After the Titanic hit the iceberg the Captain was notified that the boiler room was beginning to flood. He immediately issued orders for the crew to begin dismantling the upper decks and to throw them overboard. He said it would lighten the ship, increase its speed, and thus enable them to return safely to port.
But when passengers on the upper decks heard of his plan, they immediately rushed to the bridge and insisted that it was the decks below the waterline–especially the ones that were actually leaking–that should be discarded. After all, it was they, not the upper decks, which were causing the ship to sink.
By that time the passengers on the middle decks had become aware of what was going on, and began a heated discussion about which of the two plans was best. Those in cabins well above the waterline easily agreed with the idea of discarding the decks below. But those closer to the water naturally favored the Captain’s insistence on removing the upper decks instead.
In the meantime a few passengers (after looking out of their port holes, and noticing the increasing tilt of the ship) decided it might be best to put on life jackets, find a lifeboat, and row themselves back to land. Which is what they did. But by the time the argument raging on the bridge had concluded, and a decision reached, they had rowed too far away to see which decks, once removed, would best serve to righten (or leften) a sinking ship.
Don’t have a life jacket? Don’t have a Lifeboat? Maybe the time has come to forget all the finger-pointing, and spend that time instead on learning how best to acquire…and use them! (Metaphorically speaking, of course. ;-)]]>
It’s all about arithmetic. Before making a case for having to ‘sell’ an idea as important as survival, let’s first begin with a brief snapshot of what maintaining a survivable level of sustainability actually involves.
[Reference May Man Prevail]
1) Fill a tank full of gas. How far can you go before you need more gas? And if you can’t get that gas (expectations not met), you can neither drive forward nor back. Which means you’re afoot. But where?
2) It ain’t going to happen! Ok, then don’t plan for that possibility. And if you give it any thought at all, assume that you’ll figure out what to do if it happens (reference Step One)…or perhaps someone will come along to bail you out. In other words, you don’t have to take responsibility for your (thoughtless) behavior…until you’re forced to. (This is where the ships over the edge appear)
3) Resistance to change. Much in the future isn’t foreseen because if it were it might signal a need for change. Easier to hope for the best rather than plan for the worst.
Consider, for example, a tribe of people living in a region like the Great Plains, where almost nothing but prairie grass grows. Humans can’t live on grass, so to survive in that environment they have to rely on finding enough herbivores to eat (e.g., buffalo and antelope).
Now suppose over time the human population grew and gradually consumed all the available grass-eating animals. They would then have no choice but to migrate elsewhere, or die. On the other hand, if they had access to seeds and could grow plants more nutritious than grass, they could stay. At least until their population outgrew the capacity of the land to produce enough edible crops. At which point they would either have to find a way to intensify production, or suffer a state of famine until a sustainable balance between crop and population returned. But let’s suppose they miraculously discovered a source of fertilizer that would increase crop productivity by as much as 50%.Understandably that would likely spur yet another surge of population growth…until, once again, even the enhanced productivity would no longer meet growing needs. The population would have no option except to decline until a balance was once again restored. That kind of ‘adjustment’ is historically common, and generally enough people survive long enough to see that balance return. Largely that’s because such cycles usually occur gradually, and are stretched over a period of years. However, in the event productivity is somehow increased dramatically through intensive use of a finite resource (like fertilizer for example)–once that resource is depleted, productivity will quickly drop to its original level. In other words, once the source of fertilizer is exhausted, the productivity of the land will almost immediately drop by that same 50% gained when it first came into use. Understandably, losing that amount of food almost overnight would give rise to a life and death struggle that could easily explode into conflict between those who had enough, and those who didn’t. The result of which would likely fuel an even more catastrophic interruption of productivity as the ‘society’ began to spiral into total collapse.
And why does that kind of thing happen? Simply because humans seem to pay very little attention to arithmetic if it interferes with having a ‘good time.’ Historically, humans tend to ‘party’ until the punch bowl’s empty.*
(See The Clovis))
Anticipatory vs Catastrophic Change. An individual in this kind of situation has only two choices; either grab a lifeboat and paddle for shore, or stay with the ship and keep on dancing and sipping ‘punch.’ Of course there’s a third option. One can attempt to convince the captain that the ship’s course needs to be changed. But he’s not likely to listen…unless many other passengers also start grabbing lifeboats and begin paddling rapidly away, and the ‘deck crew’ begins to notice something that looks like trouble just ahead! Even then there’s not much chance that the ship can overcome its momentum, and turn away in time. (Unfortunately going ‘over the edge’ is the historic method of emptying a society’s ‘punch bowl.’ ;-)
In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Fusce dignissim pellentesque egestas. Duis libero magna, pretium eget elementum eget, accumsan non velit. Proin tincidunt lobortis sem, sit amet imperdiet nunc luctus sed. Fusce tempus quam turpis. Nullam vel mauris sapien. Ut mauris libero, dictum quis tincidunt adipiscing, posuere quis quam. Nam at risus id dui tristique elementum tempus sit amet diam. Cras auctor placerat tincidunt. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Sed egestas lacinia metus volutpat laoreet.
Redefining the ‘comfort’ paradigm. The opening segment of the film The Gods Must Be Crazy graphically illustrates the difference between a sustainable culture, with plenty of time for life, and that of an ‘advanced’ culture that spends most of its time shredding itself into tiny fragments of life…while at the same time methodically exhausting every resource in sight.In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Fusce dignissim pellentesque egestas. Duis libero magna, pretium eget elementum eget, accumsan non velit. Proin tincidunt lobortis sem, sit amet imperdiet nunc luctus sed. Fusce tempus quam turpis. Nullam vel mauris sapien. Ut mauris libero, dictum quis tincidunt adipiscing, posuere quis quam. Nam at risus id dui tristique elementum tempus sit amet diam. Cras auctor placerat tincidunt. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Sed egestas lacinia metus volutpat laoreet.
*If you want a ‘close to home’ example of that dynamic, consider the rate and amount of debt the Federal government is currently generating in order to stimulate a rapidly shrinking economy, and give it the appearance of survivability. As though somehow all the lost jobs over the past few years will somehow come back if only people would begin borrowing, spending, and wasting more. Of course it won’t work, for any number of reasons. All of which boil down to one thing: too many people becoming increasingly dependent on rapidly diminishing resources. Again, simple arithmetic.
Welcome to the Now What? project. Our goal is three-fold: First, to provide a simple, comprehensive blueprint for achieving self-reliance and a comfortable, sustainable lifestyle at the individual and/or family level. Second, to broaden and apply similar principles to the development of small sustainable communities. Third, to plant cultural seeds that in time will grow to produce a more desirable, sustainable future for all.
The Now What plan is divided into four steps. The first step outlines the essentials necessary for survival at its most rudimentary level (i.e., without tools, knowledge, or any previous experience). The second step includes the addition of basic knowledge, tools and supplies that will make it easy to transition from survival mode to a more sustainable way of life. The third step focuses on preparation of a simply designed, sustainable ‘retreat’ that can be occupied and made fully functional without any additional tools or supplies. And the fourth step focuses on how to transform that ‘retreat’ into a desirable model for future sustainable living.
[Two reasons for starting from a bare-assed state: 1) Best way to define absolutely essential ingredients; 2) Underscore the importance of being “grounded” in some first-hand understanding of reality. Also emphasize the need for a Parallel Track; i.e., the building blocks of long-term anticipatory change, and phase-related lifeboats in the event of catastrophic change.]