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Systemic Collapse: The Irony Of Rural Life

By Peter Goodchild

26 September, 2011

All of humanity is involved in a global collapse that ranges from natural-resource decline to the current obsession, the multi-trillion-dollar financial crisis. The only real solution will be for individuals to make a personal decision to move away from the cities, because ultimately that is the only way to provide self-sufficiency and independence from the global economy. But buying rural property at the moment, at least in the more-industrialized countries of the West, involves a certain irony. Those who most need to get out of the city are those who have the least money, while those who find it easiest to get out of the city are those who are rich enough to be hauling huge motorboats behind them as they travel -- a little like Marie Antoinette dressing up in a shepherdess outfit.

The rich, in other words, can live well in the city, because endless goods and services are available with money. The non-rich -- i.e. the majority of the population -- cannot live as well in the city, because they do not have as much money. It is therefore the non-rich who have the greater need to escape.

The catch is that the non-rich are, in many ways, "locked" into the city. Even if you cannot live very well without money, you can nevertheless get by. In the city, you can survive with little or no money because there is public transport; there is cheap housing, even if only at the level of the boarding house or lower; and there are always sources of food, to the extent that even with no money at all you can go to a food bank or elsewhere. The nanny state will keep you alive, at least if you are willing to obey your nanny.

On the other hand, to move to the country, during these earlier days of collapse, you might need money to buy property, and while it is not as expensive as in the city it is still not cheap. There is usually no public transportation, so you probably need a car, and on top of that the distance from home to job -- if you have such a thing -- may be considerable. If you can produce some of your own food you will be doing better than many other people, but food generally costs more out in the country. So do many other things, including electrical power and sometimes gasoline. In the 19th century, the division between urban and rural was not so pronounced, but Earth -- in the sense of ""the countryside" -- seems to have become a distant planet.

Perhaps fortunately, after the total collapse the money economy will vanish from both urban and rural areas. Even in industrialized countries, it is already disappearing in many places, because of the illegal ("gray") economy; here in Canada, Newfoundland seems to be setting an example of that. But how long do we have to wait for total collapse?

The paradox is probably not insoluble, and there seem to be ways of escape to suit any budget. Here in Canada, if you are a physically-fit 20-year-old without much money, you could move to north of latitude 50, look for any job (if you decide you really need some money), and as soon as possible you could get a gun and an axe and head for the bush. On the other hand, if you're not 20 years old but more like 62, as in fact I am now, you might decide that you're better off not spending the winter in a log cabin at minus 60 C. I made that decision myself, actually, when I was 20, not 62 -- it was a brilliant midwinter morning in northern Ontario, and the temperature had been that low for weeks.

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. His email address is prjgoodchild{at}gmail.com



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