The last two weeks I have spent a lot of time research Peak Oil, Farming, Homesteading and related subjects. If the information on Peak Oil is correct then we will be facing a very very different future 100 years from now, one where energy is a lot more limited and “civilisation” as we know it (fast paced, energy intensive, consumerist) will be all but gone. The Post Carbon organisation has done research that suggests we cannot just simply switch to renewables and carry on with our current lifestyles. Renewable energy will be an important part of the future but it won’t be able to produce anywhere near the energy requirements we will have, especially if the developing world wants the same standard of life as we do (and why shouldn’t they?). John Michael Greer has written a book called “The Long Descent” in which he looks at the situation and argues that with the Peak Oil situation we face a long period of decline from here on as society de-industrialises (see my previous post here for more information on what Peak Oil is, the evidence and the implications.) This isn’t some apocalyptic end of the world scenario, it is simply the inevitable cycles of civilisations and has happened many times in the past (albeit on a much smaller level) – Societies rise and they fall….and then the cycle begins again. Over the past 150 years, we have built our civilisation on oil and other fossil fuels, and as they run out and our civilisation declines, we will have to transition. It won’t be easy, in fact it may be extremely painful, but it will have to happen nonetheless.
My post however is not meant to be negative but to focus on answers. There is already a movement of people working to help society prepare for this future. The future will be one of re-localisation – going back to small self-sufficient and resilient communities. There is talk that the primary socio-economic trend of the 21st century is going to be de-urbanisation i.e. many many people getting back to the land and a rural way of life. This may mean a lot more farmers, but I think its more likely we will see something closer to the 1940’s “dig for victory” situation in the UK…where instead of lawns, most people choose to grow a lot of their own food in their gardens. We may see many people setting up small homesteads and trying to be more self sufficient, whether in cities or on small plots of land in the country. If you look at some of the exciting things happening in the Permaculture communities e.g. forest gardens, you can see that its possible to grow almost all your own food in a reasonably small garden..and with little effort. There are many other aspects of homesteading that will need to be learned too – animal husbandry, canning & preserving, solar energy & wind turbines, bee-keeping, carpentry, maybe even building our own houses. When I considered my future, the idea of farming, even on a small scale had never occurred to me. I’m not the most “outdoorsy” type but the more I think about it, the more attractive it feels. A much simpler, though perhaps harder, life, more in touch with the cycles of the natural world. A life with little money or travel, but few bills either. A life not pursuing the next “big thing” in the technological and consumerist world, but also much more immune to the shocks and economic problems of the wider world. A life where I take personal responsibility for my own health needs and where I learn the lessons of the past about not wasting, making things myself & pursuing local rather than global community. If this is not my own future, it will certainly be the future of our children and grandchildren and therefore we have to a duty to ensure they can face that future with all the knowledge they need. Perhaps its time to start planning for Farming and Forest Gardens to become a big part of my life, of our lives.