Skills for a post oil world…

May 13, 2007 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

Well, if the fabric of society broke down tomorrow and we all had to go self-sufficient, in all honesty I probably wouldn’t survive that long, but at least nobody close to me would go short of scarves. This is new project, a skinny scarf, which, if it’s good enough, will go to my best friend for her birthday. I am going to make it incredibly, incredibly long and put tassels on it (if I can work out how).

I stumbled on an old thread on the INEBG forum last night, about what you would do if the worst happened: if bird flu mutated, if we hit peak oil and the international supply chain breaks down, if global warming makes food and water scarce… What will we do? Will we all go feral and start looting shops? Will we turn on each other? Will people retreat to the hills with some cans of baked beans and a gun? People are so dependent in terms of food, water, energy and other general stuff. How many people would know how to grow vegetables if they couldn’t buy them in the supermarkets? How many people can make a fire? How many people can light a fire without matches? How many people could go and kill a rabbit or a pheasant for dinner?

I can:

  • wash clothes by hand, and pretty well at that
  • be extremely frugal with water
  • knit
  • mend a few things (can’t darn though)
  • keep plants alive and healthy
  • some basic herbalism
  • basic first aid
  • cook resourcefully
  • make a fire (though not light it without matches)

So, no, I wouldn’t be able to cope unless I had a supply of soap, wool, probably other fabric, and, if it happened tomorrow, food. Also, wood, for the fire.

I don’t really worry about these things that much. I did read ‘The Great Mortality’ over Easter, a fantastic book about the Black Death by John Kelly, and I realised that the social conditions and changes that allowed the disease to spread so fast back then are very similar to today’s, so I am a bit concerned, on that basis, that if bird flu mutates, well… we’ll be screwed. Then again, I’m not going to start planning my life around it, although I suppose there are those who would have a similar attitude towards my saying that, as I have towards global warming sceptics. I could start hoarding things in cans, but I’d rather develop the skills to be able to manage long-term on my own, or with a small group of people.

I suppose part of my ‘greenness’ is the idea that I would like to be able to look after myself (and any potential children) if the worst happened, and I suppose it is a ‘rejection’ of some of society’s values: I don’t want to work flat out to buy things to make up to myself for all the time I spend working… In some ways, it’s just a different way of perceiving a crisis on the horizon and planning for it.

Yet, that isn’t the main reason I do this, whatever ‘this’ is. Even if we weren’t already seeing the effects of climate change, even if we weren’t about to run out of oil and landfill space, I still believe we have a responsibility to use resources sensitively. Also, I enjoy cooking, I enjoy growing things and I enjoy crafts, and I prefer growing vegetables to flowers, and making useful things instead of endless cross stitch bookmarks. It is a commitment to a simpler way of living, better for the earth, individuals and societies. I’m lucky it coincides with my interests. But then, when I was a teenager I used to like eating microwave meals instead of home-made food, I used to buy cheap clothes, until recently I used to shop at supermarkets. It’s only since the summer I’ve been really committed to being ‘green’, and though it wasn’t a radical lifestyle change, it was a change in some ways, and I am happier. Maybe there is some hope for the rest of the world.

Next year, I’m going to put my name down for an allotment and, in the meantime, start growing other things in containers and pots outside our house. I’m also going to take a dressmaking course, and one of my first projects is going to be turning an old pair of jeans into a skirt. I’m going to buy a treadle sewing machine on ebay. I’m going to learn how to make jam and get better at making bread. This seems like a more positive approach to the situation. I believe the crunch will come, maybe soon, some difficult decisions will have to be made and a lot of people won’t like it. But I have faith (maybe naively!!) that when it comes down to it, we will handle the coming crisis sensibly.

I was thinking, when I was knitting recently, how amazing it was, that you could turn a long bit of wool into a jumper, or a tea cosy, or whatever. How, at first, the idea of using animal skins for warmth must have occurred to people, and gradually, wool was spun into fibres, and turned into clothes. Or how we must have gone from eating berries and seeds and raw meat and veg to being as creative and skilled with food as we are now. Humans are incredibly resourceful and cooperative. Modern society has driven a lot of these instincts underground, but look at what we’ve achieved! I feel something big is going to happen within my lifetime, and while science and technology can play a massive role, unless we curb people’s consumerist appetites, the problem will just continue and get worse. I believe that harnessing and using our traditional skills is one of the most useful things we as individuals can do.

Combat climate change – grow tomatoes and knit socks.

It’ll make you happier too.

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Entry filed under: future plans, knitting, peak oil, pensiveness.

One for the girls… Scary climate change map

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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