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community building | sustainability

A Response to the President's Order to "Go Shopping"

mericans are still in the dark about HOW to change our consumptive habits, or that they even need to sacrifice at all, starting right now. There is way too-low attendance at Power Down meetings across the country, and we certainly won't get out of this mess by shopping.
Heading into 2007, and regarding whether I am more or less optimistic over this past year over the local and global response to peak oil, my response is what President Bush just said in his speech yesterday... "We are not winning, but we are not losing".

I am less optimistic for 2007 due to the fact that Americans are still in the dark about HOW to change our consumptive habits, or that they even need to sacrifice at all, starting right now. There is too-low attendance at Power Down meetings across the country. The president just used his media bullhorn to direct Americans to go out shopping, and that will make everything A-OK. Yet he says we need to get off of oil?

Like a drug addict depending on a dealer they don't know is running out of dope, Americans are about to get slammed with "Sorry, that high you depend on is gonna cost you five times as much tomorrow, and by the way, it's only going to get more expensive from here on out". Uh... say what?

But I am no angel. I am still addicted to oil, limited in what a single family can do to ween off the drug. I don't take the bus yet. I carpool with my wife, but haven't asked my neighbors to consider pooling our trips to the farmers market. I am a walking mouthpiece that talks a big game, but am not living a true power down lifestyle currently seen as a cultural outsider by the majority of Americans.

So I am a hippocrite when I say unless we get off oil and make changes RIGHT NOW, the economic convulsions we're going to have in America will make a heroin addict's withdrawl look like a baby taking a soothing nap. Shame on me for not giving up everything, but I have a wife that keeps me grounded in worldy affairs, and I enjoy having a loving relationship.

BUT... (Here's the optimism) we do have time to change! I believe in Americans. I believe Americans want change. They know something stinks. (See my latest post on www.lawnstogardens.com ). I believe Americans can and will discover that community building gives more meaning to life than 'shopping'. Meeting and end enjoying locals has been an amazing bright light, even if it is by singing karaoke on Saturday nights at the local Pub. People bond over music and beer.

I also believe when the first oil shocks hit, people will REALLY wake up. Right now they are lying in bed, and they keep hitting the snooze button every time their little alarm goes off, not wanting to believe it's time to get up and go to work.

Well, there's a bunch of burly construction crew guys about to knock a hole in their wall and force them out of bed.

So why do I say we are still winning, and why am I optimistic?

I love the power of American ingenuity and I know our history. I look to our roots for coming up with amazing ideas. We are the entrepreneurial leaders of the world. There are a lot of smart farm boys and girls out there.

It's just that so many Americans have become so materialistic, fat, and lazy, they have let their guard down. Well, we are about to get our economic butts kicked. So unless we put down the Playstations, Doritos, and cut our Internet porn surfing time in half, we are in deep, deep trouble.

People need to, starting today, write and call their congressional reps and demand energy alternatives come to the forefront as our nation's top priority, seconded by local food security. We're talking about a bigger project than putting a man on the moon here.

The problem is... what can congess do? The answer is not to replace oil, rather to find a way to level off, and then reduce current levels of growth. Since I believe the present congress is more reactive than proactive, it's going to take political balls the size of Mars to tell the truth to America. They are going to be very angry addicts, and no one wants to hear the bad news.

It will mean many businesses will have to close shop before it's too late, but the great news is they can start NEW businesses RIGHT NOW and seek opportunities in our new low energy future. Why, they can discover the joys of creative bicycle design, peddle powered cars, urban farming, home retrofitting... . etc. Entrepreneurs like Bo from the Blossoming Lotus get it. Auto dealers that can't read the tea leaves don't.

I firmly believe it will all come down to food security, a place to keep out of the elements, local living, and accepting the only true meaning of sustainability is balance. Yin and Yang. Working together. Accepting people that are different from themselves.

So as we head into more warfare for 2007, let's all try and remember we all want to live. As more and more people come together through globalization and cultures clash, we are realizing the poison point that yeast goes through when it turns into alcohol and they all start to die off.

So long as we can maintain our sanity, meaning of life, and learn to share this beautiful planet among all the people on it, we stand a great chance for realizing humanity's potential. Is love REALLY that hard for people to give themselves, and to others? Without people moving beyond their egos, and convictions of greed and hate, there's a global towel waiting to be thrown in.

But I believe in loving to the end, so I'll just say whoever you are, I love you no matter how much you disagree with me because I called you fat and lazy. We all have inner research to do.

homepage: homepage: http://www.lawnstogardens.com

Dude! Living car-free is not that difficult 22.Dec.2006 02:28


OK, unless you are a construction contractor or someone who has to carry a lot of payload around, or who has to go to a lot of places in the course of work, you can do without a car. Live close to work, or make your work close to where you live, or work for yourself so your home is your work. TriMet takes you just about anywhere in this town, and you can get stuff like reading / studying done while someone else does the driving. I know many couples who are carting their kids around in bike trailers, not too tough for them since they live close to where the kids go to school and other activities and also are friends with other parents in the neighborhood.

I think usually when anyone claims they can't live w/out their car, they are hanging onto something (like a job or a neighborhood) because of fear of change. Almost anyone who really wants to live car-free can structure their life so that they can easily walk / bike to what they need to get to. It may not be easy at first (for my first car-free year I occasionally borrowed roommates' vehicles) but if this is a goal it is definitely doable.

Coming soon: lots of useful live-car-free advice on the Shift site:

Here is an interesting "things you can do with a bike trailer" article:
 link to bikeportland.org

Response to your comment 22.Dec.2006 18:27

R White

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Your presumption, however, that "Unless you are a construction contractor or someone who has to carry a lot of payload around, or who has to go to a lot of places in the course of work, you can do without a car.", is your world view.

And therein lies the solution to the riddle of why your message falls on many deaf ears. You must understand, I have changed since I met my wife over four years ago, and would gladly give up my car, and much more.

But she is rooted in the world of convenience, and though I have overcome inward enemies of desire for such things, she has not. It has caused many disruptions of harmony between us, you might say. Sure, we could divorce and "re-align" ourselves with someone else that is more akin to each other's needs, but I am not going to break a bond over my own desires and her clutching to industrialised systems that seem to make life easier.

Now, assuming you come back to read this response, you and I know better. But we can't just wag our fingers at people who have not made the internal discovery that there is no other path to peace than making such changes. I see mushroom clouds in the horizon unless the citizens of every country make such discoveries within themselves.

So while I agree with you that your sentiments are true, I also disagree with you that they are false. Just because one person in a relationship is ready to make such moves does not mean the other is. That is where many struggles lie in making action take place faster.

When we understand this challenge, we can at least start working on ways to get a collective conciousness moving in the right direction.

Do the best you can. 23.Dec.2006 08:36


Some people drive cars because they have bad backs and can't ride bikes. For one tiny example. Some people have their neighborhoods move out on them - I've lost my grocery store and my library but my work is close by and my rent is very low. Last year I drove my 20 year old car once a week, this year a bit more.

One of the really hard parts of the revolution is realizing how complex the answers are. If only 2% of waste is post-consumer than recycling your newspaper is a kind gesture but not terribly effective against massive landfills of construction and nuclear waste.

I say, simply do the best you can. If you drive make up with another gesture - make someone laugh or donate a can to the food bank. And say 'hi' to your neighbors. The latest storm was a great 'time-to get-acquainted' nudge. And maybe they know some good jokes.

cars are not our biggest worry. 23.Dec.2006 16:52


I don't drive and never have. I bike everywhere and encourage everyone to ride instead of driving. the resons are social, ecological, anti-globalization, pro-culture, etc. etc.

However, if your main issue is peak oil. Then post-modern industrialism is far more of an issue. the amount of oil that we use is so little compared with manufacturing and shipping.

So i wouldn't ruin your marage over it. there are better things to focus your energy on.