This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


27 October 2010
Definitely in a funk today.  Lonely, tired, frustrated, everything seems hard.  There have certainly been highs and lows throughout the last 74 days… 
The first few weeks were difficult because I was immediately dealing with issues of survival: How do I feed myself with only local foods? How much water can I use, will it be enough?….I was excited to be learning many things really quickly, however, and the high of living a totally different life gave me the energy to keep going and learning…
After a few weeks I had an understanding of food issues enough to let those issues take a back seat and started to get really excited about the possibilities that many of the changes to my life were real benefits.  I was eating better and felt like I had tons of energy all the time.  Biking around in late summer/early fall it was warm; friends would bike around with me wherever I was going.  We all had time on our hands (before the semester started) so I had a lot of people helping me out with little things, spending long, leisurely evenings cooking delicious local meals.  I was really optimistic about the way this kind of life was really making me feel.  I felt really connected to everything, connected to the people around me, to the food I was eating, the water I was using, the amount of energy I had to transport myself around everywhere…it was refreshing in a way I hadn’t felt before. 
The last few days, I have really felt like things are starting to get hard.  The last of the local produce is leaving the grocery store and I’ve had to spend the past few days scrambling to can and blanch vegetables (hoping they are enough to last the last 3 weeks).  It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning knowing that the first two hours of my day and are going to be a lot of work (making food for the day, picking aphids off of plants) all the while being freezing cold from dousing myself with 1 gallon of water in an attempt to clean up.  Then I get on my bike and go the 8 miles to class in another city in 25 degree weather, alone, in the dark.   I would say my mood in the morning is almost directly proportional to how cold it is in my house (and outside).  

I’ve had to abandon many of the things I guess I would call ‘rituals’ which meant something to me, however seemingly insignificant (like having a cup of espresso in the morning or grabbing a bite to eat between classes with friends).  It isn’t that these things can’t be replaced with other things (except dietary restrictions), but the transition to a new way of life has definitely shaken things up for me.   
Throughout the project there have been feelings of guilt if I’m not able to keep up with doing something.  Feelings of helplessness or laziness when I simply can’t make myself get on my bike to run simple errands.  Feelings of loneliness and isolation having to do many things myself because I am the only one living this way right now. 
All of this has really made me think about what ‘quality of life’ really is, what do we do that really makes us happy?  How much of our time doing daily activities are things that really contribute to our happiness.  People do all kinds of crazy things seeking ‘excitement’ or ‘happiness’; going to expensive, crowded theme parks, dropping themselves out of helicopters, spending a lot of money shopping, substance abuse/addictions… the list goes on.  What is interesting, though, is stopping to think once and a while when doing any of these things “is this really making me happy?” and “why is it making me happy?”, or, “why is this NOT making me happy”.   I am realizing that not everything about living within our means is all butterflies and flowers-there is certainly a struggle. The real question is, ‘does this struggle do anything for us?’
My advisor Virajita would say-It makes us more creative.
Maybe in a post-cheap oil world, we will be living more creative lives by the challenges presented to us.  The excitement we currently seek out doing bizarre and additive things we would be getting just living our normal day-to-day lives.  “Creativity is the component that allows us to do anything we want”. 
I have a new and deep appreciation for my Scandinavian and German ancestors who lived in Minnesota (and in similar climates in Europe before the) who struggled with many of the challenges I am faced with now, storing food, harsh weather…The difference there, as my advisor pointed out, is that they ALL lived that way.  They weren’t doing this alone.   Whole communities got together during harvest time to lend each other a hand with tasks they could not possibly accomplish themselves.  Surviving was a way of life, built into their religion and rituals.  And it wasn’t always easy, it probably wasn’t even always enjoyable, but it must have brought people a connection and happiness that they shared enough to want to keep living that way. 
Talking about the project with a friend one day, she said, “When I think about your project, it feels like life to me”.  I couldn’t describe it better. 

1 comment:

  1. Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
    -Joseph Addison, writer (1672-1719)

    Molly - you have all three in what you're doing!