Toward A Post-Oil Community

Published on, by Peter Goodchild, 05 January, 2008.

There are some puzzling aspects to the fact that it is hard to put together a cohesive group in terms of dealing with future issues. While politicians, business leaders, and the news media all have coherent, cohesive social groupings, the sort of people who intend to navigate the Dark Ages are scattered to the four winds. Obviously something more is needed, some concept of community, even if “doomers” can be as factional as Marxists.

Yet we should not despair about the apparent lack of control. In the fifth century it was the Romans who were disciplined and organized, but it was the barbarians who won. The Internet was purposely designed as a decentralized network that could withstand nuclear attack. Today’s highly centralized cities can be defeated by a half a dozen terrorists. Decentralization will allow future communities to survive.

For as long as the Internet is around (and the electricity that keeps it going), it may be that cyberspace is more useful than ordinary space. That is to say, perhaps one could start with the simple idea of keeping a list of names of like-minded people that one finds on the Internet. That would probably an easier device than immediately trying to set up a 1960s-hippie-style commune, with all its attendant problems — the men discussing philosophy while the women do the housework. And so, for example, I find myself encountering the same names from one year to the next, and I half-consciously tend to keep track of their whereabouts in cyberspace.

But, yes, I also find myself keeping track of their physical location. It seems to be the same general parts of the earth that turn up in these conversations. There even seems to be a correlation between the level of apparent “awareness” of my correspondents and their geography. It may not be entirely a coincidence that these places where my correspondents live are ones I myself have sometimes thought of as nice places to inhabit. Great minds think alike, I suppose — or at least the great minds of aging hippies …

… My own choice would be a place where population density is low, but where the soil and climate are still reasonable. Many parts of North America might be suitable, at least if one avoided the Boston-New-York-Washington megalopolis. Almost any country, in fact, has good locations that would reveal themselves after serious perusal of a map. It is the hidden pockets of habitability that one should look for, the places that are easily overlooked. For example, here in Ontario there are places within an hour’s drive from Toronto that are far more suitable than places that are two hours away, simply because of what might be called accidents of geography — perhaps in the past there was nothing there to interest miners or farmers, so the land was unexploited.

There are also many pro-and-con questions related to “proximity to neighbors” one should look into. Having close neighbors makes you less of a target for predators, but then you have to hope that the neighbors aren’t worse than the predators.

If at all possible, try to move close to someone you know and trust. As mentioned above, that generally means someone related to you by blood or marriage. Even “close friends” can be less “friendly” as time goes by, whereas family members have the saving grace of being more predictable. As they say, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. (full text).

(Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. He can be reached by mail).

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