Adapting In Place: Whether, Why and Wherefore Ought Thou

Below the fold is a guest post from Sharon Astyk (TOD reader jewishfarmer). This piece is first in a series on adapting to a different type of 'city' and lifestyle than we are currently used to.

If you have insights or expertise to share with theoildrumcom readers please email the campfire editors.

Note: This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of essays about the issues involved in adapting to the Long Emergency without picking up and moving to the New Urbanist dream city or a Farm in the Country.

Adapting In Place: Whether, Why and Wherefore Ought Thou

The first question to ask is whether we should take in-place Adaptation seriously at all. Shouldn’t we, ideally, try and choose the best possible place to deal with the coming crisis? Some analysts suggest we will have to have vast population migrations out of suburbia, say, to more densely packed and walkable cities, while others propose re-ruralization. My suspicion is that both of these will probably occur to some degree – but that the progression will be intermittent, not very well organized. And plenty of people will stay in place, either in their homes and apartments, or will settle in property known to them, owned or rented by family or close friends.

Why will they stay? Well, for millions of people who own a home, but aren’t in immediate danger of foreclosure, the option of selling, even if they are not “underwater” is problematic – with home sales at historic lows, most of us will be staying put, if we don’t lose or abandon our properties. They can’t afford to change jobs, because they will lose seniority and potentially get the axe. They can’t afford the additional costs of moving, buying a new property or paying first, last and security.

And if they do move? Some of us will migrate, but a lot of us have compelling reasons to live where we do – community, culture, and family. What most of us will probably do in dire circumstances is simply consolidate resources with people we can trust – we’ll take in boarders or move in with family or friends. In tough times, we are likely to need family and community more – thus staying close to elderly parents or grandparents who can help with childcare while parents look for work becomes more urgent.

Some of us may also decide where we are is the right place – it isn’t just a matter of not being able to move, but of believing that we are best in places we know. The time for the radical changes required by picking up and moving and starting over may have been a few years ago. More familiar projects may be wiser and better for many of us.

Another force pushing us to stay put, as I wrote in my book _Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front_, one of the most powerful strategies for mitigation is likely to be a move into the informal economy. Teodor Shanin, founder of Peasant Economics has observed that the formal economy (the one most but not all Americans operate in) makes use of only ¼ of all the world’s workers. Most economic activity takes place in the informal economy, and the informal economy generally expands in response to contraction by the formal economy. In an essay in “New Scientist” Shanin writes,

“The concept emerged in Africa 25 years ago. Researchers began to notice that there was no economic explanation for how the majority of the population survived. They didn’t own land. They didn’t seem to have any assets. According to conventional economics, they should have died of hunger long ago, but they survived. To understand this, researchers looked at how these people actually lived, rather than at economic models . They found that their way of life was completely the opposite of how a human being in industrial society survives. They didn’t have a job, pension, steady place to work or regular flow of income. Families held a range of occupations from farming and selling in the market to doing odd jobs or handicrafts. Their aim was survival rather than maximization of profit. Rather than earn wages, labor was used within family.” ( (article is behind a paywall))

Similar informal economies have emerged in undergoing collapse or economic crisis in Russia, Argentina, and elsewhere, and there is really no reason to believe that the informal economy – which includes domestic labor, cottage industry, illegal activity, under the table businesses, and family economics will not expand here . These economic activities generally make use of family, local, household resources and needs – the soil your home sits on, the wood on your woodlot, providing services to neighbors, making use of household space to operate a business. Where homes have been a major economic drain, they have the potential, for those not over-leveraged, to become a source of income.

It seems likely then that some people whose homes have been or can be made valuable to them – by improving soil, the starting of cottage industries, strong social, familial and community ties, and local economic initiatives will have strong incentives to stay in place. We may see the common pattern of Global South employment in which some family members are sent where formal jobs are available to work, while most of the family remains together. With more people per household, mortgage and property costs may become manageable, while the benefits of family and community are increased by our lack of fossil fuels.

Triaging Your Situation

This does not mean that everyone can or should stay in place. Those who bought homes with ARMs, or at the peak of the market, those already in financial trouble, or without community and family ties may wish or need to relocate. But I still anticipate that at least in the short term, a large number of people all over the world will respond to the present crisis by remaining in their present homes or in a place they have existing ties.

So it is worth asking - what are the first steps if you’ve decided to remain your home, with all its imperfections and disadvantages (and its perfections and advantages – remember, there is no perfect place)? Your goal is to be able to handle what is thrown at you, crises economic, energetic, ecological or political – or all of the above. And the first step, as always, is triage – setting priorities.

First Steps

We all need to get ready to deal with the kind of short term crisis that affects almost everyone sooner or later. Given the fragility of our systems, more and more of these disruptions are likely. Thus, our first project is a medium range systems problem - something that can be caused by ice storms, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, geopolitical crisis, blackout… you name it. We need to be ready to get along for a few weeks to a month in a very messed up short term situation. This is useful even if what we face is a very messed up long term situation.

That means moving first to get basic needs met. Thus, we concentrate on first tier solutions. The qualities that these first tier solutions must have are these

1. They keep you alive and healthy.

2. They are simple, accessible and not too expensive – since everyone needs these

You need a reserve of food, and a way to cook it without power, lots of warm clothing and blankets if cold is a potential problem, and sufficient water and ways to keep cool if heat is the issue. You need stored water and a backup source of water. You will want some basic lighting and a way to manage toileting and hygiene issues, clean bodies and clothes. You need away to keep aware of events and communicate with family and community.

Other than the food, medications and water, the emergency measures could be quite cheap, because they don’t have to be comfortable and pleasant - for a few weeks, you can winter camp in your house, for a few weeks you can pee in a bucket, for a few weeks you can do laundry infrequently in another plastic bucket, light your evening with your headlamp and rechargeable batteries, communicate with your neighbors by trekking out to knocked together neighborhood bulletin board. That is, you can be uncomfortable and/or inconvenienced for the short term, in most cases. That doesn’t mean all the short term solutions are unpleasant – in fact, sometimes you’ll be surprised by how minor the inconvenience is, but the most important thing is that you have a way of meeting those needs, not that it be the perfect method.

For those who can’t tolerate much discomfort or inconvenience, because of health problems, age, disability or simple intolerance, then you will need to move up a little in the list to the next steps, the long term solutions to these problems. That is, you may need solar panels, expensive equipment or a generator, which come with attendant costs. But for most of us, the first-tier inconvenient but survivable solutions get us part of the way there, and many of them could be used longer if we had no choice.

But we all know that short term isn’t everything. What happens if we can’t afford electricity or gas anymore? What happens if we’re suddenly in the Long Emergency, not the short one? The preparations you’ve made for a short term crisis will get old really fast - but most of them will still serve you. That is, you will not like lighting your house with only a headlamp and two flashlights, and you will not like going to bed when it gets dark in December in the north, but you can do it if you have no choice. Some of us may already have second tier solutions in place – we might have a wringer washer already and not need the plastic buckets. Still, I recommend that you have the equipment or ability to use these minimal backup solutions, if only so you can teach others in your community.

The Second Tier

The next level of preparations are partly about survival, but more about creating a life you can live with in the long term. If you have money, these are easy changes to make. If you don’t have money, it will take time, and saving and scavenging to manage these systems - and you may be stuck with the original, inexpensive backups at times. Only you can decide what you can afford, have time to do, and what portion of your resources you can devote to improving your comfort and giving you more time – but my own observation is that these accommodations increase rapidly in value in tough situations.

This is where you begin going step by step through the systems you depend on, figuring out what you can do to allow you to live decently and comfortably. Step by step, you start replacing, adding or converting to sustainable systems that will serve you in the absence of existing infrastructure. My own belief is that while renewable energy systems are an excellent supplemental second tier system, your primary systems should operate a technological level you are like to be able to support even in the worst-case scenarios you think likely.

That is, even someone with a solar system large enough to run their washing machine should have a bucket at a minimum, and might want a small pressure washer. Even someone with a generator for their well pump might want a manual pump on their well or rain cachement. Someone with a chainsaw still needs an axe and bucksaw. The reason for this is that things break, supply lines can be disrupted, replacement parts may not be available. Redundancy is healthy – and can be essential. And if you must choose between the solar panels and manual well pump, my own feeling is that you should prioritize a system you can manage, repair and fully understand, whichever that is.

For those without much money, it is much easier to convert permanently to the alternatives in many cases, than it is to maintain both “normal” and “backup” systems. That is, it is hard, if you are poor, to afford solar lanterns - unless, of course, you use them as a lighting source and save money on your electric bill. Sometimes if things seem to costly, the problem may be that you are imagining them as a backup, not a conversion to a new way of life. You may prefer the old way, but if you are serious enough about your concern for the future, converting early isn’t the end of the world – our family has made this choice a number of times, in fact.

Some of the choices are easy and cheap - turning your lawn into a landscape of edibles can be quite inexpensive, if you can get slips and starts and divisions from people and buy plants and seeds from your cooperative extension. Converting to a composting toilet is inexpensive and can save you a lot of money on your water bill. Switching to eating out of your food storage can save a lot on your food budget. Sometimes you can do things on the cheap if you have time – but if you have neither time nor money, things get difficult, so you need to prioritize.

The Order and Ethics of Things

There are two good ways to prioritize, and honestly it makes sense to do both simultaneously. Prioritize by urgency, and by availability. Generally, you should concentrate on the things that will matter to your happiness and comfort the most - for a family with two kids in diapers, this might be not having to do laundry in a bucket, for someone who is always cold, a good heat source. But don’t also forget (and this is a great chore to delegate to elderly relatives, friends who want to barter or teenagers) to keep an eye on craigslist, freecycle, garage sales and to talk about what you are trying to do with others, so you can take advantage of opportunities. Try and have a list of all the stuff you’d like to do, so that when that old handwasher or treadle sewing machine shows up, you can cross that off your priority list.

While you are finding comfortable ways to keep cool, refrigerate food, keep safe, go to the bathroom and the rest, we can also begin thinking about the long term sustainability and community implications of these projects. That is, if you are going to burn wood, you need to be planting trees and harvesting carefully. You are just as vulnerable to diseases caused by human waste disposal problems as your neighbors – even if you don’t contribute to them, you may get sick when you water supply is contaminated. So after you deal with your own water system, share your knowledge. Renewable and lasting systems are central. If your private solutions are likely to contribute to the long term problems, pick different solutions.

In peasant economics, we find that most wealth accumulated by families is passed down through generations. Thus, as Shanin observes, a bicycle for a family may be expected to last until the family’s father is too old to ride it and the daughter can take over. Land and property are passed down, and mostly stewarded – they are not they not disposed of lightly, because they imply an obligation to future generations who are not expected to have enough wealth to replace what we are careless with now. It would behoove most of us, as we make our adaptation plans, to ensure that our strategies serve not just our present, but our future – if our adaptations destroy future capacities to warm, feed, slake thirst, protect other people, perhaps we need to find new adaptation strategies.

Finally, you should practice. That doesn’t just mean trying the solar battery charger once, or making sure you know how to cook on your woodstove - try living with these systems routinely, and turning off the ones you’ve depended on up until now. Consider a test run, when you turn everything off in the winter for a week, or where you live only on your stored and garden food for a month - these tests will tell you really basic things you need to know, and show you the holes in your system while you still have a chance to plug them.

Thanks for your contribution Sharon.

I am wondering if you or anybody else has looked at this issue of where people might best be able to stay in place versus where it is likely to become very difficult once The Long Emergency really gets underway. Some kind of geographical information system analysis combining layers of arable soil and water availability with population density might be a good start. Add to that estimates of indigenous energy sources within the region perhaps, additional carrying capacity from any coastal or large lake bounty.

Anyhow, eventually I'd expect the geographic distribution of population to align closely with local sustainable environmental load. Not sure how long or difficult such realignment will be. That's what makes thinking about the future "interesting" I guess.

for a book that does jason;

i have the book & have studied it- a ways back. Joel Skousen seems to believe we face large scale nuclear war & some of his 'conspiracy' focus is way over the top for me; also probably large scale nuclear war is too difficult a factor for most to plan around. His focus is to me weighted re the kind of social upheaval that would go with the "very bad" scenarios. he does a thorough job though on weather/natural disasters[ an intensifying problem].

interestingly low pop. density goes hand & hand with his highly rated areas; and as u say longterm sustainable soil/water wise the solution is similar.

Great post, Sharon.

Permaculture guy David Holmgren has written an interesting article on a similar theme, Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability:

'Suburban sprawl' in fact give us an advantage. Detached houses are easy to retrofit, and the space around them allows for solar access and space for food production. A water supply is already in place, our pampered, unproductive ornamental gardens have fertile soils and ready access to nutrients, and we live in ideal areas with mild climates, access to the sea, the city and inland country.

And let's not forget the British experience during WWII. Lord Woolton's massive "Dig for Victory" education campaign taught people who knew bugger-all about agriculture how to grow veggies and manage compost. The result was a massive increase in domestic food production in relatively little time:

Between 1939 and 1945 imports of food were halved and the acreage of British land used for food production increased by 80%. It was estimated that over 1.4 million people had allotments by 1945.

Yep, it was an excellent post.

A number of issues make things difficult. One is that we nonetheless have to deal with the current situation, surrounded by people who believe in BAU, whether we like it or not. So in a way, our current place of residence is optimal for the world right now, at least for many people. I need my job, and so it serves me well to stay here, even though I have serious misgivings about the thick layer of snow visible from months out my window.

Second, societal declines can happen slowly, piecemeal. Take the electrical grid for instance. In describing a post-Peak world, many of us use the lazy shorthand, "when the electrical grid fails." But when does it really fail? Where do rolling brownouts happen first? When do people start considering blackouts a fact of life? Does one part of the North American grid fail catastrophically, dragging the others down over years? If so, are there likely to be significant population movements as a result? Will my frozen city host shivering refugees from Phoenix AZ one day? Or will some disaster drive my family to a place where it rarely snows in the winter? Much of this is just speculation, but toying with such ideas in novel ways drives home the point that successive small events and catastrophes can affect where we live in unforseen ways. So back to Jason's point about population realignment based on environment... how could it happen? Let us count the ways...

So I slowly prepare for the kind of hardships I might naively guess would occur around here. I'd rather stay where I am, but who knows?

If utility companies don't think they are going to be paid in a useful currency, by sufficient customers, because infrastructure is crumbling [who would you hand cash to nowadays to guarantee your electricity?] then why not just give up?

We could have made utilities into gold standard top priority gov run services, but no - its just done for the private profit..

I am hoping that when it gets to that point, there will be some way for them to be taken over by local co-ops. Co-ops are the only economic model for utilities that I see as being viable in a localized future.

I think some of us will end up adapting in place for a while, and then moving - it isn't really an all or nothing thing. And I'm on the record as saying a number of times that I think the most common reason utility shortages might happen is not so much gridcrash (which could well happen, but could not) but simply that more and more people will be shutoff, perhaps permanently, as prices for delivery rise, and incomes fall. That is, the best reason to be able to do without electricity or gas is because you might not be able to pay the bill.


I have spent a fair amount of time in India and feel that India's current situation is what might be experienced well into the long emergency.
The rich will still have swimming pools and jacuzzis in their compounds.
Consumption will not be conspicious, but hidden behind high walls and barbed wire.
Everyone else will be out hustling.
Regarding utilities, in India there is an amazing amount of illegal grid tapping by poor people who never pay utility bills.
We have incredible wealth in our climate,in our junk and throwaway. We have squandered so much but there is still a lot left. The poor will live on that for a long time.

Not sure of your stance on elec utilities but I would like to know just how many folks would be comfortable with having to go to the woods on a freezing night to have a bowel movement?

This removes all the details about power this and power that.
The stark reality.

Now I am at this point seriously considering removing myself from the grid and adapting to the older style of life. My rates have increased 50% or slighty more in the last couple of months. Their infrastructure is terrible, as witness folks here having to do just what I mentioned above about the nightly stroll to the woods (or backyard) on a 5 degree above zero night.

I am thinking of buying a 5kw generator and storing 300 gals of fuel. Using it only for bare necessities and going PV panels for the rest.

I am tired of it and this is only into the second week of a 6 week or longer outage.

Its this: get ready now or take those midnight strolls and other actions based on not having utility power or learning to adapt to a real power down lifestyle.

Airdale-somewhat pissed at the utilities and I wished the switchboard girl "And hope you too have a very very bad night".

She BTW confirmed a very lengthy outage after she blew past the nicities script portion and I told her to get real.

You know, we've lost power for extended periods out here quite frequently - this is one of the reasons we set our lives up to operate well without it. And I think Airdale's point is wise - it doesn't take long periods of misery to make it worth it to make your life work well that way.

Airdale, don't go into the woods - google "humanure handbook" and read it. Lot warmer indoors than out, and it doesn't smell.


airdale - two words for you: chamber pots

Not the most pleasant of things, but then again, neither is that night-time trek out into the woods.

I already have a bunch of 55-gallon drums.  In the last month, I laid my hands on a water pump, water heater and toilet from an RV.  Now I'm looking for an inexpensive trash pump and wondering where the heck to find fiberglass supplies.

My goal?  I can make a holding tank to go under the toilet (fiberglass covering plywood or foam), use a trash pump to thoroughly homogenize the tank contents and move it to a fermentation drum, and take biogas off the drum.  The trash pump can move the spent contents of the drum to e.g. a garden.  Voila, all the benefits of humanure with fuel gas AND indoor plumbing.  The gas can be used for heat, electric generation, mantle lamps or starting a wood-fired gasogene.

I've calculated that a 20-lb propane tank can hold the biogas equivalent of a pint or so of gasoline at 150 PSI.  A few of those on a garden tractor would supply enough fuel for light tilling.

Also..not picking on you. But I think grid crash is more likely than unable to pay but they will absolutely cut you off...unless a Federal State of Emergency is declared , as I understand might be in effect here but no one really knows for sure.

Let me offer one last opinion and observatoin of a personal nature.

When you are in an unvolutary power down situation..your focus tends to become very very narrowed. What is happening then in the rest of the worlds becomes very very moot quite fast. What is happening in your nation? Also not worth the time to try to listen. You really just don't care. And the State happenings? Irrelevant as well.

Ones focus is living and getting by. The rest is just so much BS and trash. "American Idol" nonsense becomes just exactly what is is..nonsense on a massive scale of stupidity.

This is how most here feel. I spend some time talking to others. They speak only of their needs and situations. No one cares about the rest.

We will come to this and therefore 'community' will excell over all others concerns and actions...of course after personal situations and activities.

Way it should be and way I think it will go.

Airdale-for instance I have little time to post to TOD , much less read it so the few hours I do have, I read just the ones that appeal to where I am in life and what is currently happening in my arena. My focus is narrowing. From now on out I will be seriously powering down and changing my lifestyle significantly. I had hoped that the Campfire series would be more in line with survival and sustainability. I think it is not as much as it should be. I won't quibble about this keypost but I don't agree with its thesis too much. I hope someone puts up an essay on getting real about Amateur Radio Communications. Amateur Radio has been around basically since I was born. Class of '57

I'm not being snarky, but it sounds like that's a post you should at least contribute heavily to.

Radio Communications, I believe, can do an awful lot to keep things functioning in otherwise erratic times, if they are in fact coming our way.. but that's one I can't just build out of scrap in my shop.

I have a couple CB Walkies and a Base Station, but think I should track down a proper HAM rig while I can. But I have NO idea what that consists of.. what freq's, what level of power Xmitters, what's essential and what's expensive fluff. Then, there's the Packet Radio aspect that lets you do some Data transmission.. I've looked up a couple clubs, but am in over my head.

What can you teach us? (Make it a post for a Campfire, though, it'll get lost in here)

Thanks, and keep your TP dry!

(Best part about an icy outhouse is there's no worry about spiders!, and you start to appreciate how much heat energy is stored in your butt.. that seat warms up pretty quick)

- And don't forget, its 45 degrees, just a few feet down.. no need to freeze!

A Yaesu FT-990 is an excellent HF rig. It will go on General Rec all the way from 1.5 mhz up to somewhere around 30 mhz. It will operate in all ham bands in that HF range that are other words can xmit in the bands but the rec will be all coverage even between and on either side of the ham bands.

It will run rtty,morse code,packet and much more. It has a built in ant tuner. The features are enormous. Mine is that model. It is fairly old..maybe a 90s model? Yet has dual vfo's...lots of memory for store of freqs. It can be run in CAT mode. Computer mode is CAT...via a programmable serial mode interface.

It can scan as well. This is one incredible piece of equipment.

For 2meter I run a Kenwood TM271...another very well equipped rig.
It can scan,has AM,FM,DCS,Tones,many memory positions,the mike can do all of that and has a full array of buttons. It can go up to 45 watts on hi or 25 on low power. It cost me new less than $200. I run a magmount 5/8 wave whip on it cut to about 146-152mhz.

Better yet get this type in a dual mode rig. (mobile I speak of but can run as a base)..the dual goes 2meter or whatever 440mhz is(70cm?)...

The Yaesu runs 100 watts. Hooking up a linear is a breeze.
The best thing to do is join a local club and find an Elmer...Google that..Elmer and Ham Radio...

Then start 'reading the mail' meaning listening to other hams on the bands. Join ARRL. A good org and has an excellent magazine. Go to Ham Fests.


Many Thanks.

And the study guide to obtaining your first license can be found at;

This will answer most of your general questions. Then you can decide whether you are looking for local, regional, national, or global reach. If you want to listen to hams (or broadcasts) from around the world, you can get started with a radio receiver that covers all the bands. There are many to pick from, though I suggest those that are also helpful during power outages (i.e., solar and/or crank rechargeable radios).

An amateur radio setup would be an excellent communications resource and can easily be powered by a small back-up generator. The American Radio Relay Legue ARRL is a good place to find out what you will need.
RACES is also another good resource for during emergencies

A typical high freqency (HF = 3 - 30 mhz) transceiver (for longer distances) has a power level of about 130 watts and very high Frequency (VHF = 30 - 300 mhz) transceiver (better for local communications) might only be a few watts. You can also go to UHF (the next order of magnitude in frequency) for good local communication and this is used by many hand held units. You can easily set up repeating stations (either vhf or uhf) located on a high point in your area so that your group can all use it for local communications.

lots of options.

most counties have a group of ham operators...even in our small county of only 13,000 people we have over 30.

Once again, Sharon, you have done a good service. "it isn't really an all or nothing thing"--also good.
Keep reality available. Too many people start thinking of ways to live away from reality (modern civilization, for one) and forget that we need to give something back to the real world over and above what we take. If we don't, we go extinct. It's easier to reduce how much we take than to try and make enough stuff to make up for what we are consuming now.

We are in the beginning of this "unwind" right now. Job losses, economic contraction, debt repudiation(which we are going to "wake up" to sooner or later) makes all goods and services vulnerable to shortages. It is happening in small incremental ways or larger ones such as California.
The total unwind from using stored FF energy is inevitable, there does not exist a "equal replacement" plan B. Sure there will be lots of "alternative" energy built, but we never exceed where we are today. This is "as good as it gets" as far as our ability to waste.

When it comes down to "survival" we are still quite rich. We have shelters which can be partially demolished to build a smaller, and better insulated, structures. Cannibalization of old structures to build new ones is as old as man himself. We can contract for many generations this way.

Sans a major incident, I see this happening. The bigger issue is civil unrest due to people facing contraction of their consumptive "lifestyle" of un-necessities, basically the jobs of both the buyer and seller of this.

No-one is giving a heads up to the fact that deflation does not "work" with the current fractional reserve banking system and accounting rules. With inflation debt gets paid, money becomes worth less but payment happens. Deflation on the other hand forces defaults. Debt is not paid, payment does not happen. Fear enters the system and people do not lend for fear of not being paid, as they should. This combines with and self reinforces economic contraction. This is why you see unprecedented efforts to "continue growth".

Debt is the same as money. You can buy things with it. When debt contracts like it is it offsets money printing. It is the relation ship to each other, debt and printing, that must be watched. While they are both "fiat" systems, they can and do have "real world" cause and effect.

In my realm of the nursery industry studies of gen x or y gardening habits show a trend toward locally produced plant materials. Native plant material is also popular because of water and time savings. Last year in 08' there was a 42% increase in vegetable starts. Over the top - flamboyant gardening is out- as a general rule. Large shade tree nurseries believing on the motoring, suburban utopia are getting hurt the worst. I'm not convinced they will be able to convert their inventory to cash, even if they wanted to grow some thing different. This unwind will be uglier for some of us.

I think we are in the start of what you describe. If you look you can see the slowly emerging signs in the population and the more drastic signs is gov. budgets.

...may you live in interesting times....

RE: Electric grid

A scenario I could see is one of increasing unreliability and intermittency.

Many of us, right now, experience periodic temporary power outages. In my area, we might get these a few times per year. Usually, these only last a few hours, but maybe once every few years we'll have an outage that lasts for a few days.

As things get worse, maybe we'll start getting outages a few times per month. Most of these will last the better part of a day, and maybe once or twice a year we'll get one that lasts a week or more. Maybe every few years we'll get an outage that lasts a month or more. At this point, people know that their electricity service is no longer reliable, and they need to be prepared for frequent and unpredictable outages of uncertain length.

Moving another step down the decline stairway, maybe we'll start getting outages a few times per week. These will often last all day, and often once or twice a month we'll get one that lasts a week or more. Maybe once a year or more we get an outage that lasts a month or more, and every few years we'll get an outage that lasts for several months. At this point, most people will have had to adjust to the fact that the electricity is just as likely to be off as it is to be on, and that they may have to go for long times between it being on.

Move down another step, and now there is hardly a day that goes by where the electricity is not off for at least part of the day. Maybe it is only on for a few hours each day - when it is on at all. There are often days each week when there is no electricity at all, and months when there will only be a week or so with electricity. There will be occasional years when there are only a few months with electricity. At this point, electricity becomes the exception rather than the rule, and people must learn to mostly get along without it.

At the final step, the system has become so unreliable and intermittent that it is no longer worth the effort to keep it up. People find that their scarce resources can be put to better use by just adapting to the situation and arranging their lives to live without electric service.

A back-of-the envelope way to get at this may be to compare the place as it exists today to what it was like in, say, 1910. Is the region today totally different from a pre-auto era? Were the soils and climate sufficient to support trade and export 100 years ago? Have those soils been paved over and scraped away for suburban tracts in the last 100 years? The Twin Cities of Minnesota, for example, used to be a smallish set of cities set among farmland. Now it is one huge sprawling exurb. I am skeptical. There are a number of smaller cities in southern MN and Iowa that today are very close to what they were 100 years ago. These seem better positioned for a post-peak reality.

I liked how the city of Minneapolis put up city limits signs from 1858 last year to celebrate the 150 years for MN. The sprawl really is something else here, though I don't think Minneapolis is any worse than other cities, ie Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston etc.

Another reason for deciding to stay put in a particular place that could be added to Sharon's list is something that might be called Localized Patriotism.

To be honest, I'm having trouble still caring all that much about the fate of the USA as an entity. While I try to be a kind hearted person and not wish anyone ill, I do have to honestly say that there are more than a few places around the US that I really just don't care for, and don't care what happens to, all that much. I just don't view the dis-integration of the US into smaller constituent parts to necessarilly be the worst thing that could possibly happen; in fact, I'm sometimes tempted to think that it might actually be for the best.

On the other hand, I do passionately care for my local community. If worst came to worst, then yes, I probably would be willing to die for it. I am interested in doing what I can to put my local community in the best position it can be for the future. That is something that does matter to me.

All patriotism used to be local. As nation states and empires have arisen, there has been a deliberate effort to shift people's localized patriotism over to a more abstract patriotism embracing the larger political entity. However, this is unnatural, it rubs against the grain, and takes a huge amount of propaganda to accomplish. As national economies decline and governments go broke, I very much doubt that these propaganda efforts can be sustained. For a while, people will continue to have the same feelings for the larger entity as they have been accustomed and conditioned to have in the past. However, without continual reinforcement, and as younger unpropagandized generations rise up, the emotional ties to the larger entities will grow ever weaker, and people will come more and more to think of themselves mainly as citizens and patriots of their local communities.

WNC, I agree that we may see increased intermittency (and I love the local patriotism idea, btw!), but I tend to be an agnostic on the future of the grid ;-). What I do know is that unpaid utility bills are rising rapidly, as are shutoffs, and no one should be unable to get through a few weeks without power. Heck, how many Americans have had to do it just this year in Houston, KY, the Northeast...

Systems failures are normal. That's the thing to bang into people's heads!


"WNC, I agree that we may see increased intermittency"

Yes, system failures are going to become the norm. People will have to get used to intermittency, no matter what.

That's why I think it's so funny (if that's the right word) that many utility people (and others) say that wind and solar can only supply so much power to the grid because of problems of "intermittency." We already have freakin' intermittency. At least with a combination of solar and wind, and a somwhat improved grid the intermittency here in the midwest would mostly be on the rare instances when no wind was blowing across the plains at night. Of course, not much electricity is generally needed in the middle of the night any way.

Mostly, we have to get local both in power generation, in food production and in most other things.

The Indian economist Ramachandra Gupta in his book "How much should people consume" talks about local versus global consumers. Those who, like the Dalits ('untouchables') in India, consume materials and energy from within 100 miles of where they live, have a strong interest in making sure that such consumption is better than sustainable, since if they degrade their immediate environment, the are pretty immediately screwed. This is what we have to get to--living more closely to the consequences of our consumptive patterns. Obviously, this is not the way pretty much anyone on these threads live (I don't know of any computers produced completely locally).

Also obviously this flies in the face of global corporate and military imperialism, that is, the current world order.

People will have to get used to intermittency, no matter what.

That's why I think it's so funny (if that's the right word) that many utility people (and others) say that wind and solar can only supply so much power to the grid because of problems of "intermittency." We already have freakin' intermittency.

I like this comment, and have had similar thoughts. Problem is, people wouldn't want to hear it. "Might as well put in wind, in another decade you won't be able to depend on the grid anyhow". Not the strongest sales pitch.

I'm not so sure that intermittency wouldn't spice up life nicely. Our minds and bodies are mostly evolved around the way things happen in the real world. I think of the joy of an unexpected "snow day" as a school kid, or even the family activity of listening on the radio to hear where the tornados had touched down, to see whether we needed to dive into the cellar. A really windy day meant flying kites or doing dangerous things with military surplus parachutes. A windstorm could mean dropping all else to collect the windfallen fruit. Feeling connected to the unpredictable vagaries of weather felt good. Adjusting ones' activities for the weather also feels right.

I'd love it if baseload power were priced very high, and wind or solar power was available dirt cheap; habits would change. If, in the future, a community has wind power and nothing else, they could adapt quite well.

Down with baseload power! Site the high-power internet hubs over geothermal hotspots and next to hydroelectric plants.

You're right, greenish. I'm not much use as a salesman.

I really like the rest of your post. Very much what I've been thinking.

See my post upthread..of just a few minutes ago.
I agree wholeheartedly. Get small.Get insular. Work together. Take care of the aged but throw out the bums who leech off others and steal.

Ohhh...Not too PC...welllll Exxxccusssee Meeee.


My own feeling is that where we may end up may well come down mostly to water in the next few decades. Soil yes, but water first and foremost. If I had to place my bets about patterns of population, I think the first shifts will be towards remediating jobs, but not long after that, they will be out of the dryest parts of the US.

I may be prejudiced, though with 50+ inches of rain a year ;-).


As I survey my 1/3 acre domain, it becomes quickly apparent that water is my limiting factor (Colorado Front Range).

I was telling this to my wife a couple of weeks ago when, literally the next day, a water main burst and we are on boiled water for the rest of the week.

I guess, as I survey my small "suburban" lot I have the exact same concern--water. Without bloviating about my own farmstead desires, I've wondered for a while if this low-cost method of well drilling would actually work.(Linky: )
We live in a coastal marine terrace geology with a fairly high water table; dirt, some limestone around but unknown if there's any below us, and clay. Lots of clay. I imagine a clandestine summer project involving a test well in our backyard, with the goal if successful of providing both non-chlorinated irrigation water (another whole topic!) and emergency potable water. (Fwiw we have a grid-tie 5 kw on the roof, so with some changes we could theorhetically power a pump, at least for a while.)
Has anyone on TOD ever seen such a contraption? The theory seems plausible--depending on the geology below--and easy enough to do on the sly. Our area is completely devoid of septic systems, industry or other water quality deal-killers. Testing would of course be part of any plan...

Ron, I suspect I know where you are, and, as a person who lives in the city just down the hill, I have the same concerns about water.

I've been a dedicated reader of Sharon's Blog for some time, and thinking about adopting in place on my quarter acre lot in my relatively suburban city.

As long as I'm employed, I'm in decent shape. My work is 3 miles from my house, stores even closer. It's when the distribution systems start to break down that I'll struggle. Sooner or later the stored food will run out, and agriculture in Colorado is not a high yield business due to lack of water.

My wife wants to convert our back yard into a garden, and we're working on conditioning the soil and learning what works in our environment. Without the city water systems, we wouldn't be able to grow much. Given the water rights laws in Colorado, we're not even supposed to capture the run-off from our roof.


Michael, email your state lawmakers.
They are aware of the issue and are examining it this year:

When I first started reading about urban gardening, I thought the idea that gardening was a radical protest to be a bit over the top. But this year I have discovered that composting is against city law, rain harvesting against state law, and growing opiates/thc to be against federal law (this last interests me in terms of natural medicines). Crazy.

Nice piece and, I think, important. Most folks will sit tight and probably rightly so. It is the familiarity thing. Community will be the single most important issue of value and maybe the one item you have not mentioned enough. Know your community. Know its assets. Know its talents. Know its weaknesses—such as the idiot factor and all that goes with it.

Some areas of the country will become uninhabitable. Water issues, climate issues, excessive population and the potential for general strife will make living very difficult. These are easily recognizable now as the drought in the populated S. Cal. demonstrates. Areas of potential problems should be recognized and avoided. Added stress other than economic will only add to bad behavior.

Your suggestion of practice is very important. Most individuals, even those wise to the emergency, do not understand the difficulty in making this change. Practice is paramount---and an eye-opener. Like playing the violin, it is all about practice and maybe having a good instrument.

Without getting into economics, I've suggested several books for quite some time:

The Integral Urban House: Self-reliant Living in the City ISBN 0-87156-213-8. A very comprehensive guide.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living ISBN 1-57061-377-x. You shouldn't starve if you read this book.

Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land ISBN 1-57912-368-6. All kinds of practical stuff.

A total of over 1,700 pages of "good stuff."


I forgot to mention this one that is available on the Internet:

Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (almost) No Money. It's only 66 pages but covers many topics.

A good wisdom-filled piece from Sharon A, per usual.

In terms of relocation, I've seen many discuss it and few undertake it. I assume that most relocation will indeed be to rejoin family and be among similar people; there are invisible costs to doing it as well as the more obvious ones. Once we've been in a place for awhile, there's all sorts of evolved connectivity in terms of knowing what's what, where things are, efficient foraging strategies (so to speak), and human relationships & work/institutional connections. Still. it seems like it could make sense to proactively relocate in some cases.

I've been approached by a number of folks over the last few years who heard that my wife and I have considered the big island of Hawaii as a place to live and had a little land there. (We're currently on oahu, which is pretty much just a large city on a rock supplied by container ships).

The big isle is relatively cheap, is not as heavily overpopulated as most areas, and ample rainwater falls from the sky for drinking, farming, etc. The climate is neither too hot or cold, there are pretty much no tropical mosquito-borne diseases for interesting evolutionary reasons, and it requires no special permission for a US citizen to move there. Yet of all the folks who've asked me, none decided to make the move.

Nor have I; my wife and I unexpectedly wound up tied to oahu to care for an elderly family member who wouldn't be able to live at home without our assistance, and we've sold all but a little of our big isle land to remain here, even though "here" seems a bit like a potential famine trap. Offering "tourism" in exchange for a place in the global lunchline may not cut it much longer.

Will we make it over to the big isle? Hard to say. Medical care is becoming third-world there with few doctors remaining, and I wouldn't doubt that life expectancies will drop relative to oahu, particularly after jet travel becomes less available to island-hop. Oahu itself is experiencing the same thing relative to the mainland, albeit with some time lag, but there will probably be hospitals here for some time.

It would be interesting to see an entire community's worth of people relocate together. For instance, if a number of folks targeted the big isle, bought land & imported their own doctors for a settlement, it could be a pretty good spot. I don't really expect that, though. Hawaii in general will probably have a population outflow as people chase jobs and complex infrastructure on the mainland.

Interesting to me that while the Puna area on the big isle satisfies most "theoretical" subsistence needs, in fact it'll probably wind up sparsely populated, because until things get quite bad, other places will offer more... and in that, it may be typical of very-rural situations.

I think the medical system is going to start having problems in not too long, wherever your are. This is especially the case if there are power outages. Just paying for the current system is going to be a problem, though, with so many out of work. Many inner city hospitals are approaching bankruptcy.

I think that we need to be thinking about making ourselves healthy through good diet and exercise, and trying to protect ourselves from injury. Our current food is contributing a lot to the poor health many people are in. If we work toward our own good health, lack of a good health care system will become less important.

Here's another area where a close examination of Cuba could pay off. Their medical system is highly oriented toward low-tech, low economic level practice, with a strong emphasis on emergency response (they get hit by many of the Caribbean hurricanes). As a consequence, the Cuban health measures are quite high for a 3rd-world country. I'd like to see a "post-carbon medical/health movement" arise, maybe using the Cuban model as a starting point. (I'm hoping for someone to reply "Dummy! It's already going -- follow this link!" 8^)

There is little question that the U.S. could spend 1/2 of what it does -- maybe 1/4, even-- on "healthcare" and see very little difference in the generally accepted measures of public health. For starters, you can knock off the 40% that "insurance" companies add to the bill for "administration". Cigna, United HealthCare, Aetna, Regence -- they add nothing of value, they are merely rent seekers. But this "innovative" Obama administration, so committed to "change" will not even consider a single-payer health care system (e.g. -- put everyone on Medicare) as a possible option, let alone promote such a radical notion.

And then the issue of "high tech" medicine. There is very little gain to the population from having immediate MRI availability, or immediate cath-lab capability, for example, and what benefit there is comes at extremely high cost.

The main thing that people need to live healthy, productive, long lives is a stable social environment, clean water, clean air and wholesome food. The ancient profession of medicine -- never of more than marginal utility historically-- really matured into a potentially useful force in society in the first half of the twentieth century, but in the 21st has been re-branded as "healthcare", commodified, and turned into a profit center, not a service.

We will see what the future brings -- but I believe it will be much lower-tech medical care, and that there will be very little adverse consequence as a result.

"Here's another area where a close examination of Cuba could pay off."

Have you ever closely examined the Cuban health system? I'm not talking about the health system that tourist and party elites have access to, I'm talking about the health system the average Cuban has access to. Once you get past the fascination with the number of doctors and clinics there is little if any thing worth emulating in my opinion.

Don't take my word for it; next time you travel to Mexico or any Caribbean or Central American country take a puddle jumper to Cuba. They won't stamp your American passport and travel past the tourist areas and see for yourself.

Clinics and Doctors are pretty useless if they have no medicines or functioning equipment or supplies.

I've been thinking along those lines too, Gail. It's starting to look like the Obama stimulus bill is going to pay for a lot of current operating expenses, so it might keep our current system going for another year. Otherwise I was thinking by middle of 2009 - as muni budgets start crashing, universities and so forth - the current system might itself default. People in health care I know are seeing next to nothing elective, for what that's worth - anecdotal only. So hey, let's convert everything to digital record keeping. Yup.

cfm in Gray, ME

let's convert everything to digital record keeping. Yup.

Microsoft has an active lobby, too.

I don't think digital record keeping will have much to do with Microsoft if it is done by the government. Their approach is becoming more centered on open source products, such as the MySQL database used by the Census Bureau.

Maybe it is just me, but I've always had a hard time seeing life on the side of an active volcano as being a particularly good survival strategy.

It's easier to visualize the unpleasantness of being covered by lava than it is to visualize the more-likely dangers we face. The odds of "death by volcano" in Puna are probably far less than "death by tornado" in the midwest. In the last town destroyed, people in the path of the lava had time to move their pianos during the eruption (took months), and many didn't move out until the lava got within 100 feet or so. (Hawaiian volcanoes aren't very explosive; you really have to work at it to kill yourself with one). Human lives are so stroboscopic compared with geological processes that we can to a large extent ignore them. For instance, my odds of being nuked on Oahu in any given year are probably on the order of 1%, while the odds of dying by volcano on my big isle property are closer to 1 in 10 million.

Indeed, for the only really large eruption since I've lived here, my wife and I climbed down into the crater, with burning trees and blue methane sprites popping all around us, spatter cones pushing through the roads, and our having to jump over 2-foot cracks in a former parking lot which was glowing orange. Very cool special effects. Hundreds of others did what we did with no casualties, and its aspect was about like what Frodo threw the ring into.

Compared to the mess humans have made of things and the consequences we'll face, a sleepy Hawaiian volcano is a nonentity, an ornament. If only the dangers we face were that mild and visible....

The problem of resilient communities has so many free variables it seems impossible to prescribe a best approach. Where I live has biker-druggies, loggers, farm workers, tourist operators and retirees who somehow mostly seem to get on. I'm going to a meeting in the community hall tonight to discuss old growth logging and there could be violent opposition. On the other hand the meeting could be all city slickers who won't be able to attend such meetings when there is no oil. That means they don't have all the answers.

I've noted some odd symbioses in these communities. High school dropouts deliver firewood to retired academics. The spatial, age and education distribution has to be right. Good rainfall helps for local water supply and food production. However I believe that most food production will be done in intensive lots by experienced operators, not backyard gardeners. Most electricity and liquid fuels will be generated in big installations, not backyards. Whether small communities can pay for all the food and energy they want remains to be seen.

good, basic focus on prioritizing re location, & preps; long/short term plans/tools.

very helpful to cover for those with $, & w/o.

the issue of relocating was very serious for me. ideally we as an extended family/friends would have moved further from the close by city & metro area, but a move would not have included many of those important to us for a host of reasons.

actually for most scenarios our place is in many ways ideal; great water sources, fair soils/fields, rough terrain with medium to low density very closeby, medical services & jobs- not too far away, bus line 5 mi. from here, etc. Just too many people within 30 miles for the kind of chaos i see us facing at some point.

so we have taken to strengthen our weak areas ;& some of us have begun the process of looking to buy a 'fallback' place. the process is good in helping us be more real & conscious about the varying strengths & weaknesses we bring with us to this 'group' endeavor. the difficulty though of building cohesion w/o TSHTF/significant collapse is at times insurmountable. relationships require lotsa steady focus & work.


While I think your discussion is very relevant and valuable, I think that in the longer run most people WILL have to change location (and much else). Large numbers are already losing their homes (as you are well aware). But I agree with Kunstler -- the very way our country is structured is seriously flawed (to put it mildly). Suburban sprawl plus cars covers most of it. If one retains the sprawl, getting rid of cars becomes impossible. But cars are going to become less and less affordable as we all know, and therefore sprawl will become more and more problematic. Therefore there will have to be consolidation, density, but only up to a certain point, otherwise one isn't adjacent to the soil.

Like I say, people are losing their houses, and will lose the cars. The government should be helping people to build new lives when they fall in the hole, but then it has the right to encourage them to change their lives in the process, and help them build dense carless communties near agriculture. As the oil age winds down, what other choice is there? The gov't needs to explain that the American way of life is no longer possible, and therefore everything must be directed at retrenching in a civilized and humane way. No-one, no force can bring it back.

A distinction needs to made between the near term and the longer term also. I think some of your points are more relevant to the shorter term.

I agree: there does need to be two economies, one the old industrial market economy, and a new one, based on small dense agricultural communities that are to a significant degree independent of the first economy. The first economy will shrink over time, the second one will grow. The first economy will never again be able to employ and house and feed the entire population. The only hope lies in the alternative economy. It should be nurtured, and people given support in rebuilding their lives there. That's the future.

It would be nice if all this could take place with support from TPTB, but that is probably impossible until total collapse.

Meanwhile TPTB seem quite intent on reviving the industrial economy a la FDR (and rescuing their own hoards). The only way one can even dream this impossible dream is to rev up the military machine and and try to grab the remaining hydrocarbons.

Meantime, all power to those who, in whatever way, show and explore how it will eventually be possible to build a sustainable relationship with planet and the soil. That's our future -- the debates on how to get there are the meaningful debates.

With a lot of disgruntled and displaced homeless people floating about, the military may offer some stability and a way of escaping the hard grind of poverty. TPTB may just have as much willing cannon fodder as they want, to push what may be a popular war. Iraq may just turn out to be the dress rehersal or the first act, take your pick.

The script goes something like this. First we had boom times (1920s), then we had a financial crisis (1929), then we had the Great Depression (1930's) then we had a really big war (WWII) after which we had 60 years of unadulterated progress that delivered fantastic lifestyle advances, at least to the rich countries. All we need to to is replay the script and voila! After about a decade or so, and a few billion dead, we can all return to the happy progress we enjoyed in the 20th century only this time it'll be better!

There is still plenty of energy available to play this script and once it gets going, no amount of local preparation will be able to stand in its way.

It has been long recognized there are a disproportionate number of veterans in the homeless population. There are more Vietnam veterans homeless than died in the Vietnam War.

One in three homeless people served in the military (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)

Combat veterans at higher risk of homelessness (VOA)

Returning veterans from any war-- say beginning with the Trojan War, but most likely before-- have always been paid lip service, and simultaneously marginalized and shunned. In the USA problems started long before VietNam -- consider The Bonus Army as a particularly egregious additional example.

But the oddest thing to me is that while almost everyone knows these things, the military still has very little difficulty in signing up new cannon fodder among the young. Clearly, young people see military service as a giant gamble, with potentially giant payoffs. As in any gambling situation, the possibility of losing is heavily discounted by an instinctual brain structure that is programmed to gamble.

Human beings are no more "logical" than any other life form. The "known knowens" are too few, the "knowen unknowens" are too overwhelming. Gambling is the only sensible adaptive response.

I try not to get provoked by posts. But ...

what you say is patently not true and fundamentally ignorant. If it some attempt at analysis all I can say is that it is superficial beyond description.

I cannot help but come to the conclusion that you are basing what you say off of some ideologically based agenda and no knowledge of history or experience in life could convince you otherwise.

have always been paid lip service, and simultaneously marginalizes and shunned

This has never been true in any overall sense. Examples of the opposite are demonstrated every day. To a majority of the adult population there is great respect for those who have manned the walls throughout history. Ask them.

But the oddest thing to me is that while almost everyone knows these things,

Actually, even though you might think this and can find some others who do so as well, the vast majority of adults in any society on earth would disagree with you. Ask them.

the military still has very little difficulty in signing up new cannon fodder among the young. Clearly, young people see military service as a giant gamble, with potentially giant payoffs.

Cannon fodder? BS. Is that what you consider our soldiers and the others that serve our county. And those that serve other countries. You should be embarrassed to say such things even if you are ignorant enough to think them. People serve their countries for many different reasons. Many for economic reasons, many out of a sense of duty and love, many because they understand that someone has to do the difficult jobs and why not them. From one who has been there, that giant payoff you speak of is the knowledge that one served others with honor no matter what the cost was going to be.

Think about what you are getting ready to say before you put your foot in your mouth and offend the adults.


I'm a veteran and I think that what NeverLNG posted is spot on.

The person with the ideological ax to grind - romanticized self-rationalization is more like it - would be you, Wyoming, IMO.

What one sees depends on where one stands. My experience is probably as true as Wyoming's. Or his (hers) mine.

I just put it out there. Am I therefore just trolling?

Edit-- and I mean no disrespect to the veterans, quite the opposite. In my town, I am one of the few physicians who will take TriCare (insurance for veterans and active and retired military, Coast Guard, etc. when they see non-military physicians). Just for example.

I see a lot of general disrespect for veterans, but also a lot of pomp and circumstance around Veterans Day and a few other military holidays.

"I mean no disrespect to the veterans.."

If you do not understand calling members of the military cannon fodder is disrespectful and is widely used as an insult by those that dislike and disrespect the military (Think posters at the Daily Kos and similar sites) then you are a social idiot. And I mean no disrespect.

If you do not understand calling members of the military cannon fodder is disrespectful and is widely used as an insult by those that dislike and disrespect the military (Think posters at the Daily Kos and similar sites) then you are a social idiot. And I mean no disrespect.

I think you are the one who misunderstands. The use of the term "cannon fodder" is a criticism of those who use the military as such, not the soldiers themselves.

I say this as someone whose spouse and numerous siblings and nephews have and are in the armed forces. And I agree that NeverLNG's original post was spot on.


For me, my relationship to the Kunstler thing is that while he's completely right about the fact that the project of suburbia was a terrible idea, I suspect more people will stay in the 'burbs than we think.

I've got a longer discussion of this topic in _Depletion and Abundance_ and there will be one on the food elements of it in detail in _A Nation of Farmers_ coming out in March. But basically some of the reasons why I think *some* - maybe even *many* suburbs will still exist in one form or another are these:

1. Often, they were placed on good agricultural land, and we're going to need it. In many cities, decent urban housing is more or as costly, only with far less (not no) capacity to grow food, firewood or other valuable things. If Pimentel is even remotely right about arable land availability in the coming decades, we won't successfully feed ourselves without much of our suburban land.

2. Many suburbs have the same population densities as 19th century towns and small cities. Saying they are less dense than today's cities of 5-8 million doesn't really resolve the fact that historically, that density is very unusual - the town often looks a lot like the suburbs. Now suburbs vary a lot - outermost housing developments may not do well. But that's the problem with declaring the demise of suburbia.

3. The suburbs have the space to build interstitial commerce on - I call it "Amish Industrialization" because the Amish do this wherever they go - the large houses are suited to home industry, the garages make good shops, etc...

4. I don't think we'll be doing any more major build outs for a while - which means as the people who are free to do so begin to urbanize, the poor who are pushed out of walkable cities and rural areas will have a choice of shantytowns or the existing suburbs. I'm betting they'll take the suburbs - already there are more poor people in the 'burbs than in the cities.

5. I just don't see the transport issue as that huge. In most suburbs, everyone commutes to work and shopping to the same three or four places. Put five people in a camry and you are set. I grew up in Boston, which has a wonderful suburban bus system - it wouldn't be that hard for enterprising people to make up simple transportation systems from existing cars, old buses, etc... Sure, gas is going to be pricey - but if you ever go to the poor world, you'll see that what people do to mitigate those costs is cram, and not go as many places. If there are still jobs to be had, I see transport not being the defining issue - even $10 gas was manageable in Kenya simply because the strategies for managing it were available. If there aren't jobs, then the land will matter more and the transportation won't be needed as badly. Add in delivery systems (which enterprising folks will arrange) or open/travelling markets (again, likely) and I simply don't see the emptying out of suburbia, so much as it having a shifting population and structure.


I completely agree. The first time I ever saw End of Suburbia I was greatly amused, but I thought the scenario too dire. It is quite likely that people will age in place, and die where they age; that the population will naturally decline to sustainable levels, and suburbs will become the villages of the future. In the U.S., at least, there are plenty of resources left for this to happen. Much will depend on government action or inaction. The government can get up a nuclear World War V, or they can promote harmony. They have all the tools to manipulate the population in any direction they choose.

If the people still have any say in government policy, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to push them in the right direction.


In general I think that your critique of Kunstler is accurate. I often think that he does not get out much. Having traveled most of the world, with an emphasis on 3rd world locations, I have seen a great variety of adaptations to difficult living conditions. He vastly oversimplifies.

There are definitely suburban locations that will become untenable after we wind down a significant amount. For example, those suburbs surrounding the large cities of Arizona, Nevada, the Inland Empire of CA, etc. However, as you indicate, suburban developments in areas that have (had) decent soil and still have adequate rainfall will clearly not be abandoned. It is just silly to think so. It does not take much imagination to see that these types of areas will always be able to support a significant density of population. Will all the houses by lived in? Perhaps not. Some will likely be cannibalized, others become types of farm buildings, craft buildings, small businesses, etc. New villages will be formed based upon spacing's determined by the technology available at the time. They will evolve as time passes. People will travel less on a daily basis as time passes and energy gets more expensive. But most places will not be abandoned.

The keys to survival are water and useable soil. Where such things are available people will thrive (or perhaps endure). Where they are not, people will have to move. As circumstances constantly change people and their living conditions will change with them.

Many of the favorite kind of places the "survivalists" have focused on cannot naturally (in the absence of significant industrial inputs) support large numbers of people living in near subsistence conditions. The mountains, high elevations in most areas, arid/desert locations, Alaska, almost everywhere in between the beginning of the Great Plains(say 200 miles west of the Mississippi) and the Pacific, with the exception of the good farming areas of the Northwest. The western US just cannot support a really large population absent large amounts of cheap energy and the import of industrial goods.

Except for the high mountain areas of the Appalachians almost everywhere east of the Mississippi River can support large numbers of people. How many we can support depends on how far down the cheap energy curve we have fallen.

The above can be demonstrated by recalling the population distribution of native Americans before the arrival of the Europeans. Millions lived east of the Mississippi. Not many in between the Mississippi and the Pacific. Almost none in the desert areas. And it is worth remembering that the climate in the west and southwest was more suitable by far for subsistence living pre 1500's then it is now.

Nice article. Wyo


RE your point 4.

Some suburbs might continue to have people living in them, but they will evolve into something looking more and more like the favelas surrounding most 3rd world cities. There will be others that remain upper class enclaves, and some that probably will become ghost towns.

The question is: will there still be any MIDDLE CLASS suburbs? The irony is that the suburbs up to now have been quntessentially middle class places.

WNC, I don't expect a lot of middle class - period. I think we're losing much of the middle class. But I don't think it is linked to the 'burbs particularly.


I don't at all foresee the emptying out of suburbia. What I see is its concentration and densification, returning a lot of the land to agriculture one way or another. In other words, the suburbs will stop becoming suburbs and start becoming dense small agricultural towns - in place. Foresee is the wrong word - it's what I advocate.

Also, I'm looking down the road apiece. I think that at some point we'll be essentially carless, not just have fewer. Then it's no longer just a matter of pooling. I disagree with you on transport not being a big -- I think it will become very big.

The density is important for several reasons. One is the sharing of services and amenities, doctors, libraries, even large comfortable, well heated common spaces. Another is to free up land. And yet another is to keep as close to the soil as possible.

Our current suburban culture and physical layout fosters an individualism that is going to be increasingly counter-productive going forward. There is going to need to be more cooperation. Plus density will do more to politically empower those in the alternative economy.

I think some of the problem of individualism in suburbia may be resolved by changing pouplation dynamics - that is, if recent immigrants and lower income groups are pressed out to the old 'burbs, we may see the suburban independence model soften up a good bit.

I generally advocate many of the same things you do - I think that a lot of them will happen - people will move out, foreclosed houses will get taken down and scavenged, relatives will move in together - presto, instant town and economy in many places. And some suburbs will be abandoned.

As for transport - I've spent a lot of time in the third world, and people simply navigate that problem - I find it less likely that there will be no transport than that there will be little, crammed and expensive.


I think that it is becoming crystal clear that we can count on the FedGov to do exactly the wrong things, and nothing but, all the way down to the bitter end.

As for using the military to grab foreign FF, I suspect they will discover that grabbing a golden egg laying goose by the neck will result in nothing but a dead goose and no more eggs.

The big question is whether your local government will be doing at least some right things, or can be persuaded to do so. There will be some local governments that will be every bit as hidebound and wrong headed as the FedGov, all the way to the bitter end. Those are the places I would consider quitting sooner rather than later.

Good post, indeed.

Two points, though.

The closest thing in our national experience to what we are/will be going through is the Great Depression. While many did stay put then, they often did so because they had viable, fairly self-sufficient farms. Only a tiny percent of Americans live on farms today, so that will not be an anchor.

And of course even many farmers left as their top soil dried up and blew away--Grapes of Wrath, and all that. In general, we are a nation historically made up of people who at some point (often at many points) in their past have been willing to give up the security of a familiar place to find a better life elsewhere. I think this willingness to move is a deeper part of our national psyche than love of place, unfortunately.

Finally, I liked the idea of practice. An important part of that practice is to start getting used to preparing and eating foods that are likely to be available locally even during the long emergency. Locavore diets are starting to get more press and are coming into fashion now, of course, but the more you find tasty ways to work with food you can get year round, the less it will feel like a burden when those become the food of necessity rather than choice.

We have come to love a soup made from a medley of root veggies and pured with a bit of milk. These are available even here in the far north (MN) from local farmers with root cellars. It tastes like something you might have at a really good, high-end restaurant. Having this as a regular part of a winter diet will not seem like an onerous adjustment to us by any means.

Same with eating whole grains. I regularly eat locally grown whole oats that I steep, bring to a quick boil, then wrap in towels to continue slow cooking over night. This makes a tasty, buttery-flavored warm breakfast, cheap, nutritious, unprocessed, and using very little cooking fuel. I could eat it every day and not get tired of it.

Perhaps we should start a special thread for sustainable and delicious recepes?

Over at PO forums someone has a sign off that goes something like:

"It could be a powerdown so soft and fluffy it will feel like falling into a big down pillow."

More ideas for that kind of powerdown will get more people interested in the concept, IMVHO.

I like the slow-cooked, Insulated Oatmeal, good one! (I want to do something like that with my coffee pot, to keep it from wasting its heat). We presoak our grains overnight with yoghurt or whey for dietary reasons, but which also has the benefit of shortening the cooking times.

I don't get tired of oatmeal, but we have also been cooking Millet as a breakfast cereal, which my daughter greatly prefers. (Local Grains, Local Milk/Butter, Local Syrup) You might give that a try if you're into a little variation.. I also want to start having some of the 6 to 12 grain cereals again. Great with blueberries (local) and coconut flakes (NOT local)


(I want to do something like that with my coffee pot, to keep it from wasting its heat).

The tea cozy is an old concept, but can be developed further.  If you can push the invention to greater usefulness, more power to ya.

I pour my large volume of tea into a thermos and decant as I drink it - stays hot/warm for hours



I tried the same, but the stainless Stanley thermos I bought doesn't hold heat worth a darn.  I found I got better results with the foam-insulated coffee carafe I got ages ago (and it works fine for brewing too).

A collection of sustainable, delicious, and simple (in ingredients, utensils, preparation) recipes would be wonderful.

I am part of a Yahoo group called HealthyCheapCooking in which we discuss just this topic. We share lots of recipes and they are all compiled in the files of section of the list. You can check it out here:


This is a fascinating subject. I too have been exploring issues of adaptation (but not for as long as you have). I have also been studying the adaptive strategies employed by citizens of the Third World, as I have detailed in some recent posts on my own blog, Right now, I am studying small-scale manufacturing as practiced in the Third World.

Today's NYT has an article about a movement afoot to get rid of one's refrigerator. I have long been longing to do such a thing. (I dislike electric appliances). One interesting point was that people in developed countries are studying what people in undeveloped countries are doing. I find this wonderful.

I have put a lot of thought into this and I have reduced the amount I need to refrigerate (with a family of 4). I am thinking I'll be able to get rid of my refrigerator completely with a return to more traditional Japanese foods that are salted or fermented, (actually butter is becoming unavailable here.)It is a process, and it takes time but I think it is possible. I'm actually looking forward to it as a challenge.

As for staying put, I think it is interesting that the most citified, cemented regions here are around Tokyo, where the most food can be grown (no mountains in the way). I believe that the weather is best here in the Tokyo area too---not too cold and snowy for winter farming. So the most populous areas often have the best climate or water availability for food production. This means that people will eventually have to recycle the land by getting rid of unnecessary and empty buildings to use the land for food production instead. That might be true in other places too. There is a reason that populous places are populous in other words.

Kudos to Sharon for mentioning Cottage Industry as part of the strategy! It is often overlooked.

Also TH mentioned above:

Right now, I am studying small-scale manufacturing as practiced in the Third World.

Looking at how cottage industry (or small- or micro-scale manufacturing) as done in other parts of the world offers fresh perspectives for we in the US. TH's article called A Safety Net Of Alternative Systems - Small-Scale Manufacturing is quite good!

One can also approach small-scale manufacturing from the perspective of reversing complexity and reversing the time frame. This is what I have been practicing in my own established cottage industry that provides digging tools and my new start-up that will manufacture a clothes drying rack

Reversing complexity is just a fancy way of saying "make it simple". It means finding a core component of the business idea that you can handle on your own and doing that first. Later, as your skill and knowledge and practice develops you can enlarge on that core and expand just a little to obtain new skills and knowledges. Using my garden tool business as an example, I chose first to focus on figuring out how to sell them - even though I am an experienced Designer and Manufacturing Engineer who could have figured out how to produce them from scratch. Because at that time retailing was a manageable first step but manufacturing was not. So first I got these unique grub hoes and grape hoes from Brazil and started selling them. Then I learned that the Brazilian wood handles should be replaced by better stronger Ash handles made in the US, and so I contracted those from a US manufacturer. Other improvements then other tools followed. By now I am one of our domestic experts on these type of tools and can envision changing the scope of my business to actually producing the complete tool someday. But starting out producing them from day one would have been a failure because I would not have had the incremental skills that came from starting with a core piece.

Reversing the time frame means turning back the clock. Modern ways of manufacturing involve many labor-saving (powered) and thought-avoiding (electronic) methods. Many more than were used in 1980, a whopping many more than were used in 1940, and an almost unimaginable more than were used in 1920. I see one good way to begin a Cottage Industry involving turning back time is to start with assembling something. First do it the way it would have been done it 1980 or 1940. This is what I will be practicing with my new drying rack. All the components are bought from small manufactures who do use highly-powered specialized methods of manufacturing, but all the assembly will be done by simple hand. Then if it succeeds I will look at manufacturing a few of the components using simple power or hand tools. Learning as we go, carefully stepping backwards in time.

By the way, all this is currently done in what used to be a one-car attached garage...

Don't forget about repair and reuse, and recycling. In thee Depression, for example, many bottles were made deliberately to be reused, for the same thing (e.g., milk bottles) or for other uses (to be used for drinking glasses or for canning jars). Shoes were made to last for years, and were expected to be resoled and repaired. Many people became expert at making and repairing items, and made a living running little shops.
Two big differences from the Depression and now are (1) back then we all believed that better times would come, sooner or later, and (2) there are a lot more family farms. After my father lost his job in 1929, we had a regular commune of relatives on my grandmother's farm in Pennsylvania. I'm retired on a little farm now, but I don't think it would support all of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren the way we did then.

You got me thinking about our old compatriot Fleam. (I ran across that word again when I was looking up Handsaw Sharpening, as 'fleam' is one of the angles involved in the process) ..

Fleam linked us to a PDF for a 'MultiMachine' built from old engine blocks, allowing a small shop to have access to some broad range of semi-precise machining applications.

That isn't the pdf, but it describes a number of applications and industrial needs that this kind of equipment can satisfy.

"A group of specialized but easily built MultiMachines can be combined to form a small, very low cost, metal working factory which could also serve as a trade school. Students could be taught a single skill on a specialized machine and be paid as a worker while learning other skills that they could take elsewhere."

OK, here it is, at the bottom of the page linked above..


.. and for the TV-holics.. here's the video demonstration.

The music at the beginning of that clip reminds me of "The Red Green Show". Interesting demo though.

While it is good and useful for us each to contemplete whether we will move or stay as the Long Emergency rolls along, it is also good to contemplate the reality that a good many people will not have complete control over these decisions, due to a huge variety of factors.

Anything can happen, and it probably will. When you/I/we/they/? least expect it.

I live in a poor, working class neighborhood in Minneapolis?MN/USA where unemployment is high, and so are foreclosures. Our neighborhood is racially mixed, and we do have problems with gangs and drug-dealing and so forth.

Guns sure do go with gangs and illegal drug dealing.

My guess is that I, like many people, will die a sudden death when I least expect it. This will be because I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, although there is no way to predict when or where that will be.

Illness, disease, injury, infirmity -- even just a very short temporary limited physical capability -- can mean death in many situations, whether one is in the city, suburbs, or rural setting.

Variables too numerous to mention can become a matter of life or death without the full array of life-support that our complex but brittle, hugely over-reaching (so-called) civilization brings to so many of us in the USA and other (so-called) devloped nations.

We are absolutely vulnerable where ever we are.

One of the Universe's messages to me for years has been: "Embrace Absolute Vulnerability."

I will probably die trying to get a little water to drink, for myself or a loved one, or simply for a stranger in obvious need.

If I die of "natural causes" I plan to sell tickets to the death-bed scene: it will be a real radical drama-queen show if I can manage it! Fun for all ages.

For now I plan to stay where I am, so I probably will end up somewhere else.

RE: DIY Death-Dramas.. Time to watch MASH again, for notes on conducting a proper self-funeral. (And for making the best of a muddy, tent-city way of life!)

Choppers, coming in!

Hey Sharon, love your stuff. Some of it reminds me of the Cormac Mccarthy book "The Road". When I was reading your article above, and also when I read the Mccarthy book, I found myself wondering, "Why bother?"

You almost touched on it when you said "For those who can’t tolerate much discomfort or inconvenience, because of health problems, age, disability or simple intolerance...". I know you have a young family so you are not programmed biologically to think along the lines I am thinking, as an older man with only 20-30 years of life left if I am lucky. But several times in the last few years, as I've been feverishly preparing for "the change" and peak oil by buying every conceivable contraption that might help, from scythes to straight razors, I've also found myself wondering if it wouldn't simply be easier to go gently into that good night rather than rage against the dying of the light. My wife, quite unprompted by me, has spontaneously had similar thoughts, so I guess quite a few people here may likewise have pondered this issue.

I therefore offer the Peaceful Death website to you all and urge you to copy the data there for possible future use. Much better than a gun, much cleaner, cheaper, quieter and more accessible. I'm know this seems to be an anti-survivalist suggestion, and against the thrust of the forum, but when one talks of being completely prepared for all exigencies, this is surely one of them.

In other words, it may all simply become too much for a lot of us, despite our preparations and planning. We need to know what to do if that happens.


What you say makes sense, but please stay around to watch the show for a long time. We are going to need as much mamba as we can get on the way down.

Yeah mate, after you. Age before beauty and all that.

I'll be sticking around to go down fighting, thanks very much. You will prise my attempts to make our lives more pleasant, equitable and sustainable out of my cold, dead hands.

Brave words, and quite easy to spout from the comfortable vantage point of today. You'll quite likely die cold, sick & whimpering, like the rest of us.

First the insulin dependent diabetics, the recipients of transplants on immunosuppressant medication, and the generally infirm, go. Then the seemingly healthy suffer an inpacted wisdom tooth, fall & suffer a compound fracture, cut themselves and suffer infection & gangrene, get wet as a cold & windy evening sets in... Population declines rapidly at first, as we loose the infants, the chronically ill, the elderly. Some hang in there, cold, hungry, & miserable, inhaling the fumes of the plastic they burn to cook whatever they've managed to scrounge. In desperation some turn to violence. Many become victims of violence - willing victims, even, as a quick violent death becomes preferable to prolonged abject misery. Some try to farm, only to discover that they don't know how, that the soil has become compacted and lost it's native fertility, that loose their harvest to marauders. Some try to amass compostable materials only to discover that it can't be amassed in sufficient quantity by hand. Some resort to eating feral dogs & cats, corpses, and active murderous cannibalism. Gangs of starving orphan children roam around, eating anything & anybody they can ambush & subdue. Ammunition runs short & fear of cannibal gangs deprive the long dark nights of any rest. Cholera & other water borne disease become endemic to watersheds far & wide. Tuberculosis comes back with a vengence. Sick, shivering, parasite infested, malnourished people lacking the metabolic energy to forage, die like flies. Rape, suicide, murder & cannibalism become the norms, until the population crashes to levels at which Allee effects drag the miserable survivors down to extinction.

Such is the future. Might as well embrace it. Just save that last bullet for yourself.

Pathetic Words.. also easily spouted from the vantage point of today..

don't forget the immortal truth that we learned from Annie!,

"The Sun'll come out, tomorrow!"

Chin up, DD (Save the last dance for me, eh?)

Ah heck, jokuhl, don'tcha know I'm only funnin'? Electric trains powered by thorium reactors & windmills (windmills don't really kill birds & bats, ya know) will save us. Why, techno-fix ecotopia is just around the corner! BO is gonna lead us there... "HOPE! CHANGE!"

Some fun DD.. but I'm trying to keep my sense of humor. The 'cannibalistic orphan gangs' was practically Dickens there.. I sure hope John Williams does the soundtrack!

I don't buy into the Thorium promises, but I have no problem with the electric trains, as you surely know. We'll have to use SOME kind of wheels to rescue the crotchety ex-hippies from their desert hideaways, after all!


;) Gotta keep that sense of humor!

I wasn't thinking so much of Dickens there, as of Doris Lessing. Her "Memoirs of a Survivor" & "Summer Before the Dark" oughta be required reading for the PO aware. The surrealism in those novels represents the escapist defense mechanisms of her protagonists faced with the grim realities of a future I feel she quite likely accurately portrays. Humor is another such coping mechanism.

Best wishes Bob..

..and to you!

(William Goldman also came to mind, with Lord of the Flies)

For what it's worth, the weather is 17f and windy here in Maine this afternoon, with not a cloud in the sky. While I have some PV, and my experimental windmill is a bird/bat friendly variety, (esp. since it's still in the basement!!) see , yet what I'm working on is simple solar heat collectors and insulation- glass boxes and cellulose, and very much to the point of this article; working to optimize a house in a small city, with numerous farms not too far away, and family members in town. High on a hill, but overlooking a saltwater harbour, and a good spot for a renewed railhead to serve as a junction from Ship to Ground transport.

Just thinkin' about Tomorrow, wipes away the sadness and the sorrow, til there's none!

I have a rectangular box on my roof, the interior is painted black & the top is rigid opaque plastic. Even in January on a clear cold day that thing pumps out warm air that pretty much heats the house, at least between about 11 am & 2 pm. It supplements the wood heat but still requires an electric fan in the attic to move air and is, of course, worthless on cloudy days & at night. I'd like to replace it with a solar hot water heater or PV panels but there's no sense doing that until I get a new roof put on. I had a few $K saved up for that purpose but after my wife had a low blood sugar while driving, rear-ended a truck, totaled her car & lost her job, we've had to spend the "roof fund." I was holding out for a pro-panel roof but now my son & I may have to just reshingle it with asphalt shingles. The metal brackets that hold that hot air collector are in the way & will have to be removed for the roofing job. That'll be the time to replace the collector with something more useful. I could tolerate the noise pollution & visual aesthetic impairment due to windmills, if they didn't kill birds & bats. Many bird & bat populations are in serious decline & the last thing they need is another significant source of mortality. Try having agriculture, on any scale, without birds & bats! All windmills kill them, altho some moreso than others. I'd be all for electrified rail transport if there was some clean source of electricity to power them, but nukes (U or Th), bird & bat killing wind turbines, & CO2 spewing powerplants just don't cut it. What then? I'd like to know...

Sorry to hear how your funds got diverted. Hope she doesn't suffer any enduring effects from the crash.. those can be hard to get rid of.

Simple sun-boxes make so much sense. I've stocked up a bunch of discarded sliding glass doors, in order to make a bunch of these (tempered) Here's the link to a design I'm trying.. results forthcoming, but the approach seems quite sensible and cheap enough to build a bunch of them!

..and the page it came from, with Dozens of other variations..

Stay Warm!

All those who lived a life that was able to cope with what you describe are now dead or dying or aging away just like me,Airdale,Class of '57,....drew water out of a cistern,went to the outhouse on cold winter nights,did chores and worked ground with mules.

I am looking down the barrel at my casket and my gravesite is ready next to my GGGrandfather. In the place where I was born and raised and drink my whiskey neat and smoke since it now doesn't matter much.

I am not going to worry about what can and will happen. I will take the last few days,weeks,months or few years and consider them a Godsend.

We preserved little 'generational knowledge]. We now will live to regret that I fear. What little is left is strapped in a wheelchair nodding off in the hallway of a not too upscale nursing home and wetting their pants or dresses. Waiting for their next meal of gray mush. Anxiously awaiting the next Sunday and visitors who might or might not come to see them. Most see no one. They are the forgotten. We swept them under the rug. They were our ancestors.

I pledge to myself to not go that way.

Airdale-none likely remember a book series known as FoxFire.A shame that.I still have most all the books. Knowledge like that is gone but for a few holdouts in far off places in the outback. We will never travel that trail again.

Class of '67 here ... we got some good advice out of a FoxFire book. Built a still and made some hooch.

Talkin' bout ma G-G-Generation.

Oh, and by the way. One of your ice storm reports the other day inspired me to look up some information on that county that was hauled away by Mr. Peabody's coal train. This image brought back some ancient good memories:

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my dad and I went to visit one of these things over in Warrick County. Dad knew the operator, maybe he was one of Dad's ham friends or they might have met at a PTA meeting. Anyway he got us permission, and hard hats, and we went up into the thing. Rode a tiny open elevator to the cab and chatted with the operator, who was the father of one of my elementary-school classmates.

Down in the big middle part of the beast, there were all these gigantic electric motors winding cables onto huge spools and letting them out. There was a bank of meters, registering "kilovars" with a zero in the center and labeled "lead" and "lag" to either side. The electric lights of most of the county would brighten and dim, I believe, as the big scoop moved wads of dirt and rocks the size of our house and piled them on the spoil banks.

We've got much of the Foxfire series, too.

More than a few Maine households have some version of that kind of library going, so we won't have to reinvent everything.. but experiences do have to be rekindled.

There's at least some hope to be gleaned from the number of copies that were printed of some older knowledge. It isn't the same as learning it 'at the knee', but it's also far better than nothing.

In pre-industrial societies the elderly were an integral part of society. They did tasks that were suited to their abilities. They tended fires. Cared for children. etc etc.

Especially the caring for children is the important part. It was important because of the knowledge transfer from generation to generation for young adolescents. This has sadly become lost in modern society. But we'll need that again soon enough. Individuals will not survive a catastrophe. Society will.

Hang in there till the end. We'll need you.

Mamba, I certainly wouldn't deny anyone the right to take the exit route they choose, or to decide they can't endure certain kinds of suffering. That said, I would hope that in my own family, the older family members would not make those choices - and I say this as someone who worked in hospices and nursing homes and who had my husband's grandparents living with us at the end of their lives.

My own feeling is that older people without the energy to scythe are going to have a role too - shelling peas, rocking babies, telling stories to the grandkids, reminding us how things were done, providing consistency and a host of other things. I wouldn't choose to do without most of my older relatives (and no, we're not the Waltons, and I'm not equally excited by everyone ;-)).

Again, that doesn't mean that they might not choose otherwise. I guess I hope that if they get to the "why bother" stage the answer "because we love you and want you in our lives as long as there's pleasure to be had in it...and we think there still is some pleasure to be had" will be worth something. But again, I do respect people's right to choose their time and how their lives should end, and I think you do have an important point.


My parents, who both grew up on farms, were taken far too early, and I now have so many "how to" questions that I cannot ask. I sincerely hope that I will find some older couple who can help guide and teach me as we wind down society.

So many practical skills are hard to find info about. Some questions like these:

How practical is it to clear scrub brush for farming? Can hills be reasonably farmed, or are they suitable only for grazing? Or would an orchard be better? How long does it take before cleared land is really productive?

How much water does it take to grow a garden or grains versus an orchard? If a well is sulphurish, can you still use it for trees or gardens, or will it poison the soil?

I have some hard decisions. I have a house with no land in one place, and land with no house in another. Do I stay in town and strive to survive akin to my current life, only with a garden? Do I head for the hills and start over from scratch? I'm reading sustainable farming books, but I have yet to start more than a small garden. Knowledge is slow to assimilate. Wisdom is slower still.

That's a reason I'm looking after my parents. They made it through the Depression, that knowledge is becoming valuable very fast.
Your questions cannot be answered here. I believe you need someone to walk the land, taste the soil and water, then tell you what can be planted where. That's what my long-departed grandpa would do. Mom would be able to give an idea, but not more than that. Me? No way.
A possible substitute would be sending inquiries to a local college or county agronomist. They can take soil and water samples, analyze them and tell you what will work and what won't. That's what I have done, and will be procuring seed accordingly.

My neighbor decided that he was going to raise chickens. He bought a bunch of fertile eggs, planted them in the soil, then waited for them to grow but the eggs all ended up rotting. So he bought some more eggs, planted them, and the same thing happened. After his third or fourth attempt, he decided to consult the county extension agent. After listening carefully to the description of what had happened, the extension agent told my neighbor, "I can't tell you a thing without a soil sample."

Yeah, those county extension agents, & the PhD agronomists at the state aggie schools they consult with, sure are valuable resources to the taxpayers who support 'em.

On determining soil suitability for farming.

As I suggested some days back on another DB or whatever.

Google this : web soil map

You should get a hit on

go on the Green Circle that has the letters WSS in it.

You will have to study some to go further but if you do you can use NRCS geophysical maps to locate a AOI(area of interest) then using the various tool buttons you can find the soil classifications for any area of the USA..find the drainage conditions. Find the possible yields per acre based on soil type and drainage.

A huge amount of data is available if you study some and find the techniques to use.

Say you buy a piece of land. Hopefully you will have already run WSS and know its potential. You then can plan your living quarters and garden areas very well. If the land has poor soil, like a lot of clay(you must relate the soil classification to the soil types as to liming needs,drainage , loam,silt,sand,etc) and then do not pay more that what it is worth.


I have no idea where the land in question is located so I can't offer specifics. However on the land use questions such as whether to graze or plow a good guide is to ask what was done with the land in the 19th century. Most parts of the USA where there was good grade plowland it was plowed in the 19th century.

I doubt you will find specific answers to this kind of questions in books. I was lucky enough to learn many of this type of answers from my grandfather. Farming successfully is a lot harder than it looks driving past at 55 miles per hour. A lot of people whether they relocate to a rural area or try to farm reclaimed urban land will learn some very expensive lessons.

This is Indian Territory, so there wasn't much 19th century settlement until the very end. The low country near the river was heavily farmed, but the hill country I now have was fenced for range cattle.

I know it supports hickory and pecan trees, and peach, plum, and pear did well in my youth. I don't know of any land in the area that has been farmed beyond gardening or some hay. Beans, onions, potatoes, and peas do well in top-land gardens. Johnson grass grows 6' high. Corn will only grow 4' with stubby little ears.

I figure I'll start by trial and error on the cleared area, and then consider expanding.

Palecon check my reply upthread to Tweele(?) on using WSS for huge amounts of data on the soil and soil types.

Get back to me if you find it difficult to use. Kinda hard to break into but once you do the info is extremely valuable.


It sounds like land better suited to grazing than farming. If you can get good potato and pea crops there is likely nothing intrinsically "wrong" with your soil. The 4 foot tall corn sounds like a lack of moisture.

Trying a little at a time sound like a good approach. Have you tried wheat?

Never tried any grain crop, or anything beyond a veggie garden in my youth (parent's garden). I was thinking of trying some wheat, some sweet clover, and maybe something odd like soybeans or amaranth on some of the brushland.

There is city water and well water (well long dormant -- hopefully it's still clear but it'll need a pump). Will take some work to get the water to where the flattest/best crop areas would be. A couple acres are reasonably flat.

I suppose even if it's only good for grazing, I could improve it with clearing and seeding with better cover than native grass? I'm sure I can make a small garden work -- just not sure how big I can manage. 10 acres total, maybe 2 that are fairly flat.

Answer to Palecon,

You get the hell to that land and start learning while you have some time left.

You log on Amazon and purchase every single Foxfire book you can. Read them as you learn. They are priceless. Beyond priceless.

Find old Mother Earth magazines. Not todays,,way back in the 70s.

You will find you can answer your own question if you work the ground. It will speak to you.

Buy "Gardening When It Counts" of the best of the modern gardeners. Says that you can not make it on a suburban plot..not have to maybe grow Comfrey...excellent book.

Start now. Go with it. Run to it. Work it. Learn.There is NOTHING in the cities or suburbs.

Airdale-or do it your way...I started in 1985 with my present farm. I bless the day I left the burbs forever. Not a day goes by that I ever regret it.

Thanks for advice. I'm going to start something this spring. Family doesn't want to leave the suburbs, and I'm not fixed enough to leave the day job, but there is work I can do on evenings and weekends.

I can't call it a farm -- just my share of the folks' land -- rolling scrub hills and some improvements. I'd have the use of a house and a tractor shed (but no tractor).

Isn't comfrey for O-NPK recycling -- highly urine tolerant and fast-growing?

I don't doubt that "a large number of people all over the world will respond to the present crisis by remaining in their present homes." The same is true of those who disregard warnings of approaching hurricanes, imminent volcanic erruptions, or other threats to life and limb. Best of luck to them, of course, but having concluded that the warnings of a coming societal storm are credible, I've already made the move from a big city to a small town. It's a great place to live in the best of times, and likely to be a safe haven for me and my family in the worst of times.

To urban visitors of websites such as TOD and my who may not be convinced of the necessity to relocate permanently, or who lack the means to do so at this time, my advice is to at least consider the option of a temporary retreat to a small town during the most tumultuous periods to come. The time to make such plans is NOW.

If purchase or lease of a "vacation" home isn't feasible, one could reach out to appropriately located relatives or friends to determine if they have the willingness and the space to take in a few refugees for an extended stay in the event of an emergency. Preparations for living arrangements and adequate supplies are best made now, during our current period of relative calm and plenty. Even a pad for a motorhome and some stocks of food and other necessities could be a godsend if the most pessimistic of TOD and truthalyzer scenarios come to pass.

Good post, and for many people, applicable. One point that hasn't been discussed much, however, is the changing climate (without regard to natural or human-induced change), which I cover in my upcoming book. If agriculture cannot be supported, deciding to stay would be the absolute worst decision. For example,,0,7454963.story

In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture.

“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” he said. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California"

He is by no means alone in this assessment;

Richard Seager, et al, Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America, Science 25 May 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5828, pp. 1181 - 1184 DOI: 10.1126/science.1139601

Here we show that there is a broad consensus among climate models that this region will dry in the 21st century and that the transition to a more arid climate should already be under way. If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought or the Dust Bowl and the 1950s droughts will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.

There will be those who chose to move based on the best information available. Those who don't may doom their descendents to much more difficult circumstances, to put it mildly.

My guess is that "staying in place" will happen in stages. I tend to agree that people facing major climate shifts should move *now* while there's still some value to be had in their houses. I personally would not choose south FL, the dryest parts of the American West or any very coastal spot. That said, my guess is that all places not actually underwater or transformed into the Gobi desert will have *some* population - and that those who feel they can't move may well be better prepared, if they are thinking carefully, to stay in place for a time - or permanently. Remember, nearly everywhere in the world has been populated at times - if sparsely. It is possible to evolve techniques to live in very harsh climates. What seems unlikely is that the population densities will remain anything like the same - but it is worth remembering that one can adapt in place for 50 years and two full generations, and then move on to somewhere else. Is that ideal? Maybe not. My feeling is that people should look closely at the GISS drought indexes and stay away from coastlines.

Sharon, whose entire family except her lives within 5 miles of the coast

I too believe it is a good time to evaluate your situation. It may already be too late but here is how I see it. Places to avoid: Future water availability was mentioned and truly this will be an issue. It is already an issue. All areas with large populations and anticipated water problems are suspect as being viable. Without food being shipped in from great distance, they are not viable now. Portions of California are clearly suspect for many reasons.

Climate change also has to be taken into account. An increase in temperature accompanied by electric shortages will make some areas in the south dangerous. Think Phoenix. No AC and there will be blood.

Small populations in harsh conditions may not be too bad if workable knowledge on living there is abundant. No different than the small tribes of native Americans that slugged it out in poor locations.

One unfortunate situation that may come into play is racism. Once strife sets in, areas of existing racial tension will probably blow up. Some may say racism is now in the past but hard times will bring out the worst in many who still have lingering attitudes. Again, Cal. Is the place to watch.

I would also avoid areas where religious ferocity is prevalent. As Kunstler's novel points out, religion will take on a new role under hard times. Those changes may not be pretty. Fundamentalist anything, be it Christian or Muslim, will grasp at every opportunity to attempt to rule the day causing conflict. This is visible even today around the world.

Where it will be the best is hard to say. A community in a large city will work for some. Others will take the small liberal community in the upper new england. Some places will suffer but I am confident some locales are dramatically better than others. If anyone is really serious about making arrangements, now is the time to do it.

It's all about the water, isn't it? Food shortages can be dealt with by slow, steady shipments of nonperishables, but how much water can you tanker in to Atlanta or LA?

And just because your neighborhood is okay doesn't mean that you're immune to water-shortage problems:

China declares drought emergency

China has declared an emergency in eight northern and central drought-hit regions, where nearly four million people are suffering water shortages.

Nearly half of China's winter crop - some 10m hectares (24m acres) of wheat and rape seed - are also under threat.

The agriculture ministry says it is on red alert.

Think these folks or their authoritarian leadership will go gently into that dark night? There's plenty nuclear firepower there to rage against the dying of the light. No matter the target, we're all downwind and downrange.

Sharon wrote,

What seems unlikely is that the population densities will remain anything like the same

Completely agree, which would mean steadily increasing deprivation and bitter resource conflict for those who stay, much like the frog in the pot of slowly rising temperature. Migrations over significant distances during drought conditions without modern transportation would likely result in high levels of suffering and mortality.

In terms of coastal proximity, one of the best measures is actually distance above sea level.

I don't know if it does mean bitter resource conflict - areas on the Great Plains have emptied out several times over history, usually pretty quietly - people just gradually pack up and leave. I got to talk to someone recently to talked about homeschooling her son in a town of 50 people - and noted that the only other kids had recently moved waway.


Certainly the migrations during the Great Depression were remarkably peaceful, though one end result was WWII (for a number of reasons, certainly).

What other migrations from the Great Plains are you referring to? Note that the constantly migrating (nomadic) and armed Apache were feared by many other tribes who were frequently harrassed by them (e.g., Shonshone, Navajo, etc). The Apache bands supplemented their economy by raiding others and practiced warfare to avenge a death of a kinsman.

And, of course, the migration of European-descended Americans across the North American continent created 100s of conflicts, resulting in significant suffering and mortality. I don't think we have any experience in the US with large scale population decreases.

Most Apachean speaking groups lived well west of the Great Plains. The exception was the Lipan and Kiowa-Apache, the latter being an anomalous group that were culturally similar to the Tanoan speaking Kiowa but spoke a Na-Dene language. As for the Apache harassing the "Navajo" (Dine'), they were essentially the same people. About the only difference, historically, was that the Dine' practiced livestock husbandry while the various Apache groups considered doing so to be beneath their dignity. The Mimbreno Apache leader Mangus Coloradas, for instance, gave one of his daughters to be the wife of the Dine' war leader Manuelito, in order to forge a political alliance, and a white who could speak Navajo was used as an interpreter to Mangus' people, since their languages are so similar.

As for migrations out of the Great Plains, counties in eastern New Mexico have consistently lost population over decadal censuses during the 20th century.

The future is very difficult to predict; any number of groups can form;

The operation was led by Uganda and aimed to crush the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group that had been hiding out in a Congolese national park, rebuffing efforts to sign a peace treaty. But the rebel leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack town after town in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing to death anyone in their way.

The Lord’s Resistance Army is now on the loose, moving from village to village, seemingly unhindered, leaving a wake of scorched huts and crushed skulls. Witnesses say the fighters have kidnapped hundreds of children and marched them off into the bush, the latest conscripts in their slave army.

In Dungu, a 10-year-old girl lay comatose on a metal hospital cot, her face glazed with sweat, her pulse hammering in her neck. She had been sexually assaulted in a nearby village and shot in both legs, bullet through bone.

Mr. Kony then marched his prepubescent death squads and dozens of teenage brides to Garamba National Park, a vast reserve of elephants and swamps near the border of Uganda and Sudan.

Our middle case estimate is that the top five net oil exporters--accounting for about half of world net oil exports--have already shipped about 20% of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports. 10 years hence, our middle case is that the top five will have shipped about 80% of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports.

Meanwhile, the new proposal is for a 10% tax credit for people who buy houses this year, up to a maximum tax credit of $15,000. I wouldn't be surprised to see a companion proposal for a $1,500 tax credit for new car buyers.

As we have frequently discussed, perhaps the most apt analogy that we have is Thelma & Louise--pushing the gas pedal to the floorboard, as they accelerate toward the edge of the cliff:

Yes, it's just too absurd. Who is going to buy an overpriced house because of a $15,000 tax credit. Especially if they don't have a job or an income?

What are these people thinking?

That credit may allow some number of people to downsize successfully. It'll pretty much cover closing costs, and so will help lubricate the transfers a bit.

You are probably correct. But I keep hoping for some real flashes of innovative brilliance from the new administration. This doesn't seem to qualify.

But I'm not making the decisions or managing the crisis -- and back seat driving is in poor taste. So, I'll hold my tongue, and watch.

Fernand Braudel wrote in The Structures of Everyday Life (1979) about the 3 levels of the economy: "the one most frequently written about is the so called market economy" linking "methods of production and exchange with... workshops, banks, exchanges and markets."
"...but there is another, shadowy zone, often hard to see... lying underneath the market economy: this is that elementary basic activity which went on everywhere... the informal half of economic activity, the world of self- sufficiency and barter of goods and services within a very small radius."
"...looking up instead of down from the vast plane of the market economy, one finds that active social hierarchies were constructed on top of it: they could manipulate exchange to their advantage and disturb the established order. In their desire to do so- which was not always consciously expressed- they created anomalies, 'zones of turbulence' and conducted their affairs in a very individual way. At this exalted level a few wealthy merchants in eighteenth- century Amsterdam or sixteenth- century Genoa could throw whole sectors of the European or even world economy into confusion, from a distance. Certain groups of privileged actors were engaged in circuits and calculations that ordinary people knew nothing of."

I think Braudel's identification and description of 'wealthy merchants' or privileged actors' goes some way in explaining the recent price collapse of the price of oil.

In terms of the isolation in which most Americans live, Noam Chomsky repeatedly observed that this was a capitalist market strategy created in order to generate greater sales to every household. Sharing is just not an American economic cultural value, as it is, say, in Russia or many other parts of the world. It is the great triumph of American capitalism that the middle class has been habituated to isolation, competition and consumption. As P.T. Barnum once cynically observed: "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Survival strategies are of paramount importance and will become sine qua non skills for twenty first century American life.

Kevin Walsh
Chicago Peak Oil

In terms of the isolation in which most Americans live, Noam Chomsky repeatedly observed that this was a capitalist market strategy created in order to generate greater sales to every household. Sharing is just not an American economic cultural value, as it is, say, in Russia or many other parts of the world. It is the great triumph of American capitalism that the middle class has been habituated to isolation, competition and consumption.

Every now and then, I'll read something that really opens my eyes, a thought that had never occurred to me. This is one of those things. I've thought a bit about our isolation, and it's causes and effects, but I'd never thought about it as something intentionally designed to make us consume more.

I grew up in the (very) rural south in the 1940's. Environmentally it was a lovely place then. Winters were short and mild and summers were long and bountiful. No one had to be too concerned about freezing to death or starving. The population was sparse, firewood was easily available and hunting and fishing was reliably successful. Blackberries, muscadines, wild plums, black walnuts and pecans and the like could be had for the picking/gathering and gardening was done by all. People living on a family farm could live without spending very much cash at all. Some people lived alone but most lived as family communes where several generations live together and each age group carried out the functions appropriate for their age and physical ability. Individual industry varied widely – I knew one man who sowed, hoed, and picked ten acres of cotton with no motorized implements or a mule. He had a hoe and a hand-pushed garden plough. And if your experience does not include cotton farming I can tell you that this was an impressive accomplishment. I knew other people who were never known to do more than pick cotton and sell hand-picked blackberries for a bit of cash. This was not a hot-bed of the arts or philosophical discussions. We were all impoverished to a greater or lesser degree and completely un-acculturated, but people did survive from year to year and seemed to remain pretty happy about it.

When I was to retire I began looking for a place to go. I went back to the family farm, but it was not the same. The county I grew up in is about the size of Nassau county on Long Island, but it had fewer than 10,000 people (1940's) whereas Nassau county had over three million when I lived there in the 1980's.
I wanted to live in the North Georgia of the 1940's but found that that did not exist any more. We still had the small family farm, but the area had nearly become a suburb of Atlanta and I'm sure some people did make a daily commute. I wanted acreage, isolation, quiet, and a place to pursue various projects that I might become interested in. I found it in 60 very isolated acres in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

I now live in a very different climate. As I'm writing this the temperature is hovering around zero and we have well over a foot of snow on the ground. However, my situation is surprisingly similar. After my wife and I moved in her daughter and son-in-law came to visit and see what the hell this pair of weirdo hermits were up to. We live near where the Nearings did and the young folks were attracted to “Living the Good Life” too. About four years ago they moved in with us. They are not free-loaders. She's a very experienced emergency room nurse and he's become an experienced and accomplished timber frame builder- a natural transition for someone with a degree in classics(!).

Having been born into life on a small dairy farm where we grew a few cash crops and enough hay to get through the short winters, I didn't have to do too much adapting. I had been born into that situation and it was the normal way of life. That is not the case with the new comers to our little family commune. I am constantly amused at the things I consider “common knowledge” and how much of that is common to their noggins. They seem to think that I'm the embodiment of the “Foxfire” books. The truth is that I consider myself very lucky to have been born with one foot in barely post-depression North Georgia and the other foot poised to step into the affluent life of middle class America.

The newest members of our family commune are adapting quite nicely, but their situation is far from ordinary. I moved here fairly well capitalized and debt free. I knew the tools I'd need and have acquired a vast arsenal of chain saws, wood splitters, tractors, winches, arc welder, solar panels, wind turbine, generators and tools and have built greenhouses, chicken houses and a pole barn. They stepped into an up and running near-farm, but most folks don't have that. It is hard to imagine a single mother of three making a successful transition from inner city Brooklyn to here in the scrappy wilds of Vermont.

Way late to the party due to my soup making sched.

I started out doing the self reliant out in the woods thing but realized that no man is an island.

Moved in town and “stocked piled” all the necessary items. Still just an island.

Reaching out to community big time. My community is just a bigger island.

Well at least other pacific north westerners are doing like wise. BIGGER ISLAND.

So you see where this is going. Unless and until we recognize this planet we live on as just one big island in the universe we are simply going to create small islands and defend them to the death.

Welcome post as it addresses ppl with different income, status, lives, and departs from the middle to upper class illusory dream of decamping to ‘somewhere good’ and going ‘back to the land with guns’. No matter what happens, the world, and most particularly the US, will not return to 1910.

I was reading some historian last year who was analysing the economics of life in Londons Eastend (where my family comes from) 200 years ago. He came to the conclusion, after using various economic models, that half of the women living in the slums must have been prostitutes to suport their families.
If many of these families had to turn to crime because conventional economics was unavailable to them then why did it only have to be prostitution?
Theft from the London docks (all East of the City) was rife right up until they closed and I suspect suported a good many of the local families but there is obviously no way to quantify this.
I always remember my Nan describing her first visit to my Grandfathers house in Hoxton while he was still living at home with his family and they were first courting. She said the front yard was filled with brand new toilet bowls and the shed was half filled with socks and stockings, all for sale obviously.

I have always wondered who supports all those supposed prostitutes? I think that is a convenient category for sociologists and economists for their models -- but I doubt that it has much validity as a business plan.

I've known a slew of women, mostly single moms, who would have car trouble and trade sex for automotive mechanical work, or who had plumbing problems and would screw the guy who could fix it, etc. I even once knew a woman who would screw anyone who gave her a pickup load of firewood. These women aren't conventionally considered 'prostitutes,' yet that's what they functionally are. This kind of thing is extremely common. Not every prostitute is a streetwalker working for cash.

"I've known a slew of women, mostly single moms, who would have car trouble....."

I guess you studied up on car repair, eh?

John Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" Chapter 13 (wikipedia)

How Danny's friends threw themselves to the aid of a distressed lady. — The unmarried Teresina Cortez has a menagerie of nine healthy babies and children, who all live on nothing but tortillas and beans, but nevertheless are found amazingly healthy by the school doctor. Teresina gleans the beans from the fields. As the Madonna of the tale, Teresina produces the droves of babies with seemingly no particular help. When the bean crop is ruined by rain, Danny's housemates steal food all over Monterey for the children. It makes them sick. However, the arrival of some stolen sacks of beans at the door is deemed a miracle, the children regain their health, and Teresina is also pregnant again. She wonders which one of Danny's friends was responsible.

Plenty of young women, professional and otherwise, are game for the "dinner and a movie" trade for sex. I assume that anytime there are guys with disposable income and girls with needs a deal will often be worked out.

Usually it still doesn't work out to the woman's long-term advantage, if the AIDs record of sub-Saharan Africa is any indication.

It's more common than you know:

Housewife Charged In Sex-For-Security Scam
JULY 6, 2005 | ISSUE 41•27

AKRON, OH—Area resident Helen Crandall, 44, was arrested by Akron police Sunday, charged with conducting an elaborate "sex for security" scam in which she allegedly defrauded husband Russell Crandall out of nearly $230,000 in cash, food, clothing and housing over the past 19 years using periodic offers of sexual intercourse.


We call sex-for-material-gain with multiple partners "prostitution," and monogamous sex-for-material-gain "marriage." I was reluctant to point this fact out in this forum. Cudos to The Onion, and to you, for making the point for me. ;-)

So you've got one person 'getting some', and getting paid for it.. a "prostitute". The other person is shelling out in order to get some.. "a lousy businessman"?

We call sex-for-material-gain with multiple partners "prostitution," and monogamous sex-for-material-gain "marriage."

Exactly. Or as feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman said in the 19th century, prostitution is selling oneself over and over to different men; marriage is selling oneself for life to the same man (what a woman had to do in those days to "get a living.")


I've known a slew of women, mostly single moms, who would have car trouble and trade sex for automotive mechanical work, or who had plumbing problems and would screw the guy who could fix it, etc. I even once knew a woman who would screw anyone who gave her a pickup load of firewood. These women aren't conventionally considered 'prostitutes,' yet that's what they functionally are. This kind of thing is extremely common. Not every prostitute is a streetwalker working for cash.

There's a really interesting sociological study confirming this (if somebody were really interested, I'd get the link). It was conducted in Chicago, and the researcher was trying to figure out how these single moms were getting by on welfare. (She worked out budgets with them, and found they were spending more than they were officially receiving.)

They did exactly as you say - occasional exchange of sex for money, goods, services. She called it "social prostitution" because they weren't streetwalkers and knew the guys - and didn't themselves consider it "prostitution" but an exchange of favors.

I'm sure it's gone on forever...


Prostitution is not a crime.

Although it may be illegal in some places.

I've put a lot of effort into these sorts of projects, but as I see the "for rent" and "for sale" signs proliferating, I hope I'm not pushed into a situation where it all gets sold off.

But a lot of this is also knowledge, and I'll be propagating stuff this year. If I have to leave I'll take it and if I stay I'll start giving it to neighbors.

Extremely apt timing for a discussion such as this - insofar as applying it to my own personal situation.

I respect the opinion of like-minded people and as such would like to ask for my fellow TODers thoughts and insights on my family's present situation.

option A)

Maintain employment with government job X, with 8yrs seniority, in a largish (500,000 - 700,000 pop. mainly suburban and bedroom community) population center. Keeping all current debt and mid size home on small lot - basically continuing (peak aware) BAU but with a (seemingly) very secure source of income (for both of us). Many friends in the area but most are 15-20 minute drive away.


Option B)

Change employment to government job Y (same union, different local therefore starting at the bottom) but moving to a small town (20,000 pop.) BUT commuting 30 miles to work. With this move comes elimination of all (non-mortgage) debt and smaller mortgage. Smaller home, but larger lot (yay increased food growth potential). More active, and community oriented lifestyle. Also the new location would be further from present friends and family (2+hrs). This job eliminates 1 of our full time incomes, and reduces the income of the 'main' job by 10%, but the lifestyle will be designed around a single income anyways.

the original impetus for looking for work in the area of option B was that we don't love our current (option A) area (no real sense of community that we connect with) and looking for an active, outdoor, connected lifestyle that is not really engendered where we presently live. ie have to drive to go for a nature walk/swim/get food. Option B is essentially a walkable community (except the job will be a commute)

Unfortunately due to the hot local economy, getting some of the aspects of option B (smaller home , larger yard and reducing overall mortgage) but staying employed at option A is not possible.

I will not hold anyone responsible for their opinion, and i'm not looking for someone to tell me what to do, but rather I'm hoping that TOD'ers thoughts and insights could possibly bring up issues we have not previously considered.

Thank you all for your time and thought on this.

No doubt you're already doing this, but try looking at that commute in the all-too-possible light of a return to either High or even Unavailable fuel. I find it hard to picture summer when I'm in the middle of winter-- each time, the season change seems to surprise my body. So even with last summer's spiked prices for gas/oil, these current prices are acclimating us to a very freakish set of conditions.

Can you see any ways to integrate a carpool into the deal, or ANY way to live or at least sleep closer to work, if you had to suddenly start making that call again?

Just thoughts. Good luck!


Is there urgency to decide?

Maybe sell the current house and rent something smaller and cheaper while retiring the credit card debt, and work a side job for a bit while doing so? If all your stuff won't fit in the smaller rental, sell some and put that on the debt too. Tell the wife that as soon as you're debt free you'll buy a house and she can stop working with no worries (I bet she'll like the notion of less debt more than you expect). Try to keep all your equity cash-out in the bank while you pay of the other bills -- wives like cash balances too. Then you'll have more equity when you move into a new house than if you spent it on bills, and a start on some survival savings. Trust me, it's a bad habit to trade hard-won asset equity for unsecured debt relief -- the key is taming that beast once and for all.

If you're a deflation-believer like me, you'll agree that you'll be able to buy a house and land cheaper next year than this year, but your debt will hurt more over time. Plus, if you're quick at getting debt free maybe you'll get the 10% gov't incentive on the new house.

Once you're debt free and ready to buy then you can re-assess the job market. Or if you need to decide soon maybe you rent an apt in the new town for a bit until you've got a strong cash position.

Disclaimer: I've almost go my wife convinced to sell and rent for a while, but it's not done yet. I have zero credit card debt (long painful payoff!) and one modest car loan that I'm slamming as hard as I can. We're looking at moving to minimize commutes for work and school and to get more land for the $$.

Good thoughts Sharon, thanks. Your thoughts on "practice" are a very good idea. Thanks to the late 70's early 80's recession, I ended up back on the land. Lived in a capped foundation, outhouse,wood heat, and hand pump. 2 boys still in diapers. We did have electricity. Fondly remember filling an old washing machine full of cloth diapers with a 5 gallon bucket I pumped up with younger son riding on my hip. He liked the way my body moved pumping and always considered it a great "ride". Lots of joy. We did get an electric water pump but I kept the handpump in the cellar, still works just fine.

I'll echo airdales thoughts as well, our world was much smaller then, we didn't much give a hoot what was happening elsewhere. 50 miles was about the radius of our thought, and then the library 2 towns over was a special pleasure trip. Chickens and pigs eventually, gone now but most likely on their way back.

Note to airdale, glad you're hanging in, enjoy your posts, kind of a been there done that thing after our great ice storm up here. I do have to say there is some hope, I've got 2 boys, in their 30's now who grew up with chores and firewood and feeding pigs and chickens. They are both in cities now, but both are watching closely and know the have a solid position to retreat to, them and their loved ones now. I expect I'd actually kind of enjoy it. They learned skills, they don't use much now but a quick dip in the cold water will bring them back. They both are a better shot than I am.

I resisted indoor plumbing for a long time, the lack of it kept many potential visitors away. We were interesting and a real vacation for some people. Good food, clean air, glade in the woods. Coastal Maine.

I actually had a computer before I got a low flow flush. All hell broke lose and everyone came for the summer. Even the neighbors kids, they had a composting toilet, toa throne , I think, without the extra heat kit, (composting toilet you had to plug in) compost doesn't happen at ten below. He got to shovel it out in the spring. The kids liked the flushing thing.

Once you've lived pretty down low, things become not so necessary. Action and effort mean a lot.

One of things we don't speak of much here, is that by decoupling, you gain. You gain in ego, and self-reliance. (Hat tip to Todd) When you are even somewhat self reliant you are not under someone elses thumb. I can't tell you how many times I've walked away from asshole bosses. You then have the ability to think for yourself. Sadly today, it seems many would rather give that up. Seem to need to be told what to do. Their butts are in a sling if they don't. Think if you will, about calling the shots for your own life, not letting the economy, or the government make you fear. It's not easy, I am a geezer now, and I can split wood with an ax and a maul for 6 hours straight. A lot like eating peanuts, just one more. Haven't seen a doc in some time, exercise and fresh air do wonders.

The next town over predates the Plymouth colony by 7 years. Lots of resources, and actually not squandered thru the generations. The forest now is larger than is was in the 1700's, working farms abound. Seacoast, that additional food, and there is nothing like composting seaweed. Can we say trace elements. Deer herd is large and growing, wild turkeys are a pain there are so many.

We used to, years and years ago, produce the best tamarack masts that could be found. It's why the British showed up here. I've got a bunch down back.

When you live like this, there is a problem, there is no one easy to blame when things go wrong. When you live like this you have to actually take responsibility for every action. Airdales don't wait for someone else to bail you out. Everything is up to each individual.

I'll finish this with an out house story. Wife's cousins or something figured out we lived on the coast in maine, so they came to visit. Young lady came in after using the outhouse, at 10 below and asked what the 2 x 4 propped up against the seat was for. Basic physics, once again. Chuckle.
when you pee or poop at this temp, it freezes almost instantly, what you have is an poop iceickle growing from the bottom of the hole. That iceickle is not something you want to sit on, so we break it back down with he 2 x 4.

5 right now, windchill -17, 75 inside, a house and chimney I built, and wood I cut

Peace upon you all

and thanks Sharon, got my geezer eye on you. Doing good things.

Don in Maine

2 dwarf apple trees
6 sand cherry bushes (drought tolerant)
6 raspberries
25 Ft Laramie strawberries (WY stock)
a bunch of asparagus
20 pounds of seed potato
(and some starter 'pills' for the trees and bushes)

If just 2 of the cherries or apples take off, I'll consider it a bargain.

I grew up in Atlanta but i have been living in Virginia for 8 years now. Every summer and Thanksgiving we drive the kids down to see their grandparents near Lake Lanier (22 feet low).

The big builders down there raze any wooded patch of land and build houses. It's like they planned to remove the heart of the land and make it appear to be alive with turf. Big Builder comes in, cuts down every tree, removes all top soil and puts in curbs, roads and storm drains. The top soil is usually piled up at the tree lines in large berms. Maybe theses berms could be mined for their top soil. You know Kale won't grow in 2" of sod on red clay.

I remember my dad pouring old motor oil right into the dirt. How many other dads have done this over the last 50 years. If we dig up the yards in older suburbs - what the heck is in that soil?

Rainwater in the Southeast is the new liquid gold and it should be treasured so. We all should collect rainwater from our roof tops at the least.

Here is proof you are right? We need to end oil now. Re-post this everywhere so we can get the message out:

I have at least idly speculated on spots others do not focus on, such as downriver from New Orleans.

Once every 50 years or so a hurricane inundates the area (safe houses can be built, many are on mounds of dirt) and this has kept population and even agriculture down. Prime citrus growing area (killer frosts every 40 years or so) and good land for most semi-tropical and tropical, high humidity crops. "Bottom land" fertility gets a new definition ! Good fishing, etc. nearby, fresh water not a problem. About 60 miles of road (from memory) past the last suburb of New Orleans, width from a dozen miles to less than 1 mile.

The mindset of New Orleans is not to migrate downriver in an emergency. And a single road on each side of the river limits mobility.

Just idle speculation,