Jean-Francois Bernier of Quebec asked a couple questions in response to a recent post. It occurs to me that I’ve given hints about my relocation efforts, but I haven’t revealed the whole tawdry story in one place. This post corrects the oversight, if it was one, if you’re interested.
Nearly three years ago, anticipating the day when gasoline would not longer be available at the corner gas station, when food would no longer be available at the grocery store, when water would no longer come through the taps, and when the U.S. economy comes crashing to a halt, I gathered a few friends and acquaintances to start talking about making other arrangements. The process of “selecting” people for the conversation was spontaneous, arbitrary, and not exclusive. I’m not sure how some of the people stumbled upon the information, but about thirty of us found our way to an initial meeting at my house.
We met every week or so, but the list of people dwindled quickly. This was expected. The price of oil was about half its price today, everybody was plenty busy with their “regular” lives, denial runs deep in the empire, and a little of me goes a long way (I attended every meeting). We shopped for land, and even came very close to closing on a rural property, with a passive-solar house not far from Tucson. The group declined in size and level of commitment as we came ever closer to pulling the proverbial trigger. Eventually, after slightly more than a year, attrition was nearly complete.
Importantly, my wife and dog were still “in,” at least as much as ever. But we were back to square one, this time on our own.
Shortly thereafter, we attended the memorial service of a friend. Among the guests were two people, along with their four-year-old son, who were in the early group of thirty. They opted out of the process early because they love their current community and the three acres they live on. Imagine our surprise when, at the close of the memorial service, they offered us their west acre.
We declined. But the offer began a conversation that concluded, a month later, with a tenancy-in-common agreement for their three acres. We began building the mud hut and other infrastructure as time and money allowed. A year later, we’ve made a small start toward post-carbon living arrangements. And we’ve learned a lot about growing plants, building infrastructure, and each other. It’s been a wild ride, filled with moments of deep disappointment, simple pleasure, and wondrous, unexpected elation.
Never mind the six-month-old puppy. Did I mention I have a five-year-old in my life? Who’da thunk it?
If you’re thinking about relocating, there is much to consider it. Will your new location have advantages in any or all the important arenas of water, food, shelter, and — perhaps most importantly — community? At this point, you’ll be among the last people into your new area. You’ll be the “other” all humans seek when times get tough. I don’t think cities are survivable in the years ahead, but being a stranger in a rural area poses its own set of problems.
Consider a minor example from my own misspent youth, in the midst of this country’s cultural revolution. Four years after my family moved to a tiny town just the other side of nowhere, we were still the new people in town. I was a typically ignorant 10-year-old walking to elementary school in the morning when a 13-year-old neighborhood bully pointed a gun at my head out his bedroom window. I didn’t run and, in return, he didn’t pull the trigger. When my family moved seven years later, we were still the new people in town. Rurality has its advantages, but don’t expect to become part of the community over night on the strength of your good looks. At least, it didn’t work for me.
This long-winded answer to Jean-Francois’ implicit question falls far short of expressing the heartache associated with the collapse of our initial effort. An enormous investment in time and effort ended in failure because the entire enterprise was far more challenging than any of us imagined it would be. The increasing urgency of this topic demands frank conversation, but the human ego is stunningly fragile. As a general strategy, I would not recommend starting the conversation about relocating with a group larger than half-a-dozen people, primarily because you’ll need to create and maintain an emotionally, psychologically, and physically functional group of people, on short notice, to do things you cannot imagine doing. The future is funny that way: We don’t even know what needs to be done.
And you thought familial relations were tough. Multiply by a billion or so, and then factor in the notion of spending the rest of your life in very close proximity to these people.
My response to Jean-Francois’ other questions are even less complete. The obstacles to creating a community and moving to self-sufficiency are simply too numerous to list here. If you’re interested, I recommend a few books and websites to get you started (a comprehensive list is nearly infinite, but these resources will lead to many others). Books include Aric McBay’s Peak Oil Survival, Dmitry Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse, and Matthew Stein’s When Technology Fails. But there are many, many more, covering relevant issues from many different angles. Websites include Matt Savinar’s Life After the Oil Crash “Prepare” page and the report prepared by a few of my students.
As always,I would be happy to answer questions on- or off-list, and many of the contributors to this ongoing conversation doubtless have excellent ideas. Ultimately, I suspect the longevity of your life depends on making excellent decisions in the absence of reliable information. With that cheery thought, good luck to us all.