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)
Friday, October 1, 2010
Germany's "grandfather of green building", Joachim Eble of Joachim Eble Architektur came to speak at the University of Minnesota today, I attended a brown-bag session with him which was a smaller group of people and allowed us to have more of a discussion than lecture. My fellow architecture folks and I sat among a wide variety of people with different interests ranging from public policy and urban design, to people simply interested in starting to learn about sustainable urbanism.
Many of the questions people were asking circled around the observation that many countries in Europe, including Germany have been able to integrate sustainable living into their urban communities in a way that is almost non-existent in the United States. Residents come together in groups of families in Germany and create a kind of co-op housing situation in which they design their entire community from the ground up in order to live in a sustainable way. Many people were asking, "how do we do that here?" and more pointedly, "how do we get people to be INTERESTED in doing that here." Which eventually led to, "how can we get our government to pass laws to MAKE people do that here." It really made me think about who it is that catalyzes change in society, a 'which comes first' scenario - is it the PEOPLE, or the GOVERNMENT who is responsible for making change. WHO HAS POWER.
Eble (who talks really slowly and quietly) responded that "Every government is a mirror of the consciousness of society." To me that means, that, like most things, it isn't black and white. Governments are made up of individuals as well, and individual change is the catalyst for any kind of change. Governments need the push from people to make changes because ultimately, government can be seen as a our collective mind. We are really responsible, in a way, for what everyone else thinks, and what we ourselves think. And in that way, we are responsible for changes which need to be made and to reach some kind of collective decisions as a society.
Personally, I don't think I have ever been that good at 'convincing' people of the importance of environmental issues. It is easy for me to get frustrated with people who I don't think 'understand' the issues. Too quickly, I jump to the conclusion that people are just ignorant, clinging to a way of life that is actually quite detrimental to themselves, as well as our environment. However, a deeper look into the issue has revealed to me that we are really all fighting for the SAME thing. We are all driven to act a certain way because a certain amount of FEAR we have of losing our WAY OF LIFE.
One one side, there are the people unwilling to accept that humans are responsible for climate change, and, in the same category are those who understand this but are still unwilling to change their lifestyles in any way regardless. Why are they unwilling to accept this? Even when climate change has been scientifically linked human behavior? They are AFRAID, and rightly so, its kinda scary. Can you really blame people though? As already outlined in this project, we are really DEPENDANT on resources (especially petroleum) to maintain our lives. We actually DON'T KNOW how to live without this resource, we would have to re-learn-as I have begun to do- how to feed ourselves, collect water, get around, etc....There are many benefits in the end, but at least the transition can be very hard. Sometimes-lets face it- I am a hungry, tired, frustrated, surly, crabby bitch (which my friends can attest to). Our natural tendency when we fear our lives (or quality of life) are in danger, is to defend it, AT ALL COSTS. As humans, we have an amazing ability to justify our actions in the face of losing something we deeply value. We will think of anything; "my husband needs to eat red meat every night to feel full, my wife won't sell her SUV because she feels unsafe on the road, I don't have time to use public transportation, I don't have time to cook myself a healthy meal" (Mark Bittmann at Healthy Food Healthy Lives 2010). Unreasonable? Maybe. But people are afraid.
On the other side, until very recently, I didn't realize that my own motivations for trying to 'convince' people, and living life the way I do is also driven by FEAR. What am I afraid of? When I really think about it, I am also afraid, to lose my quality of life. I am afraid that it will take our society and the world too long to make changes in our lives to make a difference, and we will reach a point of 'no return'. I am afraid that people will cling so tightly to their over consumptive lifestyles that everyone-no matter how we have chosen individually to live-will ultimately be affected. 'Affected' is putting it too lightly, the downward spiral we are on has the potential to cause horrific distasters of mass starvation, water shortages, political unrest, unprecedented natural disasters, the list goes on. Dramatic? Maybe. But I'm afraid.
What I have realized is that if both sides are driven by fear (which is an irrational, unreasonable and dramatic emotion), we have almost NO chance at communicating effectively or resolving anything because we have made the issues personal. When speaking to somebody from a place of fear, we are defending our survival. We have to find a way to COLLECTIVELY open our minds, understand the fears within ourselves, and actually HEAR what people are trying to say to us. Not their words, necessarily, but what they are afraid of, and how we can work together to eliminate those fears.
As Joachim Eble puts it "We have to learn to listen".
Small updates lately:
_Gnats are getting better, hanging sticky tape up near the plants they were living in the bathroom has worked the best. I also made some gnat traps out of empty beer bottles. By making a funnel of aluminum foil with a VERY small hole, the gnats fly in and can't get out. I put some apple cider vinegar in the bottle because the gnats are attracted to the fermenting smell. These traps haven't trapped as many as the sticky tape, but have gotten at least a few of them.
_Replacing the compost with my white sheet has eliminated the worm's escaping problem. I'm thinking up ways to keep a translucent lid on the worm bin which will be easier than replacing the sheet/bungee cord every time...ideas?
_I learned the hard way to pay attention to what vegetables I am buying at the co-op yesterday... Its important to rotate the greens/vegetables you are consuming because it is easier to get a wide variety of nutrients, so I have been trying to buy new greens almost every time I go. I picked up a bunch of big, dark leafy greens which were local and organic without even looking at what kind they were. Took them to the checkout and the lady was like, "uh, what ARE these?" , and I was like "oh, I have no idea, I just picked them up, ha. So we spent about 5 minutes looking over her thumbnail sized, laminated sheets of vegetable identification pictures trying to find them. The verdict-Rapini.
I threw half of the Rapini, one apple, a few frozen pear bits, 1 1/2 cups of water and some honey in a blender this morning (typical green smoothie I drink every morning with various greens), and when I went to taste it, OH WOW, SUPER bitter. It was undrinkable. So rapini really needs to be balanced with pretty sweet fruits (which aren't really available to me anymore). HOWEVER, I found a recipe for a better way to eat the rest of the greens here (http://liveitupvegan.blogspot.com/2006/08/pennine-rapini-and-garlicky-bchamel.html). It is a Penne, Rapini and Garlicky Bechamel.
Cook the Penne, adding the chopped Rapini in during the last 3 minutes (don't overcook or it gets mushy) and make sauce while cooking:
"Make your Garlicky Béchamel by putting 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 1/4 cup of flour (I use unbleached white flour or whole wheat flour or rice flour, etc) and mix well for one or two minutes. Don’t let it burn. Then, slowly add 2 cups of soymilk, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps, until the desired consistency. You can add more soymilk if you find the sauce too thick. Then add the garlic, the seasonings and let simmer on low heat."
Gonna try making this tonight with the local, bulk penne I found!
_An article in my friend's ReadyMade the other day introduced me to two ladies; Siobhan O' Connor and Alexandra Sprut who have a blog called 'No More Dirty Looks', and book (by the same name). (http://nomoredirtylooks.com/). While they are not addressing products made from petroleum directly, they outline what ingredients in cosmetics and other health/hygiene products contain chemicals and toxins which are harmful (many of which are petroleum based). I'm in the process of trying to identify what ingredients come directly from petroleum, but, to be on the safe side am converting all my products to oil-free versions (recipes from their book, blog) as I run out of them. Today I made mascara from charcoal tablets and aloe vera. Charcoal tablets were $9 and aloe can come from a bottle or squeezed from an aloe plant (if you have one).
1_Twist charcoal capsule apart and dump contents into a small vile/tube. Many health-food stores and co-ops have a health/hygiene department which sell small jars for making your own products. I found a small skinny jar made for fragrances. Dumb the charcoal directly in the jar.
2_Scoop aloe vera gel into the jar until full (about .5 ounces) The charcoal tablets could go a lot further because there is a lot of powder in each one, but I wanted to make small quantities so I could make it more often and it will be fresher.
3_Stir up jar with a thin object (I used a little stick)
4_Clean an old mascara brush, dip in, scrap extra off on edges of tube and apply!
My friend Amber used a much cooler version of mine using wood charcoal off her grill to make an eyeliner! In her own words, "I squished some gel out of an aloe leaf, swabbed by brush it it and then picked up some charcoal dust (just picking up a piece from the bag created enough fine dust on my fingers to work with) and lined my lovely lids. it worked like a charm. i think the aloe/charcoal is technically the mascara rather than the eyeliner, but it worked! hooray". I've been using this for a few days, it stays on really well, doesn't run much (I should know-biking in the rain and all), but removals easily when you don't want it to come off.
No worries about getting this stuff in your eyes, while you certainly don't want to rub it in your eyes it is much safer than ingredients that in most mascaras. All ingredients can literally be eaten and be ok, in fact, the charcoal tablets are meant to be eaten to help with gas and digestion issues. (pics when I get a chance, check back)