Thursday, March 5, 2009

Personal Contradictions

As I face today's challenges I run into many personal contradictions and frequently I feel forced into something I don't like doing or don't see as appropriate actions.
  • Speculation: I feel forced to speculate because there is no way to protect savings in today's financial system. I don't want to gain or grow profits, I just want to protect what I have, just maintain current savings, but it is impossible. Inflation controlled by the Federal Reserve eats and negates any savings. Stocks and mutual funds go through boom and bust cycles again controlled by the Federal Reserve. Real estate bubbles are equally the doing of artificial financial manipulations and irresponsible actions of banks. So, what's left? Where to put the nest egg? Gold? Even there is risk; risk of confiscation, risk of a gold bubble, etc. Is buying farm land a possible answer? I don't know. All I know is that our current sick, ailing and failing system makes it impossible and at the least very time consuming and risk-loaded to maintain and protect your life long savings and your retirement nest egg.
  • Materialism. With peak oil causing major changes in the fundamentals but the industry not responding to the needs, a difficult transition period is inevitable. All my life I tried to have a small footprint and have few material goods. I avoided having lots of adult toys, we live in a small apartment, etc. But in a peak oil crisis I will be poorly prepared. It is difficult to adapt a small city flat for sustainability. A small flat will always depend on utility companies (gas, water, electricity) and there are no alternatives (wood heating, rain water recycling, etc.). In case of a peak oil crisis the opposite will be good: Having a house, lots of land to plant or farm, space to store energy (wood, etc.), space to put solar panels, and so on. But a house means being a lot more materialistic. You need a lot more goods: the house itself, garden tools, saws, containers, and the list goes on and on. Just compare what you find in a 50 square meter city flat to the stuff you find on a 250 square meter farm house. I feel that preparing for peak oil means partially turning to materialism, buying tons of stuff.
  • Sustainability, investment: I am playing with buying some farm land and building a house on it geared a little bit towards sustainability or call it frugality. So, a small house would be easier to maintain/heat/sustain. But on the other hand current regulations and perceptions punish this kind of thinking. For example, you buy a land with the right to build a 250 square meter house but then only build a 100 sq meter house. Your rural property just lost 50% of its value. Why? Because when you sell the property in 10 years and the new owner wants to build a new house or expand the existing one through an extension he is most likely not allowed to. The new limit will be set to what you build now. In such cases sustainability and investment seem to be mutual, exclusive trade-offs at the extreme ends of the scale.

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