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

I have an e-bike I built with a hub motor.  I was using lead acid and that was too heavy and it has been hanging in my garage waiting for batteries.  A few weeks ago I figured i’d get some li-on batts and mentioned it to a co-worker.He said that there...

Also, the revelations about Trump's apparent change in behavior from Omarosa's previous time of working with Trump and now lends credence the idea (which has been whispered about throughout the administration's tenure) that Trump has lost his previous ...

To Hell With US Jobs, Let's Get Iran!By Eric MargolisAugust 13, 2018 "Information Clearing House" -  President Trump keeps vowing to create m...

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

The Age of the ImbecileThe World is Turning Catast [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily August 14The Diner Daily is [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily August 13The Diner Daily is [...]

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 [...]

     FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump [...]

Dear Readers, it is my current opinion that this c [...]

Quote from: Eddie on August 11, 2018, 10:10:24 AMA [...]

As Greg Hurwitz mentioned, the best lever for Demo [...]

 Have been doing a bit of soul searching about my [...]

The ten day forecast shows it letting up, but I [...]

More rain yesterday, more today  Since our one wee [...]

Quote from: RE on August 05, 2018, 06:11:44 AMSo I [...]

After over 20 years with ATT as my cell phone serv [...]

Whatever weather Mother Nature gives us, it'l [...]

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

Impotence and Denial: The Desperate Virtue Signaling Voices By Cognitive Dissonance     Regardless o [...]

A Near Death Experience: Back from the Brink By Cognitive Dissonance   In an odd sort of way I am fa [...]

Bob By Cognitive Dissonance     Mrs. Cog has an ironclad rule honed and confirmed by decades of expe [...]

Some Thoughts from the Front Lines By Casey Stengel Editor - One of the ways we avoid catastrophe fa [...]

It Takes a Village… By Cognitive Dissonance     Mrs. Cog and I live at the end of a dead end private [...]

Event Update For 2018-08-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-08-10http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-08-09http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-08-08http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-08-07http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

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

My Plastic Fantastic Love Affair"Composers and decomposers co-evolved in an endless dance."Her neon mouth with a bleeding [...]

Readying the mind"We are not going to reprogram a neocortex that took millions of years to program as if it were [...]

Addicts and Gangsters"The rial is now at an all-time low, with an inflation rate of 147 percent. Addicts are droppin [...]

You Can't Stop A Wave But You Can Surf-3"The struggle with any addict is to produce permanent change."Part ThreeJust when things s [...]

You Can't Stop A Wave But You Can Surf-2"A more prosperous way down would be to work at community scale"Part TwoAccording to both [...]

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

I’m betting on 26%, which is effectively 0. [...]

Militarily, strategic interdiction of energy supplies is the key, especially in an era of declining [...]

I know we enjoy bashing old Musky Loins on OFW because he embodies the worst of our species' te [...]

Please get back to us when he dates Amber Rudd. [...]

Let's see what happens on 9 Sept. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_N9dPjMtiA [...]

Modern nation survive through debt. Credit issuers that issue credit backed by oil seem to do the be [...]

Why fetishize debt/GDP? Because it is a trend that never ends. It is chronic, not some temporary flu [...]

Charles Hugh Smith is saying that since 2008 the central banks of the world have been buying up zill [...]

Steve, have you read this author? http://michael-hudson.com/2007/08/why-the-miracle-of-compound-inte [...]

Absolutely true. I am waiting for someone to say that debt can increase faster than income forever. [...]

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

International aid for climate change adaptation in West Africa is increasing exponentially, but our [...]

This study analyzes the temporal variation of different rainfall features in the central region of A [...]

Widespread poverty is the most serious threat and social problem that Bangladesh faces. Regional vul [...]

The main features of the instrumental global mean surface temperature (GMST) are reasonably well des [...]

It is still a challenge to provide spatially explicit predictions of climate parameters in African r [...]

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