As most people are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, the topic again arises about being self-sustained. Hurricane Sandy has crippled the subway infastructure in N.Y.C., taken down power for millions, and caused gasoline shortages. Some drivers reported waiting online for gasoline, for as long as 16 hours!!!. More than 50% of the gas stations are closed due to lack of power or lack of gasoline. There is a difficulty trying to get a generator, and even if one was lucky enough, the problem again arises about fuel. I would like to hear from some people on their thought and ideas, on how a person who would live in a city such as New York City, and still be self-sufficent, in not relying on the subways, electricity, tunnels/bridges, and most importantly gasoline.
I have never heard of anyone being self-sufficient in the city. Very few people even in the country are self-sufficient (in the developed world) as most use gasoline-powered automobiles and drive on public roads, buy some products at stores, etc.
These people are somewhat close to self-sufficient in the city of Pasadena. http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/ They still use some city water. I don't know if they ever take the bus or use other amenities of the city. I suspect they do.
True self-sufficiency is a myth. In context, what the upper 90 something percent of permies here really strive for is a holistic approach to add greater quality and efficiency in their daily lives. If you have the internet like everyone here who reads and writes, you are dependent on the system that benefits you. This is my argument of having a clear and realistic goal.
Interdependence is the reality that we all have to accept and plan for or we will continue to live in a fantasy of daydreams and illusion.
Those who hammer their swords into plows will plow for those who don't!
My first thought is to just sit tight. I can always eat oatmeal and cook over a fire. Read a good book. We drive ourselves crazy complicating stuff. If you don't have a months worth of food and water stashed away get it done today. Ten pound bag of beans, ten pounds of rice, top ramen, potatoes, onion and carrots are all cheap and filling.
Lots has been written about this in peak oil writings (online and books, video etc). You can also read about acute disasters elsewhere. There are short term strategies (disaster survival), but often preparing for the longer term gives more security.
First make sure you have a way of boiling water in the short term (portable gas stove with spare gas).
Have a good supply of candles or other way of having light. And matches.
Have ways of keeping warm (Sharon Astyk has some good stuff on her blog on how to live without central heating etc).
Have food that doesn't require a lot of electricity/gas to prepare.
Get a bike that suits your body (or scooter or skateboard etc). Lots of really cool bikes and trailers being made now for carting goods if that's what you need.
Form good relationships with people in your building and neighbourhood. These are the people that will help you be ok.
After all that, look at things like having a way of solar charging your cell phone (they run out really quick in an emergency) and torch batteries.
Practice all these things before you need them. It's so much easier figuring things out when you are not stressed.
I'll second the Transition movement - even just reading their literature will get you thinking about what the issues are where you live. Also have a read up on what's happened in Cuba in the past decade (when they lost access to cheap oil). I'll disagree with Ludi somewhat - it is possible to create resiliency in cities, but it depends on the conditions at the time.
Having heard lots of stories from the Christchurch earthquakes (in New Zealand) I try and keep the petrol tank in my car full. Sometimes all you need is enough to get you out of town. Or to carry heavy things like water.
When you get a 12 to 14 foot storm surge your self sufficiency pretty much washes away if you weren't expecting it. You might even lose your go bag and your stored food. Store it in the upper floors and it can be taken out by wind or fire, lower floors flood..so there is a lot to OBSERVE here and think about what would YOU do if you had been in staten island.
If you had a huge supply of home canned goods, buckets of flour and beans, and even a propane stove with a supply of propane, or wood stove with wood, or a generator..likely it was all ruined with either the wind or the water..and hopefully your bicycles didn't get washed away (you tied them to the house right, but the house is 100 feet away)..
You can not plan for something like that..even the boats were ruined.
It sure does open our eyes to the oil situation
We have a huge propane tank, generator, live up on a high area so floods aren't going to happen here but we lost a house to lightening once. There is always a chance everything you own will be wiped out, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't plan ahead and do the best you can. sure we all have our computers and phones..but that doesn't mean we HAVE to have them, I would survive without either..and I could "survive" without gasoline here, and without power, and my generator would last a while as would our wood furnace as we have 2 years of wood on hand..but eventually we would be down to no power, no gas and no propane, we still could gather and cut wood off of our own property unless it was all burned in a forest fire..and we have a fireplace and 2 wood stoves as well..we have running flowing well next door, so water isn't a problem..and we have perennial food forests and a greenhouse, so we would likely survive..as long as we had enough ammunition to protect it..
I'll admit I was getting visions of apocolyptic movies watching the t v renditions of the ravages of the storm and wondering how long people will go without food and water before they kill their neighbors.
Bloom where you are planted.
cities have lots of dumpsters with lots of food in them at all times. . . . while you would be 'leaching' it is possible to live off of other peoples garbage in the city to a greater degree than in the country
there is also an abundance of heat. . not only from the huge amount of thermal mass but also exhaust from variable heat sources (subways, clothes dryers, manufacturing, etc. )
Benefits of the city:
lots of building supplies (urbanite, etc)
access to information (people, computers, paper)
increased vertical space (stacking effects)
lots of hardscape for water catchment
lots of garbage to be turned into gardens and fuels
usually located on or near a body of water that used to be full of life. . we can bring that back
different races of people together in one place often each will have their own foods, taboos, and customs regarding self sufficiency. . great resource.
You prepare by planting relationships and nourishing the people, starting in zone 1, one building/floor in each direction. Get to know the people. Start/join and support groups,especially local community maintenance/preparedness groups. Connect with local authorities, maintain decent relations there. Be a "Good Scout" and try to establish and maintain the right kind of community.
Different kind of farming but the fauna has way more potential - in all ways.
Being self sufficient isn't the issue so much as being able to live without the consumer comforts... electricity, water from a spigot you turn on (indoors or out) telephone (or cell phone) internet and convenience foods. People who are able to go without those consumer comforts are much more likely to survive a crisis like Sandy without the issues we are seeing with many folks.
Not sure if all would agree but I think a big part of permaculture as talked about here has to to with "appropriate" and "need, not want". Both can depend heavily on the environment and in the city that may mean different things than in the country.
Unless you care to say cities are bad per se, I think you have to agree that most people in a city won't spend too many hours farming - they have other jobs to do and most don't have access to land. Their work is by and large is important and required for a city to function; but "after work" they can't go out and pick dinner so they need to "trade" for it with money. Houses and buildings don't have big lots with compost areas and wells so they really do need standard plumbing - or _something_ that takes care of the bodily needs of large numbers of people packed closely together.
I think what I'm getting at is city living is going to be different. It can be need (not want) driven and appropriate but it likely won't look very much like farm living even so. Running water, phones, cars and probably some other stuff is really a need in the city. IMHO. <g>
However in a serious natural disaster such as Sandy, the city dweller is so dependent on the consumer comforts that it is much more difficult for them in a disaster. Unless city dwellers are willing to change their dependence on consumer comforts they will not survive these types of disasters with poise and confidence.
These disasters pose unique situations in different areas... where the generators may come in useful is setting them up at public buildings where people could come for a hot meal, a hot shower, and be able to feel "normalcy" for a short time while the charge their cell phone or lap top.
i am moving to a house (i hope soon) in a place very prone to fires. so prone to them that I want to avoid cooking with fire as much as possible and at the same time want to be as self sustaining as possible and be very well prepared for an emergency. i plan to get a small camping style rocket stove. I saw one recently that also generates electricity to charge a cell phone from the heat! but I also plan on having a solaroven. in fact i plan to cook as much food as possible for as much of the year as I can with a solar oven and I have seen solar heaters for homes. solar heat only works in the day time but it is free heat! I am lucky to live in a part of the world where I can grow food year round fairly easily and where it never gets all that cold. i wonder what people think of solar panels? i don't want to use candles but i have several flash lights that have dynamo's to power them. have been using flash lights like that for years now. my husband built a little cell phone charger that attaches to the bicycle and charges it while he runs errands. bicycle phone charges are not necessarily very efficient but they help one see how much energy goes into things and he enjoys using it.
The recent storm stands as a warning to anyone looking to build in low lying areas.
I remember travelling through the U.S. with my parents when I was 10. Often my dad would point out a house or a whole town that was built in a spot where you just knew it was going to eventually be washed away, burnt or subject to some other calamity.
While visiting Florida in 1991, the old guy leading a boat cruise pointed out rows of houses along the beach in an area that had been devastated by a storm surge when he was young. “No Floridian my age would dream of living there. Those are all snow birds living there” he told us. He then warned the group not to invest in time shares in low lying areas. Two years later those houses were washed away.
While looking for land in central British Columbia, I found several very modestly priced “building lots” along a large river. The real estate lady claimed total ignorance regarding flood levels. I popped into a store run by the local native band and bought coffee for two older guys who looked at my map and circled the few areas of high ground where one could have the benefits of the river but also have a high, dry spot for the house. They regarded all of the parcels on my list as nice places for a summer camp and fishing but figured that every decade or so, spring melt water along with huge sheets of ice, would wipe out any permanent structure. “There's no stopping the ice when she comes on an early break up” I was warned.
I crossed the (Poof!/its-gone) line with my last post here so here's another swing at my thoughts on sustainability.
I can understand why cities could be seen as a blot on the landscape (they are, after all), but to not at the same time see the necessary and positive side of cities is to be blind sided, probably sooner than later. Being blindsided is not good sustainability practice. Sustainability needs to include cities; it has to do it in a practical and real way because city people are just like the rest of us - they just happen to live in a different ecosystem.
We're all in the same boat, regardless of which end or which deck we manage to situate on and we don't get to prosper sustainably w/out technology. There may be one or two people here who do or can live fully w/out technology. I dare say no more than that. Note, I'm not talking about toughing it out, not starving, managing to develop a survival status over the years, etc. No, I'm talking about prospering with joie d' vivre, children secure in their play and education, adults fulfilled with time to partake of a few "off topic" pursuits, neighborhood where people are more than just somewhat confident their children, themselves and their property is safe from robbers both near and distant and who don't look upon the larger world with fear and loathing. None of us get to live properly (by almost any definition) w/out technology; it's not just physical, it's social as well.
This means everybody depends greatly on cities and owes them a LOT. Technology comes from a stable society and only from people in cities because the type of creative energy and resources needed to evolve and advance technology require teams and team work in a face to face environment - regardless of whether the internet is up. Just maintaining technology requires large groups of people living and working together. We need to take care of our cities.
Can we live with greatly reduced technology and avoid that nasty stuff and the cities will shrink and dwindle and the world will be better and better? Well, it's logically possible for the sun to rise in the west (yes, truly it is), but I think it would be irresponsible to bet much on it. Just so with hopes for our peaceful and artful future w/out major technological underpinning. And _thought_ is a form of technology so lets not get picky about _which_ technologies.
Basic smarts says to locate in a safe place - Right-On. Taking only what one needs and passing on a better place - Right-ON. Paying attention to the environment and living healthy, RIGHT-ON. Who can argue with that? But the idea that best way to do it is by simply distancing ourselves from large disasters or endemic societal ills... No, don't think that works. We can't survive it much less fix it w/out being engaged with it. The greatest leaders and politicians kept their real enemies close to them so as to know what was going on and take effective action. Same idea maybe - keep your hand in.
It appears (to me) that the real basic issue of sustainability requires acknowledging the necessary connection to the rest of the world; if the rest of the world isn't sustainable, chances are we're not going to be for long either. For lots of reasons, practical, social, political. There is no safe haven - we're all downstream one way or another. So it's important to stay connected so we can be aware of what's happening and have the means to make our little bit of difference. IMHO its not a good idea to write off the cities, try to step back and let them sink or swim. Not saying we got Bill Gates here gonna fly in 10,000 cargo planes full of ipads and food whenever there's water in the streets. No. Am saying that permaculture has to live and be counted in the cities just as much as the country.
Permies is already out there. It includes everybody, it has lots of folks from all over, all different kinds of folks from all different environments. It's a working PUSH to spread the word everywhere, enable the interested, connect the active... All that sort of stuff. Permies itself is not removing back into the hills, stocking up and barring the gates. The gates are open to all (eg., me) with the local centurion patrolling to keep order. Permies is emphatically _in_ the big messy world and that's a big plus. That's the way toward sustainability. I think creating these connections, spreading these ideas is a far more effective way of propering in the long run than just removing to the far hills.
Well, I've repeated myself about 5 times, hopefully in 5 different ways. Thanks to all that read through.
People have lived in Villages, Towns and Citys for a very long time, we are social animals and like to have others of our kind around. Citys are not going to go away any time soon. The main idea of this tread was how does one survive a disaster in a City. Being totally self seficient in the City maybe a pipe dream, but being able to survive a disaster for awhile is very possible. Surviving with comforts is perhaps a bit more difficult but it can be done with some planning. We had alot of warning about Sandy coming, people were told to get out. Some New Yorkers can't get out because they do not own a car. The City runs on a 3 day supply of things. Food, Gas, etc will be totally gone off the shelves in 3 days. If you want to survive longer than that you had to plan ahead and have some food and supplies set aside for you and your family. Some people in NY felt that their back up plan was to just go out and eat at the local Deli, there is one on every corner after all. The fact that they were closed, flooded or had no power sent that plan out the window pretty quickly. City apartments are small, so storage for large amounts of food is difficult. Have at least a 3 day supply of food and water befor the disaster and hope that the Troops will come and save you by the 4th day is 1st on the list. Having a camp stove that does not need electricity is something everyone needs to own as well as an oil lamp with a supply of oil, or some candles. The camp stove that can recharge a cell phone as it burns is a great idea and they are only about $130. Making a Rocket Stove out of a 5 gal can will cost you about $10 and you can burn sticks or even news papers for cooking and heat. Blankets, clothing boots etc are all on the list of things to have handy as well as some meds for 1st aid. Planning ahead is the key. And that planning should not start when you get the warning to get out of town. We tend to learn slowly, Katrena didn't help, maybe Sandy will. Everyone thinks that it can't happen to them. Thats about all I can add, I am sure that others will have more thoughts on this subject. Think, and plan ahead, good luck.
Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Formerly pa_friendly_guy_here
Interesting... as I was reading the latest posts and contemplating issues Sandy has posed fir so many, I realized that no matter the size of the community be it the size of NYC or just 36 people when the infrastructure is disabled for any reason it causes issues.
I do believe it was Rufus who discussed growing relationships within your building and then reaching out from there. In a city, perhaps one of the greatest tools one can have, rather than independence and self sufficiency is interdependence and cooperation. Perhaps one of the reasons country folk handle such difficulties so well is that they already have those things going on in their communities, it is needed to survive. Joe goes and helps John with his fencing, John goes and helps Ed bring in his sheep, Ed goes and helps Joe with his new roof.
Cities lose that in exchange for independence and autonomy
So perhaps that would be the answer... as Rufus said "prepare by planting relationships and nourishing the people" in your building, on your street, in your neighborhood...
Neat take, Barbara, flipping the accepted wisdom about self reliance: Country/city individualism/cooperation. That's a thought provoker, though I'm sure both self reliance and community support are always needed everywhere; but maybe with different priorities.
When I moved to San Francisco, the first thing I did was spend the time needed to get to know the neighbors. Some were almost invisible, others became life long friends. But someday if one of those "invisibles" might happen along and say "hey, open the door for that guy, I know him" at an important moment.
Sustainability in a city looks more of a challenge than in the country, but may be even more important. Huge mobs of people forced to relocate outward is not a pretty prospect. Look at what happened with Katrina. I suspect most people w/in 200 miles really _really_ wished New Orleans had been able to provide for its people. In hind site, they probably would even have paid more taxes to ensure a city that could take care of its people.
Mike pretty much listed Plan A for staying in place. In California public officials are actually getting out the word and putting some official importance behind preparedness, but in the end it's up to individuals. The official sites for CA emphasize a bug-out purse (small) that has your official papers (so you can identify yourself and access your paper resources from somewhere else), personal medicines, lists of important family contact numbers (not in your phone!), a couple bottles of water, flashlight and radio. This is something almost anybody can arrange, 50% of the need for 2% of the effort. Then for staying in place comes WATER; no easy good solutions, just depends on the situation. Then comes communication (listen to your radio) and checking on neighbors. San Francisco is promoting block committees with a lead, a segundo and a "local" for when both #1 and #2 are away at work. The committees need lists of residents, when usually at addresses, with special needs (age, disability) listed at the top and highlighted. It's slow starting but there _is_ stuff that can be done reasonably inside cities.
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