I read this article called ‘Why Wait Till 2012? 8 Quasi-Serious Ways to Ward Off the Apocalypse Now‘ on Planet Green the other day, and it really got me thinking. It’s about, essentially, the end of the world, due to peak oil, peak coal, peak dirt, war and climate change.
Are we facing the apocalypse? More to the point, is the apocalypse inevitable? This might sound pessimistic, but is all this fighting for climate change going to make much difference? Even though we might stop massive tracts of land from being swamped by the ocean, and huge numbers of people from being displaced or killed, people will still starve or freeze/overheat and subsequently die due to the aftermath of peak oil/peak coal. Read more about the impact of peak oil – it’s very sobering.
I don’t think it really clicked to me, before I read these articles, just how dependent on oil we are. I figured that as long as I mostly ate local, used green electricty and didn’t drive much, it wouldn’t affect me dramatically. It seems though, that even local food production will falter and electricity generally will become scarce. From a purely personal perspective, my current location probably does put me in a good position. I don’t heat or cool my house, so temperature fluctuations aren’t going to kill me. Even if the sea rises, it won’t cover Brisbane (according to the Sea Level Rise Explorer, we are about 4m above seal level, so safe in the near future). I do live in a location with a reasonable number of local food producers and in a climate where I can grow a significant proportion of my own food. I have plans within the next five to ten years to move to a more sustainable way of life (hard to do in a rental house), that will ensure my family is more self-sufficient. Heck, just the fact that I have an awareness of the issue puts me a step ahead. I’m less likely to panic when the time comes.
Even so, I’ve been asking myself so many questions.
- Is looking five to ten years ahead too long to wait to go really sustainable? (Will the economy and life as we know it collapse before then?) If so, how am I supposed to do it earlier than that if my finances won’t allow it?
- What are we going to do for water? How will the dams run without coal-based electricity?
- How will the food stretch to all the people we have to feed? Even though we are in a good location, we’re going to struggle to feed the millions of people living in South East Queensland in a local and sustainable way, without access to oil or coal.
- Will I have to start eating meat again? I know how to fish, even if I don’t like to do it. Keeping backyard chickens for eggs is easy enough.
- How will we manage from an electrical perspective? Even if I have green power now, most people don’t and there’s not enough for everyone (we don’t have the facilities). Will energy providers and governments work fast to get green energy up and running for all? How will they do that without oil and coal? The solar panels and wind turbines have to be produced and transported somehow.
- What will happen to the internet? Everyone’s computers will become obsolete and there will be no replacements. Giant server farms won’t be sustainable due to the lack of energy to power them. People will have less time to contribute to the internet anyway cos we’ll all be out trying to grow food. How will we learn how to survive without the internet? Does the local community already have that knowledge, if we can band together to share it? How will we organise this knowledge sharing? How will we know who knows what?
- What about money? Will I be employed? Will Yankee Elv be employed? My job is dependent on energy and telecommunications. If I am employed, how will I have time to do the things I need to to survive (like grow food and travel places on food/bike)?
- Will hospitals still run? Will medicines be available? Some people in my family are dependent on medication. Will sperm banks still exist? I don’t know how they could with no energy to keep things frozen. How will Yankee Elv and I have more children if we want them? (The old-fashioned way really doesn’t appeal to me!)
- If we’re struggling to find enough food to feed ourselves, how will we feed our pets? Will they have to hunt for themselves? How will this affect the local indigenous animal populations?
- Will schools continue to exist as we know them? Will kids still get to go to university, or will the be expected to drop out and work to help keep their families alive?
- Will we ever see our families again without oil to fuel the transport? Mine live close enough that I could travel there under my own steam (although it would take a while), but Yankee Elv’s family are on a whole ‘nother continent.
- Will there be overcrowding as we take in refugees, or will there be no refugees after all because they will die from starvation? Maybe the refugees won’t be able to get to Australia because there will be no international transport anymore.
- Will the world powers be upended? Current first world countries could become third world countries who can’t sustain themselves. Third world countries (already full of subsistence farmers who already live without oil/coal) would become first world countries, experts in how to survive. How will that work for Australia though? How will we be able to communicate with other countries if electricity and telecommunications go bust? We’re a giant island in the middle of nowhere. Will world travel still exist?
- Will there be wars? How significantly will crime increase? Are we going to end up in a Mad Max/Waterworld style society?
- How will we all cope?
Part of me thinks I’m completely insane for considering these things – they seem so far-fetched, like they’re some weird kind of alternate reality. Having read more about peak oil though, I’m starting to get the impression that these things are more and more likely. I wonder if I’m spending too much effort thinking about climate change and not enough on survival, on learning skills now so I know how to live later. At the same time, I think the things we can do to combat climate change and the after-effects of peak oil are very similar. I do think I’m going to start focusing more on:
- Learning how to make my own clothes and other non-disposable cloth items (hankies, blankets, napkins etc)
- Growing my own food
- Preserving food
- Cooking with unusual items that can be grown locally – things like quinoa and tropical fruits
- Foraging for wild and/or native food
- Capturing water to use to water plants
- Creating compost to fertilise plants
- Investigating homemade pet food.
As much as I’d love to live in a strawbale house with a rainwater tank, solar panels and an orchard, complete with vege patch, chickens for eggs and some pet sheep for wool (they’d be ever so grateful for a shear in summer – we already shave the dog in summer to keep him cool), it’s simply not achievable right now. I think Yankee Elv and I need to look into making it achievable sooner than I originally planned though. If peak oil and climate change get worse very rapidly, what I consider financially stable now may not apply in the future. Land grabs may occur, banks mightn’t lend money anymore, and there may be no more rainwater tanks or solar panels to be had. I also think I need to try to find some kind of community, something outside of the internet, where I can connect with skilled people to learn things that may be necessary to survival. For example, maybe I can help out if someone is constructing a strawbale house so I know how to do it, even if I can’t afford to do it myself yet. There are some Transition Towns located not too far from me – I’d be interested in seeing how I can get involved.
Finally, when I start getting into that disbelieving place where I feel like I’m on a sensationalist trip, reading this article kinda put it all into perspective. Maybe it’s not apocolypse now, but it very likely will be soon*.
*OMG I can’t believe I just said that, but OMG I think it’s true. Shit.