Resiliency… & Questions.

Resiliency .  I think about it, read about it, and then write about it.  It is the ability of a system, be it an ecosystem or a socioeconomic construct, to bounce back from a shock.  For years now “We” have been saying “It” is coming…. get ready!  But there is a the starkness, an emotion, that reality has that is never –ever– present in the books on Transition or even in those on Peak Oil.  Several years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend and I was advocating $4+ gasoline as a way to reduce consumption. They nodded, and then reminded me that the thousands of working poor in Milwaukee can’t afford hybrids and typically drive gas guzzlers because they are old and cheap.  What about them?  I felt incredibly  bourgeois  then, as I have for the past several months as the very things I had read and written about began to take place around me.  Only this time with names attached to them.  And families.  That I know.

 185,000 people have lost their livelihoods in the past 3 weeks in our country.  185,000 fathers and mothers have had to come home to tell their families that It has Happened.  Each and every one of those statistics has a story, and these stories are heart rending. Just today my corporation announced a 9% layoff at HQ and that we are shutting down an entire distribution plant.    I am a manager in a different distribution plant, so that hits home.  Tomorrow I get to go in and talk through this with  my 30 member team, and somehow telling them to start “reskilling” and building local foodsheds in preparation for Energy Descent  and the end of Indulgence Capitalism will not seem appropriate to quell their fears.

I’ve spent several years now concerned about the very things that I think our country, hell world, is now experiencing: reaping the sowings of our consumer culture.  I’ve learned to grow things, I’ve learned to build things, and I’ve read and written more in the past two years than the last 8 years of my schooling combined.  But the feeling — the fear— is still real when you hear the CEO mouth the words “layoff” or whatever term the PR department allowed him to say.  One is reminded of Sartre’s Nausea, and when has *that* ever been good?

I have insulated myself to some degree given the whole suburban living thing.  But what now?  The next 2-5 years are going to be interesting.  Do you go into debt in preparation for hyperinflation which would make the debts meaningless?  Do you horde cash in preparation for the crash of the banking system?  Do you look your wife in the eye when she thinks your going bonkers?  What if your right?  What if your not?

Or do you cling to the status quo and your day job as long as it will have you, or do you turn to ramping up your part time LLC which has turned a small profit every year and take The Plunge?  If it is going to Get Bad, can you afford to waste any more time In the System?  Is there a middle ground?

I am banking on it.  Like so many of us, watching from the sidelines as we are crossing the tipping points of our economy are catching us unawares with the shear rapidity of the change.  I am not ready to cut the cord, mentally or economically… though fate may have other things in mind.  But I do know that finally earning a Space Race Victory in Civ IV will likely have to wait.  Action is my only answer to despair – I guess I am not very psychologically complex.

On the way home tonight after hearing my CEO utter that most dreaded words – even if it was referring to The Others-  I stopped to wire up the power cords into the 6, .5 hp water pumps for our Biodiesel processor at a friends house.  Then I stopped to pick up the spinach seeds for starting this very evening, and when I got home I started a double batch of bread rising for baking in the morning.  My mortgage seems way too big right now, and my job security too small, but I have 360#’s of seed potatoes inbound, I have built machines that can run gas engines on wood chips and I know how to make fuel from french fries.  I may not be as resilient as I want to be, but I am better off than most.  And all my learnings, hopes, and fears are on this blog for you to learn from too should you want.

As Chris Martenson says in his Crash Course – the next 20 years will likely be nothing like the last.  I still believe that there is a brighter future out there for my children, but getting there will be an interesting ride.  

In the mean time I will quote Ani Difranco… “you gotta live light enough to see some humor, and long enough to see some change.”

If you find the humor, let me know.  But regardless,

Be that Change.


8 Responses

  1. I find myself at a rare loss for words, you’ve said all that needs to be said.

  2. I too live in fear of a layoff, but if it happens I will make my work of teaching people to garden my full time job, and I will love every minute of it.

    Doesn’t a small part of you want to lose your job so you can finally spend more time on that gassifier?

    I was struggling with these issues myself a couple of weeks ago. I knew how powerful permaculture can be for changing our world, but I was afraid the world would collapse before the teaching could spread. But then I asked myself a question- how strong would I be if I believed that it could work?

    Rob, I believe that you can make a difference. You have a vision of a different, healthier world. Why be afraid when the old one gets out of the way?

    When I look down, I miss all the good stuff, when I look up, I just trip over things.

  3. Thanks Matt and Kory. Matt, I would say that a part of me feels that I am better of than many in that I have some arguably profitable ventures should my work a day job dry up. But with 2 kids, 2 car payments, and a mortgage I am not really looking forward to losing my job should that come to pass. Given the benefit packages of my Fortune 500 world I would to need to more than double my salary to cover health care and everything else. That is alot of radishes to sell. We don’t need my full salary to survive, but I know what was entailed in selling $2000 in produce last year. Tacking on even one zero would take a huge increase in labor, capital outlays and more land that I have at my disposal.

    Why be afraid? Because there is no way that there will be enough money in the short term to cover the critical transition period of 2-4 months between planting enough produce for a living income -if I could sell it all to allow us to not lose the house- and earning an income. We are 8 months into a 32 month plan to be debt free (sans mortgage). Fate may not give me the remaining 24. We would love to downsize, but we are a little behind the curve with most of our wealth in suddenly un-liquid assets.

    We will survive regardless, but the Unknown is always disconcerting, and with little mouths counting on me that just makes reality all the more poignant.

  4. I hear you. I’ve stared at teh ceiling many nights wondering similar things. It sounds to me like you at least have a plan for scaling up, so why not stay with the current job/system while you can? There’s a lot to be said for cash…like your plan to reduce or eliminate debt. My guess is, if/when the time comes to leave The Job and do something else, it’ll be really, really obvious. A layoff notice, a buyout offer, a $6Million grant to get CSE started…those would be pretty clear signs. 🙂

  5. Rob: I have a broadfork question and a question related to a book I’ve written and another I’m writing. If you’re willing, can you contact me at the email affiliated with this comment?

    Thank you.

  6. Sure thing Pigs. Email incoming.

  7. Paul, that is really cool! One of the guys in my CSE group built an all electric Metro from about $150 (including the car!) by selling off what he didn’t need and buying used parts like a Forklift motor for $20. Range is a respectable 20 miles in the summer and it will do over 40.

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