Frankly, when I first learned about peak oil, I was a bit freaked out. But after time, a little too much wine, a lot of research, and some productive action, I recovered, and went on to slowly change my attitude, expectations, and lifestyle to accommodate a radically different reality from the one I previously knew.
Here’s a year-by-year summary of the last five years of my efforts at peak oil preparation in three key areas: Short term (Emergency planning), Medium term (Economic / Financial crash), and Long term (Sustainable Future). Keep in mind, this does not cover the first, and perhaps most important area of preparation: psychological adjustment.
I first had to mentally adjust from the “normal” middle-class expectation of general peace and prosperity, a steady career, and an easy retirement, to an expectation of rapid change, potential austerity, and the need for self-sufficiency combined with an awareness of my interdependence on the people surrounding me. Accompanying this change in expectations is my ongoing search for meaning in a world that, in the future, may no longer provide comfort and progress the way I once thought it would.
Is this a model or perfect plan? No. It’s just an actual report of what one person has been doing….
Year 1 – End of 2004, 2005
What’s happening in 2005? President George Bush is sworn in for a second term; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita rock the Gulf Coast. Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over is published. The Hirsch report, warning of severe consequences if peak oil is not addressed, is released by the Department of Energy.
– Moved to OKC from Denver to be near family and for my husband to pursue a more lucrative job.
– Chose home in the closest thing to a walkable neighborhood we could find, with a lot and a half to grow food and a southern-facing exposure (unfortunately requiring many compromises).
– Purchased Energy Star appliances with best energy rating available for fridge and washer.
– Chose a 15 year mortgage, started paying it down.
– Started analyzing the lay of the land for my garden/orchard.
– Obtained two large rain barrels and set them up.
– Put in first garden bed, realized I was clueless about gardening.
– Became obsessed with energy blogs (Energy Bulletin, LATOC, Sharon Astyk).
Year 2 – 2006
What’s happening in 2006? Ben Bernanke is confirmed Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Patriot Act is renewed, Saddam Hussein is hanged in Iraq, US population passes 300 million. Matt Simmon’s book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock is published.
– Suffer through two natural gas leaks in 17-yr old furnace, installed geothermal HVAC unit for heating, cooling, and hot water.
– Put in insulation and sealed our house “envelope”, replaced light bulbs with CFL’s, thereby decreasing our energy bills.
– Realized pecan trees shade most of the back yard, established 200 sq. feet of gardens in the sunny areas.
– Planted two peach trees.
– Purchase Katadyn water filtration system.
– Purchase tent, sleeping bags.
– Install Solatube.
– Start Peak Oil library: both “watching the train wreck” books and “how to” books.
– Sell most non-IRA/401K mutual funds, put into savings.
Year 3 – 2007
What’s happening in 2007? The US Supreme Court rules the EPA has the responsibility to regulate car emissions, an interstate bridge in Minnesota collapses, the US Government Accountability office releases a report calling for the US DOE to create a plan to address peak oil, Al Gore and the UN IPCC are awarded the Nobel Peak Prize.
– Son is born. (Technically, not peak oil preparation.)
– Continue aggressive savings plan despite uncertainty of inflation, deflation, stagflation, or imminent destruction.
– Replace drafty old front picture window with nifty superinsulated window.
– Begin storing food: rotational (stuff we eat regularly like oatmeal, canned beans and veggies, applesauce, rice) and just storage (wheat berries, sugar, etc).
– Purchase Country Living Grain Mill.
– Plant 2 apple and 2 plum trees.
– Buy solar light and campstove for emergencies.
– Put together “Go Bags” in case of evacuation.
– Begin storing items from this list (for example, toilet paper, liquor, matches).
Year 4 – 2008
What’s happening in 2008? The Russia-Georgia South Ossetia war raises tensions in Europe, rising fuel and food prices trigger riots in “third world” countries. Oil prices hit $147/barrel, the subprime housing bubble pops, the stock market crashes, President George Bush authorizes $700 billion to buy bank assets, Barack Obama is elected President of the United States. Rob Hopkin’s The Transition Handbook is published.
– Establish inside water storage.
– Purchase good-quality gas can in case evacuation is necessary (in which case gas stations would be rapidly depleted of supplies). Implement 6-month rotation plan for gas.
– Purchase large first aid kit for house and two small ones for cars.
– Plant herb garden.
– Start seriously using and experimenting with the Global Sun Oven; purchase second Sun Oven (Tulsi).
– Experiment with canning, freezing, and drying food.
– Join Oklahoma Food Co-op.
– Purchase Kelly Kettle for extremely efficient water boiling (soups, tea, coffee), using wood.
– Begin discussing peak oil preparation with my parents, who prove to be uncommonly receptive and who begin pro-actively preparing themselves, providing us with a “safe haven.”
Year 5 – 2009
What’s happening in 2009? Russia shuts off European gas supplies through the Ukraine in the middle of winter, the Icelandic government and banking system collapse, and Australia is ravaged by drought and fires. The H1N1 flu becomes a pandemic, the US Cash for Clunkers program pays people to buy cars, official US unemployment exceeds 10% while unofficial unemployment climbs over 17%, Richard Heinberg’s Blackout is published. And Michael Jackson dies.
– Purchased used 2007 Prius after 1993 Prizm needed $1100 of repair work.
– Purchase spare bike tires and patch kits.
– Transition Town / community preparation movement: initiating group, training, website, brochures, presentations, events, meetings.
– Put up clothesline (formerly kiwi trellis).
– Plant blackberries and persimmon tree.
– Remodeled kitchen for more storage, counter space and easier cleaning.
– Start networking with local sustainability and local food activists.
I know I have forgotten some of the preparedness steps I’ve taken, and some I purposefully haven’t mentioned (related to home defense – watch out for the alligator moat and Molotov cocktails, zombie invaders!), but that’s the bulk of it. In retrospect, I should have done some things earlier, like food and water storage, and I should have done other things better, like planting trees in spots more suitable for fruiting.
I haven’t accomplished nearly what I’d like – bees, chickens, a solar battery charger, first aid class, and a fireplace insert are all still waiting for me to get around to them, among other things. But Year 6 promises to be productive, and hopefully Year 7 even more so.
Remember, nothing in this post should be considered investment advice! Which is one reason I didn’t include much information on investing….