Hi Peak Shrink,
I was interested to see your site. I’m not sure how much it can concretely help, but, it was definitely needed, with all the peak oil stuff out there on the web.
I just went through a sickening peak oil depression, so here’s my story.
It’s strange how often the individual microcosm can reflect the macrocosm of society, isn’t it? If you’re used to being a “green”, or you fear Nuclear war, others often tend to assume that you have a “problem”, and that you’re “projecting” your negative view onto the world. But how much of your “personal” problem is due to issues in society at large? Peak oil to me seems to be an extension of this to it’s absolute limit. I have had zero luck trying to persuade friends, family and work colleagues. Except my father actually, he believes, he agrees, he’s seen it long coming, and he’s just…
The “micro within the macro” is particularly true for me – I am an automotive engineer. For years I have worked and become a specialist in this business, which I always knew was ultimately very stupid. But that’s what pays the bills, and the work is at least interesting, sometimes. I am also a previously-diagnosed depressive, and have experienced Prozac in my 20s, and Effexor more recently (I’m now 35). So you can imagine, when someone like me tries to tell those around him that the world is unsustainable, we have a problem, blah, blah, blah, the message gets met with well-meaning comments about me “getting some help”. Yeah right. I need help, we all do. Real help, from people around us, people who can teach us useful things, not a psychological palliative to “make it all go away”.
Peak oil makes me wish I’d lived my life differently. I made many mistakes, and I have regrets. For example, I’ve spent most of my money just living. I’ve got a few thousands in the bank, and a pension fund which is quite healthy (don’t quite know what to do with it, it certainly won’t be feeding me at age 65).
I spent my life looking for “meaning” to ultimately realise there isn’t much. Peak oil reminds us that survival is the only game in town. You can forget about individual expression, “meaning”, and other meaningless things. I became an expat in a foreign land (Switzerland) and never got onto the property ladder in my native UK – I had girlfriends but nobody I trusted enough to make a joint purchase, and the house prices were just prohibitive for single people.
So now, perhaps I can cash in my pension (If I leave the country) and move to the UK. Buy an allotment of land near to my father’s place, and go back and live with him. Start with his garden. Except as the prodigal son, I don’t think I’m allowed. Or I could stay here, with right to reside in a “safe” country – but how safe, when the international banking industry starts falling apart? Perhaps there will be a boom for engineers in the energy sector….Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…..
But peak oil also makes me realise, that you have to give yourself a break. So much of what happens in life is just luck, and my feeling is that however much you read about the facts of peak oil, a lot of the future will just be an even bigger spin of the roulette wheel. Is it worth buying precious metals? Depends if we have inflationary or deflationary depression….lots of people discuss such issues on blogs but I’m not sure they’re well enough qualified. What if you’re already working on the land in a rural existence, are you “saved” ? I read of peak oil campaigner Michael Ruppert’s failed attempt to escape to Venezuela… basically he arrived in Caracas without any Spanish or any clue what to do next, as I understood it, with predictable consequences, depression, isolation, health problems…
I think we have to be realistic about our goals. I think we have to allow ourselves that we cannot see the future, and much of survival will be pure luck. Steps need to be small ones. Good luck to you if you’ve got the resources and you’re moving somewhere “safe”. But I think most of us are going to have to fight the situation wherever we are, with whatever we’ve got. Some of the people in “safe” places will not be there by virtue, perhaps they will even be those who stayed “home on the farm” with their aging parents, the laziest and least ambitious of the family.
Chances are if you’re reading this you’re in the west. So you were already born pretty lucky, by world standards, by no effort of your own. Perhaps I don’t deserve to live, having not been very sensible about saving and building a solid future in my life generally, and being somewhat nihilistic. I know, and know of personally, so many people who died before their time, people better than me. I know I have been very lucky to experience things in my life and have time and money to do and see things which will quite probably be outside of the experience range of future generations.
So to conclude, my response to peak oil is (1) to finally grow up, and stop looking for the next exciting experience in life (2) keep thinking of and discussing techno-solutions, which are not magic bullets, but can help to alleviate the problem, as oil prices make solar and wind more viable to industrialise on larger scales (3) See if I can find work in said industries, (4) Try to start gardening somewhere in the next months, not that I believe it will save me, but my previous experience is that hard work digging helps a lot psychologically, and at least doing that means working without pushing the ecosystem off a cliff (5) – the biggy – to accept death and suffering as inevitable, and just realise they may be much sooner than I’d vaguely planned for.
Because fear of these things, is in some way worse, than the things themselves. It only takes weeks or hours to starve or freeze to death, but you can worry about it for YEARS.
Good luck to all, especially to those with children. For the first time in my life, I genuinely don’t regret having no children. Another peak oil mindshift…
Truly the rub is the uncertainty of it all. A few thing we know, however, which is that the more “stuff” you need, the more monthly bills that are attached to any sort of fossil fuel, the more expensive your life will become. This, unfortunately, includes most things in modern society, including food. The more people around you who are facing higher and higher bills, and the greater percentage of them who cannot pay those costs without severe hardship, the more social unrest there will be around you, even if you are doing fine, yourself, financially. There will be more thieves and break-ins. More shoplifting. You’ll watch businesses like expensive restaurants become pubs (if they survive) or dry cleaners close. People may buy “vacations” they can stick in their back yard, like above-ground pools, so the kids can “have a vacation.” Fancy “latte’s” will become carried coffee mugs. We’ll see a lot more brunettes who once went monthly to the shops to be blonds. We’ll see more desperate food pantries asking for donations, maybe a rise of soup kitchens, and people losing their homes they can no longer pay for.
I imagine there will be several “shifts” in “desirable locations.” As petrol continues to rise, those living in rural locations without rail transportation available to them and without a rising income (most of us here in the USA) will experience hardship. Those in the suburbs without rail and with resources will move closer to the city, if they reason that is a financially viable thing to do. And it may be….for a while, anyway. However, they will also be living with that larger group of folks who are stuck in a financial squeeze and are getting angrier about it.
Your best decision, I believe, is to look to simplify your life and rely less on social “handouts,” be they convenient supermarkets being there for you when you need a weekly shopping or the petrol pump, or a bathroom full of toiletries. Many people are happy to move closer to aging parents, even if not for the reasons you state. No decisions you make will be without unexpected consequences, because none of us have a crystal ball into the future. However, the more you can work on forgiving yourself for the past (and future) bad decisions, and get on making more of them, the more you’ll learn about what’s going to be the best spot for you, at least in this phase.
Might I suggest that anyone who can take engines apart and replace them is someone I’d like to live close to. We’d all have been better off to have bought things made to BE repaired, instead of disposed of and replaced. If you do move near Dear Old Dad, may I suggest that you make it known that you’d be willing to fix people’s tools for trade. You might find that a steady small business fixing other people’s small engines keeps you fixed in eggs, cheese, butter, manure, etc, when larger automotive companies have been forced to cut back their workforces.
Micro-solutions aren’t so sexy or dramatic to talk about, but we all need to start thinking small. Thanks for your thoughtful letter, and keep us updated about how your life is going.