The good news is that there are many changes which will improve your life, your health and your mental well being – even while you are learning to use fewer resources, increasing your self-reliance in the face of disaster and leaving a small footprint.
Recently I saw a cartoon where a man stood up at a Climate Change conference and, addressing the list of changes that people felt needed to happen, called out “Well, what if we do all of this, make the world a better place and nothing happens? THEN WHAT?”
For several years now, I have been stressing the importance of lowering our resource usage and living more lightly on the planet. There are so many reasons for that, but one is that we simply cannot keep using and consuming in the ways that we have been. Like it or now, we are heading for a future in which all of us will have to live with less.
From Greece to Venezuela, we are seeing what happens when unprepared people are faced with resource depletion.
The good news, though, is that there are many changes which will improve your life, your health and your mental well being – even while you are learning to use fewer resources, increasing your self-reliance in the face of disaster and leaving a small footprint.
These are not skills and changes that are dependent on living in a certain place. Whether in a town or out in the country, anyone can start learning to use fewer natural resources and discover ways to thrive no matter what.
Are you ready?
Start walking. Get a bicycle. Learn to manage without going far outside your community. Plan your trips when you do use a vehicle.
Consider how your ancestors (if you live where they did) dealt with the seasons. In a northern climate, winter is a time for hunkering down and staying close to home (and the wood stove).
Make sure your family has a good supply of whatever long-lasting, well-made clothes are needed for your climate. Here in Canada, that means (in my opinion) a lot of leather, wool and fur – which are, incidentally, materials that can be acquired locally. (Flax, too, can be grown here and turned into linen, a very durable and useful material.)
Get local with your food. Even if you’re not currently buying from local suppliers, get used to eating foods that grow in your region. Get to know the folks at your local Farmer’s Market and support them. Figure out what exceptions you’ll make, and why, and what you’ll do if those items aren’t available for long periods of time. Start figuring out who the local food suppliers are. The time to find these people is before the trucks stop running.
Get to know your community. Take walks and figure out what you can access without a vehicle. Talk to your neighbours, too, and get to know them.
Learn to make something. Learn to bake bread. Sew practical clothes. Weave. Cobble shoes. Build something from wood without power tools. Make soap. Dip candles. Make music from classic instruments. Or learn to tell a really good yarn. We always need singers and musicians and entertainers.
Store food. Better yet, grow food organically and learn to store it in a sustainable way. (Here’s a hint – if it requires electricity or petroleum, it’s not sustainable.) The Mormons have the right idea when it comes to keeping a *rotating* year’s worth of food and household goods.
While you’re at it, learn how to save seeds. (And I don’t mean buying a sealed bucket “seed bank”.)
Learn how to make the basics. Vinegar. Mead. Sourdough. Pasta. Get connected with your local Society for Creative Anachronism – they’re packed full of people with these skills.
Get a good reference guide for the edible plants in your area. Better yet, take courses in foraging. Here’s a list of 15 wild edibles that grow practically everywhere in North America, Europe and Australia.
Learn to hunt and fish, preferably with tools and weapons that can be easily repaired.
Plan to go camping this summer, with the kids, and “rough it” as much as you can.
Raising animals may be harder or easier than hunting them, but at least you know where to find them at slaughter time. Plus, they can provide milk and eggs.
Start dumping disposable plastic. It’s made from petroleum and it breaks down in nasty ways while we use it, but it doesn’t break down enough to ever actually go away. There will be plenty of it around if we ever need it in an emergency situation because it really never goes away.
Build up a library of books you believe are worthwhile.
If you are currently doing well financially, the sort of family that has stocks and bonds, get out of debt. However, if your income is more modest (ie., you’re poor folk like me), this might be a lower priority than ensuring a supply of food and basic goods in your home.
Rethink your definition of wealth. Land is wealth. Knowledge and practical skills are wealth. Paper money is not wealth in an uncertain economic world. Work on diminishing your need for a steady income.
Establish housing that is as secure as possible. If you own 1/10 of your home and the bank owns the rest, it’s not secure. An acre that you own outright is better than fifty acres that you co-own with the bank – and which requires a steady income for the monthly mortgage payments. By the same token, high property taxes are not sustainable without a steady income.
Stop buying stuff. When you do buy something, buy the best quality you can, buy for long-lasting value and take care of it. Reduce your need for new “stuff”, and re-use everything that you can.
Build a comprehensive medical kit for your home, keeping in mind that our modern medical system may be in disarray and medication difficult to find. Learn how to use it, too.
If possible, get licensed to use firearms and take lessons. This will not be feasible for everyone, though, depending on location, legal barriers, finances and other variables. Don’t expect to stockpile weapons and ammo and keep your hungry neighbours out, though. There will always be more people than you have bullets, and won’t you be popular if you shoot half the village over a stockpile? A better plan is to work on community survival and cooperate with those around you.
Mechanics – being able to repair bicycles and other human-powered equipment is always a useful skill.
Stop considering electricity and oil as vital components of your life. Practice living without a freezer, then graduate to living without a fridge. Unplug the TV. Turn off the lights whenever possible. Consider candlelight dinners. Look for manual tools instead of electric.
There’s no reason to live like that all the time, not while it’s available, but make sure you know how!
Remember what I said about community?
The fact is that none of us can master ALL of that stuff. Develop your own skill sets and group together with people who have complementary skills.
The other thing we can’t do alone (or even in one nuclear family) is keep breeding … when choosing your community, remember that your grandchildren will need four biologically unrelated grandparents …
Something we CAN all do – start limiting your reliance on the national/international economy.
We still have to live in the current economy, but we can work on getting ourselves on the fringe of it.
If you’re cash-poor but mostly self-reliant, you’re going to weather an economic and infrastructure collapse better than someone whose life is completely dependent on the system.
Get in shape. This is hard for most of us, but if we had to start living today without electricity and petroleum, most of us would have heart attacks and busted knees within a week.