Monday, January 19, 2009

The new reality


A picture to ponder….
The aim of this post is to try and grasp an understanding of the systems we operate within as individuals and establish what personal actions, if any we can take in this difficult time.

As individuals and humans we are all interconnected in a series of interdependent systems. Some we have personal control over and others we do not.

We all take part in the financial system where we earn money and spend money. The financial system used to be backed by a gold standard (still a measure of personal wealth) but in the last century the financial system looked towards the US dollar as its measure. So the crisis in the housing market in the US undermined that standard and had a huge impact on all of us. Imagine a pack of cards collapsing and you get the picture. The government has to get the financial system to flow again because without it we stand still. Personal action is possible when you live within your means; are living debt free? Do you control your income?

The debt system, which is connected to the financial system works when we borrow money (and that is how the banks make their profit). Now if the financial system has no cash flow, and the debt system has problems generating cash, then there is likely to be no lending and a cut back by the financial system. I can see that the government are trying hard to restore the financial system and the debt system. As many companies rely on the debt system to create cash flow into the financial system, a breakdown in the debt system has a knock on effect. No cash flow, no business, no contracts, no sales, leading to a complete collapse of companies that were reliant on the debt system. As the value of our properties, banks and businesses decreases and our percentage of debt increases the balance means we feel the pinch and our jobs are on the line. Personal action is only possible if you work and can reduce your debt to a point where you are debt free.

The agricultural system, where farmers grow food for our consumption has also changed over the last century. Local food, bought at a local farmers market supports the local agricultural system and ensures that food remains locally available. Against that, any food with high food miles, supports farmers globally but if that price is lower than what can be produced locally, the local food producers go out of business and we become dependent on food produce that is imported into this country. The price of food is linked to the value of our currency. We can do this if we have the money to purchase it. Growing your own vegetables, eating seasonally and purchasing fair trade products enable us to exercise some small influence. You may have to pay more for local produce but the benefits of investing your money locally is that you support your local agricultural system. Personal action is possible by growing some of your own food, eating seasonally, reducing consumption and cooking from scratch every day.

The transportation system enables all goods to be transported from one supplier to another. Small farms for instance used to have pigs from piglets to sow and then bacon; now some farms look after piglets, then they get moved using the transportation system to another farm who keep them for a certain time and then moves them on. Food miles drive the transportation system and we all buy into that. As tomatoes and cucumbers currently come from the Netherlands, the dropped value of sterling combined with higher fuel prices means a higher cost of the tomato until we either stop eating them in winter or do not wish to pay the price for it. If we do not have the money we might need to go without tomatoes in winter. Cooking seasonally with local ingredients therefore makes a huge difference to the amount of foodstuff that travels on our roads and the price we financially need to pay for it. Personal action is possible by shopping for locally produced foods and keeping your money locally (small shops and individual retailers instead of large chains).

The transportation system uses a high proportion of our energy resources, as is a commute to work and travelling for business, Food miles and business globally. The agricultural practices that guarantee higher yields also use energy to produce them (fertilisers), to transport them, to keep them etc. If we would grow food locally, in season with our own harvested seeds, if we have trees that produce a crop each year and we harvest and preserve it, we have some control over our food chain. If we rely on our supermarkets that buy at low prices from a heavily dependent food miles system, we will have food as long as we have money to pay for it. (Personal action is possible by eating seasonally and reducing food miles).

The health system provides us with free healthcare in the UK but at the same time, the health system operates with the financial system to provide the funds for drugs etc. As our eating habits have changed (increased calories) and our energy requirements have reduced (less use of calories) (sedentary lifestyle) we have increased our exposure to health issues and such are making demands on the health system. It is for that reason that we are encouraged to move more, eat less and eat better. Personal action can be learning to cook, eating locally, taking more responsibility for our health (checking what you are addicted to) and thereby reducing our dependency on the health system.

The government support system (welfare system) although being a safety net when you lose your job or are unable to work, creates a dependency of another kind. It suddenly seems not worth it or impossible to work and every step of personal freedom is scrutinised and can create inertia. You can do this, not do this etc. Personal action can be to look at increasing your skills, taking part in barter systems such as Lets and working on increasing the skills you need for less dependency on the health system, debt system etc.

The military system. Governments globally spend a large amount of their resources on their military systems. We each have views on that. It is important to be protected as a nation and how each nation uses these resources depends on the level of risk they perceive to be in. Iraq is the least peaceful nation on earth as where Iceland is the most peaceful nation on earth. There are many levels in between that.

Change can happen and it has to start with us in the areas where personal actions are achievable, small and can matter.


ceridwen said...

You are right - it all basically comes back to personal responsibility. This is a new way of thinking to many of us and I hope it can be learnt fast enough. I'm making sure I'm clear of debt personally and doing what bit I can within the Transition Town Movement, LETS, etc. I guess the thing is that I feel I am trying to get a "new" lifestyle up and running, whilst still living the "old" lifestyle - ie going into a pretty meaningless job every day, buying a lot of my foods in supermarkets, etc. Its not an easy balancing act - trying to walk the tightrope transitioning over from "how things used to be" to "how they will be" and hoping one doesnt fall off that tightrope half way across the ravine. There's only so many hours in the day/so much energy/so much willpower to push oneself to deal with that?



Anne said...

how to deal with that?
Personally, we could easily be overwhelmed when we look at that picture and see what is happening around us. We can feal fear and feel helpless.Yet, within each and every one of us are some skills we have put aside. We need to learn to breathe again and live as best we can with the resources we have.
Example - if you had £ 100 would you put it in the bank or would you buy fuel such as wood and stack it up for next winter?
Question ; How much empty calories are part of my diet and then are made up with sweets, cakes and chocolate. What is the cost of this versus enjoyment. What is it doing to my health?
Its not an easy path to walk but if you get a journal, pick an area you are comfortable in and chart your progress. You will be amazed.
Whatever happens, you will do great. Then barter your skills, learn more of them and take back some personal power.Teach children the skills and listen to their suggestions.
Sounds easy but its very very hard to transition. One baby step at a time Ceridwen.

lizzie said...

The healthcare system is not free - it is paid for by taxation on employees and employers although there is no charge at the time of delivery.