I love my transition book group. Where else can you have a completely serious discussion about poo and what to do with it if water and sewer services are disrupted? Where else can you talk about toilet paper, paper alternatives and bidets and which are more ecologically sustainable? All this in a coffee shop as we are enjoying various coffee drinks, hot chocolate, muffins, cookies and other treats.
We discussed chapter four of our year long reading of Making Home by Sharon Astyk. The chapter is about whether or not to adapt in place, or move elsewhere and the various things that one should consider while making this decision. The goal when deciding where one will live when adapting to a world of climate change and scarce resources, is to be able to handle whatever comes your way whether it is ecological, economic, political, or energy related.
Some people will not have the luxury of deciding whether or not to move for various reasons whether it is family or money or something else. If relocating is not an option and you are in an area that is say, prone to flooding, you need to sit down and figure out a plan for where you will go when there is a flood. How will you get there, what will you take with you? What happens if you can’t go back to your house for weeks? Or ever. That kind of thing.
If you are living in a place that it might not be a good idea to be in ten years from now, like a house on the beach, then you will probably want to move sooner rather than later. If you have children you will want to think about whether or not there is a future for them in the place you are currently living. If you have elderly parents to care for and they live far away and you need to drive several hours or fly to see them, you may want to move closer to them or move them closer to you because transportation is going to get really expensive. If you hate the place you live in and are only there because of a job, if you have a connection to some other location, if you are in a community that has strict rules about what you can and can’t do to your property or values keeping up with the Joneses and conspicuous consumption over sustainability, then you might want to live elsewhere.
If you stay put or relocate, there are things to consider about rural, suburban and urban living. The question changes from where do you want to live to how do you want to live. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Rural living will mean greater isolation. Transportation will be expensive and difficult. You will need to grow much of your own food and be handy at living without access to resources and services you may have been accustomed to when you were able to drive an hour or two to the city. People who have been used to living in the country – farmers, homesteaders, etc – will do just fine. But people who bought a huge McMansion and commuted an hour to the city will likely find life in the country is more than they are prepared for.
Living in a city will require economic flexibility. Jobs might be hard to come by or short term so one will need to be able to create or take advantage of opportunities as they arise. There will be food, but because it will have been grown elsewhere, it will be expensive. One should be prepared to supplement by growing food of their own as much as possible. There will be infrastructure breakdowns and cities will likely become even more crowded as people are displaced from elsewhere. Most likely there will be great wealth disparities and an informal economy will develop. You’ll want to be sure you have skills or knowledge or resources you can use to trade.
Suburbs will have some of the difficulties of rural life and some of urban life. Large houses might become unaffordable to maintain so people will likely find themselves sharing their home with extended family or others – a more communal living and pooling of resources sort of situation. But because houses are larger, there is opportunity for people to run businesses out of their homes/garages. And because suburban lots are also bigger, there is space for growing a substantial portion of one’s own food. However, if you live in one of those “bedroom community” type burbs where grocery stores and other services are far away, where your job is far away too, then you might find it difficult to get by.
Astyk says that no one place is inherently bad or better. What matters is you — your skills, your adaptability, and whether or not you are willing to live in the way that a place might require you to.
If you are super rich, you are apparently making plans to move to New Zealand or buying underground missile silos or islands where you can escape from the hungry hordes you helped create. While the rest of us are trying to figure out how to build personal and community resiliency, the super rich are building self-sustaining personal habitats with swimming pools and armed guards. Thing is though, they won’t be able to run and hide away forever.
When I originally finished reading the Astyk chapter I was a bit depressed, feeling like no matter where I live I will end up being poor and hungry. But one of the great things about talking with people about it is understanding that it isn’t all doom and gloom, that I know more things than I thought, that I may have some work to do, but I am resilient and pretty good at figuring things out. Most importantly, I am not alone. I have friends and neighbors, a community of people who want to work together and help each other live a good life now and in the uncertain future.