Some interesting data points:

1) Over the weekend, I was involved in moving a household.  No paid movers were used; a bunch of us simply got together and moved one apartment to another; up and down stairs, one box or piece of furniture at a time.  In the middle of summer, and even on a relatively good day for the task, it still was a heavy use of muscle power, even with the use of a truck moving things from point A to point B.  Being in decent shape, this wasn’t a big issue, but still, the muscles of all were pretty tired at the end of the entire process.

2) My commute to my office, as mentioned before,  is generally via bicycle, unless big and/or delicate things need to be transported.  It is a four or five mile trip, depending on the route and any errands that have to be done.  It is good exercise, it is actually faster than driving, and parking the bicycle isn’t a hassle at all.

3) Recently, some work popped up that has me using a car two or three days a week, with my destination almost fifty miles away.  The car involved weighs a few thousand pounds, and gets in the 25-30 miles per gallon range.  Of course, the drive (generally without traffic), is effortless.   You put gas in the car, and go.  With gas costing in the $3 per gallon range, it only takes about $12 of fuel to do a trip of 100 miles total.

This fact should be mindboggling, but it generally goes unnoticed in our modern world.   $12 to move a few thousand pounds of metal, at 60+ miles per hour, 100 miles?   Yes, there are issues in that the car drives on a road, and there is infrastructure that makes this all possible.  But it is something that sticks with you (shortly, I’ll work up the energy numbers on all of this).   A few days of moving boxes and assorted household items, one at a time, each weighing ten to twenty pounds, is hard, manual labor.   To do this every day is probably not on our list of things to do.    My grandfather tilled his land (yes, in the old country) with farm animals and manual labor, and thought this was the way of the world, without complaint.

For me, the upshot is that we’ve gotten pretty used to machines in our daily lives, and that physicality is more for recreation (going to the gym, running or hiking for fun). Our food comes from far away via truck and basic transportation is mediated by more fossil fueled machines (rail, aircraft).   Whether JHK’s World Made  By Hand, or JMG’s Star’s Reach happens next year, next decade, or next century, physical labor for all of us is going to come back with a vengeance.  If there’s any upside to this, we all won’t need gym memberships, and we’ll all be in a lot better shape.

Questions for the few in the audience:

  • What physical things do you do every day, that are usually done by machines?
  • Do you go to the gym, even though you could be doing useful physical labor someplace else?
  • What will be the first “labor-saving” thing to go, as the Long Descent starts?

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