Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Some First Steps

In !ACTION CENTER!, Mendo Island Transition on June 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm


[...] So how do we start down this necessary path? First, let’s start with a few things we cannot do — some doors that are now closed to us due to our decades of profligate resource destruction.

Firstly, anything requiring significant amounts of energy is out of the question. The era of cheap, abundant fossil energy is behind us — forever. Despite repeated warnings from our best scientists, we failed to make the transition to renewables in time. Now it’s too late. Every year from now on will afford us less and less energy — possibly significantly less in the coming years.

Secondly, anything requiring significant amounts of money in the form of credit is out of the question. In a future of a continually-declining resource base, there is simply no such thing as economic growth, and thus no credit. Basically, we play with what material resources we have at this point — which is a lot less than we used to.

But enough with the negatives — let’s start with some concrete positive steps that we can accomplish. I can think of three that deserve our immediate attention:

1. I see no more crucial place to start than with food and our country’s food-security. We will change both the way we grow food and the food we eat. We will create more small local farms, more small farmers, more ecologically-sane fertilization methods, more seed saving and exchanging, more farmers markets and CSAs. We will grow food on our city’s rooftops, windowsills, and front stoops. We will grow food in our suburban lawns, parking lots, and golf courses. We will become self-sufficient in food-production with a smarter kind of agriculture that does not waste soil, pollute water, and poison our children. This, my fellow Americans, is true “homeland security.”

2. Next up is transportation. We will need to move ourselves and our products around largely without the aid of fossil fuels, as these will become only more expensive and unavailable in the years ahead. Is transportation with minimal fossil fuels even possible? Of course it is! We did it for centuries before the Industrial Age, and we need only to reclaim those technologies. Bicycles with trailers, hand-carts, and electric scooters will be made available as much as possible. Mules, oxen, and draft horses will be bred as rapidly as possible for distribution to our farms, towns, and cities. These will not allow us the mobility of former years, but that is the price we pay for thoughtlessly squandering our fossil fuels.

3. If we are to be a less-mobile, more-localized people, we will need to start producing most of the necessities of everyday life in the places where we live. Globalized trade was a brief artifact of the now-ended age of cheap fossil energy. We will need to re-learn lost manufacturing skills and regain the proud craftsmanship of our forebearers. This great re-skilling of America will be a high priority in the coming years. The list of self-manufactured goods we’ll need is long. It includes tools, clothes, blankets, furniture, housing materials, bikes, wood-burning stoves, solar cookers, and rainwater collection systems — among many other items. Trade of these goods will again take place locally — within and between our regions, rather than across oceans and hemispheres.

Now I know what many of you are thinking: Must we really throw out our 20th century technological gains? Is the reclaiming of 19th century technology really necessary? Aren’t we giving up? I respond by saying this: What choice do we have? Where is the fossil energy to run our computers, cars, and tractors? I’ll tell you — it’s gone; sqandered by seven generations of tragic excess. Gone forever.
Can We Do This?

So can we do this? Can we make this monumental transition towards some sort of lower-energy, lower consumption, humane living arrangement that can persist within the limits now pressing down upon us from all sides? Can we humans carve out our necessarily-limited niche on this planet without overstepping our boundaries? Can we do it without the violent convulsions to which humans are historically prone?

I, of course, am confident that we can, and I am willing to make great personal sacrifices to achieve this success. I hope many of you share my confidence and my resolve.

Make no mistake – our journey forward will not be easy. Change of this magnitude will be a monumental task with no guarantee of success. There will be pain and suffering — our past excesses have guaranteed this. Our only hope is to minimize this suffering as much as possible while resolutely pursuing some sort of livable future for our children.

So it’s time to get down to work. May we manage the decline phase of our civilization with every bit of intelligence, kindness, and dignity our species can summon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go outside and dig a garden.
Original article here.


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