3rd age Dilemmas

by Terry Oliver on March 1, 2010

As I move tentatively into 2010 I become more and more aware of an impending sense of unease. Like most of us, I want to get on with my own life – writing, in all its variegated hues, but voices from the wider world – voices I read and respect – are becoming shriller and shriller. Many are tinged with fear.

Up until now I suppose, I’ve managed to somehow fit them into my world-view, such as it is, by rationalising that many of these voices are coming from the same sector of the political/social/environmental/economic spectrum – what is broadly referred to as ‘the left.’

Being from the left myself, I am familiar with their temptation to overstate the case in order to draw attention to the problem. This is perfectly legitimate to my mind so long as ultimately what they have to say is true.

But lately, the voices are coming from all sides – right, left and centre. And they are all singing from the same hymn sheet. They might be using different verses or different words but the tune is recognisably the same. Financially, economically, environmentally, demographically, socially – the music goes round and round. We are circling the drain.

One of the many dilemmas this poses for me as a 3rd Ager is how to prepare for the coming crisis. The options open to me are not the same as those open to my children and their generation.

Consider: I am on a fixed income – small pension and modest savings. Next, I cannot retrain at my age, to do something else to become more flexible and roll with the impending punches. Further, I have only limited energy compared to my kids. If I were 40 or 50 or even 60, I would seriously consider becoming a farmer.

But I have no illusions as to how much energy and strength that requires – even on a small scale. And that is what the farms of the future will be. Small. And heavily labour-intensive as oil becomes increasingly scarcer.

When, of course, is the question on everyone’s mind, if not their lips yet. Can’t I risk just a few more years of my current life-style before I need to change my unsustainable ways? It’s amazing how precious my life-style is to me, now that it’s threatened with removal. I have become acutely conscious of how soft I am – how easy I’ve had it for so long.

Al Gore said recently, how are we going to face our grandchildren when they confront us with our criminal behaviour?

Setting aside the moral dilemmas for a moment, there are a few practical things to consider. One is the number 2013. That is the date currently most favoured as the next crunch point. The point when oil prices rise so high that our economy collapses again. 2013 is less than three years away. Three years to figure out how to get prepared.

Shall I rent or buy? Shall I conserve my savings or spend them before they become swallowed by inflation?  Shall I buy land and grow food for my grandchildren? Have you seen the price of land recently? An awful lot of people are obviously thinking the same thing. As Mark Twain said: ‘buy land, they’re not making it anymore’.

Shall I live in my small town or Vancouver, so I can use public transport and get rid of my car? Or shall I live in the country so I can at least grow food for my family when my money is inflated to worthlessness? How long can I go on being self-sufficient with my fading energy levels?

Currently, I’m backing my local community as the best bet for the future. But local communities can only survive if they prepare in time for the looming energy and climate crises. And if my community is anything to go by, most of us bear a striking resemblance to the Gadarene swine. Remember them?

As someone aptly remarked, growing old is not for sissies.

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Sheila May 3, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I think you have to extend the scope of your last remark. It’s not only for the old that life will be tough. The world we are moving into will be a pretty scary place for all of us- “not for sissies”. of any age.

In the mean time it’s hard to know where to start making the necessary changes. Some say it’s with air travel. However, at this time we might just initiate a process of family break-down by denying ourselves the air travel that some of us need to visit our families. Personally I think it’s the superfluous travel that we need to cut out, not family visits. Maybe paying “offsets” is the best we can do at this time, while maintaining family ties that will help us in the struggle ahead.

Am I just letting myself off the hook for not taking the “no flying pledge”? I don’t think so. In spite of the elevated green house gas emissions associated with air travel I don’t think we should deny ourselves the visits with friends and/.or family who are important to us until such time as we are ready for it. In the mean time we can cut back where we can and extend a hand to others where possible.

It strikes me that one of the most valuable contributions a low-income person can make is to participate in protests against the rule of the corporations. Our multi-national corporations are plundering the earth in order to line their own pockets and those of their shareholders. We will pay for it dearly if we allow this to continue – and our planet is already sending us many signals of the urgency of the situation.

Let’s begin a new era of solidarity with those citizens of southern countries and our own for whom some of the questions of personal interests vs. collective survival have already become academic. With tough times ahead we cannot continue turning a blind eye on the suffering that our way of life is causing for so many. Maybe we could even influence a few politicians this way. .

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