A couple of years ago I did a post on doomsday fiction, a curious genre of science fiction books that attempt to describe a vision of the future after some apocalyptic event such as nuclear war, peak oil, viral plague, or electromagnetic pulse. These books follow a basic formula where there is 1) a horrific event that destroys or seriously damages large parts of the globe, 2) survivors divided up into good guys and bad guys, 3) a narrative on survival methods and the ethical problems survivors will face, i.e. “Could I shoot someone to protect my family?’ or, “Would I share?” and, finally, 4) in most cases some form of happy ending that demonstrates the resilience and adaptability of the human race.
In his new book Slow Apocalypse, John Varley pulls out all the stops: world-wide destruction of oil fields by an airborne bacteria, massive earthquake, floods from broken reservoirs and firestorm. His setting is Los Angeles. The protagonist is a TV writer who gets a heads up on the impending crisis and begins prepping which puts him ahead of the survival game. But the disasters come so fast and furiously that the reader is left a bit breathless waiting to find out what happens to his family and friends who band together to try and escape a destroyed and now unlivable LA. Escape routes are blocked by quake and landslide and surrounding communities are barricaded to stop the inflow of immigrants. So our small band must slowly work their way out of the city in a wood fueled bus to try and find a new promised land. Along the way there are gunfights and humanitarianism and the inevitable happy ending albeit one of hard physical labor.
Mr. Varley’s book starts a bit slow and contrived but in the middle picks up steam and ends up a page turner that will, no doubt, be made into a disaster flick.
The significance of the books like this is to make us think about worst case scenarios and to give some thought to some basic preparation that we should make for short and long term disasters.
Each doomsday novelist has a different take on what a post apocalyptic future might be like. But the common theme is that everything would be easier if one has some “stuff” put by.
When the Swiss Family Robinson was shipwrecked they were lucky to be able to recover an amazing amount of booty from their ship in the form of foodstuff, supplies and even animals. It made life on their island pretty easy. Right now we are like Swiss Family Robinson. Supplies are plentiful and easy to accumulate. After the shipwreck, if there is to be one, it will be much harder to find the stuff that will give our family comfort and security.
The New York Times website this morning has a front page story on Hurricane Sandy and the Disaster Preparedness Economy. Disasters like Sandy push preparedness up our list of priorities and give impetus to getting ready for what might happen.
The article points out that disaster preparedness has been seeping into the consciousness of Americans for some time now reflected in books, films, TV shows and documentary films. The business of making generators, gas cans, and even candles is booming as people begin to focus on a degree of preparedness that hasn’t existed since Y2K. Costco and even Walmart are selling foodstuffs for long term storage.
The news stories from New York and New Jersey demonstrate that people are still poorly prepared for emergencies and highly dependent on government to first warn them, then bail them out. Serious disaster events striking large population centers are no doubt FEMA’s worse nightmare.
In a rural community we have to recognize that in the event of any kind of disaster scenario (volcanic eruption, earthquake, tsunami, financial collapse) that we will be on the end of the food chain, so to speak, because of our low population and isolation. Even though Red Cross, for example, has a plan for the island with designated shelters, some food stuffs, cots and blankets it will be important that we are ready to take care of ourselves for the short term or the long term. Hopefully, some of the business that is making the disaster preparedness industry boom has been generated by islanders.
Short term the basics of food, water, medicine are key. Long term preparedness requires looking at growing our own food, making our own fuel, transportation alternatives, developing heat and power sources. The internet is a rich source of information with sites such as Natural News and Survival Blog leading the way. Many might find the political views of these blogs off putting as they tend toward Libertarianism and consistently denigrate Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party and sometimes the Republican Party. I suggest you overlook the politics and try to glean nuggets from the information they provide.
Survival Blogs Quick Start Guide for Newbies should get you thinking if you haven’t thought about this stuff already.
Hurricane Sandy seems a long way off but most of us know somebody affected by the storm. If you have experienced a disaster like Mt. St. Helens or the Columbus Day Storm or a California Earthquake you will no doubt be more inclined to pay attention.
October 30 is a day our family has been waiting for a year. Our youngest son Noble’s book, The Wisdom of the Shire, will be released today in the US. Editions in the UK, Brazil/Portugal, Finland, Bulgaria, Spain, France and Italy will soon follow. it’s a big deal to get a book published by a major publisher. An even bigger deal to sell foreign rights and have the work translated. So, we are proud as punch.
Prouder still of the content of the book because it has real value. The Wisdom of the Shire could be the guidebook for the entire Transition Town Movement. Briefly, the Shire wisdom speaks to the lessons to be learned from the small creatures (Hobbits) created by JRR Tolkien in his much read and reread book The Hobbit and elaborated in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Most people see The Hobbit and TLOTR as a fantasy/adventure packed with amazing heroes and villains and imaginative settings. Tolkien created an entire world, even languages, and piqued the imagination of generations of readers.
Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious but Noble has shown some real genius in distilling life lessons from the behavior and habits of the Hobbits that would benefit all of us if we would pay attention and apply them to our own life. In a series of short essays, Noble details how Hobbits “walk the walk”—quite literally as Hobbits love to walk. They are connected to their environment and their locality (the Shire), to their food which they grow themselves, to friendship and community, to hearth and home. Chapter 1 is titled, “How Snug is Your Hobbit Hole?” You can read it here.
The Wisdom of the Shire tells us that “Your true home is inside your heart and stays with you wherever you go, but a nice snug room is a lovely thing to come back to.”
The Hobbits can teach us many things about integrity, dealing with others, managing our obsessions (“Bearing the Burden of Your Ring”), singing, partying and dealing with the more powerful.
In his introduction, well-known fantasy writer and acknowledge Tolkien expert Peter Beagle writes: “The Wisdom of the Shire reminds the reader that our world isn’t—or doesn’t have to be—all that removed from Middle-earth, the Shire and the Party Tree.”
You’ll find value in The Wisdom of the Shire whether or not you are a Tolkien fan. And, if you’ve been confused about what I’ve been trying to get across in this blog, Noble’s book will explain whatwe need to do as a individuals and a community to make ourselves ready for an uncertain future.
This coming Saturday (Oct. 27), at 10am at the Grange Hall, Brad Hippert, formerly CEO of Porteon, an electric (NEV) car company will talk to those interested about what he calls, “Civic Ecological Transportation”.
With everything that we might face in the future such as climate change, rising fuel prices or fuel shortages, declining economic situation, demographic change, even health considerations looking at alternative ways to get around the island make sense. And, it makes sense to do it sooner or later.
James Kunster has written consistently about “happy motoring” and the end of suburbia suggesting that the future might limit our ability to globe trot and trade requiring strong local economies. Take a trip to Seattle on I-5. Note that most of the vehicles are not in car pool lane. One car; one driver. Going where we want, when we want is an insatiable habit.
Some people, many in fact, believe that technology will find a way to solve our problems and let us continue happy motoring. Unfortunately, most technology is driven by fossil fuel and the ability to process heavy metals and other materials required for batteries, etc. Perhaps we will discover free energy, develop water powered engines or other technologies that have been discussed for many years.
In the meantime, if we want to be powered around we have but few choices: line up at the pump, bike, walk, get a horse or experiment with electric powered vehicles (cars, scooters, bikes).
It makes for an interesting discussion and I’ll be interested in what Brad has to say on Saturday.
If there were a sudden fuel shortage and we needed to ration gas or if gas was really hard to come by, there is certain equipment that most of us would want to keep going on the island: ferries and working boats, dump trucks, tractors, backhoes, delivery vehicles, shuttles, and working vehicles of all type including contractors pickups. Priority should be given to people making a living or providing services to the rest of the island. I can’t visualize a situation with no fuel but I can imagine conditions where fuel is hard to get. (I still suffer from PTSS caused by the fuel rationing in 1973-1974 when I had a 60 mile round trip to work).
One way to avoid having to worry about this potential problem is to use an NEV as an island car. These come in a variety of manifestations from golf carts to passenger type vehicles to trucks. Most people could look in their driveway and replace one of their vehicles with something electric. Even if there were no gas shortage an electric vehicle would be beneficial to one’s life on the island simply because there is no need to put it on the ferry to go get fuel. As long as there is electricity or a generator you can recharge the vehicle.
This island is a perfect crucible for an NEV experiment because of 1) a 25mph speed limit throughout, 2) no on-island source of petroleum fuel, 3) only 18 miles of road and a 30-60 mile range on NEVs, 4) a fairly reliable source of electricity from NW hydro-electric power and a significant number of generators on the island, 5) no difficult terrain or severe elevation gain.
The NEV is a niche product. It has limited range and limited speed and isn’t a fit for a lot of communities. Surveying the internet I can see that the marketing emphasis is toward resorts, college campuses, military bases and other locations where range and speed isn’t a problem. Small islands are obviously a good match for the NEV. Range is adequate as is speed. The only concerns are comfort and carrying capacity. Since the average trip on Lummi is probably no more than a couple of miles I’m guessing that even an open golf cart could work for most of the year.
There is really no question that NEVs can serve the island effectively. The big objection to electric cars has been range. It’s hard to rationalize the cost of having an island only vehicle. To get an electric car like the Nissan Leaf that will take you to Bellingham and back you have to spend full-size car dollars. However, the NEV as an island car will actually extend the range of your gas powered vehicle by allowing you to save gas on the island. An increase in the number of NEVs would make the island a more pleasant place as would increase use of scooters, bicycles and electric assist bikes. And, if we ever reach the point of a passenger ferry and limited car ferry service an NEV would relieve you of a great deal of stress and allow you to continue Happy Motoring all over the island.
For the record, this would be my ideal island car when we get approved as a golf cart zone: a golf cart with a dump bed that I could use for chores around the property as well as drive on island roads.
As a point of interest Tesla has exciting plans for increasing the range of electric autos—a network of free charging stations already under construction announced this past week.
Lummi Island is more like Fidalgo, and Sammish than, say, Waldron. Because of the ferry we experience few of the inconveniences of islands not served by car ferries. The Whatcom Chief has been a virtual bridge to the mainland. The ferry makes the island attractive to a number of people who wouldn’t consider Waldron, Sinclair or Blakely, for example.
But what if we were forced into a situation with limited car ferry service? Could we deal with it? How would we deal with it?
It’s actually not so rare to find car free or limited car islands and communities around the world. You can verify this statement by viewing this website.
If there was limited car ferry service we would, as a natural result have limited vehicle use. For one reason, it would be harder to get gasoline. We could look to other ways to move around the island: shuttles, livery service, car share, ride sharing, hitchhiking, bikes, motorcycles, electric bikes, scooters, electric cars, Segways, by foot, etc.
For all of us it’s hard not to contemplate grabbing the keys and jumping in our personal auto and going about our business, filling the tank when we need to with not unreasonably priced fuel. But there are other ways we could get around if it were necessary.
Right now the county could designate Lummi Island as a golf cart zone so that street legal golf carts could be driven on our roads. Using golf carts and other neighborhood electric vehicles would be a great start to saving fuel and reducing the number of automobiles on the road. (A couple of us have made repeated requests to the County Council to look at this with no action so far: note in the comments section of this blog the recent back and forth between Mike Skehan and Barbara Brenner.
In 2010 the Washington legislature approved the use of golf carts on roads with speed limits of 25mph or less (the Lummi Island speed limit).
Here’s the ordinance passed by the city of Langley on Whidbey Island: Most of these ordinances require that golf carts be equipped with headlights, taillights, rear view mirrors and other safety equipment. Golf carts can be electric or gas powered. Obviously, in a reduced fuel environment electric power would be preferred.
Golf carts are modified to make them into Neighbor Electric Vehicles (NEV). Why golf carts? Golf carts are a relatively inexpensive way to begin. At $4 a gallon on golf cart dealer estimates that an electric golf cart gives you 200 mph based on the cost of recharging a cart. There are other benefits as well (which also apply to NEVs and full size electric cars): less maintenance, quiet, cheaper insurance, in most cases a lower initial investment than a gas powered car, easier to park.
Golf carts are not as comfortable as NEVs and electric cars. But, they could get you around the island and make a good transition vehicle.
Next: more about NEVs
Larry Ellison, the billionaire owner of Oracle, recently bought 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai for a reported $600,000,000. One wonders what he plans to do with it. According to the 2011 Assessor’s report on the Lummi Island the market value of taxable properties is close to $300,000,000. For the sake of argument we’ll suggest that the non taxable portion of the island might be worth another $300,000,000. Not too different than the island of Lanai.
If a billionaire could purchase Lummi Island and all its properties what changes might he or she make?
The geography is fixed. The on island infrastructure is not complex—eighteen miles of road, power lines, cable, phone, several water systems, lots of wells, a mix of small lots, larger properties, Trust lands and publicly owned lands. There is a school, a library building, a Grange Hall, a store, a restaurant and an inn. There is a ferry dock, a few boat ramps (none publicly owned), and a couple of natural harbors which are, unfortunately located away from the majority of the population. There is no local government save for a fire district which supports the volunteer fire department.
The longest distance between two points (Migley Pt to Scenic Estates) is a bit less than six miles. Some beaches are accessible at high tide. Many are not. There are a few low spots that have full time beach access (Lane Spit and Legoe Bay, for example). There is no regular bus service or public transportation. Biking is fairly easy for those young enough to pedal although the weather isn’t amenable to bicycle travel year round.
There is no on site power. Electricity arrives via underwater cable but is quite reliable. There is no place to purchase fuel on the island. A few islanders have storage in the hundreds of gallons. Most keep a gas can or two filled for emergencies. There are but a handful of solar/wind powered homes.
Supplies are obtained from the mainlined or via UPS, USPS or Federal Express. It is very difficult for retail business on the island because of the ease of getting to town. The morning ferries usually have a number of service and sales vehicles from the mainland arriving to do contracting or service work. There are a few contractors and some service people working on the island. Some are able to keep busy. Businesses tend to be home based and fill niches in the marketplace.
The island is not self-sufficient in any category except for water and there are many question marks about the water. A few people have added rainwater catchment. The island is dependent on County government for ferry service, road maintenance, law enforcement, on electric company for power, the garbage company for garbage pickup, etc. Tourism provides a few dollars for a few people, there is some seasonal fishing, home business and telecommuting. The most reliable job is working on the ferry. There is not enough agriculture to provide food for the islanders. It is an import economy.
If a billionaire bought the island lock stock and barrel they would see that it was tethered to the mainland depending on the car ferry like a fetus relies on an umbilical cord. The billionaire would need to decide if this was a good thing or a bad thing.
In Lanai the debate over what Larry Ellison will do continues. Will he preserve or develop?Whatever he does, taking a fresh look at how an island might look in the future isn’t an exercise just limited to billionaires.
During dry dock on Lummi Island we get our annual chance to experience life on an island with limited access. Some love it; others hate it. Everyone, however, does some planning for the event, even if it is to leave. Leaving is an important “tell.” It probably means you really don’t like living on an island and the inconvenience that island living entails. Leaving is a valid strategy.
If one is staying, there’s a big shopping run and gas cans are filled. Decisions have to be made about transportation. Park a car on the other side? Share a car on the mainland? Put a car at the marina in Bellingham or Blaine? Take the bus? Or, perhaps plan to hunker down for the three weeks that the car ferry is getting her annual once over and paint job.
Utility companies station a rig on this side: a PSE truck in case of power outages, Century Link for the phones, the cable company to keep TV and internet going, a garbage truck and a sheriff’s car. The county makes plans for a passenger ferry and passenger docks on both sides. During the three weeks of dry dock we prove every year that it is possible to live with limited access. There’s a shuttle bus, there’s ride sharing. There’s car sharing on the other side. There are more people taking the bus.
We always stay here for the three weeks. It is pleasant bordering on idyllic. The weather is good, the traffic is light, there’s lots of biking and walking. This year we tried a run in the boat to Fairhaven to drop a couple people off. I was thankful that it was a beautiful day with calm water because certain people have made me extremely fearful of that stretch between Portage Island and Eliza Island at the entrance to Bellingham Bay. I have yet to see it at it’s worst but am convinced that it can resemble the Bermuda Triangle where boats of all size disappear never to be seen again. We were lucky and survived our passage. Made it from Isle Aire Beach to the visitor dock in Fairhaven in slightly under 40 minutes, dropped our passengers and their stuff and returned in the same amount of time.
This was my first trip by water from Bellingham to the Island. I was struck by the beauty of the route with the mountain dead ahead and wild Portage Island on the right (or starboard, if you will).
Lummi is quite the impressive island when you approach along the length of it with a notable wilderness on the south end, the jarring gash in the landscape that is the quarry, then interesting homes along the water as the island levels out and seems to become civilized.
Feng shui, according to Wikipedia translates as “wind-water” and is a short hand translation of this longer quote: “Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water.”
I’m not sure that feng shui can be applied to approaching a location like an island but I think I will try to do it anyway by suggesting that the feng shui of the approach via the Rez and Gooseberry Pt. is not as satisfying as the approach from Bellingham via water.
It is entirely possible that at some point in the future we may not be able to enjoy the virtual bridge to the mainland that we do now with car ferry service every thirty minutes all day long. There are many things that could impact ferry service, the economy, County finances, more difficulties with the Lummis, and gasoline prices to name but a few. It is conceivable to me that we could end up in a permanent condition resembling dry dock with passenger ferry service and limited car ferry service. Very few people want to concede that this could happen. Yet it could. Without regular car ferry service we could face a life without petroleum fueled automobiles or, more likely, limited use of petro-fueled equipment.
Interesting that many communities have decided to go without cars now even though fuel is still readily available. In the next couple of blog posts I will try to imagine what a gasoline fueled car free island might look like, what the pluses and minuses might be and how we could manage the change.
Until WWII a lot of people in this country lived on subsistence farms and had for generations. By subsistence I mean that they produced most of their own food and, in addition, raised cash crops like milk, hay, eggs, meat or maybe something more exotic like tobacco. The cash was used to buy equipment, extras and foodstuffs they didn’t produce themselves. They didn’t go to malls or supermarkets. Those did not exist.
My father’s family lived in what might be called a “kin” neighborhood in a part of Virginia that can now almost qualify as a suburb of D.C. Relations owned four or five contiguous properties and had lived in this spot since the 1840’s. Often they worked together, sharing labor, teams and equipment. All the places had names: Mt. Atlas, Oak Shade and Hagley. Hagley was my grandfather’s place. Before he built Hagley in around 1910 there was Old Hagley founded by his grandfather. New Hagley was built on higher ground and closer to the road. By US standards the family had been attached to that property for a long while. I was in the sixth or seventh generation to spend time at the place.
I found Hagley fascinating as a child for it was like dropping in on another planet, another style of life and almost another language with the drawls and “you alls.” There was so much food. Tons of food for every meal. Breakfast was breakfast, lunch was dinner, dinner was supper. My grandmother and aunt seemed to live in the kitchen and wouldn’t let you hang around in there. They would shoo us boys out so we helped where we were able or dug worms and headed to the pond to fish. From this photo it appears my brothers, cousin and I were doing something vaguely agricultural.
I liked to look at the cellar with cured hams hanging from the ceiling and shelf after shelf of home canned goods. I remember the food most of all, fitting because subsistence farming is all about food: vegetables, pickles, milk, eggs, cheese, chicken, ham, beef, fish, bread, corn, biscuits and on and on. They not only grew food for themselves but for the animals as well: hay, corn, orchard grass, oats, rye and wheat.
At that time I really didn’t understand or appreciate what I was looking at and shortly after I graduated from college it all came to an end when my grandfather decided, perhaps in his dotage, to auction off the farm, all the implements, all the antiques, all the stock and knickknacks and everything that had accumulated in that spot in the previous hundred or more years. I guess he’d had enough of subsistence. He sold it off and along with my widowed aunt and bachelor uncle moved to town and began shopping at the supermarket just like everyone else in America. Grandpa sat on the porch til it was time to die, my old uncle went to the basement and turned wood bowls on his lathe, while my aunt kept cooking breakfast, dinner and supper.
The era of subsistence farming was over. Three generations later it’s starting to regain traction. But it’s much tougher now. There are building codes, safety rules and employment laws one has to follow. Plus, we live in a litigious society where some one will sue you at the drop of a hat or narc on you to some code official. The only instruction I recall getting at Hagley was “Stay out of the pig pen.” There was, apparently, a real danger of being eaten by a large boar. In the hallway was a .22 rifle on the gun rack which I was free to take it out and shoot at stuff like skill pots (snapping turtles) or squirrels. They would no doubt been shocked to learn I’d never even see a .22 before I took that one out in the woods and shot it.
Recently, my cousin who still owns his dad’s farm across the road from Hagley made a diagram of how Hagley looked in 1955 just a few years before the sale. I marvel at this information which details almost a village worth of buildings and functions. Take a look by clicking the link below.
First of all note the two large kitchen gardens with a grape arbor in between. Then take a look at the functions and activities represented by the various buildings: hog pen, wood shed, meat house, hog butcher pen, hog butcher tub, chicken house, blacksmith shop, tack room, the dreaded pig shed and pen, turkey/guinea house, tractor shed, mill house and granary, corn house, milk barn and more.
Imagine the difficulty today of trying to get approval for these outbuildings. Then imagine the cost of building them. In those days, all these farmers were also carpenters and mechanics and veterinarians in addition to being horticulturalists. They were experts in animal husbandry as well. The women were experts in everything else. There wasn’t much specialization. One had to know how to do a bit of everything to survive in comfort.
There really aren’t that many back to the land people around today. It’s rare to find someone with a garden in the city. More rare to find a subsistence farm in the country side. It’s possible that we might have to get back to that and important that we maintain some bank of knowledge of the skills we need if we have to do the work ourselves and if we reach a time when we don’t have petroleum to do our work for us.
Today, Hagley still looks like an old farm house. It’s been updated some and the land around it sub-divided and partitioned into a small suburb for folks commuting to the capital and other venues in N. Virginia and Maryland. They are back on the land but not subsisting there. It will be hard for them (and all of us) to make the transition to a simpler, sustainable existence if circumstance dictates that we must.
They say that Angle of Repose is Wallace Stegner’s best novel. I personally like All The Little Live Things better but there is no question that “Angle of Repose” is one of the great titles in literature. In some ways, every life is a search for that angle, that place where we find some stability, some rest without struggle, a place where the ground isn’t slipping away under our feet. Interestingly, Stegner, who won awards for the novel, created unstable ground for himself as he opened himself up to charges of plagiarism and misuse of material as the book is based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote and Mr. Stegner liberally used sections from letters sometime verbatim. Putting that academic controversy aside, it’s a particularly good read or, in this case, a “good listen” as I just finished the audio version. There’s a lot of pressure to make it through a 500+ page audio book in the fourteen days our library allows but I made it with two days to spare.
Stegner is pretty good at creating the cranky middle-aged narrator. In this book, it’s Lyman Ward, a retired history professor who has suffered a disease requiring that his leg be amputated. To add insult to injury, his wife runs off with his surgeon. A cruel cut indeed. Ward retreats to his late grandparent’s home and embarks on an expedition of discovery by reviewing his grandmother’s letters, articles and novels. The story that evolves is, he says, a story of a marriage. It’s also the story that contrasts the cultures of the East and the West of the USA during the late nineteenth century.
His grandmother, Susan, is a snob—beautiful, charismatic, talented, enamored of conversation and achievement. She is platonically, or not, in love with her best friend Augusta (another Eastern snob) and her letters to Augusta make up the spine of the story for Susan ends up marrying Oliver Ward, a handsome but un-degreed mining engineer whose career will take him West to Colorado, Mexico, Idaho and California and lead Susan into a lifetime of exile from the salons of New York. As a writer/illustrator, even in exile, she finds more success than her husband who is trusting and not shrewd, but is a Westerner personified—large, tough, capable, likable with big dreams and schemes that never work out. Thus, Susan lives in frustration, never finding her angle of repose.
Angle of Repose is, as mentioned based on the life a real person. Stegner apparently lays out the story of Mary Hallock Foote, whose letters were later published as A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West, in a fairly straight line. Interspersed is the drama involving our narrator Lyman Ward, Susan’s grandson, and his own struggles to find an angle of repose relying for care on a childhood friend whose family had been employees of the Wards for three generations. Stegner is a wonderfully evocative writer and his description of his caretaker (who as a childhood friend was involved with him in pre-adolescent sexual exploration) giving him a bath is worth the price of admission.
Sadly, the book thumps and bumps to an unsatisfying ending where none of the characters find their angle of repose, where a child is drowned, love is unrequited, a lover kills himself, another child is alienated, money is lost and a promising marriage stalls out and history repeats itself with Lyman’s marriage. It’s all kind of unhappy. The rocks, pebbles and sand keep sliding down the slope.
My own grandparents had a somewhat similar though less dramatic story. My widowed grandmother, an Eastern snob, married my grandfather who had designs on a life in the West. Thus, my grandmother was drawn in to exile on a Montana homestead, in a log house no less, where she sulked and aspired to more, writing articles for ladies magazines while my grandfather taught school in mining towns. During the war they ended up in San Francisco where my grandma earned high marks working for the Navy and enjoying life in the big city much as Susan in the Angle of Repose had enjoyed a sojourn in Mexico living the high life of the hacienda. At the end of the war my grandfather drug grandma to the bleakest part of the San Juaquin Valley where she was stuck in a two room house on a treeless plot of land while my grandpa tried to be a farmer and failed. I’m not sure they ever reached an angle of repose either.
So how does this relate to Transition? Well, it doesn’t really except in the broadest sense. It’s a story of someone used to the available amenities of life who had to transition to less favorable circumstances; where wood had to be chopped, water carried, where transportation was difficult and good manners often were forgotten. Interestingly, Susan Ward made a good adjustment to the physical hardships of the West but never reconciled herself to the loss of companionship she left behind. She thought she was better than her neighbors which made for a lonely life in Leadville, Boise and beyond. It also made for a lonely life in Wilborn, Montana and Livingston, California.
Get to know your neighbors.
A simple idea; an engaging speaker.
The European financial crisis has hit the Greek health care system hard. “Healthcare in Greece is already at crisis point with hospitals running out of vital supplies and drugs. Digital Journal reported cancer patients are having to source their own prescriptions as pharmacies fail to stock vital drugs due to the government not providing funds to pay for them.”
The question is: could this happen in the US? I’m sure that most people shake with fear at the idea that they couldn’t afford to see their doctor or get their meds. But, might we be better off without our vaunted health care system? Would our time and money be better spent paying attention to the quality of the food we eat, eliminating toxins from the environment and working to moderate our lifestyles? Should we be planning ahead for a time when medical services aren’t so readily available (e.g. the Greek example) by learning how to take care of ourselves using natural remedies and food for what ails us?
Here’s something to study and really think about: The Nutrition Institute of America claims “that conventional medicine is America’s number-one killer…” To make this claim the Institute mandated that every “count” in this “indictment” of US medicine be validated by published, peer-reviewed scientific studies.” They’ve put it all together in a report titled, “Death By Medicine which is published on the Life Extension Institute website. You can read the whole thing here . The skeptical reader might want to skim through the references at the end of the article to view the sources of the information.
A theater shooting in Colorado gets wall to wall cable news coverage. However, it is unlikely that you will see this headline—”CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE CAUSES 783,936 DEATHS PER YEAR.”
It seems unbelievable. But when you look at the data it all adds up: adverse drug reactions, medical error, infection, unnecessary procedures, surgical error. It’s pretty scary and again raises the question: “Would less medical service be a good thing?
My own issues with conventional or hospital based or pharmaceutical medicine are well documented in a book I wrote called Diagnosis Unknown, published by Hampton Roads Publishing in 1997 (now out of print). Our experience with the medical system was a genuine epiphany which led me to question the conventional point of view in every area: economics, politics, gardening, etc. I discovered that your AMA doc was pretty much clueless when it came to diagnosing and treating chronic illness but that when you entered the system they would milk you like a cow with tests and prescriptions handing you around from one specialist to another.
I realize it takes some fortitude to forego regular medical attention and that our treatment choices are almost always a case of “follow the money.” That is, we will go only where insurance takes us. If insurance won’t pay for it we will be reluctant pay out of pocket for modalities that are constantly attacked as quackery. (Steve Hall, an alternative MD from the Eastside of Seattle explains the insurance problem here)
Considering medicine from the Transition viewpoint it makes sense to me to take active steps to take charge of your own health and not delegate it to some doctor. And I get it about the flesh eating bacteria and the knee surgery. There’s a time and a place. But it’s not every time and every place. (Full disclosure: since 1989 when I had to get an insurance physical I’ve been to an MD once (I psyched myself into believing I had leptosperosis from a walk in a Hawaiian river) for the only course of antibiotics I’ve had since sometime in the early eighties and recently to a PA at an orthopedic clinic to see in a shot in the knee of Syncvisc-one would help with a bone on bone problem (it didn’t help much).
So, what should you think when you read that conventional medicine kills 700,000+ per year and would it be any better if the number were only 200,000 or 400,000? One’s reaction might be the same as hearing that government is broke or that there’s hardly any substantive difference between Obama and Romney or Clinton and Bush, or that we face a real health threat from Fukishima radiation or that we are on the downside of our oil supply. It’s hard to process this kind of stuff when you are trying to get dinner on the table, weed the garden or get the kids to school. Nevertheless, it seems to me that we ought to spend some time thinking about “what ifs” and make some minimal preparation.
In the area of health we actually have a lot of control if we decide to exercise it. We are in charge of what we eat and drink and ingest. There are protocols, for example, in alternative medicine for mitigating the effects of radiation. But it requires some time and study.
In the meantime, I personally will continue to be fearful of conventional medical practice and try my best to stay out of the system.