Baby Steps

June 21, 2008

I haven’t posted in a while. I took a break. In the previous weeks I’d read an alarming amount of alarming research on peak oil and its implications for American society. I don’t need to read anymore, at least not arguments for peak oil’s urgency as an issue; trust me, I’m alarmed.

So I took a few days to read Stephen Colbert’s new(ish) book and take stock of my priorities looking forward into the Long Emergency. I’ve worked, I’ve researched related issues like permaculture and public transportation, and, most importantly in my mind, I’ve taken a few small steps toward self-sufficiency and personal sustainability.

Step #1: I put in my two weeks’ notice at the restaurant I work for in Allentown, for a few reasons. Their business platform will be one of the least sustainable if U.S. freight costs become too expensive for goods to travel long distances by truck; well over half our produce comes from a 20-hour drive away or more. Further, the restaurant operates a meat-based menu on a scale that is sometimes scary, even for a meat-lover like myself. The amount of fossil fuel energy it takes to produce the animals we serve as meat each night is enormous when compared to the amount it takes to grow and serve crops, even forgetting transport costs. (For the record, I think animal products will and should still be a part of our diets in the coming years, but at a healthier, once-or-twice-a-week level.) Now I work at a co-op market on Elmwood. As much as I’ll miss the heat and excitement of a restaurant kitchen, if I’m going to work an hourly job it might as well be something I can support on a personal level, regardless of whether I work there.

Step #2: I bought plants. I live in an apartment that gets maybe two to three hours of direct sunlight, and that confined to a 2″ x 3′ strip of floor in the center of my living room. There is no yard, unless you count the alley that stretches between my windows and those of the apartments down the hall. (Are you watching Colbert, Lady Who Has Loud Sex? I’m sure it’s hilarious.) But a couple of potted herbs are the first steps in the process of growing more of what I need close to home.

Step #3: I put some money down on a used bike. No sentence in the language more accurately states, “I graduated with a liberal arts degree” than the previous. But the bike will help me get around, it will help me exercise, and it will keep me from smoking too much — my next project. I can’t keep going on about the environment and sustainability and local economies while paying nearly the price of a movie ticket to kill myself with tobacco grown in North Carolina every day. I’m a hypocrite, but everyone has limits.

What are you doing to prepare yourself and your community for the future?

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