Tuesday, October 29

No More Long Lines At The Pump

This morning on my way in to work I was listening to NPR…
This is one of the perks of not being a full time bike commuter: I can listen to the news while I’m traveling to work.  That’s not justification enough to drive, but I gotta find the silver lining.
So this morning I was listening to NPR.  One year ago today Superstorm Sandy struck the eastern seaboard and wreaked nine million kinds of havoc.  The news story I zeroed in on was about how our fuel delivery system needs to be more resilient.  My kneejerk response was to shout at the radio: “It’s not always about putting gas in your car!!!”  Once I had my own car back under control and had ascertained that no other drivers had been harmed in the making of this blog post I gave the story a little more thought.
Conclusion?  It’s not always about putting gas in your car.
The 6 O’Clock news footage will always show long lines at the pump and suburbanites going all Mad Max on each other to fill up their thirsty SUVs, and to that end I would say we definitely need to focus less on our cars in times of crisis and worry more about health and well-being.  So what if you can’t get around as much as you want after a hurricane decimates your town?  You’ve got a grand excuse to just kick back and chill without running to the Quicki-Mart every fifteen minutes.
The story then mentioned fuel delivery to emergency service fleets, power to cell towers and things along those lines.  Okay, I can almost get on board with agreeing that prioritizing those items in a crisis and making the energy delivery to them more resilient, but…
Why don’t we also focus on creating resilience that does not involve fossil fuels?  Why does everything have to revolve around how we can get more dinosaur juice and wooly mammoth cookies to burn even when a huge wall of water wipes out the electrical grid?  Can’t we think of simpler and more reliable temporary measures that we don’t have to invest so much money and worry into?
What’s wrong with candles?  Having a good bike to get around?  How about cooking on a wood fire?
I was very concerned with my family’s resilience in the face of disaster when we lived in the Denver metro area.  Not long after we moved into our modest house in Arvada I took a long hard look around and realized we lived in a precarious place.  If the electrical grid went down we wouldn’t have survived long.  In densely populated suburbia there were few sources of water.  Natural and readily available fuels for heating, cooking and sanitation were scarce on the high plains.  
If a large scale disaster had happened, say a catastrophic flooding event, there would have been violent competition for resources. 
To me, resilience isn’t about demanding that the government can ensure the normal every day infrastructure, fuel, food and water delivery systems and sanitation removal systems will continue working without interruption, but that each household can fend for themselves for an undetermined amount of time…that each family or individual can adapt to change and employ their innate resourcefulness to survive and thrive in the face of disaster.
Resilience isn’t something you get from local government.  Local government can be resilient, but it cannot pass it on to you and me.  It’s time we began reshaping our expectations. It’s time we stopped thinking about how we can keep driving in a crisis and start focusing on how we can endure with joy.
We don’t all have to be doomsday preppers.  But resilience isn’t about maintaining an exaggerated standard of living at all costs.  It’s about thriving without relying too much on a system of support.

1 comment:

  1. Even the resilience of how we get food or medical supplies around is too dependent on fossiljuice.

    I am not a good enough organizer to do it, but it would be interesting to see something like the "Disaster relief trials" that bring out cargo-bike goofs like myself to see how we can get piles of stuff from one place to another while dealing with mocked-up obstacles. It's part contest, part showcase of how versatile humans and human-powered transportation can be.