Fire Alarms

Brendan and I are well trained to respond to fire alarms. I won’t speak for Brendan, but my experience started in earnest during my four years at University. I shared a building with 47 other people, and my building was directly adjacent to many others just like it. During exam time, we inevitably had people up at all hours studying and making toast….or rather burning toast. This resulted in spending many hours in the parking lot wrapped in a doona (comforter) and waiting for the fire department to arrive and declare the building safe.

Years later, Brendan and I were backpacking through Tasmania, Australia and one night our Devonport Hostel caught on fire. We evacuated, waited a few hours until the fire was contained and then slept in a room reeking of smoke. Obviously we moved on the next morning, but a few days later we saw in the news that the same hostel had caught fire again and this time, people had died.

A few nights ago in Sarlat, France we were awoken at 1am to a shrieking fire alarm. We quickly got up, dressed, grabbed our essential belongings and headed out into the street. One other hotel guest was outside in the freezing cold with us. No fire department turned up. No hotel manager. Just us…and one other guy. After about ten minutes the alarm switched off, we all looked at each other, shrugged shoulders and went back to bed.

We’ve learnt from experience that although 99% of fire alarms are nothing to worry about, every now and then, responding appropriately could save your life. This evening, after a decent sized carafe of good French ‘vin blanc’ I’m being a little introspective. I realise that I approach life the same way I approach fire alarms. If I see warning signs I respond, even if it means that 99% of the time it was for nothing. Surviving that 1% is the key.

Photo by: L.C. Nottaasen

The French are Planning a Run on the Banks


We’ve all seen the protests against austerity measures that are happening all over Europe. The French seem to be particularly passionate about protesting against the Government and big banks who they see as having caused the financial crisis. The country known for it’s bloody and violent revolution at the end of the 18th century now looks set to try and start another, with a run on the banks.

The idea seems to have spawned from a recent interview in which former Manchester United star, Eric Cantona, recommended a run on the cash reserves of the world’s banks. (watch the interview at the bottom of the page).

We don’t pick up weapons to kill people to start the revolution. The revolution is really easy to do these days. What’s the system? The system is built on the power of the banks. So it must be destroyed through the banks. This means that the three million people with their placards on the streets, they go to the bank and they withdraw their money and the banks collapse. Three million, 10 million people, and the banks collapse and there is no real threat. A real revolution. ~ Eric Cantona

Cantona’s call to action has inspired a new political movement, first in France and now spreading virally around the world. The French-based movement – StopBanque – has taken up the campaign for a massive coordinated withdrawal of money from banks on 7 December 2010. Their facebook page indicates that already people in 24 countries are supporting the movement.

Are you prepared?

If this movement continues to build momentum and spreads to all the continents of the world where people are upset with bank bailouts and indebted governments, this bank run may be enough for the governments to declare a ‘bank holiday‘. Remember, banks only have a very small fraction of cash on hand and if enough people withdraw their money on 7 Dec 2010, it will not be long until the banks are forced to close their doors to avoid further withdrawals.

If this movement gets REALLY big, it could well bring down the banking system when banks find their balance sheets out of kilter as their deposits disappear. I think this is unlikely. Governments would step in before it got that bad, but the likely result would be an extended bank holiday until the threat subsides.

Of course, all of this might result in nothing at all. My point is: if the banks close their doors for a day or more, if your ATM and credit cards stop working, will you have enough cash on hand to go about your business? Would it be worth getting some out in advance….just in case?

Self-Sufficiency and Resilience – Plans upon Returning to Australia


Back in January of this year I wrote a post about Self Sufficiency, Independence and Lifestyle Planning . In it, I explained how I wanted to become less reliant on the current industrial system and to take more control of my own life. I’ve achieved a lot since then, but knowing that we were moving back to Australia in less than a year meant that I put off some changes. Now that we are only about 10 weeks away from returning home, I thought it would be worthwhile revisiting that post; to envisage what I want our new lifestyle to look like and to outline some goals for the next few years.

1. Getting off the Economic Grid

In 2010 I finally paid off the last of my mortgages. Now that I’m no longer paying any interest, my cashflow is healthy and I’m saving a large percentage of my after-tax income. Knowing that we have to buy a car and appliances when we get back, my priority now is to save for those big-ticket items. The last thing I want to do is go into debt to buy depreciating assets.

Upon return to Australia, my income drops but Brendan will be back at work so it should even out. We don’t relish the thought of both being back to full-time work, but at least in the short-term we see that it is necessary. We both have secure jobs for the moment, so we plan to use this opportunity to save like crazy. Comparative to the rest of the world, the Australian economy looks reasonably healthy at present. But in this globally connected world I can see that a number of potential crises could impact Australia quite heavily within the decade. I still think the biggest risks come from the Australian Housing Bubble and the reliance of the Australian economy on China. I anticipate that any crisis in the European and American economies (looking more and more likely) will result in rapidly rising interest rates in Australia. Australian homeowners are already struggling with their mortgages while the cash rate is 4.5%. How will they cope if it increases to 9%? 

Holding cash in an economic environment like this just makes so much sense to me. We are using the current ‘recovery’ to prepare for the hard times we predict will come as the global debt bubble unravels.

2. Reducing Energy Dependence

Cheap energy will not last forever and my family and friends in Australia are already seeing rising prices, especially on the electricity bill. There are a few lifestyle decisions we’ve made which should help us to reduce our energy dependence once we are back in Australia.

Firstly, we are renting a detached townhouse just a 15 minute walk to the city centre. It has any excellent walk score which was really important to me. My daily commute to work will be about 4km each way, so I’ll easily be able to do that by bicycle and Brendan will be able to do the same to his work. By carefully choosing where we wanted to live we can reduce our dependence on a car. We will still buy one car, but I anticipate that it will remain in the garage for much of the time. Removing the requirement to buy a second car also saves us a lot of money.

In selecting what car to buy, we have been referring to the Green Vehicle Guide. It’s an excellent website which rates Australian vehicles based on greenhouse and air pollution emissions. It also provides statistics on how much fuel each vehicle consumes. We are very keen to find a fuel efficient, second-hand car.

We’ll also be using the Government’s energy rating guide when shopping for energy-efficient appliances. Our new home is centrally heated with natural gas and we are hoping that the smaller size will reduce our heating expenses. Otherwise, we plan to rug up in order to avoid using too much energy to heat our living space.

3. Improving Food and Water Security

My first priority once we’ve settled into our new home it to begin stockpiling some food and water for emergencies. Knowing that we can sit out a short distruption to services is very comforting. I would never want to put myself in the position where I had to rush off to the shops in a time of emergency to stock up on food and water. It also makes good economic sense to stock up on more than you need. Food is increasing in cost faster than just about any investment right now and certainly faster than the rate of inflation. When things are on sale, we’ll simply stock up and we’ll buy in bulk every six months or so.

I’ve already identified a food co-op not too far from my house where we can buy bulk-goods without all the packaging you get in the supermarket. It also looks like they stock fresh fruit and vegetables.

We don’t have a lot of room for it, but we intend growing some of our own food. The courtyard we have is not very big, but we’ve been surprised how much we’ve been able to grow in our small courtyard in California. Of course, the climate in California is much more condusive to growing food all year round than Canberra, but I’m sure we’ll learn as we go along.

4. Building Community

It’s important to me to get involved in the community when we get home. We feel like we’ve been in limbo for the last three years, but once we are back in Australia I hope we feel a bit more settled. We already have a lot of friends in Canberra, but I’m very keen to meet more like-minded people as well.

I’m especially excited about checking out SEE-change, the local Canberra community for creating a sustainable future.

I finally feel like things are falling into place. I’m now at the point where I can visualise our new life back in Australia and I’m even starting to get a little excited about the move.

Photo by : jef safi

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.

On Building Lifeboats

Power went out at work yesterday and the computer servers are still down today. I’m not sure how many people have been affected by this. It’s certainly hundreds, maybe thousands. There has been so much lost productivity this year due to such events. I don’t bother complaining about how the systems seem to be becoming less reliable. It’s obvious why it’s happening. Everyone is too broke to be repairing stuff that needs to be repaired. This is only going to get worse, so it’s best to start accepting that this as an inevitable part of life from now on. We have to start building our lifeboats.

The concept of lifeboat building comes from Michael Ruppert’s brilliant documentary Collapse.

Imagine for a moment that you are on the Titanic and it’s already hit the iceberg. You realise that there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. With fortuitous luck, you also know how to build lifeboats.

There are also three types of passengers aboard the Titanic. You have the people who see that there is a problem and want to learn how to build lifeboats. You have people who are in a state of shock. They are either immobilized by fear or are panicking. Then you have the people who believe that the Titanic is unsinkable (for that’s what they’ve been told) and would rather go back to the bar and enjoy the dancing.

The question then is: Which group of passengers are you going to spend your precious time to help?

Whenever I get frustrated about the people who don’t ‘get it’, I remind myself of this story of the passengers on the Titanic and lifeboat building. I now focus my energy on people who are interested in understanding what’s going on in the world, those who see that something is not quite right. I don’t bother discussing such issues with people who are clearly heavily invested in the old paradigm. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially when they are family and friends.

If you haven’t already seen the documentary Collapse, then I encourage you to watch it. It’s brilliant.

Michael Ruppert has also just launched the Collapse Network. He’s trying to assist in Lifeboat building and helping like-minded people find each other. Even though it’s only just launched, you can already see how many people are already on ‘the map’ (including the skills they are willing to share).

Photo by: schoeband

Earthquake in Southern California – Our first 7.2

This afternoon here in San Diego we experienced our first major Earthquake. At 7.2 on the Richter Scale, it was bigger than Haiti. Thankfully building codes in Southern California are set up for this type of thing. We were about 100 miles from the epicenter and because the quake was 10 miles underground, apparently much of the force was dissipated through the earth and little structural damage occurred on the surface.

At a Sheraton hotel in downtown San Diego, the floor cracked opened and prevented the front doors from shutting. Officials ordered all guests and staff from the building, pending an inspection from structural engineers. Fire officials reported a water main break in front of a hospital and another water line break at a department store.

Within an hour of the initial quake we also experienced two major aftershocks and a few ongoing tremors.

When the first earthquake hit, I initially crouched down next to my desk. As the Earthquake started to intensify Brendan and I decided to run outside with Zoe dog. We stood in our front courtyard as the earth rolled under our feet for a couple of minutes. If you’ve even been on a boat at sea, that’s exactly how it felt. There is something very disconcerting about the Earth rolling underfoot like that. By the time the first quake was over, all our neighbours were outside and we all had a bit of a nervous laugh together. Brendan had managed to grab the car keys, our phones and some cash, but we didn’t have time for anything else. Expecting aftershocks, we moved our 72-hour emergency kit outside, just in case. Thankfully the aftershocks were not as severe, but we evacuated each time to be sure.

I don’t know what it is lately, but these earthquakes seem to keep popping up to remind us to be prepared. Over the last couple of months, I’ve written the following posts about the subject.

Being prepared for an Earthquake (or any other natural disaster) – 14 Jan 2010 after Haiti

Are You Prepared? Short Term Planning – 1 Mar 2010 after Chile

Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit: What to include – 15 Mar 2010 after our kit was finally complete

And now today, I bring you the latest edition after the Baja California quake. Let me assure you, I’m glad I heeded the warnings of the last couple of months. Even though we thankfully didn’t need to evacuate for long, it was a good feeling knowing that we could.

As I was searching the internet, I came across the following which seems like some good information to add to my previous posts. If you haven’t prepared for emergencies, what is stopping you?

Mental preparation. […] this is something that often gets overlooked. People know they live in earthquake country, they should know these things are going to happen. […] the main thing is to remain calm. If you’ve thought about it in advance, you’re not taken off guard.

Get to a safe spot. The biggest danger is heavy or breakable items falling on you, so if you’re in your house, get under a table or in a door jamb, etc.  […] you should know how long you’re going have to be there (usually anywhere from 30-90 seconds.) Emotionally, it might feel like longer, but it is suggested that you “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” until the shaking stops.

Be prepared to help. After the quake is over, […] you should come out and be ready to shut off natural gas supply, and go throughout the neighbors and see if anyone needs help or is hurt. “the goal is to come out of it being ready to be a caregiver, not someone who is going to be hysterical or is requiring aid.”

Prepare for infrastructure failure. One of the big ways that earthquakes hit us is through damage to infrastructure.  “We rely on electricity brought in over power lines, water and natural gas brought in by pipes, sewage taken away by pipes, etc. You probably should have in your plans that none of those things will work and we’ll be cut off from all your urban lifelines.”

Plan for three days. Make sure you have enough canned food, bottled water, candles, flashlights and batteries, to be able to sustain you and your family for about 72 hours.

Read More

Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit: What to include

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Are You Prepared? Short Term Planning. I provided some questions to think about in preparation for any disasters which might occur in your area, whether they be a common house fire or a natural disaster such as earthquake, tornado, hurricane/cyclone, flood or bushfire/wildfire.

I also provided some information on short-term planning  designed to help you prepare for emergencies. Today I wanted to share with you a list of items you might like to include in your short-term (72-hour) emergency survival kit. Although 72-hours is the minimum recommendation, it might be worth putting together a kit which will feed and protect you and your family for at least ten days. Ten days may seem like a lot but during Hurricane Katrina, many people waited a week for water and food to arrive.

You can buy ready-made emergency kits or you can put together your own. We already had most of these items because we go camping, so we’ve put together our own kit.

Consider placing all of the following items in your 72-hour survival kit:

  • Portable emergency radio (preferably one that can be recharged without power by hand crank or solar cells)
  • First-aid kit (including first-aid and survival book)
  • Water, water purification chemicals and/or purification filter (enough to supply 1 gallon (4 Litres) of water per person per day)
  • Waterproof and windproof matches (in water proof container) and butane lighter.
  • Wool blankets or sleeping bag plus a waterproof space-blanket.
  • Flashlight with spare batteries or a solar recharge flashlight.
  • Candles and light sticks.
  • Toiletries, including toilet paper, toothbrush, soap, razor, shampoo, sanitary napkins (also good for wounds), dental floss (good for sewing and tying things, sunscreen, insect repellent etc.
  • Food for three days per person, minimum. Use foods that you’ll eat and that store well such as nuts, sports bars, canned vegetables, fruit, meats, dry cereals or military-type preserved meals.
  • A Swiss Army knife or Leatherman Multitool with scissors, can opener, blades and screwdrivers.
  • Map, compass and whistle.
  • Sewing Kit with heavy duty thread.
  • Towel or dishcloth.
  • A camping ‘Mess Kit’: knives, forks, spoons etc.
  • Tent and/or roll of plastic sheeting for shelter.
  • Extra clothing, such as long underwear, hat, jacket, gloves, raincoat or poncho, sturdy boots etc.
  • Special needs such as extra eyeglasses, prescription medicine etc.
  • 25 kitchen-sized garbage bags and powdered sewerage treatment chemicals.
  • heavy-duty nylon string or light rope.
  • Record of important telephone numbers and bank numbers
  • Spare cash or checks (cheques).
  • A compact stove with fuel.

For more resources, FEMA has a good disaster preparation guide which includes videos.

I can also recommend the textbook When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency. With nearly 500 pages of in-depth information, this book would be a worthy addition to any home library.

Photo by: postaletrice

Are You Prepared? Short Term Planning

There have been many severe natural disasters in recent months. We’ve witnessed the utter destruction of the horrific earthquake in Haiti and then just this weekend a massive earthquake occurs off the coast of Chile, spurring fears of Tsunamis all across the Pacific Rim.

Hawaii woke residents with sirens, alerting them to the waves. A tsunami warning — the highest alert level — was issued earlier for the island chain. Boats and people near the coast were being evacuated. Hilo International Airport, located along the coast, was closed.

Residents lined up at supermarkets to stock up on water, canned food and batteries. Cars lined up 15 long at several gas stations. ~AP

When an emergency happens, do you really want to have to rush off to the supermarket, gas station or bank? What if you don’t get the warning that residents in Hawaii had? Personally I want to know that I have everything on hand to be able to evacuate immediately or be prepared to shelter in place until rescue crews have time to  get organised?

I’ve been extremely lucky to this point that I’ve not had to deal with any significant disruptions to any of the services that I rely on. It would be foolish however, to assume I will never experience disruptions. It’s easy to forget that if there is no electricity, there are no furnaces, air conditioners, gasoline pumps, ATM machines etc. Most municipal water treatment and waste removal services would soon shut down and emergency services would be limited. For those in extremely cold climates, pipes can freeze and burst within a day or two without a backup source of heat.

It makes sense to plan for significant disruptions in the flow of electricity, gas or goods which are almost inevitable at some point in our lives. Stocking up on a few extra supplies, learning some new skills and making a few emergency contingency plans doesn’t take much time or money and it’s cheap insurance. While we can’t plan for all possible scenarios it is prudent to plan for the most likely possibilities. Here are some questions to ask yourself during your planning:

  • What natural hazards are in my area? What is the likelihood of experiencing earthquake, flood, hurricane/cyclone or tornadoes?
  • Have I taken precautions to protect my home?
  • How long could I anticipate being without access to utilities and supplies?
  • If the electricity goes out for an extended period, how will I cook, heat and light my home?
  • Do I have supplies and training to deal with medical emergencies if medical help is unavailable?
  • If I must evacuate my home, do I have portable emergency supplies ready to take with me?
  • How many people do I want to store supplies for? What about friends, neighbors and relatives?
  • Do I have pets that I need to feed and care for?
  • Do I have children or elderly parents with special needs?
  • Do I require prescription medications I would need if the distribution systems went down for a period of time?

The following information on short-term planning is designed to help you prepare for emergencies when services are disrupted for periods of up to one week. Everyone should have enough food, water and emergency supplies to last at least 72 hours (3 days) and preferably two or more weeks.

  • Store at least one 72-hour emergency survival kit in or near your home and condensed versions in your cars. (I’m working on my own 72-hour kit at the moment. I’ll post what’s in my kit at a future date)
  • Determine a local meeting place with a large, open area where your household can gather if you are separated and do not have access to your home during emergencies.
  • Make sure all members of your family know how and where to shut off the water, gas and electricity for your home in the event of an emergency.
  • Stash spare keys to your vehicles somewhere on the vehicle and an additional supply of keys somewhere outside of your home (securely hidden).
  • Store at least a 2-week supply of food for your household.
  • Store a combination of water, water treatment chemicals and water purifying filters to provide for your household for at least two weeks.
  • Keep a survival kits in each car with a first aid kit, spare clothing and water filter, if not a full 72-hour kit.
  • Get proper first aid and CPR training for all members of the family.
  • Arrange for an out-of -state emergency contact to reach for co-ordination and communication. It may be easier to call long distance after an emergency  than trying to locate your family  if separated.
  • Locate your nearest emergency shelter. Practice the route to the shelter.
  • Ensure you have smoke detectors in your home. Change the batteries at least once per year.
  • Store important papers in one easily accessible location, preferably in a waterproof and flameproof box.
  • Discuss your emergency preparedness plan with all members of the household. Keep the discussion light and positive.

Photo by: millzero

The journey of 100 posts starts with a single line!

Today marks a milestone. 100 posts! I thought I should celebrate with a little look back at my journey since last July, when I started this blog.

This blog was conceived because I had a mind full of thoughts that needed writing down. I’ve found the process cathartic and illuminating at the same time. Usually, as I go about my day I’ll have a swirl of thoughts and emotions running through my head. If I grab onto one of those thoughts and start to write it down, the process of making it legible for others forces me to work through the issue myself. For that moment in time I am focussed on the issue and can give it my undivided attention. I have enjoyed the process and I love the journey this blog has taken me on over the last seven months. 

Along the way, people have come along and read what I have to say. I wasn’t really expecting that and didn’t set out to get an audience, but I’m richer for it. The little blog community I have become part of enriches me in a way I can’t fully articulate. Every day I learn something new, see things in a different way or get inspired to take on new challenges. I thank all of you for that.

The blog started out as a place to share my thoughts on voluntary simplicity, sustainable living and my gardening efforts.

It then morphed into an exploration of the triple crises confronting us: Economy, Energy & Environment. I started my World Changing Wednesday series to help myself better understand the predicaments confronting us in this most historic of times. I will continue writing these types of articles as the mood takes me. A get a lot of visitors to my site who are obviously looking for this type of information. I hope I can help people understand how all these issues are interconnected and how together they will make the next couple of decades very challenging times for us all.

Towards the end of last year I was away a lot with my job and I lost my blogging mojo for a while. I gave myself permission to have a break which was a good thing. The last thing I want is for this blog to become a chore.

Anyway I’m back into the new year and my focus has moved more towards personal preparedness for likely changes in the coming decades. I’m focussing on Self Sufficiency, Independence and Lifestyle Planning. Less talk, more action! I got myself out of debt and we have been considering our options for where best to adapt to a world of less complexity and expensive energy. I’m learning new skills.

Who knows where this blog will go in the future. I haven’t set any boundaries around it, so it’s free to become whatever I need it to be at the time. I’m also keen to provide information that people want to read about. If you can think of any topics I should cover, please feel free to leave me a comment.

Here’s to another 100 posts sometime down the track. I wonder what I’ll be talking about in another six months times?

I wish I was Boy Scout – I want to Earn these Merit Badges

Last week I mentioned that I want to learn more skills. A number of coincident events got me to thinking about the Scout’s and how great it is for teaching young people worthwhile skills. Since we are never too old to learn new things, I’ve decided to focus on gaining some new skills this year. Using the Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge system as a guide, I’ve decided on some badges I want to earn this year:

First Aid:

Administering First Aid is something everyone should know how to do. The reasons are obvious, so I won’t go into them other than to say that you never know when you might be first on the scene of a car crash or have someone have an accident while out hiking. As part of my job I used to have to do a refresher First Aid course every couple of years, but I don’t think I’ve done one in the last 5 years. It’s time to refresh those skills.

Because I’ve undertaken first aid course before I can probably just refresh my memory with a couple of books I have at home. One of the best investments I’ve made is the 493 page tome, When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

My local Fire Department offers CPR courses every month for $25, which I might consider doing. 

Emergency Preparedness:

While I was looking up information on First Aid courses, I came across another fantastic initiative in my community: The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  I think I’m going to sign up for their Spring training course which covers the following classes and skills.

Module 1 — Disaster Preparedness. Introduction to types of disasters and the role of CERTs in a disaster.

Module 2 — Disaster Fire Suppression. Basic fire suppression strategy, fire fighting resources and fire fighting techniques.

Module 3 — Disaster Medical Operations. Treatment techniques for life-threatening conditions, principles of Triage, establishing treatment areas, and more.

Module 4 — Disaster Light Search. Search and rescue priorities, size-up strategies, and rescuer safety.

Module 5 — Terrorism/Disaster Psychology/Team Organization. Potential threats and how to identify them, CERT activation and Preparedness. The post-disaster emotional environment, the CERT organization and decision making.

Personal Fitness:

Working on my personal fitness is one of my primary goals in 2010. I aim to be in better shape, have more energy and gain confidence in my bodies ability to do whatever it is I put my mind to.

Late last year I had a complete physical including blood tests. Everything was  within normal range so I was happy that my first two years in America had not given me high blood-pressure or anything that might lead to diabetes, despite the pounds I put on.

As part of earning my personal fitness badge I aim to do the following:

  • Get back within my healthy weight range
  • Increase strength and endurance, through a regular weight lifting routine.
  • Eat a nutritious, healthy diet which consists of foods that are as much as possible: minimally processed, local, organic and fair trade. 


Hiking is the activity I love to do to keep my body and mind in shape. Walking packs power into my legs and makes my heart and lungs healthy and strong. Getting out into the outdoors challenges my senses and makes me happy.

To achieve this badge there are a few things I need to learn/work on.

  • Know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while hiking, including hypothermia, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, frostbite, dehydration, sunburn, sprained ankle, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, hyperventilation, and altitude sickness.
  • Adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Develop a plan for conditioning myself for 10-mile hikes.
  • Plan and undertake five 10-mile hikes, including map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch.
  • Take a hike of 20 continuous miles in one day.


I used to go camping with my family as a kid and last year Brendan and I went a couple of times. I mostly relied on him to pack everything we needed, so this year I want to work on my own camping skills.

To achieve this badge there are a few things I need to learn/work on.

  • Know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses that could occur while camping, including hypothermia, frostbite, heat reactions, dehydration, altitude sickness, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, and hyperventilation.
  • Plan an overnight trek using a topographical map and compass OR a topographical map and a GPS receiver.
  • Prepare a check list of clothing and gear needed for overnight campout in both warm and cold weather.
  • Know the importance of camp sanitation and know a couple of ways to treat water.
  • Know how to use different types of lightweight cooking stoves and be able to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner on the trail.
  • Know how to make a fire using materials in the local environment.


Brendan has been climbing for a couple of years and our friends back in Australia are keen for us to become their climbing partners when we get home. I’ve been indoor climbing, but have yet to learn the skills required for rock climbing. Lucky for me, Brendan is an instructor so I should be able to learn what I need to know from him.

  • Know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses that could occur during climbing activities, including heat and cold reactions, dehydration, stopped breathing, sprains, abrasions, fractures, rope burns, blisters, snakebite, and insect bites or stings.
  • Learn how the difficulty of climbs are classified. 
  • Learn the verbal signals required during every climb and rappel, and while bouldering.
  • Learn the kinds of rope acceptable for use in climbing and rappelling and know how to care for rope to prevent damage.
  • Learn the different types of knots required for belaying, climbing, or rappelling.
  • Learn how to belay a climber using a top rope as well as a lead climber.
  • Learn how to climb different types of routes on rock face.
  • Refresh myself on how to rappel down rock face.
  • Learn how to store rope, hardware, and other gear used for climbing, rappelling, and belaying.


After I’ve worked on my hiking and camping skills, the next logical step is the Backpacking merit badge. I’ve always wanted to undertake more backpacking trips. The last one I did was over 10 years ago when I was much younger and fitter and it was tough work. I want to work up to being able to go away on backpacking trips later this year.

  • Develop a list of essential items to be carried on any backpacking trek, while limiting the weight and bulk to be carried.
  • Adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace while backpacking, including the proper methods of handling human and other wastes.
  • Know what to do if I get lost.
  • Know how to prepare properly for and deal with inclement weather.
  • Plan and undertake a backpacking hike of at least three days.


I currently ride my bike to and from work most days, however Brendan does all my repairs and tune ups. I need to be a little more self-reliant and know how to do these things for myself. As part of Brendan’s new bike business he’ll be offering bike maintenance course, so I guess I can start there.

  • Know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while cycling, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, and hyperventilation.
  • Learn basic bike maintenance.
  • Learn the skills required for mountain biking on cross-country trails.
  • Plan and undertake two rides of 10 miles each, two rides of 15 miles each, and two rides of 25 miles each.
  • Plan and undertake a a 50-mile trip within eight hours.


Saving, producing, and using energy wisely is something we all should be doing and I was pleasantly surprised to see this merit badge on the scout’s list. While I already minimise the amount of energy I use, I suspect there is still so much more to learn.

  • Conduct an energy audit of my home and then record what we did to reduce our energy use.
  • Know the types of energy used in our home (electricity, oil, liquid petroleum, and natural gas) and know how each is delivered and measured, and the current cost.
  •  Know ways to use energy resources more wisely. Consider the energy required for the things you do and use on a daily basis (cooking, showering, using lights, driving, watching TV, using the computer). Know how you can change your energy use through reuse and recycling.
  • Identify and describe examples of energy waste in our community, suggest possible ways to reduce this waste and describe the idea of trade-offs in energy use. Examine how the changes would lower costs, reduce pollution, or otherwise improve the community. Examine what changes to routines, habits, or convenience are necessary to reduce energy waste. Consider why people might resist the changes.
  • Learn which energy resources supply  most energy, the share of energy resources used by different countries, the proportion of energy resources used by homes, businesses, industry, and transportation, the fuels used to generate electricity and the world’s known and estimated primary energy resource reserves.
  • Learn what is being done to make FIVE of the following energy systems produce more usable energy. Understand the technology, cost, environmental impacts, and safety concerns.
    • Biomass digesters or waste-to-energy plants
    • Cogeneration plants
    • Fossil fuel power plants
    • Fuel cells
    • Geothermal power plants
    • Nuclear power plants
    • Solar power systems
    • Tidal energy, wave energy, or ocean thermal energy conversion devices
    • Wind turbines

Rifle Shooting:

I already know how to safely shoot firearms and have experience with rifles, air guns, 9mm and cross-bow. I wouldn’t say I’m always the best shot, but  I do OK and know how to be safe. I’ve already met most of the requirements for this badge, but there are a few things I need to learn first.

  • Understand the main points of the laws for owning and using guns in my community and state.
  • Understand the main points of hunting laws in your state and any special laws on the use of guns and ammunition.

Wilderness Survival:

I’d really like to learn some wilderness survival skills. It’s likely I’ll learn some of these skills while working on my other badges, but if I do get a chance this year, I’d like to add this badge to my list. 

  • Learn the priorities for survival in a backcountry or wilderness location. 
  • Know what steps I would take to survive in the following conditions:
    • Cold and snowy
    • Wet (forest)
    • Hot and dry (desert)
    • Windy (mountains or plains)
    • Water (ocean, lake, or river)
  • Put together a personal survival kit and know how each item in it could be useful.
  • Using three different methods (other than matches), build and light three fires. 
  • Know how to attract attention when lost, use a signal mirror and give ground-to-air signals.
  • Improvise a natural shelter.
  • Know how to protect myself from insects, reptiles, and bears.
  • Know how to treat water found in the outdoors to prepare it for drinking.

LS had some more good ideas for Peak Oil Prep badges. Anyone got more suggestions?