Surviving Peak Everything: The Guardian on Community-led vs Individual Responses
We've already noted that survivalism is the new black, and with climate change, peak oil, and rising food prices all vying for our attention, it's little wonder that folks all over are thinking more and more about what they would do if our comfortable consumer societies went belly up. Now the UK's Guardian newspaper is picking up the story, with Harriet Green, former editor of 'a glossy magazine', discussing how she has begun to take heed of her husband's dark mumblings about an imminent environmental, social and economic crisis. But what's a good consumer to do when faced with such predictions?
Green begins by outlining the growth in discussion around survivalism, noting that responses range from stock-piling tinned food to starting your own garden (sales of vegetable seeds are apparently up 60% on last Spring!), with the more extreme elements entering into internet discussion about how to circumnavigate the UK's relatively strict weapon laws. Delving into this world has obviously left our author more than a little concerned:
" I've started to worry. Is my family prepared for the worst? I'm reasonably nimble at the computer keyboard, and a whiz with the hairdryer, but otherwise pretty useless. I've barely made or mended anything in my life. Thankfully my husband is three years ahead of me, and - with help from the many self-sufficiency manuals he's collected - has evolved (or regressed) into a creature from the past: he's got an allotment, has turned our garden into some kind of nursery for innumerable apple trees grown from pips (farewell, ornamental rose) and recently started knitting. He even has plans for a composting loo, in the event that water supplies fail."
But having discussed the historical precedents for such survivalist culture, namely the oil shocks of the 70s and fear of nuclear annihilation, and met a few well-known prophets of doom, we're pleased to see Green coming around to the approach favored by us TreeHuggers — namely a healthy dose of self-sufficiency and 'skilling up', combined with a concerted community effort to build resilience in the systems we live in through supporting local food and local economies, micro-energy generation and energy efficiency, and by simply getting to know your neighbors. And who better to talk to than TreeHugger favorite Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement [see our own interview here]:
"If we didn't do anything, " he agrees, "there are all sorts of grim scenarios. But I like to think of those as like Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Future - just one possible scenario. " Thus, when the price of oil rises, Hopkins cheers. "It's like a racehorse owner cheering his horse. The things I want to see happen only happen in times of high oil prices. In the 70s, there was the most incredible flowering of creativity. Solar power, permaculture - they all started in the 70s. Then cheap oil came back, and everything went out of the window. High oil prices will stimulate creativity all over again: the knock-on of rising food prices will make it more cost-effective to grow food here; the higher cost of petrol in your car will make you ask if it's worth making the journey. " The bonus is that, as we burn fewer fossil fuels, emissions will be reduced and climate change might be slowed.
For more on Transition Towns, take a look at our posts here, here and here. To see some permacultural approaches to food security, check out our posts here and here, and certainly don't forget to check out our guide on How to Green Your Community.