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The Most Radical Thing You Can Do:
Staying home as a necessity and a right

Rebecca Solnit, Orion magazine
LONG AGO the poet and bioregionalist Gary Snyder said, “The most radical thing you can do is stay home,” a phrase that has itself stayed with me for the many years since I first heard it. Some or all of its meaning was present then, in the bioregional 1970s, when going back to the land and consuming less was how the task was framed. The task has only become more urgent as climate change in particular underscores that we need to consume a lot less. It’s curious, in the chaos of conversations about what we ought to do to save the world, how seldom sheer modesty comes up—living smaller, staying closer, having less—especially for us in the ranks of the privileged. Not just having a fuel-efficient car, but maybe leaving it parked and taking the bus, or living a lot closer to work in the first place, or not having a car at all. A third of carbon-dioxide emissions nationwide are from the restless movements of goods and people.

We are going to have to stay home a lot more in the future. For us that’s about giving things up. But the situation looks quite different from the other side of all our divides. The indigenous central Mexicans who are driven by poverty to migrate have begun to insist that among the human rights that matter is the right to stay home. So reports David Bacon, who through photographs and words has become one of the great chroniclers of the plight of migrant labor in our time.

… Will the world reorganize for the better? Will Oaxaca’s farmers get to stay home and practice their traditional agriculture and culture? Will we stay home and grow more of our own food with dignity, humanity, a little sweat off our own brows, and far fewer container ships and refrigerated trucks zooming across the planet? Will we recover a more stately, settled, secure way of living as the logic of ricocheting like free electrons withers in the shifting climate? Some of these changes must come out of the necessity to reduce carbon emissions, the unaffordability of endlessly moving people and things around. But some of it will have to come by choice. To choose it we will have to desire it—desire to stay home, own less, do less getting and spending, to see a richness that lies not in goods and powers but in the depth of connections. The Oaxacans are ahead of us in this regard. They know what is gained by staying home, and most of them have deeper roots in home to begin with. And they know what to do outside the global economy, how to return to a local realm that is extraordinarily rich in food and agriculture and culture.
(November/December 2008 issue)
For a permaculture methodology to make it easier to “live at home,” see my article: Adapting zones and sectors for the city (Energy Bulletin). An Italian translation has just been released (see next item). -BA

Progettazione per zone e settori in ambiente urbano

Bart Anderson, L’orto di carto (Italy)
Blog author Nicola writes:
… Il seguente non è esattamente un manuale… vi troverete delle istruzioni, ma non per realizzare un prodotto concreto. Niente macchina spara fagioli o gasometro illegale a cacca di gallina.

Niente “magia da manualità”.

Troverete invece degli spunti, delle riflessioni e degli strumenti sulla progettazione in permacultura per l’ambiente urbano e suburbano con particolare attenzione alle risorse energetiche ed ai combustibili fossili (do you know Peak Oil?).

L’articolo è di Bart Anderson co-direttore di Energy Bulletin ed è apparso (tra gli altri) su Permaculture Activist.

(27 October 2008)
The PDF is here.

This is the Italian translation which has just been released of my article: Adapting zones and sectors for the city (Energy Bulletin). .which advocates a permaculture methodology to make it easier to “live at home,” (see The Most Radical Thing You Can Do, also at Energy Bulletin). -BA

Creating a Post-Peak Future Worth Living Into

André Angelantoni, The Oil Drum
The future most people are living into is beginning to disappear. The financial crisis threw the first punch, but oil depletion will deliver the knockout blow. The moment people realize that the society they have known their whole life can no longer function the same way without the energy provided by oil, it will become glaringly apparent that the future will be very, very different. It’s not just that we will no longer have fresh food flown in from around the world. Some of the fundamental assumptions held by people living in the rich countries will no longer hold:

* many jobs that have never existed before will once again no longer exist
* retirement, a phenomenon only a century old, will disappear
* accumulating “wealth” will be out of reach for most people
* most children will no longer be able to attend institutions of higher education
* diseases and conditions that are easily treated now will once again claim lives

Once a person has realized that these and many more futures will no longer exist, they will ask themselves the following question: If the future I’ve lived with my whole life will not longer occur, what will my future be?

… there are thousands of roles you can play in post-peak oil world. Your job is to create a new, fulfilling role for yourself. Here are a few basic roles, starting with some roles you may want to avoid.

The Victim. To play this role, you should complain that the world isn’t fair and that there isn’t enough time to prepare. Talk only about things that we will lose or how other people or groups are better off than you. Unfortunately, this role isn’t very attractive and people will try to avoid you — but it is a valid role. I include it so that you can recognize when you are playing the victim, discard it, and choose a different role.

The Drama Queen. Be a Drama Queen by saying, “We are so screwed” or similar things after describing how you see the future playing out. This can be a fun role to play, especially when describing a Mad Max scenario in great detail. Most people will eventually want you to talk about how they can actually prepare for the future. The Drama Queen role can often be matched up with the Victim role to great effect, but people tire of it quickly.

The Bystander. To do a good job with this role, say “what will happen will happen” whenever you hear about something terrible happening, preferably in Spanish. This is actually a good role to keep handy because often events will truly be out of your control, and there is no need to get your knickers in a knot over them.

The Leader. With this role, you see peak oil as an opportunity to make a difference in your community and the world. You can be a leader in thousands of ways, from starting a community garden to inviting friends over to teach them a useful skill you know. The only requirement to be a leader is that you create a future that wasn’t going to happen anyway. You don’t need to know how to speak in front of crowds and you don’t need a commanding presence. All you need is the commitment to create a future that wasn’t going to happen unless you became involved.

This is a guest post by André Angelantoni, known on TOD as aangel. He is co-founder of and co-founder of Post Carbon Marin, his community’s effort to prepare for peak oil, and a former executive coach and business consultant. He wrote this article to give people one way to navigate through the forced transition to a post peak world we are all going to experience.
(29 October 2008)
More touchy-feely than the usual TOD fare. -BA

In the comments, Gail Tverberg points out:
We need a range of different views, if for no other reason than to start a discussion. Getting “hung up” on what is ahead can be a real block, as Andre’ points out.

We are going to need a lot of people playing a lot of different roles. We need to start thinking seriously about what these will be. As we lose our highly connected infrastructure, many roles will need to be quite different from what they are today. I expect the ability to do physical labor will become more important than it is today. Knowledge about how to grow crops locally, without much irrigation or commercial inputs is likely to become important in the not too distant future. (Even 20 years would not be too distant to be prepared!) People with needed skills will be in an especially good position to be leaders.

Horticultural Consciousness: Hemenway interview #2
KMO, C-Realm Podcast 126
What is Thinkism? And what does it have in common with Peak Oil Doomerism? Was agriculture a good idea? What are the prosepects for giving it up? KMO discusses these and other burning questions with Toby Hemenway and Eric Boyd in this week’s installment of the C-Realm Podcast.
(29 October 2008)
At about 7:15 minutes, there is a conversation with digital crusader Eric Boyd about peak oil, climate change and the Singularity.

The interview with Hemenway begins at about 25:30 minutes into the podcast. Great quote from Toby: “Agriculture is a way to convert ecosystems into human beings.”

Part 1 of the the Hemenway interview was posted last week: Apocalypse, Not!. KMO said he will interview Hemnway in January about permauculture and solutions. -BA