Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Responding to Collapse, Part 10: the future of the power grid

Sunset over Lake Huron

In this series of posts I've been advising my readers that moving to a small town remote from large population centres, in an area that can supply the basic necessities of water, food and firewood, is a prudent way of coping with the ongoing collapse of BAU (Business as Usual). With the caveat that some advance preparation will be needed to ensure successful use of those resources.

In the next few posts in this series, we'll look at some of the details of how BAU will collapse and how you can prepare to weather that collapse. In the immediate future infrastructure breakdowns will get more frequent and longer until finally it's no longer practical to rely on BAU for the necessities of life. It seems to me that supplies of electrical power, diesel fuel and money will be at the heart of many of the troubles that lie ahead, so I'll concentrate on those areas.

And while I'll mainly be talking about infrastructure breakdowns we should remember that interruptions of service can occur for a couple of other reasons.

The first has to do with the way our economy is organized and how we choose to provide vital services such as power, water, sewers, housing, food, communications, transportation, education, health care and so forth.

Today most of the world's nations are capitalistic, with a distinct neo-liberal flavour. Under such conditions, companies are operated to make a profit and other goals, such as the public good, are strictly secondary. So when a "for profit" company finds its business becoming less profitable they must find ways to increase their charges or to supply less for the same fees or to quit supplying customers in less profitable areas altogether. And if they don't do those things they will either be bought out by companies that will, or they'll suffer bankruptcy. If there doesn't appear to be much chance that another company could make a good profit in the same business then it will never be reestablished. And if the public was relying on that company to provide vital services, then we are just out of luck.

Of course there are other ways of organizing an economy, and in particular other ways of setting up companies to provide infrastructure services. But the argument is often made that for profit companies operating in a free market are more efficient. I would question if there has ever been any such thing as a free market, and whether it would function as predicted in any case. Efficiency in this case is defined as the amount of return on share holders' investments, and has nothing to do with providing a high quality and reliable service to your customers.

But perhaps we should set all that aside in order to focus on the really critical thing, which is the difference between the way such companies work in growing economies versus contracting economies. In a growing economy it is relatively easy to make a profit and do so while supplying a service for the public good. But when the economy begins to contract that becomes more and more difficult for "for profit" companies.

Governments can set up non-profit organizations whose primary goal is to provide services for the public good and they are likely to last longer in a contracting economy. In my experience, contrary to typical capitalist propaganda, they can also be quite efficient. But as the economy contracts so will tax revenues and eventually governments will have to cut back on the services they provide. With good planning though, they can do this in a controlled manner with lots of advanced warning, and give people time to adapt to the situation.

As the economy gets even weaker, co-operatives organized by the people who need the services hold considerable promise. I'll have more to say about this over the next few posts.

The second thing is that if you rely on BAU to make a living, you will find that your own economic circumstances are declining. When you can no longer afford the services you have come to rely on, you'll have find ways to provide them for yourself, and in the process learn how to get by with less, like it or not.

I can consume along with the best of them, and there are certainly all kinds of things that it would be useful to have as we try to become more self reliant. But don't worry too much if you can't afford some of the shiny toys I'll be mentioning in future posts. As well trained consumers we may feel that buying things must be the solution to the problems that face us, but it isn't. Actually, there is no solution to the fix the world is in at the moment, and the best we can do is adapt to the changing conditions. Part of that is learning to get by while consuming less. This is hard for me and I'll bet it's hard for you too. That's why I talked first about preparing by become part of your new community (in posts 7 and 8 of this series), rather that the less important preparations that involve accumulating "stuff".

Back 2012, when I started this blog, the authorities recommended that you be prepared to weather emergencies lasting for as long as three days (72 hours). They were basically saying, "don't rely on us to be there immediately—it may take as long as 72 hours before help arrives." In the meantime, this has been changed to two weeks in some areas. Is emergency response capability declining, or are they expecting more lengthy and severe emergencies? I suspect both. Of course serious "preppers" are laughing at this—they'd recommend that you have supplies on hand for a year or two. I don't disagree, but you have to start somewhere. And as collapse deepens those longer intervals to prepare for will come to seem more reasonable.


Power Outages

Power outages will probably be the most frequent infrastructure failure you'll have to cope with. Short outages have relatively minor impacts, but because electricity is at the heart of so much that goes on in modern civilization, as outages stretch out they start to effect more and more things.

Eventually, it seems very likely that the power grid in many, if not most, areas will cease to function. I encounter two different responses to this idea. Many people cannot conceive that their 24 hour a day, essentially infinite supply of power could every come to an end. Others are fixated on the idea of a sudden and hard crash which will bring the whole of industrial civilization to an end, including the power grid.

I'm somewhere in between, holding what I think is a more detailed and nuanced opinion. Most of the rest of this post is going to be spent talking about how the slow decline of the power grid will go, leaving the responses I would recommend for the next post.

Power outages can be as simple as a utility pole getting knocked over during a traffic accident, to as complex as the grid failures that happened in northeastern North America in 1965 and 2003. And to take it even further, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) from nuclear weapons or coronal mass ejections (solar flares) can do huge damage to electrical girds which may be very hard to recover from. But I think some of the most common and serious problems with the grid will come from three specific areas:

  • The first is equipment failure due to age and/or lack of maintenance, aggravated by overloads such as air conditioning load during summer heat waves. As the economy continues to contract power companies are going to find themselves short of capital and less able to invest in their own systems, leaving those systems more susceptible to failure. /li>
  • The second will be damage due to storms that are growing more frequent and more intense due to climate change—things like high winds, tornados and ice storms in particular. Lengthy outages will happen when there are widespread weather related problems combined with shortages of spare parts and limited manpower to install them. Those latter two problems will come mainly from cash strapped utilities trying to save money.
  • The third is sabotage. The grid is very exposed to a saboteur who knows what he is doing, and because of its geographically diffuse nature, very hard to secure. As collapse intensifies, there will be increased civil unrest—more angry people looking for easy targets that symbolize the establishment. The grid is certainly one such target.

Of course, these concerns apply to the grid as it exists today, using conventional generation. It seems there is going to be a serious attempt to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, primarily solar and wind. Those who are pushing for a "Green New Deal" are telling people that we can use wind and solar to replace fossil fuels, and that in the process more jobs will be created and we'll actually end up more prosperous. This is a very unrealistic dream and just off the top of my head I can think of four serious problems with it:

  1. What solar and wind produce is electricity. But electricity supplies only 18 to 20% of our current energy use. Most of the rest comes directly from coal, oil and natural gas, and those fuels are used in ways that will be difficult, if not outright impossible, to replace with electricity.

    The main issue is that a battery is not nearly as effective a way to store energy as a tank of diesel fuel. And there are definite physical limitations on how much better batteries can get— we can probably improve them by a factor of two, but that's about it. Despite what we keep hearing in the news, it simply isn't practical to use batteries to power airplanes or long distance heavy transport by road, rail or sea. The quantity of batteries needed, and the size and weight of those batteries, is the problem.

    There are many industrial processes that use coal or natural gas for heat. Replacing those fuels with electricity may be theoretically possible but we haven't, for the most part, even started to develop ways to do so, much less begun to implement them.

  2. Phasing out fossil fuels would require using renewables to supply much larger quantities of electricity than we are currently using. But there are fundamental problems with using renewables to produce even part of the comparatively small amount of electricity we use now.

    One aspect of running a power grid that the general public is largely unaware of is that generation must be matched exactly to the load. Since load is something the grid operator cannot control to any great extent, generation that is "dispatchable"—that can be turned on and off on demand and ramped up and down as required—is very important. Conventional generation is dispatchable to varying degrees but renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are intermittent and for the most part not under the control of the grid operator—the very opposite of dispatchable. As such, renewables only exacerbate the problems of running a grid, especially given the lack of feasible large scale storage technologies. Yes, I know there are a number of storage technologies available but none of them are economical to use on the scale that would be required for use in a power grid with intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

    The concept of a "smart grid" which gives greater control of both generation and load offers hope of addressing these problems to some minor degree, but only at the price of adding complexity to the system. And adding complexity never increases reliability.

  3. The immediate reason for switching away from fossil fuels is to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere in order to combat climate change. But no one seems to be thinking of the carbon footprint of switching away from carbon. The switchover to renewables would be a massive undertaking powered mainly by fossil fuels, and the amount of CO2 being released would greatly increase during that effort.

    Much of this construction effort would also require large quantities of steel and concrete. Making steel and concrete involves the release of CO2, regardless of where the energy comes from—it's inherent to the chemistry of the processes involved.

    So it is by no means obvious that we can get off fossil fuels and onto renewables without creating an even worse climate crisis that the one we are currently facing.

  4. Renewables have a very low EROEI (energy returned on energy invested). A high EROEI is essential to the functioning of a modern industrial economy--money is just accounting, energy is really what makes the economy go. Any country which adds a large quantity of renewables to its energy mix will lower its overall average EROEI, making it more difficult to support a growing economy and a high tech industrial society. So even if we could somehow manage to switch over entirely to renewables, we'd have trouble sustaining a high enough level of technology to maintain and repair solar and wind generation facilities. And replacing them when they wear out would be a real stretch. Switching to renewables is something we might be able to do once, but then we'd be in big trouble.

All this is of course based on not having to change our lifestyles, not having to accept a lower level of prosperity and consumption. Indeed one frequently hears people talking about increasing economic growth in order to bring the poor parts of the world up to our level of consumption. It is clear to me that this is not going to happen and that what we really need to do is reduce our levels of consumption down to what can be supported without fossil fuels, using local, sustainable, low tech renewables. It is also clear to me that we will not do this voluntarily, that the majority of our efforts will go into maintaining business as usual regardless of the consequences.

Give all these factors time to work and it will become difficult to continue running the power grid as a whole. Some parts of the gird will simply quit working. Others that have proved unreliable, which place the grid as a whole at risk, will eventually have to be excluded from the grid. These islands will grow until the grid as we know it falls apart.

There will be a few areas where generating equipment will continue to function for a long time and will be able to supply local load. Again, the matching generation and load will be a problem since most such generation comes in large chunks and is a long way from large amounts of load. The most hopeful situations are small hydro (water) powered generators, which can be run at less than full capacity and adjust quickly to match varying loads.

Anyway, it seems clear that we can indeed expect more frequent and longer power outages. But what are the effects of these outages, and what can we do to mitigate them?


The effects of power outages

When the power goes out, you lose the lights, heat, cooling, cooking equipment, refrigeration and so forth in your own home. Even most oil, gas and wood heating systems rely on electricity for control, ignition and circulating fans. Then there are all the services that comes to you from outside your home, that you rely on to just work, but which need electricity to do that.

In general, the most critical services run off batteries which are kept fully charged as long as the power is on. When the power goes out, these services keep right on running as if nothing had happened, at least until the batteries are discharged. The batteries for the controls in power stations are rated for eight hours. The batteries in cell phone towers are rated for two to four hours.

Everything I'm finding on the internet says that the central switching stations for land line telephone service should keep working even during long power outages, which implies both batteries and backup generators. I have some doubts about this, and I'll be keeping an eye out for more detailed information.

Many slightly less critical services have generators that start automatically with only a brief interruption when the power goes out and run as long as there is fuel (usually diesel fuel) in the tank. If arrangements have been made to refill that tank, then this can go on for quite a long time.

Even less critical services than these can have a portable generator hooked up to them if need be. This would include facilities operating on battery power, if the power is off so long that the batteries need to be recharged.

Most service stations don't have backup power so you likely won't be able to get fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane) while the power is off. During long outages the many supply chains that are powered by gasoline and/or diesel fuel will be in trouble.

Natural gas pipelines have to be pressurized to keep to gas flowing through them. Some of the pumps used to do this are powered by natural gas, some by electricity. And I suspect that at least some of the controls for the gas powered pumps are electrical. So your natural gas supply, at least in some areas, will be compromised during electrical outages.

The pumps in municipal water and sewage systems need electrical power too. Some may have backup generators, but not all. If you live on a farm or in a very small town, your toilet is likely gravity feed into a septic system and weeping bed, and will work as long as you have water to flush them. Or perhaps you have already set up a composting toilet which requires no power at all. Your water supply is probably from you own well, with a pump driven by an electric motor that uses 240V AC (if you are in North America). Even if you have a generator, you may need an electrician to help you hook it up to that motor.

Refrigeration of food in grocery stores and pharmaceuticals in pharmacies and hospitals will be jeopardized. Fortunately our local hospital does have a backup generator.

Radio and TV can be important sources of information during emergencies. But you will likely find that only a very few of your local stations are set up to keep broadcasting during power outages.

It would also be great if internet service could continue during power outages. I understand it some areas it does, but we get our internet through the local cable TV company, and even short outages to their facilities knock out our internet connection and our cable TV service, even if the power is still on at our place. Your situation may be different—I hope so.

Oddly, or so it seems to me, most traffic lights aren't backed up in any way and stop working when the power is off.

ATMs won't be working, nor the systems that allows us to pay for things by credit and debit cards. Even if you do have cash in hand, you may find many retail outlets are unable to sell you anything when their cash registers and product code scanners aren't working. Many of them may just lock their doors for the duration of the outage.

Not all of them, though—I was quite impressed during a recent outage when I saw the guy behind the counter at a nearby convenience store beavering away with a cash box, battery operated calculator and a notebook to record sales in. It can be done, but one hopes the prices are marked clearly on items rather than encoded in UPCs. This is an example of an individual (or maybe his manager) taking the situation in hand and keeping things working rather than sitting back and letting them fall apart.

No doubt I am missing many of the potential effects of long power outages, but I think this gives you the flavour of what you'll be facing. Next time I'll talk about how you can mitigate the effects of power outages, both short and long, and what your community can do to cope when it finally finds itself permanently isolated from the grid.


Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse:

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

What I've Been Reading, June 2019

Links

Miscellaneous

  • What Bikini Atoll Looks Like Today, by Sam Scott, Medium—Stanford Magazine
    "Sixty years after the nuclear tests, the groundwater is contaminated and the coconuts are radioactive. But are the coral reefs thriving?"
  • A radical legal ideology nurtured our era of economic inequality, by Sanjukta Paul, Aeon
    "...economic coordination is increasingly accomplished through the mechanism of large, powerful firms, while economic cooperation among smaller players is increasingly disfavoured. These choices are fundamental to the policy prescriptions made by the law-and-economics approach. Again, we find ourselves with a choice that is necessarily moral and political: we can allocate coordination rights in a way that exacerbates imbalances in economic power, or in a way that ameliorates them. What we cannot do is pretend not to make the choice."
    Capitalism couldn't function without government support in the form of laws that govern economic activity in favour of capitalist and against the working class. This article does a pretty good job of explaining how this works in the U.S.
  • Fully Automated Luxury Communism Isn’t Our Future, by Robin Whitlock, Medium—OneZero

Collapse

Peak Oil

Climate Change

  • An object lesson in greenwashing, by Tim Watkins, The Consciousness of Sheep
    "... if our intention is to stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, then we need to stop doing all of the things—including economic growth and having babies—that cause greenhouse gas emissions. We cannot grow our way out of the consequences of growth; but it is easier to brush over this inconvenient truth in bright green paint than it is to take the hard decisions that are now essential."
  • Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis, by Damian Carrington, The Guardian
  • Planting trees cannot replace cutting carbon dioxide emissions, study shows, by Lauren Lipuma, Geo Space
    A careful reading shows both this article and the one above are saying much the same thing—first cut back on carbon emmissions, then plant trees to reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • Deconstructing Federal Conservative Climate Policy, by Bill Hullet, The Guelph Backgrounder
    "I'm getting sick of writing post after post about how awful the Conservatives are right now. It makes me feel that somehow I'm not being "fair" or "balanced". But the fact of the matter is that currently they have their heads shoved up their butts in a truly spectacular way. These are not ordinary times. I have always tried to be as honest and objective as possible in everything I write—and it is just a fact that there is something really wrong right now with conservatives all over the planet."

Economic Contraction and Growing Inequality

  • #152: Stuffed—why the monetary lifeboat won’t float, by Tim Morgan, Surplus Energy Economics
    " Conceptually, it’s useful to think in terms of ‘two economies’. One of these is the ‘real’ economy of goods and services, its operation characterised by the use of labour and resources, but its performance ultimately driven by energy. "The other is the ‘financial’ economy of money and credit, a parallel or shadow of the ‘real’ economy, useful for managing the real economy, but wholly lacking in stand-alone substance."

Agriculture

Before jumping to the erroneous conclusion that this section was paid for by Monsanto, stop for a moment and understand that organic agriculture/food is a multi-billion dollar per year industry that relies on fear to get people to buy its product. Millions of dollars are being spent to convince you that non-organic food is dangerous. In fact both conventionally grown and organic foods are equally safe. Sadly neither method of agriculture is even remotely substainable.

Food

Practical Skills

  • The Nomad's Ger, Producer: Daniel Grossman , Aeon
    "Mongolian nomads building a traditional yurt is a master class in cooperation"

Politics

Ontario Politics

Debunking Resources

These are of such importance that I've decide to leave them here on an ongoing basis.

Science

Science Based Medicine

Lacking an Owner's Manual

The human body/mind/spirit doesn't come with an owner's manual, and we continually struggle to figure out how best to operate them.

Poverty, Homeless People, Minimum Wage, UBI, Health Care, Housing

  • Do the Rich Deserve to be Rich? — Basic Income Ethics, by Robert Jameson, Medium—Bob's Economics
    I don't agree with a lot of what this article has to say about the role of the market and the supposedly positive things the market does. But it's main point is that the market doesn't give people what they deserve, and with that I agree completely.
  • Is taxation theft?, by Phillip Goff, Aeon
    "The assumption that you own the contents of your pay-packet, although almost universal, is demonstrably confused."

Humour

These are great times for political satire.

Books

Fiction

  • Dies The Fire, by S,M. Stirling
    This is a favourite among kollapsniks, and while it is certainly an entertaining read, the picture it gives of collapse is pretty unrealistic.
  • A Meeting at Corvallis, by S,M. Stirling

Non-Fiction

I am reading a couple of excellent non-fiction books at the moment and hope to list them here at the end of July.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Responding to Collapse, Part 9: Getting Prepared, Part 1

Willow I coppiced earlier this spring.
The new shoots are already 18" long--by fall they will be between 4 and 6 feet long and ready for basket making.

The central idea of this series of posts is that the collapse of our industrial civilization is already underway (has been since the 1970s) and seems very likely to continue until "Business as Usual" (BAU) is no longer capable of supplying us with the necessities of life. This collapse is proceeding in a fashion that is uneven (geographically), unsteady (chronologically) and unequal (socially), and we can expect it to continue in the same irregular way. Accordingly, it should be possible to pick some places and lifestyles that will suffer less severely than others.

I have recommended moving to a small town fairly remote from larger cities in an area likely to suffer less from the worst ravages of climate change and with the local resources necessary to provide at least water, food and energy (mainly firewood) for its inhabitants. Of course, some advance set up is going to be needed if you are to put those to work effectively. In my last two posts (7, 8, links) I talked about preparations in the human or social sense—becoming a part of the local community and developing the connections you'll need.

I'm going to wrap up this series with a few posts talking about the material preparations you'll need to make. First, to cope with the continued decline of BAU and the increasingly frequent and lengthy infrastructure interruptions that will accompany it. And finally to use local resources to gain a degree of local self-sufficiency that will see you through the end of BAU.

If you've followed my advice about moving to a small town, you'll initially be living in rental accommodation to allow yourself time to get to know the place before investing in property (If indeed you can afford such a thing). Renting puts some limits on what you can do to prepare and renting an apartment is even more restricting than renting a house. In the next few posts I'll discuss alternatives for both renters and homeowners.

I've been noticing that living in an RV, van or car is becoming more of a thing all the time what with ever increasing real estate prices. It occurs to me that this lifestyle may fit in nicely in many ways with moving to a small town. I can't pretend to have any experience in this area, but I hope some of what I have to say will be useful to those who's wheel are also their homes.

The first thing to be clear on is what you'll be preparing for. For quite a while yet, if you have income or savings to draw on, you'll be able to rely (more or less) on BAU for the necessities of life. But there will be lengthening and ever more frequent interruptions in infrastructure services—the power grid, communications, the financial and credit systems, water and sewage and of course the supply chains that bring us the fuels, food, pharmaceuticals, and various other supplies and equipment that we need to maintain our current life style. You need to be prepared to weather these interruptions. And of course, you always need to be prepared for emergencies like storms, floods, droughts and fires.

You might wonder why I am not advising setting up some sort of "lifeboat community" which is largely independent of BAU. I'm not against it—if you have the wherewithal, go for it. But the cost of such a setup is extreme and the skills required to make it work are many and hard to come by. For most of us a less grandiose plan is more practical. I do think the existing social and physical infrastructure of a small town and its surrounding area can be the foundation for a poor man's lifeboat. But only after a few serious infrastructure outages have convinced people that BAU is going to be unreliable.

"Bugging in" and "bugging out" are terms I've borrowed from the survivalist and prepper communities. Bugging in refers to being located where it's safe to stay when the "shit hits the fan", while bugging out assumes it won't be safe to stay where you are, and you'll need to be prepared to leave on a moment's notice. Of course, I don't think the shit is going to hit the fan all in one big lump, but rather in dribs and drabs that will make the situation unpleasant but perhaps not absolutely dire for quite a while yet.

The typical survivalist approach to bugging out—heading for "the hills" and living off the land—is actually a pretty bad idea, even if you are well prepared. Check out the article at the other end of that link to see what I mean.

I've been advising my readers to find a safe place and prepare to "bug in". I've been settled into my own choice of location for a long while now and that's what I encourage you to do once you've moved to a place where it is practical to do so.

Unfortunately, there are still circumstances where you'll need to bug out. Things like your house catching fire, being leveled by a tornado, inundated by a flood or anything else that renders it unlivable. I have to admit we are not terribly well prepared to leave our home on short notice.

And in the kind of circumstances I'm thinking of you want to be able get out quickly with your skin still intact and not waste time gathering up stuff to take with you. That certainly true in the case of a fire where seconds can make all the difference. In floods, there is usually more warning and you want to get out before the roads are submerged and impassable. In the case of tornados you want to take shelter in your basement or the closest thing you have to one until after the tornado goes by. Then, if you home has been destroyed, you'll be glad to have an emergency plan in place.

I haven't solved this challenge to my satisfaction yet, and it's mainly due to lack of effort, and complacency. But recently I have started to think more seriously about it. Here's what I've come up with so far.

You need a plan for evacuating your home when disaster strikes. This is the kind of thing you want to think out in advance and practice occasionally, so you don't have to figure it out from scratch in a short timeframe when the need arises.

Once you're out of your house, it would be good to have arranged in advance alternative places to stay, both in your own community and elsewhere in case circumstances force you (and maybe many others) to leave your community. This may involve taking shelter with neighbours, family or friends, and ideally you would make reciprocal agreements with those people. Of course, if you can afford it, or your insurance is paying, you may decide to go to a hotel. But in a widespread disaster, all the hotels may be full, or in no better shape than your home. And insurance companies may not respond in a timely fashion.

You should prearrange a communications plan for family members who aren't home when disaster strikes, and don't assume cell phones or even landlines are always going to work. This might involve a prearranged meeting place and/or someone at a prearranged location to leave messages with.

You should pack a bag for each person in your family with:

  • a change of clothes suited for the season, including outdoor shoes and outdoor clothing that you won't have had time to grab in an emergency
  • soap, shampoo, moisturizer and such, especially if you need particular types
  • a few day's supply of medicines
  • sleeping bags, air mattresses, towels and such so as to be less of a burden when you have to drop in on short notice
  • copies of idendification, important legal documents and personal information:
    • will
    • power of attorney
    • marriage license
    • lease or deed for your home
    • birth certificate
    • SIN number card
    • Health card (access to single payer health insurance here in Ontario) or the equivalent for wherever you live
    • drivers license
    • vehicle registration and insurance
    • contact info for family and friends
    • copies or scans of heirloom photos

These copies could be electronic or on paper, or better yet, both. If you take photos or scans of these documents they could be kept on a flash drive or on your phone. But best not to rely completely on electronic means of storing information.

There are no doubt other items that haven't made it onto my list yet, but that will do for a start.

These bags should be stored someplace safe, outside your home. Maybe in your car, in an out building that's up wind from your house, or at the home of a neighbour or friend. The problem I have with all this is I'd have to have two of quite a few things that are rather expensive, winter clothes in particular. I clearly have some more study to do, and no doubt I will eventually figure it out. But don't let my hesitation hold you back from starting to make these preparations.

Making a quick escape in winter can be a particular problem, as you ideally want outdoor clothing close to hand. Our bedroom is on the second floor and there is a ladder leaned up against the side of the house that can be accessed from the bedroom window. It would be good to have boots and gloves close to hand at the very least—it would make that climb down that ladder a lot more doable.

In my next post I'll get started on the details of preparing to bug in. In the meantime, have a look at a couple of posts on emergency preparation that I wrote early in the history of this blog. The articles I've linked to in them are also full of useful information and I can especially recommend the ones by Sharon Astyk, Bob Wardrop and Vinay Gupta at the end of Part 2

When I recently reread those posts I was pleased to find I had done a fairly thorough job, and that the links in them point to web pages that still exist, even though in some cases the authors are much less active on the collapse scene that they were 7 years ago.

In the second one I mentioned a few things I hadn't yet gotten around to doing at that point. I am happy to be able to say that in the meantime I have taken care of most of those issues.

We are still storing a fair bit of water for emergencies, but I also finally got around to putting together that water filter kit, the result being a filter similar to the Berkey or Doulton/Berkefeld ones, but with plastic 5 gallon buckets instead of stainless steel tanks. We live only a couple of blocks from Lake Huron, so water is readily available, but safer to drink after a trip through that filter.

I also finally got around to cutting up that sheet of plywood and putting together a composting toilet (a la Jenkins). We also switched from peat moss to wood shavings for kitty litter. Shavings are more sustainable than peat moss and there's always a bale or at least part of one on hand if we need to start using the composting toilet. I know that for most people it is unthinkable that the sewers would just stop working. Let me assure you, it is definitely possible.

I kept an eye out for sales on generators and we picked one up in the fall of 2017. Also a couple of 5 gallon jerry cans. I start the generator once a month and run it for a while, then close the fuel supply valve and let it run dry so gunk doesn't build up so much in the carburetor. Stale gas makes for harder starting, so once a month one of those jerry can gets emptied into our car and refilled with fresh gasoline. And every six months I drain the gas tank on the generator and fill it up with fresh gas. So far it has started easily, even on cold days in the winter, but before long I'll need to take it to the local small engine shop for some routine maintenance.

I wasn't sure about getting a generator, but we store a quite a bit of food, mainly expensive meat, in our freezers, and the thought of it spoiling during a long power outage finally convinced me.

Last fall(2018) we had a chimney and woodstove installed and we heated with wood for most of this winter. The stove and especially the chimney weren't cheap, but we're very happy with the results and the money to be saved over heating with electricity.

In addition to the things we've finally got around to doing, a few things have changed as well.

The flashlight on my keychain is now the type that uses a single AAA cell, much brighter and longer lasting than the single lithium cell light I was carrying. The large folding knife I used to carry has found its way to my hiking knapsack, and I'm only carrying my smaller folding knife on a daily basis.

My old Gerber multitool is also in that hiking knapsack and has been replaced in my coat pocket by the new and superior Gerber Center-Drive Multitool. This comes with a sheath and set of 12 screwdriver bits. The screwdriver shaft opens when the rest of the multitool is closed and lines up with the center line of the tool, making it much easier to use. It takes standard 1/4" hex drive bits so you can use the bits you already own, unlike the oddball little flat bits that the Leatherman multitools take. And the knife blade is large enough to be quite useful.

After spending 31 years as a tradesman, there are a lot of things I can do if I have the right tools, and it's pretty frustrating to be stymied by the lack of a tool. This multitool goes a long way towards solving that problem.

The single knapsack that I had 7 years ago has evolved into one knapsack which stays in our car, another that is ready to head out on a hike at a moment's notice, and a "book bag" which spends most of its time in the house but comes with us on car trips.

These bags are a work in progress and idiosyncratic to our circumstances and skills. Tools and materials for repairing broken things and first aid supplies for repairing broken people are prominently featured. I started out following typical advice for bug out bags and it has evolved from there.

Drinking water is important and we have two 750 ml. water bottles that usually go with us in the car and fit nicely into compartments intended for them in my hiking knapsack. For long trips we have a 2.5 gallon water jug.

Further details are a topic for another day, but if you are interested in more information let me know in the comments.


Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse:

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

What I've Been Reading, May 2019

May was a busy month between stacking up 10 cords of firewood for next winter and getting started on gardening, so I didn't do as much reading, or writing, as I would have liked.

Links

Miscellaneous

  • Abortion is an Economic Issue, by Hanna Brooks Olsen, Medium—Economy
  • Why I Left the Pro-Life Movement , by Sarah Olson, Medium—Human Parts
    "I protested abortion for years. But when I saw how the movement’s beliefs harm women, I realized I had to get out."
  • The Debate of the Century or a Waste of Time? by Jackie Thornhill, Medium
    "Everything you need to know about today’s debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek"
    Well, maybe not everything. But apparently Žižek mopped the floor with Peterson, and that is good news.
    "Hopefully Jordan Peterson learned the most important lesson — he may have a devoted fan base and legions of followers, but he’s not the heavyweight public intellectual he pretends to be. Perhaps next time Peterson will think twice before challenging someone like Žižek."

Collapse

Peak Oil

Climate Change

Economic Contraction

  • The Economy Continues To Deteriorate, by Investment Research Dynamics
    This article is right about the state of the economy, but it doesn't go deep enough when it talks about the causes. Why is the economy contracting and why is debt being used to keep it going? Clearly, decreasing surplus energy is the underlying cause.

Energy

Hazard and Risk

Agriculture

Genetic Engineering

Before jumping to the erroneous conclusion that this section was paid for by Monsanto, stop for a moment and understand that organic agriculture/food is a multi-billion dollar per year industry that relies on fear to get people to buy its product. Millions of dollars are spent to convince you that non-organic food is dangerous. In fact both conventionally grown and organic foods are equally safe. Sadly neither method of agriculture is even remotely substainable.

Practical Skills

Debunking Resources

These are of such importance that I've decide to leave them here on an ongoing basis.

Science Based Medicine

There is No God, and Thou Shall Have No Other Gods

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I am an atheist, but I may not have made it clear that I think any sort of worship is a bad thing and that believing in things is to be avoided whenever possible. Indeed, I do not believe in belief itself. That's what the "Thou shall have no other gods" is about—it's not enough to quit believing in whatever God or Gods you were raised to believe in, but also we must avoid other gods, including material wealth, power and fame.

  • If God Is Dead, Your Time Is Everything, by James Wood, The New Yorker
    A lengthy look at various views of what it means to be secular, as opposed to religious. Concentrating in particular on Martin Hägglund’s view, as articulated in his book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom.
  • The Cult of the Good Christian Woman, by Sarah Olson, Medium—Human Parts
    "The community that raised me is pushing an ideal for women that is repressive and damaging."

Poverty, Homeless People, Minimum Wage, UBI, Health Care, Housing

Autonomous Vehicles and Artificial Intelligence

Books

Fiction

Non-Fiction

  • The Cancer Chronicles, by George Johnson
    "Unlocking Medicine's deepest mystery."
    An excellent reality based survey of what we know, and can do, about cancer.

Monday, 6 May 2019

What I've Been Reading, April 2019

Links


Miscellaneous

  • The Barely Hidden Flaws in Jordan Peterson’s Scholarship, by Emily Pothast, Medium—Culture
    "Peterson’s philosophy, while it may inspire motivation at the individual level, is a deadly engine of status quo maintenance and self-justification at the cultural level. It is an ideology that denies it is ideology, hissing insults and flinging lawsuits at those who challenge its god-like powers of complacency."


Collapse

  • The end of industrial civilization, by Nils, Small Precautions
  • In Defence of Inaction, by Dave Pollard, guest post on Damn the Matrix
  • NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us, by Tom MacKay, Mic.com
  • , by Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian
  • , by John Beddington CMG FRS, Government Office for Science (in the UK)
    "It is predicted that by 2030 the world will need to produce around 50 per cent more food and energy, together with 30 per cent more fresh water, whilst mitigating and adapting to climate change. This threatens to create a ‘perfect storm’ of global events (Figure 7). The key questions for policy makers and scientists are these:
    • Can 9 billion people be fed equitably, healthily and sustainably?
    • Can we cope with the future demands on water?
    • Can we provide enough energy to supply the growing population coming out of poverty?
    • Can we do all this whilst mitigating and adapting to climate change?"
    To me, it seems extremely improbable that we will succeed n all these efforts. And collapse seems inevitable.


Responding to Collapse,


Peak Oil


Climate Change

  • PBO: Most Canadians To Get More From Rebate Than They Pay In Carbon Tax, byMia Rabson, Canadian Press, Huffington Post
  • Climate change deniers are increasingly angry and hostile, by Michael Barnard, Medium
    "Cognitive dissonance at being forced off of position after position is leading to anger "
  • Why desperation could be the key to tackling climate change, by Cam Fenton, Open Democracy
    Extinction Rebellion, student strikes and the Green New Deal show that desperation is starting to define climate politics. This could be a game changer.
  • We Can Limit Human-Induced Global Warming to 1.5℃, but It Will Be Painful, by Keith Shine, The Wire
    "The report is sensitive to the fact that changes required to meet 1.5℃ must be consistent with the UN’s wider sustainable development goals. Limiting climate change will help meet goals associated with health, clean energy, cities and oceans. But there are potential negative impacts on others (poverty, hunger, water, energy access) “if not carefully managed."
    And that's about the most you're going to find anywhere in the climate change discussion about the consequences of doing something about climate change. I would say we really need to face up to how very painful it is going to be, that the idea that we can maintain and even increase prosperity while solving climate change is bizarre. But realizing at the same time that if we do nothing, it will be even worse.


Hazard and Risk


Agriculture

Before jumping to the erroneous conclusion that this section was paid for by Monsanto, stop for a moment and understand that organic agriculture/food is a multi-billion dollar per year industry that relies on fear to get people to buy its product. Millions of dollars are being spent to convince you that non-organic food is dangerous. In fact both conventionally grown and organic foods are equally safe. Sadly neither method of agriculture is even remotely substainable.


Practical Skills


Debunking Resources

These are of such importance that I've decide to leave them here on an ongoing basis.


Science Based Medicine


Lacking an Owner's Manual

The human body/mind/spirit doesn't come with an owner's manual, and we continually struggle to figure out how best to operate them.


Gender and Sexuality


There is No God, and Thou Shall Have No Other Gods

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I am an atheist, but I may not have made it clear that I think any sort of worship is a bad thing and that believing in things is to be avoided whenever possible. Indeed, I do not believe in belief itself. That's what the "Thou shall have no other gods" is about—it's not enough to quit believing in whatever God or Gods you were raised to believe in, but also we must avoid other gods, including material wealth, power and fame.


Refugees and Migration


Puerto Rico, Venezuela


Poverty, Homeless People, Minimum Wage, UBI, Health Care, Housing


Autonomous Vehicles and Artificial Intelligence


Humour

Books


Fiction

  • Red Bones, by Ann Cleeves
    Book 3 in the Shetland mystery series
  • Blue Lightning, by Ann Cleeves
    Book 4 in the Shetland mystery series
  • Thin Air, by Richard Morgan
    Morgan's new science fiction novel, the first one in a long time, set inthe same universe as Black Man.
  • Join, by Steve Toutonghi


Non-Fiction

  • Team Human, by Douglas Rushkoff
    I very much on side with what Rushkoff is suggesting in this book, but I am afraid he uses a lot of outright woo to support it. A pity, since his position can easily be supported without any woo at all. I suspect this is a case of virtue signaling—saying certain things because your audience expects to hear them.
  • The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen Jay Gould
    I almost didn't read this book, based on what Murray and Herrenstein had to say about it in the Bell Curve. But like so much of what is in the Bell Curve, their comments on The Mismeasure of Man were just plain wrong. Gould's book was definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

What I've Been Reading, March 2019

Links


Miscellaneous


Responding to Collapse,


Peak Oil


Climate Change

  • Europe is Using Wood from U.S. Forests to Replace Fossil Fuels, Institute for Energy Research
    "Carbon accounting of forest management has long been fraught with controversy, as scientists warn that it does not reflect the true climate impact. They believe that trees should be allowed to mature and store carbon instead of being harvested. The European Union, on the other hand, intends to partially meet its commitment to the Paris agreement by using all forms of biomass, including wood pellets."
  • 10 Myths about Carbon Pricing in Canada, Canada's Ecofiscal Commission


Economic Contraction


Energy


Disaster Mythology


Hazard and Risk


Food


Practical Skills

My little granddaughters (age 6 and 7) were here during March Break and we did some peg weaving.

I've been meaning to study up on how linen is made from flax for some time, and You Tube offered the videos below when I went looking for peg weaving.


Secession

  • The Brexit Endgame, by Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker
    Brexit is scheduled to take place on March 29th—but the United Kingdom isn’t ready.


Debunking


Science Based Medicine

  • The 5 deadliest habits to avoid as you get older, by Erin Brodwin, Business Insider
    Overall this is a pretty good article. It needs to be a little more clear about what constitutes "processed" foods, about which many people have strange ideas. For instance, I would include honey in this food group—doesn't matter if it was processed by bees, it's still a refined carbohydrate.
  • The Power of the Nocebo Effect, by Shayla Love, Vice Magazine—Tonic
    "Nocebo is the evil twin of the placebo effect—and my constant companion. I set out to find out what it is, and how I could learn to harness the more positive effects of medical mind games."
  • Glyphosate and cancer – revisited, by Andrew Kniss, A Plant Out of Place—thoughts from someone who spends life amongst the weeds.
    The largest data set we have (by far) which does the best job (by far) of accounting for confounding variables shows absolutely no association between handling glyphosate and developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


Lacking an Owner's Manual

The human body/mind/spirit doesn't come with an owner's manual, and we continually struggle to figure out how best to operate them.


There is No God, and Thou Shall Have No Other Gods

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I am an atheist, but I may not have made it clear that I think any sort of worship is a bad thing and that believing in things is to be avoided whenever possible. Indeed, I do not believe in believe itself. That's what the "Thou shall have no other gods" is about—it's not enough to quit believing in whatever God or Gods you were raised to believe in, but also we must avoid other gods, including material wealth, power and fame.


Refugees and Migration


Poverty, Homeless People, Minimum Wage, UBI, Health Care, Housing

Books


Fiction

Except for Red Moon, all these books are old favourites I pulled from my bookshelves to re-read this month.


Non-Fiction

Non-fiction reading was slow going this month, as I tackled a couple of books that I am finding tough going. So here are some more gems from my bookshelf. I stumbled on The Kon Tiki Expedition in my elementary school library when I was 10 years old. Stayed up most of the night reading it.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Responding to Collapse, Part 8: Pitfalls and Practicalities of that Team Sport

Sunset over Lake Huron, March 26, 2019

The "responding" to collapse that I've been talking about in this series of posts, is largely a matter of adapting to the new conditions that come with collapse. We can't stop collapse from happening, so the question is, "how to cope?" I've spent a lot of time talking about how adapting is likely to be easier in small and fairly remote towns, how to pick a town in a good location and then encouraging people to make their move to such a location while there is still time.

But making that move is only the first step. The point of moving to a small town, rather than a more isolated location, is the relationships you'll be forming with the people in your new community.

In my last post I started talking about the idea that being human is a "team sport". That is, it's in the nature of human beings, and very much to our benefit, to live and work together in groups. Such groups can act as a force multiplier, achieving more than what you would expect from simply adding up the number of people involved. And that's more both in the sense of 1) achieving the group's common goals and 2) enhancing the individual well being of its members. For most of the time that people have existed, we've lived together in small groups (less than Dunbar's number), made decisions largely by consensus, and allocated resources in a sort of "primitive communism"—from each according to their abilities and to each accordito their needs.

During the difficult times that lie ahead of us, I think we will need to fall back on this way of living, in order to successfully meet the challenges we face.

In that post I went on, at some length, about the benefits of group efforts and why we have abandoned the idea in 21st century society in favour of individualism and isolation. Largely because increasing affluence has made it possible and because it has been encouraged by those who are in power who find it easier to control and exploit lone individuals than groups acting in solidarity.

What I want to talk about in this post are the pitfalls and practicalities of actually becoming part of your new community and laying the ground work for the groups you will come to rely on as BAU declines. I wish I could offer a complete and detailed manual on how to do this, but I'm just not to that point myself yet, and I'm not sure anyone else is either. I've added links at the end of this post to a couple of books that I think might be helpful

I should make it clear that I don't expect you to rush out and create your own commune and kiss BAU (Business as Usual) good-bye right away. This is unlikely to be a success. I don't think collapse is going to happen all at once, nor I do think adapting to it is something that can (or should) be done all at once.

As long as BAU is detectably alive and even slightly well, propaganda for the consumer lifestyle and the virtues of individualism will be a distraction blaring away in the background. Most of us have never had the opportunity to learn the interpersonal the skills that make primitive communism work so well. And as long as our economic situation inside BAU is reasonably comfortable, it will be altogether too easy stalk off in a huff when the going gets tough rather than doing the work it takes to make a group effort succeed.

I'd be the last person to tell you that any of this is going to be easy. Indeed there have been many times when I have pretty much given up on the idea. I am sure we've all been involved in some co-operative effort or other that failed because of the disruptive efforts of grandstanders, glory hounds, control freaks and the power hungry. Or even just people who couldn't get along, didn't want to pull their weight or abused common resources like tools and equipment. These sorts of problems can be overcome, but only, I suspect, when there is an overpowering need to do so, and no easier alternative.

Of course, there is one sure way to foster group cohesiveness and that is to encourage group members to focus their displeasure and dissatisfaction on easily identifiable people outside the group. People who group members are encouraged to hate. But the long run consequences are pretty ugly. You just have to look at the last century or so of our history to see what I mean. Unfortunately, this kind of thing does have a strong appeal, and I would advise constant vigilance to avoid getting sucked in. Just ask yourself, if the finger of hate is being pointed at "those people" today, how long before it is pointed at people like you.

Currently right wing, white supremacy hate groups seems to be enjoying a good deal of success and causing a lot of harm. Clearly something to be avoided and opposed.

Another way to bring people together is activism. There are certainly many problems in the world today that need to be solved. When people join groups to tackle these problems they often find a real sense of community and an external problem to focus their energies on. And groups of other people to oppose.

I'd say that before joining an activist group you need to keep in mind that our current world order, what I call BAU, is fundamentally flawed and is itself the cause of the problems we are facing. Trying to fix BAU so we can go on living as we are is not going to work—our way of life is the problem.

Of course, there are causes that even I can't see anything wrong with. Such as forming community groups to adapt to collapse or to work on any of the things that need to be done to prepare for collapse.

Anyway, these are just some of the pitfalls of trying to make a co-operative effort to adapt to collapse. But adapt we must, and we have a much better chance of doing so in a group than as lone individuals or nuclear families. So we have to try, even though we'll be learning the skills as we go along, and all the while our current society will be doing its best to distract and discourage us.

Realizing this, we need to look at the practicalities of living and working together in groups. It would be a really good idea, I think, to start with some baby steps in your new community, to do some gradual adapting before the need gets urgent. Start learning to work together ahead of time, probably first in social groups, then maybe doing some volunteer efforts together, and finally as times get harder, acting together in what I would call mutual support groups. It is one heck of a lot easier, in times of need, to get together with people who you already know and with whom you've accustomed to working.

How people behave during disasters turns out to be very different than we have been led to believe. Rather than triggering social breakdown, the removal of the usual social constraints allows people to stop playing their customary roles as individuals and competitors in the formal economy (the roles society has forced on them), and come together co-operatively and generously as a community to cope with the challenges the disaster has presented.

The fact that responding to the disaster provides a clear common goal, and that the people involved are often family, friends and neighbours, is a big help. But such communities are in fact the default human behavior, rather than the rioting, looting and general social breakdown that the disaster mythology would have us suspect. Our preparations for disaster and collapse should reflect this—that we can expect co-operation rather than conflict. Any organization that we plan in advance should be such that it encourages this behaviour and helps people to rise to the occasion. A little study into what actually happens in such situations shows that people's response can be amazingly positive.

So, your first priority after you've moved into a small town is to get to know your neighbours and make an effort to take part in the things they are doing together.

Here are just few suggestions about how to become part of the community you've moved into and develop a network of friends and acquaintances who will be of help as collapse intensifies.

  • if you're religious, join a church and get involved
  • if you're not religious, join a secular volunteer organization that interests you:
    • a club, lodge or service group
    • a choir or orchestra
    • a community garden
    • a sports team, a gym, a hiking or nature club
  • if you have children...
    • put them into activities that interest them and volunteer to help in the organizations that offer those activities
    • volunteer at their school
  • work hard to network, talk to your neighbors, ask questions
  • invite people to dinner or out for a coffee

Be modest and don't act like you think you're better than the locals, or know more than them, or that where you came from is better than where you are now. Express an interest in their families, interests, and what they do for recreation and entertainment (FIRE is the mnemonic for this aid to small talk). Be eager to listen to what they have to say and patient while they are saying it.

You want to get to know and be known (in a positive way) by as many people as possible, but also to develop a core group of friends who you're quite close to and on whom you can rely in a pinch. That core group should be people you see eye to eye with on most things. At the same time, don't be too particular about finding people who think exactly as you do—cut them some slack and they will do the same for you. Be quick to offer your help when they need it and don't hesitate to ask for their help when you need it. And of course, watch that this doesn't become too one sided (in either direction).

As a kollapnik, a committed enough of a one to leave the city and settle in a small town, you are probably at least a bit of a fanatic about the subject and would love to find some people who you can talk collapse with. This will put a certain spin on your relationships, one that you need to get control of. You don't want to be a pest and develop a reputation as a crackpot, driving people away in the process. On the other hand, you don't want to be secretive and give people the impression you've got something to hide. If they see you making preparations, storing food, gardening, whatever, be open about what you are doing and why.

Among all my friends and acquaintances, there are two (perhaps three) who I would say are fellow kollapsniks, and a small handful of others who are willing to talk about collapse as long as I don't push too hard. I consider myself lucky.

One of those kollapsnik friends is Don Hayward, and I'd like to share with you his wisdom on classifying the people you'll meet in your new community. He says there are four kinds:

  • those who will eventually turn out to be pure poison and should be avoided at all costs (which can be awkward in a small town). If you can figure out how to identify these people quickly and painlessly, let me know.
  • those few gems who you can talk to about collapse and perhaps even start right away working with on adaptations.
  • those who don't want to talk about collapse, but who will make good friends anyway. This is no doubt the largest group of people and where you will concentrate your efforts.
  • and lastly, people from the first three classifications who will change as circumstances change and may well turn out to be great adapters.

Please understand that it is possible to make connections, often close connections, with people who are not yet ready to talk about collapse. It is probably a good idea to make that connection first, before bringing up collapse. There will be times when the world seems to be falling apart, when the news is full of that sort of thing, and then people will be much more receptive.

But people are strange animals and coping with them can be challenging, especially since you are one yourself. You should maintain a realistic expectation that not everyone will react positively to everything or even anything you say or do, that some people won't even want to give you the time of day. Respond politely to such rejection and move on. Don't get discouraged.

You may also frequently find people doing things that seem to be specifically intended to get under your skin, and not in a humourous way. I personally have had much more success in difficult inter-personal situations since I learned the importance of being calm, patient, kind and understanding. And after I finally gained a "strong-ish" grasp of the fact that it's not always (or even usually) all about me. But even at age 65, this is an on-going effort.

Much good advice about this sort of thing can be found on the internet (along with some bad advice, unfortunately). Here are links to several articles that I'd say fit in the "good advice" category.


Hidden variables of Human Behaviour

In brief here is what you should remember:

  • Everyone has a reason for what they do.
  • If we knew that reason, we would be more understanding and sympathetic.
  • If we don’t know the reason, we may as well assume the best.
  • It’s unlikely their reasons have much — if anything — to do with us, so there is no need to take their actions personally.

Three Important Life Skills Nobody Ever Taught You

Again in brief, they are:

  • how to stop taking things personally
  • how to be persuaded and change your mind
  • how to act without knowing the result

It’s harder to be kind than clever

Or as my dear old dad used to say, "It's more important to be nice than to be important." As the article says:

...the central conceit of a dangerous assumption we seem to have made as a culture these days: that being right is a license to be a total, unrepentant asshole. After all, why would you need to repent if you haven’t committed the ultimate sin of being wrong? Some say there’s no reason to care about other people’s feelings if the facts are on your side.

Getting along with people in groups is a learned skill and challenging for those who didn't grow up doing it. Many people have decided it is not worth the effort, but that is something of a self fulfilling prophecy. It can be done, given motivation and sufficient practice.

So far I've been talking about getting together socially, helping out your friends, and taking part in volunteer projects. But as collapse progresses further and we come to rely on our friends and neighbours more, we'll get deeper into living and working together. To wrap up today, I'd like to discuss three aspects of this: working together, living together and organizing those efforts. I was actually surprised, after spending a few moments with Google, to find numerous resources on each of these topics and in each of the sections below I've include a few links to relevant articles.


Organizing Together

Even if we're mainly considering groups of people less than Dunbar's number, say a maximum of 150 to 200, some sort of organization will be required. There are many ways of doing this, all with their pros and cons. I'm suspicious of hierarchical and especially patriarchal organizations because much of what's wrong with BAU seems to be centered on those organizational styles. They seem to be based on a fundamental split within the group between those who are in control and enjoy a lot of benefits they haven't earned, and those who are being controlled and exploited, and whose potential is largely ignored.

So I would recommend trying consensus decision making. It's main disadvantage is that very few of us in the developed world have much experience with it. But like any other skill it can be learned, and promises some real rewards for those who make the effort.


Working Together

Working together is likely the easy part—even big business is aware of the advantages of having people work in teams, so many people have some prior experience with teamwork.

I thought this would be the easiest of these three areas to find information about, but what's out there is mostly about teams working at the bottom of a hierarchy in businesses or educational settings, so it's not exactly what I was hoping for. I haven't included much that material here. You can Google for teamwork, team building, working in groups, etc. if you want to see more of it.

  • Effective Groups—Starting them up and keeping them going, more from Seeds of Change
    This article recommends you first find the right people and then talks about using publicity to attract them. For the kind of core group I've been talking about in this post, I would say definitely you need to find the right people, but I would caution against sending out a public appeal. This would attract lots of people, but most of them wouldn't likely be suitable and rejecting them becomes awkward. Instead meet people in social situations and take your time to size them up before forming a closer relationship.
  • 6 Ways to Empower Others, by Starhawk
    Sometimes you really do need someone to step forward and lead. The important thing is to be able to step back when the need has passed.
  • Teamwork, Wikipedia


Living Together

Living together is something that's going to be forced on many of us in the years ahead, as the economy contracts and affluence decreases. And as we move to small towns and find there is limited housing stock that's suitable for living in when infrastructure starts to fail regularly. So many people will find themselves having to share apartments or houses. Most of us have grown up in small nuclear families and many have had their own room since birth. More crowded and less convenient living circumstances will be challenging to adapt to. But it's being done by the majority of people alive in the world today and has been done by almost everyone who lived in the past. So it seems likely to me that we can learn to cope just fine.

I'll just wrap this up by saying that I think it is important to let other groups try anything they want to, in the hope that someone, somewhere, will come up with one or more approaches that work. I call this "disssensus"—letting other folks go their own way and wishing them well, even offering to help when we can, rather than raising a fuss and trying to force them to do it our way.

So far, I've been talking about what you need to do when you first arrive in your new town and during the following years as collapse intensifies. The gradual and uneven failure of BAU will provide numerous opportunities for you and your new friends to work together and support each other. I'll definitely be doing a post in the near future about how I see that playing out, but first I think I need to talk about the practical, material preparations that you need to be making during that same time period.

If you've chosen your small town well then it will have the resources you need to get by when BAU lets you down. But some advance set up is needed if you are to put them to work effectively. This will be the topic of my next post.

Books


Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse: