Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
By Cam Mather
As I watched the news reports last week about the cruise ship floating aimlessly with no power, I was thinking about how life in the city for most people is like living on a cruise ship.
In a city, and on a cruise ship, everything is provided for you. Food, water, electricity, heat, entertainment, climbing walls… it’s all just there, miraculously.
It seems to me that most city people don’t ever think about where all of this stuff comes from or what happens if it ever stops. I think anyone in the city who heats with natural gas and watches the movie “Gasland” (http://gaslandthemovie.com/) should have a visceral reaction when they are confronted with the impact of our pursuit of that fuel on other people’s lives and be inspired to switch their heating system to a geothermal system.
The reality is that most city dwellers won’t watch that movie and/or won’t think much about where the gas and water and gasoline and food come from. That cornucopia of excess that is a modern grocery store … it’s just always been like that and it always will be, right? A grocery store is like the all-you-can-eat buffet on the cruise. It’s just endless. Isn’t this bliss?
But what happens when there’s a glitch in the matrix and something goes askew? Poor old Carnival Cruises. It wasn’t bad enough that the Costa Concordia sunk off the coast of Italy, but last week another one of their boats had a glitch. A fire in the engine room shut the whole system down. No engine. No electricity. And of course they were in the Indian Ocean and it was so hot that the passengers had to sleep on the deck because it was too hot below deck without the air conditioning.
So let me get this right, you’re on the ocean, on a cruise, with ocean breezes, and the cabin windows don’t open and it’s only tolerable if the air conditioning is working? What is wrong with this picture? It all seems perfectly normal until some undersized piece of wire frays and overheats and causes a spark that starts a little fire that becomes a big fire that ruins everyone’s vacation. Oh, and the area of the Indian Ocean that they were stranded in is notorious for Somali pirates. Get ready to throw your Gucci luggage at the pirates climbing on to your ship!
You could say that this was just an isolated incident but I remember the last time it happened and it wasn’t that long ago.
Here’s a quote from a passenger;
"No water, no electricity, no elevators for obese people and handicap and very hot. Deck 7, the front desk was pandemonium, crazy."
I’ll just never understand why people don’t have a Plan “B.” And by Plan “B” I mean systems in place to keep the water running and heat on and food on the table in case one of those support systems goes down. People who have lived through ice storms and hurricanes understand what life is like without the basics, but rarely do they take action to avoid the problem the next time. “Oh there won’t be a next time.” “They’re making the system more reliable.” “The people in charge will take care of me.”
Oh sure they will. It wasn’t bad enough that the passengers on the Costa Concordia had to put their lives in to the hands of poorly paid, poorly trained staff, to figure out how to get off the boat. If I were making minimum wage chopping up vegetables for the all-you-can-eat buffet tables for rich people, I would have been one of the first off that ship. As it was, it seemed that many of those under-paid crewmembers did the best with what they had. And the captain in charge? Oh, he was on shore long before anyone else. That whole “the captain goes down with his ship” cliché ended decades ago. So passé.
I think that captain is a good example of the 1 per cent. They’ll be saving their own asses first. They’ve got their well-stocked ranches in Montana and an exit strategy to get there. And they won’t be hesitant to climb over anyone ahead of them who’s getting in their way.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to keep living your life like you’re on a cruise ship, or are you going to develop a Plan “B?” NOW is the time to do it - not when there’s a fire in the engine room.