Thursday, March 12, 2009


Here are some ideas that came out of a very initial discussion among friends on the topic of preparation for peak oil and a major crisis.

  • Comment 1: Hoping you guys would not mind me bouncing ideas off you. I'd be interested in hearing more what you are doing. I was thinking of buying six month supply of freeze dried food ($2000 or so). It's very difficult to grow food in Phoenix. I'd have to find a way to store lots of water too. Too extreme? Starting to think there is no way to prepare for the extreme events that could follow an economic collapse.
  • Comment 2: No, I don't mind if you bounce some ideas around, but many of these things are very personal, I mean that they depend on your belief on
    how and when the disaster will strike. Everyone will have a different solution depending on his believes, his geographical whereabouts and about his immediate resources (house+garden vs flat, etc.).

    I think that some precautions like
    - having some spare cash at home
    - having some spare food at home
    makes sense. My wife thinks I am exaggerating.

    I also think that the level of disaster depends heavily on where you are. In
    general I think that the US is less prepared and that the US citizens are likely to go violent. Europe I guess is a bit more prepared and I hope a bit more civil (I could be wrong judging by the riots in France last year). It also depends on the region: rural areas will be more prepared. 3rd world countries will not notice anything, life will continue as always, crisis is nothing new to them, they (Argentina, Peru, Cuba, etc.) have for years lived in crisis already, so a new crisis is just everyday life. And poor rural people in these 3rd world country do not and will not even know that the 1st world is in crisis.

    The Basque country still has many rural areas and a local economy-system, so I hope that we are a bit better off. Local food products (fish, veggies will be available because they are produced within a 20km radius). Still - like an insurance policy - I think having extra food is a good idea. There is little effort and money involved, and since it easily doable, let's do it. I was thinking about:
    - dry milk, beans, rice, a few cans like tuna fish cans, peanut butter, honey, salt, sugar.
    These are just regular food items (less the dry milk), no freeze dry stuff. How much food? I will start with a 1-month survival amount.

    We can also cook with the camping cooker for a week. I am sure you have some white gas fuel at home. All the camping gear (cooker, sleeping bags) might come handy.

    As you point out water is a much bigger problem. I see no easy way for myself (no house, no garden, just a small flat) to store water other than a few gallons that last 3 days. Other people have rain-water tanks in the yard, but that is not an option for us. About water, I thought to buy some filter. There are creeks around where we life. I could just filter water. Worst case even from the dirty river. Filtering water takes time (so I wan't do it until really necessary), but the same principle applies: it (buying a filter) can be done with little time and money, so I think it is a good idea.

    I am preparing a personal action plan. I have started with a file, writing down some ideas. I have not thought things thru yet. I also have not done the home work assignment part from Crash Course which I want to do. Once finished I can share my personal conclusions (or parts thereof).

    Again, my wife thinks I am getting a little carried away and am starting to obsess myself with this issue. I think the easy-to-do high gain items make immediate sense (e.g. food pile, water filter, some emergency cash at home). I was also looking at electricity generation thru bicycle (like which would help power lights or a laptop in case of emergencies.

    But everyday life will go on, with or without oil or electricity. I think schools (for our kids), the universities as employers will all continue despite a crash, maybe at reduced level, and maybe with a sporadic break, but they will not just disappear for 5 years while we try to get out of this mess. So, we must plan to be close to the schools and the university so we can continue with this (our children's education and your jobs). The world will not stop, we will just have no more hot water to shower and the supermarket shelves will be empty.
  • Comment 3: Lots to think about. Meanwhile I've ordered some survival/solar power/country living books, and some large containers to hold water.
  • Comment 4: Timing on all this is hard to estimate. Some time ago, a book was reviewed in which a Russian who had lived through the economic collapse of the USSR, and who is currently living in the States thought the US was heading in the same direction. I didn't read the book, but it seemed very interesting. Matt Simmonds noted that the collapse of Enron took 6 days to unfold. If you are ready too early, you just leave a light environmental foot print. Too late, your in trouble. In some ways fossil fuels are like civilization winning the lottery. If you win the lottery, you can squander the money, invest the money, use it to do projects you could never afford, etc. Realizing it's just a temporary boom can help.

    I wanted to note that an early peak oil may actually be good news. Francois Cellier, emeritus professor of the University of Arizona and ZTH Zurich posted an interesting article on a couple of years ago. He does computer modeling and he tried to integrate peak oil, climate change, environmental degradation into his earth scenarios. 8 of 10 scenarios lead to catastrophe. Catastrophe means world population going from on the order of 7 billion in 2040 to 1 billion in 2070. He mentioned that the sooner peak oil occured, the easier it was to avoid catastrophe.

    A few ideas for people living in the desert:
    1) Solar cooker. I have lots of fun with mine.
    2) Learn what desert natives ate 200 years ago. I believe there is more food in the desert than most people are aware of.
    3) Solar power.
    4) Compost toilet. This is easy for us in the countryside.
    5) Collect rain water. Here again, we are very lucky, we have lots of roof area. There is a large cistern in the back of our garage, when we had the roof redone, we just told the roofer to send the water into the cistern. Don't do anything with the water yet.
    6) Grow native plants.

    I also think we have to start talking about this to people. Being prepared as an individual is not really the answer, we need to get communities organized. Difficult to go it alone. I am getting better at bringing up the topic. Most people think I'm a bit nuts, but at least I've introduced the topic to a lot of people.

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