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The Post-Apocalyptic House

By Peter Goodchild

28 June, 2012

The cities are increasingly overpopulated and impoverished. Don't expect politicians to help; democracy works only in small groups, and it's your own fault if you ignore that fact. Sooner or later, you'll need to get out of the city, but the choices for rural living are only two: a modern house and a more-primitive one.

By "a modern house" I mean a house of roughly the type you now see in a city, with modern plumbing and electrical wiring. If you want to grow your own food, you'll need perhaps one or two acres of arable land, you'll need a source of water, and if you want to cut your own firewood you'll need even more acreage. In Canada or the US, all of this will cost at least $50,000, and in some other countries the price would be far above that. If you don't produce your own food or firewood you'll have large additional expenses. Because distances are so great, you will probably need a vehicle, which will entail expenses of several thousand dollars a year. The house, the land, and the car must all be bought without a mortgage or a car loan, because debts of any kind out in the country will definitely kill you. To cover your expenses, you might need a job, but jobs out in the country are rare and low-paying, and having a job almost makes it pointless to be living in the country anyway; a pension would be much nicer. Still, even with a job the setting is a little greener and a little quieter, I suppose, at least for a while.

By "a more-primitive house" I mean something along the lines of a log cabin. This would be much smaller than a modern house and much less comfortable to the uninitiated. It would also be illegal, at least in most present-day industrial countries. Because it's illegal it would have to be far from a paved road, so that building inspectors are less likely to catch you. For food and firewood, you'd still need plenty of land, and again that would cost you money, unless you were breaking even more laws by trespassing, although you wouldn't need as much money as in the previous scheme. Since you are further off in the bush, you might even have opportunities at hunting and fishing, but we're no longer living in pioneer times: in those days fish and game were abundant, and there were no expensive licenses and no restrictions on seasons. There were also far fewer people around, and a typical property might be a hundred acres, handed over by the government at little or no cost. It's also the case that people were a lot tougher in those days, at least if they had grown up in a rural environment. The advantage to this scheme is that the illegalities will become less of a concern as law and order break down. On the other hand, it's easy to fantasize about such a life, but after a few sleepless nights of bad weather you might have other thoughts.

All things considered, the above two schemes might seem like a rather poor selection. But a great deal of what happens in the future won't include choices of any sort anyway. Things will just happen. The first scheme above will simply disappear: a few years from now, nobody's going to show up with a truckload of 2x4s, even if you were planning to build that entire house with your own hands.

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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