Dealing with the rising cost of living

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

With the rising cost of energy in all its forms pushing up the price of food and most goods and services, it is a real challenge to maintain our standard of living as our incomes have not kept up with increased costs. It means that many of us are looking for ideas to save a little money and develop some new skills or refresh our memories of things we did for ourselves in the past. Several workshops at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 23-24 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.) can provide some ideas of things people can do to help themselves while living more sustainable lives.

The last few years of weird weather with heat waves, cold spells, heavy rains and intense storms also leaves us with a need to give a little more thought and preparation to making sure we and those important to us are well prepared for the challenging weather conditions. Stormy conditions frequently disrupt our electrical services, leaving us hot and uncomfortable in summer and cold and uncomfortable in winter and always concerned about our food and water supplies.

Added to the uncertainties of weather are the potential disruptions of energy, goods and supplies coming from the globalized economy characterized by just-in-time deliveries. Those of us from an earlier time of more local autonomy remember the resilience that characterized our communities.

Some of that spirit re-emerges in times of emergencies, but if we make it a more integral part of our daily lives, we can face the next storm with a greater sense of competence.

Chuck Howenstine from McHenry County meets regularly with friends having an interest in learning the skills of simpler times. Beyond the interactions with others, he lives the simple life and is willing to share how he lives. His chosen lifestyle in our modern world reminds all of us how we can live if we so choose or are forced by circumstances to curtail the life of conspicuous consumption.

Another example of a simplified lifestyle is that of Roland and Birgit Wolff, retired professors who live in northern Wisconsin but confess they succumb to sporadic episodes of adventures in suburban malls to escape the simplicity of their daily lives. They heat their home with a wood stove, hang laundry outdoors, garden, fish, hunt, butcher their own meat and pursue simple crafts.

Other workshops will remind us that we can produce our own renewable energy and grow and store our own food for a measure of security and sense of independence.

Depletion of critical resources and the rising cost of securing new supplies requires a reconsideration of our endless materialistic pursuits. If planned for, the transition need not be painful, and there might be some pleasant surprises as we rejuvenate community spirit and cooperate with our friends and neighbors in supporting each other. Doug McWain will address this topic.

Of course, there will be food for the body and music for the spirit.

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times and the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the July 30-Aug. 5, 2014, issue

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