Monday, February 05, 2007

If we had a "state of our community" speech, what would it say?

I've spent the last few weekdays getting stuff together to do my taxes. What joy. Since I itemize, it takes a couple of days of work, each about 8 hours, to get the job done. I would have started today, but the weather intervened - there's no way I can do this with the kids all home from school. I've also been investigating more on the subject of peak oil and how it's going to affect our towns and cities and way of life.

I've been reading a couple of websites lately which I would like to pass along to you.
Peak Oil News Clearinghouse.
Urban Planning and Development News. Urban Planning Community. ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil). Converting to a more sustainable lifestyle. Webpage of James Howard Kunnstler, planning guru, writer, speaker & blogger on bad land use development and peak oil/climate change issues.

American Jews need to understand that things cannot go on the way they have been. Living within walking distance of a shul is nice, but unless you live within walking distance of your job, you have a serious problem - and most American Jews are very uneducated about what is about to happen.

And we have lost a lot of the rural/gardening/pre-industrial skills that we will need to survive when gasoline is no longer available. Too many of us rely so much on various heksher stamps that we have no idea how to make various foods ourselves, or how to even grow them properly. Jews of every sect, even non-orthodox Jews, are far removed from their European ancestors who regularly grew and processed fruits and vegetables, dried herbs, raised chickens for eggs, and saved seeds from their own gardens. Urban gardening will have to be a big part of life when gasoline is prohibitively expensive (or simply not available due to government hoarding or rationing). Is your yard ready? Do you have a yard? If not, do you have adequate pots and containers for square foot gardening?

Additionally, we have sunk literally millions of dollars into payments and servicing for our cars - but they will become absolutely useless and valueless. All that money has basically been thrown away. And our townships have wasted tons more money on developing roads for more cars and busses instead of electric trolleys and electric streetcars. How will you get to work and to the store when there is no gasoline?

And speaking of electricity, how many of us have solar panels for our homes and businesses? If not, can your house and workplace run without power? If your home is heated with natural gas or heating oil, like most of the power-plants of the northeast US, what are you going to do when there isn't any more available to the public? Have you given that any thought at all? What about your stove? Is it natural gas? That has to go, you know. Natural gas will not be available for private use. Every bit of it will have to go to the government, and to produce electricity. You won't get any, class.

And we have far, far too much debt. Not just our townships, but ourselves. When it costs you every penny you make to buy food and get yourself to work, how are you going to pay credit card bills? These are questions we are not asking ourselves. These are questions we are pretending we don't have to ask ourselves.

We are dangerously myopic about what is going on in the world, and how it will affect us, class. We cannot pretend that what happens "on the outside" has nothing to do with us.

Jewish communities are a bit more inter-connected than most, as far as sharing of resources and clothing and furniture and household good exchanges and all that, but with all the infighting and discrimination against "other" sects of Judaism by your sect, is there really enough community cohesion to survive a serious economic downturn intact? I honestly don't think so, class. Add to that the nasty tendency of our leaders to fund their projects with government largess, pyramid schemes and other dubious financial means, and we have real trouble brewing. Our community is not self sufficient at all. Most young men have no marketable skills whatsoever. They are unemployable. And women's salaries simply can't cover the costs of child care and support a family. This is reality, and it's time the young men were made aware of it. They are going to have to pull their weight in the community, and learn trades and skills that the community needs in order to survive - making shoes, clothing, furniture; repairing appliances big and small; plumbing and electrical work; construction and household repairs; apothecary and non-emergency medical care; trade and barter businesses and networks for groceries, medicines, and other hard-to-home-manufacture goods; as well as hobbies of non-essential arts and crafts that make everyday life livable such as musical instruments and such.

We have to look at our community and honestly ask ourselves: could we live on what we have available and can make ourselves if we are cut off completely from consumer economics? The answer, class, is no, not at present. That has to change, or we are lost. We can no longer rely on government help that will disappear in a crisis. We can no longer pretend that hundreds of households in the community are viable without the husband making an honest living and supporting his wife, children, parents, and extended family with market-rate employment.

This fantasy will come to an end one of two ways - the good way, which is us tackling the problem now and training young men to earn a living as craftsmen and tradesmen in fields that will make our communities truly self-sufficient, or the bad way, where we suddenly find outselves with no gasoline, no heat, no food, no money, and no way to get out the crisis with what we have available.

Which will it be, class? Are we going to honestly look at the conditions in the world and act now to head off problems before they start, or are we going to be caught like deer in a headlight with no idea what do to and no resources with which to do it? The choice is ours. Pretending that nothing is going to change is an option, but not a very smart one.

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