Simplify and Survive

The sheer inability to keep this present world afloat on the dwindling supply of cheap energy signifies a dramatic shift in lifestyles for the majority of mankind soon to come. Primarily for Americans and other developed nations, everything is going to get very, very expensive, so much so that they will be ‘forced’ to do without.

In time, many items will simply disappear and no longer be available. It is very likely that some items will literally disappear overnight too, because they will no longer be manufactured and distributed suddenly. Their sudden disappearance will trigger panic buying for replacements and remaining inventory, and this in turn, will contribute to the overall problem of supply and demand in an oil-depleted world.

The awareness of this dependency on a wide variety of “stuff” we consume to keep us alive is worth examination. Our prior response to their disappearance or high price will dictate our future chances of survival.

Our lives are built around the consumption of goods. This creates an incredibly long chain of complexities and requirements on a global scale to maintain the modern lifestyle. The lack of cheap energy now threatens all of this – forever.

The fault, as it were, is the modern lifestyle. It’s not a lifestyle we have to live. We do so by choice, despite the enormous problems and side-effects this creates. Our self-induced energy depletion is now forcing us to consider the alternatives and what it might mean to us. Very soon now, the act of consideration will no longer be an optional activity as we are forced into a smaller and smaller world of consumable goods and limited distribution.

This will necessitate a radical rethinking on how we live. I should add, if we live, because there is a growing sense of doubt on how safe, secure and provident our future will be. I am not an optimist, I have digested too much collapse information to believe the transition to a oil-depleted future will be without severe turmoil and a massive die-off. The desperately needed and necessary steps are not being taken to ensure a secure future.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of talk, but very little action. I really hope that consuming nations will understand the gravity of the situation and put in place radical and extremely tough policies to curb oil demand growth Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency

Immediate action is required, globally, nationally, regionally and personally. Each of us can only respond to the looming crisis on an individual level. Expect and receive nothing from governmental authorities, they either remain clueless of the magnitude and severity of the problem, or remain insistent that a “fix” is forthcoming.

Worse, there is abundant evidence that they already know and still refuse to deal with the issues openly and honestly, leaving each of us on our own. In effect, they are no longer relevant to our survival.

Here are the steps that are required on an individual level –

Simply your life and survive. This is the only logical and responsible course of action that can now be taken. Choose now your “prior response” rather then later. Adjustments made now will be far easier then adjustments made later on because you have freedom of choice, time and options still available to you.

Examine all of your obligations and entanglements and cut the umbilical cords that are draining your time, money and energy. Liquidate these assets, if any and convert to the hard goods you will need.

But not just “any” hard goods. Don’t go out and buy a new truck. Start figuring out how you’re going to survive without a truck, without oil, diesel or gasoline. Break your own oil-dependency. Walk. Ride a bike. For now, car share, do something to cut down your own consumption.

Clear all of your debts by any means you can find. Do not incur any more. Cut all of your expenses of frivolous activities and expenditures. Pack your own lunch, stop buying coffee, booze, soda pop, junk food and expensive foods. Preserve as much cash as possible for stockpiling your supplies. Dump, no kill your television, cancel your video memberships and stay home each night. Start doing instead of just talking about what needs to be done.

Build a greenhouse, garden, woodshed or firewood supply. Put that body to use doing what it was already designed to do. Living self-sufficiently requires a fair bit of hard work, but the best time to do it is now.

Other hard goods needed – store some food. This is so you can buy yourself some time to learn how to grow your own food. Buy the necessary hand tools, seeds and supplies you will need. Put these to work now, learning and gaining from the experience how to do this. You will also need to learn how to preserve the food you grow.

Store essentials, stuff you actually need to live: food, medicine, water, clothing, tools, water filters and supplies. These will be the things you need when the supermarkets stop filling up with crappy food. Put all those books you bought on self-sufficiency to use and start living the life everyday.

Don’t forget the toiletries, guns, ammo, tools and essential replacement parts. Buy a mountain bike of decent quality and stockpile the parts and tools needed to keep it in good repair.

Stockpile goods for barter – food, guns, ammo, coffee, sugar, fuel, kerosene, propane, the kinds of goods that will become scarcer and scarcer. Medicine would be very good barter item too, especially the type requiring prescriptions, but not everybody can do this.

Relocate to a safer area. If you live in the city, move to a rural area with arable land, water and room. Water is about to become priceless unless you live in England. Population density will be a serious problem when the food runs out. Concerns about jobs, retirement and lifestyle became rather meaningless when compared to forfeiting your life so that you can have them a few more years.

City dwellers live complex lives due to the dependency upon complex systems to continuously function to keep them alive. This complexity is a liability and will result in the areas with the most die-off.

Fight For The World’s Food

I see collapse as being quite dramatic, widespread, deep and long lasting. It will take abundant, cheap energy to rebuild even a fraction of what we have today. This is very unlikely since the energy required to do so won’t exist. Bio-fuels are proving to be even worse for the environment and very damaging to the food supply. Future energy requirements, post-collapse will come from limited sources and will not be widely distributed like they are today.

Rebuilding will also be problematic because of infrastructure loss and degradation, climate impacts and die-off. Current megaopolis projects like Dubai will be abandoned and seen as incredible wastes. Large cites and even many smaller ones will also face the same issues. The lack of water and arable land will force their abandonment and evacuation.

The crash when fully underway will bring war, widespread destruction, shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity, rampant crime, violence, theft, millions of displaced refugees and massive die-off as the population reacts and adjust to severe food and water shortages. Along the way will be a misguided police state will make things much worse for many who are jailed, killed, harassed and interned into work camps, detention centers and prisons.

The best strategy will be defensive, but defensive preparations must be made in advance. The idea that people can retrench their personal positions after collapse has fully commenced is fatally flawed. That would be similar to building fort walls after the settlers are wiped out.

The analogy of a fort is pretty accurate. Your fort must contain everything that you’re going to be needing. Scaling down to needs .vs. wants will be paramount. Simplify and survive will require a complete re-engineering of your priorities and needs. For example, concepts such as ‘retirement planning’ and ‘investments’ take on a entire new meaning when you consider the crash and post-collapse world.

What investments should you be making now? How will you retire? Identifying what will be desirable and needed in a oil-depleted world is fairly easy. These are the things you could ‘invest’ in (should you think this step necessary). Figuring out how to retire – well, that probably won’t happen for a great many of us. Figuring out how to survive the crash will be sufficient in itself. If you can solve this, then ‘retirement’ becomes pointless anyway. Crash survivors won’t ‘retire’. They will die, just like everyone else.

The need to simplify our lives becomes more and more obvious when the complexity of our lives and all their connections and demands are fully recognized for what they are. A simple life is easier to maintain, easier to ‘feed’, easier to afford and easier to manage in numerous ways. Those living simple lives will be those who will survive the crash, those living complex lives will be those who will suffer the most in a crash and those who will not survive.

There are existing tribes still left in the world today, such as the Kogi who will survive the crash. Some will do so in grand style, remaining relatively unscathed because their cultures are simple, sustainable and disconnected from ours. The hourglass of oil won’t bother them at all. They may even flourish in the centuries to come.

Nobody really knows yet how climate change will affect humanity’s future. It may prove to be so bad that most of humankind is wiped out. I can identify several reasons why this might happen. The temperature variations alone could destroy much of the fauna and cause the release of huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Humans would have a very hard time surviving such a crisis.

Or the planet could recover somewhat due to the decreased human activity after die-off. Computer models still don’t accurately predict what will happen. It’s far too early to just throw up our hands and give up. We will struggle, fight and scream our way down the oil slope of depletion, and then we start throwing things at each other with increasing violence. But we still won’t give up.

Eventually, when we’ve exhausted ourselves and most of the planets available resources, we may finally realize that we’ve ‘arrived’ at that place where humans once stood for millennium. When we are battered about by the environment, in peril for our daily existence and existing entirely off the local resources, we may vaguely remember in our genes that this is not an unfamiliar place, we’ve been here before.

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11 thoughts on “Simplify and Survive

  • July 28, 2007 at 4:04 pm
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    Its not in my imagination – that the faster and the louder that alarms bells toll, the less they are heard/heeded by the malignant standing-crop of maximal consumers. Cognitive dissonance is ‘cranked-up’ (to maximal amplitude, aka overdrive) precluding all rational thought – ntm capability to engage any mitigating/appropriate action. Hence civilzations ‘fall’ (aka sudden change in momentum, aka crash). We are here to repete history – for the umpteenth time. Learn? Evolve? – Not us (me). Not this ‘ultimate’ species! “God(s)” will “save” -(resurect, change, rescue, punish, etc) me (us). ROFLOL – NOT. This world is Hell (literal and figurative), because we choose to believe that a heaven awaits us elsewhere.

    “Ah Humans! Arrogance AND stupidity in one package. How efficient!.” ~ Amb. Molari, Babylon 5

  • July 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm
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    I don’t know if simplfy is the total answer. I chose a different path. Generally everything I build (home, shop, tooling and equipment) I try to do with recycle material. A couple of week ago I came across a 30×50 steel barn/guest house that was going to be demo. I called some friends and in a weekend we tool it down and sent it up to there place for a new life. The building was only 3 years old.
    I am currently working on a 15x55ft pantry and canning area. The block, wire,and most of the lumber is recycled. The rest was obtained from a store going out of business. Even the new cabinets came from a demo job, as did the toilets and bath room sinks.
    The lsat tool I just finished is a 60lb drop hammer for my forge that was build completly from other peoples stuff that they throw away.
    I have deceided to walk a different path, and that is total self suffiency. Starting with solar hot water heating to producing my own solar electricty. I have back up generators to run the heavy equipment. I will probably never reach my goal, but I am closser then most and I am doing it with little or no money and a smaller wasted foot print.
  • July 28, 2007 at 5:56 pm
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    Some of the obvious ones to stockpile are sugar, salt, and soap. Sugar and salt are natural preservatives and don’t go bad, while soap will, I imagine, be very valuable.

    I think it’s safe to say that you can view a lot of these things as safe investments. Even food, with food prices going up as quickly as they will (or are, even at present), will be a good investment 🙂

    Also, certain types of fuel store longer than others. You don’t want to be storing gasoline. Charcoal, matches, kerosene, candles, etc are good for long-term storage. Coleman fuel also stores for a long time if you need something more volatile than kerosene.

    Some other things to consider: some of the hardcore camping outlets have things like multi-fuel stoves that can burn diesel, kerosene, white gas, gasoline… whatever you can find, pretty much. And, the same places have things like water filters with very fine ceramic filters that can do 50,000L or so before requiring a filter change. Camping gear, in general, is not a bad investment as it’s usually efficient.

  • July 28, 2007 at 8:20 pm
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    My basic problem with stockpiling is that it’s not a solution – just a stop gap measure. And how much time and money is going to be spent stockpiling for what purpose? Take toilet paper. People think platinum and palladium stocks are going to be valuable post crash but think of how many folks would just break down completely without asswipium? Should I spend time and money ratholing a hundred rolls of Scott or grow some herbs with big soft leaves? I’m better off blowing a hundred bucks on a big pot to render lard and MAKE soap than stashing away a hundred dollars worth of Ivory soap. I freak out when the wife buys a 2 dollar can of Dow Scrubbing Bubbles but don’t bat an eye when we order a 600 dollar hand cranked wringer/washer.

    It’s all just too weird when you come at it from a long term perspective. I’m 45 – I can be sure that an enameled rolled steel roof can outlast me, but should I spend the big bucks for slate that will hold my son in good stead for his life. In a manner, that is stockpiling, too. So now I gotta add learning to thatch to the list so I can teach him how to keep a roof over his kid’s head someday.

    A couple of Zippo’s a gallon of fuel and a bunch of flints will make fire for many years. A flint and steel will do it with more effort longer. Won’t we all be rubbing sticks together someday? I simplify for my own well being today, but what is fundamentally sustainable in the long run? Wearing hides and grubbing the dirt with pointed sticks? “Quest for Tuber” bwahahaha.

  • July 29, 2007 at 9:34 am
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    In time, yes. Think this through a little. We know the oil, coal, uranium and natural gas will be completely gone in less then 100 years. The means to generate electricity won’t, but it will be in perpetual fast decline (hydro, wind, solar) because the minerals and materials they require for their production all require energy to make. And it takes more energy to make then they actually produce. This is a perpetual decline.

    This means we have or will shortly see, peak civilization, forever. Civilization will begin it’s long fall back to the Stone Age. So yes, grubbing for tuber with sticks is in humanities future – if they survive climate change and the nuclear energy wars that are soon to come. It’s foregone conclusion now.

    We will never reach the stars because we squandered our energy means to try this. I find this “wierd”, think of all those science fiction writers who never realized this.

    We need to revert back to sustainable practices and ways to live within the environmental constraints instead of against them.

    Primitive living will be humanities future at some future point in time. There are those who are practicing this now, even Stone Age (no metals at all) proving that it can still be done by the hardy few who are skilled enough to do it.

    It is ironic that we buy ourselves a mountain of supplies and gear to “live” when even this methodology is destined to fail.

    It fails for the simple reason that we have forgotten how to live within our environment. We no longer know how to live off the land and instead, live contrary to what the land offers. We got away with it for hundreds of years – but not forever. And now we will all be collectively “punished” for our folly.

    So be it. This is an immutable fact of nature whether we “like it or not”. It cannot be helped. Our artificial world of campstoves, gasoline and ziplock foil bags won’t “save us”, it will only postpone temporarily the inevitable which we will all have to face.

    I expect scavenging to be a big business (and recycling) for some years to come as humanity desperately tries to retain a shadow of the world of today. But this will only last a few decades until people realize that it’s better to abandon the junk from the world that went insane and embrace the needs of a sustainable existence.

  • July 29, 2007 at 10:37 am
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    This may not be the best book to learn from, but it’s a pretty good summary of how the whole homesteading thing has changed over the years; how recently it has changed so quickly; and possibly gives a perspective about how quickly it could go back:

    http://www.amazon.com/Canadian-Housewife-Affectionate-History/dp/1552857174

    I think it puts the whole thing into perspective quite well… how the typical household functioned only 100-150 years ago, and how different it is to how we live today.

  • August 4, 2007 at 1:52 pm
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    mattbg–

    A couple of my favorite books are “The Good Life” and “Simple Recipes for the Good Life.” These are both by Helen and Scott Nearing, who turned to a self-sufficient lifestyle in Vermont at the height of the Great Depression. “The Good Life” is a classic in the self-sufficiency genre.

    Helen’s cookbook is an eye-opener. The Nearings were vegetarians (and later vegans), and ate mostly soups and salads.

    One of Helen’s most valuable suggestions is to keep a stockpot. Vegetable parings of all kinds were used to make vegetable stock: broccoli stems, celery tops, stems of kale and collards,tough outer leaves of cabbages, carrot and potato peelings, the soaking water from beans and sprouting seeds–pretty much anything you would normally throw away went into the stockpot. All liquids left over from cooking vegetables also went into the stockpot. The resulting vegetable broth was strained and became a homemade vegetable broth that was the basis for vegetable soups.

    I now save vegetable parings (in the freezer) and cooking liquids to make homemade vegetable broth–the kind that costs over a dollar a can at the grocery store. It makes the best vegetable soup you ever ate; just add fresh garden produce. You can also use it to make miso soup.

    I even go Helen one better: Why not use wild greens to make vegetable broth? Some wild greens don’t enjoy much favor after early spring, because they get tough. But they still make a great vegetable broth. My favorites are lamb’s quarters and stinging nettle, but dock (in small amounts) and wild onions are good, too. I’ve even started drying these wild greens and storing them in a gallon pickle jar, for winter use.

    One thing you discover, if you try to eat primarily from your garden, is that much of the world’s cuisine must have originated from necessity. If you have two tomatoes, five carrots, an onion and a few potatoes, you make vegetable soup. If you have a head of broccoli, an onion, a handful of green beans, and a couple of summer squash, you make stir-fry. If you have okra and tomatoes, and rice, you make Limpin’ Susie. If you have tomatoes, onions, beans, and rice, you make Hoppin’ John. If you need to make a meal of lettuce, you make wilted lettuce.

    Here’s a link that expands a bit on why you should make homemade broth and keep a stockpot:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/broth.html

  • August 4, 2007 at 5:03 pm
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    That’s a great link Sharon, I’ve read through the article. Very informative. I’ve been practicing a few of these things for a long while now (but not the chicken feet).

    Today, I made up a big pot of beans and dried vegetable goodies with left over meat chunks and bones. A bunch of the fresh garden produce will be in there too (later, so they don’t overcook).

    One of the things on my wish list is to obtain some large stock pots, I suspect future eating will oftentimes be from one of these.

  • August 5, 2007 at 3:31 am
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    I almost feel I should apologize for getting too much into the cooking thing. I suspect that cooking frugally–and from the garden–will get to be important as food prices continue to skyrocket.

    This is the first summer that I’ve had a moderately successful garden–and, believe me, we’re eating out of it as much as possible. This is an art unto itself. I find that I really hate to buy carrots or lettuce when I don’t have any in the garden–which I don’t, right now. (The fall lettuce and carrots have to be planted around mid-August, in my area.)

    I’m also pretty passionate about soy products–I just got done making two batches of tempeh. The thing about tempeh is, you can get pretty tired of it pretty fast, so I’m always trying to figure out how to tart it up a little bit. The latest is breading it with Creole Seasoning and then deep frying–then serving with deep-fried okra, deep-fried summer squash, and sliced tomatoes.

    But the “Broth Is Beautiful” article is making me backslide on the vegetarianism. Chicken tomorrow!

  • August 6, 2007 at 7:45 am
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    As a southerner, I can assure you that everything is better when deep fried! ^_^
  • August 6, 2007 at 5:57 pm
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    A good friend from Alabama introduced me to this deep-frying of everything. That woman could use up a jar of file gumbo a week. She put it in everything. And taught me how to make hush-puppies with the leftover breading.

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