City Living is Like Life on a Cruise Ship

By Cam Mather

As I watched the news reports last week about the cruise ship floating aimlessly with no power, I was thinking about how life in the city for most people is like living on a cruise ship.

In a city, and on a cruise ship, everything is provided for you. Food, water, electricity, heat, entertainment, climbing walls… it’s all just there, miraculously.

It seems to me that most city people don’t ever think about where all of this stuff comes from or what happens if it ever stops. I think anyone in the city who heats with natural gas and watches the movie “Gasland” ( should have a visceral reaction when they are confronted with the impact of our pursuit of that fuel on other people’s lives and be inspired to switch their heating system to a geothermal system.

The reality is that most city dwellers won’t watch that movie and/or won’t think much about where the gas and water and gasoline and food come from. That cornucopia of excess that is a modern grocery store … it’s just always been like that and it always will be, right? A grocery store is like the all-you-can-eat buffet on the cruise. It’s just endless. Isn’t this bliss?

But what happens when there’s a glitch in the matrix and something goes askew? Poor old Carnival Cruises. It wasn’t bad enough that the Costa Concordia sunk off the coast of Italy, but last week another one of their boats had a glitch. A fire in the engine room shut the whole system down. No engine. No electricity. And of course they were in the Indian Ocean and it was so hot that the passengers had to sleep on the deck because it was too hot below deck without the air conditioning.

So let me get this right, you’re on the ocean, on a cruise, with ocean breezes, and the cabin windows don’t open and it’s only tolerable if the air conditioning is working? What is wrong with this picture? It all seems perfectly normal until some undersized piece of wire frays and overheats and causes a spark that starts a little fire that becomes a big fire that ruins everyone’s vacation. Oh, and the area of the Indian Ocean that they were stranded in is notorious for Somali pirates. Get ready to throw your Gucci luggage at the pirates climbing on to your ship!

You could say that this was just an isolated incident but I remember the last time it happened and it wasn’t that long ago.

Here’s a quote from a passenger;

“No water, no electricity, no elevators for obese people and handicap and very hot. Deck 7, the front desk was pandemonium, crazy.”

I’ll just never understand why people don’t have a Plan “B.” And by Plan “B” I mean systems in place to keep the water running and heat on and food on the table in case one of those support systems goes down. People who have lived through ice storms and hurricanes understand what life is like without the basics, but rarely do they take action to avoid the problem the next time. “Oh there won’t be a next time.” “They’re making the system more reliable.” “The people in charge will take care of me.”

Oh sure they will. It wasn’t bad enough that the passengers on the Costa Concordia had to put their lives in to the hands of poorly paid, poorly trained staff, to figure out how to get off the boat. If I were making minimum wage chopping up vegetables for the all-you-can-eat buffet tables for rich people, I would have been one of the first off that ship. As it was, it seemed that many of those under-paid crewmembers did the best with what they had. And the captain in charge? Oh, he was on shore long before anyone else. That whole “the captain goes down with his ship” cliché ended decades ago. So passé.

I think that captain is a good example of the 1 per cent. They’ll be saving their own asses first. They’ve got their well-stocked ranches in Montana and an exit strategy to get there. And they won’t be hesitant to climb over anyone ahead of them who’s getting in their way.

So what’s it going to be? Are you going to keep living your life like you’re on a cruise ship, or are you going to develop a Plan “B?” NOW is the time to do it – not when there’s a fire in the engine room.

Michelle’s Note: If you are new to this blog and not familiar with our books, Cam is the author of “Thriving During Challenging Times: The Energy, Food and Financial Independence Handbook” in which he shares his strategies for developing your own “Plan B.”


4 Responses to “City Living is Like Life on a Cruise Ship”

  • Hi Cathy! Yes, we own both the mineral rights and the timber rights. Both good things to have! ~Michelle~

  • Cathy:

    So, Cam, do you own the mineral rights to your land? I do, but my land is only 100’x90′. That doesn’t give me much protection from my neigbhors. One just sprayed pesticides on their berries without notifying me…my 2 beehives had no protection.

  • I really related to this post. I have been driving my daughter into downtown Seattle twice a week for the last 4 weeks and having to wait for her each time for 2 hours. First there is no such thing as free parking. Every available spot that you can possibly put a vehicle has to be paid for. The first time cost me $13 for 2 hours. Next any store that you might be able to buy supplies or groceries at are so over priced that you can’t bring yourself to buy it. My thought was that this was a lot like living on an island. You still have to drive off to get supplies unless you are made of money. Actually on my island you can get supplies without going too far. Guess if you are part of that 1% those prices are not a problem.

  • Gerrit Botha:

    “Thriving During Challenging Times” is a good book; filled with useful information. There’s a difference between stuff that’s good to know and stuff that you need to know. This book is full of need to know stuff. I’d encourage everyone to read it.

Subscribe to this Blog!
To receive a notification whenever a new post is added, please provide your email address!
Do you enjoy this blog? Why not show your appreciation with a donation? Big or small, we are grateful for them all!
Find Us on YouTube!
Do You Shop at Amazon?
If you use this link to access the amazon website, we will earn a very small commission on anything that you purchase. (For, use this link first and then link through to the Canadian site from here.)
For information about upcoming workshops at Sunflower Farm please use the pull-down Workshop tab above. Hope to see you soon!
About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
Posts from the Past
Mother Earth News
Many of you found this blog through our writing on Mother Earth News. Use this link to subscribe to the magazine and I will receive a small commission, which helps me to pay for this site! Thanks! Here's the link to use;