As we pass from the industrial age to the post-carbon era, the mantra of real-estate agents comes to mind. But the important factor isn’t so much “location, location, location” as “community, community, community.” The latter can be created in any location. Well, except for those locations the United States bombs into the stone age. It’s tough to build community when the U.S. military is carpet-bombing the ‘hood.
Obviously, other factors are important, too. Humans cannot live without clean air, potable water, and food. And shelter helps maintain body temperature. Assuming individuals and societies meet their needs for air, water, food, and shelter — certainly no small assumption when the lights go out (Sydney, Australia provides the latest example of the chaos in the wake of a power outage), the food disappears from the grocery store, and the water stops coming out the taps — community nears the top of the list of factors germane to survival.
As with nearly every aspect of post-carbon survival, culture points us exactly the wrong direction when it comes to community. If you wanted to design neighborhoods specifically to eliminate interactions between neighbors, American-style suburbs would be the perfect place to start. If you wanted to further exacerbate the problem, you’d work hard to destroy public transportation in favor of automobiles (preferably at least one for each licensed driver in the house). Then you’d subsidize Big Oil so gasoline remained inordinately inexpensive relative to its actual cost, thereby further encouraging the use of community-destroying minimal-passenger automobiles. Finally, you’d create K-12 concentration camps and, if anybody tried to break out of culture’s main stream, you’d incarcerate them on a more permanent basis.
In short, you’d transfer money from individual pockets to corporate kingpins while sucking the life out of communities. Take a look around: We’re there. No country — indeed, no culture — in the history of the world has ever created a mess to match this one. We’ve created a system that requires cheap energy and, in the absence of cheap energy, defaults quickly to chaos.
How, then, do we build community? Start with these guidelines, then add at least the following:
Make yourself useful
Expect everybody to contribute
I’m sure I’m missing some important components. But when it comes to building community, any number can play, and everybody should play. So, what did I miss?