Posts Tagged ‘economic crash’

The secret of happiness

Now that’s a pompous title to a post. I doubt anyone can ever really claim to have found the one secret to happiness, however there was a nice article on happiness over at Mother Jones today. I particularly liked the “10 techniques to help you get happier”:

  • Meet up with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while
  • Watch a funny film or tv show
  • Exercise 30 minutes three times a week
  • Cut your tv viewing in half (but not the funny stuff?)
  • Buy experiences not goods: go to a concert, movie, unusual place, or strange restaurant.
  • Create novel challenges by starting a hobby, joining an organization, learning a skill
  • Go for a 20 minute walk in the sun
  • Spend 10 minutes listening to relaxing or uplifting music
  • Stroke a dog (cat?)
  • Stop watching and reading the news

It’s all to easy to focus solely on the physical things we have to do – the garden, the house, etc – and to miss out on thinking about the mental and emotional challenges that we face. And none of those have to cost a lot of money – perfect in this post-crash world.

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Background to Peak Oil – Interview with Colin Campbell

There is a great interview with Colin Campbell over at The Oil Drum – running through all the Peak Oil basics. It covers tar sands, new discoveries, potential of polar oil fields, reserve growth, and all the rest. I particularly liked the concluding paragraphs:

We enter a new world, as the principal energy that drove the anomalous past two centuries heads into decline from natural depletion. This is not necessarily a doomsday message. I have known many simple people in different parts of the world who smiled and laughed not being part of the consumer society.

There are encouraging signs. A BBC film crew who was here recently told me that they had become so convinced of the Peak Oil issue, which they had studied to make their programme, that they had decided to quit the BBC and buy a small farm in the west of England on which to build a simple sustainable future. That was most encouraging, I thought.

A dark post-economic-crash moment

Dmitry Orlov is at his cheery best again, writing an article called “Social Collapse Best Practices“. In it he describes the grim future awaiting America if Obama’s administration continmue to try and resuscitate Business as Usual. 

What should their realistic new objectives be? Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless. If successful, society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified. If unsuccessful, society will be gradually destroyed in a series of convulsions that will leave a defunct nation composed of many wretched little fiefdoms.

Not the happiest picture! He then goes on to describe the advantages that the USSR had during its collapse.

Essentially, because supplies of food were already poor, people had already adjusted to growing their own and obtaining supplies from elsewhere within walking / public transport distance. His suggestion for the West is to prepare for human scale farming, in or near urban centres. Identify spare spaces (or spaces that will become spare when fuel becomes scarce – car parks, some roads, overpasses etc – and transport soil in to produce raised beds. He suggests this once-off transport of soil will be easier than ensuring regular transport of produce into the cities. 

Their population density – many generations to an apartment – while a negative in prosperous times can be seen as aiding their resilience.  The density lends itself to good public transport and larger scale, more efficient, heating. In addition, they did not face the spectre of eviction as the first consequence of economic crisis. He contrasts this to the unsustainable nature of American suburbia with its car and heating-fuel dependence.

He has an interesting take on security – the thing that results in so many Americans’ response to peak oil being to lock them selves in a cabin in the woods surrounded by weapons. He takes the pragmatic approach of making friends with the many out-of-work soldiers and police that will be around – the if you can’t beat them, join them, approach.

The interesting thing I take away from this is one of his early insights:

Here is the key insight: you might think that when collapse happens, nothing works. That’s just not the case. The old ways of doing things don’t work any more, the old assumptions are all invalidated, conventional goals and measures of success become irrelevant. But a different set of goals, techniques, and measures of success can be brought to bear immediately, and the sooner the better.

The message is – get your head, and house – in the right place before you need to. Then you stand a reasonable chance of getting through this, and getting your family and friends through it too.

What is the Good Life?

In the middle of this dire economic crash, with peak-oil and climate change suggesting that the “best” is now behind us and that a long, slow (or short, quick) decline is what we face, a wonderful movement is being reborn. It shoots can be seen everywhere – in the flowering of Transition Towns across Britain, in the ever-growing waiting lists for allotments that were unwanted just a few years ago, local farmer’s markets sprouting in every town centre, and proposals for 2,012 gardens clinging to London’s rooves. It’s even discussed in the Guardian’s forecasts for 2009. Whatever your particular name for it, it seems that we are being shocked out of our ongoing “Greed is Good” mentality to ” The Good Life is Better”.

But what is this Good Life? I suspect everybody has their own. It depends on what has brought you to this point: increasing prices for petrol, gas, electricity and food? unemployment or financial uncertainty? unease at the origin and safety of your family’s food? concern over your environmental footprint? or a belief in the impending energy shortages that peak oil will bring? Whatever your overall direction or philosophy, frugality, self-sufficiency, and the rediscovery of community seem to be some common themes.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of this, but when it all gets a little too interesting I like to take a step back and think “Isn’t this one of the most exciting times to be alive – to have a chance to shape a future for our children at this pivotal period in our history.”

Bring on an interesting year decade …

Life in a post-economic-crash world

Charlie Brooker’s view of life in a post-crash world, from today’s Guardian:

All of it was a dream. All that crap we bought, all the bottled water and Blu-Ray players and designer shoes and iPod Shuffles and patio heaters; all the jobs we had; all the catchphrases we memorised and the stupid things we thought. Everything we did for the past 10 years – none of it really felt real, did it? Time to snap out of it. Time to grow our own vegetables and learn hand-to-hand combat with staves. And time, perhaps, to really start living.

A great summary I think . . . .

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