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)
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Day 100. I know it's been a long time coming to post this and I apologize to many of you who have supported this project by reading my daily posts for leaving you all hanging for so long!
I DID, in fact, finish this project. And I would like to share my experience of the end of the project, the day after and my reflections and the conclusions I have come to in the months since I finished in November in this and the following posts.
Writing this post retrospectively, of course I am having to rely on the notes taken from that day:
Waking up to the last day of this project, it does not feel quite as spectacular as I had envisioned it. However, thinking back to the 99 previous days of changing my lifestyle in an effort to come as close to living in a resource balance I realize just how drastically my views of lifestyle choices have changed. These changes have become habit and only in the context of looking back to the way I used to view things can I truly appreciate the extent of change in my life.
The best example of my changed awareness is in my food shopping habits. Before the project was even an idea in my mind, my regular grocery habits included shopping at a chain grocer which was is 7 blocks away from me. While I would sometimes walk there, more often I drove. I shopped at the co-op only 2 blocks away from my house only rarely. It wasn't important to me to buy organic foods, and though I was aware of the issues of food transportation I never made a point to buy locally. When buying produce, I used the plastic bags provided for me. I would bag up a couple of tomatoes or a head of lettuce. Looking back I think I simply had never been exposed to another way of shopping for food. Years of watching my mom bag up produce made me think this was just how it was done. I never thought twice about it.
Thinking about the many decisions I made about buying food now after doing this project I am amazed by how many of the decisions I made were made simply out of habit. It took my conscious effort thinking about the impacts of each decision to realize that there was, in fact, another way of doing things. This isn't brain science it is simply awareness. I now shop almost exclusively at the co-op. Not only is it closer, but I have a deep appreciations for their efforts in providing local and organic food. Anything that I can buy in bulk I choose to do over packaged goods. I've realized that it is not only fresher food, but is saving me money to shop this way. I never bag any produce in plastic, there is no need for most vegetables and I use reusable cloth bags for anything such as bread that needs to be protected.
I look back on all the categories of the project in the same way in which I do with food. I realized that I could bike and walk to many places I shop, run errands and do work every day. It wasn't that I was opposed to walking before, it just simply didn't cross my mind. I became aware of how much waste can be diverted from landfills by buying food in bulk and ate fresher and saved money in the process. I became aware of different ways of using water and energy as well.
The realizations of how drastically different I now view most of the actions of my lifestyle is not surprising to me knowing that I spent 100 days making a conscious effort to take a close look at my life. In most cases, these changed habits were not a sacrifice but simply a changed awareness and acknowledgment of learning to do things in a different way.