Monday, January 17, 2011

My Resilient Neighborhood, Part 1 - Laying The Foundation

As I promised in my post, Adjusting My Own Oxygen Mask,” I want to write a bit about the steps I am taking to make my life and my neighborhood more resilient in the face of uncertain times. In this post, I will briefly state some of these steps.

The Personal: I see the need for a proper balance between the pursuit of money and the achievement of other life goals. This is especially true now that the money economy is fragile and my place in it is uncertain. My time goal now is to work between half time and ¾ time so that I can have the remainder of my week devoted to building a healthy lifestyle and a healthy neighborhood. My money goal is to be able to live on less than half of my salary so that the rest can be devoted to meeting personal and neighborhood needs. So far I am doing well on the money part of this goal, although the time part has lately been a bit harder to achieve.

Both the time and the money goal are important, and cannot be neglected. In this time in which many powerful politicians, rich people and media voices are promoting selfishness, in which many government social safety nets are being shredded, it is ever more important to prepare oneself to live a life of charity. As the Good Book says, “Let our people also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they may not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14) I intend to use my spare time and money in some interesting ways. There'll be no room for certain right-wingers to howl “Socialism!!!”, because, after all, it's my time and money to do with as I please, isn't it?

I've been working part time as an engineer and teaching part time as an adjunct engineering instructor. I'm thinking of going back to school myself to get my master's degree. Such a move would make it easier to get a job teaching full time. If I decide to go back, I might study semiconductor fabrication with a view to learning more about organic semiconductors. It's not that I think organic semiconductors will enable us to live a high tech lifestyle, but rather, that I believe that in a low-energy future, the only semiconductor technology that will be available to society will be based on organic materials with performance that is not nearly as great as the silicon-based semiconductors we enjoy now. But a little bit of something is better than nothing at all.

I've almost finished building a chicken coop in my backyard. (I can hear people saying, “What?! You write a blog like the Well Run Dry and you don't have chickens yet?!!” Hey, I'm working on it...) One of my other projects is quite mundane: I need to clean out my garage this spring, so that I can start a workshop. I intend to explore home-based small-scale manufacturing and refurbishing. I am also continuing to study Russian, although my effort is confined to self-study right now. Once I become reasonably competent, I'll brush up on my Spanish.

The Neighborhood: As teaching has become an integral part of my strategy of personal resilience, so it has become the mainstay of my outreach to my neighborhood. In “My (Somewhat) Walkable, (Somewhat) Russian Neighborhood,” I wrote about the Russians and eastern Europeans I have met here where I live. One of them found out that I play guitar, and he asked me if I could teach some of his relatives. So over the last year I have had a handful of kids over at my house once or twice a week. It has been an experience, believe me! The kids are typical of kids everywhere: warm, sensitive souls one minute and crazed creatures the next. (The fact that I'm teaching them shows that the Almighty has a sublime sense of humor...)

I also may get to enjoy the privilege of being a learner in my neighborhood, as I have been talking to one of my Russian neighbors about having one of his relatives teach a beekeeping class to some of us. Hopefully that will happen this summer.

Teaching, both at a university and in my home, has gotten me thinking about many things – things such as pedagogy, the “diagonal economy” of Jeff Vail's writings, neighborhood-based solutions to neighborhood needs, and the process of developing a curriculum for the learning of skills appropriate for a post-Peak society. In future posts, I will explore these themes as I describe them through the lens of my weekly guitar class and my other neighborhood initiatives. My aim will be to show how a neighborhood composed of diverse cultures can come together in a calm and reasonable frame of mind to improve its quality of life even in the midst of a declining economy.

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