People keep asking the obvious questions: Are you insane? [Yes, by any measure] What are you doing to prepare? [Launching a lifeboat, as described in a prior post] How can I save my own ass?
The number of people asking the latter question is rising nearly as fast as the rate of inflation (the real rate, not the one reported by the federal government). I spend many hours each day discussing options available to individuals. And that, you surely understand, is the big issue: Each individualâ€™s options are different. I cannot guide you along a path unless I understand something about you, like where you’re coming from and where you’re hoping to go. Ergo, my days are filled with meetings to discuss the individual circumstances, and therefore the individual options, of an extraordinary number of individuals.
First, letâ€™s get one thing straight: Civilization is hopeless, and itâ€™s been irredeemable from the beginning. What does that leave? Individual options, in the face of an ambiguous future. How you respond to the twin crises of declining energy supplies and global climate change will determine how long, and how happily, you live.
At student request, Iâ€™m teaching a class this semester: Personal Survival Skills at the Twilight of Empire. The students are preparing a template for post-carbon living. Their report will be ready in a couple weeks, coincident with the end of the semester. It will be biased toward the American Southwest, and it will be a brief, incomplete guide. But itâ€™s still better than anything else Iâ€™ve seen. I’ll post it on this blog as soon as it’s ready.
Until then, I offer a few thoughts about post-carbon living, with the goal of extending the lives of a few thoughtful people. My first recommendation: Get out of the United States.
I prefer tropical locales, where starving to death poses a challenge because of abundant native fruits. Living near the sea is a good idea because fish are damned good for your health. Don’t live on the beach, of course: ongoing sea-level rise should not be taken lightly. The (global) South will rise again, as surely as the U.S. is going down in flames. Small towns filled with locally grown produce and locally crafted tools, characterized by on-again, off-again electrical service, will be good places to live, relative to the land of hyper-indulgence and the Second Amendment.
My second recommendation, if you choose to stay in the land of hyper-indulgence and the Second Amendment: Keep moving. As one of my â€œfansâ€ pointed out in response to my recent article in the Arizona Republic: â€œYour little life boat will be under constant attack from people much stronger, more violent and desperate. So I hope that thought provides you the same pleasant dreams your trash article provided my children.â€ Believe me, Bill1277, my nightmares are filled with such scenarios. But only on the rare nights I sleep.
If you ignore my two leading recommendations, I donâ€™t think youâ€™ll live long. If you choose this tenuous route, youâ€™ll need to secure water, food, and shelter. There are surprisingly many places where groundwater is sufficiently shallow to be pulled up with a hand pump, where soils allow abundant gardens, where the temperature is neither life-threateningly cold nor life-threateningly hot, and where fish or game can be harvested, at least for the foreseeable future. Then thereâ€™s the important attribute of post-carbon living so frequently ignored: securing community. Itâ€™s the rare bird who can survive as a hermit.
Todayâ€™s cities are tomorrowâ€™s deathtraps. Finding a rural area, where the marauders donâ€™t show up regularly to steal your food or your life, poses a monumental challenge to anybody building a lifeboat. Personally, I have not yet determined how far I will go to further my life, and the lives of my neighbors and loved ones.
What will I do when I have a fellow human being in the cross hairs of the scope on my rifle? Thankfully, I have not yet answered that question. Although I am certain the moment will come within the next few years, I remain completely uncertain about my response.
What do you think, dear reader? What are your post-carbon plans? How are you choosing to live simultaneously in the two worlds we inhabit, the culture of make believe and the real world of economic collapse?