Thursday, May 04, 2006

Women and Peak Oil

There are few women's voices in the Peak Oil movement. I have to admit, dear reader, that this has intimidated me somewhat. In writing this blog and finding my own voice I have struggled to give myself permission to have my own point of view, value it, and share it. And I have a long way to go. I rarely write opinion pieces as I am still trying to grasp the facts. Economic, political, social, and scientific analysis eludes me, as much as I admire and appreciate it.

But I do have a feel for things in the realm of communication, group process and emotional expression. These are the areas where I have spent my personal and professional energy. And I have come to believe these arenas are going to be just as important as permaculture, bicycle repair and defense. I am counting on this in fact.

I hope to develop a career that will span pre-, during-, and post- collapse if there could be such a thing. I hope to become and educator and facilitator for communities concerned about peak oil, and relocalizing their energy, economic and food sources. That is why I am educating myself about peak oil and going to workshops about facilitation. I have a long way to go but I feel this is my calling.

My journey went something like this: read peak oil bulletin boards. Get totally overwhelmed. Try to figure out what I should do to prepare. Read threads about jobs skills that will be valuable in the future. Totally freak out because I am not cut out to be a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. Have an aha moment based on I what I learned from What Color is your Parachute? People have skills with ideas, with things, and with animals/people. Me, I'm squarely in the people skills category. But none of the jobs that were being described were people skills!

I was stumped by this. My first thought was OMG! My skills won't be needed. They will be a luxury we can't afford. I am going to have to do work I don't like. Misery, etc.

Then I had another aha from my feminist days. The idea that women's work is basically unpaid labor. I thought--these folks are assuming that their mothers, sisters, daughters are going to take care of the people stuff "for free." That they will just give, without expecting to be compensated, and that they will have to do work in addition to this in order to survive.

(I don't mean to imply that men aren't expected to do uncompensated work, I am just explaining my process.)

Somehow this realization enabled me to assert the value of the people skills. Given the stresses that communities will be under, they will probably be more important in the future. So how could I be helpful here? Given that I don't have a lot of experience in close-proximity community living, how could I make this my vocation?

That's when I began my adventures exploring the realm of intentional communities, and one thing led to another and now I am taking facilitation workshops emphasizing cohousing issues.

What brought this whole topic up for me, and gave me the courage to write about it, is a post by Paula Hay on her adaptation zine. (She also has a blog.) She talks about being a woman at the Local Solutions conference woman at the Local Solutions conference in NYC this last weekend.
One of the "real stories" of the Local Solutions conference, from my perspective, was a surprising theme that kept cropping up among the people with whom I spoke. It seems that among the Peak Oil grassroots--or at least among folks at the Local Solutions conference--there is a desire to hear from more women working on Peak Oil and Relocalization. I heard more comments about this than about nearly any other issue, I assume because I am one of the few women engaged in publishing Peak Oil-related information.
This is an emerging theme and I (and Paula) would love to hear your thoughts.


Peter said...


Could you please add this new forum to your list of discussion boards?

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting blog, I just found it. Ever since reading Kunstler's Long Emergency I've also fretted occassionally about what skills I'd bring to the table if there was ever a serious collapse of the oil economy. As a computer programmer with few hands-on skills, living in a city -- well, let's just say the prospect is not encouraging. I never thought of it from a male/female perspective; I think that anyone who has common sense and flexibility will be better off, regardless of gender. -Gary

Liz Logan said...

Will do, Peter.

Liz Logan said...

Thanks, Gary. I haven't given thought to what the folks with "working with information skills" bent could do. I'm sure we'll still need those skills. They represent a whole way of thinking that is valuable.

I think you are right, common sense and flexibility will be very important traits.

betsy said...

It's interesting to me that the peak oil discussions that I've attended have tended to bring out more "what will I do to survive?" responses as compared to the climate change movement which (as I'm experiencing it) fosters more of a ' what do *we* need to do to make a difference?" We can mean local governments, the world of nations, or neighborhood associations or extended families.

There's a certain culture that is being created around each issue... but fostering cooperative community relationships is key to me.

However, in regard to Liz's point on gender roles and paid/unpaid labor. I second the concern. I just spent an hour talking with someone about the cohousing community they're in the process of creating. Shifting from a helpful resource to a paid resource feels very.... fraught. I'm feeling my way to a point of saying in effect, if you want my input and guidance we (I) need to arrange things so I am getting back things I need and want from this exchange (besides your generalized goodwill).

Liz Logan said...

Thank you Betsy,

Good point.

I'd like to address this in a blog post.

Anonymous said...

All wrong. Your skills will not enable you to make a living. Just look at history. It is plentiful energy via fossil fuels, mainly oil, that changed human society from one which most people, the vast majority, had to work at providing the essentials of life. It will return to that. And women did not provide and will not provide any services for free and never did. If you eat, have clothing, shelter, water, etc....and your not actively participating on a hands on level in producing those things.....then your living on someone elses labor.....period. No matter how much work you do of another nature.....even unpaid......if your eating, drinking, are sheltered and having your essential needs taken care of, then you are paid, with someone elses labor. The thing with women is that they are so far removed from all this with their clerical and other comfort jobs that they forget where roads, buildings, the food they (claim) to cook....(mostly processed pre cooked packaged food) where their office came from, the phone service, their house, everything.......look out the window.....nothing you see would exist without peoples actual labor....all the talking, writing, clerical work....etc etc etc........produces We wont be able to afford any of this crap accept the bare min of essential record keeping and planning in the future. People skills are a luxury that energy plentiful societies afford to pay people for.....the fact of the matter is this....if you and I were stuck on an Island....and I can fish, and grow food, and hunt...and build things......I ain't gonna give you jack shit for your skills.......but you would give me anything I want for mine....if you want to eat that is........get the picture?

Anonymous said...

I kind of agree with the previous poster. But all is not lost. I noticed that even though I am a highly technical and well paid engineering type, I do not actually produce much of actual substance. I started to work on that and have acquired some more substantive skills recently. I have taken up beekeeping and fruit tree propagation. I bought a large parcel of fertile land which is partially wooded. I bought some precious metals etc. All baby steps but requiring courage and vision. I wish I could meet a nice woman my age who understands peak oil and is not afraid of the changes needed to thrive post peak.

أبل said...

real good article i wonder how this comes true ?