L is for Learning new Stuff

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on February 20, 2017

Discuss this article at the Education Table inside the Diner

 

One of the benefits of knowing that the demise of the oil industry is at hand—and thus the modern way of life—is that it now makes sense to learn new skills. Under the standard educational model for most people in the industrial world, most learning takes place in the early years, perhaps stretching into early adulthood for a few. It is during this time, we are told, that the necessary skills are acquired to enable us to become obedient worker/consumers in the economy (or "upstanding citizens in society" in old money). For most people, any learning beyond this age tends to be merely a tweaking of what they already know. For example, they may already be able to operate a computer in an office environment, but they may need to be sent on a course to learn how to use the latest versions of a software package. This kind of learning is called training and one is expected to go through it in order to get a pay rise or avoid being sacked—at least until the day your job is handed to a computer algorithm or a robot.

Of course, this isn't real learning, it's merely learning how to tinker with an unstable and unsustainable system. On the other hand, many adults take it upon themselves to voluntarily expand their minds and pick up new skills. They attend night school classes and go on courses, learning a dizzying array of new subjects that could include anything from conversational French, stained glass window making or calligraphy, through to quilt making, taxidermy or astrophysics. Many more simply buy books and instructional DVDs and learn all about the foxtrot, Faberge egg painting or ritual magic that way—but usually the reason for learning this new information is motivated by a desire to practice a hobby in the leisure time outside of one's productive, money-earning life.

If you want to switch professions, say from being a teacher to a lawyer, you'll likely have to gain a professionally recognised qualification, awarded after a lengthy period of burning the midnight oil and at great personal expense. This is another kind of learning, often referred to as re-training, and although it might give you the ability to make more money in the short term it still likely does not address the problem of systemic instability in the longer term—you might be re-training for a job or profession that doesn't exist in five years.

Economic logic in our over-complex world currently dictates that it is very hard, if not impossible, to earn a living making useful things that can be made far more cheaply elsewhere due to mechanisation, cheap fossil fuels and globalisation. Only people in the continually-shrinking upper middle classes can afford to pay the real costs of production for items made by people who do not work under conditions of slave-labour. For example, I have a friend who is a highly skilled woodworker. He can take a piece of freshly-cut wood and transform it into a beautiful and practical object, such as a chair, a set of spoons and bowls, or a canoe paddle. The amount of work and attention to detail he puts into his creations is both impressive and admirable. But even he admits that he'd rather buy a cheap chair from Ikea than pay the full cost of one of his beautiful hand-made chairs — and he's realistic enough in his outlook that he doesn't blame others for doing so.

Yet this unfair-seeming scenario will not—cannot—last forever.

As the availability of high-density energy sources falters and dwindles, and the political technostructures that make globalisation possible grind to a juddering halt, the calculus of this setup will turn on its head. Many, if not most, of the items we currently take for granted will become very expensive. In other cases they will simply become unavailable at any price. When this happens, the laws of supply and demand will assert themselves and anyone able to provide necessary products and services will find themselves in an enviable position.

Learning new skills and how to make things, however, takes time. There's an assumption these days that anything can be learned quickly and easily, and that once one has learned it one can instantly become a teacher of it. The wife of my chair-making friend—who herself makes baskets, lamps and even coffins from willow—told me last week that she has fielded several separate phone calls in the last two weeks from people wanting to learn how to do exactly what she does. All of them, she said, wanted to quit their careers immediately and move down here to west Cornwall—which for many people is really the back of beyond—and instantly become basket weaving teachers, despite their never having touched a piece of fresh willow in their lives. When gently prodded as to why they felt so moved they each gave some answer that indicated Donald Trump or Brexit as the cause of their unease. An impending sense of Armageddon seemed to be the driver behind their sudden desire to learn how to make picnic baskets.

My friend patiently explained to them that it took her many years of practice to get where she is today. There were the years of experimenting with different designs, and of growing different species of willow, discerning which ones were appropriate for the local climate and soils. Aside from the ongoing learning of the skill of basket-making there were the years of plodding around the region's craft fairs—leaving home at 4:30am in order to get there in time to set up her stall, only to come home late in the day having hardly made the petrol money. There were the years of research into these lost skills (including hunting down old retired fishermen in their 80's and 90's, and learning how they once sat on the harbour walls weaving the extremely specialised lobster and crab pots before the era of mass industrial production) and the years of building up the strength in her hands and fingers. And then there were the numerous setbacks, such as rabbits destroying her willow crop, and all the other various slings and arrows that life chucks at you. Only, she then says, only after a decade and a half of dedication has she been finally able to call herself an artisan who is able to make a modest living from her craft—and she still refuses to call herself a master (you can see what she makes and judge for yourself).

But the people who contacted her were not interested in all of this—they wanted to learn how to make baskets next week and be teaching it the week after.

The point I'm trying to make here is that learning useful skills takes TIME. And the moment one begins to learn something new one begins to realise that there's a lot more to it than you previously thought. Growing food, for example, is another skill that many people assume you can just pick up more or less overnight. It's true that you might be able to quickly grow some food without any prior experience, but growing enough for a balanced diet that will keep you and your family alive is a whole different ball game: man cannot live by beans and potatoes alone.

From a personal perspective, since I first encountered the seriousness of our predicament some six or seven years ago, once I had worked through all the Kübler-Ross stages of grief "No, it can't be happening!", "I'll be alright if I just pack a bug-out bag and buy some gold," etc.) I have picked up quite a few new skills and been led down many an interesting intellectual avenue.  Having gone from a situation of relative complacency with a comfortable, if unfulfilling, office job, I have now learned the value of what it means to be a producer of things rather than just a consumer of them. Among the things that I can now produce are charcoal, wood products, fruit, biochar, natural soap, wine, cider, herbs and vegetables, and books. I'm working on producing many more things, including mushrooms, coppice products (fences, hurdles etc), herbal beers and honey. I've planted a forest garden, I've learned permaculture and coppice woodland management, I can strip a chainsaw down and I can field dress a squirrel. All of these things take skills that I have learned, to some degree.

Am I an expert at making and doing these things? NO! (I might be able to make some charcoal in an oil drum but I'll never be like the Japanese masters who had 2,000 different grades of charcoal, which apprentices had to learn to recognise merely by sniffing the smoke it gave off during production.) Could I live self-sufficiently using these skills? Don't make me laugh! In fact, I consider myself a rank amateur in terms of my practical skills, although to an outsider it might superficially appear that I know what I'm doing. This, I have learned, is the case for many people who nevertheless pass themselves off as experts (I recently heard of a young newly-qualified permaculture teacher who had never seen a carrot grow and was unsure how to get it out of the ground – and he was 'teaching' a group of middle aged people who had been expert gardeners since before he was born).

That's where the community aspect comes into play. Nobody can know everything. I would go further and say that hardly anyone can even know a lot of things. There are very few people in the world who  can do everything from rebuild a car engine, solder electronic circuit boards, grow (and know how to use) their own medicine, and defend themselves in a court of law. For the most part it is far better to specialise and organise into small, manageable groups. The ideal size for an autonomous group of differently skilled individuals is around 150 people (see Rob O'Grady's book, 150 Strong). This was the size of group I chose to use as an example of 'good practice' in my fictional novel Seat of Mars. In my story the 'clan leader' Art Gwavas, takes over a farm and only allows people with a variety of useful skills to live there. In this way they manage to make life a lot more bearable than it is for the hapless individuals hit by the same national calamity.

People learn in different ways. Many are autodidactic to some extent (can teach themselves), but many also prefer to be taught as part of a class. Some things have to be taught one-on-one. A good method for learning that I have heard works well is to be part of a skills swapping group. The concept is simple; you meet up once a week or month and someone teaches their particular skill to the rest. The next meeting it is someone else's turn. The ones I have heard about tend to involve skills such as sewing, soap making, fermenting and household item repair—but it could be anything really. What I have found with learning is that you should only try and learn things in which you have a natural interest. If you're unsure whether it is for you, you can always dip you toe in and give it a go to see if it appeals to you. I have something of a butterfly nature and tend to flit from one thing to next, so there have been many things I have thought would be interesting to me but turned out not to be. I've been learning my whole life and I plan to only stop learning new things when I'm dead.

It's scientifically proven that learning new things keeps your brain ticking over as you get older. My grandfather decided to learn Italian as an old man. Having never been outside of England in his life, he simply got on a ferry and a train and lived in Rome for a while. His method of learning was to sit on public benches and strike up a conversation with similarly-aged Italian men. They no doubt chatted about the war and the how things had been. When he was happy he could speak Italian he returned home.

So if you decide to learn a new skill for the future, make sure it's something that will likely survive the future. Learning how to race cars is probably not such a good skill for the future (nor is anything that would involve wasting fossil fuels). Also check out the competition. For example, when I lived in Denmark I taught myself how to make natural cold-pressed soaps. Everyone was amazed that I could do this ("What, you mean you actually make it? With your own hands?") and was happy to part with a tidy sum of money for a simple bar of soap. Then I moved to Britain and soap-makers are two-a-penny, and so my soap-making venture no longer makes sense*.

The main thing it's important to consider is the lead time involved in acquiring new skills. The best time to start learning them, ideally, is ten years ago. The second best time is today.

* Oh, and don't become a yoga teacher either. The world is already full of yoga teachers and doesn't need any more.

4 Responses to L is for Learning new Stuff

  • Davebee says:

    Thanks for the heads up on reskilling Jason. Down here on the Southern tip of Africa we have a more, how shall I put this delicately, robust ethos towards learning and life in general.

    Thus, I will be taking up some learning in the gentle art of "How to be a warlord" or "How to run a child soldier army" to be prepared for that future when the big Manure Meets the Aircon moment.

    Sadly though, the majority of my fellow South Africans have already started on their training and are light years ahead of myself in their when-the-sky-falls skills, actually, to be honest, most of them are ALREADY past masters in their 'disciplines' and require no training at all!

    • RE says:

      This would seem like a wise time to GTFO of Dodge, DB.

      RE

      • Davebee says:

        Yup RE I wouldn't mind a relocation out of this Klown Show that's for sure buddy. Where should one go? Maybe back to my old home town of Truro in Cornwall and take up a course in basket weaving / Shaker furniture production?

        Perhaps Jason could take me on as a sort of older person exchange student wherein I could hand over some local South African talents to the gentle folk of Penzance such as advanced car hijacking or insanely large government tender scams…gee, the list is endless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

https://image.freepik.com/free-icon/musical-notes-symbols_318-29778.jpg

Support the Diner
Search the Diner
Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D
Archives
Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

Quote from: Eddie on Today at 06:05:04 AMThe main reason to use PV now is to learn how to use it appropriately, and how to live off batteries. Batteries are the Achilles heel of all DIY power systems.I will dr...

QuoteEddie: My view (and I'm not alone by any stretch of the imagination) is that my highest duty is to myself and my family.I suppose when it comes down to it, this is what we disagree about the most.  You think it a "higher duty" to be sel...

What exactly am I supposed to do to combat this kind of stupid? Lawmaker Introduces Crowdfunding Bill To Pay For Trump’s Border WallSo Mexico’s not paying for it?By Mary PapenfussPresident Donald Trump needs at least $22 billion...

Quote from: Eddie on Today at 06:46:24 AMIt's hard to buy lead acid batteries here now without electrolyte. I remember when I was a kid it was the norm. You bought the battery and added the electrolyte, which came separ...

do it do it now. The pigs are nice but propagation to pass on those genes is essential. Think of how many mini droughts those plants have gone through. They are the survivors of countless tries. In times of trouble they could be worth their weight in g...

Blog Commentary
Recent Facebook Posts

How to Get Rid of the Super Rich

How to Get Rid of the Super Rich– By leveraging the power of the public purse against corporations that pay their top execs outrageously more..

59 minutes ago

Trump Bars Purchases Of Debt, Receivables Owed To Venezuela, PDVSA

ZH is only concerned that the US squeeze of Venezuela will put gasoline prices up. More importantly the action will drive Venezuela into the..

1 hour ago

The Coming Collapse

Chris Hedges: “All the harbingers of collapse are visible: crumbling infrastructure; chronic underemployment and unemployment; the indiscriminate..

1 hour ago

Cassandra's Legacy

New Data Reveal the Hidden Mechanisms of the Collapse of the Roman Empire–

1 hour ago

Karen J. Greenberg: Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time

Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time–

1 hour ago

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Quote from: Eddie on March 13, 2018, 05:21:10 PMAl [...]

Quote from: knarf on March 13, 2018, 03:33:01 PMAU [...]

Quote from: knarf on March 13, 2018, 03:25:04 PM [...]

A new study found that the Great Recession correla [...]

From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior offici [...]

Diner Newz Feeds
  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

Quote from: Eddie on May 21, 2018, 05:04:54 PMWelc [...]

Quote from: Eddie on May 21, 2018, 10:47:52 AMQuot [...]

Quote from: Eddie on May 21, 2018, 05:04:54 PMWelc [...]

Welcome David. I was excited when I saw the book, [...]

I had not seen this one Eddie. I just ordered it a [...]

Quote from: agelbert on May 21, 2018, 06:30:28 PM [...]

 Make Nexus Hot News part of your morning: click [ [...]

TruthdigMAY 20, 2018Trump’s 🦀 Strategic Assault[.. [...]

AgMagTop 8 Farm Subsidy LoopholesBy Scott Faber, V [...]

Quote from: Eddie on March 13, 2018, 05:21:10 PMAl [...]

Quote from: knarf on March 13, 2018, 03:33:01 PMAU [...]

Quote from: knarf on March 13, 2018, 03:25:04 PM [...]

A new study found that the Great Recession correla [...]

From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior offici [...]

Quote from: Karpatok on May 21, 2018, 09:17:53 AMW [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on May 21, 2018, 05:05:42 [...]

 Dear readers, Buy Gold, some silver, and if you b [...]

 Just wonderful to know you are well and have foun [...]

https://news.goldcore.com/ie/gold-blog/russia-buys [...]

The medical evidence supports colonoscopies, PSA t [...]

Quote from: Eddie on May 18, 2018, 08:11:50 AMThe [...]

Every graduating class has one guy everyone knows [...]

A new thread chronicling the antics of those Hones [...]

Quote from: Eddie on May 11, 2018, 06:17:08 PMQuot [...]

Alternate Perspectives
  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Stupid Is As Stupid Does By Cognitive Dissonance     The other night, Mrs. Cog and I streamed a movi [...]

A Double Rainbow Graces Cogville By Cognitive Dissonance   It has been a somewhat dry spring so far. [...]

We Prefer Our Sociopaths Well Dressed and Spoken By Cognitive Dissonance   What would you do if I to [...]

A Duty to Know By Cognitive Dissonance   Conversations Mrs. Cog and I have often revolve around awar [...]

The Pendulum – Part Three Seeking Balance By High Desert   Missing in the mix of hundreds of bug-out [...]

Event Update For 2018-05-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2018-05-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2018-05-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2018-05-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2018-05-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

You know things have taken a turn for the desperate when women have started to drive. Or rather, whe [...]

From Filmers to Farmers is re-launched on the astounding open source blogging platform Ghost! [...]

The blogging scene is admittedly atrocious. Is there really no option for a collapse blogger to turn [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability
  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

The Russians Aren't Coming"What exactly is our strategy for the Malthusian predicament?"  In his autobiography, Holl [...]

Why is your teenage sibling trying to kill you?"We were searching for the tendrils of common language from which we could enlarge the discussi [...]

Straws are a gateway drug, because they are so easy and ubiquitous. That is also what makes them a g [...]

Spring Cleaning"If you’re buying weird tech gizmos, you need to know what you are trying to prove by that. [...]

Mycelial Mind"One thing we can say about our fungal cousins. They are vastly better connected to the natural [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Top Commentariats
  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Kids are killing themselves 100 more than each other but that doesn't sell as well "gunz a [...]

Good to see you still going, though you don't really need to. The archives of this blog will be [...]

Doug Noland is saying that the emerging market debt fiasco is reaching critical mass. We shall see, [...]

It's probably less energy demanding to mine gold than mine bitcoins ... [...]

Sorry, Yanos, artificial intelligence and automation aren’t going to do sh**. Or, if they are, at le [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction
Useful Links
Technical Journals

Knowledge on the impact of climate variability on the decadal timescale is important for policy make [...]

We investigate the feasibility of developing decadal prediction models for autumn rainfall ( R A ) o [...]

By the end of this century, the average global temperature is predicted to rise due to the increasin [...]

For modern infrastructures, structural concrete has been widely adopted for various components and s [...]

The standard deviational ellipse is useful to analyze the shape and the length of a tropical cyclone [...]

Follow on our http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/