With Visions of Sugar-Plums Dancing in My Head

I’m feeling pretty darn good about 2013.  Economic crash be damned.

Just had a barely awake chat with KMO over at the C-Realm Podcast’s special programming called “The Vault.”  I was sleepy, as it was the day after Christmas, and DH and I did a crazy stint of driving, after we put our dino-dog-puppies to bed, then shot over to see my sister and extended family.

It was a great holiday.

The Shopping Gene?

My sister, who has an incredible talent for picking out clothes for me, chose a fantastic hat as my gift.  For those of you who know hats, it is impossible to pick out a hat for someone.  Not for my sister, though.  It looks smashing, if I do say so myself.

Biology did not evenly distribute the shopping gene in my family.  DH was proud of me, as I made my yearly sociological research into the wild mall during the holiday season a week ago.  I didn’t freak out, as I normally do, after an hour and say, panicked “I gutta get out of here.”  Instead, I walked diligently up and down, on both levels, people watching, store merchandise examining, and taking in the mood of the sales clerks.  Ya, folks, we’re in collapse.  At least where I live.

My sister, on the other hand, is an avid shopper, and really could make her living as a professional shopper, if she didn’t have this pesky nursing degree she uses quite well.  She loves the stores, the lights, the colors, the merchandise.  And she can pick out clothes for me I couldn’t imagine wearing.  She leaves me in the dressing room, and brings things into me where I can’t refuse to try it on.  The results always surprise me.  I never would have chosen that.  My daughter, by the way, inherited her shopping gene…

The MS Scare

And shortly before we went to my families for the holidays, I weighed myself for poops and giggles.  I’m not one for “dieting,” but I am invested in my health, and had a scare this past summer that my doctor thought could be MS (it wasn’t).  So thanks to this website, a dear-reader-friend send me this video, and something in me clicked.  I had been researching nutrition a lot this past 6 months anyway, and learning just how hard it is to get all of your nourishment without a lot of careful focus on what you eat.   The biggest problem is the volume you have to eat to get all of the nutrients.  And the variety of foods you have to eat.  And the cooking.

George Mateljan

This guy is a friggin genius.  His website is really fabulous.  I know quite a bit about nutrition, having studied it, and read Nutrition Action Newsletter by the Center for Science in the Public Interests magazine for decades, so I know that Mr. Mateljan has really combined practicality with rigid scientific standards…and of course I just agree with his food philosophy, which helps.  Another nutritionally knowledgeable gal I love to read is Nicole Foss from the Automatic Earth, in her private writings on Facebook.

What’s you ‘food philosophy’?

Do you know what I mean about ‘food philosophy?’

Take eggs.  There was a time when everyone said “Eggs are bad for you.”  I never bought that crappola.  Eggs?  You mean those things that cave people picked up and ate walking along in the springtime?  Those eggs?  Rubbish.  And, of course, after consolidating the egg industry into a few players, the word went out that eggs are excellent for you, now.  A great food.  And all the good stuff is in the yolk.  So to have a deep and complete understanding of food is very complex.  Knowing a little bit can make you dangerous to yourself.

But then, I took Mr. Mateljan’s website, and the simple idea of 9 cups of fruits/veggies a day, kefir grains and raw milk, and a LOT of a secret ingredient I’ll wait to reveal at the end of this post, and, well, I’m a new person.  After a month, the clothes just fit better, so I weighed myself.  I lost 20 lbs.  Now, being a big gal, you may not say “Holy Mackerel  Peak Shrink, you are THIN!” (unless you are delusional), but that’s not the point, or even the best news.

Not only did I lose that weight without trying, I just stopped the meds I take for S.A.D., because, heck, I just felt great.

Not good.  Not okay.  Not “well, it is winter and I have “Seasonal Affective Disorder,”  kind of “okay.” No.

I … FELT… GREAT.

I still do.

So okay, I’ve read how you should eat well.  Who on this green Earth hasn’t?  And I ate pretty well, considering the stuff the average American consumes.  But 9 cups of veggies/fruit?  Nah, I didn’t eat that good.  Or at least, not until now.

And I just cut out the only sugar I had straight up daily, which was in my coffee or tea, and put cinnamon in it instead.  It tastes sweet.

But I’ve noticed a lot of other differences too, like what I’m craving.  I’m doing all the cooking in the house, because while DH is a great cook, he can’t imagine how to cram in 9 cups of veggies a day.  And what I’m craving are the veggies.  I’m really craving them.  You might think I’d get sick of them, but maybe I’m missing some basic nutrient that veggies are meeting.  I could care less about the meat, but give me the extra greens.

But as I said before, you can’t really eat all that food and still have a ton of meat, or grains, or sweets for that matter.  There is literally no room in one’s stomach for it.

Farewell to Wet Cats and Hello to Song and Dance Numbers12344073_s

Now, DH will also tell  you that S.A.D. is a sucky thing for a spouse to have. Imagine  an angry wet cat that you half towel-dried, and you have me most winters.  The meds were the towel.  You could tell when S.A.D. was settling in, because I stopped singing.  No made-up songs, sung passionately to the dogs, no spontaneous lyric- switching tunes.  No quick fast ‘song and dance number,’ while calling the dogs in from outside.  Only, perhaps, an occasional Johnny Cash song that would bring me to tears, that even I knew was silly to cry about.

Now the song and dance numbers are part of my everyday life again.  And the dogs love it.  (DH loves it, too.)

Belly Laughs

But what is really striking is to hear myself on the radio belly-laughing with KMO.  Nothing fake about it.  I was really laughing, having a great time with KMO, and  you can hear it on that show.  And we started a “pre-interview” conversation about sex and sexually explicit videos, which was also interesting, and ended up talking about nutrition and my new diet.  Turns out KMO has a new diet too.  That talk he and I had was BEFORE the interview, but he obviously liked it enough to use it as is, and put the “real” interview on at a later time.

Now how this all relates to Peak Oil, is this:  There is no way I’m going to put up enough kale and spinach and broccoli and cauliflower, never mind strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc to keep even one person in 9 cups a day.  Not where I live, and not with my farming skills.  I take a giant bag of kale or spinach and DH and I eat half of it in one sitting.  Half!  Ya, I could eat the frozen stuff, and will, but could I put up enough for an entire winter?  Perhaps veggie glama-gals Sharon Astyk or Kathy Harrison can, but not me.  And there is talk of a winter CSA in my town, but I don’t know that it’s happening yet.

Kefir

In San Francisco, when I lived there, we pronounced  it “Kee-fur,” but that is so not hip now.  You pronounce it like this. (Can you get over a Youtube video to pronounce a word?)

However you say it, I hate buying yogurt because I resent the plastic it comes in.  So I discovered the Kefir Lady, and she sent me out this huge grain of kefir.  Making kefir is so, OMIGOD…simple.  I can’t believe they have so much literature on it, but, after all, people like to do things “right.”

Here are the Directions:

(1) Put kefir in a glass jar with milk and cover it with cloth to keep the bugs out.  Leave it on your counter.

(2) Taste it the next day and see if you like it.  If you do, drain out the grain, put fruit in it, or just drink it plain. (I happen to know for a fact that DH sneaks Odo’s Oil in my smoothies, to keep the Omega-3’s up…)  If you don’t like the taste, leave it on the counter another 6 hours then taste it again.  OR make a second batch and taste it earlier.

(3) Put the grain in milk and repeat the process.

Okay, you can’t put it in dead milk, which is “ultra-pasteurized.” But it still will grow in pretty crappy milk, just not so fast.  My kefir is fed the best milk, and soon we’ll have people bragging about the milk they feed their kefir, like they do about what they feed their dog.

Real milk, when it “turns,” still is good for you.  Dead milk is putrid and should be tossed.  So kefir is alive, and according to Wiki  is “bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteinslipids, and sugars, and this symbiotic matrix forms “grains” that resemble cauliflower.”  If you can’t drink cows milk, it grows in sheep or goats milk, and if you can’t drink milk, you can probably still drink kefir, because the grain eats all the stuff that probably gives you cramps.  (I’m not a medical doctor, so read up on it…)  But if you don’t want to drink milk there is water kefir too.  Or soy milkrice milk, or coconut milk.  And when you just can’t stand the thought of kefir anymore, put it in the refrigerator or freezer, and it will stop growing, or slow down dramatically.

Homemade Kefir is Best (of course)

As I have learned, after falling pretty far down the Rabbit Hole, is that almost anything you make yourself is better for you than the stuff you buy, and “homemade” kefir is no exception.  I can’t give you the numbers, but the homemade stuff has a ton more bacterial and yeast than the store bought stuff, which is, by the way, very expensive considering the three steps to making it I detailed above, and the fact that the kefir grain keeps growing, so you can give it to your friends.  Or sell it back to the Kefir Lady.  Apparently the store kefir has to count how many critters they put in there to be sure there is a respectable amount.  While on your kitchen counter, the critters just grow, not caring whether you measure them or not.

Are they GOOD Critters?

Now for the squeamish reader, these are GOOD critters, that once they hit your intestines, actually work to drive the BAD critters out of your intestines.  I’ve also read they are helpful to those who have ADHD, because apparently leaky gut is common in those with ADHD.  Kefir slows the digestion, so you are actually digesting more of your food.  Again, don’t quote me.

Dystopian Visions Brought on by Happiness

But all of this leads me to horrible visions of a nation or world who has turned to psychotropic drugs when our kids–who are eating school pizza, soda and hot pockets and calling it food– can’t concentrate, are allergic to everything, are sick constantly, and can’t pay attention.  And are grouchy and irritable, like wet cats.  So we throw a towel on them and call it “science.”  Believe me, in that state, I was grateful for the towel.

But to me, my friends, this is the dystopian world we live in, more frightening than zombies.  And instead of family meals, prepared with real food, 67% of us don’t eat together, and half of the rest have the TV on when we do.  That leaves 17% of a nation eating together in conversation.  I’m ranting now, so I’ll stop.

Final Secret

So, count me happy.  A happy, kefir eating, 9 cups a day-er, with one more secret to share:

Herring.

Okay, I probably pushed you too far, but ya, herring.  It is that little fish that is really plentiful, because all the big fish stocks that used to eat it are depleted. Herring is very high in the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, and if you ask me, it also induces a hypomanic high, which is psychologist talk for it makes you really happy.

Of course you also want to eat small herring and kippers, to keep your level of toxins to a minimum.  But even if you take 3-4 times the recreational dose of herring, rest assured you’ll have the Omega 3’s fighting the cancerous processes you’ll be digesting.  Some think, like breast milk, the benefits outweigh the risks.  So I eat it almost every day.  For breakfast.

So if you are wondering whether a change in diet might do you some good, as you slug away at your larder all winter, my vote is YES!  Hit the sauerkraut hard,  harvest the kale and Brussels sprouts as late as possible, and freeze those berries.  And if all else fails, go to the market and stock up.

You might be happier you did.

Geologists and Engineers are Today’s Peak Oil Cowboys

Cowboy


Hello Penelope Trunk readers!  She’s a great consultant!

She “outed me,” though.  I don’t like to talk about my clients, but I do like to work with engineers, geologists, and those in the energy sector. However, I’d never name names.

These are men of action, and they know how to do things.  I have an ‘I-can-do-that’ envy.

Not all of these guys have woken up to the reality of Peak Oil.  The guy at Peak Engineering believes there are six reasons for this:

(1)  Everything still looks normal.

“Just look around you — there are no signs of Peak Oil”.

(2) Supply and Price

Older guys remember that when the price of oil goes through the roof, so do the investment dollars.

“For example, forty years ago the offshore industry in the Gulf of Mexico consisted primarily of small, four leg platforms in shallow water (less than 1000 feet). As production from these platforms declined and oil prices went up, so the industry was able to move into deeper and deeper waters, with considerable success.”

(3)  Technology- évidemment

(4)  Crying Wolf

“I heard this once before, and it all turned out to be exaggerated and misleading. Fool me once: shame on you; fool me twice: shame on me.”

(5)  Imagination

“We don’t serve neutrinos here,” says the bartender.
A neutrino walks into a bar.

(That’s an Internet physics joke)

Look at this great letter I got from a geologist in 2006:

Good Evening Peak Shrink,

I found your website a few weeks ago and have spent several evenings reading the stories and going through the site. After some debate while reading your website, I thought I might add a different perspective from a person that has the means and the past to deal with this issue in his own way.

First of all, I used to literally live in the oil field. I am a Professional Geologist by trade. I used to direct oil rigs drilling for oil. For many years I averaged 30 weeks a year in the field, babysitting drilling rigs. After a few years of gaining experience, I became a wildcatter with a fellow Geologist, started a independent oil company in [MidWest]and eventually found a nice oil field on the [MidWest] line. My partner and I found several other minor oil wells and we were eventually bought out by our rich [Western US] investors. I kept my royalties/working interest and now I find it most ironic, that I am spending my oil money in preparation for Peak Oil. I would add that I have watched my own oilfields hit Peak Oil and start their own decline curves, the same as they all will do worldwide, with time.

I learned about Peak Oil about 15 months ago from a wall street Market Watch article on stock investing, and since then I have dedicated a part of nearly every day in preparation for this event. I have read and own most all of the Peak Oil books. My library of books concerning Solar, Gardening, Root Cellaring, Organic Farming, Alternate Energy, etc., etc. has grown large enough to stock a small book case and I have read every one of them, several of them more than once.

I was divorced 16 years ago and raised my 20 year-old daughter as a single parent. Now that she is in college, I live alone. I have made several moves to prepare for peak oil. At first, I reacted as many of you have when learning and understanding the concept Peak Oil. I was in a daze for several weeks unsure of “what to do”. I overreacted by immediately purchasing a -40 degree sleeping bag, a water purification kit, a solar battery charger, a solar powered radio and a few other small items including a lot of ammunition for the several guns that I own. As I became more convinced that the books and articles were correct, I decided to make several moves that would enhance my country home and make me more self sufficient. I am in the camp of the early peakers. I think we are about there, but not quite. Mexico showed us a few things this year when they made up our lost Prudhoe Bay production (way to go BP). Now we have found what looks to be a major oil field producing from a new horizon in the Gulf. This all will help delay Peak Oil and give us time to get ready.

Fortunately, I live on 20 acres with lots of woods, a lake and a view, located in rural Nebraska. The house I built nine years ago is a very energy efficient home. I built this house to withstand the wind, cold and in general, the worst of Nebraska weather, 2X6 walls, R-50 insulation, triple pane gas filled windows, big garage protecting the house from the North winds, etc. Because I have a great job and with my oilfield money, I have taken some steps that many of your readers have wished they could do and some have. I feel very fortunate. Maybe I am still over-reacting, but these actions should make me more self sufficient and increase the value of the house, when the time comes for my daughter to sell it because I am not around. I try to take a conservative line just in case we are wrong about when Peak Oil will occur. If it’s later than sooner, she can sell this place and deal with Peak Oil in her own way. I have talked to her about it, starting to get her familiar with the concept. She and her boyfriend have been very receptive to the issue as much as 20 year olds can be. She thinks some of the stuff I have done is pretty cool and probably a little weird.

I have spent the last nine months designing and installing a 1.35 Kilowatt off-the-grid solar power system for the house. I was amused that the last time my daughter came up to visit, she headed directly downstairs to see how I was progressing on the project. She likes to look at the solar electrical equipment hanging on the wall in the laundry room. Not to mention the bright red Rolls Surrette batteries sitting in their enclosure being recharged each day. I have recently brought the system on line and hey, it’s not that hard to live with an all 120 volt solar powered house. My power company actually called me this week to warn me that I may have read the meter wrong because it was 1/4 of what is has been. I had to laugh and explain to her that the reading was right. The 220 volt stuff like the well pump is still on the grid and so is the fridge, the electric oven and the AC/Heating, but every one of those items can be swapped out for propane or wood and they will be soon. The only thing I can’t find a good alternative for is the well pump. My well is 450 deep and it takes a 240 volt pump to bring the water to the surface and pressurize a house. However, advances are being made even for that problem.

This summer I put in a 40 X 50 foot garden, importing the top 22 inches of top soil and removing same from the gardens location. Our soil here is pure clay so I overexcavated the garden area with a track Caterpillar and removed about 150 cubic yards of clay and replaced it with good black dirt. Since then I am growing veggies organically. No synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The entire garden is surrounded with multiple layers of solar powered electric fence to keep the critters out. It works well and the food is great.

The last project for this year is a high end wood burning stove installation. I am going to install a Vermont Castings wood burning stove. That little project is already underway as I am reinforcing around one attic roof truss that I must cut, to center the stove in the room. Once the truss work is finished, the stove installation will be easy. It will be in by the end of October. I have been cutting, splitting and selling all the wood from my acreage with friends for nine years, no more. The wood is now being stockpiled for me and the stove.

Last winter I purchased a Honda Civic that is currently getting 41.4 MPG, because I drive 97% two lane highway at 60 MPH, 20 miles to get to work. The Honda is not a hybrid. The car replaced my 3/4 ton Chevy pick-up that got 12 MPG.

My lake is stocked with edible fish and is self supporting with bluegills, catfish and bass. Fishing will be my retirement one way or the other. Either for survival or hopefully, for just the sport and an occasional fish supper.

So I have addressed several energy issues and self sufficiency issues the first year, and there will be more to come I would like an “on demand” water heater, a propane powered stove, high efficiency fridge (Sun Frost) and a root cellar. I would also like to add to the solar system to include 240 volt. We’ll work on that the next year. I don’t talk to many people about Peak Oil, when they see what I have done, especially the big solar array that sits beside my house and follows the sun, I just tell them it’s time to address the higher cost of energy and that I believe it will go much higher soon. I think they get the feeling that I am probably right, but little is said. Like the books say, everyone hates bad news. The one person that will talk about the future with me, is my electrician who helped me install the solar system. He thinks that I am doing the right thing and is making some moves himself. I have another friend who is well versed on Peak Oil, but has lived a sustainable life style for many years, way before we ever considered the concept of Peak Oil. He lives in a beautiful straw bale designed house on 20 acres that is heated solely by wood and grows and raises much of his own food. He has a wife and three kids. He is way ahead of me and I envy him. He has bees for honey, chickens for eggs and meat, goats for milk, an organic garden, a large greenhouse and participates in farming partnerships with his neighbors for other food items.

So in my first year I have enhanced the value of my home and my lifestyle. I feel nothing is wrong with that, and it gives me something to do during my free time. Are these things the right things to do? I think so but who knows really, Peak Oil has never happened before, and what will actually happen is anyone’s guess. But I do know the wolf is truly at the door and our Government as well as most people are doing nothing about this issue, and don’t have a clue that something bad is coming. Our railroads are in miserable shape and our government still protects the American auto manufacturer, so we continue to use oil for transportation at a ridiculous rate. Mother earth has had just about enough and soon we all will have to deal with reality, one way or another. The global economy is about to come to an end and as a guy with a degree in science, (geology) it will be most interesting to watch for as long as I can.

I am enjoying this evening writing this note with my computer running on today’s sun and it’s a great feeling. Makes me think that if the population as a whole will start to make some basic changes like I have, and many of you have, then we will be fine. We have just got to get started and that’s the hardest part.

Good luck to you all out there. I have enjoyed your articles. It’s interesting hearing from the folks across the rest of the country on this issue and what you are doing about it. Keep up the good work.

Former Wildcatter Eating Bass

 

He’s writing on his solar powered computer!

Or this engineer who wrote me privately;

“Keep in mind I am living in two worlds: in my professional life in a huge, conservative, fossil fuel extraction corporation, and in my private life in a small, liberal, renewable energy supporting community. My professional life is extremely lucrative and quite frankly boring, but it supports my personal life. Last year, I worked professionally on multimillion dollar work in coal mining and Canadian oilsands mining; but I also converted a car from diesel to waste vegetable oil which I drive regularly; installed a small wind turbine; installed a micro hydro plant and; took a course in photovoltaics.

Here is the thing: each world perceives the other world as a threat, so I am a threat to both, but the hard reality is that neither one can achieve their agenda without the other, and they are both in denial about that. I am sort of a bridge between both – I’m groping with what kind of bridge, but I guess one day I will figure it out.

 

This same guy cured his own severe diabetes through diet change, while traveling half the year on business trips.

These are the real tough “cowboys” in today’s world.  And these are men who’d like to think  that talking to a psychologist is in the same light as having their palms read, or signing up to compete in a high school popularity contest…but they know better.  Eating bass alone gets, well, lonely. They don’t like is to have to talk about their feelings or their fears. They prefer to fix and build stuff.  They like to solve problems, but maintaining a satisfying marriage is one of those things that they try to fix, but it just doesn’t stay fixed.  So being practical people, they look for someone who knows that we’ve got big problems AND can talk about the feelings stuff and specializes in fixing marriages.

And then they are shocked when I tell them I have to speak to their wives.

“Why the fudge do you have to do that?”

But I insist, and they are stunned that their wives are delighted to talk to anybody about how to get through to their husbands.  Even some psychologist who calls herself a “Peak Shrink.”  And if their husbands are willing to talk to a psychologist, they want to know how I did it.

How do you get him to talk to  you?

But that is secondary.  I tell her that that’s not the important part.  The important part is my teaching her how to talk to him. And visa verse.

I think part of the trick for why this all works, and they start really talking and cooperating with each other is that… I’m a groupie .

I admire the modern day energy cowboys.  I see them offering us hope for a better future.

 

Let’s Promote Farming as a Sexy Profession

 

 

This is a reprint of a post I did in April of 2008, but the topic is still relevant, and I’m getting too many letters from hot guys who find no hot babes just because US farmer are mostly made up of old guys, and poor migrant workers.   The truth is, a lot of really smart, capable young people are learning about and becoming farmers of a different sort, but they’re facing discrimination, and that’s just got to stop.  I’ll be publishing an email from just such a dude soon.

We’ve got to “update our image” of farmers, and in this post, I suggest we consider using unemployed Hollywood screen writers and the lucrative adult entertainment industry to help. Arab television is doing its part. Check out the babe in the panel below, and read the post for full details.

It’s sort of a crazy idea, but do let me know what you think. I’ve come across too many hot but lonely farmers to allow this trend to continue.

Eat much?

Well if you do, it is time to love a young farmer who’s tired of coming home to an empty house.  And with the price of food continuing to rise, we’ll see smart organic farmers making a decent living in the near future!

Just my humble opinion.

April 2008:

I went to see Richard Heinberg speak. He said “We’ll need 50 million new farmers.” During the question and answer period, a guy said “I live in the country. If we are going to face rising gas prices, and driving will cost more money, should I move into a city?” The guy just couldn’t imagine being a farmer!

Therefore, its time to face this question of how to make farming more attractive.

Fit As A Farmer

Forget the fiddle, farming is hard work, and leaves you very fit.  Let’s stop trashing “farmers’ tans” and start looking at the muscles underneath those tees.
Assuming our farmers need to be at least as fit as our military, we have about 60 million people aged 18-49 here in the USA, that are available to train as military, that could now be trained, instead, as farmers.

Would this leave enough US fighting men and women to invade foreign lands and steal their remaining oil reserves?

Consider this:

During World War II, the armed forces included about 56% of the total number (16 million) men eligible for military service (eligible based on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.) This represented about 12 percent of the population. Now, 56% of our “fit to fight” (I mean “fit to farm”) would equal 33,692,823. Still short of the 50 mil needed, Richard, but hey, it’s a start!

And when you realize that only 1.4 million of these “Fit for Farming” folks are currently IN active-duty, heck, the US, at least, have plenty to spare!

The task, of course, is huge. First there is training, and our current population of farmers are super-agri-business farmers, and still only represent .6% of the current work force, and to boot it’s an aging population. But we can do it. We just need an idle workforce…

Taking Time Out to Sow Your Seeds

We used to whistle while we work…

But now, consider this:

• On average, workers spend 21 hours per week online at the office
• 30-40% of lost productivity is accounted for by cyber-slacking.
• 30 to 40% of internet access is spent on non work related browsing, and a staggering 60% of all online purchases are made during working hours.
• 32.6% of workers surf the net with no specific objective; men are twice
as likely as women.
• 90 percent of employees feel the Internet can be addictive, and 41 percent admit to personal surfing at work for more than three hours per week.
• 70% of all Internet porn traffic occurs during the nine-to-five work day.

In other words, “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”

So, with a labor force of 153.1 million, and 35.5%, in managerial, professional, and technical sales, and another 24.8% office, that’s 60% of our workforce, just imagine what could be accomplished if we could harness that energy spent in “shopping/surfing/flirting/porn.” Hey, employers, let’s face it: there just isn’t enough thrill to keep us interested at work.

So if they are paying us, anyway, let’s leave work and begin farming.

How to make this popular?

Farming: The Next New Movement

First, the Slogan campaign:

• “I’d Rather Be Farming”
• “Don’t Give Me a Raise, Give Me a Raised Bed!”
• “I Raise My Crops to Raise my Arousal!”
• “I like Hoes.”
• The old standby: “Farmers ‘Do It’ Better in Hot Beds.”
• And for the religious: “Let-tuce Pray.”


The Cyberporn community must lead the way:

• Instead of MILF-Hunters, we need VILTP Hunters: “Vegetables I’d Love to Plant!”

Of course women with sexy vegetables is an overworked genre, but sex in the garden while harvesting is not:

She: “I can’t Honey, our tomatoes should be taken in.”
He: “No, Sweetheart, your tomatoes should be taken out!

Playboy Magazine could put out a “Plantboy” issue, with ‘PlantMate of the Month‘ saying dumb things like “I help farmers sow their seeds!

The fashion industry must cooperate by showing farming clothes as the new “sexy, smart” work attire. Carhartts, farmer jeans and reinforced boots as fashion statements.

TV producers need to produce more “farm dramas,” where “sexy young people show off their muscles and calves.

tired farm girl
“Women say ‘Yes!” to Men who say ‘Grow!'”

Of course, plenty of women are farming as well.

By the way, those hunky pin-ups in the top picture are Jay and John McPherson, both University of Washington graduates in their twenties who have chosen orchards over corporate America. Both brothers run the farmers market in Seattle, and home delivery service of Tiny’s Organic Fruit, their family business. The writer, Ritzy Ryciak, clearly a farmer’s friend, writes: “Local is in, pesticides are out, and somewhere along the way sustainability has gotten sexy. . .It’s not just the peas and carrots that are looking good. . .

Jay McPherson, a 25-year-old organic farmer with aquamarine eyes and arm muscles as supple as the peaches he peddles, offers sliced samples of his family’s fruit—pluots, doughnut peaches and the best Gala apples I have ever tasted.

“Jay is dressed in a white tank top, apron and jeans. Since when did sexy and sustainable keep showing up in the same sentence?

“And then there’s Jay’s brother, John…

“The duo is enough to make any female stop and sample.

That paragraph is the kind of sexy sap writing about farmer we need to see more of.

We knew that if the public had a chance to taste our product, that it would just take off,” explains John, who, three years ago helped his family shift from the wholesale model of fruit sales into farmers markets and direct marketing.”

And the sexy starlet getting her manicure messed up? You caught me. She is NOT a farmer, but just plays one on the hit Arab Reality TV show ” Al Wadi” (“The Farm,” based on the French original). She’s the hyper-popular video clip star, buxom Lebanese Shia sensation Haifa Wehbe. “…when Al Arabiya TV’s Website reported on Al Wadi, those stories were almost always the “most viewed” and “most e-mailed” stories of the day.” The contestants who compete on this ‘farm,’ are from Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Morocco and Tunisia. But, Haifa Wehbe is the “principal” or “director” or “manager” of the farm.

How to Be Maladaptive: Fourteen Tips for Mental Activities Guaranteed to Enhance your Misery during Bad Times

Those who learn about Peak Oil, climate change, and economic hard times show a series of short-lived symptoms of stress over several months, but these are normal and expected reactions to these stunning findings.  Roughly 50-60% of adults in North America are exposed to traumatic events, but only 5% to 10% develop maladjusted PTSD and related problems.  What sorts of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors promote the development of longer-term traumatic reactions? Read on:

1. Mess with your sense of agency:

Put yourself into double-binds where you are either totally responsible for everything that happens to you or totally helpless to modify the course of events.

“I’m Totally Responsible!”

If you choose this route, you should entertain any and all thoughts that suggest your culpability and negligence or that will intensify your feelings of guilt and shame: “I should never have gotten into so much debt! What could I have been thinking?!? I am such a loser!”

Let others in on your asinine behavior, prepping them with lines such as “wasn’t that really stupid of me?”  Choose people (such as those who hate debt) who will be more than happy to assist you in believing that you are, indeed, a loser, lazy or stupid. Their help will reinforce your thinking, making this a particularly easy option to accomplish.

“I have no control!”

Or, if you prefer to be totally helpless, repeat “I have no control over anything,” whenever you begin to feel a sense of direction, possibility, or purpose. This should be repeated like a mantra.  “I have no control over anything. I have no control over my feelings or thoughts. I have no control over my actions. I have no control over (fill in the blank.)”  Focus on ignoring the basics that are most impactful to people right after a disaster, such as food, water, shelter, coordinating the reunification with loved ones, and health care supplies.  Don’t think out possible outcomes, alternatives, and the like.  Remain as ignorant as possible to the areas of control you do have.

2. Perfect your paranoia:

Don’t let down your guard! Be hyper-vigilant, ruminating, and brooding.

There are two versions of this option you can choose from, depending on your natural bent. The first is the milder form and involves entertaining thinking that goes against countervailing wisdom just BECAUSE it is contrary.  Act counter to expert advice, even in cases when it agrees with your own best evaluation. Then, worry that you aren’t doing anything constructive.  Repeat.
The second version is for the more hard-core. This involves monitoring the “doomer news” multiple times every day and searching for deeper “meanings” or patterns in past and current events that will help you uncover the “why” questions for which there are no satisfactory answers. As an adjunct to this, continually share your most outlandish theories with family, friends, and strangers, especially during times of intense conflict and stress between you. Be sure to talk as fast as possible, as loudly as possible, as insistently as possible, and connect every conversation back to your theories. Be single-minded.
As Churchill reminded us:  A fanatic is someone who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
Emulate this.
As your family, friends, and acquaintances begin to avoid you, tie this in as evidence of their involvement in the conspiracy or blame it on their utter “sheeple-ness.”  Feel free to share this opinion with them.

3. Focus on the personal “unfairness” of the situation:

Make yourself the victim:

“I’m a walking target!” “Other people have it better than I do. Why is my life so much worse than everybody else’s?” “Why do I have to have problems other people don’t have to have?” “What did I do to deserve this?”  “Why me?”  “Why now?”

Look at others whose situations appear better than yours and envy or blame them. “That jackass! He’s an idiot! What did he do to deserve a doomer retreat in the hills and a Prius while here I am stuck in a crappy suburb driving a gas-guzzling SUV?” You have to be capable of lots of self-deception to do this one well; rationality is your enemy.  If they have no retirement accounts, resent them that they’ve got nothing to lose if the market crashes.  “Ya, sure.  It is easy for them.  They’ve never had anything to lose, so what do they care!”

If you have ever engaged in sports or watched them on TV, you will have incorporated the winners and losers mentality, the competitive drive, which will assist you in this endeavor. Just feel your “Inner Loser;” this will motivate you to feel victimized, because after all, we all want and deserve to be winners.

Believe nothing positive will result from the experience.

4. Assume you are worthless or incompetent:

Emphasize how incapable you are of dealing with the new reality and how you can’t rely on yourself for anything. Reiterate over and over that you have no skills and couldn’t, for example, grow a garden if your life depended on it (and when you realize your life does depend on it, go on to Number 5).

Believe that anything you do to try to mitigate the effect of hard times will be inadequate, wrong-headed, and counterproductive.  See yourself as continually vulnerable and dwell on how your inability to cope will bring you and your family to the brink of utter destruction and beyond.

Reject any attempts at goal-setting as fruitless and if you do make a “Goal, Plan, Do, Check” approach, lose the list or don’t follow through with it.

5. Engage in “head in the sand” behavior:

Persistently pine for the days when you were ignorant of what was coming and believe that this ignorance was bliss.

Better yet, refuse to believe any evidence of current financial, cultural, political, or environmental degradation or devolution. When you have to come up for air, be sure to keep your eyes and ears covered; after all, as long as you can’t see or hear it, it is not a reality in your world.  TV is safe to watch, even the nightly news.

6. Don’t allow yourself to feel bad:

Instead, medicate stress

Drugs, alcohol, sleep, or lots of ice cream (or chocolate, if you prefer) and any other avoidant behaviors you can devise. Then, assume that you are overreacting to the stress that everyone else is effectively coping with better than you. Use more drugs, alcohol, sleep, and sweets to keep yourself from feeling bad about that.  You will have bought into a perfect circle of feeling bad, self-medicating, feeling bad, self-medicating…

Ignore relaxation-based interventions such as controlled breathing techniques or mindfulness strategies that have proven to be effective.  Ignore your ‘body wisdom.’

7. Focus on what other people think of you:

Be preoccupied with their opinions of you and be sure to assume the worst.

If there are people in your life who think well of you, you must discount their opinions, cut them short, reject a  complement, look down, and walk away with a scowl. It should be obvious they either don’t know you very well or they aren’t very bright. If they do know you well and they are bright, assume you have hidden the worst from them. Focus on the people in your life who you imagine think badly about you; hyper-focus on them. Then, be angry or rejecting toward them for what you imagine they must be thinking.  As you acquire more evidence for their negative opinions, obsess even more.  And, finally, allow what you imagine they think of you to dictate your behavior, so that you are acting counter to your own intuitions and truths. This will help to divorce you from your internal beacon of what is right or wrong and will  cause you to flounder about in indecision and confusion. It will cause you to distrust yourself. It will also help to deaden you emotionally.

8. Project future doom:

No matter how bad things get, always assume the worst is yet to come.

If you still have a job, imagine joblessness.  If you still have family who love you, imagine their death or abandonment. If you are hungry, imagine starvation will soon kill you. If you are cold, assume you’ll freeze to death.

This is the slippery slope option. Climb up and start on down.  Make no distinction between “then and there” and “here and now.”  Overgeneralize.   Assume an endless state of doom, a huge on-going collapse that will keep you in a permanent state of terror.   See yourself as the father in the movie “The Road” who never reaches the coast. Imagine not only what might happen, but how you will be particularly susceptible, vulnerable, AND helpless to impact it.  Don’t try to rein in your imaginings; really let yourself go.  Share these flights of fantasy with your nearest and dearest, especially those with tender sensitivities. This will hasten your abandonment and bring you evidence that you are right. And it is always nice to be proven correct.

9. Convince yourself that you are on your own:

Assume no one is safe, predictable, or trustworthy, especially those closest to you.

Include your spouse, relatives, and best friends. Better yet, assume that everyone is acting against your best interests. Give no one the benefit of the doubt. Twist something you overheard into a damaging accusation of you. Be courageous in your convictions. If  you can find no bad intentions or untrustworthiness, you can at least  believe that everyone around you is stupid and/or ignorant and makes bad decisions, so that you would be unsafe if you followed their ideas or advice. I mean, chances are excellent that those closest to you are incompetent and worthless, since they are associating with you, so that makes it doubly imperative that you rely on no one but yourself. And, I know there must be some people of your close acquaintance who are moody, volatile, changeable, and just flat out wacky. Assume you must come up with all the answers by yourself, must do all the work yourself, are all alone in the midst of a maelstrom with no anchor.

Ignore those who have survived hard times and don’t listen to their accounts of how they felt and what they did to survive.  Grieve and memorialize in private, assuming no one could possibly help you by engaging in social problem-solving or exploring meaning.

10. Be vigilant against change:

Believe nothing good will come from any attempt to improve any situation.

Counteract any thought that there could be positive benefits from making changes by projecting even worse outcomes for those actions. Be vigilant. Vigilance in this instance implies rigidity. Stand unbending; do not sway in the breeze like a tree. Rigidity means not just rigidity of posture; it means not just rigidity of action; it also means rigidity of thought. Keep your same beliefs, your same opinions, your same values, your same routines, your same activities, your same skills, your same abilities regardless of what changes in your outer world. After all, those changes are always for the worst, aren’t they? You’ve got plenty of evidence for that; just marshal your data and start spouting.  It follows, does it not…that change is a bad idea in ALL instances? Rigidity is the way of the vigilant future warrior who makes war against the future.

11. Be guided by meaninglessness:

Believe that life has lost all meaning and value.

Most of us have some family or cultural history, and some have religious faith to bolster our self-confidence.  Reject these as meaningless to the situation at hand.  Assume your higher power has rejected you. Wallow in depressive “What’s the use?” thoughts while lying on your bed and staring at the mottled ceiling. Count the cobwebs in the corners. When your loved ones try to roust you out of bed, tell them to  leave you alone; fight with them; drive them away. If you are of a studious inclination, read Nietzsche; embrace nihilism; throw out your moral principles; lose faith in everything. Or, alternatively, if you haven’t got the energy to give up, watch TV.  The twin goals of propaganda and distraction will dull you. Embrace shallowness, and allow meaninglessness to permeate your environment and your thinking.

12. Perfect the fine art of blame:

Whenever anything bad happens, don’t waste your time trying to come up with solutions; instead, ask whose fault it is.

Blame others by actively targeting your anger. Whose fault is it? The government’s fault?  The oil companies’? The corporations’?  Your employer’s?  Your in-laws’?  Your spouse’s fault?   You can while away many happy hours in this pursuit. Surround yourself with other people who share your villain, so you can reinforce each other’s beliefs.  “Those g-damn mother-f-king sons a-itches! If it weren’t for them, we’d still have a good life. We’d still have jobs; we’d still have houses; we wouldn’t be living in this tent city waiting for the next measly food hand-out.”

But, in the sad event that you can find no one else to blame, turn your hand around and point your finger at yourself; at least that way, you can feel guilt, shame, and humiliation and won’t lose out entirely. Whatever you do, don’t plan to take any action or cause any trouble.  Just complain.  It’s easier and safer.

13. Shun social support:

When facing crises, deny to others that you are experiencing any negative feelings.   Make up weird excuses as to why you are crying, kicking things, refusing to leave your room. If you get on a weirdness loop and stay on it, you will soon feel really crazy, and then you will act crazier, and then you will feel even crazier and, well, you get the picture. Or, alternatively, blurt out your feelings and thoughts without regard to the setting, picking the most unsupportive people to confide in, thus guaranteeing that they will fail to understand or empathize with you.

Cultivate an air of indifference, criticism, and “you’re an idiot” reactions to others. When they act in like manner to you, use that as evidence that you were correct in your loner stance.

Don’t tell your story about what happened to you and how you felt about it.  Assume you have nothing to learn from others and nothing to offer them.

14. Control every emotion & thought or none of them:

Actively attempt to control all unwanted thoughts either by dissociation, suppression, by engaging in repetitive undoing behaviors, or through magical thinking.  Alternatively, lose it emotionally.

Think positively no matter how negative the situation may seem. Let nothing less than perfect sunshine enter your consciousness. Use addictive substances, if necessary, to paint reality with a rosy glow; stick with your normal routine even though, by any objective standards, it has become irrelevant; continue to believe nothing bad can happen as long as you don’t believe it can.  Assume you are going crazy if you are unable to dissociate, suppress, or otherwise keep at bay these unwanted thoughts. At all costs, refuse to think about the possibility of lack of abundance, discomfort, deprivation, insecurity, pain, disease, or the death of yourself or a loved one.

Refuse to come to terms with any aspect of reality; this might lead to living in the here and now and enjoying the time you have, which is certainly not maladaptive behavior and, therefore, cannot be allowed.

If you can’t control all of your thoughts and emotions, try to control none of them.  Model emotional dis-regulation.  Laugh hysterically; then, cry pitifully.  Demand attention for no real reason. Make a nuisance out of yourself by taxing everyone’s patience and then crying out “Everybody’s mad at me!” Freak out under pressure, lose it over the slightest difficulty. (“We’re all going to DIE!)  Refuse to accept what is right in front of you and show little tolerance for things not being perfect.  Focus on the past or the future, but don’t focus on what is immediately in front of you.  When things begin to calm down, stir them up again by doing dangerous or thrill-seeking or sensation-seeking actions because “nothing matters anyway…”

But if you aren’t really into being miserable…

In a real crisis, survivors keep their heads while other people are losing theirs.  They set important personal goals and take incremental, purposeful actions to achieve them.  They not only offer help to other people, but they seek help themselves when they need it.  They engage in acts of kindness, connect with others, and don’t reject help.  They tell themselves they can get through it, while acknowledging full well that they may not make it.  They believe in themselves.  They see all experience as offering them something they can learn from.  They aren’t afraid to look at awful feelings, the worst in themselves, and still believe in the best they have to offer.  They actively prepare themselves for what they can realistically do, and prepare to the best of their abilities, incrementally.  They aren’t afraid of change, because they accept that it it inevitable.  They savor daily pleasures that they never knew were valuable before the disaster.  They see the disaster as having unexpected benefits like bringing people closer, accepting responsibility for other people, recognizing their personal limitations, and how things could have been worse than they turned out to be.  What is important to them changes.  They see new possibilities and goals to work on.  They learn about strengths they never knew they had, and chose life instead of death.  They don’t see themselves as ‘victims,’ and they don’t expect other people to rescue them.  They see their survival as having a purpose, and accept the responsibility to keep alive the memories and stories of those who did not make it.  They don’t see themselves as heroes or villains even when they did heroic or less than positive things.  They can put to words or in some other form of expression what happened to them without minimizing or hiding important parts.  They have learned how to be compassionate with themselves as well as others.  Their religious beliefs have been strengthened, not weakened, and they appreciate their lives more than ever before.

Footnote:  Donald Meichenbaum, professor at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, wrote a great article  on resilience in children and adults facing traumatic situations.  This post owes major credit from his section “A Constructive Narrative Perspective of Persistent PTSD.”

Hidden History of Cooperation in America

Fewer and fewer people are happily employed, according to Derek Bok, former President of Harvard, in his latest book. The only thing Americans hate more than working is commuting, but when he considers how we can get happier, he suggests doing less of neither. Being an unhappy worker seems to be a normal, natural condition, but is it? Our hidden history of working together says it is not.

Part of the puzzle in figuring out why income alone doesn’t make people jolly can be resolved by examining the active protests that happened when Americans moved from being self-employed to becoming employees. The revolt is part of the hidden history of cooperatives and communialism in America, written in a riveting book by John Curl called “For All the People.” This book goes a long way to answer the question of what people did during times of trouble.

A funny thing happens on the way down the limited resources slide: People get increasingly greedy or people become more cooperative, collective and communal.

Think of it this way: we’d have pretty dumb genes if, in a group of 100 people, we were all looking to be ‘top dog.’ What we truly despise is being ‘bottom dog.’

Wage Slaves
Today, few people understand the meaning of my tee-shirt that reads: “Work is the blackmail of survival.” Today, we understand that “work” means “employment.” This would not have been so two hundred years ago.

For the American living before 1800, a ‘wage slave’ was a mere step removed from an actual slave. To be an employee was one step above indentured servitude. You did it when necessity demanded, but only for as short a period of time as possible, and then returned to become more independent—your own boss.

The story of how we became ‘wage slaves,’ and the multiple revolts against this station, is a fascinating one, and part of our ‘untold history.’

In 1800, few worked as wage-earners. By 1870, over half the workforce were employees; by 1940, over 80% worked for someone else and in 2007, 92% accepted a salary. If increasing wages don’t satisfy us, it is, perhaps, because deep within our souls we recognize the fact that ‘wage slave’ is a ‘low dog’ position, a vulnerable and dependent state.

A wage slave is “someone who feels compelled to work in return for wages in order to survive.” The notion that wage work is coerced by social conditions, and is actually a form of slavery, is a notion that arose early in the transformation of wage-earning, 1836, as women in Lowell became millworkers.

From that point onward, “early American workers planned to accomplish their liberation from wage slavery by substituting for it a system based on cooperative work and by constructing parallel institutions that would supersede the institutions of the wage system.” Curl p.3

By the 1880’s the population had reached 50 million, and by 1886, 1 in 12 wage-earners over 15 years old (1 million) were members of the Knights of Labor. Their goal was not simply to improve working conditions and wages, but “to raise members out of wage slavery entirely.” Opposition to wages took the form of protective and mutual –aid organizations, including unions, cooperatives, and parties.

Farmers Revolt
Farmers were an essential aspect of this movement. After the Civil War, many small farmers:

“…effectively became financial captives to the railroads, middlemen and bankers, with most of their land in mortgage. To fight back the greatest farmer associations of the 19th century—the National Grange in the 1870’s and the Farmers’ Alliance in the late 1880’s—also organized extensive cooperative networks that today would be considered counter-institutional.”

The Farmer’s alliance had “over three million members, opened the first of an extensive network of cooperatives that they planned as the agricultural backbone of a newly structured cooperative economic system.” They were, in the words of historian Michael Schwartz, “the most ambitious counter-institutions ever undertaken by an American protest movement.” Curl, p. 5.

Self-Help Movements
When the Great Depression fell upon the American public, Self-Help organizations sprang up as a “spontaneous mass movement” and became a part of daily life for many people. By the end of 1932, there were self-help organizations in over 37 states with 300,000 members (equivalent to 2.1 million people today). Their work involved direct exchanges of goods and services (partially in cash), cooperative production for sale or trade. The largest group, in Seattle, WA, the Unemployed Citizens League (UCL) had twenty-two local commissaries around the city where food and firewood was available for exchange for every type of service and commodity from home repairs to doctors bills. Local farmers gave unmarketable fruits and vegetables over to their members to pick and people gained the right to cut firewood on scrub timberland.

In Pennsylvania, not a jury in the state was willing to convict the 20,000 unemployed miners who formed cooperative teams and trucked out and sold coal on company property. Company police attempting to stop them were met with force.

Today
Today, over 120 million people in the US are members of 48,000 cooperatives, about 40% of the population. Yet, remarkably, there are only 300 worker cooperative businesses.

We stand on the cusp of one of the bleakest periods in human history when the bright lights of a civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity. The elites have successfully convinced us that we no longer have the capacity to understand the revealed truths presented before us or to fight back against the chaos caused by economic and environmental catastrophe. As long as the mass of bewildered and frightened people, fed images that permit them to perpetually hallucinate, exist in this state of barbarism, they may periodically strike out with a blind fury against increased state repression, widespread poverty and food shortages. But they will lack the ability and self-confidence to challenge in big and small ways the structures of control. The fantasy of widespread popular revolts and mass movements breaking the hegemony of the corporate state is just that – a fantasy. Chris Hedges

“Worker cooperatives offer a way for people to get out of the boss system entirely, and to reorganize their lives on a different basis. They still offer this today. They proffer group self-employment to people without the resources to start a business alone. They empower their members through internal democracy and increased job security in place of the typical hierarchical command. Cooperatives provide innumerable goods and services at cost. Beyond the benefits to the lives of the individual members, worker cooperatives–and all cooperatives–offer numerous other benefits to community and society.” Curl

Is the rarity of worker cooperatives a natural outcome of global capitalism or was it destroyed by a coordinated effort by those in opposition to this form of business? Read For All People for one answer. One thing is sure: as the price of oil continues to rise, we’ll have decisions to make about how we want to spend our time and provide for our needs.

As we consider the possibilities, we can take heart that we have a long history of rejecting or reluctantly accepting the role of “employee”.

Our Daily Bread
Unable to secure Hollywood-studio backing for his Depression-era agrarian drama Our Daily Bread, director King Vidor financed the picture himself, with the eleventh-hour assistance of Charles Chaplin. It demonstrated this spirit in a fictional rendition called “Our Daily Bread.” This film clip will give you a flavor for the kind of spirit that captured the cooperative movement during the Great Depression here or the entire film here.

If you enjoy that movie, you may want to purchase the film which also contains numerous other shorts about actual cooperatives and environmental damage that contributed to the Great Depression.

Here’s a link.

The revolution has not been televised or written in our history books. It will not be televised or written about in the future, unless we do so. If you want to see change, you have to join others who are collectively making it.
For your own selfish reasons.
For your own collective ends.

*********

My next post questions the notion of the “Selfish Gene.” Are we biologically selfish, or is this a misunderstanding of Dawin’s work on sexual selection? Stay tuned.

The Illusion of Sameness

Maybe you’ve noticed it too. It seems like conditions in the mainstream media can go from bad to worse without ever acknowledging that there was an earlier cheery prediction.

It is the Illusion of Sameness that’s operating. I think we can all safely conclude (and could have for a while) that the economic crash is well under way. Those of you who have opened up your retirement accounts know it. Yes, that sick feeling in your stomach, is upsetting the Illusion of Sameness, whenever you think about it. It will happen in other areas as well.

In food markets, “sales” will seem like the “regular”prices of last week. You’ll ask “Who’s leaving on the lights?” after you open your electric bill. The pump will suffer ‘price creep’ once again, and you’ll watch your credit card balances, if you aren’t constantly vigilant (or have already chucked the credit cards out…) begin to climb, while your credit limit sinks. No, it wasn’t that your payment was a day late. It’s that the bank has to lower their risks. And if you own a business? One of the most outrageous “new” practices is the “surprise” when small businesses open their business checking and find out that their credit card processors have stolen a large chuck of cash. Surprise! They call it a “reserve,” and it might put you right out of business. Angie’s List got 2.5 million sucked out of its account without notice. They got it back after three weeks and big lawyers bills, but what if you don’t have the cash for lawyers or you can’t wait three weeks? These are the “vultures” encircling the corpse, my friends, and they are making quite a few corpses all by themselves.

Wait! All of that is already happening? Yes, it is, but the Illusion of Sameness can blind you to it.

Have you noticed the new ads, by even formal dining establishments, for 2-for1 specials and the like? Are you watching airlines and car companies closing down? Noticing more friends who are “looking” for a new job? I could go on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll outline some of the ways of thinking that suggests that you are also in a dream world living with the “illusion of sameness:”

(1) You can’t plant a garden this year, because you planned your vacation during harvest time.

Some of you caught on there, right? There are two ‘illusions of sameness’ in that thought? One is that you are planning to go anywhere on vacation and the second is that you think that planting a garden is one of those “nice to have” hobbies. Gardening is soon to become a central way to get an affordable food source, and the notion of “disposal income” to spend on vacations is soon to be something few of us can afford.

If you aren’t planning to put something in dirt this year, you have to ask yourself, in all seriousness, why not. Don’t have the time? Illusion of sameness. Don’t have the money? It’s ‘dirt cheap.’ You can even buy vegetable plants with SNAP food stamps. Cut out that cable bill or ditch your cellphone, neither of which you can eat, last time I looked. Live in an apartment? Does it have windows or a balcony? How about a community garden? And what ELSE could you be doing with the money you are spending to travel? Perhaps you are seeing family and strengthening ties. This is a worthwhile goal. But if you are trying to find sources of amusement, you are thinking the old way. There are dozens of ways you can educate yourself right here at home, to help you smash the Illusion of Sameness.

(2) “There is a lot I would be doing, but my spouse (friends, kids, lovers, boss, pets) is not on-board.”

It’s hard to go against the culture and your loved ones, too. We all hope, for our own sake, things will work out and it’s our own fears and paranoia, and that the world is right: there’s nothing to worry about. So few of us have been taught to trust our own gut instincts and not beat ourselves up when we’re wrong. Assess the situation, and explain how you see things. Listen to your loved ones, understanding the same fear that they live with, and then chart a course together, with build-in corrections along the way. It’s a bad situation to be looking at the folks in the same cramped lifeboat and hear “if you only listened to me earlier!”

(3) My car is old and needs to be replaced. They are practically giving away new cars now, so I’m going shopping.

Even a “cheap” stripped down car like a Ford Focus will drain you of more than $30,000 over the next five years. A Ford Focus that’s 5 years old will cost you $24,500 by the time you figure in repairs. What else could you do with that money?

Now is the time for creative thinking. Can you carpool and share expenses? What about using one car between two people and each carpooling 1/2 the rest of the time? How many miles do you actually drive? Could you rent a car when you needed to go out of town? If you are like most people, you are saying “But I NEED a car!” I find it hard to wrap my head around how I’ll live without one, too, or something equally “car-like.” This future is so hard to wrap our heads around, it’s hard to pause to ask if there could be another alternative.

I live out in the middle of nowhere. I feel a panicky feeling in my stomach to imagine a world in which the decision to travel in a car has to be weighed against 10 other uses for the same fossil fuel. That seems crazy. When I stick with that thought, I feel a panicky sick feeling in your stomach. If I sit with it long enough, I realize that I do have options, and I can choose which ones I’ll use.

(4) “When I retire…” “When we visit Mitzi in Spain in 2012…” “I’ll buy it now, because after I find a better job…” “When the economy picks up and our sales recover…”

Planning on a brighter future? Any plan that expects tomorrow to be much like today is similar to whispering into the dice and saying “Papa needs a new pair of shoes!” Perhaps our collective luck will change, but you’re betting on it. Are you really willing to gamble with your future? Most people don’t even know its a gamble in the Illusion of Sameness.

(5) “I’m not really worried. My job/pension is with the State/City/Feds…”

No one wants to seriously consider the likelihood of a job loss, but never rule out the possibility. No matter how “secure” you think your job or pension is today, you’d be better off asking yourself how you and your family will manage without it, especially if rules of hiring and lay-offs put you closer to the door. What would you do if your income stopped or was cut in half? Would you take a pay cut so that others could keep their jobs? What things would you do to dramatically alter your lifestyle? If you can’t think about any of this, without grabbing a beer or watching “Survivor” re-runs, you are living with the Illusion of Sameness. That “sick” or “panicky” feeling is telling you things have to change. It isn’t enough to “know” stuff is happening. You have to start living differently and planning for even greater change. Whenever you find yourself saying “That will never…” or “That’s impossible…” you are all wrapped up in it.

It’s hard to change our thinking. Harder than actually doing things differently, for most of us. It takes a dramatically different examination, and a change of action, in order to smash the overwhelming power of the Illusion of Sameness.

Here’s one option I’m thinking of, with a hyper dog like my Greta. Still, I haven’t figured out where to “park” her!

Nice to be back, all.

What are some of the Illusions of Sameness you are seeing in your everyday lives?

Economic Collapse Brings Greater Simplicity to This Mom

Hi Peak Shrink,

My name is {removed} and I live in small town Ohio with my husband and 2 small children. I stumbled onto ‘peak oil’ via the back door…it started with food recalls which lead to investigating factory farms which lead to researching homesteading…you can see where this is going. Learning about peak oil has been a true blessing for me…a blessing in that it was the kick in the seat I needed to rally the troops and get organized. Peak oil became marching orders for my family and now we’re on the way to living simpler, more self-sufficient lives.

In the past year and a half, our garden size has tripled. We’ve added an orchard, berry patches and a flock of laying hens. We’ve found local sources of necessary goods, added rain barrels, composters, learned practical skills. But most importantly, we’ve connected with other like-minded families in our area to share successes and failures, ideas, produce, laughs. We’ve began to power down, simplify, declutter and really get to the core of the life we want to lead.

It’s kind of strange, but somehow, things are becoming so much more clear-cut for me. All the noise of modern life is falling to the wayside and the important matters- good food, good health, happy children- are so much clearer and easier to attain. It seems like the more desperate our economy becomes, the simpler my life becomes. It’s no longer a matter of keeping up with the Joneses or driving the largest car, attending the most elite preschool, owning the latest gadget; it’s becoming a matter of survival. While I’d never wish for the worst, events of the past year have been life-altering for me and in the best way.

Best wishes.
Simply Mom

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Dear Simply Mom,

Thanks for your touching story.

I think most of us would say that we are glad we learned about peak oil, (after we recover from the initial shock and horror of the discovery). For myself, I went down various lines of reasoning, only to come back, over and over, to the same conclusion: I can’t keep living my old way.

Peak Oil, as you know, is just one of the many Peak Everything’s we’re living with. I agree that one’s life priorities come into clearer focus, with a clear understanding of what Peak Everything means. Survival simplifies things, no doubt. If I could give one bit of advice to those who are reading your story, it would be “stop holding on to the side of the river,” by that I mean stop trying so hard to maintain your previous lifestyle.

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.”

This will only cause you greater hardship and more pain. Embracing the great wave of change, as you have done, Simply Mom, allows you to flow with the current. It allows you to look for like-minded families, instead of being torn between two value systems, fitting neatly into neither.

If we can all see the gift in whatever life brings us, we will find true gratitude. Gratitude allows room for contentment, and contentment allows moments of exquisite happiness.

I wish you and yours a productive, safe New Year, filled with gratitude, contentment and moments of exquisite happiness.

Thanks for writing.

Peak Shrink

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Do you have a story to tell about how knowledge of Peak Oil, climate change, or the economic collapse changed (or is changing) your life and values systems? Share it with others by emailing your story to PeakShrink AT Peakoilblues DOT com.

Do you have a reaction to anything you’ve read here? We welcome your comments! Please do!

A Reason to Believe

“Empires end. Eras end. Ways of life end. But people mostly go on. And much of what is required to keep going on, to prevent the worst outcomes is simply to come to terms with the notion that a radical change in your way of life is not the same thing as the end of the world. We have always been wealthy and comfortable and lucky here in the West, and the loss of some or all of those things seems like a disaster of unimaginable proportions. But it doesn’t have to be that way–that’s a way of thinking that we can choose to discard, recognizing that those who live less comfortable lives value them equally.

The truth is that we need to find a way to find pleasure and hope and joy in a much simpler, less consumptive lifestyle. That means sacrificing some things we care about. It also means getting back some things that truly matter.”

—–Sharon Astyk “Depletion and Abundance”

I’ve been given four books to review, and I’d suggest that if you are worried about TEOTWAWKI, you buy all four of them now, and read them in a particular order. I’ve listed all four at the end of this post.

Definitely, start out with Sharon Astyk’s “Depletion and Abundance.” In fact, buy it today, and pay full price if you have to, just to get through the first 50 pages. If you write in a blog, it will encourage you to write shorter posts, and spend more time actually doing something different.

Now that the former “optimistic ones” are sounding gloomy and doomy, discussing “a decade of instability” (which is the equivalent of saying “who knows how long…”) I’d like to strike a more optimistic tone. What we are seeing in the US, and by extension, something that will be felt around the world, is a financial change so great, that it will herald the necessity for enormous changes in your life. Following that, we’ll feel the effects of Peak Oil, and really start to notice the impacts of climate change. One, two, three punch!!!

A great wave is on its way. You can walk into that wave, those changes, with your eyes wide open, and your feet in front of you, or you can be swept under by it, but in either case, you will get wet. Some of you, still clinging to the notion that “I don’t want to get wet” or “I can’t swim” or “I’m afraid of the water, so I don’t go near it” will be the unlucky ones.

Like a loving mother (that she no doubt, is) Sharon coaxes you and reassures you that “you can do it.” She doesn’t BS you that the water is warm or that there’s nothing to be afraid of, or that you shouldn’t feel fear. She just reassures you that fear won’t cripple you, you are going to get wet anyway, so you might as well muster your courage and start changing now. Like “right now.”

If you are like so many of the wise folks over at Running on Empty II, and you’ve been swimming for decades, it’s hard to imagine that people are still using electric can openers and visiting discount shopping malls during their vacations. I fall somewhere in-between, as I figure most of my readers do. And I’m changing. And the changes are so gradual in my case, I can easily miss them AS changes, but they add up, and, like a trillion here and a trillion there, they become “real money.”

Take a really dumb but equally profound example. I went to a party the other night. I’ve always enjoyed making fun of the “drumming tribal” type groups of suburban men who head out to the woods for a weekend and hit their tablas and chant. I just thought that was just plain silly. But at the party the other night, the garage was filled with music, and I was drawn to it. Rhythm sprang up, and all ages sat around with instruments, and some plain ol’ plastic buckets turned upside-down. Someone handed me a percussion instrument, a wooden frog with ridges and a stick. The energy that came from that room, the energy that filled me, the profound sense of satisfaction I got from “playing that frog” was shocking to me. It was a group of neighbors playing music at a party. No big ‘woop.’ And yet, I know that I’d ride my bike or walk to get there again, to repeat that experience.

What I want to emphasize is that there was nothing particularly profound about those people, or my relationship to them. Most of them were strangers to me. What is profound is that there must exist in us particularly deep “memory” of being a part of a group and playing music in what ever way we are able. Was that as “good” as going to a great concert in the city? For me it was better, because I was “in it.”

But back to Astyk’s book. I haven’t finished it, so I’m not really reviewing it, I’m just sharing my thoughts about what it has generated in me, so far, and that is that the changes I’ll be making, that most of us will be making, will seem really weird, but if we just go into it, and call it “different” instead of “bad,” we might not find it so horrible. Yes, the water is ice cold…or is it “invigorating?” The difference, I think, is whether you are in there by yourself, with a bunch of other people, complaining about the temperature, or you are in there with people splashing around you and playing games.

Astyk’s book is based on a very simple premise that most of us couldn’t imagine. She decided that in order to cut her carbon footprint by 90%, she’d cut her carbon footprint by 90%. That’s how much all of us in the developing world need to reduce our fossil fuel consumption in order to alter the course of global climate change. So she and a friend just aimed for it, and lived it. Boy, I had respect for her before, but now I’m speechless. And like most folks who pioneer a new (old) way of living, she did it without a lot of fanfare. “Fanfare” takes energy, and Sharon doesn’t think using very much of it is the way to go. She thinks you can have a perfectly good life by “simply living simply,” and she talks about how she’s doing it, in this gem of a book. Before you say “I’m no Sharon Astyk…” just go buy it and read it.

The biggest shift most of us will have to make is to “just do it” like the Nike commercial says. We’ll have to do one dumb thing, poorly, before we realize that that doesn’t work, so we try something different. Eventually we find something that works a bit better, so we refine it. We have to stop reading the news, instead of changing our life. We have to shift around the balance to make “reading the news” a small part of the day, and “changing our life” a huge part.

Take food storage. Putting up food for the winter, learning to do that, takes time and energy. Your time, your cash and your energy. You have to figure out what is in season, and talk to the people who grow it about letting you buy some. You have to figure out the difference between a bushel and a peck. You have to figure out how to store it, at what temperature, and what humidity, and how long it will last if you do it all perfectly. You have to start eating in “season,” meaning no strawberries in New England now, unless you canned, dried, or froze them from the spring. And if you are saying “I can’t do any of that,” you are saying that you don’t like to swim or get wet. It’s going to be a rude awakening, in that case, friend.

A shift in mindset, as Astyk points out, is not without its rewards. I’ve always hated winter, but I now know that the kale, carrots and beets in my garden will get sweeter after a few frosts. I know that I can’t leave the kale in the garden beyond early December, or it will wilt and be horrible, but it can go into November, unless it is unseasonably cold. I know that the storage books says that spaghetti squash isn’t suppose to last all winter, but it did in my guestroom, when I shut off the heat upstairs and froze my butt off last year. The acorn squash I have to eat earlier in the fall, however. It takes years to learn this stuff, because it has to be personalized to YOU, your house, your climate, your taste buds, your humidity, your lifestyle.

This year, I can’t really imagine not waking up to a cold house. It used to be a “terrible thing,” in my mind, before I did it, but by the end of the winter, I was dodging here and there when it was 45 degrees, and it felt “invigorating” first thing in the morning. For those of you who keep your thermostat at 70 degrees, you are probably shaking your head right now. “I could never live like that” you might be saying. But how will you afford to heat your house when it stays at 70? Where will you free up the cash to buy those tasteless “fresh” strawberries shipped from 3000 miles away? It is just remarkable what starts to happen when you voluntarily walk into that freezing water. Just remarkable.

During WWII, our rural town got 3 gallons a week per family of gasoline. Most of the folks that worked, worked five days a week about 40 minutes away from their homes. That’s a lot of driving on 3 gallons in low fuel-efficient cars and trucks. Surprisingly, everyone still got to work. How? They carpooled. Because they had to.

If you are panicking right now, because you expect a world-wide depression or worse, please, re-direct all of that great energy toward doing something constructive. If you have no clue what to do first, buy these books, and while you are out, go visit a farmer’s market and have a conversation with the folks that are selling there. Ask to visit their farms. Ask what’s in season. Ask how much things cost in season if you buy it by the bushel, or 1/2 a bushel, then stop at a store and buy a few canning jars. It will all feel “weird” at first. That’s just your feet adjusting to being without shoes. You’ll get used to the feeling…

Books:

Astyk, Sharon (2008). Depletion and Abundance: Life on the new home front. New Society Press.

Harrison, Kathy (2008). Just in Case: How to be self-sufficient when the unexpected happens. Storey Publishing. Step-by-step guide for the completely clueless and those “more in-the-know,” who have to figure out where to start. A great little gem of a book- pragmatic, easy to read, very very practical whether you live in NYC or the ‘sticks.’

Nowak, Zach (2008). Crash Course: Preparing for Peak Oil. Get it online or read the first two chapters free. But, the real gem of the book, in my opinion, is the excellent job Zach has done in pulling together the “best of the best” reading material for everything from A-Z (except guns). Zach gathered together the library collection of a lot of people (I was one of them) and must have read them, and told you which were the ones to have and why. Bibliophiles beware: You’ll be spending a lot of cash on some really great books, if you buy this one.

Murphy, Pat (2008). Plan C: Community survival strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change. New Society Publishers. Time to get together with your neighbors, folks, or you aren’t going to make it. If you think you can hole up in a bunker with your canned soup, think again. Oh, do put up that soup, but also plant a community garden, a community orchard, localize, re-localize and decentralize. This wonderful book tells you why you need to shut off your television (it’s psychological…) and turn onto your neighborhood with local food growing, local power generation, local retailing, local manufacturing and local investment and banking. What’s a community? What does a community look like and act like? How do you develop yours? Read this book and expand your concept of “home.”

I’ll be reviewing all of these in greater depth over time. Stay tuned.

Update: Demise of a Techno-Fix Psyche

Hi Kathy,

Since you posted Demise of a Techno-fix Psyche in September, 2006, I have continued along the path of trying to do/learn things that might be relevant in preparing for a post-Peak Oil world whenever possible. That has had me getting my hands dirty in several instances including:

    Enrolling in a class and returning to volunteer at a nonprofit called Tillers International this past spring,

    Taking a class to learn how to repair bicycles last fall,
    Taking a workshop in nonviolent communication (no dirty hands, but definitely eye-opening),
    Apprenticing at the Ecovillage Training Center on The Farm last summer,
    helping grow gardens, trees, and community at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage during several visits,
    and helping to start a community garden with other folks in the neighborhood in the spring of last year.

I used to get bummed about Peak Oil but seem to have found my own personal cure for the doldrums. I can summarize my method as follows:

“Don’t dwell on it, DO on it.”

BTW, almost three years without a car and still making it happen. Maybe that’s part of my medicine; James E. Starr wrote:

“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.”

I think he was on to something.

Thanks for doing what you do.

peace,
Brandon

The original article can be found here. Reprinted by permission of the author

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There are those, Brandon, who would argue that facing into the realities of a post-fossil world, offers us nothing but fear, hopelessness and despair, and keeps people frozen. However, I, like yourself, have found these emotions to be only the first phase of one’s awakening. If we can hang in there, and continue to look, unflinchingly, these emotions eventually weaken. The capacity to look squarely at what the future might hold, does bring anxiety, but our capacity to manage that anxiety, soothe ourselves, and calm ourselves down, allows us to find radically new answers to seemingly “impossible” problems. Jumping to reassuring answers such as “Technology will Resolve it!” might feel good, but doesn’t force us to think more deeply, and keeps us even more passive as we “wait” for the new development. Thanks for your inspirational steps forward.

Update: “Wise Grandmother” Moves to a New Community

Hello Peak Shrink,

You asked for updates from people who wrote to you two years ago… I wrote to you on July 4, 2006, and you signed my name as “Wise Grandmother.”

We have made many changes in the last two years. We relocated to an agricultural community that we feel is a good choice for long-term sustainability. The population of our community and the surrounding rural area totals about 6000 people. With the proceeds from selling our business and with some help from my elderly father who lives with us, we were able to buy several acres of land and an older house.

Our goals have been to get set up with growing food, to be as self-sufficient as possible and to get to know our neighbors and contribute to our community. The first thing we did was install a wood burning stove for heat, which allowed us to minimize use of the oil heat in our house. The following spring we put in a ground source heat pump for the house and the rental cabins on the property, which completely replaced the oil heat and also preheats our water before it goes to the water heater. Then we built a greenhouse (or hoop-house), which we need in our climate to grow warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers. We set up a back room of our house as a seed-starting room, built a seed warming table and set up lights and tables for our vegetable starts. I’ve been gradually collecting more canning jars and food preservation supplies, plus we’ve been buying food in bulk and storing some extra each month. My husband built a deer fence for the garden, and between the greenhouse and the garden, we have a lot of food growing! We have enough to donate some to the local senior meal site and the food bank, which feels necessary and good to do. We’re also adding to our collection of hand tools and other supplies as we can.

Next year we want to get an orchard planted (which means putting up another deer fence) and build a chicken coop. Maybe we can get some solar going, but there are some problems with our roof that we have to repair first. We want to do some more house weatherizing, too, and figure out how to further minimize our use of electricity. Lots to do, one step at a time and as we can afford it.

We’ve been meeting and getting together with our neighbors and are exchanging favors & food. We joined several local groups set up for gardening & resource management & localization – my husband volunteers on the administrative board of the local farmer’s market and I’ve been involved in several groups. We have the cabin rental business to help with income. We’re also exploring the area a little at a time, fishing and hiking when we get a chance.

Once we found this property and began to work on it, I settled right down, emotionally, I mean. The best treatment that I’ve found for worry is to take positive action, and although there are still many things out of our control that could happen, we are doing the best we can with what is possible for us. My husband and I both enjoy this lifestyle, and even though we are now in our late 50’s, we are working hard on the place. Our special needs son lives with us and so does my father, who is now 87 years old. We miss our other friends and our older children, but most live within our state and we visit back and forth. I hope travel continues to be possible. If things get really tough, I hope they’ll join us here and we’ve been letting them know that they are welcome.

My emotional challenge at the moment is to find the balance between informing other people about peak oil, and accepting them at whatever stage they are in. I tend to say very little anymore and just let our lives and choices do the speaking. I am so convinced that hard times are coming that it’s often difficult not to say too much, but I do notice that in the last six months, some loved ones are coming to us with questions and more openness. It also helps to be in an agricultural community where so many people have self-sufficient skills and cooperative attitudes already.

It seems late in our lives to make such major changes and to expect ourselves to do so much physical work, but it’s also very enlivening! It helps enormously that my husband and I are “on the same page” in all this. At first, he was not nearly as concerned as I was, but he did his own reading and research and eventually came to about the same conclusions that I did… that we needed to make these changes. This has strengthened our relationship in the long run and has given us shared goals and new meaning in our lives, individually and as a couple. We are feeling a deep contentment and joy that somehow coexists with a vast sadness in regarding the problems in the world. I hope what we are doing will help others, and it feels right to be doing our best and doing our part, however small. There is huge comfort in that!

Thank you for your site. I read it regularly and find many good ideas and thoughtful responses. We’re all in this together, and I so appreciate each contribution!

Take care,

Wise Grandmother

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Hi WG!

So good to hear from you, and learn about all of your hard work and how it is paying off! Seems like you are tackling the “food, fuel, friends” trilogy quite nicely!

I share your perspective that those who were at best “neutral” and at worst “antagonistic” a few years ago, are beginning to come around and ask questions. I also resonate with the dual feeling of both a settled sense of contentment and deep, penetrating sadness at the suffering people are facing as this situation plods on. I hope people take comfort (and motivation) in what you’ve been able to accomplish in two years, and consider that, little by little, you changed your life, and increased your exercise while feeding yourself!

I look forward to hearing about your continued progress, and wish you continued great success in your life’s journey.

Kathy
“Peak Shrink”

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Have you made great changes in your lifestyle since you first learned about Peak Oil?” Do you have plans to change how you are living now but wondering how you’ll do it? Write us and tell me about it at PeakShrink@peakoilblues.com