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UK goes back in time, starts rationing

After weeks of what feels like limbo, we started to see some positive change in bristol this week. Some of PM Brown's headline policies from his confirmation speech startled to trickle in.

After a long time without post coming through the door - even the spam has stopped - it was a surprise to hear the door ring. I went downstairs to answer it, expecting it to be a schoolfriend or something. The postman and a policeman stood there, a large wheeled container on the steps between them and an envelope in the postman's hand. They looked a bit perplexed to see a 16 year old girl open the door to Greg's house.

"Ummm...." the postman said. "Is Mr Grossman in?"

"Yeah," I said, stepping back to call up the stairs. "Greg! There's some people here to see you."

The Policeman stepped forward and put a hand on my shoulder.

"You don't live here, do you?" He said, looking down at the clipbord in hand. "We only show Mr Grossman here."

"We moved here from next door last week," I said with a shrug. "Me and my mum and my brother."

His eyebrows shot up.

"Well," he said with a smile, "I'm glad we caught you. This is a very important delivery. What's your names?"

"David, Mia and Alexandra Payton," I said promptly. The postman opened the container and sorted through a huge pile of hundreds of envelopes then pulled out one identical to the one for Greg.

"You better get them down here too."

As if on queue, Mum and Greg appeared behind me. They immediately shooed me back indoors, which made me a bit grumpy. These guys weren't exactly scary! Mum put her hands on her hips and eyed up the two men with her best haughty look.


"Your new ration swipe cards," the postman said, handing Greg one envelope and mum three. The policeman stuck out one of those electronic touchpad things that UPS delivery men use and got my mum and Greg to sign for the packages. Then they started to leave.

"Wait!" Mum said. "How does this work? What do we do with them?"

The policeman rolled his eyes and continued pushing the cart to the next set of houses. The postman shrugged helplessly.

"sorry ma'am," he said, "we've got a thousand more houses to do today. All the info should be in your packs, or on the BBC."

Mum and Greg came back inside as the delivery skipped our old house and moved to the buildings beyond.

The packages were flung on the table and Greg went back to work. Mum was going to as well until I convinced her to open the envelopes.

Inside each envelope, along with a load of introductory papers and advice, were basically credit/ID cards, with our names and the pictures we'd sent in months ago when the initiative had first been setup.

"Bloody Labour," Greg said from the other room. "They've been trying to put these bloody ID cards on us for years. It'll turn into 1984 before too long, you mark my words."

"Without any electricity?" I said, picking up my new post-peak ID. "How will they power the CCTV cameras?"

Greg snorted as he usually did when someone caught out his rants and turned back to his computer. Mum smiled and ruffled my hair. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason she's with Greg is for his house and money. She's as annoyed by him as me sometimes.

so this means my post last week about lack of food isn't going to be as terrible as I thought. Possibly. The pack said that we're allowed basic carbs (bread, pasta, rice) and oil, normal vegetables and a few other things as much as we want (although if we appear to be stockpiling the card will record it and stop our purchase!), plus a certain number of 'restricted items' like coffee, chocolate, exotic fruit, meat and the like. The packet and the news channels seem very keen to stress that they worked this project out with a lot of important dieticians and chefs like Jamie Oliver to work out a ration system that should make us healthier eaters! It's still got people well pissed off though, as soon as she'd finished going through the pack mum ran off to complain about it over the phone with her friend Jo.

There's also a note to say that energy rationing will become even more organised under this system - they've basically taken the Craggers manifesto and made it into law!

Mum says we'll go shopping with our cards soon. I'm excited and a little bit scared to see how everyone's going to react to it all. The news keeps talking about how under Winston Churchill when we were fighting the Nazi's in World War II we as a nation rationed and survived. It's all very patriotic, they tell us. Home grown stuff like my rocket is not rationed so mum's pretty pleased at me for planting it! I'll let you know how the shopping goes. In the meantime I'm going to read up on what I'm allowed to buy with my new ration card!

[author note: week 14.

Many thanks to wwo_baltpiker for the reminder and information about British rationing in WWII, which became the inspiration for today's post.

I'm constantly fluctuating between two approaches when I'm writing Mia's story. I start thinking the crisis is going to be too severe and that UK society will break down, as is happening in a lot fo the US stories. Then I get some comment or link from someone, or read some news article or site about British organisation and local efforts and I change my mind and start thinking maybe we can make the Make the transition. I think Britain, as a much smaller country with cities far closer together than the US (Bath is only ten miles from Bristol, Newport 30, Cardiff 50, my hometown Swansea plus London, Exeter and Birmingham around 100 miles away and Manchester around 150. i can get on a train and be in five different cities in an hour or two.

Add that to the near total lack of guns, which I think is a major cause of social unrest (ie it makes social unrest far more likely to end in serious injuries and deaths) plus the lack of state-based government and the lack of... George Bush in power, makes me hopeful that the UK would survive this crisis for longer, if not necessarily forever. I'll have to see how severe the oil prices and world situation gets but at present I'm actually quite optimistic about some of the things I've found out about my country. As an author obviously the hyperbole situation of complete collapse makes for a more dynamic story but at the moment, I'm not seeing that as a likely scenario. If oil prices double, maybe.

In the meantime, here's a link to something we can do in the UK in the real world to help both peak oil and global warming: Liberal Democrat plans for green taxes. Meanwhile, the US government continues to behave idiotically about the whole thing.]


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2007 08:02 pm (UTC)
lack of guns
Unfortunately for that erroneous thought that the guns make a more unsafe situation, as it stands in the UK now, only your criminals have the firearms.

The violent crime rate in the UK is five times what it is the the US, and per capita you've got ten times teh amount of firearms related crimes now as well.

If there's a total collapse in social order you don't actually think that your criminals are going to not go out and victimize all you unarmed people, do you? Especially since they've got guns and you don't.

Anyway, good luck.
May. 14th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
Re: lack of guns
OOG Author's reply: I'm sorry, but I don't agree. there are a small number of criminals with illegal guns - and a small number of armed police to deal with them. Adding guns is only going to cause more deaths it's an incredibly logical assumption that is wrongfully challenged again and again and I am not prepared to accept an argument that simply doesn't make sense.

we have 60 Million people in our country and we have very low numbers of gun-related deaths:

from our Uk home office at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime-victims/reducing-crime/gun-crime/:

Contrary to public perception, the overall level of gun crime in the UK is very low – less than 0.5% of all crime recorded by the police.
Facts & figures

In the year ending 31 March 2005 provisional figures show a:

* 16% reduction in the use of handguns
* 9% reduction in robberies involving firearms
* 6% reduction in serious injuries from firearms offences

the US has only 5 times the population of the US yet the deaths per yar from firearms are as follows(from the bbc article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6562529.stm):

62 deaths for 60 Million in the UK (0.01 per 10,000 people)

8259 for 300 million in US (0.3 per 10,000 people)

I'm afraid that no matter how much you like having a gun there can be no argument that the UK has more gun crime. I stand by my opinion. I am very very very glad that guns are illegal here. Whilst in a crisis criminals with guns might cause a few deaths, many many more people would die if the population all had guns (as in this kind of crisis, a large proportion of the population would become criminals out of desperation, using those guns to get what they needed.) It is much harder to kill wihout a gun so it doesn't take a genius to realise that with far less guns, far less deaths from guns will occur.

I stand by my comment.

May. 14th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
Re: lack of guns
OOG: Guns are a very effective tool until the ammo runs out.

And the ammo? Runs out.

I know how to hand load and do weapons maintenance (my maternal grandfather was a Naval gunnery instructor and a master gunsmith; I grew up in a very rural part of the United States where the schools closed for the first two days of deer season); I would be hard pressed to do either if I couldn't get my hands on materials. Certainly there will always be a criminal element able to afford the price -- but they will not be in a majority, and they will be far too busy trying to hold on to their own bits of territory to attempt a take-over of the entire country.

Some cities -- London, Manchester and Birmingham leap to mind -- in some neighborhoods will become damned unpleasant. But the prevailing British character is to get on with things while grumbling about it to anyone within earshot, so I think the assumption of lawless gangs running amuck is perhaps a bit farfetched.
May. 14th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
Re: lack of guns
OOG: I agree. There'll certainly be a few hotspots but to be honest I've only seen one gun in my life and that was in the hands of a police officer.

We may see a few more gangland incidents but even with the illegal guns there's not enough to invade all our homes! And as you say, they'll soon run out of ammunition. I think that's a very hyperbole-filled comment by our anonymous friend.
May. 14th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, how I would love to be living in the UK right now. I've got the next best thing where I am now, but there really is only so much my state governor can do. Gordon Brown is pretty intelligent, and Jamie Oliver is an absolute JEEÑUS. It sounds like British stomachs are in good hands. :-)

Sounds like your rationing program isn't very onerous at all; having the Continent not in the hands of a hostile madman might have a bit to do with that. Speaking of which, has there been discussion of what, if anything, will be coming into the UK via the Chunnel? I had to be reminded today that it existed, so presumably you've heard more than I. :-)
May. 14th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
Jamie Oliver: he fixed school dinners, and now he's fixing the whole country! It means his shows are on BBC 24-7 but that's a small price to pay.

As far as I know the Channel Tunnel's still working - I've heard a few news stories about illegal immegrants trying to cross the channel but that happened even before the crisis. I'm sure we'll be negotiating with Europe - maybe these events will finally bring us closer to Europe! (although with diehard Tories like mum's boyfriend Greg, sometimes I doubt it!)

OOG: I think Brown is a shrewd fellow and this sounds sensible. I hope he lives up to my belief in him as a cautious, socialist type fellow...
May. 15th, 2007 06:25 am (UTC)
The only downside I can see to Jamie Oliver 24/7 is that it leaves no time for Alton Brown. Ah, well, can't have everything.

PM Brown strikes me as having just enough socialist tendencies so as to not hesitate to intervene when it becomes absolutely necessary. The current situation would seem to qualify. :-)
May. 14th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)
OOG: Why, thank you for the tip of the hat! I'm constantly surprised by how few people in WWO know their history, or understand the implications of it. We have already solved the problem of limited fuel and food once. And in a much worse situation, especially in the UK. None of this end-of-civilization nonsense happened then. I think Mia (and the rest of the UK) will get past this, but thanks to the many "the-sky-is-falling" posts of my fellow Americans, I'm not so sure about my increasingly cramped office worker. I'm trying to keep the story as interesting as possible while maintaining plausibility, but it's a challenge, sometimes.
May. 14th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
OOG: thanks! I agree, it's a little *too* dire in the US wwo right now. I've no problem with it being like that temporarily and in places but the lack of any kind of political response is farfetched even for the current administration. Hopefully I can strike the note of hope that we all need to remember that it isn't the end of the world, it's just the end of A world.

many thanks, i'm very much enjoying your blog.
May. 14th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
OOG: Oh, gods, you too? I want to bap some of our fellow players over the head and suggest that they do a little research on life on the home front in the US during the Second World War, but I suppose that it would make for less dramatic reading.
May. 14th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
Mia, a lot of my clients are vegetarian or vegan: if you or your mother would like some advice on shifting your diet away from meat, I'd be more than happy to help. Are eggs or dairy products going to be rationed as well?
May. 14th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
that sounds good - it's going to be hard to shift away from my diet - i like salami too much!

eggs, milk and cheese will be rationed - or so my guide tells me - but as there's quite a lot of farms providing it it shouldn't get too sparse. We should be ok, I think!

How are you holding up?

May. 14th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
Well -- ::laughing:: -- I found out that my LDEM license isn't going to be renewed in October, and Scott and I need to sit down this evening and talk about what to do next.

(I did see it coming: when you have State Representatives whose husbands are OB/GYNs with ties to the Utah Medical Association, they aren't going to willingly tolerate a professional organization taking all their easy deliveries away -- and when they're on the Occupational and Professional Licensing Committee, they have a disproportionate amount of clout. As only 11 of us chose to obtain licenses, we don't really have enough power to call "Conflict of interest!" and make it stick.)

Depending on what we decide, I might be in your (general) neck of the woods sooner rather than later!
May. 15th, 2007 02:11 am (UTC)
And you might remember that with the changes in weather, there's a greater variety of fruits and vegetables being grown in the UK than ever before: people are getting reliable production of grapes, apricots, chilli peppers -- I've even heard of some folk getting decent crops of lemons!
May. 15th, 2007 02:20 pm (UTC)
Me again!
Hehe, I said "The violent crime rate in the UK is five times what it is the the US, and per capita you've got ten times the amount of firearms related crimes now as well."

I stand by that. The best way to do this is to cite the crime rate before the gun control law went into affect in that society and then cite the crime rate after the gun control went into effect. I'm not saying crimes with firearms, I'm saying total violent crime.

I'll quote reason magazine: [quoted} The illusion that the English government had protected its citizens by disarming them seemed credible because few realized the country had an astonishingly low level of armed crime even before guns were restricted. A government study for the years 1890-92, for example, found only three handgun homicides, an average of one a year, in a population of 30 million. In 1904 there were only four armed robberies in London, then the largest city in the world. A hundred years and many gun laws later, the BBC reported that England’s firearms restrictions “seem to have had little impact in the criminal underworld.” Guns are virtually outlawed, and, as the old slogan predicted, only outlaws have guns. Worse, they are increasingly ready to use them.

Nearly five centuries of growing civility ended in 1954. Violent crime has been climbing ever since. Last December, London’s Evening Standard reported that armed crime, with banned handguns the weapon of choice, was “rocketing.” In the two years following the 1997 handgun ban, the use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent, and the upward trend has continued. From April to November 2001, the number of people robbed at gunpoint in London rose 53 percent.

Gun crime is just part of an increasingly lawless environment. From 1991 to 1995, crimes against the person in England’s inner cities increased 91 percent. And in the four years from 1997 to 2001, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. Your chances of being mugged in London are now six times greater than in New York. England’s rates of assault, robbery, and burglary are far higher than America’s, and 53 percent of English burglaries occur while occupants are at home, compared with 13 percent in the U.S., where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police. In a United Nations study of crime in 18 developed nations published in July, England and Wales led the Western world’s crime league, with nearly 55 crimes per 100 people.[end of quotation]

Again, good luck.
May. 15th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Me again!
It is a credit to you that you came back and replied in this fashion, thank you. That kind of statistical info is much more convincing.

I think going back as far as 1890 is pushing it - guns are far different now and so is our culture.

I'm not saying that violent crime isn't a problem, understand. There's certainly some areas of London, Manchester and Liverpool that due to gangs and drugs are very dangerous. Knife crime and burglaries in inner city regions are of concern. Our statistics, http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk/sta_index.htm are not indicative of any major rises in crime.

http://www.crimestatistics.org.uk/output/Page6.asp states that since 1998 a number of crimes not previously recorded have been included in records, making comparisons before and after essentially useless. It also reports a 1% decline in crime last year.

I do stand by my opinion on gun crime though, especially in the case of a wwo style crisis. The rising oil prices and increased lawlessness means that a much larger percentage of people can expect to fall into the very poor class and resort to crime to make a means of living. That means they will use whatever weapons they have on hand - and if guns are available it's unassailable that more people will be shot and more will die - there's just not the access to the weapons here unless you go through the black market.

On a personal level I have lived in the Uk all my life and have seen ONE gun EVER. This was in the hands of an armed policeman. To my knowledge there has only been one recent gun killing in my city - related to a gang problem. this caused a massive crackdown in the area and there hasn't been a major incident since.

You may well be right that the presence of guns in homes discourages burglaries and minor crime. Personally I'd much prefer our annual shooting death rate of 60 and a few more burglaries than an annual death rate of 30,000 from guns as found in the US. Although there are criminals with guns, it's a very small % of the population and this can only be a good thing in my eyes.

Another reason for your statistic of firearm related crimes being higher - which I am skeptical of at best considering the deaths mentioned above - there's a really simple explanation even if the statistic is true. As guns are illegal here, police confiscation of guns will be a registered crime and so this number will be artificially high if the police are doing their job and keeping guns off the street.

I wish you luck also. We'll have to agree to disagree. All I know is in a time of rapidly spiralling lawlessness such as wwo, I'd much rather be a country with a very small number of guns than a country where guns are freely available. Nothing will ever convince me otherwise, I'm afraid.

some more facts from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_Kingdom:

In 2005/06 there were 766 offences initially recorded as homicide by the police in England and Wales (including the 52 victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings),[15] a rate of 1.4 per 100,000 of population. Only 50 (6.6%) were committed with firearms, one being with an air weapon.[16] The homicide rate for London was 2.4 per 100,000 in the same year (1.7 when excluding the 7 July bombings).[17]

By comparison, 5.5 murders per 100,000 of population were reported by police in the United States in 2000, of which 70% involved the use of firearms (75% of which were illegally obtained)

and finally: In 2005/06, 87% of [UK firearm] injuries were defined as "slight," which includes the use of firearms as a threat only.

As a citizen of a largely gun-free society I have no desire to be anywhere that doesn't restrict such things. After all, if you have a gun, I've heard a number of US gun owners say, you have to be prepared to use it, which means being prepared to kill. I'm never going to be convinced that having this attitude is a good idea.
May. 15th, 2007 11:30 pm (UTC)
Some Americans
Hi, not all Americans want to run around with guns, some of us would rather not be around so many others who think the only answer to crime is to kill people. I have owned guns and decided that I didn't want them around. I have also been robbed at gun point, unless you have a gun on you at all times they do not do a lot of good in preventing that. I was robbed when I did not have my gun with me, lot of good it did. If it had been in my possesion I would not have been able to get to it since the robber walked up and stuck a gun in my face. I might have been able to shoot him in the back if in the act of removing my wallet he did not see it.

I would just like to say that I admire your attitude and I think your correct, the less guns there are the less likely of being shot. Of course in America with so many guns already here I doubt you could properly disarm the whole country.

I also would like to thank you for not turning the alternate world into such a dreadful place.
May. 16th, 2007 11:06 am (UTC)
Great post
Enjoying everyone who is experimenting with the World Without Oil meta-future. Keep up the experience -- it's a great teaching opportunity for those who haven't thought it through.
deliberately (http://deliberately.typepad.com)
May. 17th, 2007 08:53 am (UTC)
In Switzerland, every adult male between the ages of 18 and 45 has a semi-automatic battle rifle in his wardrobe at home. But they've one of the lowest murder and violent crime rates in Europe.

Violence is economic, and cultural. It's economic in that if you have lots of poor people, and they've no hope of becoming better off, you get them taking drugs, drinking alcohol, having stressed family relationships, and from those you get violence. It's cultural in that some cultures are just more aggressive than others.

When the USAF began the bombing campaign for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the RAAF helped them out. The pilots of both countries were told that if, when they reached the target, they thought that it was actually non-military or too close to a non-military target, then they should scrub the mission and fly home. However, where does a pilot draw the line? There'll always be some uncertainty. In the end, the USAF ilots scrubbed 2% of missions, while the RAAF pilots scrubbed 25% of missions.

Now, why the difference? Are the RAAF a bunch of pacifist wusses? Did the high command give the RAAF all the dodgy targets, and the USAF the certain targets? Or could it be... Americans are just more aggressive than Australians?

Violence is cultural. But it's also economic - which is a worry in a WWO...
Dec. 16th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
very interesting, but I don't agree with you
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( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

About miawithoutoil

Miawithoutoil is the blog of a fictional character, Mia, in the alternative reality game 'World Without Oil'. Every day in the real world is a week in the game, where oil prices are spiralling out of control and the world struggles to cope with the implications.

Mia lives in Bristol, England. She is 16 and lives with her single mother, with her father away in a farm in the mountains of Wales. Newly finished school, Mia is struggling to come to grips with the changes she's witnessing but dearly wants to make a positive difference.

This blog is the creation of twenty-something science fiction writer Tomas L. Martin. His real blog can be found under the livejournal name 'darrkespur'. Thanks for reading and enjoy the story!

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