Monday, June 16, 2008

What will you refuse to give up?

So, I have been tagged for a "meme" (that word again!) by Robbyn at The Back Forty. Ahhh..those paybacks! :-D

I admit, I had wondered if it would make it around to me after reading it on a few other sites and..... irregardless of whether it did or not ....I had been pondering the question a bit on my own.
Because...especially as oil becomes higher and food more expensive and raises just don't seem to get you farther ahead (just keep you from falling back) it seemed like a really good subject to mull over in my head or in my blog.

Now of course everyone's blog is a bit different. Some people take the question more from a "peak oil perspective" and others seem to be coming from an "green" perspective. The two are really intertwined and I think that was pretty much the whole point. So what couldn't I do without? I mean REALLY without. I have thought about that a lot....and maybe more than some people my husband and I have lived many years "dabbling" in .....what to call it? Peak oil practices? Heritage living? Organic/sustainable living? So..because of that I know I could live without many things, however some things are more difficult to "substitute" for.

I don't think there is anything that I couldn't absolutely live without (if I had to I mean...because I do enjoy some of these things after all). I mean really anyone can if they need or want to survive however what if we want to live well....well..that's a different thought all together now. But what if we want to do it in such a way as to not have to "step" on others or be unsustainable . What then?
I have found over time that most of the things we feel we need and can't live without at one time, or even now, have a sustainable option. Sometimes they cost more though, or are more dependent on our society as a whole joining in to accomplish. Like running water. Many ancient (back before the middle ages by far) did actually HAVE running water. took great societies working together to keep it working and running. All without being an environmental disaster. We however like to either think the way we do it is so so so much better or we ignore the fact that it is unsustainable. Think sewage treatment here...there are working viable alternative options to chemical sewage treatment but they require a bit more work and are "unknown" and people are not as comfortable with them as they are chemical treatment. They actually can work better and are better for us and the environment. Why not use them more often?
Sometimes as in the case of something as simple as "eat local" it's a matter of slightly more work. You have to find local growers and/or BE a local grower. Not always an easy job.
Are we willing to give up 4 hours a day of t.v ( or computer....and that's on average supposedly) to live a more sustainable life? I thought to myself one time...Heck I don't watch 4 hours of t.v a day! No way! I don't watch any t.v series or weekly/daily shows at all hardly. However, when I started paying attention to the bit of news I watched and a bit of t.v during the afternoon with my lunch and a bit before bed....I watch about 2 1/2 hours a day. Add some computer time and tah dah! Go figure! Could I be doing something better with my time though?

What about as a society? Why don't we have gray water recycling in all new building codes? It is a viable solution. Why don't we have better insulation codes...mandatory ones. Why don't we have more green roofs and solar panels on big large manufacturing plants?
I know..we're a democracy and shouldn't force this on people. It's a sticky wicky isn't it? But...could we be doing it anyway because we know we NEED to? Without having the government tell us too?

So....below I have listed a few things that I would find harder to do without or to change my ways and adjust too. This could be because they require more work/thought or more money or even just more innovation. However...they are doable and something, someday, I hope to address in my own life so I am "walking the talk" a bit more than now.

Electricity....which would mean no t.v , no computer, no lights, no ....wait. First can use a solar panel so some of these things would still be available. However, we DID live without t.v for 2 years as a family. None. nothing. nada. We lived without it and had small kids too----and they SURVIVED!!.
The first month is a booger...but the withdrawal symptoms eventually fade. This was "pre" internet so...I know I could live without that too if I had to. I have to admit though...the internet is like having your very own personal updated daily set of encyclopedias. Hard to do without that...especially on this type of subject. the south what do you do if there is no electricity and no cheap propane/gas/diesel etc to run refrigeration? Now THAT I would have trouble with. I would have to learn how to use a root cellar and some things would have to be bought fresh milk. Because even a root cellar in the south will not keep milk cold and fresh for long. Hence...cheeses and butter would be made a lot more. I like cold milk (sometimes on ice), and drinks and veggies and ..and I don't always like cured ham and cured meats so....well you get the picture.

Car/Truck/vehicles.....O.k. here's a sticky one. I have land and animals...but not enough land to feed all the animals all the time. So....I need a vehicle to get hay for winter or sometimes grains/minerals etc. How do you haul that without a vehicle? I'm not carrying it! Of course there is horse and wagon but I do not have room to feed a horse to pull a would I share with a neighbor? Trade say milk or eggs or pork for occasional use of the horse and wagon?
Obviously I am assuming I will grow most of my own food and because I do live in the country more than the city there would be people to trade my excess eggs for some of their squash or vice versa. Or their wagon.
But what about my husband that drives to work about 20 miles one way? Our neighbor, since we have known him RIDES his bike everyday to a place very close to my husbands work. So...obviously it is feasible. Also, because he has done it for so only takes him about a half hour longer to get home than my husband in a car. Traffic for the car you know--- but not the bike.
Not saying I would completely like this but...
Another thought is that there are electric cars able to be charged by solar panels. They only go about 30 miles and only get up to 45 but...hey. It's an idea. Can they haul a round bale though? Would my husband be run over if he drove one? 70 in the 55 section of the highway is NOT unusual in this state....and you generally do not get a ticket for it unlike in some states. So....45 is awfully slow compared to that.

Oil/gas to heat/cook with.
Cooking...well we could use a solar cooker about half the time. Something I should purchase and learn how to use. But what about canning food...or would I have to dry all of it and/or eat more "in season" than I do now (which really is still not "in season" like people would have eaten 100s of years ago). I would also have to learn how to like more foods. Fermented cabbage is o.k...but not my fave.
O.k here's another one. Now my house is ideally situated to the south. The original owner ...well...he did do that correct. But on a really cold winter day and/or a cloudy/rainy day, we still need supplemental heat. Yes, we use gas. (Bummer---especially this year.) We could however (maybe) be able to produce enough methane here, on our property, like the Chinese do, to supplemental heat our house and definitely cook with. Lots of work though. Another idea is wood heat---though are house is wide and spread out...not easy to heat with just one stove.
And if all of us are doing it...we could quickly deplete wood sources. Coppicing though...well that's a great thing that can be done even on the smallest of home lots to help supply a heating source for a home. Something I have been meaning to practice...but have been too "lazy" to do. Or maybe the alternative has just been so easy I haven't bothered. Tulip poplars, which grow amazingly well here in my area, seem to be from my observations, ideally suited to coppicing....and maybe that is where I will start my experiment. It's easy to find European trees suited to this in literature...since they have been doing it for a long time...but not many American trees. Americans have had an abundance of oil, gas and need to learn anything else. Maybe now though...we do need to learn "new" (or maybe that's old) technologies.

Air conditioning. Again..being in the south this is a tough one. But yes, again I have, in the south (Texas and Georgia), lived without air conditioning. Not that it's always pleasant and of course...we are supposedly a bit hotter and without as much forested areas as there was a 100 years ago. Could I do it? Of course..if I had to....and it does require adjustment and change. No 3 piece suits for men while hanging around in the house in August. But again...there are alternatives.
What about the solar "machines" that produce ice while sitting out on the beaches of hot climate areas? If a machine can use ammonia running through tubes, powered by the sun to make ice...well then it can darn well cool my house. Maybe with modifications and maybe just during parts of the day.. but hey any bit helps right? Now tell me? Why hasn't someone come up with this idea on a better scale? Maybe it is expensive and I wouldn't be able to afford it...but you think no one can? Humph!
Also, has anyone heard of wind or earth tubes? They even help remove humidity from the incoming air. Here are some links:
and some more ideas here.
If your interested in this technology try other search word combos. You'll find quite a bit about it.

A lot of other things have alternatives so I guess the subject is back to the title of "what will you refuse to give up?" However, maybe that should be changed to "what will you exchange" to keep living the way you do. What are you willing to exchange....time, money, effort, habits..... so you can accomplish or acquire the things you are unwilling to give up?


Michelle In Ga said...

Welcome to my world. ;)
Energy depletion is a wicked
issue to tackle. I think you're
way ahead of the game, more than most.

We invested in 0F rated sleeping
bags for each member of the family,
to help stay warm in winter.


Hayden said...

I was just in Michigan - where I'll be moving next year - and was told geothermal is the most effective answer there. I knew NOTHING about it, am familiar w/ solar and wind here in CA, but not geo. Was surprised to learn that its effective for air-conditioning as well as heating.

also - there's supposed to be a new electric car out in 2010 - 100 miles on a charge and speeds to 62. Sounds good...

SimplyTim said...


Nader Khalili in his book Racing Alone talks about an in earth heat transfer system used in Iraq for centuries to cool water and to produce ice.

Totally fascinating book if you ever have some time.

On first glance it is somewhat similar to your link above to "powered by the sun."


Robbyn said...

Very good point about being in an exchange mindset, rather than "do without"...the coppicing concept interests me, though we don't really need much heat for the winter this far south. You mentioned tulip poplars...I've seen on some permaculture sites that some sorts of poplars used in coppicing are fed as forage to livestock during droughts, etc...wonder if tuplip poplars fall into that category and if cattle find them palatable? You're exactly right about cooling being a real challenge in the heat extremes in the South. We're still scratching our heads over that one as we get closer to the day we finalize the land deal.

Scott B said...

check out my blogspot:

Really, if we mechanically limit the top speed of all vehicles on the road, our problems would be solved. And, instead of waiting for a slow transition to "hybrids", this can be done to all existing vehicles, so they cannot go over 35 mph, downhlll, pushed, whatever.

Please read my blog from the early date to the last date. It covers a lot of material.

Carolyn said...

Just stopped by for a visit. I wanted to say Hi and nice Blog.


Melonie said...

Neat got me thinking!