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Pick Up Your Hat

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
Way back in college, I read a short story by Robert Heinlein that I’ve never been able to find again. In it, a bartender is standing at his bar, when two nuclear scientists come in. They are talking about the immanent danger of nuclear attack on the US, and the bartender gets scared. He asks them whether they really believe what they are saying, and then says something along the lines of “If you really believed that, you wouldn’t be sitting here drinking, you’d get out of the target area right now.” The scientists assure the bartender that everything is really that serious, and then list a host of reasons why they can’t leave right now. The bartender, convinced, picks up his hat and walks out of the bar and city right then, leaving all his connections behind. And this being fiction, just as he gets outside the city limits, he starts to question his own instincts, and he tries to make a phone call (or something), only to see the mushroom cloud go up behind him.

Now life very rarely justifies our assumptions so rapidly, but I find this story interesting because it illustrates just how hard it is to live your life as though you believe bad things are going to happen to you. Even when we know they are likely, even when we see things forthcoming, it is awfully hard to pick up our hats and set aside one set of options to pursue another. Particularly when there’s little cultural support for it – when the assumption that even basic preparedness makes you a wacko is so prevalent. The story struck me, long before I discovered peak oil or climate change, because I wondered how it is one knows that *now* is the time to pick up one’s hat.

The post I wrote yesterday , arguing that people should start living now like they may have to in the long term for selfish reasons got some people quite concerned. They felt that I was either panicking or driving other people to panic. To a large degree that wasn’t my intention, but I did intend to create a sense of urgency. I
do want people who read this to think seriously about whether they have a viable back up plan for a crisis that begins in the near future. Why? Not because I think the whole world is likely to collapse, but because I think any collapse will come in stages and segments. For a Katrina victim, it may already have happened. For me it might be tomorrow. For you, it might wait a decade. We don’t know – we’re playing the odds.

…And I genuinely do believe that we are fairly close to a situation in which many of us will be most concerned with just getting by, and the things that a lot of us might want or need to do to live comfortably with much less are going to be less and less available to us. I think we *can* change many things, and fairly quickly at that – but I’m not at all certain that we will – and I don’t want to bet my life on what Brian called, in comments “the political will fairy.”

…Why do I think that we need to start picking up our hats right now, and making the changes that we’re going to have to make anyway right now? Well, at this point it still looks like world oil production may have peaked over two years ago…

…The thing is, things seem ok on many levels. We may believe that these are crises, but life is still going on. the kids are still in college, the money is still piling up in the 401K, the stock market is still hanging, and we all have a life going on. We’re still caught between the life now and the life to come, and it can be damned hard to navigate that distinction.
(9 July 2007)

Choosing to live the good and sustainable life

Kate Wilson, Bundaberg NewsMail,
IT looked like a missive from a doomsday conspiracy theorist, but to Andi and Dean Hazelwood the message was as black-and-white as the website’s lettering.

When Mrs Hazelwood read how the world would change after it ran out of oil she was shocked into action.

“We immediately stopped using the dishwasher, started a compost heap and made plans to move to Australia,” Mrs Hazelwood said.

“The lifestyle we led was unsustainable.”

Since that fateful Internet session, the Hazelwoods have moved across the world, created an organic vegetable garden and begun to build a hay-bale home.

While the average folk in Bundaberg may not be familiar with the benefits of living in a home made of hay and mud, there is no escaping the growing noise surrounding climate change.

With rock stars around the world singing at Live Earth events for people to become carbon neutral and environmentalists, Tim Flannery and Al Gore prophesying the end is nigh, even the most shameless consumerist has considered those trendy green shopping bags.

But rejecting plastic bags and recycling your NewsMail may go so far, but how can you help the environment and keep the lifestyle your accustomed to?

Mrs Hazelwood, who is about to trade in the hay bales for a North Bundaberg home, said there are many small things people can do to save the world.

“I think the best way to reduce energy consumption is to live closer to other people and services,” Mrs Hazelwood said.
(9 July 2007)
Nice article on Post-Carbon’s Andi Hazelwood.

WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO? Taking Action In The Face Of Collapse

Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
Every time I write an article on collapse such as my most recent one “Happy Independence Day; You Have No Government”, I am bombarded with emails asking me “what should I do?” For those who have just discovered this site, that is a legitimate question because for them, the reality of collapse may be new. Those who have been following this site for some time have heard many suggestions on what to do, but this article will offer those and other suggestions again more clearly and more adamantly than they have been offered here before. The intensity you are likely to hear in this piece is driven by the urgency which I and many of my peers are feeling at this moment.

The first thing I’m not going to tell you is that collapse can be avoided or that human ingenuity and technology will come up with something to spare us from it. I’m not going to tell you that there will be some mass movement-some magic that will organize progressives into a groundswell of protest…

…The second thing I’m not going to tell you is what you’d like to hear-how you can just keep living the lifestyle you’re living but that somehow you can avoid collapse.

…Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, creators of the documentary “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire”, have suggested five things you can do, and I’d like to elaborate on those.

…Remember: There are no “solutions” but only options as the fascist empire concretizes around us. Part of the empire’s agenda is to keep you, like a dog chasing its tail, looking for solutions and bashing people who don’t offer them to you but tell you the truth instead-that the future of you and your loved ones is entirely in your hands and no one else’s. The sooner you let go of your illusions about avoiding collapse and someone or something being able to prevent and cure it, the more energy you will free up to act on behalf of yourself and your tribe.

OK, now I’ve told you what to do. If you don’t want to do it or refuse to do it, please don’t call me “dismal”, “negative” or a “purveyor of hopelessness.” Look in the mirror and ask yourself how it is that after all this time, despite all the information you have, you still don’t get it. Someone has said, “Deal with reality or reality will deal with you.” Do you want to deal with reality when collapse is in your face, or do you want to take action to prepare for it now? Ground yourself in your authentic feelings about your collapsing world, then join with your tribe to build lifeboats.
(10 July 2007)

Green future demands a radical shift in lifestyles for British

Alastair Jamieson, Scotsman
MEAT-FREE menus, battery- operated cars and an end to affordable flights.

These are among the radical visions outlined in a report which says Britain could be carbon neutral within 20 years – but only if major steps are taken to change our lifestyles.

Tumble-dryers would disappear and an “armada” of wind turbines would need to be built around the coast to achieve the goal, says the research by scientists from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

But there is scepticism as to whether any of the scenarios suggested in the report are achievable.

CAT says achieving such a drastic cut in emissions is possible and may be the only way to tackle climate change.
(9 July 2007)

Global warming: Lessons of history help the future

Richard Ingham, AFP
From the enigma of Easter Island to the famines that struck India in the 19th century, the past is throwing up vital pointers for scientists poring over how to combat looming climate change.

Rising global temperatures this century will stress almost every agricultural region of the world, according to the latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But for poor tropical nations, the risk is the greatest by far. For them, malnutrition, caused by prolonged spells of drought and flooding, looms as a distant but serious worry.

Experts pondering how to tackle the threat are delving into history, exploring how civilisations of the past, facing similar perils, either coped or were wiped out.

US academic Jared Diamond, author of “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” says “ecocide” — ecological suicide — plays a greatly under-estimated role in the fall of societies.
(9 July 2007)