college prep work

Friday, June 09, 2006

End of class

Now at the end of our class and after studying peak oil for a while, I feel that I have now spoken about peak oil enough. Although it is always good to discuss something, so that one stays on top of what is happening in the world and more specifically peak oil, I feel that there is a time to stop talking about action and just go straight into the action.
In six weeks we were able to learn about a topic that most of us knew absolutely nothing about. We have discussed different point of views, from the very pessimistic like dieoff.org, to the oil company’s very hopeful views. We have been able to decide what we feel is most likely to happen and move on towards making better ideas and scenarios.
I am now ready to learn and plan for what I feel is going to happen, and also always going to be useful. As a class we set out the things that are for sure going to be useful whether peak oil happens in 2 years or 10. They were:
1) Learning first aid. Things like stitches and learning how to set bones. It is crucial because once peak oil has been happening for awhile I doubt that there will be many schools that are putting out doctors and it will be very hard to run these large city hospitals, so it will be necessary to learn how to set bones. Eustace Conway of the last American man book sowed on a part of his own finger, so I believe it must be easier that doctors and other people lead us to believe
2) Something I did not think of before but I also think is useful is that we will have to find a way to have a new food storage system. Since there will be power shortages after a few years you cannot rely only on ones refrigerator. Something that we can learn from past civilizations is that we do not need to always keep as much food. We can store much less than we do now, and just go and get food on a more daily basis rather than heading to the grocery store every two weeks.
When I went to the peak oil meet up yesterday I felt surprised by what I was seeing. It seemed that they were stuck talking about the same things that we had already gotten through as a high school class. I am not trying to be ageist in saying that we should be expected of less since we are in high school but they seemed to be struggling more than we were in moving and dealing with this peak oil issue.
We may just have had a better leader in Professor Snyder than they did, but still seemed that people who were dedicated to meet up like they were would have moved along. Andy made the good distinction of the two at the meeting. The people may think something’s are good ideas to get done, but there is a different in thinking it’s a good idea and actually having the energy to do it. So they did put this effort in and had a good conference, but now that they have met with some of the best and brightest one the topic the only place left they really have to go is to the action. Whether that is learning to farm or create solar panels, it really seems like the meet up is not necessary to do as often as they are.
There still was some good out of it. There seemed to be some people who had a lot of good ideas and information even if I did not entirely agree with them. Such as the topic of wind power. I seem to be almost all alone in not thinking that it is a good idea. They had a lot of good facts about how much energy it generates, but they did not say if that is if they are running constantly or realistically. Because the truth of the windmills is that they generate about 25% of the actual energy since they are not constantly moving since the win in now area is consistent.
I did meet one guy who seemed interesting. Emily, Andy and I spoke to him. He was a guy from the city who moved a couple of hour’s upstate I don’t know when and has a energy I guess installation business up there. Some people I guess who were once in this peak oil meet up have started a large farm up there. That seemed like an option I would actually consider. While I would like to stay in New York City I think that is the best kind of place to learn how to get the skills rather than waiting around and talking about it. Everyone is learning there. So rather than someone being a expert and taking over, you are forced to work and figure out things for yourself.
Now that this class is over there are a few goals I am going to set for myself this summer. I would like to go out to that farmhouse and work for labor for perhaps a few weekends or however long I have off from my idiotic job. I also would like to head up to the Adirondack Mountains and take the necessary hunting classes and such so that I can get my deer-hunting license. Hopefully I could convince my crazy grandfather to pass a rifle down to me so come deer hunting season. Andy hopefully you will try some of my venison if it is fresh and healthy, because there won’t always be vegetables if a crop goes bad. Also would like to know how to insulate a house or apartment better so we do not have to pay a large amount for heating. Hopefully this is going to be a successful summer.

ecological footprint

Ecological footprint
In our last class the idea of an ecological footprint was brought out. How ecological are we being in our lives? I have tried to reflect how I live my life and whether I am doing a good job in living in harmony with not only the amount of land that I use in my life, but how do I treat earth.
I feel that my interaction with the environment has not been very harmful in my direct relationship. I have not been any of the people paving over the country with cement, or tearing down forests. I think I have been pretty respectful. I mean there are the times when I walk by a tree and give its limbs a tug.
Living in New York City also I feel gives me a less negative affect on the environment. I have never personally owned a car, though I have worked on many, which might count against me. Although the better a car is running the less polluting it is. Because I have always lived in the same place with my family we have kept the amount of space we directly use in the world down to a minimum as well.
In this last class I feel I learned a lot of ways to change how one is living as well or make their homes more sustainable and healthy. I have always looked at the suburbs as hopeless but with the information that Andy presented it seemed like it is actually possible that people could transform their lives. Such as using the roof for solar use and to pick up water as it trickles down. Also converting all those 1/2 acre lawns into food use, that everyone could share. Something I also thought was a genius idea was moving the homes into the already destroyed land of the streets, so then the space that the houses were on even allow for more food.
I feel that ideas like that really are what give me hope for this peak oil situation. While they of course difficult and do not seem like they will ever happen, it shows us that if we really want to come together and find a way to survive and create a better community it can be done. As we learned about the red road. Following the path that makes us more people who contribute rather than destroy. There are example all over of Europe, and Easter island and the fertile crescent where people destroyed their land but there are also many other examples of people who did positive. Such as the native Americans in the plains who would set brush fires when they left an area. So that the old brush would burn and in time it would come back even more flourished and with a more diverse amount of plants.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Foot print

Ecological footprint
In our last class the idea of an ecological footprint was brought out. How ecological are we being in our lives? I have tried to reflect how I live my life and whether I am doing a good job in living in harmony with not only the amount of land that I use in my life, but how do I treat earth.
I feel that my interaction with the environment has not been very harmful in my direct relationship. I have not been any of the people paving over the country with cement, or tearing down forests. I think I have been pretty respectful. I mean there are the times when I walk by a tree and give its limbs a tug.
Living in New York City also I feel gives me a less negative affect on the environment. I have never personally owned a car, though I have worked on many, which might count against me. Although the better a car is running the less polluting it is. Because I have always lived in the same place with my family we have kept the amount of space we directly use in the world down to a minimum as well.
In this last class I feel I learned a lot of ways to change how one is living as well or make their homes more sustainable and healthy. I have always looked at the suburbs as hopeless but with the information that Andy presented it seemed like it is actually possible that people could transform their lives. Such as using the roof for solar use and to pick up water as it trickles down. Also converting all those 1/2 acre lawns into food use, that everyone could share. Something I also thought was a genius idea was moving the homes into the already destroyed land of the streets, so then the space that the houses were on even allow for more food.
I feel that ideas like that really are what give me hope for this peak oil situation. While they of course difficult and do not seem like they will ever happen, it shows us that if we really want to come together and find a way to survive and create a better community it can be done. As we learned about the red road. Following the path that makes us more people who contribute rather than destroy. There are example all over of Europe, and Easter island and the fertile crescent where people destroyed their land but there are also many other examples of people who did positive. Such as the native Americans in the plains who would set brush fires when they left an area. So that the old brush would burn and in time it would come back even more flourished and with a more diverse amount of plants.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

5 skills

I have been thinking about what would be the best things to have skills in once this peak oil crisis does happen. As I said in my last post it is difficult for me to get through to people in agreeing with me that it is going to happen, and so therefore I want to find ways so that I am not just sitting around as most of other Americans are.
It is difficult because although I am confident that there are going to be large scale depression and collapse because of peak oil, I still have the idea that if no one else is worried about it, then I will not be either. I have thought that since so many people alive have figured out how to do all these amazing things with technology that it would be no problem, to go back to the more simple basic ways of life. But I realize that isn’t so when someone learns something first for example knowing how to play music but not read it, it is even harder than just starting from nothing. Eustace Conway the person The last American Man is based off of said something I found very interesting. "Americans have separated themselves from the natural world. During the past eighty years we have been 'advancing' so fast that we are as infants trying to run. We would be wise to slow down and learn more about primitive (first) values.” While we may still have 2 or 3 skills that people would have needed 150 years ago we have gotten to such a level of being protected from real life and wilderness that when we are confronted with how simple it is we would not be able to survive. So I have come up with five things that I feel are absolutely necessary in order to start on a life style that does not rely on oil.
1) Farming. I think this is the most obvious one but offers many difficulties. Most land has been so neglected that I doubt it still has many nutrients still in the soil in order to actually grow food for a continuous period of time. As Diamond told us in his book with Greenland the areas looked lush but once they dug up the plants that had been growing for hundreds of years they were no longer able to grow things there. So along with farming, people need to know how to take care of soil and put the nutrients in them if necessary. Also not having people plant whatever they want but things that are locals to that area. If people try to bring plants from South Carolina up to the Adirondack mountains there is almost no hope for them, but if they grew things that have been shown to do well in those areas such as corn, and other fruits they could have much larger crops that would require much less time as well.
2) Hunting is something we need to get used to. I think there is a much larger percentage of people who are vegetarians or vegans now then there were 150 years ago. I think its because as I said before people have tried to make life too complicated. Putting in moral issues before more natural ones. I do understand that there are foods like tofu that have a large amount of protein but I don’t see that being grown in the U.S. in the event of an oil collapse. So I believe one would be severely limiting them if they tried to not eat meat and get food that would really benefit their body. As well as if you hunt your own meat it is much more healthy that getting it through a grocery store that has had it sitting there for a long time.
3) Building and woodwork. Something that people had trouble with in Cuba is that they did not have materials for building new houses. They still relied on materials that came from machines that used oil. So I think it is important to learn to how build and create homes out of wood. Since there will need to be entire new villages and town set up I think a lot of them can start new without using any of the old concrete or steel buildings. If people do just use that scavenger lifestyle where they rely on what has already been built they will just be delaying their eventual collapse, because without maintenance or ways to fix it soon those buildings will not be able to be lived in. Along with knowing how to make basic buildings something that could be done earlier is learning how to better insult ones house so that people do not need to spend as much money on natural gas while the price continues to climb.
4) Barry said this in class on Wednesday and I did not really think it was so necessary to do because I thought it just happens on its own. People will have to build up a level of fitness. While there are people who go to the gym and run who might be in shape a lot of those muscles are not really useful in real world or nature activities. So although once we are thrown into needing to fend for ourselves in nature certain muscles will be built up, it would be much easier if we already had them so that the work at first would not be so hard.
5) While this seems to be somewhat bland and like it’s the least important no matter what I try to do it still seems like it has to be learned. Group dynamics. Since I have learned from my discussions with my family that they will not be convinced of peak oil I feel like I should look for a new group to bond with. So group dynamics and learning to speak to people and try and get work done with others is very important. Because if a storm is coming in and you need to get in your food before it hits you really should know how to speak to people so that they work with you and not get pissed off and give up.
Andy on his paper about this put learning how to make a fire as one of the most important things. While I do think that is a skill everyone should have I also feel that it is on easily acquired. Getting sparks off of rocks, or using an eyeglass or the popular but very slow method of rubbing sticks together are all ways to do it. I think that it is one of the most crucial skills but also very easy, so of all the things to rush and learn this does not have to be the one. Possibly setting up a way to protect your fire that is an important and difficult thing to do.

Talking about peak

I tried to way of the hammer in talking to my family about peak oil. I feel it was the way most similar to what I had been doing already so I tried to stick with it and see if it could be done better.
I tried to combine it along with the generating openings so that I could use their comparisons that they have made in the past to their advantage and try and break up that argument as Andy showed up in his class skit. So the argument that my parents make is that since they lived through the 70s and the oil issues with Iran and that they made through at that point in time, so they will be able to now.
Most people their age seem to feel this sense of security from that moment. That may be a reason why people in our government have decided to do so little while other countries are making transitions. While I do not know whether or not other countries had the same amount of issues with oil as much as the U.S. has in the recent past. We have seen that obviously places like Cuba and the Soviet Union have had issues greater than ours, but of the countries such as Sweden and Germany who are making changes I would like to know if they have had the same issues as the U.S. has. But since our government officials feel that they have triumphed over the oil issue I think that is why the generation in power does not get worried about the issue.
The fact that I keep pressing is that it is not an issue of getting a supply from a country or being cut off by some power. The only power that is stopping us is now Mother Nature. We are demanding more than we have available, so there will not be any more long oil lines for a short period of time. Once there start to be shortages and areas being cut off from oil it will not come back, but only continue to get worse.
People also have this sense (whether or not they act like they like the U.S. government) that if other countries are making the transitions away from oil that whenever the U.S. wants to do it they can. So since they are not seeing anything around themselves that it is a serious issue they do not believe that it is. This is that bandwagon idea that we are talking about in class. And it really depends on completely what our government feels is important to get the people heated and wanting to make any change on. We saw this in the example with Iraq. I doubt that even 1000 people felt threatened by the Iraqi government and the idea that they might have weapons of mass destruction. Once the government started plastering the news that there was this huge threat people jumped on board. They also used to good tactic of the life connection saying that the Iraq government was responsible for what happen with the world trade towers.
I think what I need to do is try and start with a new group of people because my family seems to have now heard me using these arguments before and seem to be pretty stubborn. While I have been holding onto the idea that we will not have such a hard time with peak oil I feel that this is showing me that it will not be easy and in fact will be towards some of the worst case scenarios. As we have talked about in class the level of which we will collapse depends on how soon the preparation starts. This has shown me the lesson that people do not want to deal with negative things until they smack them in the face. Although from epistemology they should be sensing that something bad is coming from the raising prices as well as the more frequent tensions that are being had with oil rich countries, the feeling of looking away and not seeing it coming must be stronger than the feeling of knowing that it is coming. We have all these examples from Cuba, to the build up of massive dept that the U.S. has made which is similar to what happened with the depression in the 30s.
I have signed up to go talk with people who believe peak oil is happening in a peak oil meet up group. I feel that at least if I cannot convince my own family then I will have ties with some people when it does happen. As Andy has said it is important to have group skills and work together because it will be almost impossible to survive on your own. I have pretty much given up on my family so I feel that now I need to just find a certain group where I can fit in, who knows they might have a summer job for me.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Leading the Way

Many countries seem to be seeing the dangers that relying only on oil is having. Brazil is an example of a country that is slowly making the transition and preparing for peak oil.
The government cars are all switching over to ethanol powered vehicles. Their public transportation, farm machinery, and garbage pick-ups are just some of the examples of ways that they have done it. Brazil has done this very well. Since we need to come up with new exports and imports after peak oil since things will not be as simply transported they have now have made a lot of business by using so much ethanol. Their ethanol is based off of sugar cane. So because of that they were able to comply stop relying on Middle East oil. That is a good example because now as I said before they have money from the sugar cane exports and imports, as well once peak oil happens they will not experience what happened to Cuba. Since they are not heavily relying on one country or one group of countries they might have more control over what happens to them.
Sweden seems to the one of the countries and is leading the way for the example of how to prepare for peak oil. They have set very good deadlines for the weaning off of fossil fuels. By 2020 they will be completely fossil fuel independent. While the U.S. plans to just double their ethanol production by 2028. Sweden does seem to have one issue with Nuclear energy. Though I do not know much about it, it seems to be something that is very unstable and in the event of a peak oil collapse could be very dangerous. They rely very heavily on Nuclear energy. In 1980 they created a referendum to phase out nuclear power, but it has been wildly ignored. This is a place at least I feel that U.S. might be in a better position. Not only do I not trust Nuclear power since with the few that we have had their have been many issues, but it just seems that when governments will be falling apart I would not want un-run nuclear reactors all of the country, just seems like that may be a bad idea.
Sweden seems to be looking as wing power to be having the greatest potential. This is something that worries me. One issue is the somewhat the same as the one that I had with the Nuclear reactors. The work that goes into fixing the windmills is not only expensive but very difficult as well. So unless the average American is taught to go out and repair their windmills, I feel that it would not be a good investment. It is like buying a computer but then never being able to fix or update the software, it would just be useless after I certain period of time. For the amount of land needed, as well I just do not see it as being really a good use of that space. A wind farm that produces the energy equivalent of a conventional power plant would have to cover an area of approximately 200 square kilometers. So all right it does have the ability to produce the power, but I feel that the land and space could be put to such better use. How many people really want looks out their wing and sees an 80-foot high windmill.
The government of Brazil also seems to be setting a good example and encouraging people to use things other than oil. While our country is simply trying to give people money back saying that, the issue is not how much we use but the cost, Brazil is doing the exact opposite. Carbon Dioxide neutral fuels are exempt from energy and carbon dioxide tax. This makes the average become encouraged to buy that, because of its lower price, and forget about the other. Environmentally friendly cars such as Hybrid cars, or electric ones, get free parking and are exempt from congestion charges. This is exactly what the U.S. needs to do. It shows people that it does matter and changes need to be made, and since people for the most part, follow the governments example they will do what the government encourages, and says what’s right.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hudson Valley transformation

I have just spent the larger part of this long weekend in the Hudson valley. More specifically the Area of Germantown. Since I have been taking this class I have been looking at the world much more, as how would it be after a peak oil crash. This Germantown area was mainly farm territory. You still see a lot of the remainders of these farms, but many of them are being broken up and the land is being sold is small little portions to build houses.
It has made me think that the longer we go on the more difficult it will become to transfer away from oil once the peak has happened. Not only is the U.S. not trying to make any transformations, they are continuing their destructive path. Not only is it in the cities with their concrete jungles, but now the small areas are starting to be broken down and making it more difficult as well.
For the example of Germantown the area had a small population where families already had diverse farms, with vegetables, and chickens, and more everyone was in a close region so that if they did need something they could travel a short distance to get it. Now the land is being made more expensive so the old farms can no longer afford the mortgage, or rent. So the land is being broken up into small houses, that people from the cities are turning into suburbs. So now once peak oil starts there will be much less land for the families, and less area for food for those people as well.
In the mid west and south now there is also a booming population rate. With air conditioning and new irrigation systems people are able to make little paradises, in regions that ,before all that technology, people would not have found appealing at all. So now we have created an even larger area that was never really able to hold a large amount of people.
However we start preparing for peak oil it needs to include a way to not just change our energy use, but the places we have been spread out around the country.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Demands for peak oil

We have been studying Peak oil for a while now, and read a researched about other countries such as Cuba and now Sweden. Even with seeing all these options that other countries have set out for the United States to do, and the little that has actually been done, it was difficult to set out demands for our government to follow.
My group consisting of Katrina, Mergim, and Kamara set these 5 points:
1) Removal of any and all U.S. politicians who have a conflict of interest with oil companies.
2) After all biased parties have been removed from office there must be a formal announcement to the people of the United States, and hopefully the world will listen, that the peak oil disaster is near.
3) To pull out all U.S. military presence from foreign countries. Although it is important to keep connections and ties to other countries and not be cut off from the world, the billions of dollars going to oversea operations could be invested towards finding new energy sources. The U.S. government has spent over $166 billion in Iraq. I find it impossible to believe that had that investment been put towards advancing solar, and Hydropower, and inventing now forms of power we would not be one of the most prepared countries for the coming crisis.
4) Redistribution of large land holdings to find new means of food, and how to produce materials without fossil fuels, as well as new laws to control the pollution.
5) Environmentally unstable areas need to be evacuated. While land such as Phoenix, and Nevada, as well as New York City, may be able to hold a certain number of people, they have amassed such a large population that to keep all the people in those locations without the help of new fuels would mean a mass die off would happen.
It was difficult to find specific things we wanted our federal government to do. While we know that there has to be more preparation for the coming disaster, whether it is researching new fuels, or teaching Americans how to live off their land, it was hard to come up with ways to do that. So the best way I could at least think of that is by taking funds that are going to unnecessary areas and having the government then fund massive research into how to do it. I guess I feel that if a government throws enough money towards an idea they should be able to get it done. In world war two the United States military put a large amount of funding towards a bat bomb that they actually made work very well, so we should be able to come up with certain ways to power our houses, that are both free of oil and safe for the environment.
Our last point I feel is very necessary. The evacuation of unsafe areas. It sounds harsh and like it will be discriminating against power people, but I feel like it has to be done. In areas like Phoenix where the sun can literally cook a person in the summer, without oil and support of water, there will be a huge amount of death. Katrina brought up the fact that they will be concentration camps. While there is no denying the fact that it will in fact be that, I feel it’s the only other option to those people. Either they die or go to more able areas to hold them. Unfortunately those will be people with less financial comfort, but once again I think it is better than what would happen if they stayed in their homes.
I believe Soloman’s group were the only people to talk about forcing people to stop using as many fossil fuels. I along with many people felt that if we told the American people about what was going to happen they would stop on their own. In reality I think they have to be stopped, because just like species that are hunted to extinction they will keep going until there is nothing left. So Soloman had some interesting ways to deal with it as well as being very practical. One is impounding of cars, so people have absolutely no way of driving. Another was something Sweden is already doing and something I think has to be done as well. Sweden puts huge taxes on fossil fuel energies. So this of course does two things. It limits how much people can buy, and with the extra money that can then be put into more investment in new technologies.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cuba Part 2

Cuba part 2
Cuba’s oil exports decreased from 13 tons to 4 tons of oil a year almost instantly. This is the perfect example of what would happen if peak oil around the world did not plateau off at the top but had a very steep decrease.
Something that we would see in the U.S. and was seen in Cuba was the weight lose that they had. Cubans experienced average weights lose of 24 pounds. Since Americans are the fattest country in the world now, due to the massive amounts of fast food and generally unhealthy food that has become the normal meal for Americans.
So that is without a doubt something that would be a good outcome from Peak oil. In recent years the amount of young people with diabetes and other health issues from food has sky rocketed. So since all food will have to be naturally grown and we wont be able to have the drinks with the high amounts of the high fructose corn syrup, the average American will be healthier.
Although I do not feel this will happen right away. As we discussed in class Cuban people were still not that far off from when they were a peasant state. So many people still knew how to farm and live off the land. While in the 50’s it may have still been that about 20% of the U.S. population were farmers now only about 5% are. So we have this small group making all the food for the remaining 95% of the population. So while Cuba did have food issues for a while, I think that two things will lead to more people either going hungry for a longer or actually dieing from malnutrition. One is as I said before the lack of farmers. While people will be able to learn from people and start farming, it will be a much slower process due to the fact that there are so few teachers. It also seems that Cuba has a much more community oriented feel, and that they are more obligated to help others if they can. Professor Snyder told us a story of a friend who was riding around Cuba on a bike and every night had a place offered to stay and got a huge amount of food. When he told us about that some of the students didn’t believe that there were not nights he was alone. In the U.S. we are taught that people who are outside or without a place to stay are not safe. It is actually illegal to hitchhike now. So I feel that people will not have so much of the community feeling when things go bad. People in the U.S. will try and sustain a life just on their own but without working together survival is going to be much harder. For example if say two families got together, and one did the farming and made the food while the other kept the equipment and built the houses etc, there would be much more time to work together, and generate more food or whatever needs to be done.
Something we learned from a reading we got was a step that will be gone through is people becoming scavengers. Since there will not be machinery people will have to continue to use the things that were made before peak oil. If the cars stop working take the metal from them and put them to use perhaps on a roof. In Cuba we see that they had to do just that. Vacant lots in the city were converted into small gardens that could feed the surrounding areas. Roof space that before was not being used was also used to put food, since their unblocked surroundings would give the plants a large amount of sun.
An issue they had was that cement and other building materials were very expensive, so it has been very difficult to build new structures, because the little gas that they do have is going towards public transportation. So the state of the buildings is starting to not be very good. Something that I think will happen with the U.S. is since it a much larger population than Cuba the resources will be used up much quicker and they will not be able to continue to build new things. Stretch malls and suburban set ups have been built to only last for very short periods of time. Stretch malls and big shops such as Wal marts are only designed to last up to 14 years. So now we will have all these neighborhoods with huge amount of destroyed land that can neither be used for land regrowth since all the cement destroys it and it can not be used for shops any more since there will not be any resources to fix them up.
Overall I feel that Cuba can show us that there could be a much more positive out look on peak oil, only if Americans have a more joined mentality, as well as start work on teaching each other how to live a more green life style.