2010 – are we ahead?

On the basis of where we could have been, no.

But it could have been worse.

Here at home, we are more comfortable, less vulnerable, more sustainable, cashed-up. We can’t help being collectively indebted, of course, via Government and local authority madness, but that’s just the cost of being part of a society in denial.

The pelton-wheel – delivering more power than we can use, 24/7, even in summer, is a wee wonder. Both gardens just continue to get bigger, get better, and deliver more. We go days without going near a shop. The chicken count is now: Bantam broody-mums 3, old battery-hens 1, year-old Brown Shavers 5, rooster 1, yet-to-be determinet progeny 10.

Plans are for a glass-house using second-hand coolstore panel as the down-sun wall, and recycled windows as the rest. And maybe a second one. We’ll grow more fruit and nut trees from seedlings, and keep pushing the orchard area. The old steel water-tank will get plumbed up, as summer back-up (not needed this year)(so far). The old petrol saw-bench will get a fence and a tilt, and I’ll run the macro (dry-stacked 15 years!) into skirting-boards, architraves etc, and finish off the house. Jen wants a pizza oven, I want a plunge-pool, and there are a couple of sheds planned down by the big garden. Plus dreams of a pedal-prop set-up for the little trimaran, a recumbent trike, and………… we won’t be bored…

The boys seem happy with their lives – Ish on the superyacht, back in the water in March and away in April, looking fit, happy, confident.  Jaryd comfortable in his job, in demand rescue-boating, nice girl, it’s all good. Jen backing off to half-time is great too;  often my enjoyment of the freedom here has been tempered by the fact that she’s away at work. Not so now – it’s even, almost!, and we’ll have 4 days a week together.

My effort may be into a book this year – I’ve come to the conclusion that NGO participation won’t change the world in time, given that it hasn’t so far. Better put your energies into something less life-consuming. I seem to be one of the few hassling the media (on peak oil, growth and natural capital depletion) and I’ll probably step up the ante a bit there (being confident, thick-skinned, somewhat comfortable with the subject after all these years – I’ve been studying it longer than some scribes have been alive……) . We may end up with some kind of a show-down there, unfortunately. My target is not to belittle or attack, but these folk so persist in continuing the deception, and so refuse to examine what I suggest (with the partial exception on the Otago Daily Times) they react by instead attacking the messenger. One assumes they know not what they do, still, it’s not acceptable, at this point.

You have to balance life, though. The Paper Tiger is my first fun, and is due a couple of new rudder-blades, and a new sail. We’ll do some more biking, with our longer time off together, but we’ve enough bikes for that, a recumbent, MTB’s each, my triathlon bike, our restored Claude Butler tandem, and a couple of identical folding 20-inch toys. I suspect we might gravitate to the Oamaru scene a bit, bike-wise. A challenge of partial retirement may be staying in touch, keeping fresh. I suspect we”ll be OK, Jen with her work (Enviroschools) me with the writing, but we’ll make sure not to stagnate.

One of the things to be ready with, is a blueprint for those who don’t know what is coming, and who are going to need answers. It’s easy to be doom-predicty – there was a 100% chance that humanity would run into resource depletion, and a 100% certainty that energy would be the key – but harder indeed to come up with a blueprint to address it.

One of the commentators on Interest.co.nz pointed out, rightly, that it is easy to be self-sufficient on 60 acres, suggesting I was being false pushing limits at everyone else. Interestingly, this was a no-limits-to-growth man (you wonder why he is envious, according to him, land is not in short supply) but you immediately realise that he is running scared. These folk are clinging to a belief, a creed, and it’s now outdated. As Lloyd Geering pointed out, beautifully (see previous post). They will need nurtured, these folk. The ‘lefties’ will get it first, the givers in society, out with the soup-kitchens. The right will do it hard – no support community there – all dog-eat-dog, and no relevant experience. The fiscal world, of course, has to morph – within 5 years at the outside, but probably within 1 – and I doubt they’ll get there. I suspect an attempt to park (ignore) debt, and kick-start. That – by the time they evaluate the kick-start – will be the end, too late and chaos-time. Or war.

We can’t do anything about the war possibility, either as individuals or as Kiwis, but that’s the only thing we can’t address. Everything else is to do with being sufficient (self, and more for others) and sustainable. To do with properly accounting natural capital (which includes climate change, pollution, depletion, extinction, and obligations to the future) which may be a revelation for some….

All you can do, is keep you head, keep informed, debate from the high ground, keep an eye on the big picture, and live fully as you do so. Piece of cake. Home-made, of course.

Here goes 2011 – the longer you extend across the top of the gaussian, the sharper the decline on the right-hand side. Will this be the year that the penny drops that the penny has to drop? I’d put money on it…….not!   Pay down debt, learn to grow food, aim for energy-resiliency, keep healthy………. sooner rather than later, it’s gotta happen.


2 Responses

  1. Hi Murray, met you via your columns in Lifestyle Block, and really appreciated your Jan.article in peak oil. I shared it with a couple of my (male) colleagues at work (East West Organics in Glen Eden, Auckland) and I think we all “got” the soon-to-come difficulties with transport of foodstuffs.
    Our fresh foods are all grown in NZ except for bananas and the occasional papayas and mangoes, but the majority are from rather further south than Auckland and thus reliant on fossil-fueled transport. And the majority of our dry goods are imported…makes us a bit nervous about our job security at the very least!
    I’ve just been reading (thanks to Kay Baxter’s recommendation) “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith. Altogether brilliant in terms of diet, health, farming, ecology and saving the world. But on page 270 she says “solar panels depend on materials like gallium and indium. Never heard of those? That should be a clue how rare they are. We’ve already seriously depleted these substances. And from the mining to the manufacturing, it all depends on an industrial platform that is about to collapse.”
    Is it true that all solar panels need these materials?

    • Fair question 🙂

      There is a debate (I’ve actually touched on it in the article after next – we’re always two ahead – in philosophical terms) about using rare or finite materials. Firstly, we have to start from the point that there are too many people on the planet – less people = more resources per head.

      After that thought, you realise that someone will use the resources, if you don’t. The coal will get used up, for instance, by a society too stressed to care about longer-term ramifications. Jared Diamonds ‘Collapse’ is a good read in this regard.

      So the best you can do, is to use finite resources in the longest-returning way. So a solar panel, 20 years hence, will still be ‘giving’ you the stuff it is made of.

      It’s not a perfect approach, but until we do something about population (or mother nature does it for us, as Chris Laidlaw chuckled) then all bets are off.

      There are probably more low-tech ways to harness solar energy – I’m building a solar cooker, a solar water-heater and outdoor shower, just built the solar dehydrator, and there’s the house of course. I think solar-generated steam, powering a turbine, has merit. But it’s all resources-per-head.


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