Wife’s New Job Offer Threatens to Pull this Peaker from Homestead Paradise

Dear Peak Shrink,

Not sure how I arrived at this point. All my life I have been “aware” something was wrong, but I was told to stop thinking that way…I was born in the early 60’s…I was adopted and had a sense of not fitting in. I just went on believing what was out there. The dominant culture took me over and won. I was part of the system. I have been through some very tough times lately, and have come to some very important places in my life. I took the red pill and feel awake while other around me are fully asleep. I found many that think like me, but only on the web. There are one or two people that have some understanding of what is going on, but are not being listened to here. I find myself very alone.I want to do the thing that resonates inside me for my family, but they don’t want to hear it at all. They give me that “look” that I know is not were they are listening but judging. How to I do what is needed? For them.

Homesteader in Paradise


Dear H in P,

The first thing you need is a plan. Don’t worry if it isn’t the “right” plan, because plans change. That’s a given. Write down a plan, then break it down into manageable pieces. Most people over-estimate what they can do in a year, but UNDER-estimate what they can do in 10 years. Lay out the pieces you want to accomplish in 2010, and assume you’ll make modifications along the way. Assess your current situation, skills, debts, resources, location, food storage, etc carefully. Look squarely at it, unflinchingly.

If you have few supports in ‘real life’ then accept this as a given for right now. You’ll probably be surprised to learn how many people actually think the way you do, but have been silenced by the same pressures you feel. Once you decide the types of skills you need to develop, you’ll have more opportunities to find those who share your worries and concerns. Get very concrete, and start conversations with the one or two that think as you do. Anticipate the sort of changes that you’ll see in your neighborhood, and ask yourself what you can do to impact those events.

Don’t assume that everyone in your family has to “be on board” for you to act. There are many things you can do, once you set your mind to it, that can be framed in a way that most people can understand. For example, storing food can be framed as “buying in bulk to save money.” Learning carpentry or gardening is a useful skill. Paying off debt can be “good commonsense.”

The most important lesson you’ve already learned, is that you can stand apart, be ‘different,’ and it won’t kill you. You can ‘think differently’ and everyone doesn’t have to agree with you.

When I pointed out that hard times were coming, almost 4 years ago, I didn’t make a big deal of it. I just said it, and said the kinds of things I thought would happen, then dropped it. Now, to those I told, they look at me differently, because they know I was right. No one has said “You were right!” but they don’t have to. Don’t try to push your agenda on them. Allow it to be enough to know you what you know, and begin to make the changes you believe have to happen. Take yourself “heart attack” seriously, but don’t insist that other people agree with you. And keep in mind the advice to put on your own oxygen mask first, and then attend to the people around you.

Does that make sense?

Dear Peak Shrink,

Thank You so much for the reply.

Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense to me. I have always been making our “little homestead” as efficient as possible without saying too much to those around. I have been saying things like those you suggest. I put in a wood stove a few years back to offset the cost of our gas bill. I have my grandfathers bow saw and many hand tools that no one else wanted. My problem is this: my wife (whom I adore) has a job offer in a large city) we currently have a house that is small 1000 sq ft, has 2 acres of land and a stream on it. Along with deer, many trees and a large amount of wilderness around us, we have managed to pay it off. We do have some debt but not a mortgage. Our city is about 100k with farmland and we live in a smaller community about 10 mins to the farmland area. If she takes this job we have to move from our possible safe little community to a large urban city.

I am wondering how to tell my wife that our best place to be is here, and to continue working towards less financial commitments. We have a good neighborhood of a few doctors and small hobby farms as well. Seems perfect for us. We also have the potential for a greenhouse on our property. I don’t want to give all that up. We already know how to preserve vegetables, do our own carpentry, electrical, garden, filter water.

Any suggestions how to approach my wife on peak oil and have her believe it is real?

BTW , You are the first person I have ever written to on the internet. I found your website through a few links (not sure what ones) and found solace in your words. I am truly grateful for the time you took to write back.

I only hope I can find the peaceful way to tell my wife (met in high school a zillion years ago) that we can find a new togetherness in this next quest in our lives.

She is an Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultant (yes, with caps..lol) and is truly a soul of the earth. She does not like bad news like peak oil. We have our teenagers, two malamutes and live in [Northern Canada]. I hope we can stay here and face peak oil and what it will mean for us, our children, and our community together in a real spirit of altruism.

Didn’t get back to him fast enough, so our contributor wrote again!

Dear Peak Shrink,

OK Christmas is over. Time to reflect on the latest. I wish for my wife to at least do some investigation into my belief in peak oil. Her father was a newspaper man and did very well financially. The kids believe he is some master at figuring out what to do financially because he did so well in the 80’s and 90’s. They don’t know it was because cheap energy allowed many to do well then. He has never once mentioned the possibility of anything changing. They (he and my Mom-in-law) still snowbird to [warm USA state].

I think he believes I am always worrying too much. If he was supportive, maybe his daughters would listen. I seem to be all alone in this. I know that there are tough times coming and want to prepare, but I am like a three wheeled car. Most people I know are moving out to work in the Alberta tar sands. Our economy has taken a big hit here (Northern Canada) already (we were once a thriving population built on wood products and paper mills). I have family in British Columbia and it is a very beautiful place to live. Toronto is where my wife is looking to relocate to. That means a big mortgage for us. We are in our 40’s. No time to pay it off now. How do i get my wife to believe me? I think we should stay put.

Hope you are doing well. I don’t expect a reply, just writing this out helps me put things into perspective.


Here are my thoughts:

Your wife wants to move to a place you don’t want to go, and buy an expensive house you don’t want to own. Forget the issue of Peak Oil. You have a legitimate difference of opinion right there! Moving and assuming a mortgage is a major commitment not to be taken lightly, and usually requiring mutual agreement.

How would things change for you, if your wife “believed” in PO? How would she act differently? What would she DO differently?

I’d get away from trying to convince anyone of anything, and focus specifically on what you want from her. If you want her to listen to you, even if it makes you and her anxious, and you know it is a lot to ask, say so. If you want her to stop spending money and save more of it, say that. And be prepared to give a listening ear back. Actually listen attentively to what she has to say about the move and the new home. See if you both can get behind the DREAM she’s aiming for, and see if it can be met another way. Many people can’t listen unless they feel really understood by the person. Her job sounds like it involves understanding people who’s behavior can be quite confusing, and learning how to influence it in a positive direction. She probably could use a bit of listening to, as well. The opposite of listening isn’t talking, it’s waiting to speak. Really listen to the dream behind her words, and articulate that back to her.

Sounds like a newspaper man knows how quickly a thriving business can turn around. Newspapers are dying left and right here. They’ve gone the way of the button, once the zipper was introduced. Don’t worry about trying to get him on board. Just talk to him about how smart he was to be in the right business at the right time, and how different it is for talented guys, just like he was, to be starting out today. Agree that no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, but that’s what most of us are required to do anyway, if we get a clear signal that change is demanded of us. He can probably talk about a time when he made a bold move that everyone else thought “wouldn’t work” but it did. Ask him about how he managed to pull it off, when his was the minority opinion, and he was risking a lot. All successful men, in addition to being in the right place at the right time (oil’s a given) also thought differently or were willing to make tough choices. Don’t try to convince him of Peak Oil, just hear him out about how a truly successful man must listen to and heed his own counsel, after carefully considering the facts. That will come in pretty handy to remind him of, later.

I guess what I’m suggesting to you is that you, too, are forced to be your own man and make your own choices that are of a minority opinion. Your father-in-law can tell you how tough that is sometimes, perhaps.

Everyone needs to have a dream. It sucks to struggle to find one in a time of collapses-economic, energy, and environmental ones…but we still have to have some, and they have to be grounded in the future we see happening, not one we wish for or one of exaggerated fears. Your wife knows, by the very changing area around her, that people can destroy the very natural world that provided them an income only a short time before. She perhaps can see that a doubling of the world’s population, at a time of dramatic climate shifts, spells trouble. You may agree with her that while eventually things will “straighten out,” they’ll be “winners” and “losers” before they do. The capacity to accurately assess the direction things are going in will make the difference which one your family ends up as, (although I doubt either of us would agree that “winners” are the best descriptive adjective for those surviving well…)

So, here’s a New Year’s challenge: Paint me an accurate picture of a future you’d want to live in, that includes your wife and kids. Make it 5, 10, and 20 years into the future, and describe what’s different and what changes are going to be required of you. Emphasize how you’ll get the basics, and how energy limits will impact you. The limitations on this requires it to conform to what you know about the three big E’s, and make it as specific as possible. How will the economy change? What environmental changes do you see happening around you? How are people getting around? Where do they get their food? Where are you living and why? Start out each story saying how old you and your family members are, just so you can consider their life span changes (you don’t need to send those to me, that’s just for your own figuring…) Throw in one or two items that would appeal to your wife on some level, and identify these.

Up for the challenge?

Dr. K
‘Peak Shrink’


I’m working, right now, on H.P.’s dream with him, helping him to clarify and articulate the details.

Stay tuned for the finished product!

About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.


  1. The guy who’s wife wants to take a job in the city hasn’t got a pray. If he doesn’t go along with that, she will eventually dump his arse, get the whole homestead in the property settlement, and then probably get alimony on top. If they have kids, she’ll get them too, as well as child support. He will be left with bugger all. If he can’t pay his child support or alimony, he will end up in debtors prison. Then when peak oil hits……he’ll end up being slave labor.

    What men first must do if you want to start preparing for peak oil….is get away from women. Most of them live in la la land and won’t change. We all might end up slaves anyway, because when society starts to crumble…..just like on the titanic….it will be women and children first. Their standard of living will be proped up and much as possible at the expense of men. This is happening in Haiti right now with aid organisations providing food and sheltor for women and children…..including medicine and surgery….while men are being refused. The reason men are rioting and looting in the streets now over there is because they are getting refused aid while women and children are getting everything available first……men only get the crumbs left over. Just like Peak Oil, this wont be reported in the main stream media……as usual….it will be shown that the reason men are rioting and looting is because men are just thugs and brutes…..but who built the city to start with….who will rebuild it…..who is digging out all the survivers…..who is distributing most of the aid. Haiti is a sign of what is to come for men….when the decline of energy reaches critical levels. Women still running air conditioners and having their nails down, hair dressers, and fashion….men living in the street or in dormitories, labor camps, without services.

  2. I admit that men are screwed in divorce. I was only able to get custody because my ex is a certifiable nutcase. (Maybe that episode wouldn’t have gone in my favor had I been peak-aware at the time, only to have that used against me in court)

    Anyway, it’s not true that women can’t be peak-aware. I happen to know a woman, who is probably reading this comment right now, who is in the reverse situation, being peak-aware with a husband who is a technofix type.

    I’ve also noticed a roughly 50/50 split male/female at transition town trainings.

    And some of the biggest figures in doom-dom are female (Carolyn Baker, Sharon Astyk, Kathy Harrison, and Peak Shrink herself).

    And which gender do you think is more receptive to the idea of gardening, knitting sweaters, darning socks, cooking and canning in a post-peak world? Men??? It’s no wonder that men tend to skew survivalist when they take the red pill. It’s a lot easier to stock up on rations and bullets than it is to accept doing “women’s work” on the homestead.

    It should also be noted that while one can accuse women of looking for success objects, or being obsessed with fashion and reality shows, which could be seen as counter-productive to the message of post-peak austerity, you have men who are driving their teeny-weeny enhancing sports cars and big trucks (i.e. “I’m Scott Brown and I drive a truck”).

    So I don’t think either gender deserves to be singled out for trying to keep BAU going.

  3. For goodness sake lighten up!!
    If we are going to get through this we need to work together not tear each other apart.
    Stereotypes are not helpfull. Im a women (last time i checked) and I am just trying to make sense of it all and try and prepare for the future just like you.
    We are all in the same boat, lets not rock it any more than is neccesary.
    Kathy, thank you for this, i have written down your advice and will compile a list of my own. The difficulty is in the vast array of potential scenarios that could crop up but I will do my best.

  4. Siegfried says:

    My wife is respondind very good to peak oil idea- she is not 100% convinced but sometimes joins me in my activities/preparations.
    Tell your wife that you are not sure yourself but there is huge chance of it, tell her to watch carefully govs preparation, she will have to admit that sth is going on.And If sth is going on, it would be not a bad idea to be prepared. Recently I was making my own first aid kit. At the beginning my wife was looking at me like at mental case, but she eventually joined and said it’s good idea.

  5. One very good piece of evidence of peak oil for your wife to ponder is why are all the auto companies spending hundreds of millions a year apiece to develop an electric car that goes 40 miles on a charge and have them on the market by 2012? If gas and oil were going to be readily and economically available for the next 5 years, they wouldn’t spend a dime. It isn’t because they have suddenly decided that “green” is in, it is because it is real tough to sell a V-6 or V-8 when gas is $8-10 a gallon, when you can get it. Their only hope is to have vehicles whose only oil usage is for the grease for the wheel bearings. The boards of directors of these manufacturers aren’t a bunch of wild eyed radicals, but people who have looked into the future, and don’t see gas and diesel. The automobile in the US was just a curiosity until they were able to build gas stations all over the place to make it a useful mode of transportation. Once gas starts to decline, the gas powered transportation again becomes a curiosity. It must be close, or we wouldn’t see the frantic activity in Detroit and elsewhere. If GM, Ford, and Chrysler are taking it seriously, shouldn’t we be also?

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