Standard of living/quality of life

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ike's picture
ike
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Joined: Sep 17 2008
Posts: 19
Standard of living/quality of life

I don't know how easy it would be to do this, but it would be extremely informative to look at energy/resource use of different populations around the world and multiply those numbers out to world population and see where we arrive compared to a gross estimate of what resources we have left. Do we need to downshift to European levels of consumption, the Netherlands, Japan, Argentina, China, India? How far do we need to go to be in equilibrium with the finite resources that are available?
Obviously this is a vast over-simplification, as we can not expect that there will be anything close to global equality. But you have to start somewhere. It's hard to 'budget' when you have no sense of the total amount of resources available to work with.
Should we start thinking globally in zero-sum terms? Every time we use something from another locality, let's say bottled water, that thing is simply no longer available to the local people. And the energy to transport it (the oil) is also no longer available. Trade has always depended on surpluses, but with this many people, do we realistically HAVE surpluses? In the long-term? And is that how we want to use our remaining energy - on transporting traded goods? I would propose we have better uses.
(An aside: one of the things that makes me the saddest is thinking about the enormous energy wealth we had and what we chose to use it on. You can have any color carpet or formica counter you want. But clean water and high quality food? Not so easily available.)
In our U.S. society, we are on the path of starting where you are and making small steps - screw in a few efficient light bulbs and bring your own bags to the grocery store. Go at the pace of your own comfort in making lifestyle changes.
If we could see where we need to get/how far we need to go and how quickly we need to get there, I think our personal efforts might take on a different scale. That's the shock part of future shock. We're not necessarily going to get where we need to go by staying in our comfort zone.

JR Wakefield's picture
JR Wakefield
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Joined: Aug 29 2008
Posts: 93
Future quality of life
The problem is not solvable by reducing our living standards. We could reduce it to the level of central Africa and the end result will be the same, albeit take a little longer. The problem is not that we are running out of resources. That's a symptom. The problem is over-population. Fact is, we have exceeded the planet's carrying capacity. And as with all biological systems that do, we will have a dramatic crash in human populations to a level we were at before this technological civilization started. Which means anywhere from an 80% - 90% drop in the number of humans. How we get from here to there is anyone's guess and likley will be by something completely unexpected. But expect it to be highly chaotic and unmanageble. And there will be no recovery. As Chris shows so well we have consumed just about all the natural resources. Many of these resourses formed just once in geological history (eg, banded iron formations) and will never again form. With no oil, coal or other resources future civilizatoins from this point on will be living much simpler lives, which will be short and harsh. Just like it's been for the past million years of human existance. What some populations of humans may have for some time are resources from man-made sources. Cities, largely abandoned and crumbling, will be mined for the resourses there.
atomicat's picture
atomicat
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Joined: Sep 21 2008
Posts: 2
Low energy footprint the goal
We have to think at least personally and act differently. We have to think of a smaller energy footprint and low energy footprint for post peak survivability, if that's even possible and current excessive savings and wealth. What do I mean by that? If peak oil low spending/meaning spend less waste less, gives you suplus, then you use that surplus to stock up on other low energy survival items to survive ultimate peak oil crashes. This is obviously not easy and the two biggest problems are: 1. Surviving and keeping a job and GNP inputs into the system while your doing this. Meaning holding a job and giving back to the system before it implodes. and 2. Being able to pay your ongoing expenses to whatever system survives without loosing all your assets in a seizure, which is almost impossible to predict. If you can account for both of the above you can transition and make it a goal to use less energy, in the future. But the degree of excess energy and comfort from this life you need is going to be based on the land and assets you amass toward that end and preperations you have made. What do I mean by that? Well obviously if you have $200k lying around you can go out buy a small plot of farm land and build an eco-house with some electric in it that's solar and wind powered. Make every device, I mean everything dependent on that stored electrical capacity of what you generate. And you've become zero energy efficient. But this is a first step and costs a lot of money. You have to be food independent as well if you want to survive a loss of the economic and food grid. And you have to have excess wealth in providing some good or service to others to get and generate wealth and have something to trade, either for those big tax bills you'll be getting in the future or at a local economy to the other survivors. This does not take into account the chance of seizures, by forces who use more weapons and just take things from you, mobs, etc. This means your place should be remote and in a sparse populated area. But then again, if your living working for others, and with others, then that takes you off the economic grid and gets you away from money paying jobs to support this. So everything gets turned upside down. Rural is good, living off the land as a poor rural farmer is good. Nature bringing resources to you naturally is good, meaning rain water and heating systems and building solar heated houses is good for the winter. This is all good stuff, but the high industrial areas, with dense populations and little farmland, those are bad. And the wall street bankers riding the cushion of the cool and big money making jokes behind the cameras while Lehman goes under. Those clowns are hopefully left behind starving in the city, their skills become useless in post peak oil. Unless your looking for comic relief from a serf who will probably not want to work and never make it on foot far enough out to your location, hopefully. So it depends on how far you want to project. If your on a more sparse populated island or continent with more farmland, you might do better, as long as post peak keeps the invading armies of half starved Chinese or other masses away from you. If your in a poorer and denser populated area to begin with and are poorer to begin with, you have close to the earth survival skills already, but to the degree you depend on aid from richer, caste offs and hand outs you'll be at risk of falling off the survival table. Think about it, this starvation of the weaker is happening already. As rice goes up, the poorer folks end up starving and falling off the table. And we don't say, I'm going to drive less to save the poor sucker in Haati, and give him more food. No we let the starving masses on far away shores starve and send them some help once in a while from our excess, calling it good works and charity. But as things get worse, we lose the excess and the charity stops and the ones closer to the edge of the table start falling off it into starvation. We are really not very concerned about this as a whole, that is most people are not very concerned now. Some make a profit of this by doing some work and raising some funds. And some try to help, but for the most part the average joe doesn't care and spends all their money on a six pack, a huge boat with a V-8 motor for the lake and a giant screen TV. We quickly bypass the starvation programs and UNICEF or other organizations like Christian childrens fund, etc. And we turn on American Idol and who wants to be a millionaire or whatever is in the vogue of the time. And we watch that and party. So when things start hitting the fan here, do you think other countries will worry about what happens to you? You may have even helped them to some extent, but they won't likely be in a position to help or care to help. So it will probably and I'm talking about post peak and post peak problems when the cliff gets really bad. . . it will be every group, man village and country for themselves. When that happens we'll start seeing a decent into more chaos and SHTF scenarios. We can see careful strange survivalist videos and books like one where your shown how to kill a rat and eat it with a stone. The guy who does this shows you a way to live in a low dense rural area where there are a lot of rats. But imagine trying to set a trap in a densely populated area, where all your neighbours have left over ammo, starving kids to feed and may even be eyeing you as a stranger to perhaps harvest for some meat off your bones. In severe really bad times, all kinds of craziness happens. Let's hope it doesn't happen in our world, but it does happen at times even by madmen in todays world. So my dream world of some post peak future looks something like this. We all have three wheeled enclosed velomobiles that have an electric motor and a wind generator on a one or two acre farmstead. We have a small energy efficient superinsulated shell made up out of straw bale and earth or lime plaster. This is a solar heated home, without much energy used at all. Inside it sits a docking room/trailer. This trailer is the sleeping quarters and is heated by a small eco exchange heat system or thermonex heated pipes. There is a lot of heat sinks in the straw bale earthship/docking port. But it's fairly small. If your rich you might have more rooms, but the core living area has little plumbing and your water is primarily from a pump, stream or water catchment. Water catchment being the biggest source. Your in an area that has enough rainfall for all your water needs. No Aquifor to worry about. Your in an area that has enough wind to drive your wind generator. Your main cooking from electric is by a crock pot. 150 watt hours. Most of your lighting is low powered LED lighting. You have an internal straw bale growing greenhouse for winter crops. You have summer crops as well. Your wind generator provides enough power for your household and battery storage and you can drive 4 hours on your bike/three wheeled velomobile vehicle using 1/2 the power from your wind generator if need be. This power is stored in a battery system. The batteries charge your bike batteries and provide energy for your household electronic goods. Most of your power is electric, because there's multiple sources of electrical generation and it just makes sense. Your heat is from the sun whenever possible. You may have solar photovoltiac cells which are better, but the supply of these won't last long term post peak and you know it and wind generators and spare parts are the preferred method of getting power for many. The ideal city/rural village might be 20 by 40 miles in size with 2 to 4 acre plots which could support the entire state population of Michigan for example. In a plot this side everyone would have their land, some green space. Surrounding these areas is some limited industry that's left over. This provides some work but most of these involves making much less often with mined items from abandoned large cities. Most of the time is at home, and if your lucky you have a small internet free network using mesh networked computers for your library and childs education. These are like the current XO computers used in the third world and don't require cabling just close proximity to have a mesh network for learning and research. These have a limited lifespan and are just a part of the early peak as we spiral down life. It's highly unlikely that computers will be sustainable in the post peak world but some common ones might be available to borrow at times as there were a lot of spares left over from pre-peak production. These might provide huge libraries, if the technology can be hacked and refitted as needed with the thousands of super cheap castoffs that existed from former owners who either died or abandoned them in their search for food and fuel resources. Keep in mind I'm talking about harse post peak conditions, that could exist after a really bad local disaster, depression total meltdown off all services and energy grid or just a longer peak result if peak happened. In these cases, the remote eco-retreat might be sustainable or seemingly paradise, to those who had one. In difficult times in Russia, people lived off food from their cottages in the country, but they had to have the country place. If you were stuck in the city you were left living on the handouts as happens now in America to the poorest street person. (These are usually abused people or mentally ill or drug addicts in the USA however.) As things get worse the people near the edge of survivabilty will fall off the table, kind of like a dish near the edge of a tablecloth falling off the table as the tablecloth is pulled off the table. And unlike the tablecloth, the support net or safety net we have in our countries is more like a net. So the net holds you in place. As you hold onto the net or your feet are entangled, you find yourself dangling off the table, not firmly supported but just hanging on for dear life. But the other folks further in on the table still on the table, they are still on it, but they are stick in the net as well. They are holding the poorer ones up as part of the economy is hanging off the table. This is what a governmental safety net does. It's supposed to keep you from falling down to abject poverty and failure or stavation, and hope you can climb back on. But it looks like in a post peak world the net will keep sliding off and eventually the net may have enough weight to pull everyone off the table. When that happens if your not completely off the table by jumping off somewhere you just fall with the rest of the folks. This to me is a hard crash, dieoff scenario, which we hope to avoid. Problems will arise however which is the governments need to get funding to keep something afloat. So there's a lot of group and governmental actions that are almost impossible to predict, meaning it's almost impossible to really plan for this and all the results. i think the best thing to do is to look at the possible outcomes and how others react and try to anticipate those things and hopefully plan for those problems as well, but it gets mind boggling. So what it all means in the end is planning ahead and getting ready will give you more options and stability. But you cannot always plan this easily with the consent and help of others you know in your family and will get ridicule from your friends as well, but this is changing lately. So they will think your crazy, for this reason I think you should take an attitude and tack of this being just a fun hobby. After all people waste a lot of money on a hobby and if it's a hobby it's acceptable. It doesn't have to be a lifestyle change, just a hobby to get you prepared for a lifestyle change and one that gives you more funds and options. If you can spend less dollars you will often spend less energy and lower your footprint. Of course with preps you have to amass some assets but everything needs to be toward your lower energy footprint goal. My goal is 1/10th my income which is a really low energy goal. If I can spend 1/10th my money on sustainable living, I have 90% savings to gear up for better more sustainable future living. So my goal should be to cut back big time. Where to cut back. start with the most energy saving cost with the least expense and change at first then work your way down the list. For many that's their car first. Start with your transportation, it's taking as much energy as your house and costs a lot less. So change that first. Then take the savings from that and work toward your house for insulation and sustainable design or trade to a better smaller more efficient house with more land if possible. Then work toward electrical independence meaning all your off grid needs. Once you've reached that, get the farming and indepedent food thing figured out. I figure the electrical grid and food grid will be the last things to go, so I can focus on those last. Why worry about growing a garden and saving a few buck or nothing at all right now if your wasting $200 a month in gas and the simple car changing habit can give you a lot more savings and help save energy and lower US energy spending for foriegn oil. Start with the car first, or alternatives to it. I bought a Prius, but I know it's not for everyone. My friend bought a scooter, to save gas and he owns an Accord. I traded in my Civic for the Prius. I leave my F150 sit and it can rust from now to doomsday for all I care. I may sell the F150 someday, but for now I'm keeping it for an option to use it, but F150s are now a dime a dozen as they are gas hogs. For this reason saving gas big time, very small economy cars or figuring out how to drive a lot less should be your priority to start. Hope this has helped some. Step 1. Efficiency. Step 2. Off grid energy. Step 3 Off grid sustainable without much food aid and economic grid failure. Each step takes more money to prepare for and more time.

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