First thing every Monday I read James Howard Kunstler’s blog. He writes essentially the same essay every week and has for years but is such a skillful and colorful writer that I still look forward the latest iteration. His thesis is easy to recap: Happy Motoring will come to an end. Suburbia is screwed because it is so auto dependent. The party is almost over. Things could get pretty bad. Young people ought to become farmers. And, we better get used to the idea of living smaller and more locally for the time when we no longer have fuel or are able to afford fuel to jump in our car and drive or fly wherever we wish to go.
I’m sympathetic to his point of view and have taken some basic steps to prepare (as in “prepper”) for the economic and social disaster that might be just around the corner. That is, in fact, the continuing point of this blog—to suggest that, while we do our thing, we should give some thought to what our future might look like as individuals and as a community.
Living on an island it is a bit easier to imagine being cut off, to be forced into localism by circumstances beyond our control. As an example, if the ferry craps out we have a whole lot of problems to solve quickly and probably expensively. In the case of a general economic breakdown which more than a few commentators believe is possible, we’d need to do some real work to keep our heads above water.
One interesting thing to think about is who would have value if we were forced to go it alone. If we had to rely on ourselves and our own resources it’s obvious that people who grow food, raise food, know how to forage for food or catch food would be extremely important. Anyone who has skills relating to wells, water, water systems, water purification would be in demand. A person capable of making fuel out of available material could write their own ticket. Those with construction, mechanical and engineering skills would be very busy. A bike builder or bike repair person would be a VIP. Scroungers and inventors would be very popular.
We would need medical and surgical talents as well as unconventional healing skills. Security could be an issue. Like it or not, islanders knowledgeable with weapons could be important to us. We would want to keep our fire department staffed and trained and fueled somehow. Woodcutters, bakers, home health care, nurses…I could go on about skills that would be required to maintain some semblance of comfort.
Saturday, at the Grange Country Living Series Workshop, Ann MacDonald, a voice coach and therapist took a group of us through an hour of voice work, a reminder of another important set of skills a small community would need if cut off for what ever reason. We would need, in fact demand, the ability to entertain ourselves: to sing, play, act and write.
Ann’s workshop reminded me that I (and we) don’t sing enough. There is a psychological obstacle for most of us to singing. We don’t think we sound that good. Shockingly, with Ann’s coaching the singing among the dozen or so who were there was very pleasing. We learned, for example, that it was easier to sing standing on one foot. It forced us to concentrate on balance and those balancing muscles in the core of our body, which are the muscles that actually produce the sound, rather than thinking about making a noise in our throat. It was fun. It was therapeutic. It was motivational. We ought to start now to develop a choral group on the island as one of most important things we could do to get ready for an uncertain future.
At the end of the session she sang for us sitting in a chair, relaxed and patient, letting the sound flow. It would be nice to be able to sing like she did.
Maybe we can.