Posts Tagged With: Riot for Austerity

A Season for Family

I’ve realized from about October to February, is our season of family.  Hunting alone facilitates a great portion of this, and then the holidays manage to cement the rest.  We just don’t have time to spend with many friends, as much as we’d like to.  Family really takes priority.

During the harvest season, I think it is easy to start feeling like you are drowning in the work of a homestead.  I generally feel like I tread water pretty steadily around here, but after a spastic comment on the Apron Stringz blog, when both CJ and Erica of NWEdible reached out to me to make sure that I was alright, I realized my Shiny-Happy exterior was cracking a bit.  While I’m afraid that the comment I left came across way crazier than I intended, the truth is, I have been somewhat overwhelmed.

In April, Rick’s dad was diagnosed with ALS  (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).  I’ve sort of kept this under my hat, since Rick wasn’t keen on talking about it with anyone, even in person.  He got pretty tetchy when I mentioned it to our neighbor (who is getting to be like family) and to our midwives while I was still pregnant with C.  So I’ve kept it off the blog all this time.  But I started bracing myself.  I’ve seen diseases before.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of watching my own father pass away.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was fifteen.  Lung cancer has a 15% survival rate and a lot of people treat you as if you deserve to get it.  But my dad hadn’t smoked in over 20 years before he was diagnosed.  The cause of it was more likely asbestos from being a mechanic or possibly having the polio vaccine tested on him while he served in the Air Force.  Or seeing as he had lost a sister to lung cancer, had a brother that got (and beat!) prostate cancer and a father that died of multiple myeloma at 58, maybe cancer was just in his genes.

But my dad was determined to live.  He had surgery, most of one of his lungs removed, chemo and radiation.  He beat the cancer.  He was cancer free for 8 years before his body, racked by the treatments he received, gave up on him.  I was so grateful that my dad lived to walk me down the aisle, to know Rick.  It was hard to watch my dad, superman in my eyes, go from 6 foot tall to 5′-1″.  To see him lose weight.  For me to never sleep in peace, afraid that his oxygen machine would sound an alarm in the next room if my dad quit breathing, even for a moment.  To see his big, strong mechanic’s hands turn soft and thin.  He died at home in 2004, the day before my 23rd birthday.

ALS makes cancer look like the freakin’ flu.

With cancer, there are treatments, even cures for some.  Hope.  With ALS, there is nothing.  Just waiting, watching, making your loved one feel comfortable as they lose the ability to make their muscles work.  The prognosis for ALS is more than bleak.  Stats vary, but we’ve been told that up to 70% of people diagnosed with it die within 18 months.  It is always fatal.  Less than 10% live longer than five years.

Rick’s dad was beginning to show symptoms last October, though we didn’t recognize them.  He’d been feeling weaker for a while longer before that, but just chalked it up to being tired.  He just turned 51 last month.  Because of my experiences with my own dad, I keep expecting to see things plateau with him, but the disease has not slowed at all.  In April, his words were slurred, by May he was hard to understand.  By June or July, he would only answer yes or no questions out loud.  Now it’s even hard to tell the yeses apart from the nos.  His hands and arms are atrophied pretty severely, so he can’t write.  This past weekend, they gave him a feeding tube.

Through this, my, uh… “greenisim” is wavering.  I’m feeling the urge more an more to take the easy way out.  To throw the proverbial grey water down the drain instead of out the window.  (Here’s where the crazy comment on the Apron Stringz blog comes in).  Part of me doesn’t want to care anymore where my food comes from.  I want to turn the heat up to 69° from 67° and not feel any guilt.  Bag the whole Riot for Austerity.  Throwing in the towel looks appealing.  Part of me is wondering why I should care about organically grown green beans when my father-in-law is struggling to swallow.  I’m wondering if  we can sustain our sustainable life style?  And is it worth it?

The truth is, I know in my heart that it is worth it.  But I need to find a way to be ok with what I can do right now.  Maybe the Riot is beyond my reach at this point in our family’s journey.  Maybe CJ’s Quiet Riot, or even just tracking our energy use is good enough for right now.  Maybe I need to be ok with the things we are doing and hold the space while our family gets ready to walk through the coming grief.

I’ve known somewhat more loss than anyone in Rick’s family (all his grandparents are still living), and I know my strengths can be quite helpful in hard times like these.  The loss of his dad is going to be a devastating blow.  And I’m grateful to have this time with family right now.

So here I am, holding the space.  And turning up my thermostat to 68°.

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Categories: Community, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Riot: Where are we Starting From?

Last week, I was feeling a bit discouraged and overwhelmed at the idea of the Riot.  The Riot for Austerity (R4A) sets the incredible goal of reducing your consumption to just 10 percent of what the average American consumes in each of seven categories.

Although I was initially discouraged, I decided to at least look at where we are at currently with our resource consumption.  One of the rioters created this calculator which allows you to see where you are at compared with the national averages.  I was really excited when I plugged our current numbers in.  We are doing much better than I thought, and I found it really encouraging.

Transportation energy:

August 2011:  19 gallons of gasoline per person per month (counting two people) = 46.2% of national average
Average usage for last 12 months: 231.35 gallons per person for the year (19.28 gallons per person/month) = 46.9% of national average

Electricity:

 July – August 2011: 781 kWh = 86.4% of national average
Total usage for last 12 months: 6547 kWh = 59.5% of national average

Heating & Cooking Fuel (Natural Gas):

July – August 2011: 9 therms = 10.9% of national average
Total usage for last 12 months: 451 therms = 45.1% of national average

Garbage guess-timate (we’ll start weighing this month) is 12 pounds per week = 30% o the national average

Water:

Average of April – June 2011: 1,166.67 gallons per person (counting four people) per month = 38.9% of the national average
Actual usage from 9/8/2010 to 6/3/2011: 43,000 gallons, we don’t have a bill yet for the final quarter, so I average 14k more gallons for June – August.  That’s 57,000 gallons for a year.  This is 14,250 gallons per person per year = 39% of the national average.

Consumer Goods:

August 2011 (not counting our new mattress):  New items: $474.24, used items: $5.91, total: $474.83 = 52.8%% of the national average for a household of 2.6 people
Average dollars spent per month for last 12 months:  New: $6630.05, used: $29.04, total: $6632.95 = 60.3% of national average for a household of 2.6 people.  If we average it per person for four people, we’re at 39% of the national average.

For our food, we are right on track.  It’s hard to measure exactly in this category, so we are still mulling over what method we will use to track this.

Overall, we are starting from a good place.  It’s much less daunting to think of reducing consumption from fifty percent to ten, than taking on a full ninety percent reduction.  Rick didn’t seem surprised at our numbers at all, but I really was.  I’m getting excited about this challenge.

Something even more encouraging… my mom told me after reading my last post on the R4A, that although she’s not interested in rioting herself, she’s starting thinking of ways she could consume less.   And that is the point of the riot.  A few people making extreme reductions in consumption can show others that maybe they can make some small changes too.

Categories: Sustainability | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Riot for Austerity: My Insanity Knows No Bounds

Have you heard of this?  Sharon Astyk, who I have mentioned  few times before, posted last month about the Riot for Austerity.  Back in 2007 a bunch of people made it their goal to live on 10 % of what the average American consumed.  TEN percent.  Ninety percent less than what everyone else was doing.  It was a movement that grew to several thousand people and crossed 14 countries.  It was a huge goal.  Sharon is doing it again, and I’ve decided to join her.

Apparently my crazy knows no bounds.  The Riot focuses on consuming 90% less than the average for seven categories: transportation energy, electricity, other fuels (like natural gas or wood), water, garbage, food and consumer goods.  This is huge.  Read the goal details in her post linked above.

At first, I was really excited about the Riot.  Heck yeah!  I can do that!  I unplugged my fridge, for goodness sake.  I’m an extremest rock star!  And Rick has always laughed at my crazy but come along, I’m sure I can get him to go for it!  We can bike everywhere.  We can totally do this!  I will start September 1st!

And here it is, the beginning of September.  And I’m totally freaked about it.  Rick is so not on board.  Ten percent is such a crazy low goal.  We are slated to drive 240 miles one-way to pick peaches in the next couple of weeks and Rick has two hunting trips planned.  That sinks our transportation energy in the first two months.  What the hell was I thinking – I can’t do this.  Why must I put my family through these crazy experiments.  Henry is going to grow up and be able to one-up all his friends by saying, “Yeah, well, my mom wouldn’t let us have a fridge.”

Thankfully, Sharon was smart enough to create a facebook group, which has been great for ideas and support already.  No, Rick is not yet on board.  Yes, if I count the miles for the peaches and hunting, our transportation gets blown, right off the bat.  But a lot of people are starting this off without their whole family being on board.  And as the group pointed out, no one else is counting their food costs in their transportation budget.  The tough thing about the riot, besides the obvious of course, is that it makes transparent the otherwise hidden costs of the way we consume.  So we spend 25 gallons of gas to get a year’s supply of peaches or meat.  That cost is in front of us.  The cost of fuel to get peaches shipped from another state (or country) is hidden.  But it’s still a real cost.  The cost of commercially produced meat in fossil fuels is not very clear to most consumers at the grocery store.  But there is a cost and it’s high.

When I posted my peach/hunting debacle and sudden discouragement to the group, Sharon’s response was “Maybe one of the questions to ask is, “even if we’re not going to change this this year, what would we do if the cost of gas did exceed the other costs? What would we do if we felt we couldn’t? Are there are other ways to do this?’”  Those are very real and hard questions.  Lots of people asked if there were closer orchards or ways to  split the cost by getting peaches of others while we were there, which we’ve done in the past.

Perhaps my favorite response was a quote though, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  -Voltaire

It is so easy to get discouraged before you even get anything off the ground.  I thought I was ready to start cruising the house for things to unplug and start taking sponge baths, September first.  But I realized that with three kiddos under five years old and a husband not yet on board, maybe I should use September to evaluate where we are at.  How much are we using in all of these categories?  Where is our real, low hanging fruit – things we can do now, painlessly that will cut our energy consumption (using a clothesline, for example)?  Also, Maybe I should cut myself (and my man) a bit of a break.  I’m not the only one still waking up a couple times a night with the baby.

Then Apron Stringz jumped in.  She beat me to the punch with a Riot post (see I’m still not even back on the blogging ball yet).  And she announced her Quiet Riot idea, which I love.  I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’m not necessarily going to Quiet Riot, though I’m reserving the right to go back on that too.  I really want to see if I can hit that 10% benchmark.  But to get there, I’m going to take my time.  For my family’s sake, I am going to cut myself some slack.  September will be the evaluation month. I know I can’t do this all at once (none of us can).

More on this to come… my mind is reeling a bit, both with ideas and little inner battles.  Stick with me, and don’t judge me, please.  I know how crazy I am.

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

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