Launching

It is probably fitting to be launching a new blog – my first – at the beginning of a new year and a new decade. The start of 2011 is also a time to reflect on what has affected me most in the last years and look to the future for the changes that it will bring.
 
A “launching” is also the act that sets a vessel, like a boat or a ship, into motion and out into the sea. I believe the changes that we face, nationally and globally, are going to push many of us away from familiar shores and perhaps into uncharted waters.
 
So, just what are the changes I’m referring to? Two are based on the natural world, the other on economics. But each also reinforces and interrelates with the others.
 
- The modern industrial life that we enjoy, based on cheap and abundant energy supply, is inexorably becoming unsustainable and unaffordable. This is because the production of the world’s energy supply, especially oil, has reached its peak of production and is in decline (see my article here on energy, for a longer exploration of Peak Oil).
 
-The measurable effects of damage to the environment are accelerating more quickly than initially estimated. A severe manifestation of this damage  is global warming, leading to the melting of glaciers and other effects of climate change. Climate change, most scientists contend, is caused by human activity –especially through the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. We can expect higher temperatures, more storms, droughts, rising seas levels – in short, harsher and less controllable conditions for human populations, and for all species.
 
-The shock to the economy we know --that is, the highly leveraged, superheated global economy--began its downward spiral in the middle of the decade, reaching crisis stage in fall 2008. Whether nudged off the cliff by toxic financial sector deals, job outsourcing overseas, or personal credit card debt plus zero savings rate, our financial system is struggling to remain viable. This is not a passing blip awaiting a “market correction”; rather it is a widespread, prolonged economic contraction whose pain continues to spread from individual straits to revenue-strapped cities, states, and countries.
 
Peak Oil, climate change, and economic contraction impose a new mandate, individually and collectively: how to identify and organize our personal and societal priorities in the light of this new, changed reality?
 
Returning to my “boat” metaphor, we have to recognize that the current boat is leaky, and the navigation equipment has become unreliable; the vessel is no longer seaworthy. We have to plan a new course with a different map.  And we have to take appropriate action and do so with deliberate speed, even if we don’t have complete information or tools at hand. 
 
We’ll need companions, a community, as we traverse, for ideas, songs, to stand watch, and to provide extra strength when we’re tired and discouraged. In the U.S. and around the world, people are building lifeboats of skills and innovation to fit new circumstances. They are growing healthy foods in backyard and community gardens; developing and applying renewable energy technologies; establishing economic alternatives such as local currencies and cooperatively owned enterprises. 
 
Our wealthy and advanced society has produced so much that is positive in health, education, and opportunity. A car (or two or three) in every garage and rock-bottom prices for gasoline have given us incredible mobility. The vast North American continent, teeming with rich resources, yielded such excess that for decades the United States was a net exporter of food, steel, and all kinds of industrial machinery. But this largesse has had its downside, as well: social selfishness and isolation, increasing divides between rich and poor, and devastation to natural resources, among others.
 
We can look forward to, and participate in building, another way. James Howard Kunstler, expressed that possibility: “If there is any positive side to the stark changes coming our way, it may well be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really matters, and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments…”*
 
As for me, I’ve looked at the future and decided to be prepared for change. As a lifelong communicator, I’m committed to sharing the resources of information and inspiration I encounter, as well as my own journey to increased skills and resilience. Charting that journey is the purpose of this blog.
 
 
 
 
*The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century. Grove Press, 2005