Jan 072013

Blogging has been light in the doom and gloom department due to the holiday season and many other distractions. Who knows what will happen in the coming year. There are still many predictions of collapse or at least decline caused by (take your pick) the economy, climate change, war, peak whatever. Whether you believe it or don’t believe it, it still makes sense to prepare for hard times.

Lummi Islanders rekindled Disaster Preparedness in 2012 and are much more organized than we were before. Recent earthquakes in Alaska, awful hurricanes and unseasonably warm winter weather in the PNW remind us that it’s good to be ready for anything. Our island Disaster Preparedness took a leap forward with a MURS radio network, CERT and First Aid Training, increase in the number of authorized Red Cross Shelters, additional disaster supplies in place and neighborhood organizations.

On a longer term basis everyone needs to make their own assessment on their personal preparedness. Here’s mine:

1. Location, location, location: I contend that if there is trouble of any kind whether civil unrest, shortages, etc. that an island is a pretty good place to be. The fact that it is difficult to get to will be more advantage than disadvantage.

2. Community: If you live on the island you are de facto a member of a club and one that is very supportive. All the writers about collapse (Dmitri Orlov for example) emphasize the importance of having friends, a group that has your back. Having lived several places in my adult life it’s easy to report that Lummi Island is the strongest community I have lived in. To summarize points 1 and 2, step one in our own personal plan was to move to Lummi Island.

3. Food security: Pretty much everything revolves around food and it’s somewhat ironic that the Willows Inn has put Lummi on the map because of food. What I like about the Willows is the emphasis on local and wild foods. It’s an important emphasis and everyone needs to pay attention to the imagination and creativity shown by Mr. Wetzel.

In the last five years vegetable gardening has taken a great leap forward on the island with a Gardener’s Network, an Edible Garden Tour sponsored by the Beach School Foundation, a community garden on the Curry Preserve, two community orchards, several new gardens and participation by many people in Whatcom County CSAs. Nancy Ging has single-handedly raised awareness of local food through her Whatcom Locavore blog and columns in her Bellingham Herald articles.

I’m coming closer to my own goal of growing 50% of our food, following the planting plans of The Resilient Gardener Carol Deppe and the nutrient dense ideas of Michael Astera and Steve Solomon.

I’ve just added a 12′ x 12′ hoop house to the garden which, hopefully will extend the growing season.

It makes sense to me that, to supplement garden produce, we build up long term food storage in the Mormon style. It would be comforting to have about six months of rations available in the event that transportation problems develop over the short or long term.

4. Water: It doesn’t look like we’ll have a water problem of any kind this coming year. This rain should be giving everyone a good recharge. But it’s still important to practice conservation. People who water their grass should be mocked and scoffed at. Many people, including myself, have added rainwater catchment since the State changed the rules on rainwater collection. I am able to water my vegetable garden entirely with rainwater which would take pressure off the well in any drought years (assuming I get those tanks filled in the winter months). I could easily filter and pump this water to the house. Another benefit of living on the island is that we all have private water systems. This creates the added responsibility of using water conservatively and wisely.

5. Reskilling: The Transition Town movement is big on the concept of “reskilling” that is, “Re-learning the skills that our grandparents took for granted, such as how to use hand tools, how to build our own structures, how to mend and make clothing, how to make our own medicine, how to forage, grow, preserve and store our food.”

We’ve started our own reskilling program on the island through the Grange Country Living Series with workshops on gardening, backyard chicken raising, pruning, bread making, cheese making, chain saw maintenance, eating locally, seed saving, etc. Another series of reskilling workshops will take place beginning in February.

6. Transportation: This is the island’s big weak spot. There is way too much reliance on the ferry always being there and on schedule. PLIC has always been the logical organization to formulate contingency plans for disruption in ferry service. This should properly be a part of Disaster Preparedness because the majority of islanders would view a disruption of the ferry schedule as a disaster of major proportion. I am aware that there has been research into barge services and other operators equipped to supply the island. Disruption could come from many different directions: damage to the ferry, significant maintenance issues, relocation to a different destination (there’s a rumor that BIA hasn’t signed the new lease yet), fuel shortages, county budget crisis, etc. etc. If one doesn’t own a boat or have access to a boat getting on and off or obtaining supplies will be problematic. Weather will affect even a boat owner’s ability to leave the island.

A fleet of electric cars and trucks on the island and even more horse drawn equipment and bicycles built for hauling stuff would go a long way to alleviate on island transportation problems. Several of us have been pushing the County into making Lummi Island a golf cart zone. Used electric golf carts can be purchased cheaply and could handle many island trips without using gasoline.

7. Forecasts: The mainstream media and our government makes the pitch that the economy is improving, that tar sands, fracking and alternative energy will solve our future energy problems and that everything is okay. I doubt it based on following a number of contrarian writers:

Kunstler: http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/12/forecast-2013-contraction-contagion-and-contradiction.html

Taibbi: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/secret-and-lies-of-the-bailout-20130104

Hedges: http://www.truthdig.com/articles_by_author/Chris_Hedges/section/report/

Greenwald: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/series/glenn-greenwald-security-liberty

Celente: http://www.trendsresearch.com/gerald.php

Foss: http://theautomaticearth.com/

Sinclair: http://www.jsmineset.com/

Plus, many others. Follow the links; connect the dots for yourself.

And, if you don’t buy it, time to take the Crash Course which was the starting point of the blog about 400 posts ago.


  3 Responses to “Doom and Gloom For The New Year”

  1. Taken item by item, here’s my own reality check as we plunge over the cliffs of life into 2013.
    1. Agreed. I’ll take my current situation over anything a metropolitan area has to offer during crisis.
    2. Having strong neighborhood ties is the key here. Block get togethers are a great way to keep those bonds intact. I think Upper Granger is pretty tight and would encourage others to use Nextdoor to form your own, on-line.
    3. Food Security – some of us are bad gardeners, myself included after several years of trying. I’m hoping for some micro-economic solutions such as being able to barter my skills and services for something to eat during a prolonged emergency. Knowing my short comings, my several month food supply will have to do.
    4. Water. We have plenty of it in the ground. Getting it out could be a problem IF our shore power cable is severed by a ship anchor, or propane trucks quit running for a while, as during a major earthquake.
    5. Reskilling. Many of us retired from some job on the mainland that is of little value in isolation on an island. I attended most of the classes last year, and look forward to a another round of “making myself useful” during bad times and good. I hope Randy is up for organizing Round Two.
    6. Transportation: I did the research into barge and alternative transport to the island when the ferry goes down for an extended period. There are several ‘landing craft’ operators available during normal times. If any outage of the ferry is regional in nature, those barges will be gobbled by others, with deeper pockets. We really don’t have much of a Plan B.
    Electric cars seems like a good alternative (NEV”s & golf carts), but getting the council or the island to agree on anything seems like another fist fight in the making. (I’m still pissed we couldn’t have a civil discussion and outcome over flying the American Flag in the Ferry parking lot). Our island organizations do not seem capable of leading the way on something like flagpoles and Golf Cart zones, so anything I do will be as an individual.
    7. Agreed. The media knows squat! Nothing has changed in our economic situation since last year. If anything, it’s gotten worse, and tackling the problem has been kicked down the road again, until the next display of testosterone in DC at the next ‘drop dead date’ they have selected (debt ceiling next time around).

  2. You said: “I’ve just added a 12′ x 12′ hoop house to the garden”

    Envious. Very, very envious. That’s about half the size of my whole garden…

    Great article, Randy!

  3. What is Reskilling? TTB has launched its relnislikg program to help the people of Brixton learn skills that have been lost over the last 50 years and which will be needed after peak oil. The Reskilling Program will offer courses in areas including food and growing, sustainable energy, sustainable building construction/maintenance, transport, carpentry, textiles/clothing, health, cleaning and computing. A summary of what has been done so far can be found here

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