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

Post navigation

11 thoughts on “Riot for Austerity: My Insanity Knows No Bounds

  1. With all the things you do now to save the earth, I think you are way ahead of most of us. I think the Riot for Austerity is something you grow into gradually. Don’t try to jump off the cliff, you won’t have strength for the long haul.

  2. So true. I think so many of us well intentioned potential do-gooders get sidetracked by wanting to do things perfectly without realizing that simply making an effort is a great first step. And it sets a strong precedent for “normal” folks who get freaked out by all the crazy things that we do when we send a message that simply not buying organic fruit grown in South America in December/January is enough to make a difference.

  3. If you think meat costs a lot in fossil fuels, wait’ll you do the math on what it costs to grow a field of soybeans. Most of the *necessary* fossil fuels spent on meat have to do with transporting the animals or keeping the resulting meat cold. More localized production of meat would mostly solve the transportation problem, and there are traditional ways to get around a hypothetical lack of refrigeration, so even that is not *strictly* necessary. But the point is you don’t have to feed fossil fuel to animals to raise meat. On the other hand, we have painted ourselves into a corner with plant crops on this subject: the fossil-fuel fertilizers and pesticides (of all classes) of the Green Revolution are what have enabled our population to explode to almost seven billion. If the oil were to run out right now a lot of people would die.

    Basically: quit assuming meat’s a luxury (in the sense of need for human health, it’s not–it’s only treated that way because we have such extreme inequalities in land ownership/access and food access), and quit calculating all the “costs of production” with CAFO numbers, because none of us want to see CAFO continue and there are other ways to raise animals for food. The numbers I’ve seen for water consumption for beef production are just insane, for example. No cow drinks that much water. Oh, it’s for other reasons. Well, are those reasons necessary for raising cattle? Possibly not. Why don’t any vegetarians question the numbers then? And no one questions that you have to clear forest to raise most plant crops. And forest-clearing does a lot more harm to the environment than a grass-fed cow passing gas every now and again.

  4. Lots to think about here. Given that my house is too far to ride– for Henry at least, even if you put the other two in a trailer and ride all night to get here for lid-morning tea– I’d prefer you wait a bit. =) But it’s inspiring to imagine what life looks like when wants =/= needs (that’s supposed to be a are-not-equal-to sign).

    • Haha Annie – we’re still working things out and I don’t count seeing people who encourage you and help you and teach you as a want so much as a need. 🙂 We WILL get together sooner rather than later.

  5. I think that ideals are great but hard to live up too. Everything in this life takes moderation. This world we live in today is not the world even in my grandparents time. They were very self sufficient. It is extremely hard if not impossible in this day and time to expect to be totally self-sufficient. Everything is connected; but we can all do our very best to do whatever we can to make it better. To strive to live and reach our potential goals is wonderful as long as we don’t ever think some of them can be reached in this lifetime.

  6. I love that CJ is doing this. I couldn’t agree more that perfect is the enemy of good. Perfect is also the enemy of sanity when you have a new baby in the house, I think….but perhaps that’s just me. 🙂 One of my readers commented on some energy post I did about my moderate guilt for having two (TWO!) freezers thusly: “I’ll save the world in other ways.” That comes back to me periodically as I feel guilty over composting paper plates instead of, I dunno, washing the ceramic ones in cold water I hauled from a stream, I guess – it’s ok to save the world in babysteps.

    • Yes. Baby steps. And we have two freezers too, by the way. Did you mention once that you hunt? We primarily keep game and said peaches in ours. 😉

  7. Mom B

    One of my favorite quotes: “Do not let what you cannot do interfer with what you can do.” Do what you can right now, make a plan, evaluate. Perfection IS the enemy of progress.

  8. Thanks Mom B. I just copied your quote down and I am going to post it on my refrigerator.

  9. Pingback: Riot: Where are we Starting From? « The Lazy Homesteader

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: