Vision

Pessimism; Optimism; Realism

“The pessimist complains about the wind;

the optimist expects it to change;

the realist adjusts the sails.”

~ William Arthur Ward

I came across this quote the other day and thought it explained perfectly how I see my view of the world. People often think I’m a pessimist because I talk and write about unpleasant things. I guess they think the way to deal with unpleasant things is to ignore them, and ‘hope’ they go away. Unfortunately, expecting the woes of the world to be magically fixed is not necessarily the best way to deal with the predicaments we are facing. I think that a better solution would be to acknowledge the situation as it is, and then work towards living a life that will be rich and meaningful even if these events do come to pass.

Knowing which way the wind is blowing and having an idea of where it will be blowing in the future allows us to adjust our sails so we are productively moving in the right direction, no matter what.  If we simply sit by and complain about the wind or hope that it will change, we risk being buffeted by the enormous storm coming our way. So, plot your course, keep an eye on which way the wind is blowing,  set your sails and enjoy the ride.

Photo by: wili hybrid

Ten Rules for Being Human

by Cherie Carter-Scott

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”

4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

Photo by: jaime.silva

Changing the Culture of Consumerism

Throughout the Global Financial Crisis and the Great Recession we’ve all heard it: Governments and economists telling us to get out and shop to save the economy. I’ve even seen Facebook friends ponder on their status update, “Should I go shopping to save the economy?”

Our Culture of Consumerism

Consumerism is about more than just the proliferation of advertising and spending countless hours at the mall, it’s a culture. Culture can be defined as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. That means that our culture comes from all the social interactions that take place in our lives; discussions with family, friends and work colleagues, the TV shows we watch, the magazines we read, Facebook updates we are exposed to. All these social processes add up to become our reality. They define what feels natural to us, what clothes we wear, what foods we eat. We take all this as a given, but it’s really our culture which is shaping our reality.

Unfortunately, consumerism is now the guiding force in our culture. It is so pervasive that literally our well-being, our self-worth and our social status are all intricately tied to our consumption patterns. Obviously this is not a sustainable or viable system to base a culture on.

Why do we Consume so Much?

An interesting (but disturbing) statistic I came across recently, states that the average American lifestyle requires the extraction of 88kg (194lbs) of materials every day. Because we live in a culture that reinforces high consumption patterns, we consume far too many materials. How can we possibly need to use up more than our own body-weight in materials every day? It’s because we associate our well-being with how large our homes are, how big our TV screen is or the size of the car we drive. Consumerism is undermining the ecological systems that allows us to thrive as a species. If we don’t start shifting our culture away from consumerism, this current recession is going to be a stroll in the park compared to the world we’ll walk into.

Attics, basements and garages are loaded with the plunder of our shopping. I see people leave their cars on the street because their garages are so full that there is no room left for a vehicle. Some people even rent storage space to hold their extra stuff. Dumps are filling up with items that have never been used, just tossed out. More and more people are making a living off the perfectly good trash that’s thrown away every day. There is even a TV show called Hoarders which documents the lives of people at the extreme end of what has become a national preoccupation. Does all this stuff even make us happier? Research would suggest that the answer is No.

Consumption Does Not Make us Happier

One of the biggest side effects of the consumer lifestyle, is having less time to enjoy life. We are too busy working more hours, to make more money, to buy more stuff. We spend more hours commuting to work because we want larger houses, which are usually found out in the suburbs. We live in one community, but work in another so we spend so much time rushing around in our cars that we are exhausted by the time we get home. We are so tired that instead of going out to engage with our community and enjoy time with friends we end up watching on average 4 hours of TV per day. The TV shows us lavish lifestyles to which we should aspire and the advertisements tell us that without X or Y we are just not good enough. So, on the weekend we spend too much time at the shops trying to buy our happiness. We become obese and socially isolated. Consumption is undermining our future and our long-term ability to be happy.

How Can our Culture Shift From Consumerism to Sustainability?

So what can we do to combat the culture of consumerism? For a start, we have to work intentionally to shift cultural patterns away from valuing ‘things’ and instead valuing living sustainably or even better, living as a restorative force for the environment.

There are a number of institutions that can be used to move our culture towards sustainability: Business, Media, Education, Government, Traditions and Social Movements. Our culture currently says that the only mission of business is to maximise profits, but there are many great initiatives where small businesses, non-profits and co-ops are operating for the greater good of the community. Many schools are now adding school gardens to act as outdoor classrooms and to give children some much-needed exposure to nature. In recent years we’ve also started to see how the media can shift our culture. The movie Avatar is a good example because it reinforces the idea that we are dependent on and connected to a broader planetary system. In the movie Wall-E, Earth was governed by the Buy n Large corporation which caused mass consumerism and covered the planet in trash. The only life that was left were some obese humans living in space. We need more stories like these to reinforce that consumerism is not a good choice. The more exposure to this cultural story, the more it will start infecting people and begin to spread virally.

Social movements (Grassroots movements) are where I see we need to spend much of our effort to change our culture. Social Movements are often driven by a ‘tipping point’ which unites the majority of the populace in an effort to create change. A tipping point is a moment of ‘critical mass,’ when a trend, idea, or concept becomes a juggernaut. A small event can create a ripple effect, but in order to create one contagious movement, many smaller movements need to be created first.

What Can We Do to Create Social Change?

In the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, the first key concept is that there are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them. With an epidemic, a tiny majority of the people do the work. If you are reading this blog, that probably means you! The movement has started, we just need to keep the momentum going until it reaches critical mass.

The second key point is that there is a simple way to package information that can make it irresistible/sticky and will compel a person into action. In order to be capable of sparking epidemics, ideas have to be memorable and move us into action. Personally I’ve found my approach to be different with different individuals. If you can find an issue that someone feels passionate about, it is much easier to tailor the message for that person. If someone is worried about their finances, I show them the fantastic outfits I’ve put together from the thrift store (op shop). If someone is concerned about toxins that their kids are exposed to, I explain how most cleaning products can be made with simple, non-toxic household ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. If someone is worried about health issues, I talk about my organic vegetable garden and the delicious foods I can buy in season at the farmers market. If someone has a new baby, I crochet cute baby hats as gifts and explain how enjoyable the process was to make it.

Finally, what really underlies successful epidemics, is a strong belief that change is possible; that people can radically transform their behavior or beliefs in the face of the right kind of impetus. Tipping Points are an affirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action. The world as we currently know it may seem like an immovable place, but it is not. With the slightest push; just in the right place; it can be tipped.

So in the process of changing our culture away from rampant consumerism, who will you be?

An Innovator? The adventurous one? A visionary? Will you be the translator? Can you take ideas and information and translate them into a language the rest of the population can understand?

An Early Adopter? A part of the slightly larger group that is infected by the innovators?

A member of the Majority? A part of the deliberate and the skeptical mass, who would never try anything until the most respected try it first?

Or, a Laggard? A member of the most traditional group that sees no urgent reason to change?

By becoming aware of these different groups it is easy to see where best to expend our efforts. Inspiring Early Adopters and the Early Majority will create more momentum than trying to convince a Laggard. It is also a more enjoyable process than constantly bashing your head against a brick wall.

So for those of you already on board; the visionaries who are changing the culture at a grass-roots level: what have been your experiences? What works? What doesn’t?

Photo by: What What

Creating a New Future Worth Living

Yesterday at lunch I was talking to a friend who reads this blog. We were talking about hope and how he thinks I have none because of the gloomy things I write about. I told him that wasn’t true in the slightest. In fact, apart from the occasional slip into doom-mode I am usually a very happy person. Yes, I can see the predicament we are in and I choose not to stick my head in the sand, but that doesn’t mean I’m pessimistic and hold no hope for my future.

I’ll admit that when I first started learning about the confluence of the triple threats of Economic collapse, Energy depletion and Environmental devastation I was a little panicked. OK…I was a lot panicked. Most people who discover these issues will probably have a similar experience and more than likely will continue to cycle back to these feelings on occasion. However, everyone who confronts these issues has to work out for themselves how to stay motivated, while not panicking or agonising over the future.

We’ve all had expectations about what the future would hold for us, and have made plans based on what we thought we knew about the world. When we discover that we will likely be living a very different future it can be disconcerting to say the least. 

I’ve found the best way to deal with this is to transform my relationship to the future; to use this time as an opportunity to reassess my values and determine how I really want to be living my life.  While I have very little control over what the world will become in the next decade, I have a lot of control over the role I will play in it.  For this reason it’s important for me to create a new future worth living.

Sure, many of the roles I play in my current life will disappear. I’ll probably not be an aerospace engineer or frequent world traveller in the decades to come. However there are new roles which I will step into. I think about these often and while I have no concrete idea of what my life will look like in ten years time I can imagine some of the things I’ll be spending my time on. Perhaps I’ll be a mother, most likely I’ll be supporting aging parents, I hope I’m helping my community to prepare for energy descent.  I imagine I am living a simple, frugal life filled with nature, relationships and rich experiences.

I encourage you to start thinking about what future you think will be worth living.  Yes, you’ll have to let go of the future you thought was ahead of you, but designing a new future for you and your family can be an exciting exercise. Designing your own future rather than just letting it happen to you can be very empowering. I urge everyone to make the most of this opportunity.

Photo by: alicepopkorn

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?

Finding our Place – Adapting in the City or Country?

Sharon Astyk wrote a very interesting post a couple of weeks ago about Reconsidering Cities. It got me to thinking about whether the right decision for us is a few acres outside a small country town or a large house block in a medium-sized city. We go back and forth on this question very regularly, so today I’d like to spend some time determining the pro’s and con’s of each option.

I apologise in advance if this is not at all interesting to anyone but me, but it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. If you do happen to have some thoughts that I’ve missed, I’d appreciate if you could leave me a comment.

This thought process is part of our five-year plan. For the next five years we intend to keep working, saving money and maybe starting a family. We also intend to keep working on our self-sufficiency plans and making our vision become a reality. OK…onto the two options I can’t seem to decide upon.

1. Adapting in the City

There is really only one city I’d be interested in living in permanently when I return to Australia. Here are a few statistics to put it in perspective.

  • Population ~320,000
  • 31% of the population are aged between 20-39. Only 14% of the population are aged over 60.
  • Over 40% of the population are working in government administration and defence.
  • 68% travel to work in a car, 6% walk or cycle and 5% catch the bus.
  • Median Household income is $1400 per week.

It’s very much a government town, with much of the population well educated and well paid.

My vision for adapting in the city

We’ll be living in a small house (2-3 bedrooms) which is likely to be a post-war brick or weatherboard ex-government house. We’ll be on a block that’s about 500-600m² (5300-6500ft²) which is in the inner city area (within 7km drive of the city centre). We’ll be within walking distance of local shops, restaurants and cafes and can cycle to most places within the inner core of the city because it’s extremely bike friendly. We’ll have made our property as sustainable as possible given the climatic conditions:

  • By Australian standards, summers are hot and winters are cold (snow is rare although frosts occur 25% of the year). Good insulation is a must, as is an efficient heating source to stop us freezing in the winter.
  • We’ll add solar hot water and solar electricity panels to the roof. It’s a very sunny city, with mean daily sunshine of 7.6 hours/day and completely clear days 27% of the year.
  • The average annual rainfall is 629 mm (25 in) with an average of 108 rain days per year. Rainfall is reasonably evenly distributed throughout the year.  Unfortunately in El Nino years the region is prone to drought and bushfires. We’ll add rainwater tanks and a grey water system to the property to maximise the usage of all available water, but the lack of rainfall is a still a concern to me.

Most people require a car to live here, but the design of the city is such that small ‘townships’ have been developed to cater to residents. Each neighbourhood has at least a local store  and it wouldn’t be too difficult to ‘relocalise’ much of the population. Farmers markets and food co-ops are already up and running and bus transportation is available.

Because it’s a reasonable sized city, I imagine we’ll find plenty of like minded friends in the community and will find many opportunities to get involved with sustainable solutions to the issues of peak oil and environmental degradation. There is a fabulous weekly market where local people can sell their home-made products and home-produced food. There is plenty of culture with fantastic museums, art galleries and theatres. There are a lot of parks and recreational areas throughout the city, making it easy to get out into nature regularly. There are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails all over the place, making it ideal for us.

Both Brendan and I will be working part-time jobs. I imagine I’ll be working in some type of government agency which deals with the environment or energy. Between us, we will probably be running a couple of home based businesses. With a population of young government workers, the disposable income in this city is likely to remain higher than what could be expected in other parts of the country. This would make this city a good place to operate small service-based businesses with low overheads.

Because of the high cost of living in this city, we’ll have to maintain an income within the real economy to pay for the mortgage, food, transport and services. We will not have a tremendous amount of free time available to become self-reliant, so we’ll be relying more on a large community over an extended area for food and services.

Pros of adapting in the city

  • Access to culture (museums, art galleries, theatres, cafes and restaurants)
  • Potentially a larger group of like minded people.
  • More options for employment. Jobs typically high paying. Better ability to run home-based businesses for income.
  • Lovely natural environment with great hiking and biking trails.
  • More opportunity to influence leaders and people to prepare for a future with less.

Cons of adapting in the city

  • Prone to drought and bushfires.
  • Vast distances to family.
  • Car dependent culture unless able to afford inner-city living.
  • Must keep working to afford the cost of living. (Rent alone would be a minimum of $500 per week for an old house)
  • Expensive housing. Median house prices in a low-priced inner-city suburb are more than 8 times the median income. Prices rose 230% last decade.

2. Adapting in the country

The town we are considering is Brendan’s childhood hometown which is located on a plateau at the top of a mountain range.

  • Population is 2643 including the outlying areas.
  • 25% of residents are over 60. Only 15 % are aged between 20-39. It is a town full of older residents as young people tend to head to the city after school.
  • 28% of the population work in agriculture, forestry & fishing.
  • 48% travel to work in a car, 19% work at home and 10% walk.
  • The median weekly household incomes is about $400-499 (compared with the state median of $800-899 per week).
  • The unemployment rate is double the state average.

My vision for adapting in the country

We’ll be living in a small home (2-3 bedrooms) which is likely to be an old weatherboard house. We’ll either be on a large block (1/4 – 3/4 acre) within walking distance of town or we’ll be on a few acres less than 10 km out of town.  If we are in town we’ll be within walking distance of local shops, schools and a couple of restaurants and cafes. We’ll have made our property as sustainable as possible given the climatic conditions:

  • Summers are mild and winters are cool and windy. The town doesn’t receive snow and frosts occur less than 10 days per year. Insulation will be important and a good wood fire will keep us warm on those cold, wet nights.  
  • The average annual rainfall is 1979 mm (78 in), making it the wettest town in the state. In a dry country, this much rain is a rarity. If we live out of town, we will not have to rely on town water at all.
  • Despite all the rain, there is still quite a bit of sun (31% of days throughout the year are clear and sunny). We’ll add solar hot water to the roof and may look to use a combination of solar and wind energy for electricity.

The local community is quite well set up and all the essentials are available for purchase in town. Some of the businesses are resupplied by traveling salesmen, which seems a quaint reference to a bygone era.  If it’s not available in town, we’d have to drive one hour to the coast or one hour inland to a small city. A local bus goes to the coast once per week for the day. The region is extremely fertile and plenty of food is being grown locally, although I’m not sure that a local food movement is up and running formally yet.

It’s a small town and much of the population is elderly. While this may be good for learning skills from our elders, I’m a bit concerned about the viability of a town with such a small proportion of young adults. This situation may change as more people become aware of the need to adapt to a changing world.  On the plus-side, the town at the bottom of the mountain has a thriving cafe and arts scene with many local people already living ‘alternate’ lifestyles. The shire is already part of the transition town movement and I can imagine that we could get involved and bring much of that activity up the mountain.

As you can imagine with all that rain and sunshine, the town is surrounded by green, rolling hills and national parks. The town itself has retained much of its original character and hasn’t suffered too badly from modern times. In fact the local bakery still uses a wood-fired oven and the Gazette is the last Australian newspaper printed by the letterpress method. Apparently it’s the last independent newspaper in Australia.

The town is currently very reliant on vehicles to bring everything in from the coast or via the inland route. Occasionally the mountain will be cut off for a week due to flooding of the waterfalls. The train line closed in 1972, but I imagine it could get back up and running under the right set of circumstances. There is still an active group of residents who are doing some fantastic work to preserve railway vehicles and the equipment of a bygone era.

Because there aren’t many options for employment in town, I imagine Brendan and I will both end up working at a variety of things such as in local businesses, working at home and volunteering in a variety of ways.

We should be able to afford to purchase our home outright and with a small income from investments, we could be financially independent to the point that we can choose the type of work we partake in. We’ll have time to grow some of our own food. We can also get involved in self-sufficiency on a community level.

Pros of adapting in the country

  • Plentiful water and food
  • Close to family
  • More affordable housing
  • More time due to financial independence
  • Beautiful location with access to National Parks, rivers and countryside
  • More opportunity to interact with the local community and make a difference on a more personal level

Cons of adapting in the country

  • Cultural activities different to what I’m used to (local theatre and blues festivals, rather than cafes and museums)
  • Elderly population. Potentially more difficult to make friends our age.
  • Employment opportunities limited.
  • Potentially cut-off from the outside world if car usage has to decline.

I just can’t decide which option is for us

I need some new perspectives. Have you chosen one over the other and regretted it or do you love how you live? What do you see the future becoming, and what would you choose if you were in our position?

Thanks for any comments you wish to provide.

7.0 ways you can help Haiti

Image from: Winking Owl Studios

Today on Unstuffed’s blog, she links to The Urban Field Guide who lists 7.0 ways you can help Haiti.

We tried to use the texting method but for some reason it didn’t go through, so I went with option one instead…..shopping.

If you click on Etsy and enter Haiti, many of the shops are donating all of their sales to varying relief funds. I won’t say what I bought because it’s a gift and I know the recipient reads this blog. To my mind, this was the win-win option: This purchase helps the haitian relief effort, helped the Etsy seller become known to me (I’m likely to be a repeat customer) and helps the person for whom the gift is intended. I don’t shop often, but this type of shopping even I can enjoy.

Self sufficiency, independence and lifestyle planning

Today I wanted to talk a bit more about some topics I haven’t really touched on before but which I find myself thinking a lot about.

My Background

First, a little background. At the age of about 22 I decided that I did not want to be working for someone else for the rest of my life. I came to the realisation very early on that I hated being trapped in a routine that required me to go to a job every day of the week, and I certainly couldn’t imagine doing it for the next 43 years until I was old enough to officially ‘retire’. It felt like a slow death and I was determined to get out of that ‘rat race’ as soon as I could. It was about that time that I set my goal to retire at 40.

So at the tender age of 22 I started looking for ways to achieve financial independence within the next 18 years. At that time, the only way I knew how to get to that goal was to invest, and to take some risks in doing so. I had always been a saver and had no debt. At 23 I purchased my first home just before the property boom hit my town. I scrimped and saved, built enough equity in that property for the down payment on the next. I then renovated that second property, set it up as housing for students at the nearby university, built my equity and bought a third house. I repeated this process until at the age of 25, my partner and I had five houses, four of which we had cleaned up and rented to students. It was practically a second job to manage all this work, but the cash flow was good, enough that we could make all the mortgage payments easily; and because we had bought in an area just beginning to gentrify, the property prices doubled in short order.

At that time I had many people call me crazy. At my age I was supposed to be out partying and living life to the fullest, not being so sensible. I was laughed at when I told people I was going to be retired at 40. They either didn’t think it was possible, didn’t think the sacrifice was worth it or couldn’t imagine living life any other way than the prescribed path of running the rat-race until retirement.

Flash forward a few years; I was 30 and on my way to being financially independent. I had leveraged the houses and was heavily invested in the stock market. Everything was going to plan….until it wasn’t. After the crash of  ’08 a large portion of my stock holdings were wiped out. Suddenly my old plan wasn’t going to work anymore and I had to rethink everything.

The last 18 months has been a time of learning for me. I see the world in an entirely different way. My goal of independence is still as strong as ever, but the way I’m planning to achieve it has changed dramatically.

A New Plan for Self-Sufficiency and Independence

One of my biggest realisations over the last year is how reliant on the system we’ve all become. This clearly works during the good times, but when things go wrong we have no control over our own lives. This is how I felt after the crash. I was in a lot of debt, I had to find cash at short notice to cover margin calls, I was extremely stressed and couldn’t sleep. I never wanted to feel that out of control again. This is when I started looking into new ways to be more self-reliant, making improvements to my level of self-sufficiency and decreasing my dependence on the system.

I’m going to talk more about this in upcoming posts, but here are some of the important changes I’m making:

  1. I’ve started making sure I’m more prepared for emergencies, natural disasters and economic turmoil. I want to ensure that if I’m ever affected by one of these situations that I have made preparations as much as possible. There are plenty of easy things I’ve done to make myself more prepared while improving my life even if nothing adverse ever happens.
  2. I’m reducing debt as quickly as possible. Two years ago my debt to earnings ratio was about 10:1. I was holding huge amounts of debt which in good times allowed me to leverage larger returns on my investments. When things turned bad, my debt became financial cancer! Now I have a plan in place to be debt free within the year.
  3. I’m stockpiling more food than I 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 simply stock up and we buy in bulk every six months or so. An additional benefit is that we never feel like we have to rush to the shop when we run out of food. There is always something on hand. I can’t see how you can lose by storing additional food that you use on a regular basis.
  4. I’m growing some of my own food. Growing food is for everyone, not just people who want organic fruit and vegetables. Our food system is not at all robust. The ‘Just in Time’ method of delivering food to the stores is extremely efficient, but also prone to disruptions if something occurs along the supply chain. Stores only hold about three days worth of food on their shelves, so you can imagine how quickly they would be stripped bare if there were a local emergency. Producing our own food (even as little as 10%)  reduces our dependence on the system. Gardening is also good for emotional and physical health and makes you popular when you bring fresh goodies to your friends.
  5. I’m undertaking some planning for disasters in the following order of priority – Personal-Local-Regional-State-National-Global. Despite the real possibility of a true economic melt down or catastrophic terrorist attack or some other major global disaster the most probable “disaster” for any individual is personal such as a loss of a job, loss of a family member, a fire or local weather event. I’m planning for those first.
  6. I’m reducing my dependence on energy.  Cheap Energy will not last forever and we are already seeing prices rise on the electricity bill and at the gas pump. Reducing our dependence on these systems is reasonably easy to do by being more efficient in our use of household electricity and minimising our use of the car. This year we are working towards producing more of our own energy, mostly related to Solar.
  7. I’m working on a plan to own some productive land. Being able to provide for ourselves in terms of our most basic needs is the true definition of wealth. Owning productive land and removing ourselves from the systems of dependence as much as possible is a dream we are working towards.
  8. We hedge against “disaster”. Pragmatic things like cash emergency funds, good insurance and secondary income streams are good ideas for everyone. These types of protection can make life a lot less miserable when something goes wrong.
  9. What I now understand is that I am in control of my life and that what I do matters. Our culture tells us that to be successful we have to be rich and beautiful. Somehow, most of us buy into this from a young age and until we challenge the concept and decide on our own path we will never be truly happy.

This last 18 months have been a wake up call for me and in redesigning my life I find myself more in control, more content, happy and stress-free. I’m designing the life I’ve always wanted, but it’s coming about in a way I never expected. Life’s funny like that.

Photo by: alicepopkorn

A New Machine

Photo by: Vincent Montibus

I have always been here
I have always looked out from behind these eyes
it feels like more than a lifetime
feels like more than a lifetime

Sometimes I get tired of the waiting
sometimes I get tired of being in here
is this the way it has always been?
could it ever have been different?

Do you ever get tired of the waiting?
do you ever get tired of being in there?
don’t worry, nobody lives forever,
nobody lives forever

~ Pink Floyd, A New Machine. Momentary Lapse of Reason

I’m having some trouble writing at the moment. I’m in receiving mode. That means lots of reading, lots of podcasts, lots of blogs and lots of music. I’ll be back when my muse returns. Until then….listen to Pink Floyd…..they are simply awesome.