Thursday, 29 March 2012

We really REALLY need to talk about resilience.

Aurora@Island Dreaming

Yesterday the news broke in the UK that sizable numbers of tanker drivers had balloted to go on strike, possibly as early as next week. The UK has been here before, most spectacularly during the fuel protests of 2000 when fuel refineries were blockaded and the country was a mere '9 meals from anarchy'. Media coverage and a few either well placed (if you're cynical) or incredibly dumb (if you're cynical) comments from a few high profile politicians urging people to top up their tanks and have a jerry can of petrol on standby have led to queues and panic buying.

My own nation desperately needs to start talking about resilience. It doesn't really matter if tanker drivers go on strike for a few weeks. Well it matters, it will cause pain and disruption to a lot of already stretched people, but it doesn't matter anywhere near as much as the fact that we collectively and individually saddle our entire beings on the availability of a rapidly depleting, mostly imported, polluting, nonrenewable liquid fuel. THAT is a real problem; and judging by the commentary in today's papers, the majority of the UK public still doesn't get that. According to the International Energy Authority, 'conventional' oil production peaked in 2006. The potential short term pain we are about to feel is nothing in comparison with what awaits us in the next few decades if we don't wake up.

I became aware of peak oil several years ago, along with tottering housing markets, banking collapse, austerity drives and the potential for civil unrest. What did I do with that awareness? Well, I read voraciously for a few years. I read Richard Heinberg's 'The Party's Over' (a very good if somewhat gloomy introduction to peak oil if you need one) and many of the titles in its bibliography. I read and read and read and made moves to change my own life and become more resilient. Some of these I wrote about on my blog, preaching to the already converted. Who else did I tell? Pretty much no one. As all of these dire warnings became reality, I found myself unable to really talk about them effectively. These are not isolated problems that can be blamed on or palmed off on others to solve and as such are hard to talk about. Talk about bogeymen is cheap and this is instead a conversation  predominantly about personal responsibility.

I came across this video last week that explains the problems we are facing in a natty animation. I posted it to my Facebook page and it got a single like - from someone already in the know.

I think I understand why KONY2012 went viral and generated so much interest, when videos like this one do not. Murderous individuals are so much easier to 'solve' than murderous circumstances. You watch and post the video, you have done your bit - doesn't it feel good? You have helped change the world. You watch a video about the triple whammy reality of resource depletion, economic collapse and environmental degradation and within minutes you start to feel a little off colour. You may try to rationalize it away as extremist nonsense and stop watching. If you can't quite manage to rationalize it away and continue to take in uncomfortable information, you won't feel good for a very long time to come. Watching the video is only the very start of your contribution to the solution, because in essence, the problem is all of us choosing convenience over resilience every step of the way. The change has to come from within and comes to bear on every lifestyle decision you make.

This lack of resilience thinking also explains why the prospect of oil tanker drivers going on strike is causing such a furore here at home. Yes, it is going to be very inconvenient - but wouldn't it be better to stop the bellyaching and use this as a practice run for real energy shocks and disruptions that are undoubtedly going to be a part of our future. Resilience is not having a jerry can on stand by and sending out the army to deliver fuel. Resilience is designing our lives so that a temporary disruption to petrol supply doesn't warrant such attention, because other systems are already in place to take up the slack. It is sharing lifts and getting fit enough to walk a few miles instead of driving. It is buying a bike and learning to maintain it. It is maintaining a pantry and a kitchen  garden. Resilience demands forethought over immediacy. It demands that we make changes and choices and lobby government, but that we don't expect them to listen or to create a resilient society for us.

I haven't communicated any of this and it is time to own my own frustration. These issues encapsulate some of my deepest fears for my children, my community, myself. If I can't communicate these deepest fears and hopes to my nearest and dearest, in the same way that they express their own insecurities to me, then I am not really communicating, am I? It isn't a case of preaching, it is a case of revealing a little more of yourself and potentially taking flack and ridicule for it. So this week I aim to introduce these issues to someone who currently doesn't know or care and a tanker strike is the perfect opportunity. And then I will do it again with someone else next week. I aim to fill my barren Facebook feed with videos and links like the one above, promoting everything from economic collapse theory to up cycling old furniture and repairing bikes. Resilience is the very issue of our time and won't become a reality until the majority of people embrace it as a filter through which to view the world. I aim to start a conversation.

What do you do to promote resilience? Should we even try?


LindaG said...

We're hoping to homestead when we retire. It's not much, but it's a start.

Anonymous said...

it is really hard. People think you are nuts when you talk about this stuff - or that you are a killjoy. Its going to affect us all but particuarly our kids and their kids etc..
Just have to keep honest and do our best and talk about it when the opportunities come up. I am sure you will be fine during the oil strike?
Blessings, Juanita.

Gavin Webber said...

Great post Aurora! I have been harping on about resource depletion and actions to become resilient for years on my blog (The Greening of Gavin) soon after I learnt about peak oil. It is also one of the reasons that I started our local sustainable living group and actually wrote it into the mission statement.

Via my blog, and engagement within our group and the community at large, all I think we can do is keep educating and setting an example of what resilience really looks like in the form of simple/sustainable living.

Keep up the good fight!

Gav x

Liz said...

I posted the same video on FB and it didn't even get one like. Anything I post on peak oil (and I don't post a lot, so I'm not saturating people with it) tends to sink without a sound. Very depressing...

Linda Woodrow said...

My response to all this is to stop talking threat and start talking opportunity. Sometimes people need a major kick up the arse, or a bad scare, to give up serious addictions. I think of it a bit like a bad case of the flu that causes someone to give up smoking. I really like Pat Meadows "Theory of Anyway". There are many reasons to give up addictive consumerism out of fear of the negative consequences, but they pale next to the very very many reasons out of desire for the positive ones. I also like Joanna Macy's proposition that we have the opportunity to create the new Enlightenment. Though it may be frightening it is also exciting. Like the last enlightenment in the 1600's, all it takes is a tiny shift of mind.

Marijke VanderVlist said...

I think people do listen, but it might take a while to sink in. For me it took a green magazine (Gmag) to educate me, but also inspire me, most of all knowing you’re not out there alone. That’s why I love these blogs, they keep me focused and inspired. More and more and I’m transferring my "photo’s for the family blog" to a platform to inspire all those friends and family to look at things in another way. That going green is not all about doom and doing without, it’s about enrichment. It’s about community, sharing, friendship and quality of life. How I love to spend time in the garden with the kids, to grow my own food and bake bread, make yoghurt and keep things simple. I do no longer feel alone, people constantly ask me for advice to learn the basics and are now sharing recipes.
Yesterday I’ve started a little garden at my sons preschool, the kids loved to help they are so curious at that age. I’ve chosen the positive approach, to show how fun, easy and rewarding it can be. Most only need a little nudge to start, anywhere.The rest will come from there.

Molly said...

Sadly I think a lot of people have this little voice in the back of their heads telling them that what we're doing and how we're living isn't going to last forever. However, and I've heard this verbatim, most people would rather accept that if some time of terrible situation occured they'd just curl up and wait for help and probably die in the process - and they'd rather accept this possibility than change their actions or learn new skills - I was privy to such a conversation today in fact.

In one of my favorite books "Dies the Fire" the author talks about the number of people who just die waiting by the side of the road waiting for someone to save the day (the book is a what if all electricity and combustion stopped working and sent us back to a middle age time) and after today's conversation I think he's right.

Annie said...

Humans are very resistant to change. I've tried sharing this message in the past with my own family, and they simply do not want to hear it.

I think also that most people are so dependent on the system and the status quo that they are not able to quit. And small actions seem futile, which, frankly, they mostly are.

Ever read Derrick Jensen's "As The World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial"?

Anita Estes said...

Many, like me, don't have FB accounts so we wouldn't or won't see any videos posted there. I tell everyone willing to listen about the depletion of our resources and teach as many as I can how to live with less. Most think I'm just a nutt case.

Julie said...

I watched the video and there was a statement in which "many parts of North america would be uninhabitable without fossil fuels". That is false. I happen to live in Oklahoma and I have been going without AC for two summers now. It is not impossible, it just won't be comfortable for about two months. Indigenous people lived in this area before the white man and people will continue to live here. Just not in the densities we are used to and without climate control devices.

Den said...

Good for you for starting that conversation Aurora!

In the past 6 years I've radically changed my lifestyle, moving from Corporate living in the UK to running an eco camp in Montenegro. And I'm getting more resilient by the minute!

Friends/ family etc have watched me grow happier, healthier and surviving on less money and have been really open to having conversations. I'm the best advert I know!

A lot of what Marijke said resonated with me...

wellywoman said...

Unfortunately I'm a pessimist about all this. I don't drive, haven't flown for over 10 years. We've installed a woodburner. I grow our own fruit, veg and cut flowers and try to eat organic as much as possible. I know there's more we can do so this year I'm trying to garden without using any extra plastic. But so many people I know have a very short term 'it's not my problem' view, even ones with children don't seem to care about the future. On some levels I think it's because it feels such a vast problem that they just want to bury their heads in the sand and on another level they still want to travel all over regardless of the impact their car and plane journeys are making. When I talk to people about it their eyes either glaze over or they seem to think I'm preaching to them. I know we need to keep trying to do things to change but I think the majority will not want to and care enough to change. I use my blog to talk about the environment and gardening sustainably with topics such as biochar, imported cut flowers, coppicing and the amount of plastic gardeners use.

Anonymous said...

I watched this video the other day and I literally cannot stop thinking about it!
I have been aware of the term "peak oil" but never really understood I do.
Like a lot of people striving to live a simpler life I grow my own vegies, I bake from scratch, I sew - now I'm thinking further ahead!
Yes, I need more land!
Yes, I need to learn now to butcher my own meat!
Chickens? Yes House cow - yes???
In the past a "fully sustainable" life was a nice little urban hippie dream, now I can see it will be a reality soon!