The Theory of Anyway

suziegruber
By suziegruber on Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - 10:08pm

During our conversation at Taylor Maid this morning, I mentioned an old article by Sharon Astyk entitled "The Theory of Anyway."  This article describes how the majority of resilience building activities are things we would do anyway regardless of whether we are motivated by earthquakes, peak oil or the state of our economy.

The Theory of Anyway

by Sharon Astyk, originally published by Energy Bulletin  | JAN 25, 2007

My friend Pat Meadows, a very, very smart woman, has a wonderful idea she calls "The Theory of Anyway." What it entails is this - she argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crises in energy depletion, or climate change, or most other global crises are the same sort of efforts. When in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing "Anyway." Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels. That they also have the potential to save our lives is merely a side benefit (a big one, though).

This is, I think, a deeply powerful way of thinking because it is a deeply moral way of thinking - we would like to think of ourselves as moral people, but we tend to think of moral questions as the obvious ones "should I steal or pay?" "Should I hit or talk?" But the real and most essential moral questions of our lives are the questions we rarely ask of the things we do every day, "Should I eat this?" "Where should I live and how?" "What should I wear?" "How should I keep warm/cool?" We think of these questions as foregone conclusions - I should keep warm X way because that's the kind of furnace I have, or I should eat this because that's what's in the grocery store. Pat's Theory of Anyway turns this around, and points out that what we do, the way we live, must pass ethical muster first - we must always ask the question "Is this contributing to the repair of the world, or its destruction."

So if you told me that tomorrow, peak oil had been resolved, I'd still keep gardening, hanging my laundry, cutting back and trying to find a way to make do with less. Because even if we found enough oil to power our society for a thousand years, there would still be climate change, and it would be *wrong* of me to choose my own convenience over the security and safety of my children and other people's children. And if you told me tomorrow that we'd fixed climate change, that we could power our lives forever with renewables, I would still keep gardening and living frugally. Because our agriculture is premised on depleted soil and aquifers, and we're facing a future in which many people don't have enough food and water if we keep eating this way, and to allow that to happen would be a betrayal of what I believe is right. And if you told me that we'd fixed that problem too, that we were no longer depleting our aquifers and expanding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd still keep gardening and telling others to do the same, because our reliance on food from other nations, and our economy impoverishes and starves millions, even billions of poor people and creates massive economic inequities that do tremendous harm(...)

You can read the entire post by clicking here.

I appreciate our coming together.  Thanks for the rich, helpful conversation.

--Suzie

12 Comments

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
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The Theory of Anyway

Thanks for the post Suzie, what a great reminder.  Read some sage advice once that went something like "love thy neighbor as thyself". 

Ak Granny

LesPhelps's picture
LesPhelps
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How about the Theory of What to Do Now

Like many today, I have a back yard garden, hybrid car, 80+ mpg scooter and have cut my lifestyle significantly.  The lifestyle change itself is no hardship.  Worry about our reduced options going forward is the largest problem I face today.

Having said that, the lifestyle you describe and we are trying to implement is the right moral choice... under the circumstances.  It is not the right moral choice by some universal law.

Having a population of 7 billion plus people, with some living an extravagant consumption lifestyle, has reduced our moral options.  If we were 2 or 3 billion with our population and consumption under control, the lifestyle we talk about here would be one sustainable option among a variety of others.

For example, we might, as a species, pursue the heavy industry necessary to develop space travel, enabling us to spread out across the solar system and tap off planet resources.  This is one of a variety of options we have probably lost due to overpopulation and over consumption.

I think we can avoid the self righteousness trap if we remember that what we are doing right today has been defined, or perhaps constrained, by wrong decisions that we, as a species, made yesterday and wrong decision that most are still making today.

Happy holidays everyone.

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treebeard
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Fragments

The world is whole and complete and prefect, we chop it into bits and pieces and then try to solve the symptoms of our own internal disorder that we see in the world around us with outward action. Hence things continue to get worse. We must start at the center, with ourselves.  We are the world, there is nothing else, the illusion of division is a creation of our own minds. The bridge that connects us back to that part of ourselves that is the world, that our own minds have separated us from, is love.

To injure the other is to injure ourselves.  To injure any part of the world it is to injure ourselves. All forms or "evil" are forms of unconsciousness.  To be awake is to be in love with the world.  To be awake is to love oneself.  Everything starts with forgiveness, first for the self and then for the other. The mental complications of what questions to ask disappear in passion and compassion.

Thank you for sharing Pat's words, may we all find peace and love that dwells within ourselves and in the world this holiday season.

 

Peace and Love

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Oliveoilguy
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"Anyway" makes sense

There are some fringe preppers who build bizarre structures; store 50 years worth of inedible dried food; and have enough ammo to kill every living thing in a 50 mile radius.  These are NOT things that a person would do "anyway".

In our prepper world we use the "Theory of Anyway" and build structures that we would build anyway, like our greenhouse, root cellar, and gardens. We store only food and supplies that we like and use each day such as olive oil; sardines; beans; tomato sauce; picante sauce; wine; tuna; etc. And we own weapons that we use to hunt "anyway".

We have always followed this rule cause it's like a hedge. Every action has multiple uses and values and for those of us working hard to make a living, it just makes sense.

Thanks Suzie for articulating something that I intuitively knew and was doing "anyway".

 

 

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ferralhen
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i set up a lifestyle that

i set up a lifestyle that works no matter what the world is doing around me. and gardening, canning, splitting wood etc are things that i would do anyway because i like being outside and active.

alot of people are not drawn to gardening, or canning or chopping wood, and hauling it, so  their anyway is not this lifestyle. in fact the majority of people i know would not  live this way anyway. they would not live this way ever. even in a crisis. and they are not livng this at all.

so the theory of do anyway for those who waste and squander would be to continue to use up resources with no regard to consequences .....anyway.

Ryder's picture
Ryder
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A larger Anyway

The "American Indian" had a lifestyle that was sustainable, and everything they did, they would do "anyway".

Now, they are gone.

Lament it all you want.  They are still gone... by any reasonable standard.  We live in a world that is not their world, and a time that is not their time.  Think about what it took to make them vanish.  Not much, really.  Just westward expansion and misplaced trust in the US government.

If you have built something of value, you can expect that in an event where the masses have essentially nothing, they will also have nothing to lose, but you will.

If you are setting up a lifestyle that assumes social stability and a almost total absence of societal unrest, then you might do well to think about maintaining that lifestyle under different assumptions.

Don't just look at the physical systems that you depend on... look as well at the social systems that you depend on just as much.

What happens when there is no hospital to take you?  What happens when you dial 911 and there is no answer?  Maybe not even a dial tone?  What happens when there is a fire?  Squatters? Cattle rustlers?

There is no reason (or utility) to fear these things, but you may find that dealing with them is a new part of life... that you can't avoid.  The list of things you would do "anyway" is likely to grow in dimension beyond that which is obvious today.

If you fail in this, you may be setting up a workable lifestyle... for someone else.

 

 

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LesPhelps
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Ryder wrote:The "American
Ryder wrote:

The "American Indian" had a lifestyle that was sustainable, and everything they did, they would do "anyway".

You may want to research this belief a bit further.  It, in my opinion, is a common misconception.  The deforestation that turned parts of New Mexico and Arizona into desert is an opposing example.

Clearly the Indians did not overpopulate the entire continent, or develop heavy industry.  Otherwise, More damage would have been done.  

Their penchant for recreational war may have saved them from a larger population problem.  

For a better idea of what the Indians were like, I'd suggest reading books and journals written by people who encountered them early on.  "Undaunted Courage," about the Lewis and Clark expedition will shed some light.  Journals about Will Bridger and other Rocky Mountain hunters and trappers are relevant also.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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Let native americans speak for themselves

Or those who dedicated much time studying their culture.  The technologically advanced but spiritually poor westerners who first encountered them in would not be my first choice.  Tribal personalities varied wildly.  The Hopi and Blackfeet were as different as night and day.  We still have much to learn form native peoples without romanticizing their cultures.

"Touch the Earth", "Black Elk Speaks", "Fools Crow" (great novel), "Lame Deer, Seeker of visions", to name just a few, all offer realistic and fascinating view and native cultures, philosophies and spirituality without putting on rose colored glasses.

When it comes to recreational wars no one can touch those prowess of western Europe ( a very small and partial list, perhaps they are a collection of the most violent people the planet has seen, although brilliantly creative as well, perhaps that goes hand in hand):

davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
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more violent, or just better documented?

When it comes to recreational wars no one can touch those prowess of western Europe ( a very small and partial list, perhaps they are a collection of the most violent people the planet has seen, although brilliantly creative as well, perhaps that goes hand in hand):

I'd object to the europeans being classified as the most violent bunch.  I think europe simply documented itself a whole lot better (Gutenberg helping immensely) than its predecessors.

Of course we can't prove a negative.  Yet - our views into other times and cultures are fragmentary compared to the relative precision recorded during the last 200 years.  When you interpose a collapse between then and now, a huge amount of history (assuming its even interesting for the culture to actually record history - some cultures care, some don't) just gets lost and only the major bits or the stuff recorded by accident in passing remains for anyone interested in posterity.

And for cultures that didn't record history much at all - the past is simply a blur.  Things happened, certainly, but can never be known with anything like the laundry list precision of specific named conflicts that you came up with.

According to Spengler, Indians (the folks in India) didn't care, neither did the Greeks or the Romans, while the Chinese, Egyptians, and current Western civ happens to care a great deal.  And I as I said, interpose a collapse or two, toss in one regime (or several) that want to rewrite history prior to Gutenberg, and you get a very unclear picture of what really went down.

Just my opinion.

 

sdmptww's picture
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American Indians Gone?

While the way of life that many Native Americans enjoyed in pre-Columbian times is gone, Native Americans are not, nor are their world views.  And while Native Americans did engage in skirmishes with neighboring tribes, their efforts were usually not intended to destroy but to send a message.  Their "wars" were certainly not the kind western Europeans seem to be so enamored with.  One of the reasons they never quite understood the white mans idea of war was the difference between wiping out and making a point and going back home.

I live in one of the handful of areas east of the Mississippi where there is still a significant population of Native Americans and a federally recognized tribal presence.  They do a much better job than the local county and the state in providing a safety net for their members.  They foster community and they foster the mindset of the group over individuals while valuing freedom and independence.  Lessons many in the U.S. could meditate on a bit more.

I certainly do believe in the Theory of Anyway.  It is how I live each day and plan for the future.  It is a part of my life to prepare, not imagining the worst of the possible choices but being more prepared for any number of possibilities and positioned to help others who indicate interest or need.  Could there be some future outcomes I'm not as prepared for, yes there could be, and I accept that because I am not interested in building underground bunkers, fearing my neighbors and planning to shoot anything that moves along the perimeter of my property.  That mindset comes from fear not from a desire to thrive in an environment of more challenges.  It comes from having not yet accepted the changes coming and settled down to make the best and still be in community.

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Fantasy

"You may want to research this belief a bit further.  It, in my opinion, is a common misconception.  The deforestation that turned parts of New Mexico and Arizona into desert is an opposing example."

 

I know that, and you know that, but most people have a fantasy that is somewhat different, and it's not my job to correct fantasies, especially when doing so doesn't change the point being made in any way.

The point is simple.  They paid attention to life in a way similar to what Peak Prosperity suggest.  Know the land, for example, and be prepared to get what you need directly from it.  And this list of things, plainly, did not prevent them from being wiped out.

I'm a bit concerned that as a group that is presumably here to focus on how to deal with challenging times... that people are way to easily distracted by trivial matters.

If you're talking about the American Indian, you're really missing the point.

Apart from the fact that your life could easily become a parallel to the story of the American Indian if you don't take that lesson into account, they are not the subject here.

Ryder's picture
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ptwisewoman wrote:I am not
ptwisewoman wrote:

 I am not interested in building underground bunkers, fearing my neighbors and planning to shoot anything that moves along the perimeter of my property.  That mindset comes from fear not from a desire to thrive in an environment of more challenges.  It comes from having not yet accepted the changes coming and settled down to make the best and still be in community.

 

Since that is not the suggestion (and fear was specifically described as being pointless), I think this misses the point.

Back in the day, if you were a rancher or farmer, you had to deal with things yourself... especially in more isolated areas, where things like medical care weren't necessarily immediately available.  You had to deal with land disputes yourself... or horse thieves... or four legged invaders that would love to pay regular calls to the hen house... drifters, squatters, and all manner of social and natural inconvenience.  You will definitely have to deal with people that are not your neighbors.

I have no idea how or why you think building a bunker might conceivably address these things, but most people WILL have to deal with these things.  Effectively.  It's not enough to say what you *won't* do.

That's the point.  The list of what you would do "anyway", in a changed world, is a different list than what you might have today. 

Dialing 911 may not be a realistic option.

Just ask yourself what people did before phone lines, police forces, water systems, medical systems... and all the rest and then picture yourself stepping up to the challenge.

Building a bunker is not a reasonable response.

An economic disaster is in many ways a far worse one than, say hurricane Katrina... where all those systems were affected, but only locally.  Imagine it being national, and really, international.  We're all interconnected.

If you work on only your immediate physical infrastructure... like food, water, energy, shelter... and the rather tame list of things we would do anyway, you'll find you're ill prepared for anything much more than an earthquake or storm.  That's all well and good as far as it goes... but not for a serious economic failure.

I recommend becoming familiar with the day to day lives of those that went through the Argentine failure. It's worth your time.

 

 

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