August 9, 2019

Back To The 1800s

Transportation in New York 1800s style.

Experts say that if we were ever to lose our electrical grid, even if "only" for a year, our standard of living would soon resemble that of the 1800s. That sounds like an adventure one should be prepared for ahead of time.

I take that scenario as approximating living conditions as we make the transition to a drastically lower energy/renewable future.

Curious to see just what conditions were like back then, I did a search. 

"What could we be in store for?", I wanted to know as I entered "living conditions 1800s".

This is how one of the first links I looked at summed the period up:

"Living was hard work. It lasted from sunrise to sunset. Daily life was so difficult that when it came time to die, many felt relief."

At first I laughed, unsure if the author's purpose was to entertain with an overly dramatic exaggerated story, or inform us of actual facts of the time.

Then I was sobered by the thought that it basically did a good job of describing conditions for many people in 2019 already.

On the other hand, cheap, plentiful energy has made life very easy for a small portion of the world's population. Shielded from the realities of their low energy counterparts, making changes could be particularly difficult for them. 

Or is it "us"?

I do think that life in the coming decades will be more difficult, but I also believe it will ultimately be an improvement over the days of thinking that everybody could have everything if we just let selfish capitalism do its thing unhindered and unregulated.

We can see that dream is now in its death throes, and that it was a lie from the start. 

What they didn't tell us is that we would need several more planets to destroy to make their selfish dream happen, and that even then there would be many left out and waiting for the ultimate relief of death.

Now, at this late stage, we will be lucky if we only have to wind things down to the energy level of the 1800s, and not the Stone Age. 

“We still have the possibility to redesign our societies for a huge decrease in energy use. It will upset some people, of course, but the window is still open.”
- Raul Ilargi Meijer


  1. Anonymous8/10/2019

    The UK is in a strange place at the moment with the uncertainty of Brexit and general feeling that life just doesn't make sense. We have had odd weather recently with days of constant lighting and tropical like rain, this island is slowly being terraformed, but at a rate that is hard to detect. Our ruling class appear to straight out of the 1800 hundreds, but for some reason they keep getting voted in and yesterday we did lose a large part of the grid that affected large parts of the country. we are possibly in a expanded form of that time period before a tsunami where things go quiet and an eerie vibe falls on the world.

    I practice minimalism in material things and understand why the practice gives a new perspective, as you can demarcate between the material world which for us is the irrational capitalist system which is more than consumption, but also includes beliefs and cravings and the world of voluntary simplicity which through simple living allows a new perspective and also the insight that human obsession and projection is actually rather fruitless. Maybe this planet is odd that it is looking to create some sort of consciousness, but it's latest attempt has failed and as humanity recedes into the raising sea levels so does science and progress. Einstein and Newton and technological knowledge is not a set standard in this universe, but is there to fall apart and be washed away by time.

    Apologies for the overly philosophical nature of this comment.


    1. Anonymous8/10/2019

      Hi Alex,
      Your line about how the politicians who are doing so much harm continue to be elected struck a cord with me. Happening here too in the states - and it is baffling, isn't it?

      As with any age, the 1800s had good things and bad things. Nothing will remain the same so, as others on this blog, we rely little on material things for happiness and fulfillment and more on learning and companionship.

      - Mary

    2. Alex,

      Definitely a weird vibe in the world right now. Major fecal matter could hit the proverbial fan at any moment.

      We enjoy philosophical diatribes, and enjoyed yours. It brings to mind the state of entropy - are we experiencing a "gradual decline into disorder"? It seems that way from my perspective. Civilization turns out to be a fragile and temporary state.


      We have a federal election coming up, and no parties that deserve my vote. I have serious issues with all of them. Is it still democracy if there are only shitty options where The People lose every time, regardless of who wins?

      Learning and companionship will be part of the new wealth as our world shifts. There is no point having more money than you need if spending it only results in a more degraded planet, and alienation from the human family.

  2. The dream is indeed in its death throes, and I for one won't shed many tears. I'm sad for my children, who will have it much harder than I ever have. But I'm not sad to see the selfishness and apathy of Western society hit the deck. Can you imagine how badly most of us soft westerners will cope?! I'm not saying I'll do any better but in some areas I'll be better prepared than others. I don't have attachment to my stuff, we walk pretty much everywhere, we grow some of our own food and keep experimenting with new ideas. Bit by bit we're trying to get more and more self sufficient in every way. We're still going to fall, but hopefully our landing might be a tad softer. We shall see. Our ancestors would turn in their graves if they saw how easy we have it.

    1. I like to imagine your kids inhabiting a better world than what we have now. Is humanity going through the throes of a painful evolutionary period?

      Our species does tend to get better over time, with a bit of backsliding every now and then. Like now.

      For our children, it is up to us to manifest a world where money as the bottom line has been replaced by care for each other and the planet we all share. We can have that for them.

      What a gift that would be.

      One of my favourite things about the simple life is how there is the time (and motivation) to experiment with living. Tending toward self sufficiency is moving in the right direction, and good preparation for an uncertain future.


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