Collapse Practice I

Vignette 1
We drive to town through the smoky skies for our weekly errands. Arriving at the business to which I’d emailed my files for printing, I learn that their email is down, and they haven’t received my files. I have my laptop with the files, but they don’t have wireless service or a USB storage device. There is no means of transferring the files to them. Lesson: bring the thumbdrive or flashcard reader as well as the laptop. Resilience means having backups if plan A doesn’t work.

Vignette 2
We head towards the grocery store and learn there is a power outage in town. The grocery store has closed down. No groceries. We shop weekly for groceries, and this is our day. Can we eat for the week? The good news is we’re prepared on this front. We will be picking up our local raw milk and eggs later that evening. We have plenty of food in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. We will miss fresh produce. But we can eat just fine this week.

Vignette 3
We’re scheduled to meet out-of-town visitors at a local restaurant. Since we’re near the restaurant, we swing by and find out that it will be closed because of the power outage. We need to phone our visitors to arrange to meet for dinner elsewhere (as well as to phone other restaurants to find out who’s even open on a Monday night).

Fortunately, we have their cell number.  We have just gotten a different cell phone service and this will enable us to test its coverage in town. Bad news: coverage is abysmal; a call never even connects. Ditch that service. There were very few people out and about, and I was hesitant to use a stranger’s cell phone (that might change in future!).

We drive a few blocks to use the landline at a friend’s house. Oops, with the power outage and her electricity-powered phone, there’s no access to landline phone service. Which means that pay phones are out, too, if we can even find one of that disappearing breed. Giving up on calling our guests, we return to the restaurant and wait until they arrive. Fortunately there’s still gasoline for the cars. Right now, anyway. Of course, that’s the least efficient communication means. What if the restaurant were many miles away?

On the way home after dinner, we say, “Today was Collapse Practice. What to learn from this, for next time?”

Collapse requires resilience in a range of scenarios. Resilience, the ability to withstand shocks. An ability to adapt to the unexpected. We aren’t going to be able to think of everything, but increasingly we need to think of continency plans, backups, possibilities, and preparations.

Especially, I need to shift my feeling along with my thinking. Rather than being surprised and frustrated or angry, I need to EXPECT such things. To expect breakdowns, shortages, failures, lack of communications, a long time to get replacement parts, not being able to get through to a real person in some faceless large corporation. I need to see that in this New Normal, “little” collapses like these will occur more often and from a variety of angles. My frustration will be less if I can take a deep breath, remind myself this is The Way It Is Now, and then cultivate adaptation, resourcefulness, and quite likely cooperation with other people — neighbors, friends, and strangers.


  1. Stuart M. says:

    Dear Desiree,

    That sure is a lot of energy you have there! I hope you can keep it up. The economic meltdown has many people questioning their belief in the American Dream of more, more, more. I hope they look into simplifying their lives. Unfortunately, oil prices have dropped for the time being and I suspect Americans will return to their wasteful ways. But waiting in the wings for any signs of a recovery are commodity prices which will shoot up the first chance they get. Peak Oil will be on the agenda again. Here in Japan the gasoline prices are again the same as they were when I first came to Japan five years ago. I will keep riding my bicycle, thank you.

  2. thank you for this post, i do this all the time too! i am constantly thinking about resiliency. i look around the house and think about what will i do when i cant buy this or that, or buy a replacement for something,or replacement parts to fix something. or when this thing wont work because there wont be any electricity and gas. i think about how can i learn to make things like socks. im saving up for a non-electric washing machine, and a composting toilet so i can stop polluting our water supply with sewage.

    i have learned to weave, and i am going to be learning micaceous pottery(you can make pots from clay you find, stick it in a fireplace or woodstove, pull it out and use it to cook beans!!!

    not only am i obsessed with skills but also with pollution on a small scale(namely my contributions). i recently read the book “whats in this stuff”. WOW! i didnt know everyday hand soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc, even “natural” and “organic” products have chemicals that are toxins and estrogen mimics(and a whole lot more fun stuff).

    they have ingredients that the EPA considers toxic waste, and we put this stuff all over our bodies and then it goes into the water supply and then INTO our bodies(and unfortunately in some cases into breast milk and into babies). i stopped using commercial products, because they are evil and we have a well, so i figure after i use them, im drinking them.

    this is why peak oil is so important to me, whatever situation we create before the collapse of things, is the bed we made and the bed we will have to lie in.

  3. Finally another post from Janaia! I hope everyone survived the “collapse” on Wall Street that recently happened. I admit I was in a funk for about three days, questioning my whole life strategy and losing about 8 pounds from worry! If there is one word that I am coming to hate, it’s “perspective.” “Keep things in perspective.” “Lost decade, gained perspective.” I would appreciate a little less perspective from Wall Street, thank you!

    Well, as Janaia says, I have to stop being shocked and EXPECT economic turmoil in the future. It’s going to be a rough ride. A recession is inevitable as Americans will reduce their spending. Thanks to Peak Oil one can hope that a resurgence in local manufacturing and biofuel production will eventually restart the American economy. But right now, I have to concentrate on keeping my job!

  4. Very insightful post Janaia! Indeed, resilience and situational awareness are excellent traits to have. Learning from new problems instead of wasting time panicking is a very good response. As has been mentioned before, we humans are very good at short term adaptation but long term planning is something most of us find very difficult.

    Hearing about the disaster in Texas is heartbreaking. People are furious that the government isn’t there to help them immediately. If they had just minimally prepared for such an event with some water and food they would be relatively okay. They even had a story on NPR this morning about police presence at a Home Depot for a line to purchase generators. Scarce resources meant a risk of resource conflicts between patrons.

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