Regarding the Future: An Open Letter to the People I Care About

Hello everyone. The world, as you all know, is a bit of a mess, and I would like to lay out what I think is a workable general path for folks going forward. I also want to sketch some of the specifics of what I see as my own trajectory into the future.

First, though, I want to lay out my working assumptions in broad strokes. Going into detail on all of these points would turn this from a modest blog post into a bulky manifesto, so for the time being they are presented without exposition. I may comment more on them in the near future, and if any of my readers would like more specifics on any of them, please email me and I will write up a relevant post.

In Brief: The Future As I See It

Anthropogenic climate change will present serious challenges to our generation, including droughts, challenges to the food supply, and mass migrations.

Industrial capitalism is in the process of a slow disintegration, and its movers and shakers will resort to more violence and oppression as their grip on power loosens.

The political climate and federal institutions in the United States are currently incapable of meaningful positive change. Short of a miracle political dark horse and some sort of constitutional convention, the best we can hope for from the federal government is the perpetuation of the status quo--which, as I think most will agree, is not enough. At worst, we're staring down the barrel of civil unrest, domestic terrorism, and increasingly backwards rule by an entrenched minority government.

Contemporary technological advances hold little potential for abrogating the negative effects of climate change. The transition to renewable electricity cannot take place quickly enough because of current economic attitudes, and many of such technologies are dependent on exploitative mining practices and a great deal of energy expenditure for manufacture and transport. In short: the technocrats are not going to save us.

The coupling of our food supply to the Haber-Bosch process and other techniques of industrial agriculture puts a hard limit on our food supply: the amount of available, healthy topsoil. To divorce ourselves from fossil fuels means a divorce from fossil fertilizers, which make our current food production model possible. The wrecking of our soils by oil-fertilized monocultures and aggressive mechanical soil cultivation must be replaced by saner methods if we are to avoid catastrophic famine.

To put it bluntly, we cannot keep living as a consumer society and expect things to just kinda turn out okay.

Now this all sounds a bit doomer-y, so let me be clear: there are likely not any grand conspiracies driving any of these problems forward. They are the logical outcomes of the systems we have adopted and the lifestyles we have chosen to lead. I don't think we are headed for a singular collapse-event, nuclear war, climate-induced human extinction, or anything quite so dramatic. I do think we are in the middle of a slow-motion trainwreck, and that challenging times are almost certainly ahead of us.

What Is To Be Done: Broad Recommendations

So, given all of this, what do we do about it? We are facing a formidable set of intersectional problems, and those who have power at scale seem both unwilling and unable to do anything meaningful about it.

My answer, in short, is this: collapse now, and avoid the rush. If we choose now to live simpler lives that are less dependent on the slowly rotting structures of industrial capitalism, then we will be better prepared when they cease to function--and will be living more fulfilling lives in the meantime.

I think it is prudent to take our futures into our own hands here. We ought to begin moving towards daily lifestyles that have shorter supply chains and involve a greater ratio of production to consumption. The best way to do this is to work towards the creation of heavily localized economies that work with the local landbase to sustainably provide the essentials: food, water, and shelter.

This involves moving towards lives of fewer comforts and conveniences. Consider viewing things that require a lot of fossil fuel energy (including those energies embodied in their manufacture and transportation) as things that enable the damaging status quo of industrial consumerism.

Consider moving away from buying new things. Many of our needs and wants can be satisfied by things that have already been manufactured or, better yet, by things we can make.

I recommend beginning to think about how you could lead a fulfilling life outside of the current norms of industrial consumerism. What sort of community do you want to be a part of? How do you want to express yourself? How can you best help other people? What can you produce (or learn to produce) for your neighbors?

I think a successful future involves small communities made up of robust, interdependent producers who use a combination of older, salvaged, and locally-made technologies to do the work of living. I'm not necessarily talking about communes or similar arrangements, though they could factor into the picture; the important bit is that we have small geographical areas where the inhabitants provide for each others' necessities and make sure, in a very direct way, that none of their neighbors get left behind.

I don't think we need to return to being hunter-gatherers or anything (though if you feel like doing so, more power to you), but I think successful societies of the future will end up looking more like Amish settlements than contemporary suburban subdivisions.

N.B.--while all this is going on, it will still be important to participate politically in our failing systems. I still view harm reduction as an extremely important task, even if I do not believe that foundational change will come electorally.

What Is To Be Done: My Own Plan

So, given all this, I'd like to lay out my own thoughts about my future, so that y'all can see where I'm aiming with my life and can have some sort of idea of where I will end up.

These last few months of homestead-style living have confirmed for me that this will be my path going forward. My end goal is to live on a homestead that can provide for most of my needs, and some of the needs of others. I want the majority of my life to not be proscribed by the monetary economy. Ideally, I can do all of this while living near some of you, the people I care most about.

For the time being, I intend to keep working on farmsteads and building my skills in self-sufficiency and personal management. After a couple years, my focus will shift to setting down roots. I will outline my criteria for my future home in detail another time, along with a more detailed and finalized list, but here are some of my preliminary thoughts on the matter.

New Soil for Transplanting

I would like to live somewhere that the immediate political situation is more-or-less sane. This rules out firmly-red states and many foreign countries, for obvious reasons. The general on-the-ground climate is more important to me than the laws on the books, though those are certainly a significant factor.

I want to live somewhere where agriculture is feasible, and the climate is unlikely to become unbearable in a few decades. I already rate summers that consistently crack 100F as well-nigh unbearable, so this rules out much of the southern US, as well as many of the places around and beneath the equator.

Water independence is important to me as well. Rainwater catchment is my preferred ideal for this, which ties into my desire to irrigate as little as possible--so in a perfect world I end up somewhere rather rainy. Failing that, I could live with an on-property spring or a deep, non-electric well.

Logistically, I will need to settle down somewhere where land, or long-term land access, is cheap. I might be assisted in this by a collapse of the housing market, but I don't think banking on it is wise. Lax building codes (or lax enforcement of stricter ones) is a definite plus--I would like to build my own home and outbuildings from materials gathered from the property and its close surroundings, and I'd prefer not to have a ton of trouble setting up a composting toilet and alternative electrical arrangements.

Living near a small-to-medium city will be helpful too, I think, particularly if the area has an existing community of successful farmers and homesteaders. Building a resilient community from whole cloth would be a Herculean task, and contributing to a growing community seems a much better choice. In a perfect situation, town would be close enough to be reached by donkey-cart without too much effort.

Less-important pluses include:

And, finally, a short list of places I'm considering--most of which could use quite a bit more research:

Other Lifestyle Changes

As I mention above, I would like to live as much of my life as is feasible outside of the monetary economy. This involves moving towards less purchasing, less waste, and a whole lot of work. Unfortunately getting land/access usually involves money, so I will likely have to work jobs of some sort in the near future. In the long term I would prefer to produce, trade, and barter for most of my needs, and get the money I need by selling the things I produce.

Over the long term, I would also like to reduce my dependency on electricity and combustion engines as much as possible. I think there is much to recommend judicious use of the same in certain circumstances (possibly more on this in a future post), but in my day-to-day life I would like to use as little of it as I can. Eventually, this will mean my internet presence will shrink substantially, which is more incentive to make sure I'm close to my people.

Ideally, I land in a place where I can get involved with my geographical community through volunteering, musical performance, activism, dancing, martial arts, skillsharing, and other communal activities. Much of my social life is mediated by electronic devices, and I'd rather have that not be the case.


So uh, let's all move to Ireland or something?

In all seriousness, I think we are headed for difficult times. I intend to dedicate myself to contributing to a resilient, largely self-sustaining community that can weather (no pun intended) the various hardships that lie in our future. I invite you to join me (in spirit, for any internet strangers reading). I think the other side of all of this change and suffering is that we will have the opportunity to help in creating a better future, though not necessarily a more opulent or better air-conditioned one. We owe it to the generations coming after us to put in the work to make that happen.

~slothbear, 07/10/2022

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