On Building Lifeboats #2

On my last post On Building Lifeboats, there was a comment that I wanted to address, and then my reply became so long I figured I’d just make a new post.

More gloom and doom.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. And I don’t think the way to convince people that change is needed is to tell them that it’s TEOTWAWKI.

Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.

I am NOT going to sit on my butt and let the world fall apart around me. But I am also not going to let any single one of my neighbours suffer while I have the ability to change it. I believe that when we must, and we will, we will work together as communities and countries to solve our problems. And it will be harder in some places than others. But we’ll get through it together – not by building lifeboats for a few.

Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.

No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community

Rant over

I certainly do not consider ‘lifeboat building’ to be about getting myself prepared for what’s coming and leaving everyone else to drown. That is not how I think. I am all about community. There is no way we are going to be able to transition on our own. However, at this point in time, I believe our efforts are best spent on the people who want our help now. Once we get that critical mass moving, more people will become aware and then we will have more people to help them through it. We are starting a movement from the grassroots and have to build it up from the small group of people who currently see what’s really going on in the world. Unfortunately we cannot waste our precious time trying to convince every single person that they need to change the way they live. We just need to get on with ‘Being the Change we want to see in the world.’

Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.”

You are very lucky that you are making your transition a reality already. You are in an ideal place for it where you have a smallish community living in an area with abundant food and water resources. Not everyone will be in such a position.

I currently live in Southern California. There are millions and millions of people living here in the desert where all water is pumped in from the north. We are already beginning to see the effects of climate change and peak oil on Southern California’s water supply. The water to the farmers has been switched off. This region used to be the fruit and vege basket for North America and now it’s becoming a dust bowl. Watch some old movies of the dust bowl of the Great Depression. That’s what we are starting to see here in California.

The economy here is collapsing. Real unemployment in many counties is up around 25%. Nearly 50% for the youth. You’ve seen Greece on the TV. California (the world’s 8th largest economy) is in a worse position, but the majority of the people haven’t yet realised it. Quietly, over 1 million people have already left the state. The Government is trying to impose a massive ‘departure tax’ on people before they leave to stop all the money disappearing from the economy.

Mexico is less than 30 miles from where I live. The Mexican Government is heavily reliant on the proceeds from oil sales for their social services. Mexico’s oil exports are collapsing. The drug cartels are taking over. In the border town less than 30 miles from my home, over 600 people were killed in drug related violence last year. That violence is already spilling over into California. What happens when millions and millions of Mexicans decide they want to escape the violence down there?

We are already seeing anti-immigration uprisings in Arizona and Texas and there is state level conflict over the issue. California threatened to boycott Arizona over their anti-illegal-immigration stance. Arizona basically said, “Go ahead, 25% of your electricity comes from Arizona. Good luck with that.”

Things here ARE doom and gloom. Plenty of the places around the world ARE doom and gloom. It’s already here for many people. We won’t all be living in ideal locations with open spaces and abundant food and water as these systems collapse. There are simply too many people on this planet for everyone to get to live like that. I don’t think there is any way to sugar coat that fact.

Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.”

I agree that we need a positive message to inspire people to change their way of life voluntarily. A voluntary transition to a low energy lifestyle is preferred. When I talk to people I talk mostly about living simply, enjoying nature, growing food, walking lightly on this earth and spending time with family and friends rather than in front of the TV or at the mall.

No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community.”

We must build lifeboats. We must gather people around us to help. We must encourage others to see the benefits of lifeboat building and then show them how it is done. I don’t believe I’m cashing in on people’s fear. I don’t believe I’m being arrogant or appointing myself as captain…choosing who gets to climb aboard. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that life as we currently know it is going to change a lot in the next few decades. Some places will be affected more than others. It’s time to stop drinking at the bar, and start building lifeboats. I am willing to help anyone who wants to learn how.

I just wanted to finish by saying I really do appreciate all the comments I get on the blog. We don’t all need to agree on everything. That would be boring and we all need our own beliefs challenged regularly to ensure that we haven’t just latched onto an idea without thinking it through.

Leanne. Thanks for your comment. I hope you don’t mind me addressing it in this way. Your life in New Zealand is beautiful and inspiring. I would love to be living on your lovely property. I aspire to having our own piece of land in a small community one day.


  1. I agree with you very much. While I admire the spirit and the optimism of the commenter, I think she’s living in a dream world. I also am lucky enough to live in a very favorable area and to have space and water resources. While I certainly intend, like both of you, to act locally to create a resiliant community, it would be very very naiive of me to think that national and international criseses will not affect my sweet little corner of the world. As I said on myown post on the subject (bad news blues) of you live somewhere with abundant water, mild climate, and a stable government, get ready because people will be arriving in your area in large numbers. How are you going to help them while still providing for your family? I’m working on that problem now.

  2. I took your “lifeboat building” to be the same as put your OWN oxygen mask on first.
    If we are not in a situation to even provide for ourselves, how can we begin to help anyone else?
    People need to wake up!

  3. Hi Mia,

    No I don’t have any problem at all with you addressing my comment in this way, because I think we’re both addressing issues that need to be talked about! And I probably sounded more crabby than I intended!

    I do think that the negativism that our community – the “Transition Movement” – can be a real problem.

    Negativity and fear turn people away. They pigeon hole us by the mainstream population and media into being yet another tin foil hat wearing nutcase community, and do nothing to get real action happening where it needs to happen – in the wider community and in government.

    History tells us that change works best when framed in positive terms. You sell something by telling people how much better it is going to make their lives, not how much worse! “Buy this car – it will drain your income, pollute the planet, and you’ll have to clean it every week!” LOL. Ford would have been a pauper.

    The victory garden movement is one such example of framing new, necessary ideas in positive terms, the UK entering the WW2 was another, the Zionist movement could be seen as a third.

    On a personal note, because you addressed these issues, yes I live in New Zealand in a high food production, low population density area, on a farm of our own (I live in Wingatui, just outside of Dunedin NZ).

    But to do that, I quit my job, not knowing whether I’d have one when we got here. My husband left his high-paying job in Melbourne too.

    My family came on academic sabbatical, never having been here before (except my husband, for a week-long work stay). We didn’t know anyone. At all. My husband didn’t know if he’d get a job here. We had no family here. And we sold our home in Melbourne to do it.

    We left at a time when my husband’s father was newly diagnosed with terminal cancer, and my husband was not able to be by his father’s side as he declined and died over the next two years. That was really, really hard for him.

    For two years we shifted from rental to rental, looking for a place that suited our budget and our needs, gradually building community in our lives.

    We had to sell a lot of our possessions, and spent a lot shipping the rest over. We gave our cat away, and yes I miss her.

    All up it was a MASSIVE decision, with a lot of sacrifice, and though I don’t regret it for one second, doing all that with a young autistic son and a baby daughter was NOT easy.

    So are we lucky? Or did we just plan and get more organised than the typical person? You decide.

    Would most people be willing to leave everything they know to move to a country they’ve never been to (I’d never visited NZ before). Would most of your readers? Would you?

    I think, if we have been lucky, we have created our own luck. And in money terms, my husband and I were married and both of us worked for nearly 8 years before having children, in order to buy property and get ahead.

    Neither of us got handouts from family or anywhere else. Another sacrifice. Everything we have done and bought, we have done and bought ourselves. Trust me – there have been a LOT of times we could have done with a handout – especially in regards to my son’s special needs!

    These days we’re doing very well, and my husband has a very high position at the University. But we drive around wreck cars – both our cars are 15+ years old, and worth less than $2000 apiece. Mine has the back of the front seat falling out! So we’re still making concessions in order to get debt-free.

    In a few years time, when we’re completely mortgage-free, I guess we’ll be called “lucky” again. And I’ll nod, and smile, and agree. How little they know!

    Returning to the overall topic of the post, I think we need to work as communities in order to deal with these issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change that are staring us in the face. Some of us are more prepared, but I definitely don’t think the key to success is communities like the “Collapse Network”.

    Instead, the key to survival and thriving in this century and beyond is building communities in the real world, and sometimes online, that encourage us to grow food no matter where we are, share what we learn, and share our understanding of change in a positive way.

    Even steps like pooling cars, helping friends when they need babysitting and volunteering in our communities instead of sitting at home watching The Box are action for positive change. We need to get off our butts and get active! 🙂

    If, in individual cases, our community doesn’t have adequate resources for our population, we need to find one that does. Migration is a common trend throughout human history – my family just did it, it isn’t easy, but it can be done. Or we can choose to stay, and push for those resources to be put in place.

    In the end, we all have a choice. I’m not saying they’re easy choices, but I absolutely say that to cocoon ourselves away as “Doomers” never solved anything, it won’t solve anything now, and it won’t help our wider communities, who sorely need our help and our ideas.

    Thanks for such thoughtful posts, Mia. You really got me thinking about this. Once again, I hope you didn’t find me too “crabby”, but I will ALWAYS believe that we have hope, that the way forwards is by hope, and that we humans need hope and bright ideas more than ever, right now.


    Leanne over at Cluttercut
    Who wrote the comment under discussion in Mia’s current blog post.

  4. Hi Mia, you said:

    “There are simply too many people on this planet for everyone to get to live like that. I don’t think there is any way to sugar coat that fact.”

    Yup. Very well put.

    For those of us living in viable locations (like Leanne and to a lesser extent me) we can all sit around and hold hands and sing coom by ah with few consequences if we want to. However as you illustrate Mia, there are places in the world where reality is very harsh indeed.

    No-one, not even John Michael Greer (who I have a lot of respect for) seems to want to contemplate that there will be times and places in the near future that are going to be really, really bad. Like megadeath bad.

    Imagine New Orleans, or Haiti if there was no-one with the energy and resources (or interest) to come and help. The more our economy declines the bigger the risks become of massive systemic failures.

    Community will happen when it’s needed and not before. All you have to do is look at the stories of people who have been involved in movements, groups, transition towns etc. It always seems to turn into power struggles, fights and trouble, not strong stable communities that can weather the collapse of our society.

    Therefore, I for one and building my lifeboat, because NO-ONE else is listening, or interested, or concerned in my community. And I don’t have the luxury of being able to move to a “better” place.

    As for being the captain. Yes, I will be that too (without any hesitation) because you know what? When the time comes, people will need and want leadership.

    And when it comes right down to it, I couldn’t do a worse job of it than the people who run things now. Perhaps a motivated, prepared, realistic leader will actually be better.

  5. This is a great post and great comments. This blog and these readers have helped me understand quite a bit. Understandably, people have their differing opinions on certain issues, but what I see and appreciate is that everyone in this small internet community is promoting and executing change which I find amazing. Being a “newbie” to all of this, the information across the web is overwhelming, and I have found it difficult to sift through. I don’t even know what the first step or steps I should be taking to prepare for the new age is/are. I actually think I’ve become a little obsessed with Peak Oil and post-peak living lately. With that said, I would appreciate any help or advice some of you seasoned veterans could provide me with.

    Thanks a bunch – Kenyon from Hawaii

    1. “I don’t even know what the first step or steps I should be taking to prepare for the new age is/are.”

      Hi Kenyon. Thanks for your comment. Addressing this is something I’ve been planning to do for a while. Thankyou for reminding me. Next week I’ll get started on a series to help people new to all this get started.

  6. Hi Mia,
    You handled that very well. Leanne: keep at it. Your comments are well thought and bring more information to the table.
    LS: great point. I think that whether we sing Kumbaya or drink beer and watch things burn, nobody is going to predict where the next megadeath place or time will be, and the randomness of it all will be the hardest thing for System-ized people to deal with.
    Kenyon: see point to LS. The thing to do is think “poor”. How would you live if you were dropped someplace poor? What friends would you make? What resources would you look for? What do you want others to know about you (getting help means opening up to others)? What languages can you speak (I’m fluent in Profanity.)…?
    Good luck to all. Thanks for your good work, Mia.

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