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Whack!

Sat, Aug 29, 2009

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Whack! The soil, such as it is, gives way to my mattock.
What if I’m right? What if the industrial age comes to its overdue close, taking the love of my life with it? What if she’s stuck in Tucson, unwilling or unable to escape when the taps run dry at the gas stations and, more importantly, in her rental house?


Whack! Twenty more blows, and I’ve got a row of soil — scientists would call it “unsorted alluvium” — loosened and ready for my long-handled shovel. Eight feet wide and six inches deep, it’s more cobble than soil, with occasional thin layers of gravel, clay, and easy-digging sand.
It’s got to end some time, even if it’s a few years off. The next case of $120 oil, assuming we get there before the industrial economy falls into the abyss, will be brutal for an already over-stretched American consumer. Banks are falling like dominoes on a mule cart over the bumpy terrain of declining energy supplies. When will the lights go out? When will I lose all communication with my brother, sister, and parents?
Whack! Fifty more rows give way. I take a break to gulp water and breathe the country air. I hear the cackle of a chicken as she brags about laying an egg. The ducks laugh, at her and me. They always laugh, the perfect audience for my twisted sense of humor.
My dad spent his early years in a house without running water or electricity, and it looks like he’ll survive long enough to see the circle complete itself. When he was a kid, his mother declared she’d had enough of the uncivilized life. She was leaving, that very day. She wondered if anybody was going with her. They all went, of course, her husband and their pack of kids. My dad met my mom in college and they dated twice before deciding to get married. They were mere children when they had three children. Fifty-some years later, they’re still in good shape, as sharp as ever. Life-long educators, they instilled in me the work ethic and curiosity that saved me from the oppression of ending up as poor as they were, when they were raising three youngsters in a backwoods, redneck logging town nearly two hours’ drive from the nearest real grocery store.
Whack! The mattock bounces off a massive rock. I scratch and claw through leather gloves pocked with holes, finally tossing it onto a small pile of cobble I’ve remembered to create beside the large mounds of soil mixed with gravel and cobble.
I was a year ahead of my sister in school, and we attended the same high schools and then the same college. We’ve always been close, and our weekend talks on the telephone remind me of the many late-night conversations that led to our similar life paths and offbeat philosophies. During an intramural flag-football game, my brother and I went out of our way to beat up on her college-freshman boyfriend, for no apparent reason except familial protection. Later, she found it funny. At the time, not so much.
Whack! I’m too old for the empire to fall. My bruised and battered body hasn’t taken this kind of physical punishment since two-a-day football practices in high school.
I played cornerback behind my brother’s defensive end every game of my sophomore season in high school. We taunted the opposing quarterback to run the ball our way. He rarely did. On the offensive side of the ball, I still remember the two passes I threw to my brother during his senior season. I never expected to relieve the star quarterback during the regular season, but he hit a rough spot so I played a single series. I called my brother’s number, of course. And I drilled him between the numbers, only to see him drop the ball. So I called his number again, and this time he made the catch and the first down. We’re still close, and we share the academic life, albeit in disparate institutions.
Whack! I’ve developed four rows of calluses on my hands. I can hardly bend my fingers each morning after a pained-wracked night of little sleep.
What if I’m wrong? It’s happened a few thousand times before. What if I quit my easy, over-paid job only to see the empire last another decade? I can’t bear the thought of missing out on daily interactions with students for ten years. And what if we keep killing every species and culture on the planet, and I have to read the news every day for a decade? I can’t bear that thought, either. What if we keep the industrial machine running long enough to destroy habitat for humans within a generation, as it seems we will? Surely the southwestern desert will be among the most miserable locations to face the demise of our species. What if I continue to see my wife of more than a quarter century only a couple days each month? Is that any way to keep a marriage alive?
Whack! My back aches, as it has for months. My imperialist doctor says I shouldn’t work so hard. But this is my job now, preparing for our post-carbon future. Or maybe it’s just my future, sans spouse.
Another couple years would be great, from a personal perspective, but can the living planet handle it? Every day brings us closer to the edge of ecological collapse and runaway greenhouse. Here at the mud hut, we could use the time to figure out the garden and the goats. Not to mention seeing our families another time or two.
Am I that selfish? Am I willing to forgo habitat for all future human beings on the planet just so I can grow some potatoes?
Of course I am. I’m Homo industrialis, after all. I care about me, here, now. Hell with tomorrow, and all the tomorrows to come. And potatoes are damned good, as any Idahoan knows. I’m pretty certain the existential angst isn’t worth living through, anyway, for any thoughtful person. And why should I care about the thoughtless ones?
Whack! My arms and legs burn with every swing of the mattock. A sandhill crane, one of the first to arrive this year, trumpets in the distance. Although biologists don’t know why they’ve been arriving earlier every year, I’m betting they’re not bringing good news on the climate-change front.
I shouldn’t have sold our house in the suburbs, much less quit my easy job to prepare. My wife loved that house, and our life. I should have stuck it out with her, keeping my mouth shut and playing field biologist instead of social critic. Then, at least, we could die together. And she’d have been happy during these last four years. Me, too, at least compared to the emotional rollercoaster I’ve experienced as a result of the pain I’ve caused her.
Whack! Sweat saturates my clothing and even my gloves, staining my hands yellow. I can barely see through my sunglasses, the lenses filled with sweat pouring from my forehead. Not that this job requires any more visibility than brains.
I’m just not cut out for post-carbon living. I’m a career academic. What ever made me think I could live close to the land? It’s fine in theory. But in practice it’s a pain in the … well, every part of my body, which clearly is not too big to fail. Never mind the paucity of friends in my new community, most notably including my best friend for the last 28 years. I simply have neither the body nor the intellect to thrive here.
Whack! Best I keep whacking away. Thinking too much never did anybody any good. And where’d this self-indulgent crap come from, anyway? Onward, upward, through the self-induced fog.
Schopenhauer’s question continues to haunt: How to get through a life not worth living? Make it worth living? That hardly seems an option at this point, given the lose-lose scenario I’ve managed to create for myself, and her. Take the Hemingway out? That certainly wouldn’t help her. Not that I’d notice or, once I’ve left the planetary station, care.
Whack! Ah, self-indulgence. I’ll bet there was damned little of it before the age of fossil fools. I can’t imagine people, tribes, or societies would tolerate the self-absorption rampant in contemporary industrial humans.
A life of service was my answer when I served the empire. It was the answer inspired by the example of my parents, and followed by my siblings. It is the answer of my mentors and colleagues. It was easy to find, and apply, in my ivory-tower life. Whether I find it here, in time, remains to be seen.
Whack! A hundred rows or so, and the garden bed finally is hollowed out, ready for the hardware-cloth “basket” that lines the bottom and sides of the bed to protect the future garden from the present pocket gophers.
How will I serve this community? It’s filled with doomers, many of whom have been growing their own food and organizing their lives around imperial collapse for decades. How do I fit? Or do I?
______________________________________________
The topic and title of this post were provided by Mike, my partner at the mud hut. This post appears at Energy Bulletin and Speak Truth to Power.

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51 Responses to “Whack!”

  1. Rod Says:

    Guy, you have masterfully evoked the tensions and temptations involved in transitioning from the old to the new. Paradigm shifts are never easy especially when one’s on the cusp. A younger generation takes for granted what for their parents was grueling labor and unimaginable suffering. Many friends and loved ones may be lost as one awakens and tries to plant roots. The empire has so much to offer those willing to serve it but heretics only get the flame and opprobrium.
    Thank you for sharing such painful and intimate details of your life, your observations of beauty and your sometimes deep doubts. Thank you for being an example.

  2. Frank Mezek Says:

    Prof Em Guy:
    If you lived 12,000 years ago you wouldn’t have a personal conundrum to face.We are in the same boat.We love nature,but require an intellectual/cultural environment only found in urban settings.The Greek philosophers grew,nutured and taught in urban,social milieus — not in the wild.
    So what are we to do.Are you Don Quixote?
    Frank

  3. bubbleboy Says:

    A horse that has never had shoes has little use for them. Shoes make the feet too soft to not have them.

  4. Frank Mezek Says:

    Well,we could spend thousands of hours on the profound implications of bubbleboy’s comment.Is this the fundamental defect of civilization? Today I could not survive in Sun City,Arizona without air conditioning.But people have lived and thrived in the Sonoran Desert long before we had A/C.Deserts naturally cool off at night,but now the urban heat island effect keeps the temperature above 100%F all night long on some nights.What have we done to ourselves–horses are not born with,nor do they need shoes,if it weren’t for humans.
    We’ve gotten so far away from nature that it would be impossible for the masses to live in nature.But they might have to or die.They will probably die.
    Frank

  5. matt Says:

    A balance should be sought in all things.
    No point in being alone, miserable, tired and righteous.
    ‘Question everything’, an ‘unexamined life is a life not worth
    living…’ etc etc. However, don’t be a victim of your own ‘certainties’.
    Think a little, bit not too much. What do we really know?
    The mattock is my favourite tool. The tool reminds
    me of Chinese propaganda posters and all that
    youthful optimism. Of course masking the fact that
    its bloody hard work.
    You are good soul Guy.
    Give your brain and body a breather
    and take the day off.
    Perhaps you should organise a working bee?
    Double D could provide the entertainment!

  6. Frank Mezek Says:

    Gladly matt.
    Frank

  7. Wendy Says:

    I’m curious, Guy. If your fellow doomers have been there for decades preparing for imperial collapse, what was their prediction when they began? Did they, decades ago, move out there because they too thought collapse was imminent (which time would have passed decades ago now), or were they just planning ahead?

  8. Wendy Says:

    Guy, you may be our exalted Prof Em, but I always enjoy reading these little insights into your human-ness.
    You remind me of a modern day Oregon Trail pioneer, leaving the relatively soft “civilized” life behind and going to a place that will require of you every ounce of physical and emotional fortitude you can muster. But one of your dilemmas really strikes me – when men packed up their families in covered wagons, their wives went with them. There were many wives I’m sure who went not because they longed for this new land, but because they longed to keep their families together; not because they believed the hype of milk and honey, but because they believed in their husbands. And I’ll bet (although we never read about these) there were plenty of men who didn’t go where their adventurous hearts led because their wives would not go, and they wouldn’t go without their wives. You are right – your current living situation is no way to hold a marriage together. I do not envy you your dilemma. Personally, I would probably make the easier choice to stay with the love of my life (as you described your wife) and die with the rest of the imperial rats rather than leave to live alone. Not too many people even have someone they could describe that way, and most would say you should hang onto what you’ve got. But then I’ve gotten emotionally softer in my old age.
    By the way, regarding the muscle-work, I feel your pain. I too have been rising before dawn and falling into bed long after dark, knowing that up here in Idaho the frost will come all too soon and I must make hay (and everything else) while the sun shines. I would hate to live in a world without ibuprofen…

  9. Guy McPherson Says:

    Rod, thanks for the kindness underlying your first-time comment.
    Great line, bubbleboy.
    Frank, I’ve been tipping at windmills as long as I can remember.
    matt, I’d love to take a day off. But neither my brain nor my absence of free will allows it.
    Wendy, most of the doomers in this area thought the industrial age would end during the 1970s. And you thought I was an optimist! But all of them seem to very pleased with the lives they’ve created for themselves. Regarding the pioneer analogy, my partner was on board early on, when it was something of a game.

  10. Stan Moore Says:

    No Choise in the Matter
    Dear Guy —
    If 2030 rolls around and high times have returned and you realize that you could have swam with the current rather than against it and built up a comfortable retirement, what then?
    First, it ain’t gonna happen.
    But if somehow it did, remember — you had no choice in the matter.
    You (and I and a minority of others) cannot learn the kind of information that we have ingested and digested on Peak Oil, Fall of Civilizations, Global Warming, etc. and not act on it. We just cannot do like Matt and “take it easy” and put it out of our minds, even for a moment. We are constitionally (our inner constitutions, that is) unable to let it go.
    I am sort of reminded of some of my favorite words by my favorite essayist of all time, the ecologist/conservationist Aldo Leopold, who said in the preface to his book “A Sand County Almanac”: “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot”.
    Aldo Leopold was essentially a self-taught ecologist and conservationist and ethicist. He preached “the land ethic” and was ahead of our time sixty-plus years ago on the issue of ethics between man and the land. We still have not caught up with him and we seem to be losing ground.
    I see some Aldo in you, Professor. That is a high compliment coming from me.
    No, Professor, there is no room for wavering, doubting, lamenting or changing course. You are operating at a level most people could never understand, combining high intellect with raw emotion with personal action and widespread communication. You are hiding nothing and “letting it all hang out” for all to see.
    You have already, long ago, asked the right questions and you found your answers. They were not the answers you hoped for, but you glimpsed reality and accepted it and charted your course.
    In some ways it is a lonely course, but remember that you have no choice and you are not alone, ever.
    I can personally guarantee it.
    Stan Moore

  11. Turboguy! Says:

    Guy, did you catch this one? I had this sent to me and immediately thought you’d be somewhat interested…
    http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/1375-Green-Sharts-On-The-NYSE!.html

  12. Frank Mezek Says:

    Prof Em Guy: you are the Ubermensch and you do have free will.
    Total Turboguy: where have you been?
    Frank

  13. Leigh Says:

    “How will I serve this community? It’s filled with doomers, many of whom have been growing their own food and organizing their lives around imperial collapse for decades. How do I fit? Or do I?”
    Professor,
    These are questions, save for the “it’s filled with doomers” part, that I ask myself every day. There’s no one right answer, though there may be a number of wrong answers. To fit? Lose yourself, lose track of time, by focusing on what’s around you — by focusing on Nature. Out of that, I suspect, the answers will arise.
    I’ve gone in an opposite direction, sort of, away from an edge city and to a suburb with a fairly large corner lot, to be with the love of my life. The yard is driving a remake of both of our lives, with cultivated species — and noncultivated comers and drop-ins. When neighbors or passers-by ask, we tell them a little about what we’re doing (we don’t say we’re ripping out the lawn, just that we’re, oh, trying to do a permacultural garden. I don’t personally speak about the dwindling of fossil fuels, but if prompted, I would be honest.) You’d be surprised at the interest.
    That said, I could not live without the love of my life. And this is where I feel most for you. I wish the two of you could work it out. I don’t think peak oil or preparations are a “game,” which apparently is her perspective. But I also know that change comes so very slowly. I have no advice in this regard. But I want to say thank you for expressing these feelings — and expressing them so well.
    Kind blessings to you,
    Leigh

  14. James McPherson Says:

    “I drilled him between the numbers, only to see him drop the ball.”
    In my defense, I’d point out that I was caught off guard because our starting quarterback on that dismal team that went 2-8 for the season never threw it that well. You apparently learned from your mistake, making the other pass a bit more difficult to catch.
    While I remember thrashing sister’s ex, a play I remember as well is one in which someone grabbing for your flag pulled off your shorts. Nearly naked, you continued to run for the endzone rather than covering up. Some things never change.
    On a more serious note, in answer to “What if I’m wrong?”: Well, you’ll still have a cool place to live (permanently or in retirement) and a multitude of new and old skills to make the living easier.
    Considering the number of books you’ve written, perhaps another one is in order to explain the steps you’ve taken, the difficulties and rewards encountered, what you and your students learned, etc.
    Of course if you’re right about the big picture, the book will never be published. If you’re wrong about that picture, you’ll have offered one more thing of value to those who would follow your lead (keeping in mind that you may be “wrong” only about timing). Either way, it might serve as a useful means of personal reflection and direction.
    I agree with the comment above about balance, by the way–one of the reasons for the variety of kinds of learning you’ve promoted in the past. Physical exhaustion leads to mental exhaustion, even if used to temporarily relieve emotional exhaustion. Perhaps you should take some time to replenish the spirit. An empty vessel can’t help fill anyone else, it seems.
    From a practical perspective, perhaps you might also set up a training camp with your live-off-the-land buddy to teach others to do the same, or conduct classes in Tucson and/or elsewhere. In case you hadn’t guessed, I just finished reading Strauss’ Emergency, in which he learned all of his skills from other people rather than from books or from trial-and-error.
    As for “keeping my mouth shut and playing field biologist instead of social critic”–I don’t remember that dichotomous phase of your life being all that long before you figuired out how to be both. As you’ve reminded me, why have tenure if not to protect your ability to use what you’ve learned to be a meaningful social critic? I could be wrong, but I think you were just ready to move on.
    And finally, my perspective on “Is that any way to keep a marriage alive?” My answer would be the one you probably already know. Being married to a counselor and having weathered the usual number of ups and downs of a 28-year marriage myself, I would suggest that when problems arise the best way to solve them (regardless of the eventual outcome)usually is through honest communication about goals, hopes, dreams, etc., even if the communication has to be mediated by some paid outsider. Of course that process can be much scarier and more painful than two-a-days.
    Of course, what the hell do I know? You were always the smart brother. :-)

  15. Guy McPherson Says:

    Turboguy, I had not see this link. But it follows the recent pattern in which “green” and “sustainable” are all the rage. Half the campuses in the country are hiring sustainability coordinators. I even interviewed for one of those positions, at a small liberal-arts institution in the northeastern U.S., a few weeks ago. I pointed out that sustainability is an impossibility, as dictated by the laws of thermodynamics (especially that pesky, much-reviled second law). I prefer “durable” over “sustainable,” because the former is actually possible. Not that we’re interested, in this ultimate throw-away society.
    Oh, and by the way, the liberal-arts college defended my right to express my view. But they didn’t welcome it on their campus :)
    Stan, many thanks for your comment, which is kind and thoughtful, as usual.
    Leigh, thanks for your kind and thoughtful first-time comment.
    James, thanks for the follow-up details on the story from high school. And also for airing the family laundry … er, lack of laundry … from college days.

  16. bubbleboy Says:

    An empty vessel can’t help fill anyone else, it seems.
    -And a cup that is full runneth over.

  17. jan Says:

    Thanks for your article, prof. McPherson. It reminds my morning here in the Center of Europe, also digging up own potatoes. But in the afternoon I’m back at IBM office, earning potatoes of the system, until the system works. I started beekeeping, the bees are great teachers. Good luck!

  18. Frank Mezek Says:

    jan: In the Mekong Delta of Vietnam they raise tiny,tame bees that do not sting,unless they are upset.Go on line and put in Mekong Delta bees,and you’ll see people holding hives of these.I have the same photo of myself doing the same thing.My guide warned me 3 times,”don’t drop it”.The old beekeeper said he had never been stung,but you must not drop the hive !!
    Why can’t you import bees like that for the Mud Hut Guy?
    Frank

  19. Frank Mezek Says:

    Reading Kuntsler’s latest about LAX(LA airport)reminded me of a couple of times staying in that hotel opposite the large LAX sign on Century Blvd.Interesting in that you are actually in the airport,
    on one side of the hotel you see planes flying by you landing and on the other side taking off.It was startling to see the crumbling sidewalks,curbs,potholes,and general decay all around.I was talking to a Los Angeles native about this,and he told me the entire city was like that.Especially potholed streets.
    This was in 2007.Is the LA decay a metaphor for human society?
    Frank

  20. Frank Mezek Says:

    The Death of the Air Line:
    Swine Flu will scare most people to death.They will be endlessly warned not to be in close proximity to other people.Where are people most forced to be in close contact with other people? For years the air lines have squeezed people together as closely as they can possibly be squeezed together.No more.All over the world people will avoid getting on an airplane,like avoiding the plague.
    They will be “hoist by their own petard”.Or recalling the demouement
    scene from “Atlas Shrugged”,where a giant banner is strung between two Manhattan skyscrapers reading:”brother you asked for it”.
    Frank

  21. Treecraft Says:

    Guy,
    Thanks for the windy, whiney, cranky rant. I’m thinking I am not alone in my appreciation for people who not only bleed and ache and fret like I do, but who also, at least occasionally, whine and cry, and let on about their mental/emotional waverings. Certitude is a fine thing for a while, but like anything else, it gets annoying, or at least boring, after a while. I like a bit of credibility stirred in with the discourse.
    I do like your sticklish preference for the word “durable” rather than the mis-overused term (tip of the hat to G.W.B.) – “sustainable”. It was your peevish distinctification of the two terms that first made me sit up and listen to your ruminations. I get plenty tired of the word SUSTAINABLE being thrown around like some sort of protective elixir. Not much either one of us does that could be honestly called sustainable… pooping maybe. Me ol’ Da’ used to say to me (12 years old & 65 pounds): “Moose – we’re livin’ in a FOOL’S paradise!” Funny – he had no use for “environmentalists”.
    Damned few of us are cut out for Post-Carbon living. DAMNED FEW. Any doubt there at the hut, or in any of the scattered precincts that follow your rants, musings, and occasional mewlings? Places like Afghanistan offer the most likely gene pools for any specimens of Homo likely to be around in Y-2100. Those people are tough. Me – I’ve been wearing shoes my whole life. It ain’t just because I have been habituated to the custom. It’s as much because I couldn’t have come close to keeping up with the rest of the herd, who had more-nearly feral sorts of soles built into their feet when they first dropped out of the chute.
    I’m no (disciplined) student of such things, but – Bill Catton’s OVERSHOOT ratcheted up my notion that – since our Homo cohort is overbooked by a factor of about 1000 – there are at least six-and-a-half billion more of us on the planet than what (ONCE) was “sustainable” — back before we started in the agriculture biz, and then launched into all the other sorts of ecological mayhem that have characterized our tenure for the last 10,000 annos. If the planet could sustain a FEW million of our kind, back when it was still in “Garden of Eden” condition, how many of us could make it today, as subsistence nomads in its present ripped up, clapped out condition? No hardware cloth available in that lifestyle. So, I wonder if the “same” few million genetically fit individuals abide, quietly, in the masses of our overbooked hoard. It’s a thought that intrigues me, at times.
    How about needling your little brother to give me a call one day? I’m in the Spokane phone book. I figure he’s a busy boy, and I would rather give him the option of ringing me up, in lieu of me pestering him, and having to be directly told to “go away!” There aren’t many intelligent, awake people to converse with around here, ever since Robert Theobald died, and Derrick Jensen left town.
    Your relentless “durable” honesty helps sustain me, Guy. One lone, small voice – howling in the caliche’d garden. You remind me of my “better” self – the one that might, some day appear – but hasn’t showed up yet ( ! ) I’m going to go out, now, and stare at the mirage of the chicken-coop-to-be, and see if I can conjure some more of it into a durable reality.
    Thanks.
    Dan Treecraft
    Spokane

  22. Your Future Says:

    $120 oil is ridiculously cheap. There’s about 23,200 man-hours of labor in every barrel of oil(1).
    At the US minimum wage of $7.25/hr.(2), each barrel is worth $168,200. At $120 per barrel, the lucky buyer is getting slave work for only $0.005 per hour. There will never be a human nor animal substitute for such cheap oil.
    1. http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/Research.html#anchor_71
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_law#United_States

  23. Joe Says:

    I’ve been a lurker on many post-empire sites and landed at yours just yesterday. This is the first time I’ve felt compelled to comment on any, maybe because we share a common state (both geographically, and of mind). My lurking over the years has provided me quite the education and I am philosophically right in line with much of your thinking and actions.
    Probably would have never moved to Arizona if I had known about the converging crises we are currently facing, but now that I’m here, I’ve been building practical knowledge with a local permaculture guild here in Phoenix. This guild is helping me to acquire skills and gain a sense of self-reliance beyond my wildest expectations. I am gardening in the desert on my modest city lot, keeping chickens, growing fruit, and have turned my pool into a natural swimming pond — complete with plants and fish (Yes, I realize that I am not even close to living off-grid).
    …But at local events in my permaculture community, as soon as I start to sound like you, I am cut off and scolded for not being the “positive” change I am looking for. Needless to say, I feel your pain.
    Two reasons for my post:
    1. Permaculture teaches a method of gardening in hard soils that consists first of amending existing soil with the missing organic elements, then layering moisture-retaining paper on top, followed by layers of mulch and compost that will break up the soil over time, eliminating the need to dig. You can plant in it immediately with the idea that veggie roots will further break up the soil for future planting with ever more layers. This works — it’s called lasagna gardening — google it for more info. Saves the backs of those of us in the 40+ club.
    2. Despite the few things that Phoenix can offer post-empire, the long growing season and minimal chances of freezing to death, I have a nagging desire to get out of Dodge before the last stagecoach leaves. Aside from looking outside of the Southwestern US, are there any places in AZ that may fare better than others? Of course, if there are such places, it may pi$$-off the locals if you broadcast their exact location.
    Before I take definitive steps to relocate, I’d appreciate any thoughts from you or your readers on what to look for to maximize chances for a simple but safe life in this beautiful, but extremely dry, state.
    Joe

  24. Guy McPherson Says:

    Joe, thanks for your first-time comment. We use hardware-cloth baskets to reduce damage from pocket gophers, and otherwise we adhere to permaculture principles. Regarding locations, I have many ideas, all of them focused on shallow water, deep soil, moderate climate (neither life-threateningly hot nor life-threateningly cold), and rural community. Sulpher Springs Valley, Chino Valley, Red Rock Canyon country, Verde Valley, and Young come immediately to mind. But we can make considerably more, and more rapid, progress if we talk instead of blogging or emailing, so send me an email message and we’ll set up a time to visit on the phone.

  25. Carol Says:

    Hello Guy,
    I have been reading the energy bulletin for several years now and the article you wrote that I just read really mirrors what my husband and I are currently going through . We have been shaken by what we read and what we really know is happening now. We share the same doubts, reservations, questions that you bring up in the article. We do not have a support system,but are willing to try and bring others into the fold(so to speak). When we first became aware of PO we were trying to enlighten everyone we knew. Now we know better. It’s kind of like when we changed our diet- we wanted everyone to be healthy and instead we were treated like kooks.
    I would like to learn more about permaculture( I live in a very different location than you)but I think it just makes me feel better knowing that there are other people out there who are in similar situations. Maybe we are not so crazy as I sometimes think we are!
    thanks, Carol

  26. Stan Moore Says:

    Dear Guy —
    Glad to hear that your experiences are reaching hearing ears via the internet. Each pair of ears represents a life, and possibly several lives. Each pair of ears represents someone who potentially is willing to let go of the past status quo and reach out for a new life, along with their loved ones and communities.
    Civilization as we have known it cannot be saved, but a lot of individuals can.
    I have not studies permaculture principles per se, but I have my own saying which I think is pretty good : Feed your garden and your garden will feed you. You can work your soil and amend it and it will work for you. You can compost your eggshells and vegetable peelings and your food scraps and return the nourishment to your garden.
    My mentor, the late Fran Hamerstrom, was the only female graduate student of Aldo Leopold. I never saw Fran garden per se or compost, but she had her own way of recycling. She put her apple peels and eggshells on the ground under her apple trees and swore that the production of apples increased over time after she began doing that primitive recycling of kitchen waste. Not everyone would want to see a banana peel on the ground under a fruit tree, but Fran did, and she insisted that I adopt the practice during the four months I spent at her home working on Northern Harrier research.
    In finale, Professor Guy, every day feels special and different from the days of my youth. One can almost feel the economy contracting. All those people out of work are not consuming. All those business with all that debt are wavering. A new article today suggested that much of our hollowed out industry in America is functionally dead and will not be able to be resurrected even if the economy did try to recover. It is a zombie economy and many businesses are just barely holding on.
    Christmas 2009 will be very interesting. I went to the Coddington Mall in Santa Rosa, CA the other day and it was deserted at 7:30 and closed down before 9:00. I ate dinner at a little grill in the mall and the lack of business made me wonder how those employees are going to keep their jobs much longer. How are all the shop owners going to pay their rents with such meager sales? How are the banks going to stay afloat after all the lease payments stop rolling in? How are the people who are dependent on government support going to make it when government services are shuttered?
    I think I can feel the contraction, the constriction, the reduction of the familiar. National Public Radio is talking about “the recovery”, but sooner or later the people are going to wonder which “recovery” they are talking about. Which city, which economy, which world are those pundits and reporters living in?
    And at some point, panic will set in and things will get ugly and frightful.
    Thanks for helping a few astute souls prepare to survive and to live and to be happy in so doing.
    Stan Moore

  27. Wendy Says:

    Carol, you should not be surprised when others do not want to hear your newly enlightened views. You changed your diet and started eating healthy, and wanted to share what you learned with others. You discovered Peak Oil and wanted to share that with others. Nobody wanted to hear it. It’s the same thing experienced by those who have newly discovered Christianity or indeed any religious view. All of the above require a change of mind, a change of ideology, a change of LIFESTYLE. Most people do not want to leave their beaten path, their comfort zone. And they certainly don’t want to be told that their current ideas or lifestyle are wrong. So they are threatened by what you have to say. All you can do is keep pressing on based on what you believe to be true, develop a support network where possible, and talk to anyone who will listen.

  28. James McPherson Says:

    “All you can do is keep pressing on based on what you believe to be true, develop a support network where possible, and talk to anyone who will listen.”
    While, one would hope, listening to them as well. Give-and-take discussion is better received than is lecturing (not to suggest, Carol, that you do so–but I’ve certainly been guilty of it).

  29. Frank Mezek Says:

    Correction:
    I held a “frame”, not a bee hive.The frame is the structure that holds the honey comb.
    Frank

  30. NFR Says:

    Guy, I picked up on your piece via “Island Breath” as I live in the Hawaiian islands (Maui) and it was linked in. The article resonates deeply with me. Thank you for taking the time to write this. We’re on a similar journey. Relocated from Chicago. Bought a very modest house but on an amazing piece of land. Climate is sublime and rainfall plentiful. Using relevant techniques from permaculture, biointensive, agroforestry, etc as I’m realizing no one approach is perfect and each situation poses unique challenges. It is a major intellectual exercise in addition to being hard work. My wife is here and fully onboard. I have doubts like you. Sometimes I think this is the dumbest and/or most selfish thing I’ve ever done. The physical work has ‘broken me’ several times already e.g. elbow problems, sheer exhaustion – but I do recover thankfully. My point to writing is two fold:
    1. There are sources online that help with the cycle of feelings and emotions that go with peak oil/climate change awareness and our personal reactions. It is normal to want to do things, then to feel doubt, as we move on the journey to a semblance of acceptance and serenity. I recommend the “C-Realm” podcast here.
    2. A vital component of personal ‘durability’, often ignored, is the source of ones R&R. In Maui, we surf and play in the ocean. It’s free and it’s energizing. If I were in the mountains, I’d climb/trail run. Whatever it is, the need for something other than toil and existential angst is vital and the location one chooses should align with this for each of us personally. You must take some time out and ‘sharpen the saw’.

  31. Carol Says:

    Wendy, thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes I wonder at the disconnect that I see in everyday life. While I truly believe that the easy oil has come and gone I look around me and not much has changed. I wanted to say that nothing has changed but that is not true as I know several people who have lost their jobs(but they believe another one is right around the corner)and I see standards of living eroding daily,mine included.
    Frank, I do believe it is important for people like Prof. Guy to get ” the word out” to as many people as possible. I do try to listen to what others have to say, although lately I have been pretty much of a recluse and really need to do something about that. Your statement reminds me of a time I was speaking with my son-in-law about global warming. He did not think that humans had anything to do with it. My comment was -does it really matter what causes it,shouldn’t we try and mitigate the effects while we still can. I didn’t want to argue about the causes, I just wanted him to take notice and understand that something needs to be done. BYW, I no longer say global warming, I say, global climate change. I also want to see if the library has DVD’s of the Prisoner, it sounds like something I would be interested in. I grew up with “Twilight Zone,Avengers,and a lot of sci-fi novels.
    To the Maui man, it sounds like you have a really sweet deal going on over there. I have a daughter who lives on the Big Island and things are pretty tough. If you don’t have a ton of money or are a native then a lot of doors are closed to you. I am talking about affordable land primarily. She worked as a beekeeper for over a year and learned mucho- but that is a very hard job and does not pay much. I hope she and her man can make it happen over there but I cry when I think about my carbon footprint when I visit( I am a mother, and I love seeing my daughters).
    I am new at this so bear with me. I always thought that the real crisis would occur when we had food or water shortages.We CAN live without dense fossil fuels.
    Cheers, Carol

  32. Carol Says:

    Correction, I was responding to Stan and James, although the sci-fi reference is to Frank. C

  33. Wendy Says:

    James, thanks for the add. That was implied in my comment but I liked your clarification.
    Frank, my daughter keeps bees and according to her, honey bees in general do not sting unless they are upset. She messes with them all the time and they only sting when they get caught between her skin and something else and think they are getting squashed, or when they feel threatened. Fortunately they are very different from the nasty hornets who charge out and attack me just because I happen to be picking apples in “their” tree. Still, I do not have the courage to pick up one of the hive frames, so I applaud you for that. :)

  34. Stan Moore Says:

    reference, see:
    http://www.enn.com/climate/article/40428
    This link refers to a straw poll published by Reuters that shows most people would not change their lifestyle to save the planet.
    Since the planet is the womb of life for all of us, this means that most people prioritize lifestyle over life itself. Of course, some of this changes when immediate peril is perceived. But it also shows how unusual it is to actually show wisdom in this culture and to regulate one’s desires in a world driven mad my consumerism, materialism, and capitalism.
    Amazingly, the Biblical Ten Commandments are largely forgotten and ignored in our society, and especially now I am thinking of “Thou shall not covet…” Our whole society deliriously covets material wealth and comfort, even as it has become clear that the end effects are bad.
    But this is a cultural problem and not (yet) tied into the hard wiring of all humans. And if culture is a root of the problem, people can organize alternate cultures to show how to avoid covetousness, how to simplify their lives, how to find happiness in a wealth of less “stuff” and how to survive when times are tough.
    Stan Moore

  35. Turboguy! Says:

    Hey Frank, I’ve been sent to… well sent. Tell ya more in a couple weeks. I can tell you that it’s 130 and sandy dring the day, and right around 100 at night with unbelievable humidity. There’s a couple rivers that run through a city that sits on a biblical area that was the home of hanging gardens too.
    Oh, and it’s on the other side of the Northern Hemisphere.
    I keep having this weird thing happen with these Government computers though. Everything I, or anyone else posts here comes up in the “Latest Posts” deal on the front page, but I can’t see the posts until a couple days later. Weird.
    Can’t wait to get home.

  36. Frank Mezek Says:

    Be careful Total.Let us know when you return.
    Frank

  37. Frank Mezek Says:

    Our Stan has correctly summarized the problem with human nature.Humans naturally are programed to respond to vanity,envy,and greed.Successful ancient cultures, such as the Spartans and Persians,recognized these human frailities and structured their societies specifically to counter and restrain these natural human vices.
    Capitalism on the other hand actively promotes and celebrates these vices.That is why Capitalism is doomed.
    Frank

  38. Frank Mezek Says:

    Further to my posting above,has anyone ever heard of anyone ever buying a new car for any other reasons than VEG (vanity,envy,and greed).Anyone who owns a Mercedes or a BMW does so solely for the VEG.
    If humans suddenly only bought a new car when they needed one,it would destroy the world economy.Proof that Capitalism is based only on the VEG.
    Frank

  39. Charlene Says:

    We should think of Sisyphus as happy, I once read.
    “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.”
    It’s not my call to say whether a life is worth living–or anyone else, but the liver of that life.
    I once read a book by my favorite, Mr. Vonnegut, but he opined about the number of people living lives worth living by his standards. Wrong headed.
    I imagine anyone he deemed to be living an unworthy life would be very upset if he tried to take it away from them.
    If an ideal is worth living for it is probably worth dying for, and a man (or woman) who lives their ideals is, at the very least honest. I can find no fault with that, myself.
    As for the work aspect, I think there’s a good reason the Ancient Pueblo people’s average lifespan was somewhere in the 25-35 year range. That’s a lot of wear and tear. But, was it a life worth living? I imagine they thought so.

  40. Carol Says:

    Hi Stan, your response was kind of like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!
    No, seriously- I read the brief article about lifestyle on ENN. I understand what the author is saying. The article is speaking to me. I don’t want to have to make the kind of decisions that I am now faced with. I knew they were coming- I was just hoping it would be much later.
    Making a lifestyle change after decades of marketing is a difficult task- even for the most diligent and determined individuals.
    I’m glad that I found this blog so my status quo is challenged. It’s a good thing.
    thanks, Carol

  41. Stan Moore Says:

    Hi Carol —
    After reading your earlier comments and then seeing the lifestyle poll on Reuters, I thought of you as the exception to what is still normal. You have already passed a critical point in that you have shown willingness to open your mind to reality as relates to your own personal life. Once that happens, it seems to get easier and easier. Others become familiar with “doomerism” in the abstract sense, but never relate to it personally and never find motivation to act as if it really matters.
    So, I congratulate you and I especially congratulate Guy who is successfully expanding his range of influence, via media outlets such as energybulletin.net. This creates a wider audience for Guy’s wisdom and knowledge.
    Stan Moore

  42. Mr. Roboto Says:

    Turboguy-you’re having that issue because they’re running your internet access through a cache server. Can save a lot of money and is good for monitoring what users are doing….

  43. Wendy Says:

    Turboguy – be careful out there and come home soon.

  44. Stan Moore Says:

    Invitation to Professor Guy —
    Please consider writing observations on the current view from the backside of Hubbert’s Peak
    Hi Guy — I would love it if you could take some time in the foreseeable future and do a posting, perhaps for EnergyBulletin.net, too, about the emerging view on the downside of Hubbert’s Peak. We have a pretty good idea of the endpoint — Doom. But the view now is probably a bit different than I expected, but I think the overall trajectory on the final Bell Curve will be similar. We did get a demand slump, which has stabilized the sense of gloom for a temporary respite, but it appears to me that the resumption of oil price hikes is inevitable and probably will occur soon because of the related drop in investment in recovery. I am already seeing gasoline rising at the pump locally. It was a few cents under $3.00 a couple of weeks ago and now crowding $3.15 with no place to go but up.
    The Bell Curve in a short-term perspective seems flattish, but over a multi-year period is dropping and the rate of drop is sure to increase as certain tipping points are reached. Among them are the melting away of some of the excess “fat” from the consumer economy, which is caused by increasing job loss, credit loss, and confidence loss. We have had a lot of excess fat in the economy that could allow people to survive temporarily on borrowed existing assets, but these are being depleted rapidly and I think that soon millions of Americans are going to wonder how to pay for the next tankful of gasoline, the next mortgage payment or auto loan bill, etc.
    When the (personal financial) rag is wrung dry, the people will cry, I believe.
    But I would like to see how you analyze and express it, if you wish when you have time to think about it.
    Best,
    Stan Moore

  45. matt Says:

    Your currency is falling, when it comes to fuel
    we pay nearly double that.
    ‘Prediction’ – there will be a sell off in gold,
    the currency will stabilize, and oil will spike. :)
    Obviously never trust a bell shaped curve,
    It is a form of prediction. Nature doesn’t
    observe that kind of neat geometry. (particularly when
    humans are involved).
    Consequently, any form of punditry is pissing into
    the wind. Having said that I agree its going to get
    very messy, rationing in 2-5 years. The politics
    of severe rationing is going to be an absolute nightmare.
    Try this as a thought experiment – rationing – so many unpredictable
    consequences.
    Human nature to delay the inevitable. To be honest
    I think we are fucked. But hey, what do I know?
    Prediction is a form of magical thinking.
    All I know is that there are far too many mouths to feed
    and far too much enviro degradation taking place
    just as the global population is expanding by 78 million per year.
    We just experienced our warmest winter on record.
    Our dams are at 28% capacity. And the politicians
    are continually trumpeting economic growth.
    Climate change tipping point?
    I would say we have already passed it, our rainfall
    has been steadily declining. Drought for 13 years.
    Our economy is still going well, unemployment at 5.5%,
    growth etc, all fuelled by China. The structural
    weakness in the Aussie economy is that we just
    dig holes in the ground. We have a lot of resources
    relative to our population. Our house prices have
    risen 8.5% this year. Go figure.
    My local government is going to spend
    8 million expanding the building. I suggested to the
    manager that’s running the project that
    the rest of the world is contracting just as we are expanding,
    shouldn’t we be rethinking this strategy given the global
    recession and the inevitable consequences on our
    economy? (I did not mention peak oil and the obvious consequences
    on economic growth.)
    He said ‘no one can predict the future!’
    What can I say, I try to bring some ‘light’ to the dark road ahead.

  46. Guy McPherson Says:

    Stan, despite the obvious hubris associated with predicting the future, I’ll try to respond to your excellent suggestion in the not-too-distant future. Loss of credibility notwithstanding, it seems a worthy exercise to me.

  47. Waiting Says:

    Guy – wonderful post. Perhaps you’re creating a safe haven for your wonderful spouse…you know, home is where when you have to go there they have to take you in. That just might work both ways…throw a disc, and your PhD days are over. Will you wait it out? Who’s more recalcitrant, you, her or the caliche’? I’m sure you’ve done a full cost-benefit analysis…over and over, no doubt. Can the subject of the CBA be at all objective? Get a backhoe, a pocket backhoe, though your Sisyphean labors are clear fruit for prose.


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