Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 3, nearlly there

As a springboard from yesterday's post about developing post-peak skills by way of learning from hobbies, today I'd like to have conversation about depression era careers, post peak work, and general low energy living. Yes, I know that we've moved a little away from imminent preparedness, but you see everyone has been such a good sport that we're either out of money or done.

There is something that has really caught my eye in my Internet reading the last two days and that is the widespread use of the word "depression", meaning economic depression. Yesterday's MSNBC business page used the word in conjunction with several stories (though they are missing from today's headlines), and other blogs I read, such as Sharon Astyk's, Shasha's Seeking Simplicity, Wendy's Home is..., to this worthwhile Opinion piece at the LA Times all are talking about an economic Depression. The Great Depression and our current situation even came up in the presidential debates last evening.

If these economic times are the beginning of The Decline, the Long Slide into a post-peak world - its beginning marked by economic crisis - then how might we think now about what employment will look like in the the future? As we can't see the future clearly, many are looking back at the Last Depression and remembering how things were and bringing the ideas forward. People worked hard, they just didn't earn a lot or have a lot of expectations for grand things. Sometimes, it seems as though people think that they'll just not have a job - and that may be true but you will always have work. Work isn't about getting a job done for someone else but rather about putting a roof over our heads and food on the table and maybe getting a little coffee.

If I were young and preparing for a future career, I'd look into medicine or engineering - but wait, I don't have much aptitude for mathematical things even with a do-over. Still if you are creative and technical, there will be a great need to rethink how we do things...starting now. No, there isn't a great technology that is going to suddenly replace our dependence on oil, but there is a world of creative ideas that can help us adapt to the world as we have it.

Other work that is emerging and will continue in the future is the local foods movement. Yes, it can get a little groovy and chic in places, but at it foundation is a sustainable, community oriented way of life. If you didn't grow a garden this year, you might be thinking of all the ways you can grow food next year. In the informal economy - one that is increasing in value with every day the formal one decreases, friendly trade and barter with either homegrown food or homemade useful items stretches the household budget and tightens community. My family's story from the Last Depression was that no one in the family went hungry because the women always grew a garden even if the men had to travel to the city to work for days at a time. Growing food translates into a career when individuals sell produce locally or make specialty items: local cheese, wine, meats, meals, bread...

Repurposing can be a career: what one is able to scavenge (and the rules get relaxed when the formal society crumbles) and make into a new useful item is a worthwhile career. Those who have started dismantling the McMansions for the salvage are probably at the cutting edge of that line of work.

A while back I read an article by Matt Simmons (OK it was probably last week but in my fuzzy brain it feel longer) in which he talked about the great need to bring the infrastructure to the consumers, the community. Those of you who have replied that you don't have particular talents other than being bossy - this one's for you. It takes tremendous organization, and push, and thick skin to rewire society. What your community will use in the future needs to be produced where you live - now there is a wide open field.

Construction will once again be a viable field. When we lived in a community that had undergone years of economic hardship and geographic isolation, there were a lot of folks who, because of lack of paying work, would help each other with projects on each other's houses. One friend needed help patching his roof, we needed help installing a stove pipe out the roof (need that help again but here everyone is busily employed), someone else needed booths made for a restaurant starting on a shoestring, someone else wanted to begin the process of building a (first) bathroom...it was all informal - no tit for tat. In the future, there may be a call for alternative building techniques. This same community did a lot with straw bale building.

In this same town I could point to babies and toddlers I knew to be born at home with the help of a local midwife. After I had had a child of my own, I went to one such delivery as an attendant to the mother. These same midwives treated heart conditions, spider bites, infections... herbally and homeopathically. I knew to expect trouble with my own deliveries and had to drive (in labor) to the nearest hospital that would take deliveries - 120 miles between phones or even ranches (no cell towers in the area then) in the adjacent state. Because there was a functioning outside economy at the time, there were also many artists who made a living there.

I found that people who could butcher animals where in strong demand as well. I for one was content to midwife for my small flock of sheep. I would deliver lambs (with vigilance to my flock I lost only one), dock tails, vaccinate, sheer, trim hooves, put up hay... but after all that, I gave myself permission not to have to butcher. The guy who did this was really hard to book as he had a lot of work in an area where that had to be done under the radar.

I saw on the news the other night that mechanic's shops are booming. People who would ordinarily buy a new car are now fixing the one they have. I thought to myself, funny when we needed a repair all the bays were empty. Just then the newscaster said, only a month ago, business was down - perhaps as people waited to see what would happen with jobs and economy but now delayed repairs have to be completed.

I would guess that solar energy - always a great option - will be taken more seriously as those who have to save up a significant amount of money to hook up utilities that have been shut off for non-payment may save a while longer and begin to invest saved money into off-grid technologies. One couple in my very small church is looking at buying unimproved land and not putting in the standard electricity and natural gas but instead focusing on the technology available for methane gas and solar. Did I have any influence on this decision... perhaps. ;-)

Perhaps an interesting activity would be to visit an historic farm with an eye to skills that may once again be in demand - with a 21st century twist. Our world won't ever again look like the world before modern technology, unless you head out on a piece of land and make it that way. For the majority of people who have to survive, the future world will take that spirit of ingenuity, some old time skills, some technology, and add in some of the local movements that are happening so far and turn it into a new world. The success of which will depend on creativity and innovation.

Old time careers that could see a resurgence: hat making, shoe repair, glove maker toy maker, textiles and tailor, brewer, cook, local grocer, farmer, smith, boat making, herbalist and mid-wife, veterinarian, tobacconist, communications, transportation (alternative), security, building repairs...

So, are you doing the job that you would ideally be doing? What would you like to do? If you have to reinvent yourself in a simpler economy, what calls to you? How can your work be retrofit?

8 comments:

Robj98168 said...

NO I am not doing the job I wish I could do-
I am so tired of strikes, and bosses- I really would just like to opoen a Used Book Store with a coffee stand. But everyone I know tells me that is a losing proposition. I have never seen why, as the folks who have them seem to be doing okay. I just need to not talk to naysayers! My life long dream is to have a book store that sells Used books, independent publishers with a coffee bar and meeting area for book clubs to meet. There I said it!

Anna M said...

One other thing to consider is not being able to do just one job but many. My income stream is from about 5 different sources, none of them huge, but put them together and we survive. Being a Jack of All Trades might be quite valuable in the days to come.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

We are doing what we want, and feel confident that our farming skills, which include building and repairing anything will serve us well. I still grow some hybrids, but I also save enough seed from OP plants that we would not have a problem. But, it has taken us a long time to get to this point, just because it is hard to live this way, when everyone around has the appearance of a life of ease etc.

My DH is currently working off the farm, but is working for a small city public works - he may get laid off, but ironically he and another fellow that work there are the only 2 out of 6 men that have the mechanical aptitude to actually do the job. But seniority will keep the people that have never done a good job, and push out the folks with the actual brain power to do the job.

But, we would survive, we have gravity flow water, we heat with wood and have the ability to heat our water also with wood. So our basics are taken care of.

A thing I forgot add to the stocking up post a last week, was cover crop seed, carrot seed, and straw for any small livestock you may have. The seeds will keep for quite awhile and fertility for gardens is very important if you really are trying to feed yourself from your garden. The straw would help bind the nutrients from any livestock (chickens, rabbits)you might have in a small setting and make your composting efforts go a little farther. Why carrot seed? Because carrots are notoriously hard to save seed from without cross pollination with Queen Anne's lace which is everywhere. Plus, carrots are one vegetable that stores well, needs less fertility, and just about everyone will eat.

Sorry about the long comment...

Alexa said...

I have really appreciated this series, thank you. My roommates are convinced the stores will always be stocked and snicker at me; I roll my eyes at them [g].

I've been using the HSA account to flesh out the medicine cabinet. I'll probably use the remainder to buy first aid supplies to donate to the food shelf (if they'll take them). We stand to lose a fair amount of HSA money at the end of the year - probably a good sign of good health! But it's a work benefit that isn't payable any other way.

Hausfrau said...

OT - Anna M or anyone - where can I get a bread pail? I can't seem to find them online....

simplicityfirst said...

No, I am not doing what I wish I was doing. In fact, I do not think there will be a need for my profession for long. I am a graphic designer by trade and professor of that in order to pay for health insurance. As noticed by my profession, as the economy falters, there is less demand for designers. As that happens, I see fewer students going into hte field. Less need for art professors....

Outside of the profession, I am doing what I want; staying at home with kids, cooking, cleaning, growing our own food, learning to spin, knitting, etc. I am trying to find a way to make a living in what is needed in my very rural region. I still am not sure what is needed (we have been here for about 4 months). A neighbor raises chickens for eggs and butcher as well as beef and pork. Another neighbor raises sheep for wool. If I find the right thing to raise / grow/ or create, I thin kwe could fit into the *local* economy.

I think DH's job is fairly secure (as an ER doctor). However, it entails much traveling from one rural hospital to the next. Obviously not peak oil friendly. He hopes to doctor the local Amish. What a future ahead of us!

Chile said...

Hasufrau - I've been looking, too. There's enough elderly people here that I keep hoping one will turn up in the thrift stores. You might try putting a "Wanted" ad on your local craigslist...

Regarding post peak oil jobs, we both have multiple skills that we hope to use for barter and cash. In the meantime, my sweetie will keep his job as long as he can since people will always need some cash (property taxes, for instance). We're also looking at all the ways we can continue to pare down our expenses, learn to do without, and produce ourselves. It's a daunting proposition.

Rob - if you move closer, I'd hang out in your bookstore!

Oh, I also wanted to mention this post reminds me of a great article I read about being a kleenex or a handkerchief. Are you disposable or reusable? I should contact the author to see if I can reprint it on my blog...

Wendy said...

I like robj's dream. That's mine, too, but right now, we have a little bit of a saturation of used bookstores in my area - a couple of which I could never compete against (their inventory is all donations, and so they can sell the books for pennies on the dollar).

When I first started considering what my job would look like in the future, I never considered that I would be doing what I'm doing now, but in thinking about it further, I've changed my mind. There has always been a use for a "scribe", which is what I, essentially, am. I'm also a Notary Public, which doesn't require any energy at all. In fact, I think I might actually have MORE business than I do now - with just those two skill sets.

But I'm also studying herbalism, and I have a teaching degree, and I garden and can bake and can sew. I think we'll be okay.

My husband IS a jack-of-all-trades, but he's also a master of several. So, I don't believe he'll have any trouble making money, either.

This is one of the few areas where I feel very confident that we will have no trouble. My only concern is whether the income stream will be large enough to cover our mortgage payment ;).