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Not arks or fortresses but Cities of Light


India presidential palace (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Over the last several months a clear shift in focus can be seen in the energy and climate community. After political leaders refused to adopt broad measures to prevent the coming energy, economic and climate cataclysms, many of those who fought valiantly for public actions are now visibly turning toward preparations for catastrophe.

Whereas the talk of the day just six months ago centered hopefully around when the U.S. Senate would adopt an energy and climate bill, now more often than not we are reading predictions of the Collapse of our industrial society.

The forces now converging are so immense as to be overwhelming. There is an emerging sense it is already too late to avoid major disruptions to our way of life from Peak Oil production. Climate change seems to have reached a tipping point where the world climate is increasingly unstable. Added to these natural forces, the economic picture brings more bad news almost daily as debts mount with no hope of repayment.

With these type of forces in play, it is no wonder many feel it is more urgent now to learn how to grow one's own food, than to follow the latest statements from Congressional climate zombies.

Angst Over "Turning Inward". Though there is a palpable sense of impending change, there is still confusion about how or even if families should be warned to prepare.

Are we just being selfish if we try to save ourselves and our loved ones? Do efforts to build personal and local resilience even have a chance, if the society at large does not join in? Shouldn't we still be spending all our time pressuring Congress to pass national mandates?

Survival in Isolation Fruitless. Gail Tverberg, a long-time editor of The Oil Drum, notes in a recent interview at Transition Voice, “If I plant a garden and all my neighbors are starving, I’ll have to share it with them and it’s not going to go very far.”

Preparation for major changes must always start with one's own family. However, the model of the Ark -- where Noah and his family survived and left the rest of the population to drown -- is flawed. In Noah's Ark No Kind of Escape Plan Transition Voice Editor Erik Curren deflates the "Ark" fantasy:

But imagine if, in the hours as the water started to rise before the heavy laden Ark took float, that Noah’s neighbors finally realized he was not crazy, but was in fact the only guy who was prepared to survive disaster. Frightened mobs could have stormed the Ark to try to get aboard, wielding rope ladders with grappling hooks. Rich people could’ve sent archers to force Noah to let down the gangplank. Warlords of a neighboring tribe could’ve rushed in a catapult.

And even if none of them were able to board the ship, at least they could have put enough holes in the hull to ensure that the Ark would sink. For the doomed, sabotaging someone else’s escape plan can be a final desperate comfort.

Curren's debunking of the notion we can set up little "Arks" may leave some feeling they can solve the security problem with a Survivalist style Fortress -- essentially a well-armed Ark. However, I doubt many will have enough "Guns, Gold and Guts" to survive the inevitable trip away from the Fortress to obtain supplies.

Light in Darkness Only Model That Can Work. Knowing the Ark and Fortress ideas won't work is invaluable, as this revelation strips away the illusion of a "safe and secure" future isolated from what happens to the rest of your community.

What is left will not be safe, but instead requires courage and generosity.

We are left with the only model that can work: be a Light in the Darkness.

Being a LIght. If Gail plants her garden now, and gets good at it, she will be raising her own food as her neighbors face ever escalating grocery bills.

Sooner or later, one neighbor and then another will come to Gail and ask for tips on how to garden. In addition to knowledge, Gail may need to share seeds or even loan tools -- particularly if things get really bad soon.

Gail's best security against starving, or having her own food stolen, is to insure that her neighbors are not starving. If only one home on the block has food, it is a natural target. If all have food everyone is more secure.

The Internet is now beginning to develop good sites that allow people to share their experience and Be a Light. Sites such as Chris Martenson's "What Should I Do" section include practical forums of ideas regarding energy, growing food, food storage, water supply, and other basic needs. You can learn a lot from people who have already done it.

Changing From The Bottom Up. Those who pinned all their hopes on Congress passing a national Cap and Trade bill may have forgotten that if Congress had passed such a law, nothing would yet have changed. Actual changes to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions require changing equipment and buildings. The bill mainly provided economic incentives for people to do so.

Millions of equipment and building retrofits and replacements are needed to reduce our emissions and energy use. Perhaps one reason Congress balked at yet mandating such changes was that most politicians and their constituents have no experience of what this might look like.

G.K. Chesterton once remarked "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." The same can be said about the actual adoption of post-Peak-Oil lifestyles.

While we need to keep pressure on Congress, there is no conflict between encouraging people to adopt technologies to prepare for Peak Oil and climate change, and hoping that Congress will eventually mandate such changes. The more these techniques are proven in the field, the more likely Congress will be to adopt them nationwide.

Historical Moment. History teaches there are times when forces have been set in motion that will not be stopped until they have played out. We recognize many now in retrospect: The Stock Market Crash of 1929. Hitler invading Poland. The Fall of the Berlin Wall and Collapse of the Soviet system. The Collapse of the Credit and Real Estate Bubbles. Once these events occurred, consequences followed.

Historical Moments are characterized by one common quality: everything seems "normal" -- until suddenly it isn't.


Red Moon Dec 21 Lunar Eclipse: NASA Flickr

Dark Days Ahead? It does not take a symbolic "Red Moon" event such as the rare Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse to see formidable times are looming immediately ahead. The challenges of the Great Recession are just the beginning of a long period of shrinking resources and destructive climate events.

Into this Darkness LIght Will Come. In the face of these impending crises individual citizens and local communites must now act.

If we see what is coming, we have a duty to act now. Congress is not going to save us. It is long past time to take individual action to change how we transport ourselves, heat our homes, grow our food, light our rooms.

We cannot sail away safely in Arks, or lock ourselves in fortresses. The only secure course is the unsafe, generous way.

A City on a Hill cannot be hidden.

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