Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I count among my friends, people with skills. I have a friend who brews up some of the best mead I've ever tasted. I have a friend who knitted me a scarf specifically tailored to my needs that keeps my head warm all winter. I have a friend who can take some spare wood and make beautiful usable items out of it. I spend my weekends honing my gardening/preserving/cooking skills. :-D Taken individually, these hobbies are quaint. In today's culture these hobbies are usually a net loss on the balance books. But with an eye on a future defined sharply by the need to make more things by hand and less by machines powered by fossil fuels, these hobbies become skills.
Currently our entire industrial complex is dependent on centralized manufacturing coupled with large transportation webs running on cheap oil. If Billy needs a cup to drink his morning OJ, he drives to the nearest Walmart, picks out a plastic cup in a color that pleases him and he buys it. Billy probably never stops to think about how far away that cup traveled to get to his hands. He probably doesn't think about where cups will come from when we can't afford to ship them in from far flung cup-factories. Now take the example and pan out a bit, practically everything in that Walmart used to be made by hand. Now it's mass produced in factories, usually by machines, and then shipped all over the world. All well and good when transportation is quick and cheap. Not so well and good when fuel becomes expensive. We've outsourced everything to the point where very few people in this nation know how to make useful things. How are we as a nation going to clothe ourselves in the vacuum left by the collapse of centralized manufacturing? How many people do you know with the knowledge to weave cloth? Spin thread? Sew? How will we make basic home goods when Walmart isn't stocking them? Where's Billy going to get his cup? I hope he knows a good potter, or glass blower.
I know I'm keeping my friends close and my friends with skillz even closer.

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