What then can we do? Part 2

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of…complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
—George Bernard Shaw

In Part 1, we briefly covered how “Inner Work” and buying precious metal bullion coins could be helpful in having us glide through this transition rather than struggling through it. And remember, our point here is not to frighten, but to offer ways for readers to calmly and persistently prepare for the inevitable problems that will arise from the collapse of the financial system.

In this Part 2, we will deal with “Outer Work” topics related to serious impairments of the global supply chain. Our firm expectation is that this supply chain will experience increasing turbulence and unreliability. As currently configured—though mis-configured is a better description—the supply chain is entirely dependent on the efficient functioning of the transportation fuel markets. And both it and those fuel markets depend on the proper functioning of the banking and credit systems, which will disappear when the financial system collapses.

The collapse of the financial system will not remove one bushel of corn, one apple, or one barrel of oil from the planet. The real things people need will still exist in great abundance. But the process of getting them from where they are produced to where they are needed will be disrupted, sometimes severely. Not forever. People are very clever. Supply chains will be re-established. But it will take time. And their re-establishment will not be instantaneous and smooth. And not all types of goods will be available. Some may disappear for long periods, even forever. Good riddance to some of them.

In this post, the overall recommendation is that you become far more independent of the global supply chain than most people are now. Beyond being practical and likely very beneficial from the point of view of health, this topic has philosophical dimensions. Just how dependent do you want to be on huge corporations and huge governments for your food, water, electricity, health care, etc? In our current world, most purchases are made from very large companies and at large chain stores which buy their supplies from those places on the planet where people will work for the lowest wages, where the workers have little in the way of rights, where there are few or no environmental safeguards, etc. The chain store sells these products and uses its profits to go to the centers of government power to purchase ever-increasing influence, typically with the idea of driving out competition and driving down costs to increase profits. So manufacturing is now done by the poorest, and distribution and retailing are done by the largest, limiting work and profit opportunities for everyone else, who then become more dependent for their income on government, which works on behalf of those who pay the bills of the politicians, namely the big financial institutions and the large corporations and so on—until the whole world is controlled by lumbering behemoths who operate without restraint for their own mega-profits. And nearly every transaction you have with this system is tracked and taxed, eliminating privacy and draining your financial resources to feed its insatiable appetite. And the more they know about you, the more they try to use that data to manipulate you. With every move you make away from dependence on this ever-increasing force of domination and toward local sufficiency—growing and cooking your own food, supporting farmers’ markets, buying truly local products and services, producing your own electricity and heat, living in ways that promote and deliver health rather than disease, etc.—the better off you, and those in your local community, are likely to be.

So this is not simply some survivalist approach, this is equally about transitioning life on this planet toward greater freedom for everyone. And toward sustainability versus the current trend of exponentially increasing resource consumption. So let’s get to it.

BARTER: Barter networks and barter currencies are popping up all over. These will play a vital role since it is unlikely that anyone can anticipate, let alone purchase and store, all of what they might need when the global supply chain fails.

Participating in barter networks and currencies, to understand them and to strengthen them before they are critically needed, is a service to yourself and your community. Purchasing and storing a surplus of goods that would clearly be valuable to others is one useful way to prepare for barter network participation. With some practical goods and with some precious metals coins, you will be well-prepared to participate.

And experimental participation in barter currencies is valuable preparation as well. Just as we don’t recommend keeping a substantial portion of your savings in fiat national currencies, we do not recommend placing a substantial portion of your assets in any barter currency, including the international variety such as Bitcoins. None of these currencies are backed by gold or silver, they are backed by people trusting that the currencies have value. And as we are learning from our experience with government fiat currencies, that trust can be abused by the unscrupulous and by well-intentioned but misguided players. But participating in barter currencies to a limited degree is highly recommended. They will give local communities something to fall back on when trust in national currencies dies. If that local system is well developed and well understood by many in the community, that will be a great advantage for the community. Clearly, from our recent dismal performance, humanity has a lot to understand about money, and these barter networks and currencies will play a role in helping people understand just what money is.

If there are no barter networks or barter currencies in your area, consider starting them up yourself. The barter-oriented (but also survivalist-oriented) website Alt-Market  has a map of some barter networks in the US. If you search the web for “barter networks,” there is a whole lot of info out there. If any readers are experts in this field, we would love to hear from you on this topic. And we will write about the international barter currency Bitcoins soon.

FOOD: Things have gone far enough on the planet that even one fairly large institution is recommending that its members have backup food supplies: It is a requirement of the Mormon church that each LDS household have enough food on hand for a year for each member of the household plus one other person. So if the supply chain fails, everyone head for Salt Lake City. OK, just kidding. But the Mormons are onto something here. Major cities in industrialized countries are known to have a three day supply of food in the region of the city. If re-supply is shut off, the shelves will be empty in a heartbeat. So learning to buy, store, and cycle your own food supply will be very useful. And it does take a little learning. Store what you actually eat and that has some shelf life. Cycle it in to your daily use, eating what was purchased earliest first and adding newly-purchased supplies to the tail end of your own “supply chain.” People tend to make two mistakes when they undertake this task:

  • storing food they never eat: If you don’t eat canned cheese now, you probably won’t want to eat it later.
  • failing to cycle stored food into daily use: thus the stored food goes bad and gets thrown out.

For fresh foods, learn to grow your own. For lazy gardeners who don’t want to spend their life fighting weeds, learn to do raised bed gardening. The book Cinder Block Gardens is the best we know on the topic. This book will tell you how to grow your own vegetables with relative ease even if you have a full time job. And, even if you don’t have room for a formal garden, it will tell you how to do that in your driveway or a parking lot. These raised beds will work outdoors, in a greenhouse, or under a coldframe. And if, for example, you want to grow delicious cucumbers that weight two pounds each, then you’ll need to enlist the delightful help of the nature kingdom like the people at Findhorn did. Here is the website of a current public practitioner of that art and science.

Don’t have room for raised beds? Then at least learn sprouting. Some say that many survived World War II in Europe because they knew how to do sprouting. All you need for sprouting is a window not exposed to direct sunlight, a jar, water, and some sproutable seeds. Because they store and sprout so easily, whole organic lentils are a great place to start. Sprouts are packed with nutrition and energy because they are in the phase of the life cycle of a plant where nature is doing its best to give this seed a leg up in terms of getting established as a new successful plant. So they are a great source of essential nutrients and are easy to use in salads, soups, etc.

And like telling the truth, growing food can be a revolutionary act at this time. Most who grow their own food quickly migrate toward organic ways, where one takes care of the billions of critters in the soil, and the soil and sun take care of the plants. In this method, there ensues a brilliant, intricate, delicate dance of the soil critters and the plant roots, where each communicates their needs to the others and each provide materials for the others. That is the way nature grows things. Working this way, a person is quickly overjoyed and humbled by the abundance and deliciousness that nature provides. And with debris from chemtrails and radiation from Fukushima floating around our atmosphere, growing food in greenhouses may actually become necessary, so the sooner one sets up that infrastructure, the better. Further along the path to growing the way nature does is the world of permaculture, where plants work together in what some call plant guilds. All of this is movement away from industrialized agriculture where the soil is literally de-natured, that is, if an industrial farmer wants to grow corn, they try to kill everything else in the field: weeds, insects, soil critters, etc. Then they truck in bees for pollination and are surprised when the bee colonies collapse when the corn has been sprayed with neocotinoid poisons. And genetically-modified (“GMO”) corn has a terminator gene inserted so that the seed will not propagate and the farmer must buy new seed from Monsanto if they want to grow corn again next season.

And the industrial meat food chain is even worse: the animals are fattened in feed lots where they eat these industrially raised and poisoned GMO “foods,” and stand in so much manure that they have to be pumped full of antibiotics to survive. And of course those antibiotics are ingested by those who eat the meat from these animals, helping to breed antibiotic-resistant super-bugs. Ummmm, yummy!

Seriously, if you haven’t been growing any of your own food, you are missing a lot of fun and some big, delicious treats. Favorite foods grown from heirloom seeds in great soil? Wow, such food is so much better than what you can buy in stores it’ll make your mouth spin.

And speaking of heirloom non-GMO organic seeds, obtaining more of these than you need for the current season, and storing them in a cool dry place, is a great idea if you plan to grow some food, or to perhaps offer seeds to other growers. For most of us, buying seeds is the way to go. Harvesting seeds from the plants you grow is a skill that needs to be cultivated. Seed saving is an art and science, easy for some plants, quite tricky for others. For those interested, the book Seed to Seed is the bible. Heirloom seeds for purchase are best obtained from a local organic seed producer because they are suited to local conditions, but these are not available in all areas. Seeds of Change and Seed Savers Exchange are great sources for ordering seeds on the web.

And to sum up our food discussion, we see backup supplies of food with a good shelf life as something to tide people over until they are either growing their own food or have established availability of a reliable local supply. No matter how much food one has on the shelf, if one wants or needs to feed a group of people, that food will go quickly. We need to arrive at sustainable local sources.

ELECTRICITY: Our dependence on electricity is remarkable. If the electricity grid were down for an extended period of time, the repercussions would be staggering, curtailing lighting, heating, refrigeration, connecting with people by internet and phone, pumping gasoline into our cars and trucks, having our water supplies pumped to us, using debit and credit cards, getting money from ATMs, receiving a wide range of medical and dental procedures, using a wide array of electronic devices, etc. It is reasonable to say that almost all services in the modern world depend on the ready availability of electrical power. This winter, due to an ice storm that felled trees and power lines, affluent residents of parts of the US state of Connecticut had no electricity for eight days. Many were unable to heat their homes because the operation of their furnaces depends on electricity.

Would a collapse of the financial system seriously impair the electricity grid? Given that most electrical utility companies rely on the debt markets for their operation and that a great deal of electricity generation depends on the just-in-time mining and transport of fossil fuels, particularly coal—well let’s just say that the financial system collapse could give the grid some very bad days, or weeks, or more.

So being able to create at least a little electricity when the grid is unavailable will likely turn out to be very useful. And it is doable. But it’s a classic case of easier said than done.

Homeowners with some extra cash can address this problem by purchasing a solar array and related equipment that supplies some or all of their electricity. But if you buy such a system, it is worth checking carefully whether it will supply you with electricity when the grid is down. Many grid-tied photovoltaic systems won’t. By design! (Another great help from The Powers That Be.) “To protect workers” servicing the grid, many inverters are designed to cease operation when the grid is down. If you buy a system with substantial battery backup capability, it is likely to be able to operate during an extensive grid outage. But adding battery backup adds a good deal to the cost of the system, so most forego that capability. We are very much in favor of photovoltaic systems, but buyers should make sure to fully understand what their system will and won’t do.

Winds turbines can be an outstanding addition to a photovoltaic system, though they are prohibited in many urban areas—where they don’t work all that well anyway—and subdivisions.

Microhydro is the ultimate renewable energy system, producing power whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, but very few of us live on rushing water. And in places like the US, to install a microhydro system legally (some are installed “by moonlight”) requires filing applications with the federal government that can costs tens of thousands of dollars and over five years to process. (Yes, yet another great help from TPTB. Are you getting the idea that they would like us to be entirely dependent on their gargantuan energy systems? On their financial system? On their food system? On their health care system? And on…)

Homeowners and renters can purchase backup generators. We are all in favor of these as well. But again, clearly understanding what you are buying is essential. The small gasoline generators that cost $400 to $500 at the big box stores are designed to run for no more than 200 hours, at which point most of them will fail and, not being designed to be repaired, need to be junked. Some have enough power to run your refrigerator, some do not. The ones that are meant to run well for years cost over $1,000. And there is the problem of gasoline storage. If you store 20 gallons of gasoline, how many hours will that run your generator? Not a whole lot. Storing a lot of gasoline can be cumbersome and dangerous. Again, homeowners with extra cash can install generators that power their entire house, powered by propane from a large tank. Propane lasts virtually forever, so such a setup can run for thousands of hours. But this is not a great option for renters. Renters might wish to consider a tri-fuel generator from Yamaha that is large enough to power their refrigerator (and quiet enough that you and the neighbors will consider the running generator a net plus, not a minus). Tri-fuel means it can run on gasoline, propane, or natural gas. For anyone with access to a large propane tank, here is a small quiet portable generator that should run for thousands of hours if there is a good supply of propane or natural gas. This Yamaha will power a refrigerator with ease, but it will not power appliances such as dryers. But even if you don’t have access to a large tank, propane can be stored in multiple small portable containers used to power propane barbeques.

Small-scale renewable power setups that will not run appliances with motors but which will run DC LED lights, laptops, and other small electronic gizmos are available from a company named Goal Zero. Designed for campers and campsites, Goal Zero sells portable batteries, inverters, solar panels, DC LED lights that consume very little power, etc. Such setups won’t allow you to run your full-size refrigerator, but at least you can have light and computer power at night and be able to re-charge cell phones and the like.

Everyone’s circumstances truly are different when it comes to generating electricity. But in our view, it is a puzzle worth spending time and some money to solve. Ideally, it would be wonderful if we were all generating all of our own electricity from renewable sources (free energy devices would be, of course, the very best) and driving an all-electric vehicle. It would change the world in many ways. Many rightly complain about the unfortunate methods of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Gas, and the nuclear power industry. But for now, we are their customers, so we are in on the game and it is not so easy to stop playing. But to state it again: this is a puzzle worth spending time and some money to solve.

HEALTH CARE: If you depend on medicines or supplements, obtaining a good supply is likely a very good idea. The financial crisis in Greece is leading to drug and treatment shortages there (Greek health system crumbles under weight of crisis) and Greece is surrounded by countries whose drug suppliers and health care systems are fully functioning. When the entire world financial system goes, many drugs and services are likely to be entirely unavailable in any country for some period of time. Clearly, if you do not have supplies or if you need treatment, having bullion coins or paper cash available should be a big advantage versus relying on government or insurance company promises to pay. Remember, trust in such promises will be the first part of the financial system to go.

The conventional medical system relies on the smooth functioning of the global supply chain, on government and insurance company payment systems, etc. When the economy becomes far more local as global systems fail, those who understand the health benefits available from alternative practitioners and methods—including but not limited to energetic and telepathic healing, acupuncture, Ayurveda, MMS, traditional Chinese herbal medicine, etc.—might find themselves very happy that they investigated these systems in advance to determine what works for them.

HEAT: If you live in a climate that experiences cold weather, planning for a heating method that does not rely on the functioning of the electrical grid is a great idea. It could be a life-saving idea. We highly recommend being able to safely heat with wood or propane and having an adequate supply of one of those on hand.

WATER: Since we can’t live without it for long, a reliable water supply is critical. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, water company employees realized that a lot of people would die if they stopped working so most continued working without pay for several months. That was lucky. And it worked, to some extent, because Russia has plentiful supplies of the energy resources needed to keep the pumps and purifiers of a modern water system functioning. Would all of us be that lucky if the electricity grid were down for a period of time? Perhaps. But having backup supplies, or an alternative source of water that you can purify yourself without electricity, seems like a good plan. Filters such as those from Berkey and Aquarain are examples of quality filters that don’t require electricity and can purify water from almost any source. At least as long as that water hasn’t been Fukushima’ed.

HOUSEHOLD GOODS: Which household goods are considered critical is a highly personal judgment. But having some backups for the supplies you use on a daily basis seems wise. If you end up with an excess, supplies considered by many people to be necessary will make for very good barter items.

LOCATION: Where is the best to live for the future being outlined here? That is a large topic, so to not distract from the essentials described above and in Part 1, we will punt on this topic for now and cover it later in a stand-alone post.

To summarize, we recommend methodically moving away from dependence on big government and corporations and toward local sufficiency. Such moves are useful, and most find them to be a good deal of fun as well.