Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Fall of Rome

I am currently teaching th History of Graphic Design. In the history of design we follow the spread of ideas - primarily in the form of written communication.

There is a big time lapse between the study Roman design and the Illuminated manuscripts. When Rome fell, it seems that a lot more than Rome fell. The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization looks like an incredible book which explains the fall and the repercussions of the fall. The fall was important to the entire "known world". The Roman empire was large - spread throughout Europe and into Asia. Parts of Europe were dependent upon the Roman empire for trade, commerce, and technologies. When Rome fell, these items were no longer available. The roads, which had been protected by Rome, were no longer safe. Commerce ceased, the exchange of ideas slowed, and literacy nearly ended. Survival skills which had been necessary were not needed during the occupation of Rome. Pottery was shipped in from Rome, rather than made in England....

The Fall of Rome caused many problems and it took hundreds of years for skills to be redeveloped.

This has made me look at the skills the tools that we have become reliant on. Our houses are a good example. Houses have become larger and larger and more dependent upon natural gas. These houses are harder to heat and dependent upon a non-renewable resource. At one time, homes were smaller and used wood masonry fireplaces (which are extremely efficient). What would we do now without heat? What would we do if Rome fell today?

What skills do we rely on? We gather our food from stores (often prepackaged - so all we have to do is "zap" it in the microwave), we use cars and trucks to move goods (including food) throughout our country, we rely on machinery somewhere else to make our fibers and then to sew our clothing. We use plastic (petroleum based) items to store our food instead of the traditional pottery, baskets, etc.... Do we even have friend or neighbors who have skills? Most of us do not.

We rely on a much larger community than even was relied on during the Roman Empire. Almost everything is machine made and transported long distances. We are also further from self-sufficiency than during the Roman period.

I have decided to build a set of skills. I am looking at everything I own and determining if it is necessary and how I can either do without or make it myself. Can many of us spin, weave, knit, sew, make soap (from ashes), use medicinal herbs, make paper, candles, save seeds, garden, preserve food, cook? Can you share skills with a neighbor?

Any civilization can fall. Some may fall further than others. What will happen if that happens to us? How far will we fall? I don't think of myself as a doom and gloom person, but I want to have skills - even if that means I have to cut out my cuppa joe (yes, I am weaning myself).

There is a spinning class here in April. I plan on going. What skill are you going to develop first?

34 comments:

Malva said...

I learned how to spin with a spindle just before christmas. I haven't had much time to play with it since but really enjoyed the process and how I felt it connected me to all the generations of women throughout time and history who did the same thing in order to clothe their families.

You read Sheryl Astyx (sp?)'s blog, do you? It's not on your blogroll on the side and most of her posts could trigger thoughts similar to yours now.

willow said...

I'll just warn you, spinning is very addictive! I learnt a few years ago and it is very satisfying as you feel that you really are making a garment from scratch.
I like to spin and knit with UK produced fleece reducing both the "clothes miles" and the use of fuel in clothes production

Anonymous said...

I've been spinning with a spindle for the past year, much cheaper and more portable than with a wheel (takes up much less space too) from fleece a friend gave me. I've finished the second fleece now and am now knitting a wonderful jacket for another friend. It is not quick and I do appreciate those who do it for a 'living' and also what the industrial revolution must have done to the spinners, weavers and knitters of the early 19th century. What you make will not be soon recycled as it will be precious to you.

It's possible to make a spindle from two CDs, a gromit to hold them to the dowel and a hook at the end of the dowel. After a year the CDs have broken but it will not be difficult to find new old ones to replace them.

Cheers

Margaret

Andy in San Diego said...

In terms of skills, I've started with gardening and cooking. I've been growing a few things in containers (beans, tomatoes, bell peppers - now lettuce), and in a few months I should have a spot in our community garden! I already have a worm bin going. Next up will probably be preserving food.

I'm including my 5 and 7 year old daughters in all of these things, and the 7 year old is learning to knit from her mom and from my Scottish mom.

And you've been inspirational, Emme, so thank you!

Chelee said...

I make soap, sew (with a machine but could do it by hand), make candles, knit and spin my own yarn, I have a book on medicinal herbs that I reference. I've made candles before...

My new thing to learn this year is weaving. I was fortunate to be gifted with a large floor loom that is just sitting and waiting for me to use it.

I'm also going to work on my gardening skills that are amateur at best.

Nat said...

I can spin, and knit. I can sew enough to get by, and get better with practice. I am getting better at gardening, and have bigger plans every year for my urban micro-farm. Next, i want to learn to preserve my bounty, and save the seeds for next year. I also want to learn to do home repair. I should be able to fix minor plumbing issues, for example.

RAS said...

I am working on my gardening, sewing, and cooking skills primarily, along with reducing my waste, etc.

Good post Emme. As far as the fall of Rome and our civilization, it is not a question of 'if' but 'when'. Civilizations come and go; they rise and they fall. Ours will be no different. That is one of the universal laws of nature, or so it would seem.

Oh, all knowledge wasn't lost when Rome fell -much of it, surprisingly, was preserved. Where? In Monasteries and Libraries scattered about Europe.

Eva said...

I will be planting a garden for the first time ever. I do not have a 'green thumb', but hopefully a few things will grow. I am trying to grow most of my veggies. Hopefully I will have extra, to give to friends and neighbors, and will research canning. In the past I have learned to make soap, and bake bread. Need to get those skills back into action. Thanks for the inspiration!

BurdockBoy said...

Hopefully we will begin seeing more folkschools pop up. I know they have a great one up on the North Shore. We have one here on the South Shore, but this year they are sort of taking a break and reorganizing.

Folk schools are wonderful ways for community members to share living and art skills with other community members. We have had lessons up here for everything from making biodiesel, to grafting trees, to making ash baskets, to spinning wool, to building timber frame houses, to making mukluks.

Definitely something to think about.

maltagirl33 said...

wow, I just happened upon your blog and love it. I have been thinking along the same lines for a few years now and have been working on my skill set. Just started spinning and am really working to get my garden up to feeding my family. I have a 1/4 acre in the middle of Los Angeles that is slowly becoming my farm dream. We homeschool and are involving the kids. They love it!!

keep up the great blog.

Teri said...

I spent this winter essentially without heat. We used the burners on the propane stove and sometimes fired off the oven. Most nights, we don't have any heat going. It's been interesting. The first thing is that if you don't keep things very warm, you adjust to the temperatures. Down sleeping bags and comforters are a must. And I wear lots of wool in the winter. It's a very strenghtening exercise. I felt like I could go outside and camp in the snow if needed (although I would have started a campfire for sure!)

I've been spinning and knitting for a long time, dabble a bit in weaving. I would think that learning to weave baskets would be a handy skill. They're great for storage. We also plan to start training our two goat wethers to pull a cart. We could use some help around the place.

Emme said...

Malva, I do read Sharon's blog periodically. I agree her writings and insight are beautiful!

Willow- I would love to learn how to do it! I did weave in college (art student), and would love to get into fiber arts more - as art as well as in the practical nature.

Margaret - love the Cd idea! I will have to look into that! :)

Andy - thank YOU! It is wonderful to hear that you are sharing these skills with your children. I love to look at my children and realize that they know how to cook, knit, sew, start a fire (with supervision).... I can't wait to teach them more

Chelee - a floor loom? I am jealous! You are a wealth of skills! Can I come visit ;)

Nat - I can't wait to post about seed saving. I have been reading everything I can. So, hopefully we can share this new skill in the coming year!

RAS- I know - we will fall... The knowledge was stored in libraries, however the population was not literate and many libraries were not open to the general public. However, once the invention of moveable type... oops! This isn't the history of graphic design ;) However, you are quite right!

Eva - yeah!

Burdockboy - Yes, folkschools are wonderful. I would love to see one here. Okay - maybe I could share some skills.....

maltagirl - it sounds wonderful!

Teri - I was thinking about heat the other day. It was -5, and I realized that I wasn't too cold. We truly do get used to our local weather. I agree - weaving baskets would be a great skill - as would pottery! Anything for storage would come in handy.

Teri said...

I talked to my husband about this post last night. He pointed out that it took 500 years for Rome to fall. I think it is more likely that we will not see the collapse of civilization as many think. We may find that it is more important to learn this skills to teach young people than for ourselves. Fiber folks are really great people. I think you'll enjoy your class a lot!

Teri said...

I spent a good deal of yesterday reading an amazing site here. It's about the collapse of the Argentinian economy. It's going on today. And I think it's truly important to understand that this is a much more likely outcome of a collapse of the economy in this country.

I used to correspond with a woman in Belarus. The picture of my dog on my website reminded her of a dog she had rescued. In Belarus, folks couldn't afford to feed their pets and had to turn them loose. Dogs would run in packs on the streets. She saved this one, which was blind. I once asked her what I could do to help her out. She asked for a swimsuit for her daughter. I mailed off two. And this was a person with a high tech job and a working husband. I believe that we will need some of these skills to survive. I also think I will heed the warnings of the guy from Argentina and pick up body armour and some gold rings to store.

Emme said...

Teri - It did take Rome 500 years to fall. The only thing that frightens me is that we are so dependent upon oil for every aspect of out lives. We could fall much more quickly - simply due to hte fact that we know little and depend on technology for everything (I am generalizing). I am trying to learn the skill my grandparents knew so that my grandchildren (and great grandchildren) may have skills.

Thanks for hte buildanark address. I am just starting to read through it, but it really does speak volumes to what can happen in an economic collapse. I have also been reading through the community solution - what happened to Cuba and how they survived peak oil. It can happen. Think about the chaos that would happen here.... uggh!

Soulknitting said...

Hi E....Great post!! I am in total agreement with you on the fact that we, as a society, are unprepared for any break in the 'chain' of supply. I live in the middle of the desert that supports over 40 million people a year. The water used is frightful and with global warming, is only going to become less. I have often thought that people of like mind should live close together with everyone having some different skills to support the whole. I attended botanical medicine school (herbalist), massage therapy, have a marketing degree and am computer savvy, knit, sew, and would garden if I could. I recently got rid of all my grass for desert 'lawn' and placed medicinal herbs where appropriate. I plan on moving away from here to a sustainable area because I do think that soon, 'Rome' will fall and I don't want to be living in the middle of the desert where all water and food is piped or trucked in. Keep up with your good work.

garden cushions said...

Although it may seem that when Rome fell so the collapse of everything else di but it did not, there are many civilisations that continued to flourish it is just not noted in the western world.

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archery hunting equipment said...

It can happen. Think about the chaos that would happen here.... uggh!

breast engorgement said...

The roads, which had been protected by Rome, were no longer safe.

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