Saturday, October 1, 2011

Alternative Living

In the photo below the actual house is clearly the one above, and the one below is the reflection of the actual house. Obvious no?

I have seen a surprising amount of activity in the housing market in the Lower Keys with repairs, sales and promises of sales pending. Whether they are real sales or the mirage of bank sales, or repos I don't know.

The recent video of a private trader (a man who bets his own stash only) telling the BBC that economic collapse is imminent and thus presents a huge opportunity to any and all, followed by a prominent Hungarian banker saying the same thing, in greater detail, has set some public teeth on edge. Yet each one of us hopes that coming cataclysm will spare us, after all what have we done to deserve eternal poverty and deprivation? We are Americans and have always lived in privilege. I am as guilty as any. My hope is that somehow the storm will pass the Keys by, as these islands are a playground for the privileged. And by God they really do seem that way. People, who I would categorize as insane are building homes even as our economy continues to slide with unemployment rising, production numbers crushed and bail outs continuing apace.

On the edges of this island playground these benign waters accommodate all sorts of floating appliances as a way to get by on the fringe of it all. Be eccentric, add color to the myth of the alternative Keys lifestyle sail with an electric motor and a lawn chair. Life is good when bills are small.

Petroleum based energy is the true currency backing our paper money no matter how much they tell you a gold standard is what we need. We can't do without oil and gas and plastics and electricity and even on Utility Free No Name Key they burn propane. They burn diesel to make electricity and solar panels are just an afterthought. I lived with a solar panel on a boat for many years and it works but just barely. No air conditioning, no hot water unless heated by the sun refrigeration, modestly, by burning propane. It can be done.

As long as the propane company accepts dollars the wheel continues to turn. We seem to be caught in a spiral of diminishing returns from which there is no way out. No one wants to hear the truth that things need to change and suffering will be our portion. The difference between suffering and adventure is all in the attitude and looking around me I don't see middle class adaptability. When I lived off the grid I had no day job and washing clothes in a bucket and drying them in the sun was a day long activity. And they weren't business suits we were hand washing. Dig for Victory was a quaint World War Two phrase no longer appropriate in the age of the smart phone. Sacrifice is not noble they say, and working together is anathema in the land of individualism exasperated. The bears tell us the coming crisis will be an order of magnitude greater than that of 2008, the liars of the mainstream press tell us all will be well, soon. The politicians tell us that their plan will work, their opponent's plan has no hope and ne'er the twain shall meet.

No Name Key still has it's two "experimental" utility poles but the whole huge debate about shipping mainstream electricity to the island has faded for the summer, presumably until the noisemakers return in the winter. I've never really viewed the utility-free island as alternative living because they fuel generators to power the suburban creature comforts the rest of us enjoy thanks to Keys Energy.

And yet pedal power could be viable. But to accept that notion is to turn one's back on all one has known all one's life. Gasoline power rules! Anything else is less, is deprivation. But is it?

Trash is overwhelming us but recycling is a complexity that pushes our buttons. Damned hippies, making life complicated unnecessarily. It's unAmerican isn't it? The trouble is perhaps that recycling, reducing, re-using and conserving should be made most American. Perhaps we should lead the world in figuring out a better way to live, that is to say do with less to live as well. It would take a lot though, to force us to slow down, to change the pace of life. It's almost as though we have to go through wrenching change to force us where we have to go, because there is too much complexity to allow us to let go voluntarily.

A pet dog costs money and eats better than the lowest ranks of human beings on our overburdened planet and Cheyenne adds her own methane quotient to the gases of global warming. I am fond of saying I wouldn't have a dog if people didn't throw their pets away and burden the SPCA, but I am also fond of saying I prefer dogs to people.

I hope extend and pretend keeps going for a while and our crazy unsustainable way of life persists for a few years longer. I'd like to die without seeing another Great Depression in full force or another global war. I'd like to die fat and content in my bed in the same way as my neighbors, if they ever contemplated their own death, would like to go. However the chances of us pressing on without being forced to press the economic reset button seems to be getting slimmer and slimmer. My last hope is that we in the Keys will somehow have that cup of economic misery taken from our lips. I find it terribly ironic that the country that gave us so many of the precepts of Western Civilization may be the same catalyst that brings bus down. It feels as though Greece will only stand as long as her neighbors bail her out, and reports have it European banks have been hunting for spare cash anywhere they can including the pockets of US billionaires. When Greece falls expect more standards of living to decline with it's bankruptcy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Donna OShaughnessy said...

Interesting...this blog of yours. I shall follow for a while and see what happens

Conchscooter said...

Up next- commuting by motorcycle. I tend to wander all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Mike: I look on you and wife as boat people who have made it good working hard to acheive a resonable state of existence.
And you are a lover of certain four-legged animals, Cheyenne has proven to be a worthwhile member of your family.

Boat people? well you did arrive under sail did you not?

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

I connected the dots last night.

If one looks at the average standard of living for the world vs. ours - it's a huge disparity. When (not if) the billions living in Asia climb the wealth creation curve, there will be a point where purveyors of oil will be able to tell us "no mas" and stil profit handsomely.

Our military is moving at breakneck speed to waen itself from fossil fuel, as they cannot fight an extended war on our reserves. That's right - if the chips are down, the military gets oil first, second and third.

This little piggy gets none.

And they're working to get the oil momkey off their back ASAP.

What does that tell you?

Anonymous said...

The amount of oil we waste every day in the US is almost inconceivable. I'm as guilty as anyone. An interesting fact is that if the US started consuming oil on the same per capita basis as the average European we would be able to meet that demand with current domestic oil production.

I don't see civilization collapsing but I do see the utter destruction of energy intensive lifestyles i.e exurbs where everyone commutes 50 miles to work and live in 4,000 square foot air conditioned homes in the middle of the desert. This lifestyle will be doomed when gas goes to $15 per gallon and monthly electric bills surpass $1,000.

CS may need to move into town and the tourists may come by bus instead of by car. I expect dislocation not collapse. Of course, Poker Run would become a memory.

Conchscooter said...

The only place I disagree is in the definition of terms. The changes you describe and label as dislocation, most people would describe as collapse. poker run?

Anonymous said...

It's hard to have less when one has always expected more. We are by nature resilient and resourceful so I put my hope in that.

Conchscooter said...

I know and I blame advertising for us wanting more. Resilience would be nice but I don't see much around. Besides how does resilience get us past peak oil? China can pay ten times more than we can for any future oil coming on the market.

Anonymous said...

Resilience will allow us to get off the mat once we've been steam rolled by Peak Oil. It will allow us to see the new reality clearly and take action. The alternative is wallowing in bitterness and depression and lamenting that the world has changed. No doubt, some will take the latter path, but most people won't stay down for long.

China's response to all of this will be to burn lots and lots of filthy coal.

Conchscooter said...

i hope there are enough of us to keep the wallowers in their place.

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