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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Embracing the Doom: What kind of doomer am I?

Well according to last week’s Star article I am officially a doomer simply because I accept the possibility that the last 50 years of greed, excess and prosperity may come to an end , the result of peak oil. I'm totally comfortable with this label.

However unlike classic peak oil doomers I also believe that debt, monetary and fiscal mismanagement, environmental degradation, global warming, and even unsustainable population growth are all issues that alone on in concert will lay a world of pain on our species and/or our planet in the coming years. I don’t even need to be right about all of these issues because each one alone could sow the seeds of despair.

So I if I’m a doomer what should I do about it?
What are my options?
My priorities?
What kind of doomer am I?

I think the last question may be the most important in deciding how people will deal with the issue of our impending doom, so let’s look at the kinds of doomers, their sub groups, those confused with doomers, and the various strengths and weaknesses of particular survival strategies.


Despite the stereotypes portrayed in many articles the vast majority of doomers I know are not survivalists.

Survivalists have been a noticeable and growing subculture since the height of the cold war and have not suddenly sprung up just because of peak oil. While part of the movement was based on nuclear survial others rose from people’s fear of a societal collapse due to monetary issues like devaluation, inflation and the destruction of stable hard currencies that were replaced with Fiat currencies. Earlier preparedness advocates were often divided between retreaters, those who would opt out of normal society and become remote homesteaders or hermits (that crazy guy on the hill) and those who were more militant, who talked at length about self defence and purchased significant firepower; these were relegated to the survivalist category.

While some cold war survivalists turned away as the threat of nuclear Armageddon abated the hard core simply adapted to other threats like Y2K, terrorism, natural disasters, pandemic, the rise of domestic fascism, the old standby of financial collapse or more wacky reasons like the end of the Aztec calender, magnetic pole reversal, dark planets or stars swinging through the solar system or the weird acid trip Armageddon of Revelations.

The common Survivalist

Survivalists are not just people who are prepared but people who also expect societal collapse, lawlessness, banditry and feel the need to defend themselves and every damn combat ration they managed to hoard. Many survivalists also have their own social agenda be it racial, religious, anti government/anarchist/radical libertarian, anti urban and some even supporting class warfare.

Not all survivalists are doomers and few doomers (IMO) are survivalists.

The classic Survivalists take preparations seriously and often form communities of like minded people giving them strength of purpose and manpower but the advantages of this set are often offset by their very agendas. Today is an age of information and if they think their compound, stash of weaponry and often intolerant social ideals have not been flagged by law enforcement, municipalities and their neighbours they are naïve. While their claims of defensive preparations may be legitimate they may find their failure to integrate, share and aid the communities they choose to bunker up in make them a perceived threat. The survivalist’s own agenda and beliefs may create the very confrontations they expect.

Much of the survivalist literature I’ve seen seems to believe that a finite crisis will pass allowing the survivalists a “coming out “ where they will be higher up the pecking order than before the crisis. Storing food rather than being prepared to grow their own seems prevalent which can also add to the perception that they may become predators rather than neighbours. Hoarding is all fine and good for a short emergency but the ability to grow food for future seasons is paramount for Kunstler’s Long Emergency

The Retreater

The retreater like the survivalist takes preparations very seriously but is more likely to live the life rather than just plan for it. These people will move into a remote area alone or in larger groups in a belief that a low profile avoidance strategy is a better bet than the “Let them try to take my MREs“, gun toting bravado of the survivalist. Retreaters do not have to be pacifists any more than all survivalist are looking for a fight it is simply a variation in optimizing ones chances of survival.

Retreaters are more likely to live full time in their retreats and try to become totally self sufficient. This drive to be away from society pushes them to the fringes, away from good land, medical services, and even neighbours. The choice of being cloistered like a hermit on marginal land poorly suited for agriculture begs the question “is this a life worth living”. To simply live and survive may not be enough for many people and the lack of community and social interaction may weigh heavily on those opting to retreat from society.

Both the survivalist and retreater share the worse case scenario of how the future will unwind believing there is no point staying part of society and trying to save it for everybody. This seems an overly pessimistic and selfish vision and I cannot consider myself either of these despite the label of doomer I proudly wear.

Homesteader: back to the land

Like the retreater the homesteader moves back to the land and tries to achieve some level of self sufficiency. A homesteader may still be on the grid but in most cases will also be preparing their property and lifestyle for a time when private or government utilities and services may be lost or become unreliable. Unlike the retreater the homesteader is not limited to live on the fringe of society, rather their limitations on location are based more on affordability and their personal land preferences than a need to hide.

Homesteaders will not shy away from contact and the wise ones will dive in with both feet in an attempt to forge lasting bonds and friendships with the established community. It is nearly impossible for any person to become proficient in all the skills needed to be self sufficient. Not only would it be difficult to learn all the skills it would be inefficient in both time management and the cost to acquire the specialty tools required. Horse ownership gives us a perfect example, while the average person can learn to care for and groom a horse, and perhaps even give it rudimentary training the average person is not going to have the tools, training or experience to be their own vet or farrier. A homesteader would need a great many skills to become totally self sufficient including farming, animal husbandry, building skills, cooking, baking, hunting, canning, bee keeping, cheese making, brewing, nursing, midwifery, sewing, weaving, spinning, knitting, shearing, yada, yada, and will most definitely never be totally self sufficient. Society and technology even at the level of 1600s cannot be individually sustained, community is a must and something that will cause most retreaters and survivalists to fail.

Homesteading like the other models can be single family, extended family or a cooperative venture like the Eco village.

As a doomer I see the homesteading model as preferable survival strategy. Anyone who can both feed his family and have surplus to trade for more specialized services and products will be as close to self sufficient as practical and depending on the level of surplus may actually be considered affluent. I also believe I have a wide enough skill base to at least make a go of it.

Adaptors: Adapting in place

Most people because of their current employment, family ties, lack of the capital needed to start over, the shear lack of the skills required, ignorance of the issue or just because the have no desire to live in an rural setting will be forced to adapt in place and make the best of what they have; they just don’t know it yet and are in for one hell of surprise.

Unlike the masses who will have this decision made for them by circumstance, some doomers actively decide to remain and adapt to the coming changes where they are. These are the people who are already modifying their houses with small wind mills, solar panels, solar hot water and high levels of insulation so that their homes can remain comfortable in a low carbon economy. Adaptors vary in their preparedness plans but often do things like replace their lawns with veggies, hide rabbit farms in their garages, join community gardens and advocate for more gardens, lobby for zoning changes to promote urban agriculture, join CSAs, form food co-ops or buying clubs, buy local food, learn to can and cook from scratch, take up home crafting like knitting, weaving, spinning, sewing.

Like the other varieties of doomers Adaptors probably still store extra quantities of food, water, medicines, seeds and barter goods it’s just they don’t plan on moving. Some may even own a gun despite their lack of bunkers and camouflage macho wear. Adapters may also be reorganizing their homes so they can become multi generational homes or welcome friends or strays to lower living costs.

An adaptor may not have the means to BUY into adaptation but rather be a King of the thrift store or Queen of the garage sale going out of their way to duplicate the thrift and creativity that served people so well in the Great Depression.

Of all the options adapting in place is the one that will be the norm because most people will have no choice. Cities hold the majority of jobs, the majority of homes, and the majority of government services and despite an eventual need for additional agricultural labour to offset some of the energy inputs, people are not going to flee the cities unless everything falls apart and the survivalists were right.

The adaptors and homesteaders both believe change is coming but believe that we can survive, thrive and have purposeful lives even in a post or low carbon environment. I have to have to accept this belief and work towards it as the best option I can provide for my children. While I may be wrong I will not give into chaos and anarchy willingly.

Decision making

People have to decide several things

Are the fears of doomers regarding peak oil without merit? (no!)

Can you say without out a doubt that you believe bad things never happen and that oil depletion can be managed without a severe impact to your lifestyle? (no!)

If you can say at this point you are not a doomer go back to reading your people magazine and drinking your Staryucks coffee. (oh look, Brad is having Angelina Jolie cloned so she can pump out more babies faster, but rumours have it Aniston stole the zygote with the intention of raising it to hunt down the real Jolie. Wow fascinating)

If you can see the threat, what can you do about it? (Prepare?, ignore?, suicide?)

If you do want to prepare which survival strategy outlined above suites your means, yours skills, your willingness to uproot and your view of how bad it can get?

In my case this has been a long evolved decision process. I’ve always wanted to live the homesteading life even before I knew of any sound reasons to want it, yet I do not have the means to leave my job in the city and give it a go. My job currently ties me to a desk 60k from where I live and I cannot support two separate properties. I’ve found no kindred spirits to share a property with and my employer despite selling telecommunications does not believe in telecommuting for its union employees, sucks to be me!

So while I would prefer the homesteader’s route and have tried to learn some of the relevant skills, I will be forced to become an adaptor and can only hope that some opportunity will come along allowing me to change course before it’s too late. I also believe that at some point there will be increased pressure for people to return to the land in order to off set expensive energy inputs with manual labour. When this time arrives I want to own my own land and treat people fairly rather than becoming someone else’s serf or share cropper

What kind of doomer are you?

Related Posts

Embracing the Doom Pt2 How Doomy how Soon?

Embracing the Doom Pt 3: Urban Adaptors and Food

Being your own seed bank

Renewal in canning and stealth doomers

Top doomer accessories
.Recommend this Post


Anonymous said...

I'm a wait-and-seer kind of doomer.

While In Place Adapter is closer to my desired goals, its tough to get even there.

Its the unknowns. What good agricultural land will become marginalized and vice-versa? How fast will doom descend, how quickly (if at all) will anarchy reign? Even if I laid aside 5 years worth of supplies, would that be enough.

Would life be worth the effort?

That last question is the key for me. If everyone's scrapping for the leftovers, I'm not sure I want to be in the fight.

ChristyACB said...

Forget Jolie and Anniston..I think we might be clones! LOL.

I'm pretty much like you in almost the exact same circumstance, except that I do own a small additional property in the JUST RIGHT area with the exactly correct density. Whoohoo.

But, I can't live there yet and am as tied as you to my urban/suburban border home.

Great post. Now an adapter who is way ahead in terms of doing for self with the potential to adapt in a smaller less dense and more sufficient community if I can get there.

It is all going to be a matter of timing..yes?

BTW, your blog is just too fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Christy, having the land is the key, your half way there. I don't now how much you have but just having it gives you the opportunity to plant fruit trees, berries, some perenial food plants, bee hives, drop a used camper or a yurt there for weekend farming.

For this very reason I'd be content to have a place right now even if I could not move. While I don't think there would be time for fruit trees to mature before the were needed, they at least would have a head stat.


Chrystal Ocean said...

Then there are those who have been adapting for years due to their extremely stringent incomes. For them, the global changes, environmental or otherwise, mean nothing but business as usual. In other words, they aren't "adapters" per se because they've no room left to manoeuvre.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Yuppie, but with rural village land in a place I can't access without a 3h car trip :-( The land has no buildings on it, but has some trees, shelterbelt, and chokecherries that never produce right anymore.

This blog post rocks; it might be the best of the year so far in any that I've read.

Anonymous said...

Saskboy, considering I'm pushing it to sound literate at the best of times thanks.

Peter Dodson said...

I am most definitely an adaptor right now, with hopes of getting back to the land in the future. My partner's family has farm land so if the worst comes, we can always fall back. But I would much prefer to stay in the city with a community of people who will look after each other.

Anonymous said...

Looks like I'm somewhat of a Homesteader. A couple of acres, century farmhouse (heated with wood), a leaning barn (serves as a woodshed if nothing else), three wells on the property (two dug, one drilled), a community of several hundred a 15 minute drive away. Hope to get a windmill up this summer (nothing but wind coming off the Northumberland Strait), would like to be off the grid in 1-2 years. The idea of farming bores me to tears, but there is a farmers' market during the summmer and 50 lb. bags are likely more cost-effective relative to my blundering about with my time and labour.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm a beyond suicide kind of doomer. If I die I die.

I'm going to die anyway.

Can't get out of that one.

Might as well do exactly what I always wanted in life -- which didn't happen to be arming myself and my family and stockpiling MREs! I'd rather leave dying for when I'm dying and until then try to work on this LIVING thing.

It's not that I don't believe in peak oil STRAIGHT. My peak oil STRAIGHT comes with a few to multitinous humanity vaporizing Nuclear explosions. Why do we still have these weapons? For the Ruskies? For the Terrorists? For the Health Care Reforming Socialist seeming Capitalist Bastards? Tut. Tut. POPULATION CONTROL. It's the "High Titanic Clockwork" borrowing a phrase from a great poet. Whe the supply of resorces deminishes way below being able to maintain the Status Quo REDUCE DEMAND!!!! Oh and by the way if you buy food from a store you are SO "on the grid" in fact I just decided even if you grow food you're "on the grid" on the grid of human life, the solar system, etc.

Maybe I'm an Anti-Survivalist. I accept that I probably don't have ultimate control (or much of any really) for when, where and how I die. I also realize that said "death" in inevitable. It may involve Peak Oil. I might go out like that, we might. I'm just not going to give up LIFE -- doing what I love as a human being, scrawling on cave walls or paper, loving, seeing, feeling, because DEATH is impending. Death might be great. I'm not too sure about liking the extinction of my species tho. Maybe I can burry, or embed in the current discourse for the future, or otherwise attempt to continue some aspects of it's culture which I really like.

Seth O'Rourke said...

Every day my rat's go through Dooms Day. I fill their food bowl, watch them fight over stashing it in their private stashes, then comes the night when they both ruthlessly and violently clean one another over the food shortage, then the next day they are full of joy as I replenish their food source.

Today our lives are all exactly like that. Only problem is we have become so dependent on a non-replenishing energy source ;)

Conny said...

I think Seth's rats are just bored.