Nicole Foss - How I Prepared My Home for Peak Oil and Economic Uncertainty

Nicole Foss - How I Prepared My Home for Peak Oil and Economic Uncertainty

42 687 views | 9 Oct. 2011

Nicole Foss, senior editor of financial blog The Automatic Earth, where she writes as Stoneleigh, describes her personal preparation for peak oil and economic uncertainty.

Foss returns to North America in November 2011 for the International Conference on Sustainability, Transition and Culture Change: Vision, Action, Leadership organized by Local Future non-profit, and directed by Aaron Wissner.

Foss has delivered her Century of Challenges talk hundreds of times.

1. The first 20-minutes of her talk regarding peak oil is available here:

2. To view her full talk, visit The Automatic Earth at:

3. To view a full Q&A session with Mrs. Foss, following her presentation, click here:

To learn more about Mrs. Foss, visit:

Foss is a biologist, an environmental attorney, an energy industry insider, and an expert in the economics of finance. Foss believes that resource limits (peak oil) and the collapse of global Ponzi finance are a "perfect storm" of converging phenomena that threaten to trigger wealth destruction, social discontent, and global conflict. The consequences for unprepared individuals and families could be dire.

In Foss's presentation "A Century of Challenges", she discusses the many converging factors that are contributing to the predicament we face today, and how individuals can build a "lifeboat" to cope with the difficult years ahead. She explains how our current financial system is an unsustainable credit bubble grounded in "Ponzi dynamics," or the logic of the pyramid scheme.

Foss argues that this crisis has developed in the context of the fossil fuel age, an age which will prove to be a relatively brief period of human history. She says that we have already seen oil reach a global production peak, and other fossil fuels are not far behind; and while there is still plenty of fossil fuel in the ground, production will fall, meaning that there will be less and less energy available to power the economy at prices afford to pay.

Foss continues that societies have gone through boom and bust cycles before, examples include: the Tulip Mania, the South Sea Bubble and the "Real" Great Depression of the 1870s; but most people in the Western world today will face this crisis without the knowledge or means to provide the basics of their own survival. The industrial system has nearly destroyed the individual capacity for self-reliance.

Foss argues that individuals and communities that take steps now to prepare stand a much better chance to thrive in a changing world.

Warwick University says of Foss's work, "[she] writes a finance blog with a difference; instead of saying how to make money, it tells ordinary people how to avoid losing it."

Foss travels extensively on speaking tours throughout North America, Europe and Australia.


Nicole M. Foss is co-editor of The Automatic Earth, where she writes under the name Stoneleigh. She and her writing partner have been chronicling and interpreting the on-going credit crunch as the most pressing aspect of our current multi-faceted predicament. The site integrates finance, energy, environment, psychology, population and real politik in order to explain why we find ourselves in a state of crisis and what can be done about it. Prior to the establishment of TAE, she was editor of The Oil Drum Canada, where she wrote on peak oil and finance.

Most recently, Foss ran the Agri-Energy Producers' Association of Ontario, where she focused on farm-based biogas projects and grid connections for renewable energy. While living in the UK she was a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where she specialized in nuclear safety in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, and conducted research into electricity policy at the EU level.

Her academic qualifications include a BSc in biology from Carleton University in Canada (where she focused primarily on neuroscience and psychology), a post-graduate diploma in air and water pollution control, an LLM in international law in development from the University of Warwick in the UK. She was granted the University Medal for the top science graduate in 1988 and the law school prize for the top law school graduate in 1997.


@lordmetroid - :) My intent was not to say anything negative about Ms. Foss. As a long-time reader of The Automatic Earth, I think her observations are keen. That said, I think her family's preparations are one option, but not the only, and I was simply trying to suggest that those of us in the suburbs shouldn't feel scared or pressured or "doomed" if we are unable to "get out" in time. I believe it is possible to have interdependent, small-scale homesteads in the suburbs.


Concrete paths will do the trick. Anyhow, the biggest user of oil is as fuel. Removing or reducing car use is a bigger step, then changing the road surface.

Victor Cordis

The 1st step would be for the US citizens to realize that even if gas is cheap for them it is not renewable. The 2nd step would be for them to reduce their oil consumption by 50% (so that their consumption avg is like that of the EU). The 3rd step is to ban unnecessary global trading which produces money but wastes oil and so do some businesses locally.

Toos Draadloos aka bedkever

Interesting talk. Just one comment; I seriously question what Nicole says around 27:30, that it's difficult to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet at high latitudes. While this is maybe true for area's where the Inuit live, where hardly any plants can grow, but anywhere else where plants can grow you can in fact grow plant based foods for sure! From a sustainability perspective it is in fact always preferable to eat plant based foods than to eat animal products because there is no loss of energy though a digestive system (on average 10 kilo of plant material is needed to provide 1 kilo of animal product, so there is on average a 90% loss here). That humans cannot eat grass is another myth; members of the grass family (poaceae) include our most important cereal crops such as maize (corn), wheat, rice, barley, and millet. Yes it is true that most of these crops do not do well above a certain latitude (although there are varieties of barley that will grow in the Arctic Circle). Another point is: we can plant something else instead. Hemp for example has been cultivated near the northern border of agriculture in Russia. The seeds of hemp are considered a "super food" with an excellent amino acid picture and a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Mushrooms can be a great source of vitamin D. There is really no need to set aside your ethical values and approve with the atrocities of animal slavery "just because" you live far up north.
Here is just one example:

Have a nice day :)

Kenny Mars

Policing and protection will be first and foremost. 90% of the population will turn on each other because they are completely Dependant on others for survival and have zero skills. Getting to know your neighbors could be essential to survival. Small communities with security from gangs and good leadership will survive.
The Haves will suffer far more than the have nots this time.

Strugglebuggie TV

only the rich western people can do what this woman did... sell her luxury condo in london and then move to the sticks... totally UNREALISTIC

Lord Metroid

@wyndeely She is indeed a doom and gloomer survival nut. Decentralized solar electricity generation to the grid is the way to go, that way the society can use solar combined with water when solar is not available. What she is doing is hording and being selfish, she is definetly not someone I would want in my community.


I wouldn't discount the suburbs. They are the best places to transform into self-sufficient communities post-collapse. I live on a 1/4 acre suburban lot, and I'm doing the same things Ms. Foss is doing - use wood heat, produce 30% of our food, generate some of our own power. Rather than just discounting the environment where 30% of the population lives, perhaps we should start imagining ways to make the suburbs survive Peak Oil - as I've done in "Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs".

Connie Turner

lomira4665 Yes! that,s true! look this is the vid /watch?v=YaF1ZO4DjRs Bor that is the best method to make money online, the guy is very well known he even was with the president and in many TV shows


It is not pathetic and mean minded. She admits that her MAIN form of transport is a private car, even for half hour trips. You can have all the oil saving things around the house you want, but if your main form of transport is a car, it means nothing. Im not talking about getting to meetings, in her own words she drives as her main form of transport. Driving a car would use far more oil then you would save with all the other things put together. I will listen to people who really walk the walk.


No they cannot. Second law of thermodynamics. When you get the design that requires only water to power something you will be rich. It takes more energy to extract the hydrogen from the water then you get from the hydrogen. Have you ever wondered why out of all these thousands of people no one has a production model. Good luck.

John Adams

Listen to the whole talk.

Lord Metroid

@KrunchyJD As soon as she start biking she will notice that "only a half hour drive" is hell of a lot to bike on a regular basis.

John Adams

Very nice start to preparation. Sad to see the criticisms focusing on the car statement Nichole made in the first 30 seconds -- indicates that the negatories didn't bother to watch the talk. Food, Energy, Water, Shelter, skills are well covered. Each household will make its own decisions. Other areas that could have been introduced include health, financial / barter, physical security, community building, everyday stuff to store (e.g. toilet paper), and mental-emotional-spiritual resilience.

Doug McK

ive seen this exact same comment used on various sites, spammer??


Bikes are not a hinderence. The reality is that motorised vehicles are the problem, not the solution. Oil supplies will not decline so rapidly that we will have to live in sheds. The solution is to use less oil. The thing that we can all do to use less oil is to reduce the thing that uses the most oil. Namely driving. Car driving is the elephant in the room that everyone seems to ignore.


Topsoil can be built - or how about container gardening? Small lots can produce TONS of food. We can homeschool or have neighborhood schools. We can raise chickens, ducks and rabbits for food. If we don't have cars, we don't need snow removal in the suburbs either. Our suburbs are already "intentional communities" without having to have outbuildings and invite people to live there. Please - think beyond the obvious and Imagine the Possibilities!


Nicole Foss is an absolutely genius!! Too bad she still eats animals. I thought her intellect wouldn't allow her to commit such barbaric acts.


The fact is that transport is the biggest user of oil. We should therefore focus on how we can reduce or eliminate oil based transport as the first priority. Anyone who does not do this is wasting time. Furthermore you could buy all your food from the shop, and ride a bicyle where you needed to go and still use far less oil. It is like spending time focusing on a puddle of water in your backyard, when a dam behind the house is about to explode. Changing transport is the answer.

Bruce Hudson

KrunchyJD point got me thinking. Are you physically prepared? When your only transport is walking, if you are physically prepared, then your survival chances increase. Bikes in a disaster may be more of a hindrance than help. Foss is right: skills are very valuable. High on my list is a comfortable bag (pre packed with some basic survival gear) & 2 pairs of strong hiking shoes. My bag & my hiking shoes are 2m away from me as I write this. PS: I walked 4.5 KM to work (40 mins), & will walk home.


The problem with securing yourself in semi rural Canada is that there are lots of criminals and thugs with guns in the cities, and law abiding land and home owners dont have them anymore. She talks about not being 'that vulnerable' because she is not 'that far out', but in reality, she's more vulnerable since she's basically unarmed and not 'that far' from population centers.

Colin Newman

A little bit annoying that Miss Foss refers to England when she means Britain. England is not an island and its population in 2011 was 57.1 million, compared to 61.4 million in Britain. Don't want to be pedantic, but what other "facts" are wrong, even if unintentionally?


Note - Nevada Energy tried to renege on energy credits for electricity fed to the grid after 5 years of our system installation. Due to political hue and cry, previously installed systems have been "grandfathered" at the old rates.


People ride a bike in the snow in some countries, you can also use a velomobile, which is a recumbent trike with an aerodynamic and weather proof fairing, with optional electric assist. When someone tries to lecture people on peak oil, and their major form of transport is an oil powered private car, they should not be taken seriously. Its kind of like taking advice on how to be sober from an alcoholic.


Seeing " Peak Oil " in the title was off-putting for me, but in the end, this really hit on some very good points that I have also thought a lot about .  


very interesting 


Russia turns off the gas during the winter ?! Is that what people really think that the country that lives on it's gas is not going to sell more when able to do so!? Or is it just that the infrastructure is not enough for the winter months!?

nzinga zindua


Doug McK

cars and bikes can run on water, its been done before and suppressed time after time. the technology exists to extract hydrogen and oxygen from water. google it. I'm working on my own design as are many 1000s of people around the world

Dave Mann

This lady is great I love her.  WOW!!!!


oil scarcity will impact us in wave like manner. Not so sudden as in movies sort of. But rise and fall then rise looking back within few years would be dramatic but busy years with events.


"It's a half hour DRIVE for me", if your talking peak oil, you need to eliminate driving a car period! Get a bicycle with cargo space. As oil becomes more expensive driving a private car will be one of the first things to go.

Hiruit Nguyse

Since this video, shw has packed off to New Zeeland.


Most transportation is private transportation, and at least 50% of that can be done by walking or cycling. There is a big saving of energy right there.


Yes, buy there are some trillionaire's out there that are very happy controlling your reality, that makes you have to be happy picking an old can from a garbage bin! These elites want you to have your expectations diminished, and it seems you have slummed to their wishes! Just because somebody has been conditioned to be happy with picking through trash, does not mean it is fair, right and just.


I stand by what I said. If she is unfit or unwell get an electric bike. The reality is that the biggest thing that any person can do to handle or deal with the end of cheap oil, is to use more efficient transport. Bicycles and electric bicycles are the most efficient forms of transport. I admire people who understand this obvious reality and focus on this reality, not do things that will only have a minor effect.


@lordmetroid Sorry, but if people are serious about reacting to peak oil driving a car needs to be one of the first things to go. Motor vehicles are the biggest individual user of oil. Secondly she could get an electric bike. A half hour drive is normally around a 45 minute bike ride under average conditions. Anyone who is serious about reacting to peak oil and who's main source of transport is their own private car should not be taken seriously.

Regie Santoso

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Most of the oil is used for motor vehicle use. Driving less, is the obvious solution, and it is the solution that should not be ignored. If you are afraid of cycling then you should at least bring cycling as a solution to the attention of planners, and people who know about peak oil. I admire people who walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Anyone whos main for of transport is driving and or doesnt seek to make alternatives safer and who talks about peak oil, I dont admire. Hypocrites.