Friday, February 20, 2009

How to get involved with STIR

If you can' t make the initial launch meeting on Wednesday, February 25, but want to be involved with the Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization (STIR), drop a line with your contact information and your main areas of concern to STIR at

What are some of the areas that might be of concern to people as they consider how we can transition to a low-energy/low-waste lifestyle? Things like
  • Food -- how can we feed our families if it's no longer possible to use diesel powered trucks to bring in foodstuffs on a continuous basis?

  • Home economy -- how can we afford our shelter if utility bills keep climbing up and unemployment rates keep following along?

  • Climate -- what kind of world will we be passing on to the next generation if we've destabilized the climate that has been fairly stable and benign for all of recorded history?

  • Education -- what will schools look like when massive buildings that require constant heating or cooling are unaffordable, like the fleets of polluting yellow buses? What will secondary (and post-secondary education) need to be when a far greater share of daily life must be devoted to growing food?

  • Transportation -- how are we going to remain connected to friends and family when we no longer enjoy an abundance of cheap energy and most families can no longer afford the family car, while most cities can't keep up with the costs of maintaining roads?

  • Long-term care -- how we will be able to care for elders and people with disabilities if the desires for community-based care runs into the fast-diminishing resource base of families and governments unable to provide for the care of people still working or struggling with subsistence and unemployment?

  • Faith communities -- how will churches, temples, and mosques built during a time of cheap and abundant energy operate when people are no longer able to afford to travel great distances to mega-sized facilities or to heat and cool them?

  • Public safety -- how will police, fire, and ambulance services be provided when energy costs hamstring their vehicles and taxes can't keep up with energy costs? Will Oregon be able to keep spending more and more on prisons when the cost of utilities shoots up?

  • Medical care -- how will we provide access to medical care when energy costs keep shrinking the available resources and undermining the economy that is not even able to keep up with health care expenses now, before the energy pinch really takes hold?

  • Environmental protections -- how will we pay to treat and pump wastewater and maintain waste treatment facilities in a shrinking rather than expanding economy?

  • How will we cope with increasing frequency and severity of crop-destroying severe weather events, both floods and droughts?

  • Etc. etc. etc.
You get the idea.

Our society has, since WWII, been organized almost entirely on the implicit assumption that there will always be an abundance of cheap energy, and that fundamental assumption has colored every other public and private decision. We have built a society that appears robust but is actually quite fragile, as the recent fling with $4 gas showed --- a few months of high gas prices brought the world economy to its knees and revealed what a house of cards our real estate/finance system actually was. The price shock is causing so much demand destruction --- a/k/a economic pain --- that oil prices have plummeted, but they will remain low only so long as the economy is tanking.

If any or all of these concerns make you think that it's time that someone took some action to prepare answers to them, then please come to the STIR launch and join in. But if you can't, at least drop a line and note which issues are the top ones for you (especially ones not mentioned above).

An outstanding explanation of our credit collapse

Since the Salem economy is being rocked hard by the real estate meltdown and the resulting wave of bank collapses, it's helpful for us to understand how we got here, and this outstanding short video does a tremendous job simplifying the explanation without leaving out important parts of it. From the site:
"The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California."