“Primitive people see time as a circle. Civilized people see it as a line. We are about to see it as an open plain where we can wander at will. History is broken. Go!” - Ran Prier
I was raised with an acute sense of “The Depression,” due to my father having lived through it, and never being able to separate himself from it. We would eat kidney bean soup, and he would hunch over his bowl and say, “It reminds me of The Depression.” He never got over the tragedy of his father selling vegetables on the corner after the crash, despite his having been a medical student in
And, if the reports of the collapse of the dollar, the credit meltdown, resource depletion, and Peak Everything are at all trustworthy, it would seem that a Depression is about to come around again. And, that’s without taking into account disasters like war, famine, or plagues, which are distinct possibilities for us as well. This tsunami of events may just sweep away much of the way life as we know it has been. Ultimately, that could be a good thing.
We have already addressed preparations for food and housing. Next is making a living. What is it going to take, when the pink slips begin to be handed out and the unemployment checks run dry? For many people who are unprepared, it is happening already. Just look around at “the homeless.” In our county,
What do you tell a young person today? When I was growing up, it was all about getting a college education. That was the ticket to success. Period. With the predatory credit industry combined with the coming collapse, now I am not so sure. It is still just as important as ever to get an education. That should be an on-going pursuit throughout one’s life, just because knowledgeable people are more interesting and their lives are usually less lame and more fun. But, a college education in order to gain employment may not be the ticket to ride that it once was. A two year associate degree with some experience in a field you want to work in is easily negotiated into a job that requires “a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.” And, it’s a lot cheaper, unless you are a Pigmy or a Martian or some other preferred group that can get full ride Ivy League Scholarships. Going into debt for 30 thousand or 50 thousand dollars or more will only put you into debt servitude. At the rate we are going, debt servitude might end you up in some Halliburton Work Camp, indentured servitude, or the military in the near future.
So, unless you can afford to go to graduate school and get a masters degree or a doctorate, an associate degree may be enough to parlay into something you can live with. There are also alternative on-line degrees and company sponsored schools that can give one certification to do specific jobs and trades that will still be useful after all hell breaks loose. You may not get rich, but you won’t starve, either. As the numbing world of paper-shuffling “Dilberts” fades into the past, real productive and meaningful jobs have a chance to come to the forefront again. The more you know that can be applied toward either localized food production or alternative energy or maintenance and recycling of existing resources the better.
Recently, I asked a friend of ours, George Strickert, how he broke into the field of alternative energy. My son, Micah, is thinking about cultivating a sustainable career in alternative energy. This is George’s advise:
“About 30 years ago, I adopted a mindset similar to Micah's and found a way to get into the wind energy business and made a career out of it. I used what I knew and did not take any special training at that point -- though I had finished college in Economics.
I attended a wind energy conference and befriended a fellow who was looking for a couple of employees at the Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden,
Micah might go on-line (maybe he has already) and consult the national associations in various renewable technologies such as:
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) American Solar Energy Society(ASES)
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) International Solar Energy Society (ISES)
and find out if:
1. They are having a conference soon and, if so, when, where and how much it costs.
2. They have a job openings posting.
3. They have a directory of industry members that can be purchased.
4. Other pertinent questions (some of which may be answered on their websites).
There is a great deal of interest in renewable energy, and there may be job openings in various companies or government agencies that have renewable energy programs. Once inside the industry, there are newsletters, conferences, directories, projects and other sources of information that become available to insiders. It may take patience and luck to end up where a person wants to be, but I found it fairly easy to bootstrap myself by being eager, listening to decision makers, showing up at key places and finding a mentor to guide me along. My jobs were my schools, and my fellow workers were my teachers.
I was not an engineer or a technician but rather I became a land person -- that is, someone who leased sites from farmers and ranchers for wind projects and also helped secure permits from various county Planning Departments. I was also briefly a project manager during construction, a low level manager in a wind turbine maintenance company, and I also was a small wind turbine dealer on my own for about a year. Most of the time, however, I worked (and later consulted) for large-scale project developers who needed hundreds of acres in windy places to install dozens and dozens of giant wind turbines.
Once Micah meets someone in a renewable energy company, he should ask questions and listen to find out what that person (or his/her company) needs most -- and then try to become that needed person.
Perhaps he already has a talent for computers or report writing or on-site security or doing work outdoors (such as installing and monitoring wind or solar measuring equipment) or something else that an energy company might need.
There are many aspects to the renewable energy field such as:
!. Technology invention, development and testing.
2. Equipment sales
3. Project development
a. Energy resource measurement
b. Land leasing or purchasing
c. Energy contract negotiation
d. Legal and financial work
e. Equipment purchasing
f. Project construction
g. Project operation and maintenance
4. Industry promotion
5. Government regulation and support
The 3 aspects of wind energy that most appealed to me were:
1. The whole field was intrinsically interesting to me -- and my friends and family (and some girls) were "wowed" by me knowing about it.
2. It promised to pay well -- I wasn't going to become a millionaire, but I managed to earn a good living -- and have a good travel expense account. I travelled abroad a great deal and worked in all the western states in the
3. It was certainly good for the planet -- I found myself "preaching" with genuine enthusiasm about no polluting emissions, abundant energy resources that were inexhaustible and not imported, American jobs in local communities, increase in local tax revenues without a commensurate demand for additional local services, support for the electric vehicle industry, growth of a new industry for kids in school to aspire to -- and so on. I got so carried away that I gave slide shows at civic luncheons and in schools as part of a promotion for the industry.”
I am so grateful to George for having taken the time to share his experience and wisdom. I think they can be applied to any form of sustainable energy – whether wind, solar, geo-thermal, or whatever.
Another factor that I think we should all keep in mind is what we find genuinely pleasurable to do. What we take pleasure in is actually a really sophisticated indicator of what to do sometimes. We just “forgot” about that while we were funneled into secretarial courses or the business school brain trust. Wisdom is not just held in your head. It gets diffused throughout your whole body. Being aware of how you feel while working different jobs may give you better information that you would get from a career counselor. Do you like to fix things? Do you enjoy working with plants or animals? How about making cheese, baking bread, or brewing beer?
All sorts of artisan skills and productive work will be needed as the financial and “service” economy bites the big one. The more versatile you are, the more valuable you will be to someone who has a home to share or a piece of land to work, or to the community as a whole.
As school systems that rely on huge central schools that require miles of bus lines are dismantled due to prohibitive gasoline costs, teachers will be needed for smaller groups of people. Teaching jobs might come with a home included as they did during the turn of the century out West. Naturopathic, homeopathic, and alternative medicines of several sorts may become more and more viable as a reaction against Big Pharma. Nurse Practitioners will be ever more valuable.
Some people may be tempted go all Mad Max and form gangs of looters and thieves. This would be a huge error. I lived in
As the financial and physical infrastructures deteriorate, traditional jobs will evaporate. We aren’t going to need so many valets, manicurists, travel agents, retail workers, truck drivers, social workers, and other employees in industries dependent on cheap oil, transportation, or big government. But, the potential for creating more fulfilling, sustaining, and meaningful work is there for those who have the flexibility and talent to let go of what is failing and embrace a future that is more in harmony with the new tune in the wind now only dimly perceived. This time, let’s dance with the earth, not stomp all over it.