows that I’m living in suburban sprawl of the Twin Cities metro area. Hardly the place for the someone who claims to be concerned about our future to be living, right? Well, it depends on your vision for the future, and what you want out of it. I believe our way of life and its supporting systems will collapse some time in the next decade or two. I wish I could narrow the timeframe more than that, but there are simply too many unknown variables in play right now to make a more accurate assessment than that. If pressed, I’d say that by 2015, the changes will be undeniable. That said, I don’t think we’re going all the way to Mad Max or a similar anarchical hell. We’ll be living much more locally; not many people will be commuting 30 miles each way to and from work unless you’re fortunate enough to be near public transport of some sort, and are willing to sacrifice 4 or more extra hours out of your day to get to and from your workplace.
Most assessments show that in 2020, even if we’ve peaked now, we’ll still be producing roughly the same amount of oil as we were in 1980. That’s still a hell of a lot of gasoline and associated products, but with a lot more people on the planet demanding access to that oil, prices will be much higher. The net result of this is a lot less commuters, a lot less discretionary income to be spent on tech toys, cheap clothing that needs to be replaced every season, and other crap. People will need to make wiser choices about where they live, what they buy, and how they eat. So, will the road system crumble? No, but there will be a lot less cars on the road.
Anyway, I grew up in the Twin Cities suburbs; it’s what I’m most comfortable with and where my family chooses to live. I don’t know that I’m cut out for the rural, agricultural life, and while I have nothing against living in the city, the advantages don’t outweigh the disadvantages for me at this time. My current residence is new, relatively energy-efficient for a traditional house, and we’re located within walking distance of most of my wife’s family, and within biking distance of work, shopping, etc. I’ve got between 1/5 and 1/4 of an acre that I could potentially turn into a permaculture garden, but for now I’ll content myself with some raised vegetable beds and ‘decorative’ flowers, herbs and other plants that can pass themselves off as landscaping. No need to pick a fight with my fellow homeowners until it’s really needed.
I’ve also taken steps to wipe out pretty much all of my long-term debt except for my mortgage. I’m not as concerned over the mortgage for a few reasons:
- I’ve got a 30-year fixed rate that’s quite competitive over the long history of interest rates, and I’ll be paying down the principle at the same time. None of that dodgy interest-only ARM crap for me.
- The federal budget is so screwed up, and our money supply is so mismanaged that inflation (and perhaps hyperinflation) is pretty much guaranteed unless the US decides to simply default on it’s debt obligations, which I don’t see happening, especially under Helicopter Ben’s watch.
- When you get right down to it, private ownership of property is pretty much a myth in the USA. If the government wants your property, they’ll take it. Whether they do it by eminent domain, raising your property taxes sky-high, or via executive order, they will take what they need, when they need it. Search on ‘Executive Order 11490’ or ‘FEMA private property’ sometime.
So, I’ll stay where I am until I pay the property off, or it’s taken away from me. In the latter event, I’ve got family with plenty of extra room nearby. At any rate, it’s impractical to think that everyone will up and abandon the hundreds of thousands of homes that inhabit the Twin Cities suburbs to either move back into town, or to the small towns and take up farming. Most people don’t have the skills to raise food properly, especially in a low-energy setting. Many of us will have to make a go of it in the burbs, and until my family decides otherwise, I’ll be one of them. We’re expected to add another million people to the area by 2020 or so, and that’s before taking into account any migrations of people from regions that will be hammered by rising energy costs like the Southwest, or even the old South. These people will need to live somewhere, and I’m guessing that the in-filling of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and the inner-ring suburbs will only handle some of them.
Most importantly, I’m trying to learn a new skill set based on what I see as being important for the future. I’m learning about bike maintenance, gardening, permaculture, cooking, green building and other related issues. While making money will always be important, I think it will become much more critical for people to be constructive members of their local society. My goal is to eventually be able to teach others on these subjects, since the more self-sufficient everyone becomes, the less I have to worry about my starving neighbors stealing all the produce out of my garden.
Finally, I’m trying to get the word out. My own family, like most of the people out there, either don’t agree with my views on the coming transition, or they simply don’t want to hear about it. Few people like to be told that their way of life is on life support, and that they’ll have to give up activities and patterns of life that are comforting to them. For some reason I can’t just sit back, read, and stew on it in private, so I’ve decided to set up this blog to hopefully start some discussions about coming changes, and to get out crucial bits of information that will make people think, if not take action.
I’m not setting myself up as a pillar of virtue, nor am I trying to sell anyone anything or convince them that the way of life I am choosing is the only correct path to survival. My goal is to inform, to help build the community of upper-Midwest peak oil/sustainability people, and start building the world my children will inhabit.