Thursday, June 16, 2005

Returning to our roots?

The undoing of high-energy civilization could take many forms: a slow grinding collapse, all-out warfare, a devastating pandemic or widespread social and economic chaos. One thing that most scenarios will have in common however, is the return to rural locations by urban dwellers. Time and time again through out history when crisis have struck urban areas, many urban dwellers scattered to towns, villages and farms from which they have some ancestral connection to. It does after all make sense. Many people feel the most comfortable (even if they do not realize it consciously) when they are away from the masses and close to family and others familiar to them. In a crisis situation, a crowded urban area with limited resources will likely prove to be an unwelcoming place to be. Contrast this to a less densely settled rural area where competition for resources might be lessened and the ability to fend for ones self and family improved.
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In other words: expect peak energy to trigger another back-to-land movement.
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Those intimately aware of the energy implications to industrialized civilization may well be at the vanguard of this movement. When a person knows something will happen and is accepting of its implications, the next logical step will to be to position themselves to best survive any possible effects. Signs of this are beginning to occur. Already individuals have made moves away from potentially impacted areas and taken personal steps to prepare for an energy crunch. More will likely join them.
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Now I am not referring to those exurban “pioneers” that have gotten fed up with urban or suburban living and have purchased themselves a five acre ranchette outside of town so they could live in (relative) isolation. Those people merely are participants in the current high-energy lifestyle, often bringing with them trappings of modern suburban life (SUV, large house, lawns) without making adaptations for an energy crisis. Those people are simply participants in today’s civilization and will remain that way until reality crashes down on them.
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No, the true pioneers are those individuals that drop out of the modern, industrialized civilization altogether (or make adaptations in preparation of that occurrence). They could be starting organic farms, developing local networks (like starting a local currency) or building sustainable homes. Most of these have occurred in the small towns and rural locations well away from urban areas.
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This trend of relocalization and ruralization is a positive one for the sustainability of any kind of civilization. Large urban areas are not sustainable without huge energy subsidies. There are just too many resources needing to be imported, people and goods to be moved and wastes removed for this experiment in mass urbanization to be maintained. Plus, those large areas are dehumanizing in nature and dulls mankind’s sense of community. Once those energy subsidies are removed, those huge urban forms will be deprived of necessary resources and rendered uninhabitable, while their inhabitants turn on each other in competition for the remaining ones.
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Without the existence of those small towns, communities and functioning rural areas, civilization will most likely degenerate into an orgy of violence before scavenging on its remains. Unfortunately, when collapse hits the large urban areas, a number of urban dwellers will flee the chaos into the countryside. This second wave will not be prepared like the first set. These refugees will bring with them some of the ill effects of the city including crime and disease. If the numbers are great enough, it may jeopardize the best laid plans of those thoughtful individuals that had the foresight to plan ahead. This is a serious enough concern to give pause to those considering a move to the rural areas. Just because it is rural and idyllic now, does not mean it will remain that way when modern civilization crashes head first into peak energy.
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Will you, as a prepared individual, be able to handle an influx of urban refugees?
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Will you, as a small town citizen or elected official, be able to deal with a number of new (and unemployed) arrivals to your town?
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Will you as a family farmer, be able to welcome distant relatives to live with you on your farm?
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These are not easy questions to answer. However, Peak Energy will be forcing these issues to the forefront. How we deal with the inevitable instinct to return to our roots will determine whether or not civilization will survive and in what condition. Ruralization is definitely part of the solution. The only problem is in its implementation.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sure are you of the move TO rural-land? The historic trend in bad times is to move TO the city to 'find a job'.

Just because you may think rural is good doesn't mean the masses will.

6/16/2005 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose there would be a bit of both happening depending on personal preference.

Personally, I would prefer to live on a pseudo country sized block with a few friends or families. Then some people could stay on the block and look after the children and grow food while others could go to a city, town or another farm to find work so we could buy stuff that you can't grow or make (medication, tools, etc).

I think this is similar to what my great grandad and his family did in the last depression.

6/19/2005 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I no longer look at the world the same way, and am working hard to mentally prepare for this eventuality. Not to mention planting the garden, ordering fruit trees and sprouting supplies, etc...But, one thing that may help as well as entertain folks is to dig up copies of "Little House on the Prarie" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read them as a child and am reading them to my girls now. In these books is a wealth of information about how life was for a pioneer family...in good times and bad times. They lived very close to the land, and were happy, even without all the things we've all become accustomed.

7/22/2005 1:44 PM  

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