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lead_tag
31 May 2007 @ 04:42 am

One last chance to post as lead_tag and then it’s good night and good luck.

Hope everyone who read and wrote in the WWO community took something away from the experiment, I certainly did. I truly enjoyed reading what everyone contributed. Many of you are incredible writers and reminded me of why I should stick to pulling triggers for a living. Keep up the good work and perhaps someday we’ll meet in real life. I myself may occasionally return here to post from time to time, but I’ve never had a blog before, and work keeps me too busy to maintain one. We’ll just have to see.

I wish the best of luck to all of you in your individual preparations, because as we saw it will come down to what we do for ourselves and not what others do for us. Skills for survival in a low energy future should be learned before they’re needed as the learning curve in a crisis is sharp indeed. Practice makes competent, before it makes perfect, and we all want to be at least that when we need it. So grow a garden, ride a bike, store a little bit (or a lot) of food away for a rainy day and remember;

Survival is as much a mental exercise as a physical.

You can do it.

lead_tag

 


 

 
 
Current Location: b-dad, iraq
 
 
lead_tag
30 May 2007 @ 08:15 am

A lot of my time is spent reading, and over the last few days I’ve read many things on what, can, could, or should be done about the crisis. Not just in the WWO community but in other places like at speaking truth to power, and the energy bulletin. Most things that come forth as solutions strike me as compromises with the now and not really as fixes for the future. But recommending preparation for a low-energy future without all our bells and whistles seems defeatist and unrealistic. We are addicted to our cheap energy and any way other than forward seems unacceptable. James Kunstler laments the same thing in his blog.

While we in the WWO community did many things ourselves to deal with the problems associated with low energy and reported on what we saw or knew in and around our community, no one thing we wrote about affected the final result. Our patroness mentions the “power of negative thinking” as a way to find results for problems we actually take the time to imagine. Makes sense, can’t fix it if you don’t see it as broken, but that’s also the problem. We imagined the problems, and we found some solutions, but nothing on the scale of getting us out of the seriously deep doo-doo we were headed for. Things seem to have stabilized before they got too uncomfortably bad for most people to deal with, but also before we had a chance to find our own solutions.

Some are saying this is a “step-down” event, a plateau before another slide. But for the vast majority of people this will be seen as the resolution of the crisis. With the end of the WWO who’s to tell them no?

Perhaps because a low-energy future requires lower population densities, people tend to shie away from talking about it. No one wants to be seen as a proponent of a mass die off, even among primitivist.

Should in the next two weeks this plateau become a cliff, and we can no longer communicate, I hope that things we have discussed here will be of use to you all as individuals and small communities. I have limited hope for levels above that.

But maybe that’s the solution.

 
 
Current Location: b-dad, iraq
 
 
lead_tag
28 May 2007 @ 12:32 pm

The rich are richer and more powerful, the poor are poorer and more numerous, and so gently closes our emergency for now. Aside from that what’s really changed? Everything you read or heard here isn’t necessarily the way it’s going to happen. It could be either better or worse than any of us imagine. There are too many variables to predict exactly how a crisis will play out.

But now, knowing what you know, reading what you’ve read, how do you plan to go about living your life?

Do you cruise along on the same old wavelength and think about what happened as an unfortunate occurrence? Do you see it like an alarm clock that you can hit the snooze button on and worry about later? Or do you look around and realize that this comfy life you’ve grown use to can disappear in an instant.

How do you plan your future, or do you even plan one? Are you goals still the same as they were this time last year? How do you rationalize that?

How do you plan for your children’s future? What about their children’s future? How many generations ahead do you think about when you plan something? Do you even see the necessity?

What did you learn? What did you want to learn? What are you going to learn? Or are you just going to rationalize your inaction and ignorance like before?

 

Inevitable, predictable, unstoppable it comes, so one last question.

What are you going to do now?

 
 
lead_tag
27 May 2007 @ 02:53 pm

Writing has become harder for me in the WWO because now the crisis, for all practical purposes, is over. Americans will pay 5+ dollars a gallon for gas and do no more than complain a little and perhaps boycott a particular filling station for a day (wait and watch this summer). Availability is 92% which means 9 stations out of 10 have gas and whatever caused this crisis in the first place is more or less over.

Don’t I feel stupid, telling people to get ready to expect a low energy future. Seven months and all our problems are history, what was I thinking, silly fear mongering me. Diesel is only around 5 dollars a gallon, so heating oil is less (no road tax) and availability is about the same as gasoline. While expensive, no one will freeze this winter. All those riots, all the disorder, all the FEMA camps, can now become a memory of that “Summer of ‘07” when we suffered a little bit, but reacted so badly.

Troops will stay in Iraq until we can’t get them back, this is a reality. Had we reacted anyway differently perhaps the powers that be might have seen a way around this mess. But nope, no fuel and the American people go crazy. So, secure the oil and we settle down, and they get to hang around for a while longer on top of the heap until they can think of a way to deal with us. Just a little more polarization of the classes has taken place is all. The rest of the world will just have to deal with their problems themselves, unless it benefits us of course, in typical American fashion.

The Iraqis I talk to understand Peak Oil, they know that eventually we will have to withdraw. Mostly they are saddened and sickened by the decay of their society that they see on a daily basis, but they know it has an end. When we run out of fuel, when we have no more reason to be here, they know we will leave.

Eventually the fuel that fires men’s minds to madness runs out.

But can you ever “power down” the lust for power?

 
 
lead_tag
26 May 2007 @ 10:38 am

With a shower of sparks it lit up the sky. Rather beautiful really like fireworks. Once, twice, three times and then it burst into flames. Considering that it, the transformer, sits atop a steel pole and is mostly metal itself, the fact that there was anything to burn at all was impressive.

I had finished my last escort for the day, and retired to the compound of another company to sit and commiserate with an old friend who worked there. Talking about the “old days” of three or four years ago and sipping (warm) beverages, was a pleasant distraction from the realities of today’s Iraq. No one shooting at us, no one dropping mortars or rockets on us, and then the phone call.

“The house is on fire” was the simple one liner from the client on the other end of the phone.

Thanking my buddy for the good time, I sprinted the 200m back to our compound. 200m is not a very long distance to cover and all I had time to think as I ran was “How?”. Building in Iraq are made from concrete and brick, and covered with stucco. Aside from door jambs and furniture, there’s not a lot that can or does burn in them.

Arriving at the back side of the house I immediately noticed that it was dark, and that no visible flames were present. Starting at the back I began knocking on doors and ensuring no one was inside. Still no flames. Upon exiting the front door I found the cluster of people that make up household and the other member of the security team.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Transformer blew and then the main box downstairs caught on fire” he replied.

“What transformer?” I looked around and that’s when I happened again. Perhaps the second shower of sparks and the fire were for my benefit. I felt special.

Quickly we moved the clients into the house next door. While steel power poles don’t burn like creosote logs, they do conduct rather well. Of all the ways to die in Iraq getting electrocuted is the least glamorous.

Long story short, we spent that night back in the house after ensuring that the dangers of burning, suffocation, and electrocution were past. How could I help but think of our WWO community as I prepared for a night without power.

While they say the nights in the desert can be cold, it’s not that time of year. Doors and windows, opened to let out what fumes might have accumulated, were left open to hopefully cool the house. No such luck, rather, a prime opportunity was created to feed the local mosquitoes. Slapping and sweating my way through a sleepless night, the next morning was even worse. Missions start early to beat the heat of the day. The coffee maker was electric. I think I cried but the tears evaporated before they could roll down my cheek.

Getting electricity in Iraq is uncertain at the best of times. Huge generators and third world wiring make up the most reliable source of power. Large stretches of the national electrical infrastructure were looted for the metal right after the war. The Dora power plant, in the 4 years I’ve been here, has never had more than one smoke stack running. I had to wonder, how does it work in America? Are we guaranteed that if we generate the power it will get to where we need it? Lots of people are talking about the generation of power but what about the transmission of it?

A little goole-ing and here and here are some stories. When profits go towards stock dividends and not reinvestment in infrastructure, this can be expected. How many years ago was it that a summer heat wave killed thousands all over the world?

Power has been restored, the A/C is back on and we’ve instituted our own chemical warfare against the remaining mosquitoes. With the power came the net, and so I can share my tale of woe with you. Like this crisis, which appears to be over if gas prices and availability are any indication, it was transitory.

But it gave me something to think about;

Like how good is our infrastructure,

And what non-electric alternative do I have for coffee making?

 

 
 
Current Location: b-dad, iraq
 
 
 
lead_tag
23 May 2007 @ 04:58 am

People are right, the energy hasn’t run out, it’s just harder to get. While we have felt a little pinch (and reacted so adversely) the rest of the world is where the real problems are manifesting themselves. With the military strength and financial power that we have left, our country is pulling in what it can in the way of remaining reserves. That means someone somewhere is getting short shrift.

Like a puddle evaporating in the sunlight, the edges are the first to go dry. Countries on the periphery are facing shortfalls as we speak because they lack the financial resources to compete with the major powers for the remaining supply. Some have been mentioned before by myself and other posters. Maybe we should look at them again in order to understand exactly what we face.

Zimbabwe as I mentioned before is in ruins. From study you can learn the states reactions and attempts at solutions. Obviously highly corrupt, the government in Zimbabwe operates with no concern for its citizens in this crisis. Still people survive somehow.

Ghana started here and has “progressed” to here. Notice how the early fears where about loss of hydro-electric power and no mention was made of crude oil shortages. As was posted here on WWO the people are already starting to adapt.

Sri Lanka is another example of what awaits us as the pool runs dry. And Pakistan’s problems where forecasted here and are becoming apparent now.

Notice how none of the country had degenerated into complete anarchy and riot. Possibly because of tight government control of the populace but also because they were not all that far removed from a low energy environment in the first place. Even oil producing nations are starting to feel the pinch, like Iran and Mexico.

Yes we have shortfalls, but yes we have time. Certainly we will have access to energy for a while longer, just not forever. A low energy future is a bitter pill that no amount of sugar turned ethanol can hide the taste of but that we have swallow. Clinging to ideas about how we can maintain what we have won’t do. Start thinking about this crisis in terms of what your children need to know, in order to survive and not what you need to have, in order to be comfortable. 

The ride hasn’t stopped, it’s just slowed down.

 

 
 
Current Location: iraq
 
 
lead_tag
22 May 2007 @ 07:28 am

Week 23 and it appears that some of you have shaken off your malaise. That’s excellent because wallowing in self-pity isn’t going to carry you through the rest of what awaits you. While things seemed to have leveled off for now, large problems still loom on the horizon and you’ll need all of your wits about you to make a go of it.

Seems the people that brought you this crisis feel fit enough to try and make it up to you. They want a chance to try and prove to you that big centralized government is the answer, namely, FEMA camps in rural areas, using collective farming to supply the nation with food. Wait, where have I heard of this before, let me think……… Oh ya.

 

April 1929, Joseph Stalin ordered the first Five-Year Plan. Stalin's regime moved to force collectivization of agriculture. This was intended to increase agricultural output from large-scale mechanized farms, to bring the peasantry under more direct political control, and to make tax collection more efficient. Collectivization meant drastic social changes, on a scale not seen since the abolition of serfdom in 1861, and alienation from control of the land and its produce. For individual farmers that meant turning their land and livestock over to the state and becoming workers on giant collective farms. Collectivization also meant a drastic drop in living standards for many peasants, and it faced violent reaction among the peasantry.

Many peasants showed their displeasure to collectivization by not planting crops or by killing all of their animals. Stalin had hoped to eliminate the problem of food production, but the opposite happened. A lack of food became a major problem in the cities because of the peasant’s resistance to collectivization. Stalin was forced to send the police into the countryside to raid farms for food and ultimately, the army was used to force the peasants to work and send food to the cities. Furthermore, as a punishment for not collectivizing, the farmers were given little or no food. Mass starvation occurred during this period, with close to 30 million peasants starving to death.

 

Now, we don’t have peasants in America, not yet anyway, but we do have large masses of unemployed people. Why not just round them up and......or rather let them “convince themselves” that going into the camps is in their best interests and ship them off wholesale to the rural parts of our country? What could go wrong with that?

First, I’m pretty sure that once you’re in a camp you’re not getting out. So that more or less makes you a prisoner. Prison labour has never been the most reliable, something about motivation I guess. Of course no one is “forcing” anyone to go to a camp, it’s just the only option they will allow you other than starving. Never mind that they haven’t a clue about how to work the land. I’m sure a government bureaucrat or a military commander is well versed in crop management and animal husbandry and can explain exactly how to do things. There would be no need to press-gang rural inhabitants into service for their country, would there?

Let’s see, we’ve got a work force, now who’s land are they going to go to? The land worked and owned by corporate agri-business, private land seized through “eminent domain”, or perhaps National Parks, military bases and other Federal lands. Corporate agri-business has always had a “close” relationship with our governing bodies. I’m sure in exchange for a nice administrative position for them and their friends and a healthy food ration something could be worked out. Private land would have to be seized in the interest of “fairness” anyway, you can’t have that constant reminder of freedom around to give the collectivized farm workers any ideas.  Military or Federal land would work as it already has some infrastructure in place to keep a “guard force” comfortable and it would put the produce right where it would be consumed.

So it’s settled, forced labour to supply “essential” personnel with what they need. Working in the camps would make you “essential” again I’m sure. It’s not like they could just go out and pull people off the........ Cancel that, the only thing essential about you would be that you do what you’re told.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the only answer is more people moving to the country and working the land in a sustainable low energy manner, but forced mass collectivization won’t work. It would take people leaving the cities of their own volition and being accepted by the residents already there to be effective. Like water from a hose, aimed at one spot it tends to erode not absorb. The masses from the cities would have to be spread out and allowed to settle into the agricultural regions.

Programs to make this possible would have to be devised with laissez faire attitude towards control and a realization that returns wouldn’t be immediate. Our corporations and its government have no tolerance or patience for either of these things. Railroads would see only lost profits if they moved people out to the rural areas for free, not future customers and suppliers. Agri-business would have the same view if told that they had to surrender or sell below market value a company asset like land. Even if they did give somewhat, I would expect it only to be in the form of “loans” with of course very good returns for them. Can anyone say “wage slave”? And the government? Which career paper pusher is going to tell another career paper pusher that he is no longer “essential”? Only the most ruthless of course, but enough of them will remain that we will still have far too many. Big government with strong central control, uses lots of energy and it will protect itself and its privilege to the end. After all, they’re “necessary”.

Things have settled down a bit, but the state still thinks it knows what’s best for us. Coming into winter you’ll have to be ready to deal with limited resources like food and fuel for heating. How you deal with them determines how our country redevelops. Your freedom and independence are based on your self reliance. Taking the handout will eventually make you a slave to the source and we need to be stronger than that. Strong people make strong nations.

So now that you’re out of your funk, go deal with it.

Make a choice.


 


 


 


 
 
lead_tag
21 May 2007 @ 02:25 am

A few other people have noticed and I would have to agree. Our WWO netizens seem to be getting a bit worn down.

Violence and uncertainty can be wearing. Constantly thinking about ways to overcome obstacles and forward thinking in order to keep them out of your path, isn’t the way we’ve grown used to spending our leisure time. It seems almost too much to ask when you’re already tired from a long day of work.

As they say in the military, it’s gut check time. Only 22 weeks, a mere 5 ½ months and already you’re exhausted? This isn’t a passing thing people, this is the rest of your lives. You’ve chosen this community to see how things play out and how your life will be affected, and now it’s showing you.  Life is hard, surviving is harder, much harder than finding the time in a busy day to tap out a post at a keyboard. It requires more ingenuity and greater discipline than your previous life required of you.

I will admit, I am fed and provided for by the only entity that still has ample resources, the government. But still, I post between mortar attacks and missions into Baghdad. I stop writing to take care of normal patients and prepare medical classes. My work life hasn’t stopped because of this, and yes, I sometimes get tired of thinking about it all the time. But this is it, how long do you think the net will stay up? How long will you get to be connected to this community? Hasn’t the world without oil shown you that what you expect, is subject to the unexpected?

The deeper you dig now into your well of personal reserves will show you what you are capable of when things get harder. The fact that you are here shows that you understand the need to think about what can happen, now show yourself that you have what it takes to do something about it.

This is your life in a world without oil, and you don’t have much longer to share it.

 
 
lead_tag
20 May 2007 @ 05:15 am

So it’s time to look at an upside to this crisis. We are looking at severely curtailed mobility for a majority of our population, and not just for the short term. Also government maintained safety nets are bound to fail with the decrease in revenues due to unemployment. While both have a dark side, look down the road a couple years.

When Americans got their “wings”, they flew, and cheap energy made it possible. Before the advent of individual long range transportation, leaving home was usually the result of necessity. People would normally be born, raised, and die within their community and this lack of mobility seemed completely normal. Only when crops failed, jobs disappeared, or turmoil invaded, would families pickup and move wholesale. Young men and women would perhaps travel away if no more opportunities existed in their communities, but this was still a financial consideration. When moving required muscle and endurance, not a lot of people did it.

Enter the Age of the Automobile. Distances that would have been daunting before could now be done at leisure. When going 20 miles to the next town isn’t such a big deal anymore, what about the next, and the next, and the next? It was no longer about where you came from, but where you where going. The idea of easy mobility is so ingrained that few expect to ever spend the rest of their lives where they were born or raised.

With this ability to move people came the ability to move goods, and what was once only the result of communal effort, could now be found everywhere. When individuals could easily move great distances and still be able to get the things they needed to create households, the “nuclear” family was created.

A nuclear family is the family unit consisting of only the parents and their children. Relatives might be close by, but not present in the household. This is in contrast to the extended family of several generations living and working in the same house, compound, or farm. A commune of sorts, but with stronger ties than just common ideology.

Where before, living and surviving required a group effort to make do with resources available, and travel was not something to undertake lightly, an extended family was the norm. In most places in the world, they still are. Only recently, in the “developed” world, with cheap and easy energy for transportation, and complex infrastructure for resource distribution, are nuclear families found.

While some might see the benefits of a nuclear family, like increased freedom for the parenting couple and a corresponding lesson in independence for their children, others would argue that both suffer, for lack of direct familial support, and social security. Which is more important might soon become apparent.

Pensions and Social Security checks from the government or from any employer for that matter might become a thing of the past. Even if they do arrive, will they be adjusted quickly enough for the inevitable inflation, and if they do, will the adjustments be realistic? While a government sponsored program might have worked well for a resource rich and highly mobile population will it be enough in a harsher new reality of more manual labour and less security?

Perhaps then the ultimate benefit of this crisis is the fact that we will get to see if Americans can return to the idea of family as community. We will no longer be travelling great distances at our leisure and probably only in extreme circumstances. Our whole lives may be spent in the same community, along with all our descendants. We will depend on our children to look after us as we age and they will in turn look to us for support in their daily lives well past childhood.

If family is community, then community is family.

And then we'll have real social security, courtesy of a world without oil.

 

 
 
Current Location: b-dad, iraq
 
 
lead_tag
19 May 2007 @ 08:39 am

 

It’d be nice to think that somewhere in the minds of our captains of industry, there was a thought to do something about this crisis from a purely civic point of view. Sadly, if the past and present are any indication there isn’t.

Two generations ago, Americans lived in a manner that didn’t depend on oil. How then did we go from that, to this current crisis? No great leap forward for our country comes without a profit being made for someone. For that matter no great leap backwards does either.

Our greatest hope is the railroads. Only the return to their use as a means of mass transit and mass shipping will allow us to maintain any semblance of what we once were. But vested interests in our country will not allow competition until the last possible, worthless dollar has been squeezed out of their captive market. Oil and Rubber, Asphalt and Automotive, these big interests have no desire to see anything other than their products used.

But;

Without the transport of raw materials, we will never again build back our factories or keep the electricity flowing.

Without the ability to transport our citizens, we will have starving populations in our cities, while arable land lays untilled in the countryside.

Without a constantly moving link between us, sharing information, we will lose our concept of nationhood.

Now where’s the profit in that?

 
 
Current Location: b-dad, iraq