Investing for Resiliency

This will be the last of a three part series that started with ‘The End of Empire’ in which we discussed the consequences of a growing population utilizing increasing amounts of natural resources in a finite system, and included ‘Thriving in Times of Transition’ where we explored the considerations and resources that might be of benefit during a period of economic, social and environmental disruption. In this last article we will explore the question of timing, and what indicators we might look for to better understand which actions might be most appropriate at the given moment.

At times it will be difficult to exist in both the existing global economy, as well as a resilient and sustainable way of life. But some opportunities (such as buying some tool that you can’t yet make for yourself) are only available to us in our current global economy while other options (perhaps securing access to an ongoing source of clean fresh drinking water) might only be available outside of the current economy. Deciding when to invest your time and energy in the global economy, for the benefits that it can offer, and when to invest your energy in more sustainable alternatives will be an important part of your approach to how you work with the challenges ahead.

One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is that while some events, like the consequences of climate change, will impact all people, people with more economic power will be able to adapt to those consequences more easily than others. If a city is beginning to flood, and efforts to hold back the waters have failed, the wealthy can relocate to another home, while the poor might not have that same option. Similarly, the wealthy can buy real food, while the poor might only be able to afford the industrial food products with their associated health consequences. This disparity and its consequences is in place now. What makes it relevant to this discussion is assessing where you are in terms of wealth disparity and what options you have in attempting to work with the existing economic structure. If the existing economy doesn’t currently meet your needs, you will be forced to find other ways of meeting those needs. In so doing, you will be better prepared than most to face the challenges ahead. The people who will truly suffer will be those who believed that this economy would always meet their needs, and were continuing to invest their time and energy in it.

The Limits To Growth research has predicted that the earth will no longer be able to support our economy by 2030. I think this study is worthy of fair consideration, but I don’t necessarily think that 2030 will be the date that all the lights go out and we return to the stone age. I think that it’s entirely possible that around that date, the global economy will no longer be able to grow at the rates that we have become accustomed. But there will still be the existing infrastructure and resources we’ve collected and held in stock up until that point. Even after the economy can no longer grow, it will continue to exist in some form, over several years, or even decades. It will likely shrink, global trade will become more rare, and only the very wealthy will benefit from it, leaving the vast majority of the population to struggle and suffer- but that doesn’t mean that it will collapse all at once.
The single most important marker for observing our approach towards global economic collapse will be the price of oil. Like anything, the price will go up and down from moment to moment, but the important consideration will be the long term trends. As a non-renewable resource and the foundation of the vast majority of economic activity, this is the hard stop for our economy. We will reach a point where the price of oil can no longer support the demands we place on it. We will see that time approaching when the world transitions to trading oil in a breadbasket of international currencies. Doing so will have a disastrous effect on the US economy, one that will be made even worse if antagonistic nations simultaneously dump their holdings of US debt.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should divest from this economy immediately as that might not be the right move for you. But by paying attention to our circumstances as things unfold, we can make an informed decision about when and how we might transition from a dependence on the global economy to a lifestyle that meets more of our needs locally. Sustainability and resiliency aren’t just buzzwords- they’re the foundation of not just surviving the changes we face, but continuing to thrive and make possible a meaningful and beautiful life in the midst of these difficult transitions.

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Though this is the last article in this introductory series, in the future we will be sharing simple projects you can do yourself to improve your resiliency while reducing your dependency on the existing economic system.

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