What you should do to prepare for the day when the oil runs out
(The real `transition cultureí.)
Since my book Oil Apocalypse was published in 2007, it has been widely attacked Ė mainly by those who insist that there is plenty of oil and no chance of it running out. Bizarrely, some of the attacks have been designed to stop people reading the book at all. A representative of one small group called Transition Culture even wrote a piece entitled ĎWhy I Wonít Be Buying Vernon Colemanís Oil Apocalypse.í Commenting on books one has not read is, of course, something of an internet speciality among bloggers and twits who are, it seems, often driven by traditional motives such as jealousy or commercial expediency. (And why are so many of them so cowardly that they hide behind anonymity or pseudonyms?) It is, in my view, these opinionated half-wits who have damaged the reputation of the internet and dramatically reduced its value as an educational tool.
As it becomes clearer that the oil is running out, I am now including on www.vernoncoleman.com an extract from a chapter of my book Oil Apocalypse. The chapter is entitled Your Personal Survival Plan. I am printing it as I wrote it in 2007.
I wrote the book to draw attention to the problems ahead and to provide some thoughts on how we might all adapt our way of life to fit the new world. Maybe the representative of Transition Culture who (for whatever reason) so boldly told the world that he wasnít buying my book will find time to read this short piece. He may learn something about the world in which we will soon be living Ė and how we can prepare ourselves. I find it bewildering that anyone who is a member of an organisation with such a grandiose name should spend time and energy explaining why he doesnít want to read a book explaining why the world will be different when the oil runs out and how we can learn to cope with that very different culture. The transition from an oil rich culture to an oil poor culture will be a difficult one.
Your Personal Survival Plan
Having read this far you now know far more than 99.99% of the population know about the future we face together.
The first question you will probably want to ask yourself is: is this really true? If, despite all the evidence I have quoted, you doubt the truth about peak oil (and suspect that the politicians are right and the experts have got it wrong) then you must look at the odds.
Is there a 50% chance that the politicians could be right? Or do you think the chances that the politicians are telling the truth might be as high as 90%? Do you think someone might, after all, invent a perpetual motion machine and provide us all with everlasting supplies of free energy?
Now, change the problem.
If you knew that there was a 10% chance that your home would burn down in the next five years would you be alarmed? Would you take whatever action you could to prepare yourself and your loved ones?
The second question, which follows on from the first, is what are you going to do with the information youíve acquired?
There will, of course, be many people who will choose to ignore the truths in this book in the same way, I suppose, that many people deliberately ignore the truths about the relationship between smoking and cancer and eating meat and cancer. In a world where people buy cigarettes, light them and put them in their mouths when the packets in which the cigarettes are distributed contain large, clearly printed health warnings we should not, I suppose, be surprised by anything.
When faced with an unpleasant truth most people prefer to draw the curtains and turn on the television set, hoping that when they draw the curtains back the truth will have gone away.
But the truth isnít going to go away.
And one day, when the electricity goes off the people who donít want to face the truth will be forced to draw back the curtains.
And then they will have a very nasty surprise.
You, I hope, will be prepared.
This part of the book is designed to help you prepare yourself for the unavoidable crisis that is heading our way.
If you are not prepared, you will not survive.
For the first time in a long time, life will be about the survival of the fittest.
There are two things of which we can be certain.
First, that the Government will make no real effort to prepare the country, or us, for the coming chaos.
Second, when the problem arrives they will make a mess of handling it, limiting themselves to filling the streets with policemen and soldiers to bludgeon those involved in the inevitable angry protests.
So, you must make your own preparations.
Here are my recommendations:
1. Prepare yourself mentally for a different world. A world in which the rich ride horses, the middle classes use bicycles and the poor walk everywhere they want to go. Think carefully about your current lifestyle. And try to imagine how difficult (and different) things will be when there is no oil.
2. Energy prices are going to rise inexorably. Take time now to reduce the amount of energy you use. Cut out all non-essential energy usage. Within the home the greatest expenditure is usually heating. See how low you can turn down your thermostat and survive comfortably. Wear a sweater indoors and you may be able to cope with a lower temperature.
3. If possible you should acquire alternative forms of heating and cooking. Do not rely on one energy source. If you have gas central heating then you should have one or two electric heaters available. If you have to replace your oven consider purchasing one which will enable you to cook with either gas or electricity.
4. If you can become at least partly independent by installing an alternative personal energy source then now is the time to do it. Maybe a small windmill will supply at least part of your electricity needs. If you have a working but unused fireplace in your home then have the chimney swept and cleared so that you can have log or coal fires to keep warm. Start laying down stocks of logs and coal. These things wonít rot and I donít think there is much chance that they are going to go down in price.
5. Look around your home and make a list of all the gadgetry and equipment upon which you are dependant. How will you cope without each item? Can you accumulate spares? Can you learn how to repair any of these items? If you live in a block of flats, will you be able to cope when the lift stops working?
6. Prepare yourself for electricity blackouts by buying lamps and candles. Donít forget that you will need candle holders and matches. (And make sure that everyone in the family knows how to use them safely.)
7. If you are considering changing your motor car you might consider choosing a car which uses less fuel. Look also for a vehicle which has a decent tank capacity so that you can continue to make small journeys when there are fuel shortages. Reconsider all your travel needs. How much do you need a car of your own? Would you be able to cope more economically (and with a less hassle) if you simply relied on taxis and hire cars occasionally? How big a car do you really need? Must you buy a new car? An older car may need more maintenance but the maintenance will almost certainly be easier to manage than a car which is controlled by a series of complicated computers. If you donít have a bicycle this would be a good time to purchase one. If you canít ride one then now is the time to learn. Folding bicycles are easy to fit into a car and it should be possible to carry them onto public transport. Equip your bicycle with panniers and a basket so that you can carry shopping in it.
8. If you are choosing a new home consider your likely future needs. As I pointed out earlier, houses within walking or cycling distance of a railway station will sell at a premium in the future. A home that has its own water supply will be particularly attractive as public water supplies come under threat. But look for a spring or gravity fed supply rather than a bore hole. In order to get water out of a bore hole you will need an electric pump Ė and when the electricity goes off you will get no water.
9. If you have land consider establishing a vegetable garden where you can grow at least some of your own food. Try to grow as much food as you can. If you have little or no experience of gardening it will probably take you a year or two to learn some basic gardening skills. Acquire a small library of relevant gardening books. Try to manage your garden without using artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals. Even if you donít want to start your own vegetable garden straight away you should, perhaps, start thinking of living in a home where a vegetable patch would be possible. (And, ideally, you should have a vegetable patch which is not open to the world. Thieves of the future will not be stealing television sets and mobile phones. They will be stealing potatoes and runner beans. If you grow your own vegetables you will have to be prepared to protect them from thieves. You should prepare now by making your house formidable, impenetrable and uninviting. If you need to dig up your front lawn in order to grow more food you will need to think about ways to protect your crops from thieves.
10. Do not take on any additional debt. Try to pay off any existing debts as soon as you can. Credit card debts are particularly expensive and can be a huge drain on your personal resources. If interest rates soar your repayments could be crippling. Water and food are, like fuel, going to become extremely expensive. And the coming price rises in oil and food will be structural not cyclical. Oil and food will never again be as plentiful or as cheap as they are now. Your savings could help you survive.
11. This could be a good time to examine your life. How many of the things you spend money on are essential to your health and happiness? How many of the things you buy turn out to be a burden rather than an asset? Every time you make a big purchase consider not just the cash price but also the time price. How many hours did you have to work to earn the money to pay for it? If you are contemplating buying an electrical item that costs £500 and you earn £5 an hour net of taxes then the item you are thinking of buying will cost 100 hours of your life. Step off the consumer treadmill and you may feel physical and mental benefits.
12. Try to replace some of the more complex tools in your house with simpler tools that donít need electricity. For example, a small hand drill may be slower and harder to use than an electric drill but you will still be able to use it when there is no electricity. Accumulate simple, well-made hand tools to use around the house and garden.
13. This might be a time to start learning simple, practical skills so that you will be able to look after your home and your belongings without always being reliant on outside `expertsí. Learning basic carpentry and basic plumbing will provide you with considerable freedom.
14. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to obtain the services of a general practitioner out of hours. This is likely to continue (if not get worse). Hospitals are likely to deteriorate still further as they struggle to cope with a top heavy bureaucracy, an increasingly incompetent and unhappy workforce and an ongoing energy crisis. You should, therefore, make sure that you acquire some simple medical skills. Put together a simple first aid kit and a small library of easy to understand medical books. (But always seek professional help when necessary.)
15. Try to do as much shopping as you can at local stores and local markets. When buying food try to buy locally grown food. Big supermarkets may sometimes (but not always) be cheaper and it is certainly more convenient (if rather soul destroying) to do all your shopping in one store, but when oil becomes increasingly expensive the big stores will not survive. (Transporting food and other supplies to their stores will be costly and many of their customers will no longer have the transport available to enable them to visit out of town stores.) If you and your neighbours do not keep small shops and markets alive where will you shop when the supermarkets close down?
16. Try to limit the amount of rubbish you accumulate. As oil becomes increasingly expensive and local councils struggle to cope with their dramatically increasing pension obligations so local services will deteriorate considerably. Rubbish collections, already threatened, will be non-existent. Try to free your home of as much rubbish as you can now. And be cautious about taking home new rubbish and clutter. You will need to find new legal ways to get rid of your rubbish in future Ė either by burying it or burning it.
17. You need to prepare yourself to cope with the effects of global warming. Learn to dress for the weather not for the season. Be prepared for sudden and apparently inexplicable changes in the weather. Prepare your home to cope in high winds and be prepared to survive through long periods of drought. If you live in an area which is likely to flood then think about permanently moving your valuable possessions upstairs.
18. In the medium and long term our lives will be much more concerned with local issues than with national or international issues. Wherever you live it is important that your community should be designed for a world in which fossil fuels play a smaller and smaller part. This means that communities will inevitably become smaller and more self-contained. It must be possible for people to walk or cycle from home to work and from home to the shops. Communities must be built with pedestrians rather than motor vehicles in mind. Public transport must be improved dramatically. There is no point in spending vast amounts of money on huge road building programmes. Large administrative buildings are also a waste of money because, within a relatively short period of time, political and administrative control will become increasingly local. Local and national politicians must be persuaded to think of, and plan for, a future without oil.
The above extract was taken from the book Oil Apocalypse by Vernon Coleman.
Copyright Vernon Coleman