Monday, May 28, 2007

The day after I wrote the entry about wanting to get rid of the TV, VCR, and DVD player the VCR died. I thought it was just a fuse (it has clearly blown) but when I replaced it the thing still didn’t work. I told Collin I had jinxed it and he better watch out because the TV could be next.

Then, about a week after I started thinking it might be nice to live without a computer, it crashed. I guess I jinxed it too. But it’s actually nice. I like it. I took the computer off the desk and moved the desk in front of the front window where it is now serving as my writing and reading desk. It’s really pleasant to sit here and feel the breeze through the window, to take in the greenery, to listen to the rain and thunder.

I’m not going to be in a big hurry to get the computer fixed. In fact, I canceled my Internet service and, at least temporarily (if not permanently) took down my website.

This process of paring down my life to the essentials continues. I’m not really sure what will be left when all is said and done. To have a roof over my head and a source of heat, those are things I’d like to keep. Electricity isn’t so vital, but a way to heat food, at least some of the time would be nice. Clothing of course is a necessity, but it can be cheap, second-hand or homemade. Paper on which to write. Pens. Maybe access to books, but I’m sure I can also do without them. There’s not much I really need, not much I really can’t do without.

There’s still far too much clutter in my house. It doesn’t help that one whole (albeit small) room in this house is totally dedicated to my sewing stuff, which I don’t even use any more. I’m tempted to get rid of it all, change that room back into Collin’s bedroom and give myself a bedroom. That would mean I’d have to buy a bed, since I sold mine at our yard sale last year after having kept it in storage for a year.

The sewing machines would be useful to keep though. It’s just that they take up so much room. It’s a 500 square foot house, but only about 430 square feet is livable space because of the sewing room. If I could afford to, I’d build a shed and put the sewing stuff in the shed, but that’s not a possibility at the moment.

I’d like to buy some clothesline and hang all the clothes out to dry in the warm months. My summer electric bill only averages about $30.00 per month, but I’d like to see how much I could decrease it. I also need to replace all of my light bulbs with compact fluorescents. I attempted to start using them a few years ago, but they would flicker and go out a lot. However, I just read an article that said that compact fluorescents have improved dramatically over the past two or three years, and the price has dropped considerably too. So I may give them another try. I may get a timer for the water heater too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I’m reading a really good book. It’s called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The author is Jared Diamond. I’m about three-quarters of the way through it. The last chapter, where he’ll be applying the possible lessons of previous cultures to our current one, should be the most interesting. But so far, he’s examined a spate of ancient cultures that failed (and a few successes) and several modern ones. I’m just starting on his chapter on China.
In my mind, China is what makes this whole end of oil, environmental crisis, climate change issue a runaway train that can’t possibly be stopped. Even if the rest of the world suddenly started living sustainably, China would take all of us down with her.

In my mind, there’s no stopping the fall of civilization worldwide that’s about to happen. What country is going to step forward to implement draconian environmental measures in their own land, when doing so puts them at an economic disadvantage in a world context? The economy within the country would crash, and it would then snowball around the world.

If leadership’s choice is between starting the collapse of society now, or putting it off until it just plays out in naturally unfolding consequences a little further down the road, of course they’ll wait. Why risk being overthrown and throwing your country into anarchy?
It’s just a runaway train were on. I’m convinced of that.

In playing with this in my mind, I’ve been trying to figure out, if oil runs out and society collapses, where the best place to be would be. I would love to be back in Pennsylvania. My dream is to have 50 or 100 acres, partly wooded, partly pastures and fields, and to live without electricity. That’s my “retirement” dream, to live self-sufficiently off the Pennsylvania land I love so dearly.

But were society to collapse, Pennsylvania probably wouldn’t be the best place to be. The whole eastern seaboard is one great megalopolis. When all of those millions of people are forced to leave the cities in order to survive, they’ll flee to the hills. They’ll chop down the forests for fuel and shelter through the long cold northeastern winters. The hills will become denuded and eroded and sterile. Topsoil will run off, down the rivers, killing fish along the way. People will fight over land and resources, the locals trying to fend off the invading city people. Even though the land there is so fertile, I think the stress of too many people, especially those who don’t know what they’re doing, will be its undoing.

And what if I’m stuck here when society classes? I’ve always thought this would be a horrible place. It’s high desert, so there’s not much rain and the soils are poor and sandy. Though if John gets his farm and I join him there, could we become self-sufficient?
The dust bowl is not so very far in the past, and farmers are still fleeing the plains, finding it too difficult to eat eke out a living here. Without irrigation it’s a very iffy proposition. John’s new property is not irrigated, but it’s on the floodplain of the river, so there may be somewhat more fertility there than elsewhere in our region. There’s a well for household use, but who knows ultimately how reliable that would turn out to be. You would want to catch all of the rain water from your buildings to use on your gardens and drip-irrigate and mulch heavily so as not to waste it. There would be so much to learn, and initially so many tools needed to get set up adequately.

But the good thing is millions of people wouldn’t be fleeing to such a marginal area. They won be that dumb. There would be virtually no wood to speak of. How would you heat your house and cook? If I saw society’s collapse coming and had the resources to deal with it, I build a small passive solar straw bale house with a masonry stove. Granted, you still need wood or some type of fuel for the stove, but at least it would use it efficiently. And the combination straw bale/passive solar design would go a long way in keeping the house warm on its own.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I’ve been in a rut for the past week or so, feeling kind of paralyzed. I can’t get anything done, nothing is calling to me. I feel no motivation.

This is a good sign, now that I picked up this journal and I’m starting to write. Maybe I can get the energy flowing again.

I’m still mulling over the issue of my place in this crazy society. I had a crazy, irresponsible thought the other day. If our consumer culture is destined to fall with the depletion of the world oil fields, why not hasten it along by consuming as much as I possibly can, and encouraging everyone else to do the same? The faster we deplete the earth’s resources, the sooner will come our culture’s day of reckoning. And the sooner the earth can begin to return to balance.

It’s clear no one is going to change their ways until it’s way too late, until there’s no time left to begin adapting to the changes that are necessary. People love to live in denial for as long as they possibly can. So they will, inevitably.

What could be happening, what should be happening, won’t. Moving out of the suburbs, developing local resources to meet the community’s needs for food and goods, getting rid of cars, re-learning the old skills--using draft animals, hand tools, carding, spinning, weaving, hunting, gathering, preserving food, saving seeds, chopping wood, making charcoal and lye, pottery, baskets, raising animals, butchering, smoking, tanning leather, developing true community where neighbors come together with neighbors to help build, grow, cook, preserve, or whatever.

It won’t happen. Who wants to give up what they have? Who wants to admit that their lifestyle is untenable, destructive? If the choice is between obliviousness and feeling the full moral weight of our choices, why not remain oblivious?

I’ve come across a web site on eremitism, which has been some really fascinating reading. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a hermit, but it’s been especially good to come around to these writings now, when I’m in the midst of my exploration of voluntary simplicity. Simplicity has led me to think more deeply about silence and solitude, which has brought me back around to my need for an eremitic lifestyle. In stillness and solitude, the world of spirit opens up. I long to inhabit the world of spirit.