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A Parent’s Dilemma: Preparing a Child for an Uncertain Future

Sat, Nov 27, 2010

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by Jeff Sties

When our son Ben was born in 1999, my wife Stacy and I decided that one child was enough. For starters, there was her obvious discomfort during the pregnancy. Financially, we knew that we could not afford to put multiple children through college. Our chosen careers brought in a comfortable income as long as we kept our ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ clearly in balance. In addition, my wife wanted to stay home with the baby for at least a year and then return to professional employment. All of this required us to quickly re-think our careers, retirement plans, and even where we lived. As any decent parent will tell you, children have a way of doing this.

At a conference in 2008, I attended a panel discussion on the future of ‘sustainability.’ A researcher from the emerging science of bio-mimicry explained how rising levels of carbon dioxide emissions would destroy much of the world’s ecosystems. With obvious difficulty, she managed to suppress her emotions long enough to describe the future she thought awaited her children. In order to prepare them for the challenges ahead, she was teaching them to be ‘resilient.’

Following the conference, I began my own research into the effects of climate change. It was then that I came across the complex economic theory of ‘peak oil’ as explained by Richard Heinberg, Colin Campbell, and many others. Quite suddenly it was clear to me that the ‘endless growth’ model of western civilization was coming to an end and that this process would only be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. This time, it wasn’t just my own future that needed re-thinking, it was my son’s as well.

How could I prepare us for an uncertain future without scaring my family? Moving to Canada or joining a ‘life boat’ community was not an option unless I wanted a swift divorce. We did not have the money to go ‘off the grid’ even if it made sense in an urban neighborhood. My wife was supportive but unwilling to confront the issue head on; she left that duty to me. As I thought through the ramifications of the ‘long emergency’ I desperately needed to channel that energy into something productive.

At the time, my wife had a co-worker who brought fresh eggs into the office: We were hooked. With my wife and son’s enthusiastic support, I set about designing a chicken coop for ourselves. My goal was to make this a neighbor-friendly project and use it as a teaching opportunity. The small city where we live permitted chickens, but had an unwritten policy banning roosters.

The first step was to teach my son the fine art of dumpster diving for construction materials. We kept our eyes on local construction bins, obtained the necessary permissions, put on our gloves and went safely to work. We salvaged scraps of construction lumber, half sheets of exterior grade plywood, and even a few concrete blocks. During construction, I let my son and the neighbor’s kids pour concrete, nail framing, and put on a coat of paint. When it was ready, my wife drove down to the Farmer’s Co-op and brought home four hens in dog kennels.

We’ve had the girls (Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Molly) for 18 months. The three of us take turns distributing free eggs to neighbors who greatly appreciate them. In return we receive empty egg cartons and kitchen scraps for the chickens. Occasionally we are rewarded with homemade cookies or a jar of local preserves as barter. A neighbor down the street was so impressed with our effort, he built his own coop. Without a doubt, this experiment has been a huge success with one exception; our care for the chickens exceeds the current cost of eggs at the grocery store. As far as I am concerned, the benefits far outweigh the difference.

This initial effort at food production encouraged me to expand the little garden I have had for many years. Last spring, my son and I planted a wide variety of seeds including lettuce, collards, beans, tomatoes, and much more. The idea, I explained to him, was to see what we could grow in our shady yard that would feed us as well as the chickens. He helped with planting the seeds, transferring the young seedlings, watering during the summer heat and harvesting. It was his idea to protect the plants from local deer by cutting and bending a section of metal rabbit fencing over the rows. We took turns with the single pair of wire cutters and discussed ways to cover them with plastic when winter set in.

Although the summer drought reduced our yield, we had good success with the lettuce and collards. We all enjoy eating the fresh lettuce; our second crop is still producing. The collards are strictly for the chickens! As summer blended into fall, Ben helped me plant onion and garlic bulbs, which have come up beautifully. Again, this ongoing project serves two purposes. It’s about learning what I can grow in our yard as well as teaching Ben where his food comes from.

My next project was to teach him how to preserve food. I purchased a large canning pot and the required accessories before we headed off last May to pick strawberries. In August, he and I went to pick peaches at the local orchard where we pick apples in the fall. For those of you who have never tried this, canning preserves is hot, sticky work with potential health effects so I limited his initial involvement in the actual processing. This has not diminished his appreciation of his own efforts, which he is reminded of every time he pops the lid on a fresh jar of jam. To add to this new family tradition, we plan on opening the peaches with the first winter snow, or Christmas morning, whichever comes first.

Our next project together was to excavate a basic root cellar by hand. Although I did most of the hard digging with a pick, my son managed to extract a few buckets of Virginia red clay on his own. As the pit got deeper, I handed buckets up to him, he dumped them in the wheelbarrow and sent the empty buckets back down to me. At some point, the ‘fun’ of hauling dirt wore off and buckets started costing me 25 cents apiece. Needless to say, the economic lesson of working and saving money is an ongoing one at our house. Although it cost me a few dollars, it was important to me to teach Ben about the earth’s constant temperature below the frost line.

When Ben was just a year old, Stacy and I started reading to him each night at bedtime. Even though he is eleven now and an avid reader himself, he still enjoys this time together at the end of the day. Some of our favorite books written specifically for young readers happen to have post-apocalyptic settings. The main characters are always children struggling to make sense of their world with little parental guidance. These stories are filled with personal suffering, loss, and efforts at survival. I have used this opportunity to make correlations with our efforts here at home, such as bartering and gathering food. Although I never suggest to him that his future will bear any resemblance, I hope these themes find their way through the daily bombardment of advertising promising a lifestyle that will not come to pass.

These are a few examples of my efforts thus far to prepare us for an uncertain future. I’ve also made a habit of taking Ben to the local used bookstores whenever we need to add to our growing library of appropriate technologies. We frequently watch the ‘survival’ programs on television together and discuss the commonalities. He probably knows more about our debt-based fiat currency system than the average adult. Occasionally he asks for an update on the spot price of silver. However, not all of my ideas have been well received. When I first contemplated ways to prepare my son, I thought of lessons from my own childhood in the late 1970s and 80s.

Camping from Lake Kissimmee in Florida to Moosehead Lake in Maine is how I learned to be resilient. As kids we endured hours crammed in the back of an un-air-conditioned Toyota Corolla with nothing but books to read. For meals we stopped and ate food out of the cooler in the trunk. Our first night in a tent, we learned to trim the excess drop cloth so that it doesn’t collect rainwater. Waiting for the Coleman stove to boil water, dealing with sand, bugs, and things we left on the counter at home were all part of our training. Although I had taken Ben camping as a toddler, he and my wife were less than enthusiastic about this idea. I did however, have their full support to go on my own.

It is important to remember that this is an ongoing process. I will continue to monitor what I believe is the unwinding of western civilization and take what balanced measures are appropriate for my family. What works for us may not work for others. I know that I cannot adequately prepare my son for the magnitude of the changes I expect to occur. My hope is that these experiences will allow him to adapt more readily. In all honesty, it is difficult for me to remain positive all the time but I try not to let it affect Ben’s vision of his own future. We obviously want him to work hard at school and pursue his own interests. He has our full support. In a way, I find comfort in knowing that preparing our children for an uncertain future is a dilemma that all parents face.

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Jeff Sties lives with his wife Stacy and their son Benjamin in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is an architect and the principal of Sunbiosis PLC which specializes in energy efficient single family homes. Jeff and Stacy met while attending Virginia Tech where he graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

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This essay is permalinked at Energy Bulletin.

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55 Responses to “A Parent’s Dilemma: Preparing a Child for an Uncertain Future”

  1. Lydia Says:

    This is a very interesting approach.

    Do you plan to teach your son how to hunt or fish when he’s a little older? What about basic first aid or the possible medicinal uses of various plants?

    I’ve just started to dig into these things myself. I hope I’ll never have to draw on them…but you never know!

  2. Jb Says:

    Hi Lydia,

    We don’t do any hunting, but he has been fishing. Over the summer he learned how to go crabbing and watched me clean the crabs (and eat them!).

    He knows the basics of cleaning wounds but nothing about plants. I tried planting some chamomile late in the summer but it isn’t doing too well. Our yard is very shady and has limited what I can do easily. I need to do a first aid refresher course myself. The neighbor behind us is a nurse’s physician. I’m sorta of counting on her being around…I’ve thought about adding the book “Where There Are No Doctors” to my library.

    Thanks for the comment and the suggestions.

  3. Chandra Says:

    Hi Guy. I’m putting my toe in, as a first time commenter here.

    Jeff,
    I appreciate you taking the time to share this information for other parents who may be searching for the same balance.

    I too imparted what I was able, to my own child in terms of resilience skills, though my efforts were born out of a combination of poverty and choice more so than the impending collapse of civilization. I should preface that with we really weren’t poor, only in terms of Western standards. From an early age she learned to cook, can, sew, garden, salvage building materials, etc. By the age of 12, she helped me renovate our little abode and learned how to demo, wire, finish concrete, paint, remove and replace a roof, and re-use materials. Then I took her on a three month trip across country with one month backpacking through Alaska.

    She’s 21 now and recently jumped in her car and headed out West on an individuating journey of a lifetime.

    As I continue to prepare myself for the long emergency, I wish there were more things I had taught her along the way, though I do rest easy knowing that what I did teach her, gave her a strong foundation for being resilient and adaptable in an unpredictable future.

    Cheers to you and keep up the good work of re-skilling our youth. We’re going to need all the help we can get.

    *Funny, I took my daughter out crabbing as well, thinking that would be a handy skill to have living on the Gulf (way pre-oil spew). She loved it until the crabs went in the boiling pot of water. She ran shrieking from the kitchen, never to eat crabs again.

  4. The REAL Dr. House Says:

    Great article!

    Thank you for sharing such great details about the foods you grow and produce. I’m just finishing “The One Straw Revolution” which talks about using “no-work” techniques to grow food. I hope to start increasing the amount of food that I grow while reducing the work involved – my idea of good thinking. :-)

    My daughter is grown and I was not involved in her upbringing. But, my partner is in complete denial about the hardships of the future, so in some ways, it’s like I’m having to teach him. Not the same thing, but similar.

  5. The REAL Dr. House Says:

    Also meant to comment about first aid and health care. I know of very few physicians or nurses who can treat a hang nail without the benefit of petroleum products. Almost all modern drugs are produced using a petroleum-based solution. And virtually every medical instrument is now made of plastic (the obvious exceptions are needles and a few instruments). Our training in medical school includes absolutely nothing even remotely related to practicing medicine without all the “modern” conveniences.

    So, take my advice and learn all you can yourself. Have several good books on holistic or alternative medicines. Take that first-aid course refresher. If you rely on the doctor around the corner or the nurse across the street, you may find that you’re more prepared than they are.

  6. John Andersen Says:

    Thanks for this post.

    I’m at the point of advising my children (college age) about livelihoods.

    Careers I think are a thing of the past for an increasing number of people.

    Livelihoods are where it’s at.

    Would like to trade ideas with others about this topic.

  7. sunson Says:

    Jeff, this is a very interesting approach and useful post.

    You’ve mentioned that you read out some books. Can you please list those titles? Appreciate the sharing!

    –s

  8. Jen H. Says:

    Thanks so much for writing this, Jeff. I’ve been grappling with similar stuff for the past few years. My husband and I have a 3-year-old daughter and decided we are only having one child. I’ve been thinking, planning, and taking large and small actions regarding both Lily’s upbringing in regards to resilience, as well as trying to build resilience for us as a family and within my community/town/region. Right now I’m working my butt off trying to be present for Lily as well as devote a huge portion of my life to a grassroots project that morphed into a non-profit now trying to create a 120-acre community farm! (Grow Food Northampton) So much of this has been motivated by me asking myself questions like, “How am I going to be able to look my kid in the eye in 10, 20, 30 years and be able to say, ‘I did everything I could’ ?” or even “How can I look my innocent kid in the eye right now, and say, ‘I will do whatever it takes, large, small, in-between, to help you grow into a strong, smart, compassionate adult, and to help heal at least this one small corner of the world’ ?”

    Part of my motivation in deciding to homeschool my child was based on a desire to teach her resilience in a way that I didn’t think conventional schooling could offer.

    I’m with the others who mention learning about basic first aid and CPR for both kids and adults. There’s a bunch of good books and classes out there. I would suggest going a bit beyond “Where There is No Doctor,” though. About 2 years ago I decided to become a certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and I highly, highly recommend it for those of you who want a) more skills and knowledge for dealing with acute health issues, b) a mental/emotional framework for responding to medical emergencies, and c) combine this with the focus on “wilderness”, which in this context means there is no easy access to a hospital and few, if any, medical tools or medications. It was a significant investment of both time (9 consecutive days) and money to do it, though, for me. (I was only able to do it because my husband was unemployed at the time and able to watch the baby but I still was pumping milk at every break and then when I went home each night the baby would want to nurse all night… it was all kind of crazy, but we prioritized it anyway.)

    Another thing that I have found a lot of kids really get into is foraging. At least, my 3-year-old and most of the kids I’ve met are into it. Especially if your yard is challenging for gardening, sometimes it helps to redirect some of that food-and-medicinal-plant-growing itch to responsible foraging.

    Please do list some of those books you were mentioning.

  9. Robin Datta Says:

    This is an article (that morphed into a book – for those who may be interested in pursuing it further): Shop Class as Soulcraft – also, a suggestion for Mr. John Andersen.

    Here is the *.pdf for the book Where There Is No Doctor

    and this is the *.pdf for the book The One-Straw Revolution

    “And virtually every medical instrument is now made of plastic” – reminds me of an early experience when I got here. Back in the old country, syringes were glass, to be cleansed, sterilized and re-used. In the Emergency Department (and in every ward) at the hospital in New York where I was doing my internship, they still had the sterilizers for the syringes and the porcelain sharpening stones for the needles. They were lying unused, as the switch to plastic syringes had been about a year or so prior, but every nurse knew how to resharpen the needles, replace the trocars and put them in the sterilizer with the syringes. I doubt if there are any nurses working today who have even an acquaintance with this.

    Perhaps the reason that “a lot of kids really get into is foraging. At least, my 3-year-old and most of the kids I’ve met are into it” is because the hunter-gatherer traits have been selected for amongst us from pre-hominid times, over two million years.

  10. Victor Says:

    Guy/Jeff,

    Thanks so much for this article. Coping with Collapse is indeed full of challenges. I notice in the comments as well as the article there always seems to be a common thread – the uninformed (or in denial) partner and children, both young and older approaching adulthood. What one does about that seems always to be the question. My children are grown now, but I do have grandchildren of varying ages. I have a wife who is Russian and knows more about survival in tough times than I will ever know. But whilst she is supportive about my efforts to inform her about what is coming, she is from a long and hardy line of people who insist on taking what life gives you today, enjoying it as much as possible and refusing to live today as if you were living tomorrow – tomorrow will take care of itself.

    Well, perhaps, says I. So she is not willing to go as far as abandoning what remains of civilisation, nor will she forego make-up and other comforts of life that we now enjoy. Why? Because we have them and we should use them whilst we have them. This from a lady who has endured one of the worst economic collapses of modern times in Russia. She accepts that The Great Unravelling is coming, but she refuses to hurry it up… ;-) So that’s fine. I can work with that… :-)

    We have a car, so she insists on using it at times for shopping or collecting her at work (she is a nurse) – she patiently explains to me that we have a car, so we should use it…when we don’t have a car, we won’t. Makes sense, I suppose, but my big plans for preparing for the worst take a huge hit here. I can see that I have to be more creative. So I know that she is supportive of all things natural, so we are planting fruit trees, herbs and eventually a vegetable garden. When I mention that it might be a good idea to purchase and store a 6-month supply of tinned goods – just in case of a sudden interruption in food distribution – she raised her eyebrow a bit in suspicion, but in the end assented even though it might put a small hole in our meagre budget.

    I bought a bike for myself, and an electric bike for her, to hedge against that day when the car is no longer useful. She is hesitant but willing to work with me on that one. I ride my bike everywhere and it keeps me quite fit for an old man. We rent, so we are limited in what we can do to improve the house in the way of insulation, etc. One thing about renting is you never know when the house will be pulled out from under you for whatever reason, so you must always accept that whatever investment you put into a place, you might well lose it all in the end. We accept that, because we must. Just as those with mortgages must accept that they might not always be able to pay the mortgage.

    The important thing here that I guess I am trying to get across is that every day, in every way, we are mentally and spiritually, and even physically to an extent, are making preparations for a new and more challenging life and circumstances. We are becoming psychologically hardened to a difficult future. We are slowly detaching ourselves mentally from the present in anticipation of what is coming, but not leaving it altogether. Here, however, everyone must make their own decisions and each of us is in a different situation so must do the best we can.

    As for children and grandchildren? How do you tell them that there will be no more such thing as a “career”, and that the emphasis in their lives now should be “resiliency”? I love the suggestions made here about how concerned parents are approaching this most challenging of all preparations – that of preparing one’s children. I sympathise entirely with you all here. When my children hear me go on about Collapse, they mentally “roll their eyes” – “Here he goes off again….We wish he weren’t so obsessive!”

    Apologies for being long-winded again. But you hit a sensitive spot with me, as I know you did with others here. Sometimes we must work in darkness without knowing what lies beyond. We can only do our best with what we have, and encourage ourselves and each other in the process….and keep HOPE, above all….keep HOPE.

  11. Renee Says:

    @John Andersen – John, I agree wholeheartedly that careers are a thing of the past. My 19-year-old son is quitting college at the end of this semester after a year-and-a-half because he has no idea what he’s doing there and feels nothing he learns in college prepares him for real life. He sees many of his cohorts graduating with debt, moving back home with their parents, unable to find jobs, and disillusioned by the traditional lifestyle they’ve been raised to believe is the norm as well as their birthright. He’s planning to leave in March with a friend for a two-year bike tour and experience life. Am I scared for his safety? Of course. There’s a part of me that wants him to stay in school, graduate, and get a job/career. But that’s just the voice of Mother Culture telling me that’s the correct and safe thing to do. Do I admire his ambition to follow his dreams and his heart? Definitely. He doesn’t know what he will end up doing to support himself afterward, at least in a conventional sense. However, he knows if he completes the journey, it will be life-changing and will open his mind far more than sitting in a classroom dreaming about it. Someday, if he returns to school, it will be his choice and because he knows in his heart why he’s there and not because society tells him that’s his best path to “success.”

  12. Ed Says:

    Jeff, thanks for sharing. For your shady area you might want to dig into forest gardening a bit. FG focuses on lots of plants that do well in shade or partial shade. We are slowly moving our farm in that direction. For medicinal plants you can try Richter’s out of Canada. Seeds now and plants in the spring.
    I’m an old wahoo, class of ’79. We took a look at moving to C’ville but the land prices were out of sight.

    Best Hopes,

    Ed

    http://luckydogfarm.wordpress.com/

  13. Jean Says:

    My friend, I have no children, but I understand your deep concern about this. Obviously, the kid will have to learn many unusual things to survive what’s coming. Being your son, he probably has a big advantage. Other parents are thinkign (still) about sendind them to university to study laws, while you’re thinking about giving him the tools he will need to make it through the catastrophe:

    1.- Physical endurance.- For kids this is not a problem. They like sports. If he trains 5 days a week he will grow strong and healthy.

    2.- Martial instruction.- From 17-18 years old. Use of firearms, tactics… it’s recommendable to find a good instructor (an experienced old soldier, if possible) for him.

    3.- Agriculture and animal breeding.- No comment required. Food production, I mean.

    4.- Scientifical formation.- Not just termodynamics and so. He must be able to understand why things are falling apart.

    This and your personal example should be enough to guarantee him a reasonable chance of survival. Much more than most kids.

    Good luck. After the crash I’ll find a young woman and perhaps, we’ll have a couple children. By now, I’m more worried about other stuff.

  14. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    As long as the orgy of greed is extolled as virtue and touted as the one and only way to live, we can expect to see on the far horizon fairly soon the first slouching trillionaire lumbering toward Bethlehem to be born. As for the Earth, perhaps we will witness its desecration.

    We cannot keep holding on to bad ideas and applauding outrageous overconsumption/excessive hoarding lifestyles simply because such unsustainable behavior serves the selfish interests of many too many leaders and their many minions here and now. At some point we have to begin taking hold of what is good, what is right, what is sustainable, I suppose.

    Otherwise, what is to become of the children’s future?

  15. Jean Says:

    “Otherwise, what is to become of the children’s future?”

    Dear Steven,

    There is nothing we can do to avoid or atenuate the disaster. Just adapt and survive, maximum.

  16. Jb Says:

    My thanks to all for your comments.

    @ Lydia, the REAL Dr House and Jen H: I realize my medical preparations are woefully inadequate at the moment so I really appreciate the ideas. I’ll have to look into wilderness training; we may have a local program given our proximity to the Appalachian Trail.

    @ Chandra: Funny! We grew up catching crabs in the Rappahannock River but I didn’t start eating them until I married Stacy who is from Baltimore. She makes the best crabcakes on earth!

    @ sunsun et al: Here are the books I had in mind: the ‘Hunger Games’ (series) by Suzanne Collins and ‘Kaimira: The Sky Village’ by Monk and Nigel Ashland. The latter was supposed to be a series but only book 1 was ever released. I’ve corresponded with the author but haven’t heard back about release of book 2. IMHO, The Hunger Games main character is a girl but Ben and I both love the series. It’s excellent for the purposes of prepping kids. Kaimira is a little more ‘high tech’ and might be a good way to introduce reluctant boys.

    I promise more responses later: my souffle is finally done!

  17. Kathy Says:

    Jeff, it seems to me that the most important thread of your article is that you and your son are doing far more things outside together than most fathers and sons do this day. Whether or not that will extend his survival or yours and your wife’s, it is good. Very good.

  18. Kathy Says:

    Not to put a cold blanket on the chances of living out a normal lifespan, but the situation in the Koreas seems to be highly unstable, especially with our financial relationship with China in stress. My step grandson is joining the Navy, which no longer seems a relatively safe branch of the military. I still have little hope that the long or short descent will happen without the nukes coming into play. We can only hope we get a chance to use whatever survival skills we are learning. Having to grow our own food and do without fossil fuels is somewhat in our hands and may not be the worst of all possible futures. Other things are in the hands of people who are not necessarily sane (and I am not just referring to Kim Jung il.

    From an article by James Galbraith – Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear First Strike for 1963? http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=did_the_us_military_plan_a_nuclear_first_strike_for_1963
    “For example, Arthur Schlesinger’s Robert Kennedy and His Times gives this account:
    . . . Kennedy received the Net Evaluation, an annual doomsday briefing analyzing the chances of nuclear war. An Air Force General presented it, said Roswell Gilpatric, the deputy secretary of defense, “as though it were for a kindergarten class . . . Finally Kennedy got up and walked right out in the middle of it, and that was the end of it. We never had another one.”3
    McGeorge Bundy evidently refers to the same meeting in this passage:

    In the summer of 1961 [Kennedy] went through a formal briefing on the net assessment of a general nuclear war between the two superpowers, and he expressed his own reaction to Dean Rusk as they walked from the cabinet room to the Oval Office for a private meeting on other subjects: “And we call ourselves the human race.”4″

  19. Marie Says:

    In a nutshell, the best preparation for the future is, in my opinion, to relocalize on a homestead in a rural, low density population area which still has sufficient water, good soil and an existing community with old people with traditional skills still alive. I don’t think building a community from scratch is much of an option at this time. And I don’t think there is much of future for anybody living close to a city with more than 100 000 people. The homestead needs to be big enough to insure that you can be self-sufficient in food if you need to: a one acre plot for a family of four wont cut it. Get involved in the community as soon as possible and get the kids enrolled in organizations like the 4-H, Sunday church etc… I don’t care if you are religious or not, you need to blend in and get accepted by the community by displaying common values. You are not there to evangelize them on your particular political or religious system. There is nothing more annoying for country folk than to have some city slickers barging in with a couple of books on permaculture, stacking no trespassing signs all over the place and playing the arrogant, sophisticated know it all. You and your family are the stranger who need to adapt and show you will be an asset to the community. Make sure the children learn as much as possible about the local ecosystem and how to use the resources at hand to satisfy basic needs. Make sure the kids don’t drag bad habits from the city such as ecstasy or meth consumption. Yea, those things are also in the country but not as much. You can be sure if your kids introduce that to the locals, they will be ostracized. Add basic self-protection training and first aid. The next step would be for the children to learn a specialized skill, preferably through an apprenticeship to make a living in the community: blacksmith, midwifery, farrier etc…If you got teenagers, “volonteer” them to help at haying, pick berries for the old lady next door etc…

  20. Jb Says:

    @ John Anderson and Renee: I whole heartedly agree that the middle class gateway to debt known as ‘college’ should be challenged. I’m glad for Renee’s son; it sounds like he is more aware of his own ability to shape his future than his peers. I hope he defines ‘success’ for himself! Some of the best things I’ve done in life were outside of what other folks would consider ‘safe’ or ‘normal.’

    We started a 529 college savings plan several years ago and used to talk to Ben alot about going to college. Stacy and I have since stopped contributing to the plan and dropped this entire line of conversation at the dinner table. I don’t want to fill his head with unrealistic expectations anymore than I want to see him go into debt.

    @ Victor: The ‘uninformed’ and/or ‘in denial’ member of the family is certainly an issue for me. On the one hand it keeps my preparations in check. On the other, it creates tension and self doubt. I worry that a sudden drop in our standard of living might cause mass psychological trauma and anger. I’d really like to see this issue discussed in another post. Your wife sounds very wise; you’re a lucky man!

    @ Ed: As far as I know, land prices here are still out of sight! Our shady yard forces me to look at what I CAN do instead of what I can’t do. Through experimentation, I learned alot this growing season about what plants will grow in my yard. Next year I’ll expand that search; thanks. I can also collect and purify rainwater, raise rabbits, add a few more chickens, etc. We also have berry bushes, an apple tree, and some herbs that I am propagating.

    @ Jean: Thanks for the great list.

    @ Kathy: Whether we are outside in the yard, baking a cake, or building Legos together, I think the TIME I spend with Ben is what is truly important. I’m not a wealthy man, so this is my gift to him.

    Again, my thanks to all.

  21. John Andersen Says:

    I’ve read there are some government sponsored volunteering opportunities like Americorps that will pay off student loans. College graduates can do those things and perhaps part-time work. It’s a way around having to get a career.

    Perhaps as things collapse further there will be an increase in these types of opportunities.

  22. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Dear Friends and Colleagues,

    One day soon I trust that a HIGH LEVEL DISCUSSION of extant scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth happens in many places. Sooner or later discussions of this kind have to occur, I suppose, despite the fact that free and open speech of what looks to me like the very last of the last taboos is forbidden by the masters of the universe among us, the ones who value money, power and position before all else and exclaim their dishonest and duplicitous ‘work’ is, of all things, “God’s work”.

    My concern for children everywhere is this. If children in our time are “sold” the aberrant idea that economic success is what really matters, that arrogance and avarice actually rule this world, then from now here I expect those who are still young will follow a clearly marked and soon to become patently unsustainable primrose path to perdition and destruction, a path that has been adamantly advocated and religiously pursued by self-proclaimed masters of the universe.

    Let us not allow the ‘economic success’ that is derived from “bigger is better” and “the biggest business is the best”, and from insider trading, hedging, dark pools of capital, CDOs and other financial instruments, market and currency manipulations, Ponzi schemes and economic globalization by the masters of the universe to be confused with the works of God, as given to us in The Creation and disclosed to us in science.

    Despite all the efforts to foment confusion and uncertainty by economic theologians, demographers and other minions of the wealthy and powerful, I trust we can agree that The Creation and science itself are utterly different from the artificially designed, ideologically flawed, manmade global economy that is organized and managed by the masters of the universe for their benefit primarily. Regarding this single thing, can there be even so much as a shadow of doubt? As for demography, it provides a politically useful and economically attractive platform for looking at “the growth rate decreases” of human population numbers in one place after another and then perniciously broadcasting this ‘scientific’ evidence everywhere as if these data provide actual assurance of the end of global population growth soon. All the while the demographers willfully ignore the skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers. Demography is not the practice of science; it is a ruse. Demography is dangerous because it is so very misleading. The ‘empirical’ evidence derived from demography serves the selfish interests of the wealthy and powerful among us by disguising rather than disclosing the actual challenges posed to humanity in our time by the unbridled growth of the human population by approximately 75 to 80 million annually as well as by the gigantic scale of the global population that is projected to reach 9+ billion, likely during the lifetime of my children.

    If the human family chooses not to make a new way of life for ourselves, perhaps you can see what visible through my eyes.

    Can you see in the offing, there on the far horizon within sight of every human being with feet of clay on Earth, the first slouching trillionaire in the universe lumbering toward Bethlehem to be born?

    Sincerely,

    Steve

  23. Kathy Says:

    Excerpt from Dmitry’s latest

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2010/11/korea-fate-of-cold-war-vestige.html

    “It may very well be that Korea’s 21st century will make up for the horrors of the 20th, while most of the former USA devolves into a collection of lawless, ungovernable, sparsely populated territories that, gradually or abruptly, fade from the world scene. But such a positive result for Korea is by no means automatic. Fierce beasts are at their most dangerous right after they have been fatally wounded, and it is hard to predict what sort of damage a fatally wounded America might cause in its agony. “

  24. Mike Says:

    I happened to watch “The Road” this past weekend. Man, what a movie! As always, I have been told that the book by Cormac McCarthy is better.

    I found this interesting presentation this weekend as well before seeing the movie: http://madconomist.com/what-if-us-collapses-soviet-collapse-lessons-every-american-needs-to-know

    It outlines the similarities and differences between the Soviet collapse and the American collapse. There is a hint of Russian-centrism but he does make the case as to why Russia was/is so resilient compared to what is happening and is to come.

  25. Jean Says:

    Basicly different, Mike.

    Russia’s case was a result of poorly designed economic system, sudden transition to savage capitalism, plundering and almost extinction (for a few years) of the state.

    This is going to be totally different: a world collapse, more or less simultaneous. In my country, government is unable to afford to pay policemen and firemen, and there are many villages with no policemen right now. Social protection is vanishing, and real unemployment is about 28,75%. The rest of Europe is more or less in the same situation.

    Left wing politicians still insist (and are probably right) in one thing: the weight of the crisis has fallen over the shoulders of poor people. Right wing ones are still obsessed with come back to the growing of past decade. Both do not see, or do not want to see, that there is every day LESS CAKE to share.

    Right now, they’re firing even soldiers, keeping just the fit ones (they know that army will be needful shortly). A blood bath will be inevitable, I’m afraid. It’s a matter of few months.

    At the same time, fascist movements and xenofobia are growing in the whole european continent. Mussolini’s granddaughter has created a platform called Euronat that puts them all together in Brussels parliament: they’re strong, already. It is also expectable a lot of racial/cultural disturbs with many deaths included. Hatred can be seen in any single corner, crime is rising and middle class has vanished in misery and debt.

    Mass hunger has appeared again, for the first time since XVIIIth century.

    Once the price of oil rise again ’til 150 dollars again (I think that now it’s about 84 dollars/barrel), supermarkets will go empty again (it happened last year), but for a longer time.

    Apocalypse begins now. I already have my knife (weel sharpened steel, will be my best friend shortly) under my coat, and my gun under my jacket, everywhere I go.

    I hope I do not have to spend much more time in the city.

  26. Kathy Says:

    Jean, good to hear more realistic on the ground news from Europe, even if it ominous. The only hopeful thing in this is that when the electric grids fail the power of state actors will disappear (IMO). But the way down seems likely to be fast and furious and various preparations for local sufficiency may fail in the ensuing chaos. Thus you arm yourself. For those of us who choose not to arm, preparing in a way that brings joy in the present seems to me to be best. Our preparations may fail us, but any joy we have had in doing them is not lost.

    I expect the way down to look much like the way up. Only faster, perhaps much much faster – perhaps we humans can zip right by the Inquisition stage on down to the hunter-gatherer stage.

  27. Jb Says:

    @ Steve: I doubt that we will ever see a rational, high level discussion on population growth. For evidence I have only to look within my own community. We have a small group here that did a study on the appropriate population for our city and the surrounding county based on water, soil, etc. (http://www.asapnow.org/) Right now we have about 135,000 residents total. They came to the conclusion that our biocapacity is only 37,000. Wish me luck foraging and hunting when TSHTF.

    @ Mike: I read ‘The Road’ too and then saw the movie. In fact I read it a second time to look for prepping ideas. My father on the other hand, couldn’t read more than the first 20 pages because it was too depressing. Again, it’s the psychological shock of what’s ahead that scares me the most. People will be irrational quickly.

    Good luck to all.

  28. Jean Says:

    Dear Kathy:

    If things fall apart in 5 minutes time, I’ll make it out of the city, take my car and drive directly to my farm, wich is lost in the middle of nowhere, in the snow: no humans in 50 Km. I have tools, arms, ammo, food and a good chimney, in addition to 10 hectareas of black land next to a small river. Right now I’m waiting for a couple more big batteries and a new water pump: I’ll have them tomorrow.

    Unfortunately, I’d like to have more time to create a whole sustainable community, since being alone is a complete madness.

  29. Kathy Says:

    Jean, I think a community will find you. As much as I hate to admit it, I doubt any will make it through the bottleneck without a strong man or woman to lead them. I am not planning to make it through, I have had enough living to call my life complete. I do not want to fight my way to a few more years of life (nor would I be very successful at it).

  30. Jean Says:

    I guess that there will be many refugees when the trouble begin. My lands are next to the mountains, and all the territory around is empty and fertile… ocupying them will be no trouble: there will be no judge to tell us that those lands belong to someone else.

    But it would be much easier if I found twenty or thirty families right now: I spent two years to build the water systems, the house, to make a decent pile of firearms and ammo (difficult to find in Europe): and all that will be hard to find after the collapse. Moreover, the people I can find during the collapse will not have the skills of a farmer (and also the skills of a soldier… prfffs… it takes many years of training and some nasty actions to become a decent fighter, it’s not like Hollywood).

    I’ve tried to convince my friends, but people look at you like a bizarre green alien when you speak about collapse.

    And last but not least: don’t be so negative: anyone with a decent physical shape, belonging to a community can survive this and be useful to others.

  31. Jean Says:

    BTW, tomorrow I’m also buying rabbits and hens, and next week I hope to find a good donkey. :-)

    (A couple goats would also be fine)

  32. the virgin terry Says:

    steven, u’re waxing eloquent, but u’ve lost me with your last line about a slouching trillionaire lumbering to bethlehem to be born? completely lost me. however, i wish to comment to some of your other remarks, as well as to this thread in general.

    i’m afraid the ‘masters of the universe’, our leaders, are not very rational, and i’m not holding my breath waiting for them to realize we have a huge over-population problem. and as for taboos, imo we still have a multitude. dogmatism is inherently closed minded, and closed mindedness is what gives birth to taboos. if collapse has a silver lining, it may be to bring an end to government power to enforce taboos, and to continually promote irrational fears and ignorance.

    “I trust we can agree that The Creation and science itself are utterly different from the artificially designed, ideologically flawed, manmade global economy that is organized and managed by the masters of the universe for their benefit primarily.” -absolutely.

    which sort of leads me to my conclusion re. human procreation now: not a good idea. even if collapse wasn’t an issue, in my view, civilization is too flawed, from the top down, to be fit for raising children. there’s too much injustice, bigotry, zealous puritanical intolerance, inequality, hypocrisy, general foolishness, war, etc…. throw in all the issues related to collapse, and collapse itself… not a good idea. for those of u already in the position of having young children to care for, i don’t know what to say, other than good luck. that plus preparation may serve u well.

  33. Jean Says:

    “which sort of leads me to my conclusion re. human procreation now: not a good idea. even if collapse wasn’t an issue, in my view, civilization is too flawed, from the top down, to be fit for raising children. there’s too much injustice, bigotry, zealous puritanical intolerance, inequality, hypocrisy, general foolishness, war, etc…. throw in all the issues related to collapse, and collapse itself… not a good idea. for those of u already in the position of having young children to care for, i don’t know what to say, other than good luck. that plus preparation may serve u well.”

    World must go on, mankind must go on. I have no kids, but after the collapse there will be some kind of stability. I’ll find a young woman to have a couple kids, and I’ll do my best to educate and protect them.

    Do not forget that this kid (Ben) will be about 20 years old when things collapse enterely: an adult man, perfectly able to defend himself and make it through the disaster.

  34. Kathy Says:

    Jean you wrote “World must go on, mankind must go on”. The world will not go on, eventually the sun will explode and this planet will be done for. Mankind will go on or not, depends on how things play out. We can say “must” all we want but going on depends on many things that individuals cannot control. For all we know the climate is already into positive feedback from global warming that will make it uninhabitable. I believe that CO2 emissions take about 20 to 30 years to reach the part of the atmosphere where they affect climate. (Guy correct me if I am wrong). Even if we stopped CO2 emissions now we have that to deal with along with melting ice no longer reflecting sunlight in the artic and melting permafrost putting methane into the atmosphere. We may have already sealed our fate. “Must” is a meaningless word in connection with the world and humans.

  35. Kathy Says:

    Oil spill’s toxic trade-off
    Dispersed oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be more dangerous to wildlife than reports suggest.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101110/full/news.2010.597.html

  36. Jean Says:

    Dear Kathy:

    “I believe that CO2 emissions take about 20 to 30 years to reach the part of the atmosphere where they affect climate”

    I think that’s valid for CFC’s and their interaction with ozone, but CO2 increases greenhouse effect since it appears in the atmosphere.

    Melting ice is a serious trouble for the whole climate system, particularly if you live next to the coast, for not to mention the alteration in sea streams (that actually keep western europe warm, being at the same latitude as Siberia).

    When I say “must”, I mean “I’ll do my best”. I honestly think that was not mankind but A CERTAIN (AND MISTAKEN) MODEL OF CIVILIZATION what led us to disaster.

    I think that we shall not extinct, at least not yet: we’re very resistant, as species. :-)

    Well, I’ve picked up my batteries, my water pump and my animals: my 4×4 is full of future, and I feel optimistic right now. I’m leaving in 30 minutes. This evening I hope I’ll be there.

  37. Kathy Says:

    Jean, my error. The delay is not in the rising of the CO2 but the thermal inertia of the oceans. Got my gases and causes mixed up. Nonetheless the delay is there.
    “The reason the planet takes several decades to respond to increased CO2 is the thermal inertia of the oceans…A paper by James Hansen and others [iii] estimates the time required for 60% of global warming to take place in response to increased emissions to be in the range of 25 to 50 years. The mid-point of this is 37.5 which I have rounded to 40 years. ”

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=381

  38. Victor Says:

    Kathy/Jean/Anyone Else Who Is Reading This,

    I think we need to understand that it is quite possible, indeed (IMO) quite probable, that:

    1) The whole idea put forward by IPCC and other scientists and policy makers that a rise in global temperatures exceeding 2 degrees is dangerous might well be wrong. It might even be less than 2 degrees. There is, as I understand it, no science that has proven that we have not already exceeded the threshold, or that 2 degrees is a real threshold at all!

    2) The whole idea put forward by IPCC and other scientists that 450 ppm CO2 is a safe level is also not provable since we do not know enough about climate science at this point to truly assess where that tipping point is. Indeed, I would even challenge those who believe that 350 ppm is safe. They don’t really know either.

    3) There is indeed a significant lag between CO2 emissions and global warming. It depends not, as Jean has suggested quite rationally, on the CO2 released today to the atmosphere, but rather the CO2 content of the Atmosphere, the Land and the Oceans that matters. The oceans take much longer to absorb, then to become become toxic with CO2, and then to become carbon emitters rather than carbon sinks as they are today. The land, too, is essentially a carbon sink today, but at a point becomes a carbon emitter. Another often overlooked factor is the acidity of the oceans which takes a long time to build up.

    There are other factors as well which we simply do not know enough about at this time.

    But some things that ARE happening right NOW should give everyone cause for concern:

    1) The Ice is melting or breaking up …everywhere – the Arctic, the Antarctic, Greenland, glaciers. View this wonderful video from NPR in America:

    http://stagevu.com/video/mzuzuydqbfbu

    Once ice starts the melt cycle as it is doing now, there is likely nothing that will “re-freeze” it. And if it is not re-frozen or prevented from melting further, it is but a matter of time before glaciers disappear entirely, the ice sheets disintegrate and the seas rise significantly. In the current state we find ourselves in, the ice everywhere is not only melting, it is breaking apart suddenly, and the whole process is not linear, but quite exponential as it is in a state of accelerated deterioration. The only question remaining is how long this will take to happen. We don’t know.

    2) The Arctic tundra has begun its melt and is currently releasing a relatively small amount of methane into the atmosphere. However, once begun, as it has, it will only accelerate over time with profound implications for a global warming even faster than most folks anticipate today.

    3) The oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening the entire oceanic food chain ultimately. How will we reverse this process? We won’t.

    I believe that we have already passed multiple tipping points for global warming and abrupt climate change. Only a rapid and immediate collapse of human civilisation will go any distance in mitigating effects already in the pipeline that will ultimately show themselves over the next century.

    This is why I inwardly smile (or groan!) when someone mentions 450 ppm CO2 concentration as if it were a proven fact. Things are bad, and they are going to get much, much worse in the coming decades.

    At some point we also need to look at the relationship between “global warming” and “abrupt climate change”. They are related, but by no means the same.

  39. Renee Says:

    @Steve – Steve, I agree with you that we must start to talk about population density. One barrier to the discussion is political correctness/ideology, the last taboo of which you speak. All one needs to do is look to the rest of nature to see the natural consequences of overpopulation. By controlling nature’s inherent population checks, we have unwittingly allowed for overpopulation and the resultant problems.

    For a good start to understanding the very real repercussoins of population pressure, The Rapid Growth of Human Populations 1750-2000: Histories, Consequences, Issues Nation by Nation by William Stanton leaves no doubt in my mind that we can’t leave this issue out of our discussions about the future of our species.

    The Earth has been here for billions of years, and it will continue. Species extinction has always been and will continue to be part of the life cycle. What I think most people don’t realize is that homo sapiens is no exception to that reality – we’ve only been here in our present form for about 140,000 years, after all. In that short time, we’ve made significant progress destroying the narrow environmental parameters within which our species can survive, and overpopulation is a major contributor to that destruction. The environment that’s left will be habitable for innumerable other species, but ours is in danger of extinction.

    I too hope we can begin to have a high level discussion about this problem.

  40. Victor Says:

    Oops…the video referred to above is from NOVA, not NPR!!! Apologies for that.

  41. Victor Says:

    As for over-population and the global economic model we as a species have chosen, there can be only one result – sudden species collapse and a reasonable risk of ultimate extinction. Reliance upon a non-renewable energy source (fossil fuels) to energise population growth far beyond the natural carrying capacity of the earth, and adopting a global economic model based upon infinite growth and mass consumption has quite predictable consequences. The only thing remaining for us to wake up to this “Can’t hold on – Can’t let go” situation we are in is what I term humanity’s “Coyote Moment”.

    In the old cartoon series “The Roadrunner”, we have two major characters – The Roadrunner and Mr. Wile E. Coyote. In one episode, the Coyote straps a Rocket to his back, readies the fuse and awaits the Roadrunner. When the Roadrunner passes by, he lights the fuse to the rocket and zooms off. Just as he approaches the Roadrunner, there is a turn in the road at the point of a very, very high cliff. The Roadrunner easily makes the turn, but the inertia of the Coyote carries him straight over the edge into empty space. Suddenly the rocket fizzles out, the Coyote comes to a complete stop in mid-air and looks down. Complete fear overtakes him. He tries desperately to run back to safe land, hoping that he could yet make it. But in only a moment, he suddenly realises the utter hopelessness of it, stops in mid-air, waves pitifully, resigned to his fate….and falls.

    This was his “Coyote Moment”, the moment that it dawned upon him what he had done to himself….the moment he suddenly realised how hopeless was his predicament and how foolish he had been….the moment he knew in spite of a valiant last, heroic effort that it was all over and that his fate was in the hands of the gods now.

    Within the next couple of decades, if not sooner, we too, as a species, will have our “Coyote Moment”.

  42. Frank Mezek Says:

    Renee’s observation about overpopulation is probably no more apposite
    than in the case of Haiti.The media morons dare not tell the truth here.
    Earthquakes,rain , cholera,ect.,ect.,ect.,are all and only a problem solely because of overpopulation.

    The truth is that aiding the Haitians is a cruel act,because it will only make the problems that much worse in the future.Honest scientists
    in Africa understand that Malaria is a blessing for the Africans,for it
    decreases some of the horrible overpopulation there.Isn’t it suprising
    that Bill and Melinda Gates are too stupid to understand that?

    Species Prejudice –the insane idea that there can never be too many people in the world is a prime example of the law I’ve often stated here,that all technology is self defeating.Technical advances in medicine,hygene,and health are often hailed for their benefits to humans.The emperor has no clothes.These are all curses,unless and until
    the far greater threat of overpopulation is addressed.

    No one seems to mind the fact that there is a natural balance between
    populations and the ability of nature to sustain their numbers.There is
    an overpopulation of deer in the US.When some die in the winter from
    starvation,it is
    good and necessary.This is not disputed.Species Prejudice prevents
    well
    meaning fools like the Gates’s from acknowleging that truth also applies
    to humans.

    Double D

  43. jean Says:

    Well, last stop in the road until my farm. I’m in a small village, having a glass of wine and eating something. I feel very well.

    Mr Mezek: no doubt that moral is just a human affair, nothing to do with natural rules. But there are many ways to control population, not just the mass starvation. Since birth control exists, I do not think that malaria, or hunger, or other diseases… are a bliss at all. I’ve seen some cases of malaria: that fever makes you think about the existence of a cruel God.

    In fact, there is too much population in the planet, it’s true, and the planet is going to reduce drastically the number of humans shortly. But I can not forget my moral education: if our moral principles also perish in the catastrophe, I will have to wonder WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAVE.

    PS–> Bill and Melinda Gates just give money for this kind of causes because once they use 1 dollar in this they save 3 dollars in taxes. Nothing to do with moral principles: it’s just bussiness administration.

    Go back to my car: the rabbits seem to be frightened.

  44. jaime lopez Says:

    I said this several times.

    The most talented and most able to survive this crisis tend to be childless, for some unexplained reason. For this purposes, pet animals shouldn’t be considered as ‘children’ since they can’t learn the skills.

    They will just live quietly when the SHTF, and die without passing their skills to anyone.

    And, even for those who are in childbearing age, it won’t be a good time to raise children so the more intelligent will avoid having offspring till too late.

    In one way or another, this way of life is dead. Nobody wants to admit that but it’s the reality.

  45. Privileged Says:

    If any country needs population control it’s the US. A country consuming the planet at lightning speed surely doesn’t need more consumers.

  46. Julienz Says:

    Comments seem to have run a little off topic. To get back to the issue of raising children for an uncertain future I am glad Jeff started this discussion. My three children are now young adults (youngest 15 today) and like Jeff I was not really aware of the limits to growth when I made the choice to have children. I don’t want them to live lives terrified of the future and it is difficult to make the choice to prepare them for other than the “here and now.”

    I don’t profess to have all the answers but one choice we have made is to home educate. I believe this has several pluses – we have strong family ties, far closer than ties I observe in families with schooled children. My children know school is not necessary to learn. They know how to prepare meals from scratch. While getting ingredients may be an issue in the future I still think knowing how to prepare healthy meals will stand them in good stead. My husband has passed on his handiwork skills to our son who has developed an attitude of at least attempting to use whatever is at hand to fix things. At least one daughter can knit and is learning to sew.

    I have encouraged a positive attitude toward natural health remedies and public transport. Earlier this year we spent a week cycling across Austria in part show the children it was possible to cover long distances without mechanised transport.

    We compost. We didn’t used to but I just started collecting kitchen scraps in a bin and now everyone else has joined in.

    So far no major success in getting a gardener but I continue to set an example in the hope eventually someone will show a bit of interest.

    Probably all parents throughout history have had fears about the world their children will inherit. I am working on leading by example. I am hoping solid relationships and some practical skills along with a openess to learn will stand my kids in reasonable stead for whatever life throws at them.

  47. Renee Says:

    Julienz, thank you for bringing the conversation back on topic. I’ve introduced my 15-year-old daughter to the practice of primitive skills (which my 19-year-old son introduced to me). We’ve been to several gatherings since the summer and she loves it and sees the value in making things herself. There are groups all over the country that meet to share and teach skills such as: friction fire making, cordage, drinking wild water, foraging, plant identification, seed saving, canning, goat tending, hide tanning, on and on. For anyone interested, just Google “primitive skills” groups or “earthskills.”

  48. Kathy Says:

    Victor, the link you gave required some plug in I don’t have and wasn’t in the mood. So I looked for other options. Netflix has a Nova Extreme Ice – so I will watch it there online streaming. Thanks for the heads up on the program.

  49. Kathy Says:

    Julienz, Renee, it is fine to bring the topic back to where it started as it is a valuable topic. However a blog is a conversation, and conversations just have a way of roaming all over the place – which IMO is also fine. At any rate I haven’t seen that it is possible to tie a blog post to a topic unless the blog owner wants to do that.

    Regarding composting. Don’t stop with food wastes. If one is going to have food self sufficiency one needs to recyle their own poop and piss. Google Humanure Handbook a great guide to SIMPLE composting human manure – if you do a bit of looking on the site you can find how to read the book online without buying although probably a nice gesture to the author to buy a copy. We collect urine separately, apply it directly to plants and never dilute it as much as people say you have to. In fact if the ground is wet I often don’t dilute it at all, just give a bit here and there and try to remember where yesterday’s “there” was. A bit haphazard perhaps but got lots of fall kale and french sorrel that are doing just fine.

    Our composting toilet is a series of leaf filled 5 gal buckets (garnered in dumpster diving and roadside pickup) one toilet seat for comfort, and several rotating compost bins made from hardware cloth and stakes. Being rural no one notices or complains. Even if you can’t do it now because of being less rural and in a state that disapproves, you can accumluate the buckets and learn the process.

    Instead of canning I would learn other ways of food preserving. Canning is energy intensive and requires a new supply of specialized lids. Cold storage and food drying will be more useful. I recommend picking a spot to park your vehicles when the last drop of gasoline is used so that you can use them for food dryers.

  50. Kathy Says:

    Victor, yeah that is what I meant to say about climate :)
    Love the Wiley Coyote analogy. My husband and I both remember that particular cartoon. So for entertainment we can watch for when individuals and society in general have their Coyote moment.

    Frank, agreed about population. Nature gives species enough extra young to allow for them to hold a pretty stable population. Fish have a gazoodle, humans have several extra. Hard as it is to say, on the average those less fit die and those more fit survive. Even using birth control and medicine defeats that process. You have two replacement children and then you use all that medicine offers to keep them alive to reproduce. So instead of culling for say whooping cough resistance, you go with your first two and vaccinate for artificial resistance which is good until collapse. Then when vaccines are no longer made you have a population much less resistant to common diseases than before you started saving lives with vaccines. I had a moment in my time in Haiti when I realized that saving kids lives there was not a kindness. It was not a very pleasant moment as it challenged all my deep core beliefs.

    Privileged, for the sake of the world, the US and first world nations need to control not only their population and their consumption this is true. But you have to see a country where the natural has been mostly used for its human population to understand that these places as well need a reduced population. I have just finished reading Farmers of 40 Centuries. What the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans did up to the 1900′s without fossil fuels in recycling everything to their fields, multicropping etc. was amazing, even admirable, BUT they were reaching a point where there was no more that could be done by their methods, and precious little land that had not been put to primarily human use in the agricultural regions. However admirable their agriculture, they would have been better to have less humans and more fallow land and land appropriated to the rest of nature, not just humans. Besides such population density sets humans up for vulnerability to nature’s bio warfare. Our success sets the stage for our failure.

  51. the virgin terry Says:

    i have a daughter, now adult, who i unfortunately lost most contact with in the wake of a bitter divorce when she was just 2. over the years we grew apart, so that now we’re essentially alienated. it didn’t help that a few years ago, after i became educated about our perilous condition, and she was just beginning to forge an independent life, i tried to impress upon her what i knew. even if it increased the distance between us, i believe it was the right thing to do. i believe young adults should be fully informed about things like the very strong likelihood that within their lifetime everything’s going to go to hell, and world population is going to nosedive. that way they can make wiser choices hopefully, like not bringing children into such bleak prospects. i wouldn’t want to be born into such a world, would u?

    kathy, building a primitive composting toilet is on my immediate to-do list. last year i began saving piss for the garden, and this fall i began shitting in a bucket with kitty litter at the bottum. not the most comfortable thing to do, but it works for the time being.

    btw, joseph jenkins, the author of humanure, wrote a short novel whose plot involves a protagonist becoming aware of our unsustainability predicament. it could serve as a good gift to someone u wish to help educate. can’t remember the title offhand, but it shouldn’t be difficult to find, knowing the author.

  52. Victor Says:

    V Terry

    I can sympathise with you. I too have a daughter with whom I became estranged after a divorce. Her daughter, my grandaughter who is almost an adult now, visited us in England this past summer and it was a disaster as I too tried to take that opportunity to communicate what is approaching. It caused more trouble than it fixed, I fear. But at least she knows and whether she accepts it today or not, it will take seed over time as things begin to happen that remind her of our conversations. I live with the hope now that she is better placed now to make rational decisions about her future.

  53. Kathy Says:

    Terry – maybe Balance Point: Searching for a Spiritual Missing Link, Joseph Jenkins http://www.amazon.com/Balance-Point-Searching-Spiritual-Missing/dp/0964425858/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

    I probably wouldn’t like the spiritual part of it – depends on how he does it. I however love his chapter in the humanure book about fecal phobia. I know, I am not your usual old lady. :)

    Terry, do look for a discarded old toilet seat or buy one. Just set it on top of your bucket and all the comforts of a modern toilet are yours. Better yet, get a container of appropriate size and squat and then dump that into the bucket. Or put out some big leaves like comfrey out by your compost pile – squat there and wrap it up to put directly in the compost pile – cover with more leaves or dirt. Of course that means closer contact with feces – but hey the nursing assistants have even more contact with feces it in nursing homes. We can deal with it – soon we will have to.

    The squat position is normal and there are claims of all sorts of health problems from straining in the sitting position including heart attacks. http://www.toilet-related-ailments.com/squatting.html

    I use leaves in our toilet (I think Jenkins gets sawdust for his). We collect them in town because people there bag them – got a big “leaf cage” on my truck. We have plenty here but I don’t like raking. But post crash I will. Surprisingly a small clump of leaves on top of a fecal deposit stops the smell. Its hard to believe until you try it. One bucket fills up over about 5 days and yet never smells (except when I dump it in the compost but that is quickly countered by more leaves). The pee bucket goes out daily and sometimes more often in the summer.

    My sons and I get along with fine. They know and intellectually accept peak oil, but it is not internalized as a real factor that will impact their lives.

    Peak Coal by Tom Whipple at http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-12-01/peak-coal-moving-closer-too

    Oil at 86.72 – moving closer to collapse and the hopeful salvation of a climate that is livable for the current inhabitants of planet earth.

  54. Kevin Moore Says:

    Victor.

    ‘my grandaughter who is almost an adult now, visited us in England this past summer and it was a disaster as I too tried to take that opportunity to communicate what is approaching. It caused more trouble than it fixed, I fear.’

    My experience too when attempting to prepare a friend’s progeny for the real future.

    Isn’t that we are called Cassandras? The gift of vision marred by the curse of not being believed. Human nature hasn’t changed in 3,000 years.

    Recent postings out of the US have focused on the fact that, even as it all starts to visibly implode, ordinary folk work themselves into a frenzy over cut-price consumer goods. We have a long way to go yet before the proles wake up, despite oil hovering near $87 and currency wars errupting.

    Another week of no rain around here while Britain freezes in almost unprecendented early winter weather. Is this the onset of Climate Instability? -just what so many of us feared we would get if emissions continued unabated.