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I read two related posts today that I wanted to pass on.  The first is John Michael Greer’s latest, which he calls The Beginning of the World.  He begins by discussing the Mayan calendar, and all of the myriad failed predictions, from apocalypse to a big leap in consciousness. Eventually he comes ’round to his point, the “frantic desire to ignore the arrival of inescapable change pervades today’s cultural scene, even in those subcultures that insist most loudly that change is what they want.” 

And then another point: “Along these same lines, dear reader, as you surf the peak oil and climate change blogosphere and read the various opinions on display there, I’d encourage you to ask yourself what those opinions amount to in actual practice.  A remarkably large fraction of them, straight across the political landscape from furthest left to furthest right and including all stops in between, add up to demands that somebody else, somewhere else, do something.”

And then eventually, a recommended action: “With that in mind, dear reader, I’d like to ask you to do something right now, before going on to the paragraph after this one.  If you’re in the temperate or subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere, and you’re someplace where you can adjust the temperature, get up and go turn the thermostat down three degrees; if that makes the place too chilly for your tastes, take another moment or two to put on a sweater.  If you’re in a different place or a different situation, do something else simple to decrease the amount of energy you’re using at this moment.  Go ahead, do it now; I’ll wait for you here.”

Now, I hope you’ll go over there and read the entire thing – I think it’s worth doing:

And I really love that ran the post  with this picture:


For those who don’t remember, Jimmy Carter gave a very famous speech to the nation in 1979, known variously as the “Sweater Speech,” the “Malaise” speech, or the “Crisis of Confidence” speech. Some blame this speech as one reason he was not re-elected. However, if we had followed his advice, we as a country (United States) would be in a much better position today.

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I’m proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I’m asking you for your good and for your nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense — I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Along similar lines to John Michael Greer’s post, is a piece by Mark Watson, from the Transition Network: Energy Descent is Cool! Even When Its Bloody Cold.

In our household we turned off the oil-fired central heating. We haven’t turned it back on since, apart from on really cold, damp winter days when clothes just won’t dry.

The first winter was tough. We lit two fires a week in the woodburner and discovered the amazingness of the Hot Water Bottle and wearing more layers of clothes. The group’s monthly meetings were important for keeping our spirits up in that first year and we could report on our successes and failures. Going into buildings with the central heating on began to feel unnatural, and going outside on a winter’s day was sometimes warmer than staying indoors. 2010 was easier, though the group was no more, and last year (which was a milder winter) was almost a doddle.

At the Dark Mountain meeting in Norwich that week, Sim told the group, “You know, because it’s cold I’m much more aware of temperature. That it’s warm inside the bed, for example, and cold outside. I don’t pay attention to that normally. The physical season and the outside has really entered my awareness. And this is how humans have lived for most of our time on the planet.”

Energy descent. It’s not particularly comfortable. Though at some point it’s inevitable. Best to start now and make it an adventure.

Both of the posts above reminded me of the great movie, My Dinner with Andre. Here’s one of my favorite slices of dialog:

Andre: What does it do to us, Wally, living in an environment where something as massive as the seasons or winter or cold, don’t in any way affect us? I mean, were animals after all. I mean… what does that mean? I think that means that instead of living under the sun and the moon and the sky and the stars, we’re living in a fantasy world of our own making.
Wally: Yeah, but I mean, I would never give up my electric blanket, Andre. I mean, because New York is cold in the winter. I mean, our apartment is cold! It’s a difficult environment. I mean, our life is tough enough as it is. I’m not looking for ways to get rid of a few things that provide relief and comfort. I mean, on the contrary, I’m looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive. I mean, I’m trying to protect myself because, really, there’s these abrasive beatings to be avoided everywhere you look!
Andre: But, Wally, don’t you see that comfort can be dangerous? I mean, you like to be comfortable and I like to be comfortable too, but comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility.

Andre: I wouldn’t put on an electric blanket for any reason. First, I’d be worried if I get electrocuted. No, I don’t trust technology. But I mean, the main thing, Wally, is that I think that kind of comfort just separates you from reality in a very direct way.


In our household, we’ve enjoyed hot water bottles for a number of years now, and have recently added hot rocks to our bedtime routine. The rocks are stored on the heater by day, and get transported to the bed at night. We’ve also found that moderate exercise every day helps raise our body temp and helps us feel more comfortable in the winter. Our Christmas involved gifts of quality drying racks, insulated underwear, flannel PJ’s, and insulated outerwear. All of which has prepared us for the next step in sustainability: the thermostat has been turned down another couple of degrees.


The MacLeod family Hot Water Bottles

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Comment by David MacLeod on January 1, 2013 at 10:29pm

Thanks Walter.  I like the wise advice about stocking caps.

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