One of the perks of being an expat is the fact that you tend to get more money doing a job abroad than if you were doing it back in your own country, simply because you get supplements to your basic wage which are designed to encourage you to stay in the country rather than flee back home after your first contract. These supplements are things such as a monthly housing allowance or a gratuity at the end of your contract. I’ve never felt comfortable earning more than my local colleagues, but not to such an extent that I’ve felt like sending my extra dollars back to the government with a little note saying “I really don’t deserve this…”
So what does one do with these embarrassing riches? When I worked in Brunei everyone would jump on a plane whenever there was a long weekend and zoom off to Singapore or Kuching or anywhere to get away from that armpit of a country. There were audible sighs of relief as the plane lifted off the tarmac and headed towards a destination that sold alcohol. But a few years down the line and even the densest of us ought to be aware of the fact that flying is increasingly being seen as an important contributor to global warming, as well as being one of the prime industries destined to take a nosedive when peak oil starts to push us down the slippery slope.
In my case, I’ve cut down my flying from about three or four trips a year to one every two years. So what do I do with all that mezuma? Well, I’ve been investing it in green portfolios, or, at least, as green as I can get it. The trouble is there’s always a company or two in the portfolio that you’re really a bit dubious about, and as far as I’m concerned I’m too much of an ignoramus about financial matters to be able to delve into the mysteries of the stock markets to make a truly informed assessment of what I should be doing with my money. So, having watched Chris Martenson’s Crash Course www.chrismartenson/crashcourse
and having read various peak oil commentators talking about the prospects for the world economy, it became incresingly clear to me that, if I take peak oil and global warming seriously – and I most certainly do – then it might be a good idea to take the advice of these commentators, whom I have a lot of respect for, having seen the accuracy of their general forecasts over the last five years, and get my financial house in order before the shit hits the fan.
The one thing that seems to be the bottom line for all of them is – get out of debt. If the economy bombs and people are losing their jobs and they can’t repay their mortgages and they’ve got a string of debts created by their profligate use of credit cards, and there is no sign of an economic recovery – that requires copious amounts of cheap oil, which we’ve no longer got – then there are going to be a lot of people suffering. I don’t want to be one of them. I’ve long been thinking about getting rid of my debts – in my case that ‘simply’ means my mortgage – but the person who really tipped the scales for me was Nicole Foss, alias Stoneleigh of the Automatic Earth at http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com She first came to my attention a year or so ago, but just lately she has been touring North America and Europe giving talks on the economy, and she’s been getting a lot of attention. She gave a talk at the Transition Annual Conference which stunned people (a bit odd that, I thought, as transitioners are supposed to be aware of these things, aren’t they?) and which was reported on by Shaun Chamberlin: http://transitionculture.org/2010/06/14/my-conference-shaun-chamberlin-on-stoneleighs-peak-oilfinance-talk/
One thing that comes through from this, and which I suspect is the reason for her world tour, is the extreme urgency of the situation. She sees the world entering the worst depression ever probably in the next couple of years. What makes her so interesting and difficult to ignore is the fact that she fully understands Peak Oil, Global Warming, ecological carrying capacity, population, the transition movement and the need to localize, the end of economic growth, the fact that the economy depends upon the environment and is not separate from it…. in other words, she factors in everything that the media economists (you know, the ones always referred to as ‘the Nobel laureate…’) choose to ignore. She is absolutely essential reading, because even if you totally disagree with her, you will get from her the opposite extreme from the bland claptrap the media presents us with, and it’s got to be good to at least know what a group of extremely well-informed people are thinking about the way the economy is heading. I remember in 2008 all the commentators saying ‘nobody saw it coming….we were all taken by surprise.’ What garbage! I’d been reading people for the previous three years who’d been warning of what was coming, but they were all pooh-poohed by the respectable pundits on tv and in the papers. Colin Campbell, Richard Heinberg, James Howard Kunstler, Matt Savinar were all way ahead of the field, as no doubt were many others, but these were the ones I was aware of. So, see what Nicole Foss has got to say, and decide for yourself. Here’s another interview with her:
Anyway, I’m now in the process of cashing in my investments so I can pay off my mortgage, and I hope to spend a bit of money on a good set of gardening tools (in Hong Kong! Good gardening tools! Maybe that’s a subject for another post). I’ve also contacted Nicole Foss and asked her to come to Hong Kong. She very quickly responded saying that she would if she could afford it, as she’s also had requests from Malaysia and Australia. I’m wondering if we can get Civic Exchange to pay for her to come out and do a talk. I’ll let you know what they say.