Transition Whatcom

Well today is a transition day for me, it’s my birthday! This one is a particular transition in that I have hit an age where I can no longer imagine living to be twice this old so I must be past middle age. I’m
not quite sure what to call my new situation but it feels good to let go of
what ever I was holding on to around aging. It also is a point in my life where
death seems more real, more of a possibility, another transition that I can
begin to prepare for.

 

Speaking of transitions I can begin to prepare for I am reminded of the last election. Almost all the books I have read about peak oil and climate change want to talk about things we should be doing as a society to
prevent or mitigate these things. The last election made it clear to me that
for all their good intentions those authors are wasting their breath as we
(human society) are not going to collectively tackle anything of meaning.
Therefore it becomes critical for me personally to consider this situation as I
prepare myself for the coming transition away from fossil fuels and into a
world with weirder weather. It is also clear to me that I need to work hard to
have a community to work with as I can not survive alone even if the bigger
picture society doesn’t get it. Which of coarse is why I am involved in
Transition Whatcom.

 

I was reading an article on the internet the other day and the author was citing the concept proposed by Howard Odum of the maximum power principle. This author was extending some of Odum’s ideas to include time as
well as energy. It hit me that one of the significant things that fossil fuels
have provided us is time. This cheap available energy in some senses has made
it possible for most of us to have more time to do things that are not directly
related to our survival. The capitalist model has usurped that time by
addicting us to stuff so that we each contribute to the flow of wealth to the
top through the dedication of our time to getting more stuff and maintaining
the stuff we have. But what happens to our time availability when the fossil
fuels become scarcer and more expensive? 
If I am still attempting to maintain my stuff and get more I am going to
be overwhelmed by the time commitment required. This strikes me as a prime
reason to simplify by getting out of the stuff trap.

 

When I was in the Peace Corps in Fiji in the 1970s, I had the opportunity to spend several months working on an outer island that had two villages on it. The one I lived and worked in had about 12 homes in it. This
island was a day’s boat ride from anything else. These people had NO stuff to
maintain or acquire. It was interesting experiencing this level of subsistence
because in reality it required about 4 hours a day of each persons time to
supply their needs for food and clothing. Every afternoon the village gathered
and worked on a community project which might be building or repairing a home.
It was a very easy life compared to the life I lead attempting to support all
my stuff.

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Comment by Heather K on January 3, 2011 at 5:10pm

The gifts of time & community are so much more precious than our culture's toys, ie 'stuff".

I appreciate thoughts Tom and the vision you put into action.  I too have experienced living among folks who enjoy life without lots of stuff.   It seems the tropical climate & culture is the location I experience this the most.  But I've also seen how 'paradise' is being paved over with roads, golf courses, shopping plaza's....it feels like a cancer sometimes.

I'm also personally drawn to simplify the stuff that surrounds me, though I find its a challenge to do this living with others, as the space I clear out gets filled up with someone else's 'stuff'.

I've also noticed how much of my time in the past ten years has been spent using the phone and the computer, another form of 'stuff' that I suspect uses up more time than it saves.

I'm glad we are neighbors and if you ever have a need to borrow some stuff, I'm open to sharing!

 

Here are a couple quotes to share:

 

"Thomas Jefferson said he didn’t think we could have democracy unless at
least 20% of the population was self-supporting on small farms so they were
independent enough to be able to tell an oppressive government to 'stuff it'.
It is very difficult to control people who can create products without
purchasing inputs from the system, who can market their products directly
thus avoiding the involvement of mercenary middlemen, who can butcher
animals and preserve foods without reliance on industrial conglomerates, and
who can’t be bullied because they can feed their own faces."
- Eliot Coleman, Author, Farmer, Human Being

 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *
"... when we finally know we are dying,
and all other sentient beings are dying with us,
we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense
of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being,
and from this can grow a deep, clear,
limitless compassion for all beings." - Sogyal Rinpoche

Comment by Angela MacLeod on December 29, 2010 at 11:47am

Thanks Tom, I really enjoyed reading this.

 

It's refreshing to hear someone talk about aging and even death the way you have, it seems like a taboo subject in our youth oriented culture. With more awareness of the imperminence of life, I have become more keenly aware of the gift of life and what is really important to me. Being older gives me a clarity about what I'm here for that I didn't have when I was younger.

This part that you wrote really struck me as well:

It hit me that one of the significant things that fossil fuels
have provided us is time. This cheap available energy in some senses has made
it possible for most of us to have more time to do things that are not directly
related to our survival. The capitalist model has usurped that time by
addicting us to stuff so that we each contribute to the flow of wealth to the
top through the dedication of our time to getting more stuff and maintaining
the stuff we have.

 

I do really believe that this era of cheap fossil fuels has given us a life that is radically different than any other time in human history. With this freed up time we have been able to develop some lines of abilities in ourselves that  we didn't have time or resources for. But we've also lost some things....and have been stunted in other lines of development. On the whole, we humans have not developed the capacity to choose to limit ourselves, when abundance of stuff is easily available. In the past, nature provided the limits and we had to live with in them. 

 

Thanks for your thoughts.

Comment by Juliet Thompson on December 28, 2010 at 3:43pm

My goodness, what a story about Fiji!

Thanks for this, Tom.

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