Working recently with Craig Wiles (founder and owner of Preferred Energy in Wright County, a firm that installs solar power systems in homes and businesses around the Ozarks) was a definite pleasure for me.

Not only because Wiles is an expert in the alternative energy field and I got to put together a cool story about yet another out-of-the ordinary circumstance in the amazingly diverse piece of the American Midwest that is Texas County, but also because I found him to be a deep-thinking, philosophical man with loads of wisdom regarding the misguided ways or the world and where it’s all leading.

In conversing with him, one can tell that Wiles truly believes in what he’s doing and that he’s not just helping people sign up for an “alternative” to anything, but rather getting on board with the “preferred” form of energy.

But he also loves to talk about his world view, and what he refers to as “preparedness” and “what’s coming.”

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Now, I find guys like Harold “Multiple Doomsdays” Camping to be little more than crackpot buffoons who tarnish the name of the Lord God Almighty. It’s easy to claim some cataclysmic event is going to take place on such-and-such a date and build a big case around the claim. But that kind of baloney has been going on for centuries and I think it’s more about attention, fame and greed than reality.

But I had no trouble relating to what Wiles was getting at, because like many people these days, I have a feeling something is going to happen. I don’t know exactly what, and I’m not sure when, but it’s something not so good and it may not be long.

I can’t really put a finger on it, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s still some big-time stuff in the offing before we realize just what “the new normal” looks like.

I’m not so sure we’ll be all be driving teams pulling buckboard wagons, washing clothes by hand in the creek and eating lots of squirrel and walnuts, but I’m also not so sure we’ll be ordering as many mochas from the Starbucks, driving as many gas-guzzling SUVs, or planning as many cruises to remote tropical islands.

We’ll see.

Wiles has a neat way of painting a pretty clear picture of how we stubbornly got ourselves to where we are now, and he likes to imagine what things would be like if we had gone down a smarter road several decades ago when he perceived we still had the chance. He figures that if we had put more focus on solar back then, we might now be living in homes and neighborhoods with systems tied together, producing sort of communal electric power.

“We would be indestructible,” Wiles said. “You might go down because a tree falls through your roof or something, but the rest of us would hold you up until you got back to running again.”

I get frustrated thinking of how many ways our federal government has found to waste money, and how much has been wasted. Just think if all that money had been used in more logical, rational ways that actually benefited everyone instead of a few – like energy research. We could well be living that “indestructible” lifestyle.

Seems to me that we just can’t seem to comprehend the definition of insanity, and we keep making the same mistakes expecting a different result. And even facing our current precarious situation, nobody seems to making any moves that offer true help, or real change.

“The answer seems to be to push the dead horse further,” Wiles said. “It’s like the cartoons where a guy runs off the cliff going straight ahead and he’s still running. But it’s inevitable that he’s going to fall.”

Of course, energy isn’t the only area where there’s a problem these days. But Wiles believes it’s one of the biggest challenges we face.

“Energy is just one part of it, but it’s a huge part,” he said. “Everything we do is affected with energy. For example, the average piece of food on our kitchen table traveled over a thousand miles to get there. The average calorie grown with commercial farming took 10 calories of input to make it.

“That’s energy.”

I’m in full agreement with Wiles when he says we can’t look to the utilities for a solution any more than our government.

“Sure, it’s great if a utility company puts in a 100-acre solar farm, but that’s not going to help your power bill,” Wiles said. “In fact, it would probably go up because they’re going to come to you and say, ‘we’ve invested in green energy and it costs more, so here you go, pay the bill.’

“Only when people put solar panels on their own roof or side yard does it actually start to help them, as well as their neighbors.”

Too bad the cost of putting the panels on the roof or in the yard is still as prohibitive as it is. But we (by “we,” I mean this here country of ours) missed that boat, instead spending bazillions of dollars on high-tech weapons and low-sense ideals.

“We should have started down the solar road long ago, like Germany,” Wiles said. “We’d be in much better shape right now, and we’d probably all have solar in our homes.”

So what do we do to get ready for “what’s coming?”

Like the old Boy Scouts of America motto states, “be prepared.”

Wiles recalls how his grandmother always had rows and rows of canned food stored in the basement. One time he made the comment to her, “looks like you’re stocking up.”

She replied, “What, stocking up? This is just normal.”

Back then it was.

“A hundred years ago we called all this stuff common sense,” Wiles said. “Now we think those people are extremists.”

The average supermarket has about three days worth of food on the shelves. That’s not much if “what’s coming” makes it such that those shelves won’t or can’t be restocked.

Even though she was just being “normal,” maybe grandma Wiles was onto something. And maybe now is a good time to make some preparations.

Could be that the time is right to put up and outhouse in the yard and stock up on .22 shells.

Could be that now is the time to learn how to hunt and fish.

Could be a good time to buy a few extra cans of beans and bags of rice.

Might even be a good idea to put up a few solar panels.

Then again, maybe gas is about to go down to $1.50 a gallon, China will forgive all of the United States’ debt, Islam will suddenly decide to coexist peacefully with Judaism and Christianity, the cost of solar panels will drop 90-percent, and people will begin unwaveringly respecting one another and looking out for each other’s best interests.

Like I said, we’ll see.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com

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