Time for some comments . . .

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Photo by Andreas Gursky.

We had thought that we’d just have a few posts about the Age of Limits conference and get back to the appropriate technology and home economics posts that are the norm at Root Simple. But, judging from the comments and emails we’ve been getting, it seems we’ve brought up a topic that needs deeper exploration, so we’re going to do a few more posts related to the Triple Headed Hydra of Despair: Climate Change, Economic Collapse and Peak Oil. Don’t worry about us becoming a doomer blog, though. We’re going to focus on positive strategies.

But we want to pause for a moment and listen to you guys. Here’s some of the things we’re curious about, but feel free to sound off about anything else:

We’re sensing anxiety in the air. Are we imagining it? Are you anxious over these things? The people you know? How do you handle that?  If you practice homesteading activities, do you find they help you financially, emotionally or spiritually? Have you changed anything about your lifestyle in response to any of these factors, or do you plan to? Who do you trust to give you straight information on which to make these decisions?

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43 Comments

    • I think Milton Dixon hit the nail on the head. Long and Slow changes. It is very much a culture change. To grow you can do this in one generation, but to evolve as a society takes generations with open information and open minds.

  1. Thank you for launching into this. I come to this subject from a slightly different angle. Frugality, not fear. I’m not anxious or fearful regarding anything in future. Will all the doomer predictions come true? Maybe. Maybe not. Have we destroyed a large chunk of the earth in the pursuit of profit? Most certainly. Will it cause our extinction? Probably not. Will life get harder? Possibly. However, as I enter the age of Medicare, I’m pretty sure I will not be around to see many of them play out. That said, I’m not completely cavalier about what is happening and I am concerned for my grandchildren.

    I read a lot of the “prepper” stuff (including your books) not to prepare for a disaster in future, but to live frugally in present. While well-educated, I have chosen for many years to live a life of what Jim Merkel calls “Radical Simplicity”. Over the last forty years, I have never made more than $10,000 annually – and I have lived a very good life! I always eat a healthy diet, never smoke nor drink alcohol. I haven’t been to a doctor in over 25 years. Not being tied to a 40+ hour work week, I have had the time to carve out a nice niche. I read an average of 4-5 books per week and insist I perform 4 hours of hard labor every day. It’s what Helen and Scott Nearing labeled “bread labor”. I label it “health insurance”.

    I opted for Social Security at 62 so I could spend a few years of good health and ability to transform a junk house into a food producing homestead. A low income while working produces a small SS check, so I must be extra carefully with what I get. I’m not afraid of Zombie hordes over powering me and stealing my canned tomatoes; I’m concerned with inflation. (Well, I am concerned with the hordes of rabbits stealing my produce!) I started growing a portion of my own food in my 20’s and eventually went on to get a Master’s degree in Horticultural Food production, so I have that covered. Because I knew SS would be low, I scouted out inexpensive location – a very small town (2,300 pop.) – while still in my fifties, and bought small house with garage and outbuilding on ¾ acre and paid a whopping $13,000. I’m mortgage free.

    Now for the best part of the deal: the community. If times do get tough, it’s what really counts. If I had known how great the people were here, I would have moved here 30 years ago. I have made more friends here than in a couple of years than at any other time in my life. The few neighbors I have all have gardens, chickens, etc. They hunt deer every fall and give me venison. Moreover, if I didn’t have my tiny SS income I could go back to work; there are jobs all over the Central Plains. SD, NE, KS all have an unemployment rate about 3.5%. My niece came to stay for a couple of months and had three job offers in less than a week.

    In the end, I read Geer, Knustler, Baker, Orlov, etc. for the cultural insight they provide, not for the doom and gloom. Then again I read both right and left wing commentators equally. Each has something to say. Now must end this dribble and go work on my health insurance.

  2. Collapse in place, that’s what the Archdruid says.Basically I’ve been doing that all my life….I’ve always been thrifty, making my own clothes,repairing instead of replacing and we’ve never been big on buying the latest gadget.
    The frugal mindset has helped us enormously , we were both able to retire
    in our 50′s,we’re able to help our sons financially and we live well on our pensions.
    I am working on becoming more self sufficient,increasing my vegetable/herb gardens,making my own yogurt,bread,soaps and lotions, going back to canning and preserving. My bookcase is jam packed with books on doing for yourself, giving me loads of new ideas;by the way I have both of your books…though I’m not sure I’m ready for the vinegar mother yet:)
    I don’t really know if it was the Peak oil movement or Michael Pollan/Joel Salatin’s books that brought me back to the land, either way I get great pleasure out of my lifestyle….I mean making soap is like doing magic.
    I am at that age where I have more years behind me than ahead. I am saddened that we have gotton ourselves and our planet into such a state, but I don’t expect to be alive when payment comes due.All I can do for my world is what I am doing…one step at a time.
    I no longer trust the news agencies to give accurate information. The blogs/websites/online newsletters are where I go to get a true view on the world, because of them I have read more books than I ever thought I could, from Nassim Taleb to Nial Ferguson as Monty Python would say “my brain hurts”. But in a good way.

  3. To me, there is a pervasive sense of anxiety out there. The presence of so many apocalyptic story lines, and so many deniers of said story lines, point to a deeper reality, a felt sense of big change rumbling under our feet. Our minds, in seeking to keep us safe, are scrambling to figure out what the threat is, where it is coming from, and when it will manifest.

    I’m pretty clear on the Big Feeling, but that’s it. My job, with limited ability to predict the future and change the future course of global events, is to stay as sane and inwardly balanced as I can, which in large part entails learning skills like growing food and beekeeping that may prove useful to my family and community, but also keeps me out of my head and grounds me in the nourishing aspects of the earth and community. This is a spiritual path for me.

    Here’s a post I wrote about beekeeping as a an act of resistance and hope in the midst of tragedy, like the Boston marathon bombing and Colony Collapse Disorder, “Tea for the Bees” http://www.lunasolfarm.com/node/33

  4. There is a slowly broadening river of anxiety running through our culture. It’s obvious, look at how dark our entertainment is getting (Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Revolution, The Dark Knight…etc); even some of our comedies are about the end of the world. Watch the news as more people externalize their anxiety, depression, alienation, impotence and resultant rage with firearms and explosives.
    Everyone I talk to has some sense that at the very least some big change is coming. The thing that I think is funny is that it is almost always coupled with some sort of rationalization, some way to deny whatever it is they think is coming. It won’t affect me because of where I live, my tax bracket, science will save us, god will save us, guns will save us, I’ll be dead before it happens and so on.

    • This is a very good point about the entertainment, something that is hard not to notice. It’s interesting to watch how popular zombie shows and movies become, and to ask WHY they are becoming so popular.

  5. When I first read the prepper and survivalist blogs and saw the videos, it was temporarily frightening. I don’t believe we all have to be armed to the hilt with backpacks/bug-out-bags ready to leave our homes because the zombie hoards are coming to get our food that we should be stockpiling to last for thirty years. However, even though I am definitely a liberal, I agree with the right to have guns. I just don’t have one.

    There is a positive part to all of this fear-mongering. People are gardening, learning to can the harvests, and be a little more careful about wasting what they have, money or goods. They eat cleaner food.I have gotten some real gems, lessons from these scary people.

    I have made clothing/home furnishings all my life, canned, and was/am a treehugger. I did not have to buy the treadle machine for when the grid is down since I have owned it for 35 years. I did not have to shop for a pressure canner or pressure cooker or learn how to use it. The dehydrator was in place. I have always had a clothesline. My reel mower was purchased over 20 years ago. I owned Back to the Basics and the Foxfire books for over 30 and 40 years, respectively. Therefore, I do not have to change my lifestyle drastically. I do not have to think in a drastically different way.

    There is a new wave in survival/prepper writing and videos. It is less frightening. There is less “bugging out” to escape. There is a sense of living with a less fear. My sensibilities are not jarred.

    People who can cause us to fear will also take our money to alleviate that fear through speeches and books and telling us to do busy work to save us from what we fear. Institutionalized fear-mongering with a solution is never going to tell us we are safe. We cannot be safe or they will lose their power and their means of making a living.

    I have a friend who only listens to right wing news. He accuses me of only listening to left wing news. However, I listen to a variety of opinions. They all mostly lie.

    We are destroying the earth with each decision we make that involves using more oil. For the last few years, I have been all for rationing of gasoline. It might affect me adversely, but I am willing to bear the adversity.

    My children and grandchildren deserve the kind of world I grew up in, free from tainted foods and tainted air.

    Having a severe physical disability affects how much I can do, but I do try and support people who make me think in a positive way.

  6. I’m sad a lot. There is no one in my life who even acknowledges that our lifestyle will ever have limits. I hate the baby boomers, who had so much handed to them, and who act like my generation is stupid and lazy because their generation ran up debt, burned through resources, and shipped jobs overseas.

    I don’t think there’s anything I can do to prepare. Anything I build or grow could just be taken from me by people with guns. Or, if I decide to get guns, then it is just as likely that no one will win. Attempts to foster a community in my neighborhood went horribly. Maybe I just have jerk neighbors? But it is also a class thing… gardening and chickenkeeping are seen as low-class and people who aspire to middle class loathe to have it around.

    I honestly don’t see anything constructive I can do in society. My boyfriend says that I should just enjoy things while they last and worry about problems when they get here. It makes me want to throw up. I’ve decided not to have children. What do these people think, who are having children? So many children. Sometimes I cry when I go to the grocery store and look at all that food, all that produce.

    • Dear Anonymous and many others,

      Reading your comments and many others is what is truly heartbreaking for me. You and many others CAN do something about our world. By choosing not to have children you have given up the fight. You choose to hand over the world to all those baby boomers, corporate types, and the non-productive segment of society who ARE having children and passing along their corrupted worldview. The world would be a much more hopeful and nice place if GOOD people with GOOD values had lots and lots of children who could then take their parents ideals and implement them. You are not going to live forever. Without children, you and your ideals will be gone.

      My husband and I have five children, have been teaching our kids a lot of the things from this blog (straw bale gardening, for one!) and I couldn’t be more happy and hopeful about the future.

    • Dear Anita,

      I don’t see choosing not to have children as giving up. I see my choice as choosing to be part of the solution. Children are surviving all over the world at rates never before seen in history, and the population growth is simply unsustainable.

      I still enjoy and work with kids. I still work with parents. And I use the extra resources of time and money not having kids affords me to make my legacy for the planet in other ways.

      For me, choosing not to have children is a very positive choice. Not one that makes me sad. It only makes me sad that my choice is given less respect in our society, despite what I see as only positive benefits for humanity.

      I don’t think the movie Idiocracy will come true just because I didn’t pop out kid. ha! Especially since I’m involved in other ways.

    • At the conference I talked with a couple who are going to have a baby. What they had to say was especially important to me, as I have two children of my own. They had talked about it very seriously, and decided that come what may, the life they bring into the world will know joy, as will they, even if it is not the same as what we have known. I liked that answer a lot.

      I think you are right on about the middle class mind set. Kunstler’s psychology of previous investment sums up a lot of it, I think.

      It sucks having to deal with people who want to live in a world that does not exist any more. They are not cooperative, caring, willing to invest in the future, trusting, open, etc. etc. Usually, they are middle class.

      Personally, I am giving my kids knowledge they will find handy in the future (at least trying to) while at the same time giving them every advantage I possibly can from the oil age that is coming to a close. I am trying to instill a sense of appreciation in them that this is a special time to be appreciated and taken advantage of.

      There was somewhat of a consensus at the conference to take advantage of what is possible now to make the now and the future as good as they can be.

      No need to like anyone, but respect their desire to do good by at least someone. Don’t trust ‘em, either.

    • I am not as negative about our future as many, but I did also decide against having children. To me, it was a decision on behalf of the environment, which I value so very much. It was a personal decision, based on many things, and I also see myself as part of the solution. I am distressed when I see people with no regard for nature, no sadness at species loss, no appreciation for the beauty of birdsong. I do what I can and hope I can protect my small acreage. I hope for someday, when people realize that we are living incredibly self-indulgent lives, and everyone begins to do their part.

  7. I’m pretty scared about the future, though I try everyday to move through the fear and recognize the “chop wood, carry water” path that is the essence of human life on this planet.

    Although I’ve been on the simple living bandwagon for many years, when I decided to teach a course on climate change/sustainability issues, the recent science floored me. The predictions are dire, and even more frighteningly, whenever I start to feel like I’m over-reacting, the news of superstorms, agricultural challenges, the dropping snowpack, and the fragility of the world economy prove me wrong. It’s starting to feel surreal, to be honest.

    I do read Greer, et al, but I also recognize that I have to take breaks–the pull toward the dark side is stong and not good for my mental health. Even though I think much of the advice is sound and well-intentioned, not necessarily fear-mongering.

    What has been helping these days is concentrating on joy and love in each moment, letting go of ANY attachment to the future. It’s just too unpredictable. But focusing on the people I love, and the beauty in my garden and natural surroundings, and finding some spiritual trust in the patterns and rhythms of the universe seems to help. Trusting myself and my family to be able to respond and adapt to whatever comes our way.

    I have also found MrMoneyMustache’s blog helpful, although it may seem like an odd fit. He emphasizes that we live in a time of RIDICULOUS luxury (in North America), and if we focus on the absurdity of that and become comfortable and happy living with less, we also start to feel like a lot of it could go away and we would either hardly notice or be better off. It’s a collapse early path, but with the joyful recognition of what that frees up for us–time, money, adventure, freedom–rather than a “suffer now, so that you can suffer less later” twist.

    I would be interested in hearing more about your sense of Carolyn Baker’s work. I have thought that she’s on track with her beliefs that there is a need to acknowledge grieving and the psychological/emotional shifts that we go through when we really tune in to the facts. But I haven’t actually read her stuff, and I’m wary about pulling rituals out of other contexts and expecting us to be moved by them…

  8. We are not really fearful, as much as we are fed up. Fed up with all the crap and lies being sold to us, and tired of being in debt. We have decided to start taking things into our own hands. We home educate our children, got rid of our cars, and are still simplifying our lives. It’s an on going, somewhat slow but steady process. We feel better, healthier, and more connected. Yet, of course a little disconnected from the world bc we have made such radical changes. We do not have much room to homestead where we live, but I do have some planters going. It is a dream of mine to one day have more space to grow food and have chickens. We do participate in a local co-op of local organic farms which we get most of our fresh produce and dairy products from. We do the best we can and are always looking to see what else we can do. Thanks for being such a great place to find information on simplifying and homesteading.

  9. Sometimes I think Doomers are waiting for teotwawki the same way the Evangelical Christians are waiting for the Rapture, almost with a kind of manic fervor because, at last, the righteous can prevail (a world made by hand!) and the evil empire (take that, Big Oil!) will be toppled. But some find these kinds of thought systems to be depressing and it leads to hopelessness. So I don’t see them as a positive thing to immerse oneself in. Know the issues, yes, but don’t spend too much time at places where the focus is more on the upcoming doom than doing what you can in the present.

    That being said, homesteading at this point for us is more about establishing a better, safer food system and home goods system for ourselves, and hopefully some of what we do — growing, harvesting, preserving, creating and living simply — will be passed on to our grandchildren or great-grandchildren, who may end up needing those skills, literally, to survive. Who knows? So we keep the “old ways” going, and teach those who want to learn. How better can you care for the future, whatever it holds, but still live happily (mostly) in the present?

    • I agree with everything you’ve said here, HotFlash.

      I’m 24. A few years back I discovered the Doomer world, and got totally sucked into it in this death spiral of depression. I felt like Chicken Little in nearly every conversation, warning my family and friends that our ways were going to End The World.

      Then one day I woke up and realized it’s much more fun and less anxiety-producing to live life from a state of enjoyment and not from fear. I could still love gardening and the idea of bicycle culture and composting and chickens and tiny houses, but I could share them positively. It made me happier, and the people around me have started to change their behavior as well. Most people shut down when confronted with too much fear and negativity. I’m one of those people. Now I know just enough to keep me informed, but I positively refuse to indulge in a doomer spiral again. Homesteading activities are fulfilling and positive on their own (money-saving, good exercise, good practice, etc). I don’t need to dream of a zombie apocalypse to engage in them.

  10. The conference certainly has made me question what I do on a daily basis and I’m still figuring it out. I ask myself if I enjoy what I do and if it’s morally correct. I don’t think you have to understand or believe all the doomers to realize ( as many comments have pointed out ) that our current way of life is unsustainable. If I enjoy what I do but it’s a tax on the planet well that’s going to require some thought. If I’m not really happy with my life and I investigate why, maybe there are some parallels to living simply and getting out of the rat race. As Spirko says, live simply “For when times get tough, or even if they don’t”.

    I truly enjoy my connectedness with the world when I experience a day outside away from the computer that I’m tied to for work. It’s so much easier to see and feel what is better for me, better for those around me and for the world in general. This of course is a luxury as my needs are easily met and shelter readily available. The most interesting thing for me has been my change from a more individualistic nature to one of accepting community or at least looking for it. Of all the different topics, threads and theories bandied around the conference the one constant was the need for cooperation between people. It is a skill I’m trying to cultivate. I’m glad to have Kelly and Erik as friends, they are part of my extended family in LA.

  11. First – thanks for your great blog. I’m only sorry you’re not here in the Midwest so your info would be more applicable. I read most of the blogs of those at the “Age of Limits” conference and was considering saving up to attend next year. However, after what I’ve read so far I’ll probably save the money. It would be nice to have others who have similar concerns to discuss thing with.

    I’m 61 and live w/husband and mother-in-law here in No. Illinois. We have a small farm and raise much of our meat, eggs, bees, fruits and veggies.

    I do feel we’re in for some pretty hard times though at our age will probably not see the worst. We continue to learn new skills for many reasons – better health, better food, resiliency, security and just because we enjoy being able to provide for ourselves. My biggest frustration – not having people around who “get it”. Family and friends do recognize that the future will not be as advertised but I think they are mostly in denial (understandably) and that includes my dh as well. I think it’s important to be aware of future possibilities so you’re better prepared for what may be ahead and so many just don’t want to think about it.

    In addition to caring for my mother-in-law I am also guardian of my three brothers who have intellectual disabilities and mental illness. Services are continuing to erode for them and they don’t have the capability to understand when times get harder. I’m also very concerned about our health care (or should I say sick care) system. There’s no way things can continue as they are now. I try to lead as healthful of a lifestyle as I can though many question why I choose to work as hard as I do.

    To anonymous – don’t be so hard on all boomers. There are many of us who lead a frugal lifestyle. That being said I can understand your frustration and I do appreciate the fact that I have lived during a time in history that provided great comforts and security. I pointed out to my m-i-l just the other day how lucky she has been – spent her retirement traveling the country in their camper, didn’t have to worry about caring for other family members, has a great pension (as did my fil who recently passed away at 90) and had/have great and affordable health care. These are things that are not in many boomers future (or present) anymore.

    At any rate I try not to dwell on all this too much and just enjoy the fact that I an able to have this small farm, have good health, friends and family.

  12. Hi, I live in N. Florida in a rural county near Tallahassee. I have been deeply concerned about these issues for the past ten years and have been dealing with my anxiety and despair by making our 5 acres into a more productive homestead. We have large permaculture beds,small flocks of chickens and ducks, a few Dwarf Nigerian Goats, and a big investment in solar energy.
    We’re in our 60′s, husband still works full time and I manage the animals and home production – produce, cooking, bread making, mending, etc.
    People like Wendell Berry, Sharon Astyk, and you folks – the whole urban homesteading movement are really inspiring to me and keep me hoping the future won’t be all or nothing. Most of our friends share these concerns but are just too harried and busy to think very deeply about the future. I try not to get too frustrated about this (I don’t know anyone else who uses a clothesline). But many people who visit us are curious about our “alternative” ideas and we try to share information and encourage simple living at least by example.
    I agree with your comments about starting at home – your website is also one of my favorite despair antidotes. vicki in wakulla

  13. I met you at the AoL conference; wish I’d put 2 and 2 together to realize you are the authors of a book I like, Making It.
    I went back to the land in the mid-70s to build my own house and farm and met my husband who was doing the same nearby. We moved his house next to mine, got married and raised 2 children on the land, but realized in 1999 that we were spending all our time commuting to jobs and school in town, so moved to town, 30,000 then, 50,000 now (just learned that we’re the fastest growing mid-size city in the country). Found out about the peak-oil/ climate change/ economy trifecta about 7 years ago and upped our already intense attempts at frugality/ conscientious living, adding community-building to the mix.
    Building skills and accumulating a non-electric tool set (including books) has been my main antidote to the despair that lurks on my edges. I’d really like to be able to talk about some of the emotional issues (the conference was good, but temporary) and this blog seems like a good forum. Thank you.

  14. We tend to buy quality organic veggies fro our canning, so when you add on the labour we don’t save much money. Also, my employment in the “household economy” is pretty much required to keep on top of all the gardening, sausage making and cidering.

    But I feel a lot better emotionally–and even better having moved to a smaller city and amped up the production.

    It doesn’t help much with the emotions about our daughter’s future though….

  15. Your ‘Limits” blog posts were amazing–definitely hitting on a need for catharsis and conversation about the psychological impacts of the time we live in. I don’t know many people in my ‘real world’ life who are willing to discuss these issues, and I am grateful to you for opening the floor, here.

    For me, right now, all of these fears are localized in my reproductive decision-making–specifically, whether to have a second kid or not (first was an ‘accident’.) Reproduction seems like the ultimate vote of confidence in humanity, and as much as I love the son I have, I feel like I’ve already signed him up for a concerning future. I wonder if there are other parents/ women out there struggling with this decision, who feel like it bears the burden of many of the fears and concerns being mentioned in these recent posts? I would certainly be interested in how people have reconciled these issues as they decide whether to have children or not.

    • Carla,

      I have been thinking about this same issue. There is a lot of pressure on women to have babies, which sometimes makes me second-guess my decision to be child-free. I talked to my HCP about tubal ligation and got pretty much shut down. It also took 4 years to convince someone to give me long term reversible birth control (IUD).

      The drive to maintain the status quo is huge, and I think it is especially harsh on women. Not only with reproductive issues but with issues like bicycling where many of the women I know are harassed more intensely than the men on the road.

      -mk

    • Carla,

      I’ve been wondering if I should answer your question since I don’t have kids, and am not in the same position as you are now. I think it’s a good, honest question to ask, and I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I suppose the crux of the question lies in why you’re considering a second child. I know there is strong pressure on parents to have a second child for the sake of the first. Erik is an only child, and I’d say he turned out okay. I married him! There are other external pressures, too. But if your heart is leading you toward a second, then perhaps you should follow that impulse. Surely the child will be born into a world different than you were born into–and that’s a difficult thought, and that fear needs to be acknowledged. Yet you should not make such a profound decision out of fear, but rather out of love, with joy in your heart. So I guess my question is, again, what does your heart, your gut, your inner voice, tell you? Perhaps your greatest joy would come in the form of a larger family, or perhaps the greatest joy would be in being content with what you have now. Again, there’s no right or wrong here. In uncertain times, your best friend is your intuition.

  16. Do I feel anxiety? Yes. I’m an allied health professional who sells orthotic devices all made from plastic, which is derived from petroleum. I basically won’t have much of a career once oil is gone.

    I’ve just recently educated myself on the peak oil issue, thanks to Netflix. Never heard of the term until a month ago. Then, I saw all these great documentaries popping up!

    I have a degree in Biological Science. Twenty-five yrs ago my Ecology professor said, “Your generation will probably witness the consequences of overpopulation.” He was right and wrong.

    Really, the problem is that success of the human species, that is, it’s viability, is tied directly to oil … because the fertilizers and pesticides used to help grow the food that feeds all those people is made from petroleum! We’re really seeing the consequences of the overuse of oil rather than overpopulation.

    Nothing is a good as petroleum in terms of energy. Nuclear rivals petroleum. But none of the renewable sources are as cheap, plentiful or as efficient as oil and so that means that despite the growth of green energy sources, they will not keep up with the demand. There will be a breaking point.

    In order for there to be a balance, the population of the earth will likely have to decrease by 75% in the next 50 years (when we run out of oil). One expert said we’d run out of oil in 20 years. This makes me really, really sad.

    Even if we wanted to take in climate refugees, we would never in our wildest dreams be able to feed everyone! Either we all die or some of use die. Someone will need to make hard choices.

    Here we are in America worrying about Obamacare when we should be concerned about what’s beneath our feet! Is it soil, or ocean?

    All we can do is deal with our own little microcosm. We take action within our means. We can tell people about peak oil. We can make an urban garden. We can turn off lights. Drive less. Definitely fly less. Do our parts.

    I am making an urban garden (though I live in a town of 40K people in an isolated region). It’s not really city urban. I can have chickens where I live. We just finished building a sturdy greenhouse. I do borderline organic gardening. We have a pest problem and when the organics don’t work we have to employ the good stuff or lose the garden. Every year though we use more organic natural pesticides and less of the nasty stuff, so that’s good.

    We can buy local. Maybe we all can LOOK at where the food we’re buying is sent from and buy stuff that’s closer to us?? If there’s no demand, then stores won’t ship food to us that’s grown 3,000 miles away!

    Best wishes, everyone!

  17. There is definitely big change coming upon us; from the problems of a collapsing economy, mismanaged agriculture, and water shortages, as well as the natural changes of climate, plus probably a whole bunch I’ve not thought about. When will this begin to affect my household/family personally? In some ways, it already has. But big changes? the kind that affect food availability? utility availability? maybe in my life time, and maybe not. Am not particularly thrifty, but am turning to certain aspects of survivorship to ensure the quality of our food, availability of water, make sure other of our needs will be covered regardless of whether or not the world falls apart in our lifetime (which for us is approx. another 25 years). It may mean we’ll be ensured a supply of quality organic produce which will translate in better over health. and it may mean if we don’t grow it, we don’t eat it. It may just mean we’ll help neighbors who don’t have as much. being prepared is not being scared. Besides, less and less does involvement with the outside world appeal to us.

  18. I first learned about this, shall we say, interesting convergence of problems that I and my children will face when a co-worker directed me to Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity site. From there it was a deep dive into the rabbit hole. I don’t think I stopped reading and watching videos on peak oil, climate change, and the fragility of our economic system for over a month. Fear grabbed hold of me like a vice; not fear for myself, but fear for my family. What would happen to them? How can I protect them?

    It got so bad that at one point I, a confirmed and lifelong Quaker, was seriously considering buying a gun, presumably to protect against wandering hoards of starving people. Thankfully my wonderful wife snapped me out of that dark place. Her threatening to walk made me realize just how far off the deep end I’d gone.

    Since then I’ve made a very conscious choice to avoid the real doom-and-gloom types. Let’s face it: if we’re really on a collision course with the end of humanity, then there’s really not much I can do about it, so I’d rather not learn more about all the horrible ways it could happen.

    Instead, I’ve focused solely on what I can do. I’ve read up on basic skills, started a garden, set up rain barrels, and made it a point to get to know my community. I cleaned up my blog feeds to only include those sites that focus on practical, real life efforts to increase resilience (don’t worry, you guys are still very much in that category!). And I must say, It feels wonderful to be doing SOMETHING, rather than wallowing in what may or may not come to pass.

  19. I’ve found two very different threads running through the homesteading community. One is the prepper/survivalist mindset, and the other is the hippie treehugger version (which I personally subscribe to). I have both in my Facebook and blog feeds, because both have excellent strategies to share. But I do limit the amount I take in from the prepper blogs, because they ratchet up my anxiety.

    I’ve been a proponent of Voluntary Simplicity since I was in my early 20s, so I’m actually in pretty good shape. I garden, teach urban homesteading classes, have a couple of chickens, and save money. I’ve long thought that we’ll eventually have to return to a more community-driven, human-powered existence, which in turn encouraged me to learn skills like sewing, knitting, and preserving. But I actually enjoy those things, so it’s not like it’s a burden.

    On the days I’m really feeling anxious, I head into the garden and reground myself. I look for small ways to engage with other people (I am not a networker AT ALL, so this takes some effort for me), by answering gardening questions on Facebook and among my neighbors. I planted strawberries in my tree lawn for the neighbors to enjoy, and just yesterday I received a lovely thank you note from a family that had harvested some.

    And I remind my self that complete self-sufficiency is neither practical nor desirable. What will help us thrive in whatever comes next is the building of community. So I encourage the Anonymous poster earlier to not give up! Sometime it can be tough to find people who we can build that community with. But live your life on your own terms and reach out when you can. I promise, they’ll find you.

    • Amy, I like your post a lot. I also find too many prepper blogs can turn up the anxiety. And agree about the garden – for me it is one of the most calming places. You sound like a really cool person. Where do you teach urban homesteading?

  20. Um, they have that photo up at my 99c store , and it makes me wish that was my store, I buy soap and toothpaste at mine, but that one has all of my favorite candy. My store has a crummy selection. Oh and stop having babies and turn this mess around. That’s all Fred

  21. The main discussion may have been yesterday, but after reading through the comments it felt like my age group was decidedly un-represented (I am 25). So here I am to give my opinions.

    I notice very disparate views on the enviornment, depending on who I am with. My parents and in-laws don’t deny climate change, but still live very much in the consumerist middle class society. Only my mom, who grew up without much money and learned to sew, cook and preserve out of necessity, really understands what my husband and I are trying to do. Friends either completely understand or don’t get it at all.

    We own a third floor condo, so we don’t have any land on which to garden. However, we have a pretty long balcony, where we grow sugar snap peas, lettuce, strawberries, parsley, basil, and (hopefully, though they’re not doing so well this year) tomatoes, carrots and pole beans. Does it save us money? Well, after buying all that dirt, getting it to the third floor, and the labor involved in a balcony garden, maybe not. But it’s rewarding to grow so much food on our ledge of concrete. And gardening is what first got my husband interested in food, where it comes from and what it does to our bodies. So while I’ve never truly tracked the cost per unit of produce, I would say it is overwhelmingly worthwhile.

    Other habits we have adopted include baking our own bread. We’re quite pleased to say that since January we have only had to purchase a single loaf of store bought bread (during grad school finals). The husband shaves using an old fashioned double edge safety razor rather than the electric shaver he used to use. We walk more, regularly walking the mile into the downtown area rather than driving like we used to. When it gives exercise, a chance to talk without distractions, and no need to pay for parking, what’s not to love?

    I do have emergency supplies. We’re in Northern California, walking distance to the SF Bay. If the “big one” hits, we are just on the edge of the flood zone, so it would be irresponsible to not have some emergency supplies. But I don’t stockpile against zombies or the ravaging hordes. I want our homesteading to be about the joy we get from doing things ourselves rather than something that fosters fear. If you want fear, turn on the news. What I do is out of love for myself, my family and my planet.

  22. As one of the baby boomer generation I have to say that each generation has people who live in all camps. I know people of all ages who are frugal and live mindfully, as well as people who live like consumerism is the god.
    Yes, I am fearful for the future. Yes, I am trying to change what I can in my life to live more in tune with the earth. I am grateful for blogs like this where I can read what like minded people are doing and thinking.

  23. http://www.thestory.org/stories/2013-06/scientist-raises-her-voice

    I was listening to this radio program yesterday and thought it was pertinent. The scientist interviewed touched on that feeling of helplessness when confronted with the enormity of climate change, and how the scientific community seems to back away from passionately opposing the oil industry.

    Personally, I do feel a lot of anxiety and (especially) helplessness when it comes to how the world is changing. I was an environmentalist from a very young age and have always had a passion for doing every thing I can possibly do to curb climate change and pollution. Lately, though, I’ve become close to depressed when it comes to these issues. It feels like we can’t possibly do anything when faced with such a large problem (which is why the above story really touched me). Being in my mid-20s, I feel like I should be passionately protesting in the streets, but really I just feel burnt out.

  24. I am in my early 30′s and vividly recall Earth Day in 1990. A small newspaper was distributed throughout my school, The Scholastic News, and I remember reading about the “tipping point” for the environment. We were taught to recycle, to be aware of out energy usage, and so on. I don’t think the message stuck with many other students. This was Wyoming, mind you, a state so open and wide it seems resources are endless. But environmental degradation has been on my mind a long, long time. I have assumed since I was quite young that the world of my adulthood would be drastically different from what I was then familiar with.

    Obviously, that is not the case quite yet. Americans live with luxurious ease, and, honestly, I don’t think a strong majority of people in this country really care about the possible negatives of their lifestyles or wastefulness. So long as people have full bellies, electricity, and gasoline the rat race will be run by most. I don’t yearn for the day when food and supplies are hard to come by, but I really do think something is going to snap. What, I don’t know. Sometimes I wish for a huge epidemic to wipe out large swaths of the human population, because I think the planet will have a chance of recovery if that happens. Not the nicest of thoughts!

    If I get all doom and gloom I look around me. I have amazing people in my life, who have so much knowledge to share about plants, gardening, and survival skills. None of them are doomsayers, but we do all have an over-hanging sense that we must develop a wide variety of skills to sustain ourselves, within cities or wilderness; with electricity and without. Lots of people I hang out with are, or were, traveling crusty punks and train hoppers, dumpster divers and scavengers. They’re tenacious and resourceful. Should the most negative of outcomes happens, I hope at least a handful of them are by my side.

    I try to look at the bright side of a total collapse in the U.S. — at least, I fantasize, perhaps wrongly, about a silver lining on a dark scenario. No rent or bills. Student loan forgiveness! Camping every night. No crappy job. Freedom from all the materialistic crap and things I’ve acquired. Squatting land. More or less, I’ve realized that many of my fears are based on my American standard of living going away. Look around at this world, the people on it. How many billions live without a steady supply of food or water. But even the most destitute places still have laughter and community. which I think are the most important resource humans can share with one another.

    Less and less, though, so I find myself thinking about the future. It scares me and disrupts the day I’m actually living in. I mean, I could get hit by a car tomorrow and that would be the end of me. I still have ideas for the future, of course, like buying land, or teaching, etc, but they are second to just enjoying what I can, when I can. I keep my wits about me and pull up a few chairs for my friends, eat food from the garden and drink homebrew. Teach some skills and laugh at our mistakes. I think it’s important to just live your life and be kind, help each other out, and share your bounty with others.

  25. I currently live in South America and volunteer in a rural community; one of my projects is to help train rural water committees in how to operate and maintain their water systems. Yesterday afternoon I observed a different organization’s training session. What I found interesting is that the trainer referenced “the coming water wars” several times as one of the reasons the committee members needed to know how the system worked and how to maintain it.

    Some of my volunteer friends down here told me that when Kim Jong-Un started making threats a few months ago, many people asked them if the U.S. government would make us come back since WWIII was starting. I was surprised that some people jumped to such a dire conclusion.

    On a day-to-day basis I don’t see many people with a defeatist attitude with regard to climate change. I live in an agricultural area, so I have heard comments about the rainy season changing in the past few years (shorter season, stronger rains). Gasoline is much more expensive here, and many people either walk or ride more fuel-efficient motorcycles, so I rarely hear complaints about the cost of driving. One thing I’ve been more concerned about is garbage and plastic waste, but the ideas of waste and pollution are still relatively “new” in my community and many people here aren’t worried about them.

    Something I have noticed, with regard to defeatist attitudes and anxiety, is that it really does depend strongly on what one reads. Before I came to South America I read a variety of news sources to keep up with what was going on in the U.S. and in the world and was generally aware of how negative most news was. For my first few months here I had irregular internet access and didn’t read any news. I recently got a (slow, flaky, low-capped) modem and started browsing headlines again. A few weeks ago I read a report on why we shouldn’t read the news (since I’m writing this while offline I can’t find the URL, but if you search for “Avoid News” by Rolf Dobelli you can find it) and since then I’ve noticed how stressful “keeping up” with the news can be — and I don’t even subscribe to any anxiety-laden prepper feeds, just public radio news.

    I think was in the same boat as Cheryl before I left for South America: mid-20s, trying to do the best I could for myself and my family.
    I learned to bake bread and had a garden (that didn’t produce much due to the drought we had). My boyfriend and I walked and biked regularly, and I took public transportation when the weather was bad. The town I live in now is so small I don’t need to bike. I’d like to bake and have a garden here, but the ovens are notoriously inefficient and fresh bread is cheap (and better than anything I could make), plus the family I live with farms a variety of vegetables so I don’t really need my own plot. I’ve been encouraging my mom back in the U.S. to put in a small straw bale garden (sending her links to Root Simple) in my failed vegetable beds so she can have peas, tomatoes, and squash. Once I return I’d like to put some fruit trees in my parents’ yard, and maybe get some bees if I’m feeling ambitious enough. I don’t return for another 18 months, though, so I have plenty of time to learn more and plan the “perfect” garden and orchard.

  26. Ok, here’s what I really think is going on: our whole society is experiencing the death anxiety of the Baby Boomers. They were raised in the cold war, came of age during Vietnam, and then (at least the white upper middle class ones) got to be the kings of the world for quite awhile. The creation of the internet and then ensuing tech revolution followed an identical path as all major disruptive technologies (think railroads, cars/suburbia, the end of whale oil) in which vast amounts of wealth were created and eventually solidified into the hands of the few.

    The ’90s were the golden age of the 20th century: endless possibilities, a vast economic engine, low unemployment, no war. Parents started telling their kids to follow their bliss, because a job will come a long. Home owners seemed to be on treadmill that made money. Things were great in America! And the Baby Boomers were at the peak of their economic, social and political power.

    9/11 happened, the economy fell apart in 2008, there are no jobs, boomers are taking care of their dying parents and looking morality straight in the face. They are realizing that they didn’t build a base on the moon. They are realizing they wasted their money. They are realizing they gave bad advice to their children. They are realizing they will die. And they don’t want to go by themselves. They want everything to go with them.

    And their kids (I’m one of the oldest Millennials — I barely understand the kids who are younger than me) we realize that our childhoods may be the best years of our lives and objectively not nostalgically. We face endless war, the resurgence of death at the hands of bacterial infections (did you know Calvin Coolidge’s son died in his 20s from an infection from a blister he got while playing tennis on the south lawn?), lives of part-time contract work with no benefits, helping care for our grandparents and then our parents as their lives stretch out into senescence and eat through savings for a shadow of their former lives. We are in debt, we have no jobs.

    The Baby Boomers are afraid of death, the Millenials are afraid of the future. Of course people want something, anything different. But they can’t imagine a way to make it different.

    • You sir are a spot on! I have been saying to my kids and anyone that will listen that the recent past sixty years in America has been a complete anomaly – not real in any sustainable way. The best view of future American life will be more like the 1930s so study that model, not the advertised lifestyle being sold to you.

      I’ve been in the automotive industry most of my life – a car guy. I LOVE cars. So I’m really having a tough time evolving for the future. I’m now 64 and finally realize I have a LOT of karma to deal with, but I will try. Thanks to all on here.

  27. I’m optimistic, but that’s because I’ve been blessed with community and projects that give me hope; not just the hope in the face of impossible odds, but the kind of hope where you have clear direction in how to tackle the most scary part of a problem head on.

    Between redefining the American Dream through our ecovillage and creating a stable global food source through SEEDS: the Game, I think we have a fighting chance…

  28. THanks for checking in with your readership and letting us air our concerns. I worry about this stuff ALL. THE. TIME. I’m prone to worry anyway, but since reading Greer and other books on peak oil, my whole outlook has changed. It’s like I’m living two completely separate lives- one for my day job, and one after hours where I try to figure out how to live well on less and build my hand/life skills (biking not driving, sewing, gardening, cooking, knitting, etc).
    Thanks for the people who brought up the baby question. I don’t have kids yet, but I’d love to, and yet I watch the people around me pump out their 1-2 kids (or for my christian conservative friends – their 3-6+ kids) and consume a boat load of resources to do so and think….should I add to the burden of the planet?
    Thanks to the gal who posted that her job/career will be over after peak oil. I work in the aerospace defense industry (yeah. Don’t feather and tar me just yet please). From what I’ve seen in my industry, I have a hunch that whatever is left of the oil will be prioritized towards those with power and influence – the gov, the military, the corporations, the wealthy in about that order from my estimation. My job won’t completely disappear, but my industry will contract and the fight to hold the jobs will be fierce. I hope to be out long before then.
    Until then, I feel like a stranger in my own life – I am the crazy cheap/frugal single woman in a sea of solidly middle class males at work (to be fair, I earn like them, so I’m middle class too, I just don’t live like it). They make good-natured fun of me for not owning a smart phone, for not having cable, for not buying a mcmansion in a new development neighborhood and fertilizing the hell out of the lawn to keep it green. They puzzle over my lack of name brand purses and clothes and my attempts to bike to work, join a bee keeping association, plant herbs in my front flower bed of my rental townhouse (much to the ire of the HOA mind you).
    HOWEVER – they do come straight to me with garden questions. So I guess I’m good for more than just their entertainment as their quirky coworker!
    My conservative friends of faith can’t even bring themselves to talk about a bad future. God will provide/protect/rescue me is about as far as they can process. I was raised in that environment but have pushed away as I feel it’s just not true.
    Michael Greer’s writing (I’m referencing the Long Descent here and his blog)on the faith in progress and/or technology really rang true with me. That’s my career and academic training – things will get better through creating better gizmos and technology!- and my whole experience with faith – God will make things better if I just ask Him to (and follow all his rules so he has to bless me)! But it’s just not true…….I’ve been having a crisis of faith as I analyze my life and views against the realities of the world I live in. It’s sad and lonely, but I wonder how much of this burden could be alleviate if I could find kindred spirit friends? I have a few, but they are in my home state at the moment, so I don’t see them much obviously. Sigh.
    So I don’t end this on a completely sad lonely girl note. THANK YOU for your blog. I love it! I check it regularly and am constantly learning new things. Please keep up the good work. I am so thankful to have run across your work. It’s wonderful. Give yourself a pat on the back for me!

  29. Not anxious. Between books (yours and others like Made From Scratch, The Good Life Lab), family interest (on both ends of the political spectrum! I mean, even if someone is gardening to prepare for the UN invasion, whatever, you’re still growing food is the bottom line), and some communal interest, I feel very optimistic. We were fortunate to have read Urban Homestead before buying our house and so were careful (and lucky) to land in a neighborhood w/o big box stores, not car dependent, can have chickens & solar panels, etc -I say lucky b/c even on the West coast (SoCal) that was surprisingly hard to find.

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