Six tips to cope with impending apocalypse

This article by John Caspar is tongue in cheek but I though point five was very relative. Public policy is lagging behind in guiding Canadians and Nova Scotians toward making better consumer choices. 

I thought it was worth posting as it makes one consider lifestyle changes that would reduce consumption of fossil fuel and free up some income to spend in other areas of our lives. 

Just living closer to work is a change that would reduce strain on traffic congestion and fuel consumption. If you live within walking distance it would also improve physical fitness and potentially reduce some of the strain on public transit. 

There will be some tough decisions to make and the demand will be on the political leaders in all parties to come up, today, with solutions for the future. 

Enjoy the article,

Six tips to cope with impending 'apocalypse'

Soaring oil prices! Food inflation! Recent headlines would have us quaking in our boots, wondering if we'll have enough money to live another day.

By John Caspar,
May 02, 2008

By now you've heard the dire predictions. Oil trading at US$200 per barrel. Gasoline at US$7 per gallon. Galloping food inflation. And as long as we're talking "galloping", isn't that the four horsemen coming over the horizon? You'd think so, to see the way the press is covering recent economic predictions.

I've recently received e-mails from people who are worried about these scary predictions, and are wondering what they should do about them. Should they buy guns and canned food? Are home bomb shelters a good idea again? Okay, they didn't actually ask those questions. I made that up. But they were thinking those questions, I could just tell. I could feel the fear seeping right out of their e-mail.

If you share some of that sense of dread, be at peace. Life as you know it will continue. It's just that you won't be able to eat or drive. Kidding! I'm kidding. Really. Here's what you need to know about the recent economic predictions that are being cast in a catastrophic light by some of the news media:

1) Nothing sells like the Apocalypse. It's hard to think up a better headline than "World Ends Tomorrow!" Okay, "Elvis Appears At Tahitian Reptile Farm!" is close, but you tend to only find that sort of thing in certain types of papers. However, publications that would turn up their sophisticated broadsheet noses at such tabloid tripe will happily and without blushing print every single synonym for "panic" in jumbo font, above the fold, with an exclamation point. So take the media spin cum grano salis.

2) Predictions are, well, predictions... There are a lot of moving parts to the global economy, and economic predictions often miss the mark. The magnitude could be off. The timing might be different. They could be just flat-out wrong.

3) ... and if they're right, they're still not inevitable. People and resources mobilize, and change outcomes. Remember the Y2K scare? Well, there's actually no need to remember it, since nothing happened. It was a scare and not an event because people took purposeful action and changed the outcome - nullifying the predictions of doom.

4) Which is not to say that this isn't a good prediction. There's a good case to be made for crazy-high oil prices and increasing food costs, if you ask me. If you buy the peak oil hypothesis, you have to think that oil prices are going up, up, up. But that should inform your choices, not frighten or paralyze them.

5) Look to Europe. As it turns out, Europeans have been living with high gasoline prices for years. European countries layer heavy taxes on gas prices as a policy to affect consumption patterns, and as you'd expect, it works. For years, gas prices there have been two to three times higher than what we pay in North America. Last week, gas averaged US$8.34 per gallon in France, US$8.58 in Germany, and US$9.51 in the Netherlands. People are still driving, but they're not driving Hummers, Escalades and Suburbans. Their consumer choices have been shaped by a policy of high gas prices, so they drive fuel efficient vehicles, live closer to work, use more transit, and generally behave in a way that - hey! - is better for the planet anyway. Higher fuel prices aren't a bad thing. They're just new to us, and we'll need to adapt.

6) Don't sell your car just yet. I know. It feels like you need to get out of that gas guzzler while the getting's good. That may be the case, but consider the cost of the change before you do anything. For many folks, even after higher gas prices are thrown into the mix, driving the somewhat less efficient car they're driving now may be much cheaper than upgrading to a newer car that's earlier into its depreciation cycle. Do the math on your particular circumstance, and remember to consider that a lot of resources are being poured into improving the energy equation of vehicles. There are likely to be more efficient engines (clean diesel, better hybrids, all-electric, Mr. Fusion, etc.) showing up soon. If you're thinking "new car", it may well be worth waiting out a model year or two.

It's reasonable to consider the recent predictions of runaway prices for oil and food. It isn't, however, reasonable to worry about them. The very point of examining trends and looking into the future is to allow preparation. You should use credible economic forecasts to inform your choices in the same way that you use a weather report.

A forecast of rain shouldn't prompt you to worry. It should prompt you to wear a raincoat and pack an umbrella.

(c) 2008 John Caspar

Contact Dale

Dale Stevens
54 Park Road
Musquodoboit Harbour, NS
B0J 2L0
Ph: (902) 499-7720