Published on The Doomstead Diner on September 11, 2016
Discuss this article at the SUN Table inside the Diner
In about a week from now, I will be flying down to Inman, South Carolina for their Harvest Festival. It's not a huge event, it's a small festival in a small town here in the United States of America. A place and time where local townies get together to celebrate their lives and another year successfully harvesting the bounty of the earth.
Why am I traveling from Palmer, Alaska to Inman, South Carolina? Because in addition to writing my blog, I ended up as CEO of a 501c3 Non-Profit organization, the Sustaining Universal Needs Foundation. Better known as SUN☼, found on the Internet at Sun4Living.com. I had no intention when I began writing about the issues facing our culture back in 2008 that I would end up heading such an organization, it just evolved over time. Much as everyone's life evolves, you don't really PLAN it, it just happens as a result of circumstances and where you happen to be and who you are that determines the directions of your life.
I am just a regular guy, but perhaps more than most I am an observer of things; an observer of people and their behaviors. I have been doing this observing since my youngest years, as early as I certainly remember of the assassination of John F. Kennedy when I was 6 years old, pretty much the same age as John-John when he watched his dad get a State Funeral, but I think even perhaps before that on some cultural levels. What I have observed in the half century since that time has led me to where I am today, and what I now observe is not too pleasant overall. I observe increasing violence in our society; I observe an economic system in disarray; I observe a population of increasingly disaffected people; I observe young people going into increasingly greater debt all the time just to get an education. These are not good things as I observe them.
So, what to DO about all this? Well, if you are just a regular guy without a whole lot of money to sprinkle around, you can't buy politicians who will legislate your agenda, like the Koch Brothers, Goldman Sachs and other big money people can do. Today though because of the Internet, you CAN write, and it can get distributed and read by many people, although due to the fact so many people can do the same thing, there is a cacophany of voices and most get no attention at all. Or if they do get attention, it's all in the form of people trolling the website and trying to undermine anything you are trying to accomplish. VERY FUCKING ANNOYING! It's not an easy thing to get yourself heard on the internet even if your resume is jam packed with credentials. A lot of money will get you heard though. Buy the advertizing, buy the people who own the major media outlets, you are sure to be heard. I do not have the kind of money it takes to buy that stuff unfortunately.
So, it has been rather an uphill battle here for me over these last few years, but I am nothing if not persistent. lol. 🙂 I also know how the internet works better than most folks do, I've been a internet forum and bulletin board moderator since the Wild West Days on AOL in the 90's, and my participation on forums goes back to IRC in the 80s. So I used this experience, also unplanned to get my website The Doomstead Diner heard.
Heard it has been, and in this process I met many friends who have similar concerns to my own. As the title of my blog indicates, I see a lot of problems coming down the pipe ahead of us, and I write about it in a kind of "Gonzo" style, pioneered by one of my news/literary heroes, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. This style causes me problems, also unplanned, but you have to live with these choices. lol.
Despite the "Doom" theme though, I am essentially a pretty hopeful guy. I do see a way out of this mess, but it can only be accomplished if first off people ACKNOWLEDGE what the real problems are and then address the problems themselves, not just the symptoms of the problems. SUN☼ is a grassroots effort to Build a Better Tomorrow out of a society and civilization that is in the process of coming apart at the seams, and the only way to do that is to come together with common goals and common needs addressed. These are UNIVERSAL NEEDS, independent of all religions and all credos, what we all need to survive and thrive on the Planet Earth, our only home and the place we MUST steward in good faith and conscience to make our lives and those of our children possible moving into the future.
How do you DO this in the face of all the problems we have, wars all over the place, climate calamities all over the place, bankruptcies everywhere from individuals to entire Nation-States, and politicians running for President who bear more resemblance to CLOWNS than Statesmen? You do it one person at a time, one community at a time, and in this case the community as dictated by circumstance and not planning is the community of Inman, South Carolina.
If I had it planned, I would have chosen my own community of Palmer, Alaska to undertake this first step in Building a Better Tomorrow, but instead it landed in Inman because that is where two of the people I met during my years of blogging on economics and geopolitics live, and it is where we Chartered the SUN☼ Foundation.
So what is SUN☼ really about? As an organization SUN☼ is dedicated to providing healthy and affordable food locally grown, renewable and clean forms of energy and affordable housing as the basics of Universal Needs. However, beyond just the basic needs SUN☼ seeks to build self-sufficiency in communities, which is a much larger and much more difficult task to accomplish, because as it has grown and become globalized, there is virtually no place on earth anymore where the people are entirely self-sufficient.
Food for your table is grown 1000s of miles away and electricity to run your refrigerator is generated at power plants often distant from your home and sent over regional grids at high voltages. These power plants are most often thermal plants which get their supply of coal, oil or natural gas also from many miles away. The parts for the cars we drive most often are made in other countries, and virtually all the clothes we wear and shoes we walk in are also made far away. To be able to make for yourelf all the things we have come to take for granted in the globalized world of high per capita energy consumption is quite a difficult challenge! Not an insurmountable challenge though, because this has been done before, and anything done once can be done again. In many respects though, it is harder to go back down this ladder and off globalization than it was to climb the ladder in the first place. Many of the rungs you used to climb the ladder have been cut out from under you, and you can't replace them at the drop of a hat.
A good example of this problem would be Horses, which were the most common form of transportation and for doing farm labor up until the Internal Combustion Engine was developed and Cars and Tractors hit the scene en masse, beginning really only very recently, around 1900 or so. With horses falling into disuse, most of them ended up getting converted to dog food in the early part of the 20th century. If you were to try to rebreed up a large enough population of horses today to substitute for all the cars and tractors, it would take 20 years at least, and that would only be possible for a much smaller population of Homo Sap also. You could not feed enough horses and all 7.2 Billion people currently walking the earth at the same time, it is too much biomass for the earth to support.
Another example is the banking system. In 1900 all banking was done on paper, with thousands of clerks doing accounts payable and acounts receivable and clearing checks, which then also had to be marked down in a ledger at both ends of a transaction. This process often could take weeks. Today, transactions occur at the speed of light over the internet, and the only reason banks don't clear checks immediately is so they can use the funds for overnight interbank lending. If the internet went down tomorrow, it would also take a good 20 years to train up all the clerks you would need to do this process by hand.
You can of course go on and on with this stuff, and most people simply take for granted that these things will always be there, the cars, the tractors, the electric grid, the internet and so forth. Is that realistic to believe at this point? No it is not really, it has become quite obvious now that as the human population increases and the energy resources decrease, at some point there will be an inflexion and just not enough energy to go round to support all these systems. So at SUN☼, we think ahead and we plan for how to address these problems BEFORE they actually arrive on the doorstep. This is a conversation notably missing from most political discourse on the national or global level, where all that is talked about is how to jump start GROWTH in the economy. This is just not gonna happen. The cheap energy required to do this simply isn't there anymore, and the overhang of debt from what we did so far is already too great.
We can address these problems in a sensible way, and we can rebuild older systems as well as create new systems to manage a scale down from a high per capita energy consumption world, but it cannot be accomplished at the drop of a hat. So in Inman what SUN☼ seeks to do is to build a Sustainable Town, an example of as many things as possible necessary to make a small to medium size community self-sufficient. It will also be a place where people can come to learn the many forgetten tasks of meeting our own needs. Skills like cobbling shoes or blackmithing, spinning and weaving to cheesemaking and charcuterie. It's a big project, but it can be done and we at SUN☼ hope that Inman is the place to do it.
If you want to find out more about SUN☼ and developing sustainability and self-sufficiency, I encourage you to drop by the SUN☼ Booth at the Inman Harvest Day Festival. Come join us in a day of Celebration of a new and Better Tomorrow.