The easy life

I’m frequently told how easy life is for me. Always by people who think life is difficult for them, as they go on to explain.
According to these tortured souls, life is hard because they haven’t made the necessary psychological commitment to the notion of a world economic collapse. And I have, so I have it easy.


I am certain of only one thing: Living rationally may have its rewards, but an “easy” life is not one of them. Yes, I made the psychological commitment to the obvious. And that part — arguably the most important part of this whole affair — was relatively easy, I suppose because life-long education in ecology makes me understand the limits of growth. The Ph.D. minor in economics helped a little, if only to pull back the curtain to expose the flawed arguments of neo-classical economists.
But let’s start with the bigger, more important issue, the one that actually threatens our species with extinction: I mourned for six full months when I realized our species was likely to cause its own extinction via global climate change by 2100.
Imagine my elation when I discovered there is one potential, viable solution to this predicament. But when I point out that solution, I am not exactly hailed as the savior of our species. We studiously avoid even discussing that option, thereby committing ourselves to the aforementioned extinction. This is absurd and obscene, to me and nearly a dozen other people on the planet.
But, back to my elation, and the ease of my life in these economically challenging times.
Cheerleaders for empire (hence, to our own extinction) go on to explain another source of my ease: I have no children, and they do, so they have so much more to worry about than simple-living me. As if I didn’t make the choice about procreation, on my own. As did they. It was obvious to me, from the time I was twenty, that bringing more people into the world was not going to help the planet and its occupants. I decided not to contribute to planetary overshoot. Somehow, that makes me the self-absorbed bad guy.
And on they go, about the dreams they have for their children. Their children should be allowed to travel, as they did. The children should be allowed to experience the world’s cultures (and run fly safely back to the comforts of the empire). As if there are no costs to our addiction to fossil fuels. As if I don’t have dreams of my own, which I’m unable to pursue. Through an entire career, I did what I was “supposed” to do: Nose to the grindstone, saving a majority of my earnings, I put my dreams on hold until after retirement. In other words, I threw it away, down the rat-hole of imperial dreams.
At some point, our dreams must match reality. Most people hate that. Sometimes, I’m among them.
Never mind the hard work, physical, mental, and emotional, I’ve invested in my post-carbon future. That’s actually been fun and rewarding (and it’ll be a lot more rewarding in the near future).
There’s more. (Isn’t there always?)
I love my family. But I doubt I’ll know when my parents die. And I’m certain I’ll not know when my siblings and their family members die.
When there’s no food on the shelves, no gas at the convenience store, and no water coming out the taps, it’s safe to conclude the empire has abandoned you. But if you think an economic recovery is right around the corner, you still will not abandon the empire. By that time, it’s too late to start thinking about other arrangements. Hell, it’s too late to pack the car and hit the road.
With apologies for the self-indulgent nature of this posting, I have to ask: Easy? Compared to what, exactly?

Comments 9

  • You mourned once you found that our species was likely going to destroy itself? I’d have thought that you would find this cause for celebration, seeing what we’ve managed to do the the natural environment since we’ve been around. Especially once our industrialization age kicked into full gear.
    Let’s say peak oil eliminates a substantial portion of the population in the next decade or two. Would the massive decrease in fossil fuel emissions not stave off a future temperature rise? I’m thinking if we had a fraction of the current population, say 500 million, along with leadership that understood sustainability, that we could survive as a species. Too optimistic?

  • No, CJ, I think you’re absolutely correct about staving off our extinction. An economic collapse is our last remaining hope. Perhaps paradoxically, I don’t fault our species for what we’ve done — as a species, we lived in relative harmony with other species on the planet for thousands of generations. It’s only been Homo industrialus, that is, civilized human beings, who have wrought the mess. And not even all of them.

  • Professor Guy:
    Why don’t you think you will know when your parents die? And your siblings?Please explain in detail.As our leader it is essential that we know these very important things,and believe me these are important.We know you are in a funk–it happens to us all.
    OK, you think no one understands you—please try us.

  • Frank — Sorry for my lack of clarity. Economic collapse means collapse of communication infrastructure, hence the absence of news about the death of people far away (i.e., greater than a few miles). My family, like the typical American family, is scattered throughout the country. No funk, really … I’m just pointing out some of the disadvantages, particularly the extremely personal and local ones, associated with economic collapse.

  • Hi Guy —
    From time to time I can’t help but check on your postings to your blog, and your comments today (?) make me think of a couple of things I would like to say —
    First, I am sorry that your partner may not be partnering with you through the coming adversity, but I hope that situation changes, but mostly I wish you (both) happiness and luck in navigating the course that lies ahead.
    For those who wish for normalcy in order to continue their planned venues of childrearing as per the current norms, travel and recreation, and the “normal” life we have grown accustomed to, I would urge everyone to just think about what is going on in the world right now with regard to all these bailouts and enormous transfers of wealth from the taxpayer via the Federal Government to the bankers, investors and global elite.
    To boil it down, what is happening right now is the largest transfer of wealth in world history, and more importantly, what we are witnessing is a transfer of real, earned wealth created by the labor and talents of working people now transferred by the government to the portfolios of investors and financiers who have created phantom wealth through the use of instruments of finance such as credit fault swaps, derivatives and other sophisticated, computer generated transactions in which positions of paper wealth are traded in huge quanties to create (and then lose) literally trillions, and even hundreds of trillions of dollars of paper wealth. Since these gambles have failed in large part because of crookedness, fake valuations of property driven by illicit greed, market manipulation, and mortgage manipulations by ill-qualifed purchaers, the institutions of finance have gotten themselves into hundreds of billions of dollars or even trillions of dollars of fantasy debt. Now, what is happening is that our dear new President, along with the Congress, instead of saying to these holders of fantasy paper money and enormous paper wealth and debt that their loss is their own business and not that of the taypayer, is saying: “We’ll bail you out with taxpayer earned wealth or by government (taxpayer) borrowing from foreign sources to stem the losses of hundreds of billions of dollars of paper assets with real money.”
    In other words, investors who never put a dime or very few dimes of real, earned money have leveraged their paper positions to make and then lose fantastic volumes of paper money, which could easy be treated by the governments of the world as an “easy come, easy go” sort of enterprise. But since these bankers and investors actually old power over government by virtue of the fact that they finance political campaigns and control policies through access to the portals of power, these holders of fantasy wealth are now given the proceeds of worker-earned and paid for wealth, that they can then use to purchase real assets in the real economy. So, when they are not perpetuating outright fraud, like Madoff and Stanford, elite investors of the sort who pal around with Hank Paulson and Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, etc., can take their taxpayer bailouts now and purchase real assets in the real economy, including manufacturing businesses, infrastructure such as toll roads and buildings and real estate and whatever, and thus own real wealth to replace their lost fantasy wealth at public expense. Thus, the transfer not only of wealth from the working class and poor to the rich, but the transfer of real, earned wealth, to replace the massive losses of fantasy, paper wealth obtained largely by illegitimate means.
    Where is that going to leave the parents who wanted to use their investments to pay for their own retirement, or their mortgages to back loans for their kids’ college educations, etc.
    In fact, as we move forward and watch the tanking of the overall economy, we can see a clear pattern that the advantage of the wealthy and the elite will continually be put over that of average families, even to the point of survival itself when the power grids fail, the food supply becomes unreliable and constricted, when cities no longer function in support of community life and prosperity, when governments at all levels cease to function effectively in the public interest due to starvation for funds, and so forth.
    I agree with Guy that the world we are accustomed to is changing very rapidly right now. Every day the mainstream media begins to grasp this and we see the beginnings of actually questioning of what lies ahead. Bush hardly acknowledged downturn, but Obama must move way beyond that. From recession, he is steadily being forced to acknowledge depression, then possible catastrophe, but still his solutions falsely claim to benefit hthe public. Obama is still bamboozling people by claiming to be on the side of the working man while devising survival strategies for the elite. What he is actually doing is lying to delay public panic for as long as possible. But public panic is coming. It is well underway in Eastern Europe, islands of the seas, even beginning in Western Europe in Iceland, and elsewhere.
    America’s students are starting to wake up, as in calling strongly for effective action against Global Climate Change, but they will soon learn that Obama is never going to abandon coal-fired electricity and never going to be able to develop a green economy on the fumes of a real economy he is sacrificing to bail out the fantasy economy of the wealthy elite. Obama is a fraud and a manipulator.
    People will eventually see this, but it will be much more difficult to make survival arrangements when the feces have already hit the blower.
    Professor Guy is wise to make his arrangements and make the sacrifices required to enhance his survival possibilities, which are by no means assured in any circumstance.
    With regard to Guy’s family, which can be true of families of most of us, we can think of the Biblical story of Lot and how his wife could not bear to abandon her accustomed lifestyle and thus was turned by “God” into a pillar of salt. Those living now who refuse to sever their allegience to the status quo will not be likely to survive, though, it is hopeful that some could have last-minute changes of heart and take advantage of the sacrifices and preparations for survival of their dear ones. I hope
    Guy can maintain his courage and steadfastness in following his heart and his well-tuned survival instincts and that all will work out as it should.
    Good luck Guy! All that you have been predicting is quickly falling into place and the ride is going to get more and more exciting by the week, if not the day.
    Stan Moore

  • Welcome back to Our Stan.

  • I have been reading your blog and the posted comments for a few months now, always wondering whether I should put in my two-pennyworth but feeling too shy to do so. However, I have been very shocked and saddened to read the last one or two, especially about choosing not to have children not choosing to join you at the mud hut.
    In my opinion only love gives a reason for doing anything ‘green’ at all; love for one’s chosen partner and for one’s children. What is the point of saving anything just for oneself? Why keep yourself alive to age 75 harvesting potatoes and hauling wood with no-one to share it with? I think someone needs to find you a baby or two with whom to share the joys and wonder of the world. I have never bought into the argument that the world is teetering on the abyss so we’d better not have children – they ARE the future. By choosing not to reproduce you are denying your wonderful genes for intelligence and resourcefulness to the gene pool of the future. You sound like a great guy to me and I’m very happily married,47 years old and the proud mother of 4 wonderful children, (and I refuse to be ashamed of that number) so if I think you’re great,
    My husband and I talk about Peak Oil and the coming Long Emergency (to quote the excellent Kunstler, whom I read on your recommendation)every day to each other and our kids, do our best to be green and ecologically aware and grow our own veggies, have chickens and make our own wine, weave, knit etc etc. We feel extremely lucky to live here in New Zealand and still have hope for the future, just doing things in a more labour intensive way.
    Perhaps it’s a lot more depressing living in the US than here, although we do have our share of petrolheads and growth obsessed politicians. Lighten up Guy, the world is still a wonderful place. I wish one of your regular female bloggers would take the hint and find you – you need a big dose of love.

  • I’ve got this view of living: if you’re alive, then it probably isn’t so easy.
    And if it is easy, it’s probably only because you are standing on the back of someone (or a whole lot of someones) who don’t share the outlook.
    We all make choices, that’s for sure. I kvetch about some of mine regularly, but the only person I can safely blame is the one staring back at me in the mirror every morning.
    Along with Daphne, I definitely wish you the best luck in life and love. The only point I differ on is necessarily living for children. Children can be nice, but they aren’t the only portion of existence worth experiencing. Adult life and thought and experience are valuable on their own. 🙂 I won’t die and blow away with the wind if my children fail to procreate. There was a time in my thinking where I might have believed that, but I’m over it.
    On the flip side, I do understand the mental anguish of people who see the world is not turning out to be what they were told it was. Sure, their ideas are based on thin facades and sketchy numbers, but there are many reasons folks latch onto illusions rather than embrace reality. Cowardice can be one of them, but it isn’t alone. There are many more tragic reasons for not following logic to the end of its roads.
    I just don’t know, Guy. I hear your frustration and understand. I know most of your other readers do, too. No answers here. Alls I know is that things tend to be the way they must in the end. And the forces of nature, God, the cosmos, whatever…aren’t terribly worried about my opinion of the outcome, anyway.
    What will be, will be…as they say.

  • Guy, I have been following your blog off and on since its inception but haven’t posted any comments because I don’t think I can match wits with the caliber of academics your blog draws. I’m just the mild-mannered psycho-logist. And for the most part I’d rather keep silent and let people think I’m an idiot than to open my mouth and prove them right.
    However, as an old friend I’ll stick my oar in here and say this: Don’t be surprised when people say you have an easy life. You are intelligent; you are dedicated to your path; you’ve done countless hours of research and physical labor to carve out a post-carbon future, and poured your time and energy into enlightening others. But from the outside, the very fact that you are doing something successfully makes it look easy. That’s human nature; if I convince myself that you are able to create your off-the-grid environment because you have it easier than I do, that gives me an out – an excuse not to attempt to follow your example. Nobody’s life is easy. Hang in there. You’ve never been one to follow the crowd, so don’t worry about what the crowd says.