Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Recently I was invited to become involved with a documentary that is being made for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for my American readers.) I turned them down. It must seem weird for me to turn down a chance for shameless self-promotion but my dealings with the producer left a bad taste in my mouth and I have learned, with Michelle’s encouragement, to pay attention to my instincts.
The documentary is actually going to be produced by an independent film company that has contracted to provide it for the CBC. They are looking for “preppers” to interview. For anyone who is new to the term, “preppers” are people who are preparing for TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It.) It’s not necessarily the 2012 end of the Mayan calendar scenario when we all get swallowed by volcanoes or hit by asteroids end-of-the-world sort of preparation, since there’s not really much you can do about an asteroid impact. You can dig a really deep bunker, but if the asteroid raises a cloud of dust that blocks the sun, well really, who wants to be around after that? I’d rather just be standing in the yard as it hit.
Preppers are generally more concerned about a disintegration of civil society that could come from rapid economic collapse, a world war or a rapid collapse of the energy system that keeps our world together, etc. After seeing how quickly chaos developed after Hurricane Katrina, or how close the world came to economic collapse in 2008, I certainly understand why a lot of people are concerned. I wrote my book, “Thriving During Challenging Times,” as a sort of a “TEOTWAKWI Light Version”. I think the fact that we’re past peak oil and that we used up any buffer of fiat currency hope in 2008 means that the system is very tightly wound and a soft landing sort of scenario is plausible. I believe that the 25% of the U.S. population that is un- or under-employed would agree with me because they’re already living it.
The documentary producer wanted two things from me. They asked me to go into a home and help a typical suburban family prepare for a soft landing. From a writer’s/publisher’s point of view this sounded like a great opportunity. Free publicity for my books and my consulting work. The problem was that the family they were going to use is in Montreal (about a 4 hour drive away.) I quoted what I thought was a reasonable fee for my time that day and was quickly informed that the CBC does NOT pay people to be in documentaries. I said “So let me get this straight, you get paid, the camera people get paid, the sound people get paid, the film editors get paid, the owners of your company get paid, but the person who is actually going to provide the information, the person who has researched the topic and really has all the knowledge, gets nothing.” Hmmm… what’s wrong with this picture?
It gave me a new perspective on the mainstream media I am already highly skeptical about much of what I see and read. Everyone has a bias, I understand this. Now that our Prime Minister Steven Harper is appointing most of the private broadcasters to the Senate, we know that they have a conservative bias in Canada. In terms of documentaries, you realize that right off the bat anyone involved is there with an agenda. They aren’t getting paid so they are there to sell something, or influence a decision process. From this point of view it was a great learning experience for me.
My other main hesitation was the fact that this is a documentary about how to survive collapse. So what I’d basically be doing is painting a huge bulls-eye on my house and letting everyone know where to head when the “fit hits the shan.” So that didn’t work for me either. I’m not exactly hiding out, like many survivalist types, since my books and my blog put me out there. But my goal has always been to help others to make themselves ready for what may come. In my workshops I suggest that people should have a rural place to get to in times of disruption. I make it abundantly clear that my house doesn’t count!
Instead of devoting any time to this documentary, I decided I that I will continue to promote our own smaller scale workshops that we hold here at the house. I like them a lot. They are much more intimate and the people who come are enthusiastic and open to new ideas. We meet a lot of like-minded people at our workshops, and that is always a treat.
In our fall workshop I had a lot I wanted to pack into the day, but I had to back off a bit and give the participants some time to mingle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of 12 strangers become so completely comfortable with each other so quickly. During the outside tours of the solar panels and the wind turbine and the gardens, there were times when several people ventured off on their own to talk. It was great to see people making new connections.
I think sharing lunch and coffee breaks helped too. People quickly lost their inhibitions with strangers and wanted to share what they were up to. It was an awesome day and so I’ve decided to put my efforts into more of these rather than the documentary. It’s easy for people who think things will continue on the way they always have to dismiss the concept of prepping. I’m happy to spend the day sharing what I’ve learned in our search for self-sufficiency.
Details of the workshop can be found here; http://www.cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm. If you or anyone you know might be interested please forward this link to them. Our April 21st workshop is quickly filling up. Here are some of the comments we got from the questionnaire we got everyone to fill out to improve the workshop:
“I was really impressed that the whole day lived up to the title! Cam has woven together a giant tapestry of knowledge and how-to; hearing and seeing his work in action was really inspiring.”
“Cam & Michelle shared their experience of their journey to sustainable living with us – through science, humour and the wisdom that comes from just doing it!”
“Coming today was a dream come true – I’ve only every read about ‘this stuff.’ It was encouraging & enlightening. Thanks so much. Love, love, love it!”
The participants seemed pretty pumped about it and I’m pretty pumped about doing it all again!