Slower, smaller, quieter, poorer

Oh-o, say can you see? What so proudly we hailed…

It’s Saturday morning and I’ve spent this week reading news, blogs, new library books and magazine articles. With the holidays past us now, with the winter veggies under hoops, and my cold body under wraps, reading is my activity of choice. No other time during the year offers me the time to read like I do during these winter months. Because we’re trying to keep the thermostat in this bigger home set low, I’m spending as much time as possible close to the oven or the gas fireplace, so reading and baking help. I wish I knew how to knit. But I digress…

The overall sense of things I’m getting from reading all these current events, is that the fiscal cliff is, in a sense, still a cliff hanger, and that job growth is still cool as the recovery grinds on. Most economists expect the US economy will be held back by tax hikes this year as well as by weak spending by households and businesses, which are still trying to reduce their debt burdens. The US Congress this week passed legislation to avoid most of the tax hikes and postpone the spending cuts. Even with the last-minute deal to avoid much of the fiscal cliff,  most workers will see their take-home pay reduced this month as a two-year cut in payroll taxes expires.

In other words, we’re still in the same boat. Climate change continues to be ignored by Washington, Mountain Top Removal has moved into Tennessee, and the  oil-drilling ship Shell had planned to use to tap oil reserves in the Arctic Ocean ran aground this week (Happy New Year Alaska!) dashing hopes that massive new oil fields would be found there. Same old stuff, different year.

Rather than being in denial or getting depressed by this buffet of crappy news, I choose to be quietly active about it. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I wonder whether my individual efforts to lower my carbon footprint really make a difference, (especially when I see so much waste around me.) But those efforts are all I’ve got. MY personal efforts mean a lot to me and so I’ve decided NOT to give up but to ‘branch out’, shall we say. I’ve already publicly committed to picking up trash on my daily walks but I’m also quietly committing to living a slower, smaller, quieter and yes, poorer life this year. Michael and I are making plans to challenge ourselves in new, untried, ways in 2013 in order to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and to live well on less. And herein lies the key for me. Living on less sounds dreary, doesn’t it? But living WELL on less sounds intriguing, yes?  Every piece of advice I read concerning ”how to become an effective writer” tells me to ”know my subject”. So if I’m going to continue writing about the issues that this very blog is based on, I feel I should be able to offer practical ways that we can gracefully transition to a Peak Oil World. Before I even tell you about the challenges though, let me say this: we view them as FUN, not as deprivations or we wouldn’t do them at all.

First, we plan to go for a month sometime this year without using our car. It won’t be January or February though, I can tell you that- it’s too damn cold! (Hey! This is OUR personal challenge so we get to set the rules!) It will likely be in March or April before we get too deeply involved with the community and our own personal gardens (in case, you know, we need to fire up our old 1987 truck to haul manure 😉 ) . The second challenge will be to eat for a month using the same USDA food cost guidelines that are used for food stamp recipients. Again, we get to choose the month, and it may well be the month we’re not driving since those food stamp guidelines do NOT include any restaurant meals anyway. I think these two challenges will  help me to have better insight as to what it might take to live in a world where everything is more localized and one in which sustainable and resilient aren’t just trendy buzz words, but become part of everyone’s everyday life. As a writer, I want to be able to offer you, my reader, some realistic and doable solutions to the problems we’re facing as a society. I believe that the best thing average Joe’s and Jane’s like us can do to adapt to the real world challenges I often write about, is to learn to live in ways that keep us robustly happy and healthy, while being engaged with our neighbors and  ’empowered by our homes’.  Remember that phrase, ’empowered by our homes’, because you’ll be reading  more about that in this blog during the coming year too. Our homes are places of shelter and rest certainly, but also places that can work FOR us, rather than US working to support our homes! Investing in them as infrastructures where we grow and preserve food, supply some of our energy needs, capture rainwater or serve as neighborhood centers could go a long way towards keeping us warm and fed and yes, empowered! in good times or bad.

Constant debt, stress and mindless consumerism makes life harder than it needs to be. A life that’s slower, smaller, quieter, and  poorer sounds like a good alternative to me. And what if we never do fall ‘over the cliff’? Here’s your answer…

Create a better world for nothing-309x197

2 Comments so far
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I recommend you read James Howard Kunstler’s “The Long Emergency”. He is a thoughtful, literate writer and provokes creative thought in readers.
Buzzwords are everywhere around us – they prevent detailed thoughtful analysis. Also the much bandied around word “fun” might be better replaced by the word “satisfying”. Satisfaction is longer term than fun. G

Comment by suburbanlife

You are so cool Sam Jones.

Comment by Sara Huber

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