Some days, I observe people that have no idea about how hard things are going to get in the near future. Maybe these people are so caught up in their own rampant consumerism that they just live pay to pay, buying the same old crap, thinking the same old thoughts, day in and day out. I will give you an example of an observation from earlier on in the week that puts what I mean into context.
I was listening to a conversation during my train trip to Melbourne for my MRI appointment (rude, I know, but they were so loud, I couldn’t help but overhear). There were 3 twenty somethings discussing the up and coming weekends activities which mainly consisted of a haircut that one of the young blokes is going to get. Sure, he had long hair, and should be worried about getting it cut short (what a drama), but this exact conversation, by the same group, took place on the same train, in the same carriage two days in a row. It felt like groundhog day!
My point is, that you would think that with all the other real issues creeping up on civilisation as we know it, you would think that there would be something a lot more interesting to listen to for the 45 minute train trip each day than bloody haircuts. I should write it off as immaturity on their behalf, but I can see a whopping great big elephant in the room called climate change with its brother Peak Oil, with no-one looking at it, and most are staring into the bottom of their disposable coffee cups or talking about freaking haircuts.
Have we become a society of people that are so self centred, and so involved with our own petty lives, that we have ceased to care about anything else happening around us? Have the Australian people taken the “She’ll be right mate!” attitude just that little bit too far? Or will we rise to the occasion, stop focusing on ourselves and our rampant consumerism in the next year or so and stop trashing the planet?
I doubt it. Nevertheless, with the current economic downturn, we may, at least as a country, have no option but to reduce our current high levels of consumption and begin to live more sustainable lifestyles. So many more “working families” may need to cut back just to survive, hoping of course that they have the necessary life skills to adapt. Many of our citizens have lost the basic skills of simple living, that may have not been passed down by parents or grandparents or ignored by the current generation, i.e. growing food, cooking, building simple things, which previous generations could turn their hands to at the blink of an eyelid.
The fantastic thing about all of this perceived doom and gloom, is that there is still time for the determined of us to re-skill and learn how to live with less, but in the same breath live comfortably, before it is forced upon us all. Here is why I think this so. The service based skill set/economy that has served our country well over the last 20 years is not going to help us very much as oil prices continue to rise and climate change begins to worsen. With most of the manufacturing base of the First world economies now located in Asia, imported goods will continue to become more expensive due to manufacturing and transportation costs, until they become unobtainable, nay, unaffordable by the majority of the masses.
That is, unless, we begin to bring our manufacturing bases back to where they belong, which is in our own countries. Manufacturing, living, and working locally may be our only choice. I don’t mean living in a commune to anything to that extreme (not that there is anything wrong with communes). At least with living, working and by buying locally within a radius that is able to be served by walking, cycling, Mass transit and rail freight, all which give us a bigger bang for our fossil fool buck, we are able to survive well into the current and future crisis. With the age of cheap oil well and truly over, our society will be forced to change their behaviours quicker than they realise.
To push home my point, I have been observing two behaviours that are already changing. I wrote this whilst riding a supposedly off-peak train during the middle of the day and it was absolutely full to the brim, with only one or two seat available (luckily, I have to stand, and find it difficult to sit, so it was no skin off of my nose). I have also observed that over the past few months an increasing number of commuters in Melton are switching from cars to public transport for their daily 100 kilometre commute, and therefore saving money in the process. Also, Kim and I have noticed that more parents are leaving their SUV’s at home and actually walking their children to school (what is the world coming to!). These two simple changes are not minor events, and only goes to show that the rising cost of fuel is biting hard into the average family budget.
Once again, there is good coming from these behaviour changes. Less cars on the road mean less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and gives me a glimmer of hope that we as stewards of the planet might just delay catastrophic climate change long enough to change our destructive behaviours permanently or re-skill in time to survive if we carry on business as usual.
But back to my original observation about the absolute lack of enlightenment most of the general public have about the tough times ahead. Some will make it and re-skill or change behaviours in time, but many may not. Unfortunately, the latter just don’t know it yet. I do know that haircuts are the least of my conversational pieces at this point in time!
Now in the slim chance that the climate scientists are wrong about the severity of climate change, and that all of the geologists at ASPO are way off the mark by a magnitude of many decades regarding Peak Oil, then at least, in my heart of hearts, I know that the changes that our family have made in the last two years and have put in place have made us much happier, brought us closer together, made us less reliant on external influences that may beyond our control, and now we have most of the skills that will get us through during a crisis. These skills are not only physical, but mental attitudes or perceptions! If you believe that the end of the world is nigh, shock and grief sets in and you are too stunned to act effectively and swiftly, but by having a positive attitude, and knowing that you can make a difference in the future, you can get through any adversity with the minimum of fuss and adapt to the new paradigm quickly.
Change is a state of mind, with the planet being in a state of flux for over 4.5 billion years. Unfortunately, the human race caused this mess, and we need to have the courage and will-power to get ourselves out of it, but it will take a different perception by the masses to achieve it.
To put it all into context, here is a quote to reflect upon;
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein