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 16, 2010


10 November 2010

6 reasons camping is like living no oil (and the lessons I learned from sleeping in the dirt)

  1_You shower less

Camping may be many people's only experience going a week or more without showering-it was mine before this project. With no easy access to water/showers and the fact that you are going to get all sweaty and grimy every day just after you get up, whats the point?  I  haven't necessarily felt smelly or dirty taking quick showers twice a week during this project.  The harder part was just ditching the habit.  I had a firmly established morning ritual and routine which was ingrained into my head since sometime around 7th grade probably which included getting all wet every morning and then drying off again.  Don't get me wrong, when it's shower day I'm ready and its time, but getting another 20 min of sleep every morning and saving energy not having to dry my hair  has been a change that I could get used to.

2_Cooking dinner is an event

Camp dinners are a big deal.  Everyone is hungry,  there is only one stove and usually only one person has the food.  This means everyone has to work together, spend some time making a good meal.  The way food brings people together camping is a lot like how  it has during this project. I've adopted the habit of cooking for at least a couple people probably 50% of the nights of a typical week.  After all, if you're going to go to all that work, might as well be worth it to more people than yourself. 

3_When the sun goes down, it gets dark

I mean, there aren't any other options.  Headlamps are the original task lighting.  The fire or lamp on a picnic table becomes the gathering place because it is the only place people can see (and its warm).  Its harder to move around when the whole area (or house) isn't lit up.  You walk to the bathroom, you gotta take a candle (or a flashlight).  Areas with the most lighting (like our table with a bunch of candles on it) automatically become the places people go to. 

4_Water is precious

Whether it is because you're waiting for it to rain or just haven't filtered enough water, water scarcity is a real issue in both camping and trying to live within your water 'budget'.  Camping in the frozen meadows below Grand Teton where the water is either frozen or ICE cold is a real test of how badly you need/want it and an excellent exercise in conservation.  Camping taught me how to do dishes in a no-oil world.  Use leftover boiling water from cooking for hot wash water. Pour your rinse water and wash water into two basins (or use the biggest two pots that are dirty).  Do cleanest dishes first. No running water needed.  Why do we abandon these habits when we go back to our homes with running water?

5_Connection with the elements

You havn't truly expereinced snow until you have slept in it.  And on it.  And under it.  I'm not trying to promote this in any way, it was actually kind of miserable, but gave me a totally different perspective of the kind of weather we have here.  We've done a great job at protecting and isolating ourselves from the elements.  After all, that's how we survived.  However, the more isolated we become, the greater the sense of unfamiliarity and even fear comes from being out in the elements.  Winter biking is a good example of this.  There aren't many mornings that I look out the window and get excited to jump on my bike and avoid snow chunks.  Once I am out there riding however, I realize how worked up I got about something that really isn't that bad.

7_You dress for the weather

Dressing comfortably and warmly for biking in freezing temperatures takes priority over looking nice.  These are my sisters on a winter camping trip in northern MN, clearly, the same deal ;)

6_Cannot create any waste

When we go camping we make NO waste, we EAT our toilet paper.  Well, maybe not.  Regardless, it is easy to be aware of how much waste you are creating when you are on a backpacking trip and have to carry it with you the rest of the trip.  Having to collect all the waste I create (even after eliminating as much waste as possible) has been a reality check for me (especially now that I have almost 90 days worth).  We've gotten really good at packing food and avoiding packaging in these situation.  There is also more motivation to avoid dumping stuff when in a pristine wilderness.  However,  it doesn't matter whether you throw that candy bar wrapper down a glacier or in an urban street, its eventually going to end up in the same place.  Paying attention to some of the ways I found to reduce waste on backpacking trips was a good start for me when I started this project: Refill your water bottle, avoid individually wrapped items, and buy in bulk using reusable jars. Pack it in pack it out.  Or in the no oil case-don't make it at all. 

An interesting exercise would be to carry around all the waste you create in a day.  At the end of the day, take an inventory of what was; organics, recyclables and trash.  If you eliminate some of the waste you create, try to find an alternative.  For example, ask if a restaurant can put your take-out in a container that you bring.