Adapting In Place – And When Not To

Sharon March 3rd, 2009

Welcome to the first day of the Adapting in Place class – most of my posts this month will focus on the theme of how to get along where you are, with what you’ve got.  I love this class, and enjoy doing it.  I would note that some of the registered participants have not yet subscribed to the discussion group – please do so, so you don’t miss anything!

 I thought I’d start out with the question of who *should not* adapt in place.  The very first activity we do in both classes is to sit down and make a list of what your alternatives are if you have to leave your present place.  The reason we do it is because things like that could happen – people lose jobs and homes, they have fires, they are forced out by climate changes or environmental crises – sometimes you can’t stay where you are.  And as much as we’re going to focus on staying in place, we should also make sure we never lose sight of the fact that we do have other choices, even if we don’t much like them,

And for some people, getting out of Dodge is the way to go.  That is, I think that some people should absolutely consider leaving where they are, and doing sooner, rather than later, because they have little or no hope of successfully remaining in place. 

Now some of this comes down to long vs. short term issues – and there are balances to be struck.  For example, let’s say you live in a place that may be underwater in a couple of decades.  You love it, you are in your 50s or 60s, your kids are here.  Do you have to leave?  No, you don’t have to, but you might want to think about your choices.  For example, do you want to have to evacuate your location regularly due to coastal storms in your 80s?  Do you have a support network that will make that possible, that will help you?  If you plan to move when things get more acute, how likely is it you will be able to sell your house, as areas look increasingly difficult to inhabit.  Do you need to sell it?  If you have family inland who would take you in,  maybe risking that you might have to walk away is ok – or maybe it isn’t. 

Our homes are our homes, and our right to stay and choose them sometimes seems inviolable – but it isn’t.  In the next decades there are going to be a lot of migrants – and you  may be one of them.  Migrating and settling in a reasonably liveable place might be better – or it might not, and you might want to wait and see.  But don’t do it in ignorance – find out all you can.  The reality is that many people do more research on what movie to see than we do about our future, and the risks and benefits of the locations we choose.

 So here’s my list of when to think seriously about getting out.  There will be exceptions in every case – my claim is not “you definitely must go” but “think hard about what you are choosing.”

 1. If you have an ARM and can’t reset it, are already facing foreclosure or have no reason to believe you’ll be able to pay for your house, or if your current house was bought near the market peak and you require two ful incomes to pay for it. 

 The odds are good you aren’t going to keep your house in those circumstances – and the worst possible scenario for you may well be that you go into debt frantically trying to keep your old way of life open, which closes off other options.  If you have a better choice, one that can provide some stability, or there is hope of selling and getting out from under, seriously consider it.

 If you do end up in full foreclosure, remember the magic words – “Produce the Note.”  Rerquire that the company do full due diligence and stay in your house as long as you can – you might as well save up rent for the future.  And unless your loan is a recourse loan (be very careful with state assisted refinances, since many of these turn no-recourse loans into recourse loans – you do not want to be paying for this forever)  But do me a favor, and don’t trash the place on the way out – someone else, even you may eventually end up renting a foreclosure, so don’t trash what assets we’ve got indiscriminately.

 2. If you have young children or are elderly, have close ties somewhere but are living far away from them in a community that you are not invested in.  Not everyone has people (family biological or chosen) who will give you a place at the table, thin the soup to make it stretch, let you sleep on their couch and otherwise cover your back.  But if you do, recognize that these people are the beginnings of your tribe. Not all of us have tribes in one place – and some of us have multiple tribes.  But if you aren’t rooted where you are in some deep way, if you live there primarily for a job, and you can get back to your people think about it seriously.

The people who will most need the support of their family are young families themselves struggling to make do and older people who may need some help.  Sometimes these peopel are related to one another ;-) .  Not all family is good, not every friendship can go this far, but if you have these ties, they matter, and they are essential.

 3. If you have children or parents you need to care for far away.  Again, this is ymmv, but if you are going to be dealing with your parents’ decline, or if you don’t have custody of your kids but want to spend time on them, you need to set it up in a way that doesn’t make anyone rely on airline or other expensive long distance travel.  That means that if they don’t come to you, you go to them. It was once perfectly viable to live across the country from your kids, and say, have them spend summers with you – it may no longer be viable.  I realize this will be enormously painful and disruptive to families, but if you are the resource for people very far away over the longer term, you need to find a way to be closer to one another, or accept that you may not be able to take on that role.

 4. If you live in an extreme climate, likely to become more extreme with climate change, but you are not particularly and unusually well adapted to it.  That is, unless we check climate change, which at this point seems unlikely, if highly desirable, at some point, many places are going to be uninhabitable for many of the people who presently live there.  Some may become literally uninhabitable over time, but more likely, what we’ll see is that small populations, extremely well adapted to their environment, and extremely attuned to it, become native to many places as long as they are even marginally inhabitable.  But the question is, are you one of them?

 That is, if you live in a very hot, dry place, and are an expert desert farmer, gifted at retaining and using every drop of water prudently, and comfortable living without lots of input or air conditioning, and happy to live on the diet that grows there well, great, you and your descendents will probably do very well there if anyone does.  But if you are fond of long showers, keep the a/c on six months a year and think that hamburgers are a right, you might want to think about somewhere else.  Moreover, if you need income from the sale of your house, you might want to think about it sooner, rather than later, because there will probably come a point at which the number of people who want to live there declines dramatically, and it will be even tougher to sell than it is now.  Now even if some places do become uninhabitable, they probably won’t do so immediately - you might well be able to live out your life where you are.  But remember that it will probably become gradually and increasingly hard – the summers will be worse, the storms will be stronger, the ice pack will be smaller.  Are you prepared to be that adaptable?   

5. If you live among people with lousy values.  I’m on the record saying that most of us can probably get along in most places with at least some people. I don’t think everyone in your town has to be like you, or that ecovillages are the only way to find community. That said, however, there are exceptions.  And even if you can find some small community in a larger culture of rotten values, you may find that it wears you down. 

 Thus, if your neighborhood is chronically ridden with violence and crime, maybe it is a good idea to fight it – but maybe you’d be better off somewhere else.  If you bought in a gated community full of self-centered rich assholes, and now you regret it because they are pissed about your garden, sometimes, if you can, living somewhere else might be nicer. 

If you belong to a minority community, you might want to live where people like folks like you, or at least tolerate them, rather than a place that is hostile to them.  If you rely on a religious community, you might want to live where you feel that the cultural values reflect your own. 

Personally, I’ve always had a lot of luck finding allies where I went, even if we didn’t share faith or experience.  But there are root values we did have in common – integrity, kindness, a desire for community.  If those things don’t exist, you might seriously have to consider another choice.

6. If you don’t think your children (and by your children, I mean the children in your family, even if they aren’t your own)  have a future where you are.  Now this is somewhat speculative, and may partly contradict what I said above – you may, for example, simply not be ready to leave a place, even if you don’t think it will be sustainable in the long term.  But it is worth thinking about the larger consequences of committing to a place that may not have a future.  If your children have to leave to get work, if your children have to leave because it isn’t safe or is underwater, are your prepared to part with them?  Are you prepared for your family to be parted in circumstances that might not be conducive to cross-country travel?  More importantly, if you have land or something you hope to pass down to your kids, are you prepared not to be able to do so?  Is it an asset that they will be able to do without?  Again, you can’t know all this for sure, but it is worth thinking about.

 7. If you plan to move anyway.  That is, if you have a family place or somewhere you have always planned to return to, if you can, now is probably the best time.  It takes time to build soil. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to see fruit trees come to maturity.  If you were planning on going anyway after a few more years of earning, or something, now might be the right time.  That said, however, I’d be awfully cautious about buying, and only recommend this *if you can* leave – either by selling your current place or if you’ve been renting.  But building roots is important.

8. If you aren’t prepared to live in the place you live as its culture demands.  That is, as we get poorer and travel and transit become bigger issues, living in the country is going to be a lot different than it is now – instead of living essentially a suburban life, commuting to activities not available and relying on trucked in supplies, you may have to shop occasionally and mostly stay home in the country, making your own entertainment.  Are you prepared to do that?  Urban dwellers may have to make do in tougher conditions as infrastructure problems come up.  My own analogy is this – if you’d be ok living in the worst neighborhood in your city as most of the people there live now, you’ll probably be fine.  But if you’ve been affluent and comfortable and might not be forever, be sure you can afford the city and like the life.  I believe strongly that city, suburb (most of them) and country all have a future – but the differences between them are likely to become more acute.  If you aren’t prepared to deal with those differences, you might consider moving.

9. If you live in a outer suburban housing development, particularly a fairly new one.  This is the one exception I make to the question of whether the suburbs are viable.  Generally speaking, I think a lot of suburbs will do fine, others will adapt in different ways – some may become more like small cities, others may be more country like.  But the ones that I think the least hope are the larger developments that were built in the “drive ’til you buy” model of the last few years, where lower income families have to move further and further away from urban or suburban job centers.  If your suburb was built on a cornfield forty miles from your job, think seriously about how you will get along either in an energy constrained world or one where energy is much more costly because of carbon limitations.  Do you really think anyone is going to run public transport out there?  Is there topsoil?  Is it a place worth maintaining and farming?  Are there neighbors?  Are there going to be?  If you are already in a half-finished development, you really might want to get out.

10. If you are native to another place.  By native, I mean that many of us have a strong sense of place, and a strong sense of belonging to a place.  My husband once went on a job interview at UIL Champagne-Urbana.  He recalls looking across the land and seeing the horizon and thinking “oh, there’s the ocean.”  But of course, there was no ocean there - his misperception lasted only a second, but revealed something about his ability to live in that place – he comes from people who live on hilly land around water, and know the flat horizon as the space of the sea.  It is possible that he could have adapted to the flat open land of the midwest and learned to love it – but it is also possible that one’s sense of place should be respected if possible.  I know people who have never fully adapted to their place, in the sense of being truly native to it – desert born people who could never breathe comfortably in the humid air of the southeast, warm climate people who found the cold of northern winters unbearable, city folk who find the country abnormally empty and silent, water folk who can’t imagine life away from a boat.

Not everyone is tied to a place – some people can live anywhere, others in a wide range of places.  Some people can take their sense of place to wherever they go, and find a new home.  But some people can’t.  And it is simply the case that your body, and parts of your soul are shaped by your experience – a college friend of mine once spoke of people who grew up by the sea has sharing “water thinking” and noted that she who lived in Hawaii and I who lived in Coastal Massachusetts had that in common in our way of viewing the world.  More mundanely, people who grow up in hot climates develop more sweat glands, and a better ability to cool themselves than people who grow up in cold ones – our physiology is shaped by our place.

And our native knowledge of our place is valuable – in fact, it may be the most powerful tool we have.  Now some of us will have to leave our native places, to journey again as people so often have.  But if we can stay where we are, knowing our flora and fauna, knowing what grows where and how things smell when the seasons change and how to heal or feed or tend with what is native here is absolutely valuable – as is the ability to adapt that knowledge as our places change.  So if there is a place where you feel at home, and no other constraints bind you, perhaps you will want to go there, and be there, and help other people be there.

Again, all of these examples will have exceptions. No one, especially me is saying “move now!”  And some people who probably should leave will not be able to for reasons of family and obligation, underwater housing and job commitments.  But do think about all your choices.

 Sharon

59 Responses to “Adapting In Place – And When Not To”

  1. Susan in NJ says:

    Sharon — the magic words are “Produce the Note.” The note represents the mortgage (held by the bank, hedge fund, strange foreign entity, the Wizard of Oz). The deed, (from Seller to Buyer) is down at the County Registrar’s office and, if you the Buyer don’t have a copy, that is where it is found.
    But you knew that, I know.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for the perspective that adaptation it isn’t just to where you are right now.

    I am facing a move in an entirely unexpected direction (from IL to OH), and am struggling with the implications. Although I have long wanted to leave the Chicago metropolitan area, I will miss the walkable nature of my current town. I had expected to move to another walkable town, such as Champaign-Urbana (that was too flat for Eric!)

    OTOH, it appears I’ll be trading for 3 acres of open and wooded land with a creek (currently quite low but banks indicate occasional highs). There’s a major shopping intersection two miles away on a busy (non-bike-safe) road that I expect will empty out in the next few years. My goal is to not notice/care when it does.

    I am still stunned by this sudden change of events, but am comforted by the knowledge I have gained, and will again apply, from people such as yourself.

    Meanwhile, we’ll be eating from the pantry to clean it out before moving!

  3. Susan says:

    Hmmm…I never got an email for the class on where to sign up…?

  4. Sharon says:

    Susan, I’ve had a couple of emails bounce, and posted a notice asking people who hadn’t gotten the message to email me. Can you send me a fast email, and I’ll send you the subscribe info right now – I apologize – this happens to me every time, someone’s mail address won’t let me send it to them.

    Sharon

  5. Sharon says:

    And Susan NJ – thanks so much for the correction – that’s what I meant, but sometimes what I intend doesn’t come out!

    Sharon

  6. Lisa H says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Some comments based on your article:
    Living in urban SF Bay Area, there’s no way that I would want my family to be reduced to the level of poverty that I see and read about in parts of Oakland and SF. Housing projects, gang wars, racial violence, drugs, daily shootings and deaths, life is very cheap. And yet, I find myself not wanting to move to our family’s homestead (land only, no structures) near Wichita, Kansas. I’m a ‘water’ person and find the politics and lifestyle here much more ‘me’, I was born and raised here. Now I know that these are extremes and there are more locations than Kansas, and we have held onto the homestead so we have a place to go, to escape to. I guess I’m secretly hoping that my Kansas family will have some couches waiting for us…

  7. TMM says:

    “Produce the note” is only a delaying tactic… and not a very good one… while a copy of the deed is indeed at the county courthouse, in many states there is also a copy of the note. At the very least the title company that handled the escrow will probably have a copy….either way a determined lender could get a copy within a week..

    Personally I am of the opinion that anyone trying this tactic to delay or stop a proper foreclosure is being immoral. The money was lent, the payments are due. If you didn’t make the payments like you promised, it does not matter who they sold the note to, you still owe it. Pay up or move out. Yes, sometimes a person falls on bad times through no fault of their own…. but that was part of the risk assumed by the borrower and the lender at the time of the agreement.

    Lest you wonder where I am coming from, I am a Real Estate Broker…. and a home owner… and yes, many years ago I ended up in a foreclosure after a nasty divorce…. been there, done that… and I still tell people the same thing: “Pony up and do the right thing.”

  8. Bucky says:

    Much food for thought.

    I did just want to comment on the “Produce the Note” issue that others have discussed.

    I appreciate the moral issues involved with making good on your obligations to banks. It does seem to me, however, that if we’ve learned anything from our current financial meltdown, the big players were acting in anything but a moral or legal manner. And there is the moral issue a parent has to keep a roof over their children’s heads for a long as possible. Sometimes tough decisions get made.

    More importantly, in a number of instances, no one knows who holds the note. As the mortgage frenzy went into high gear companies were slicing and dicing mortgages and selling them off again and again and recordkeeping was often shoddy. Before I sold my home a few years ago, it seemed as if I had a new mortgage lender every few months. After a mix-up with two lenders telling me to pay up, I learned to demand documentation beyond just a letter with a new mailing address for my monthly check.

    So I think that forcing a bank to Produce the Note is important and a good strategy — at the least, you want to make sure who you will be dealing with during foreclosure.

    And really great article, Sharon.

    Bux

  9. [...] some of Sharon Astyk’s blog Casaubon’s Book and today’s post titled “Adapting In Place – And When Not To” got me thinking. Actually that’s a fairly common occurrence with the posts on [...]

  10. tarynkay says:

    There’s nothing immoral about demanding that the bank produce the note, just as there is nothing immoral about demanding that the D.A. prove that a criminal defendant is guilty as charged. In the United States at least, even if you tell your lawyer that you are guilty, you are still entitled to a defense. It’s not a question of whether or not the money is owed, it is a question of making the bank do their job. I do agree that when a person incurs a debt, he had ought to pay it. But the sins of the debtor do not justify the strong-arm tactics of the bank. Also, as Bucky says, what with all of the confusion in banks nowadays, there may well be a mistake.

    This was a great article, Sharon. This is one of the reasons why we recently moved across the country, from a HUGE city to a small walkable/bikable city. It’s also why we did not move back to our home state (Florida), which my husband is convinced will sink in the near future. Also, the Floridian economy is really bad, since it was largely based on snowbirds and tourism. We have family in agriculture down there and it just gets less and less possible for them every year. It would be great to be closer to our families, but we are building a community here through our church and friends. We do hope that our families will come up here and join us if things get worse down there.

  11. Sharon says:

    TMM, requiring banks to do legally required due diligence is not an unethical delaying tactic – it is a perfectly legitimate strategy. Like at least one other poster here, I’ve actually been dunned by a company that sold my mortgage and attempted to keep charging me – so yes, there are compelling reasons to ask them to do so. My claim is not that if they do you should fight them in court, but that you should expect of them full compliance with the law. If that benefits you, well, so much benefits them – I’m not weeping.

    Sharon

  12. TMM says:

    I guess I shot off without being completely clear… if you feel the lender is in error with their demands, then by all means ask to “see the note”…. I was coming from the view of people who do it ONLY to forestall foreclosure….. with no intent of ever trying to make good on the loan… (yes, doing what it takes to keep a roof over your kids head is important, but you should have thought of that)…

    and yes, many mortgage brokers and banks were unscrupulous (sp?) but there are way too many people using that as an excuse to cover up their own attempts to take advantage of the system, lying about income, etc. many of them are the very ones who now advocate using the system to keep living in your house without paying the mortgage… I’ve even seen ads where they say they can help you stay in your house up to a year or more without paying a dime before you have to leave! Talk about scamming the system… THAT is the kind of person that irritates me.

  13. Bucky says:

    TMM:

    I’ll jump back into the fray on the foreclosure issue.

    As you rightly point out there are rules and laws that govern mortgages (as well as every other financial transaction). And they are very complex — because the financial industry has worked hard to make them that way. And they have teams of lawyers to enforce them. But that is okay and we all have to play by the rules we agree to.

    It isn’t a moral issue when banks enforce the rules. It isn’t a moral failing when the homeowner does as well.

    Let’s remember that the banks basically wrote the laws governing foreclosures and bankruptcy, so it they aren’t happy with them now, they should have written them differently.

    I’ll not question the morality of anyone who exercises every legal right that they have. That is how our adversarial system of law works.

    Bux

  14. NM says:

    Ah. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and have never wanted to be anywhere else. In addition to being where I belong (and have a job, at least for now …) I’m near friends and a lot of family, including my parents in their 60s, who are planning on being able to look to me for assistance as they age. And it’s a good place; you can garden year-round, for example. But there’s an aunt down in Florida whom I worry about. She’s elderly, blind — and has made it clear she’s not interested in moving, either out here or up to New England, where she also has family who would gladly take her in. For now, people can fly to visit, but not often, and for how long? I feel guilty for not being willing to go to her, despite the many reasons for staying put, and my complete lack of desire to live in Florida. Then again, she’s an adult, perfectly competent, and has the right to live where she chooses. But I worry about how things are going to go in the coming decade.
    NM

  15. todd says:

    I find it interesting that most of the above comments are about “notes” and none about a sense of place.

    My wife and I moved to this boondocks area of northern CA 35 years ago and have been on our current place almost 30 years (which means, Sharon, you could have spent most of your life here).

    My point in this is that most people are rootless and have no sense of place. Therefore, it matters little where they live but in doing so they have lost what they are seeking to find.

    Todd

  16. Bucky says:

    todd:

    i agree with you that many (or perhaps most) Americans don’t have a sense of place. I grew up as a military brat and I certainly fall into that category.

    I’m currently dealing with the issues Sharon talks about. I long to leave Houston where I’ve lived for 16 years, but because of child custody issues, I’m here for another few years.

    But I am starting to think seriously about what comes next — and where. Climate change and peak oil considerations will certainly factor into my decision.

    And finally having a sense of place and community will be a factor as well.

  17. Laurie in MN says:

    TMM:
    “(yes, doing what it takes to keep a roof over your kids head is important, but you should have thought of that)…”

    Because everyone can foresee being laid off, not being able to get work for months and months; that one medical problem that EATS your insurance, your savings, and anything else you can scrape together; the lending institution that won’t move your bill’s due date to accommodate your *actual* pay schedule, but keeps piling on late charge after late charge even when you’ve done everything you can think of to convince them that you NEED one, tiny, little adjustment on their part to be able to pay your bill (true story from the Mpls/St. Paul area); the accident that disables you enough to keep you from doing the job you’ve been doing but not enough to get full disability benefits….

    Must I go on?

    I see your point — really, I do. When you take on a debt like a mortgage it IS your duty to see that it is paid appropriately. Or that you deal with your bank the moment you suspect otherwise. But honestly? Can we get off our moral high horse here? Because for all of the people trying to scam the system, there are plenty people who have had piss poor luck OR have had the system screw them over despite their best efforts otherwise. Yes, perhaps they ought to have been more careful with taking on debt. But in a country that derides apartment dwellers and people who live with their relatives, I can see where people would believe what the nice loan officer was telling them — that they could in fact afford their own home.

    I put the blame squarely on the banks/mortgage lenders/other financial types who saw the whole sub-prime lending thing as just another way to make money hand over fist. So right now they are losing some. But I bet they aren’t wondering if their children are going to be homeless in the near future.

    /moral and ethical tirade

  18. Shelley says:

    Wow Sharon,
    That was a powerful essay. I’m sorry folks hooked into the “produce the note” thing because so many other points are SO well stated and MUST be considered. It hit me right between the eyes! I am going to print it off and consider each point that applies to me carefully.

    I love Alaska and we do have community through church, but not roots. Family is in ARizona. So many points just jumped right out at me. I am rooted into my enviromenton some points but not others. I need to live somewhere that has water, green trees, lush foliage. I never felt safe growing up in AZ, with it’s sun-baked, parched landscape. And now with a Southern drought going into it’s 9th year and climate change picking up speed….well, AZ seems like a deadly place to live. But Alaska is so extreme in 3 ways. 1. The growing season is so short, 2.the lack of sunlight, with it’s consequent mental and physical effects is very hard, and 3. the extreme cold long winter is not something I love….I’m not a winter sports girl at all. I don’t don the gear and go ice climbing or winter camping.

    I find that some of your points lead me to consider moving nearer to my family in AZ and some of them lead me to move somewhere similar to Alaska without the extremes. One gives me roots with no safety in the enviroment and the other gives me a safe, food rich enviroment with no roots. It’s very hard to think about.

    What would you advise?

  19. Beth says:

    Thanks for the guidance. Very timely. I read the article in New Scientist and found it even more chilling than the typical Global Warming roundup. According to the article, we’re looking at a 40-100 year time-frame for the really nightmarish scenarios to begin playing out. I’m more concerned about our generation’s children and how they’ll deal with this new world. I would love to hear your thoughts on how to prepare our kids for their grim future — beyond simply learning to like candles, living without plastic toys, and appreciating a sing-along. What kind of adults do we need to raise?

    Thanks!

  20. Mark N says:

    I’m glad to read sober advice and discussion of the subject of adapting to the challenges facing us, including climate change. I will be staying in place here in upstate NY. I’m in an older suburb where I have a large lot to grow things on. Its a relatively safe elevation and the climate for growing plants appears to be getting only warmer and longer. Also, its adjacent to a large parcel of woods and within walking distance of a small hamlet. I moved here to live with and care for my elderly parents (80′s). I expect many changes to occur in the typical way of life here. I believe more and more people here will begin to do some of the things I have done: converting their yards into gardening space, collecting rainwater, composting, growing fungi. Its great to see the attitudes change toward our unique landscaping. Hopefully, town ordinances will loosen and much more will be possible here in the future. Maybe someone will raise chickens nearby someday…that would be nice. I suppose I may have to open the door to other family members at some point, if they wind up with no place to go.

  21. “Produce the note” is an important thing to do just highlight the irresponsible manner in which these debts were sliced and repackaged. In many cases the note is so complex that knowbody knows which holder of which bond issue has highest claim to the title and the right to forclose.

    If the holder of the lowest priority(highest risk) tranche of your mortgage forcloses on you what happens when the higher priority debt holders come after you?

    One state judge actually ruled a German bank could not prove they had claim to a porfolio of U.S. homes. While it is immoral to reneg on your debt this leverage can be used to negotiate a plan to allowing you to keep your home and restucture payments. Banks should be happy to achieve cash flow on a property rather than add it to unsellable inventory.

  22. dewey says:

    When we bought our house (modest house, 20% down, excellent credit rating) three years ago, the first mortgage broker we visited started off trying to push an ARM on us. Had I not been well-informed and suspicious at that moment, instead of “doing the right thing” by being fully paid up, we would now be looking at the imminent likelihood of losing our house. All these public-school graduates who were not taught to understand math or to question authority think that they ARE “playing by the rules” (another favorite corporatist slogan) when they sign whatever papers the nice banker puts in front of them.

    Our mortgage, incidentally, was sold within a year to Wells Fargo. Some of the larger banks have a reputation for borrower abuse and lousy customer service. Suppose that I had specifically avoided getting a mortgage from Wells Fargo in the first place? Tough bricks; I had no say in the transaction that made me their debtor for decades to come.

    As for living like the people in the worst neighborhood in your city, I share the feeling of the poster from LA. I could live well enough with the living space, energy usage, and food budgets that average residents of those areas have. But there is no way I could put up with that level of crime; we would end up looking like Cape Town, and I couldn’t live that way long-term. If you can no longer afford a car you can bicycle to the store, but not if someone will knock you off the bike in order to take it. Crime is a touchy subject in this area, because it is perceived as linked to racial issues. I do not subscribe to racist doomer fantasies, but this city is composed of very fragmented, segregated communities that do not perceive themselves as sharing common interests, and I do not hold out much hope that in a real crisis, any of those groups would suddenly choose to start pulling together toward a common goal.

  23. Bucky says:

    Interesting news article today about the banking industry spending millions of dollars to lobby against a proposed change that would allow judges discretion in rewriting mortgage terms for people facing foreclosure.

    The banks are claiming this is “unfair.” Except the last time they helped write the laws a few years ago, they just happened to allow judges to do this — but only for second, third, fourth, etc, homes.

    So we mere mortals, facing financial crisis, can get no relief from the judicial system to help us retain our only home. However, the well-off, can go to a judge and get her to completely rewrite their vacation house mortgage terms so that they can keep all their homes.

    Hmmmmm. That seems moral and fair.

    I know we’ve gotten way off topic, but only sorta.

    People need to understand that there are powerful, rich entrenched interests in this country. And they have a very vested desire to keep the system working the way it is now — because it has been working for them, if not for the rest of us and the rest of the world.

    And as we make our plans and do what we can to make a better future, we GOT to understand this and take it into account.

    Every area of our society — agriculture, finance, transportation, real estate, etc. — is working very, very hard to try and maintain the status quo.

  24. Shandy says:

    We’re tied to our place due to my husband’s son from a previous marriage, so we have no choice but to adapt where we are for the next 10 years or so. But, in addition to what we’re doing here, we’ll be spending the time researching other locations as best we can and trying to plan for a future-after-custody-boundaries. Interesting things to think about here.

  25. Amanda says:

    As a military wife the one thing I am pretty good at is adapting! Some places are better than others. It does make it hard to put down solid roots, or plant trees for that matter;) When you are posted frequently by the time you get the garden in and the soil up to speed, its time to move. In fact in the military community the joke is if you start planting where you are that posting message will come for sure. BUT I know areas that I don’t want to live. My husband and I always talk about where we will live when we retire. We are looking at climate change as one of the criteria. I am totally a water person, but the dream of living on a maritime island I think now is off the list..

    We are open to suggestions, but I think we’ll stay in Canada. We have family all over the globe, but Canada is home, that much I know for sure:)

    mind you we have seen some nice property in NY state we like too……..

  26. Anna says:

    For our situation: Yes to 3,4,7, and 10. We are moving in May from Oklahoma (extreme climate !) to western Virginia in order to help with my parents and live with them for as long as necessary.

  27. Kati says:

    I’m another Alaskan who wasn’t born here, and don’t have immediate family here (though my Hubby’s family all resides here, I don’t get along with them so fantastically that I’d be ok with moving in with any of them). However, this is the town where I’ve done most of my growing. (I was an Air Force brat, but 24 of my 30 years have been spent in this town.) And this is where my daughter is growing up. My soul tells me I need to be by an ocean (always been a soul-dream of mine), but the physical reality is that if I were to leave this place, I WOULD leave behind almost everything I’ve ever known, and I would take my daughter and my hubby away from everything THEY have ever known. Maybe it’s not soothing to my soul to live in this land-locked, ice-packed environment, but it’s become home. And sometimes you’ve just got to bloom where you’re planted.

    So, hunker down it is. “We” have family close by (even if they ARE family I don’t really want to be living with), we have almost 10 years invested in this house, about 30 years invested in this community (less on my part, more on my hubby’s), even MORE time here in “ancestoral” years. (Hubby’s grandpa was a homesteader here in the 50′s, and the inlaws live on a 1-acre plot of the original homestead.) I’m working on recognizing the indigineous plants and know the animals relatively well. Again, it comes down to blooming where you’re planted, at times. Making do with what’s provided you.

    Thanks again for such a thought-provoking post!

  28. knutty knitter says:

    One of the saddest things I’ve read was a letter from my Uncle’s grandmother asking his father to please send a photo of himself and his little brother because she hadn’t seen them since they were 16 and 19. They were in their forties at that time. She wanted to know what they looked like now they were grown up. She never saw them again. The distance was just too great and travel was expensive (Scotland to New Zealand by ship).

    Moral – be careful where you choose to live and realize that once you are so far away you may not ever see some loved ones again and you may not be able to travel again.

    As for our mortgage – it was shunted all over the universe for a bit without our permission or knowledge and I got mad and brought it back to a local bank and there it will stay as they don’t sell on to others.

    viv in nz

  29. Broiling Bloom says:

    Oh, my….just when I thought I had arrived at livable answers, my reaction is that I have not. Thank you, Sharon, for helping make sense of what to consider in a thoroughly thoughtful way.

    I shall wrestle my way in line to meet you on Saturday. Will add a few more reps to the 5lb lifts the next few days to build some impressive elbows!!

    Best,

    ~d in AZ

  30. Rosa says:

    Our next door neighbor lost his job, so he (and his kids) moved in with his sister, around the corner, and rented out their house.

    That was this fall; this month the renters couldn’t pay, so they disappeared. He’s over there cleaning up right now.

    Don’t know that this is relevant, just know that I wanted to share it. We’re not going anywhere (unless we can swing a more energy-efficient house in our neighborhood) – our families are scattered, but we can’t do anything about that, and everything else is right here.

  31. Gina says:

    This is a very timely post for us. We debate whether or not to try to move soon daily in our household. There are so many good things about where we live now: proximity to the in-laws (50 miles away) and my sister, public transportation, a walkable city, and a house and garden that we have put blood, sweat, and tears into. And then there are the glaring negatives: we live in a dessert utterly dependent on water from afar, all our efforts to be somewhat self-sufficient with food would cease to exisit without irrigation, 100 degrees plus is the norm in the summer, our mortgage is quite large, the public education system is in shambles, our state is likely going to be the first one to default/go bankrupt. While we still have substantial equity in our house, my biggest fear is that it will all evaporate and we will be stuck here like it or not.

    In my fantasies we find 5 – 50 acres of land with an old house to fix up in a more temparate region of the country where we can both find interesting jobs. And then we convince our families to all join us there. A girl can dream, can’t she?

  32. Gina says:

    I meant we lie in a “desert” not a “dessert”. Living in a chocolate cake doesn’t sound half bad.

  33. homebrewlibrarian says:

    I’m another non-native to Alaska but this is where my soul tells me it’s right to stay. And I grew up in Florida! I’ve had my fill of water front; give me mountains!

    Like Kati and Shelley, I have no blood kin here. Actually, I don’t have much blood kin left anywhere but the ones I keep in regular contact with are in Florida. I’ve talked with my sisters about “circling up the wagons” if the time comes and we’re in agreement. Problem is, both my sisters live pretty close to an ocean and I expect at least one of them would have to evacuate if sea level rose more than a few inches. I’ve told them they can come here but that would be about as familiar as moving to Sweden as far as they’re concerned.

    So I’m developing a tribe or community here. A couple of us were actually born in Alaska, the rest of us have adopted this place. Yes, the growing season is short; yes, the winters are long and the dark can be smothering. I won’t argue with those things. But people have lived in Alaska for thousands of years with exactly the same conditions – except without running water and electricity. If other humans can thrive here, well, so can I. I find that the more I become indigenous, the more I want to know how indigenous people lived. I may be European-American by heritage but that doesn’t mean I can’t adapt to Alaska conditions.

    Challenges keep you young!

    Oh, and for Shelley, my recommendation for an alternative place that is somewhat similar to Alaska would be northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve heard parts of Maine could pass for Alaska as well. Now, my second choice after Alaska would be the Driftless area of Wisconsin (southwest part of the state). That’s Amish country, too.

    Kerri in AK

  34. Joanna says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) I really wonder how many folks I know would make it past your very first criteria to adapt in place…I know almost no one that has enough income that they could maintain their VERY modest homes on only one income. (We’re talking most folks have under 1000 square feet for families, and they have already cut expenses to the bone).

    2) SO many people are being forced out of their homes – who is going to buy up all these homes, or are we really just going to leave them uninhabited and falling apart? It makes no sense…

    3) Could you point me to any sites that give some explanation as to what areas are likely to experience what conditions in climate change? I am trying to grasp what will happen here, on a local level, where I hope to stay. (which, btw, is northern Vermont)

    4) And yes, TMM, please let’s not be on a moral high horse. We bought _very_modestly, we did not succumb to the mortgage companies attempts to coerce us into an ARM, and we have no credit card debt. We really try to do it all ‘right’ – but due to a job loss, our home is on shaky grounds right now. This crisis has gone far beyond touching only those who were irresponsible in the first place.

  35. Linn says:

    Great alternatives and possibilities to think about, Sharon! I do believe the “Love where you’re planted” adage, and I do love upstate Maine. Been here 12 years. Upstate NY previously, so the northern areas are comfortable. Yet– as I reach 70 the wood stove is harder and harder to keep burning, the winters with snow and ice for months on end a grave danger to life and limb–I live in an isolated wooded area; no neighbors in sight; gardening marginally successful in my little clearing, family is all south in FL or NC–except for one beloved son in WA state. Where to go, where to go. When to go!

    House paid for, tiny, energy efficient. I could see this coming and made preparations, but I didn’t plan on getting old so fast! I have a small community of helpful aging women–men all elderly, unhelpful, or infirm–young neighbors all struggling on the edge of disaster, a lot of underlying animosity between the “from aways”–me and my adopted community–and the locals; this is not best for me for the long-term. Intuitively, I am getting messages to move on, but where? Can I sell soon or wait a few more years and enjoy the beautiful landscapes and natural areas of Maine a little longer? Or take a loss on my home and leave beloved friends and hope I choose well. Which child wants me nearby? None really believe what is coming and I have been chastised for not having long term care insurance by two of three children…darn. It is such a LONG way from Maine to WA state, but I think that is my logical destination. Soon. Sadly, I think about it and delay, delay.

  36. Wasatch Mermaid says:

    Oh, dear, I scored 8 out of 10 reasons to get out of town (I knew I would!), but my husband loves it here. And I love him. I’m so conflicted about this that I am literally sick to my stomach most of the time.

    If we stay, we are financially okay for a while, although this is a tourist beach town so I’m sure even our business will be hit hard eventually. But he’s in so much denial about the severity of the whole environmental and financial crisis, that it will be a long time before he’ll consider leaving, and I’m ready to head to Idaho, to be with my aging parents.

    He’s adamant that Idaho will never be in his plans, so . . . either I hang out here until he comes to his senses, and then move back up near his family (also on the coast, and not quite my favorite people), or I make make a very difficult transition now, alone.

  37. Shelley says:

    LinnWA state is not too different from Maine….it is your northern and coastal.  And in the end it is love and realationships that we take with us….that’s what matters.Joanna….I hear you!  I have taken in 2 little girls to baby sit.  I make $1000 a month and that is helping us stay solvent.  It isn’t too bad.  At first I really dreaded the idea of doing home day care.  I worried that it would cramp my lifestyle way too much.  But it has been a joy and added to my lifestyle.  We are geting ready to start planting our in the house tomato starts and these little girls are so excited to help.  It has added fun and liveliness….and money.There are a lot of ways to meet expenses.And dear fellow Alaskans….it is nice to know you are there!  Who knew in a state of 600,000 we would meet on this vast internet!  I know that for now I will adapt in Alaska and continue growing what I can and bearing with the dark.  But the article does make you think and ask questions you didn’t know you needed to ask!I love your insights Sharon!

  38. Christina says:

    Beth says, “What kind of adults do we need to raise?” This is paramount to me, with kids 13/9/3, as I’m sure it is to Sharon as well. For me, it means pretty much ignoring what mainstream educators think is important and going a totally different way in their education. Important aspects to me: Strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. Internally driven sense of self, away from peer pressure and materialism. Physically fit, not dependent on technology or energy. Etc.

    How to achieve these goals? Homeschooling. It gives me the ability to implement things I believe are important; academic and intellectual development are there, but not at the cost of seven hours a day plus homework. With homeschooling, we get to spend one morning every week on a local (suburban SF area) farm, learning food production skills and connecting with dirt in a serious way; another day is spent at grandma’s with a lot of focus on traditional skills (sewing, cooking, gardening). We get to center our kids in our values and priorities rather than having them centered in a culture we believe is on the way out (although they certainly get plenty of exposure to alternatives and how to live multiculturally).

    We are reasonably financially secure, but most of our homeschooling comrades cope with one income and lots of instability; it’s a choice that’s open to everyone if they’re willing to make the necessary accommodations, whatever they may be.

    Like many here, we too feel seriously conflicted about AIP versus relocating. We live in the SF area and my partner and kids always have; I came in for university and stayed. It seems like a reasonable geographic location, in terms of water, food production, access to services, but I am concerned about the high population density primarily. I struggle mostly with the loss of access that would result from a move to a smaller community; if I were starting over from scratch in community building at the same time as I was trying to implement a post-peak lifestyle, it seems like I would need a 36-hour day… Here, we have a solid community and we can focus on skill and lifestyle development.

    We are currently leaning toward a hybrid plan, where we devote some time and energy to creating an infrastructure in a better location, yet primarily stay here. Is a hybrid weaker or stronger, that’s the question!

  39. TMM says:

    *SIGH*

    I never meant for anyone to think I was on some “moral high horse”… I do believe though that morals is what differentiates us from bad people. I was NOT speaking about the person who lost a job, had an accident, or some other unforseen problem (though there is insurance for that, but that is another discussion)…and not the person who was taken advantage of (another discussion for another time- too many people claim to be victims)….

    I was referring to the use of “show me the note” by those who knew darn well walking into the purchase that they couldn’t afford it and were banking on endless refinances, unrealistic expectations of increased equity, or flipping for a profit. (i.e. those people are just stalling for time to continue their foolish process)…

    Without morals, without honesty, without compassion, you can still have a “sense of place” where you are, but I wouldn’t want to live there… I sometimes feel the whole “note” discussion comes too close to ignoring those characteristics that make for good people and good neighborhoods…

    Have I ever made a mistake? Yes. Had hard times fall on me unexpectedly? Yes. Been taken advantage of? Only if I didn’t do my job. But at the risk of offending some folks, I still stand by what I say everyday…. Suck it up, quit whining and move on.

    I know, I probably am going to set someone off again…. sorry….

  40. vaillance says:

    I sure worry about all you Alaskans, even though I understand why you with to live there. I lived in AK for three years, and although I loved the unparalleled wilderness and remoteness, I’m concerned that a time might come when you can’t get food trucked up there nor heating oil to keep you warm. Woodstoves are obviously an option for the heat problem, but what about food? Do any of you live in small villages that would band together to create a community garden? Are you good at hunting/fishing/trapping? In the three villages where I lived, there was also A LOT of alcoholism. That would definitely concern me. If things got more desperate, would you feel safe where you live? Do you have a good relationship with those individuals who hold positions of power in the village?
    This past year I moved to a small WA town to be much closer to my mother’s “doomstead,” but I sure do miss the lack of ethnic diversity and the many opportunities for liberal activism that I had in the LA area. However, I feel very lucky to have had the freedom and ability to relocate to a place that will be more sustainable and secure if shelves start getting bare and social unrest begins to spread.

  41. Claire says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m definitely adapting in place! I’m a Midwesterner (born and raised in Ann Arbor) who was yanked away by my dad’s job when I was in my teens and who returned as soon as I was on my own. But I don’t mean the flat Midwest … I spent 5 years at the U of I, Champaign-Urbana, the flatlands, and hated it. I mean the rolling-hills Midwest. Ann Arbor has them. So does St. Louis, where I’ve lived, happily, for the past 25 years. I lived in the southeast and on the East Coast during my teens … didn’t like either … and saw enough of CA during my first marriage to know I could never live there. The only place I’m happy is in the Midwest. Weird, OK, but there it is ;) .

    Positives: we own our home, free and clear, and its value is low so therefore our taxes are too. My husband’s family is here (he’s a native St. Louisan), and his widowed mom, who is 81, lives just 5 miles away. He bicycled to her house today – she broke her arm some weeks ago (fell on the ice), and he’s been spending a lot of time helping her with things she couldn’t do. I get along fine with his family, and we have lots of friends in the area. We both feel comfortable here; plenty to do, lots of friends, good neighbors on our street who have already proven to be helpful during extended electric outages. We live in an older suburb that will retain some bus service after the drastic cuts planned for the end of March (the transit system is too far in the hole to maintain the current service level). St. Louis is getting better for bicyclists every year. Most essential services are walkable or bicycleable from our house, though not all of the activities we do for fun are so located.

    I know how to grow food and grow more of it each year, the DH and I have an acre of some of the best soil in the country, and we lived without a/c for 13 years in the house before this one so we know we can do it. Heat is a concern during the winter (gas forced air system so we depend on both electricity and natural gas). We are planning to glass in our south-facing front porch for extra heat on sunny winter days. I’m considering another solar heating system as well. We don’t have a fireplace and we don’t have a good place for a wood stove in our small (1300 sq ft) house. In the worst case, we could stay in the basement without heat; it doesn’t get colder than 50 during our winters.

    The negatives are what happens to the climate long-term and the fact that I am not near any of my relatives. But I don’t think these are deal-breakers. My husband and I are in our 50s, so long term for us is, say, 40-50 years. My gut feeling is it won’t change so much during that time that we can’t stay here, especially since we are already well adapted to the place. We don’t have children so no planning around them. The other negative, that I don’t live near my family, isn’t solvable anyway because none of us live near each other. My siblings live in WI, PA, and CT, and my parents in FL. I don’t see them much as it is. I worry about my parents, not so much for climate reasons but for health reasons. I wish they had one of us nearby. If they were ever willing to move, my DH and I would find a place for them nearby, or move them in here if we have room.

  42. rachel says:

    Wow, Sharon it would have been great to have you Illinois.
    Great advice: I have a brother in CA wish they would come home, they are considering it.
    Looking forward to excerpts from D&A in radish

  43. Hey Sharon – have fun in AZ! Just watch out for Angel…. I hear she has a methane problem :)

  44. homebrewlibrarian says:

    vaillance,

    I live in Anchorage where local food is beginning to be talked about more regularly. I have been fortunate to meet some very earnest folks who care deeply about living here and have worked very hard on food security. We also have a local Bioneers chapter which looks at sustainability on a broader scale. Anchorage has community garden plots and last year added some not too far from where I live. Farmers markets are very popular during our short summer. There are CSAs in Anchorage and Fairbanks and a very tiny but hanging in there dairy industry. North of here in the Matsu Valley, goats reign supreme as do chickens. Folks out there also raise pastured pigs and cows for meat. And the opportunities to fish are practically limitless! I still have wads of salmon I caught during a group set netting session last year. Subsistence hunting can be done as well. Berry season is short but usually there is an abundance to be harvested if one is willing to do a bit of hiking.

    The community that is working towards local, sustainable food is still pretty small but more folks figure it out and join in as the economy gets tighter. Certainly the villages have it much more difficult than the more urban areas; some villages are being abandoned because the lack of work and heating oil makes living there too difficult. It is unfortunate that the white settlers and missionairies that came here forced the Native Alaskans to give up their traditional ways for so long, very few elders remember how to survive the subsistence way. Over the last couple decades, there has been a small but growing effort to relearn the old ways by the various Native peoples living here. People thrived in Alaska for thousands of years before petroleum products and running water, we just have to remember how to do it again.

    I’ll admit that for every person who is trying to learn how to live well in Alaska conditions, there are ten who keep their homes at 75 degrees all winter, drive everywhere and find shopping an acceptable form of entertainment. So those of us who are trying to live lightly must lead by example. We’re obvious enough that when someone suddenly realizes what’s happening in the world around them, they know who they can ask for advice and help. I haven’t yet moved from “wacky” to “wise” but that doesn’t stop me from how I live my life. I know of others who feel the same. We might be doomers now but we’re always available if need be.

    That being said, I expect a certain amount of out migration should the economy suddenly tank in Alaska. Lots of people live here but very few of them feel they’ve become indigenous. And for many of them I think leaving is absolutely their best choice. Go to family or whoever your support network is. But overall I think that people will still thrive here but in very different ways than currently. Breaking the petroleum habit will not be easy or quick for us and the withdrawl pains will be very severe. But people will still live here. That gives me hope.

    Kerri in AK

  45. Joanna says:

    TMM,

    I feel like you are missing the point. People that are struggling by and large aren’t the messed up, entitled and morally debased folks that they are made out to be by the media and those in charge.

    Of course it’s nicer to believe that they got themselves into this, that they made bad choices, but I really think that if we should learn anything by this fiscal debacle, it’s not to believe everything we are told. It’s much harder and less pleasant to believe that there was a deliberate pattern of misinformation and even intimidation at times behind a lot of this mess. Yet everyday we learn more of the behind-the-scenes dealings that made victims out of so many people who would never have considered themselves in that light.

    Maybe the right thing for them personally is still to do is “suck it up, quit whining and move on”. I don’t know, I am not in their shoes.

    But a touch of compassion, instead of judgement on them, would go a very long ways in making these transitions better for everyone.

  46. dewey says:

    Hey Claire! I’m also in St. Louis but was born in Champaign-Urbana – and I LIKE the flatlands. You may have great soil, but ours here is mostly good for growing bricks. I could use some of that beautiful black loam!

    St. Louis has adequate water and surrounding farmland going for it, but there is no interest in questioning BAU. Slashing public transportation (while we continue to build giant highways) is just one example. The unemployment rate here will skyrocket in May and April, because they depend on buses to get them to their distant jobs. A note, they are ending ALL bus service in the downtown area (so expect fewer visitors to Cardinals games too). Now, shouldn’t a downtown be the one area where you’d most want to alleviate traffic and parking congestion by providing public transport? NOT HERE.

  47. dewey says:

    obviously different “they” in each sentence – sorry, no coffee yet means no coherence. How’m I gonna substitute that if it goes away? Maybe an Ilex would grow in my backyard if I knitted it a little blankie for the winter….

  48. stefanie says:

    Hi, Dewey and Claire, another St. Louisan here. Personally, I despair for this city/metro area. The suburbanites voted down the tax increase to keep our public transit going at full throttle (which wasn’t very “fast” to start with), and now we’re facing massive system cuts. We are losing higher-paying jobs; have for years. While our housing prices have not had the huge run-ups of other areas (and thus not the big downturns), there are still a lot of foreclosures. Also, during the “boom years,” many areas with good farmland (Wildwood and Chesterfield Valley, I’m looking at you) were paved over with subdivisions full of McMansions and restrictive residential covenant agreements that restrict gardens, “field crops” in the front yard, livestock, etc.

    We are tied to the area by family and by having kids in high school / state university (where they currently have scholarships.) One of the kids has professors who tell the kids, Get out of here, move to Chicago, there’s nothing going on here.

    We also seem to have a “brain drain,” an out-migration of creative and (perhaps) “crunchier” people.

    My biggest concern, re: Sharon’s excellent points, is that people have destroyed so much land *around* the city core with useless and now-often defunct tract housing, that in a seriously “expensive-oil” situation, we could no longer have the small farms *near* to the city to provide food and other products to city dwellers. I for one think that cities with good public transit (especially if fueled by nuclear power) will function “post-oil.” However, agriculture will have to radically change – and when you can’t farm close to, or in the city, that will make things more difficult.

    How much farmland in the US (especially in the St. Louis area) is under concrete and asphalt? It makes one weep.

  49. Kati says:

    For vaillance;

    I also, do not live in a village. I live just outside of Fairbanks (a 14 mile “drive” to work every day, currently) in North Pole (if you can believe it, we DO actually live in a “town” called North Pole). We’ve got rail lines that really COULD be put more to use than they are, quite a lot of small-farmers around. At least 2 of my neighbours garden in a way that makes them semi-sustainable for some of their produce and canned goods, and I’m working on it here at my house. My inlaws live a 10 minute “drive” away (slightly longer biking or walking time) and should anything happen to this house, we’ve been told we can move in with them. (As I said in a previous comment, they’ve got a couple of acres on the old family homestead. They live on one, at one point we were contemplating building a home for ourselves on the second acre.) Their place is where MOST of our gardening is done. As it is, my husband and I have worked for almost 10 years on building a relationship with our neighbours. I hope I don’t have to move to the Inlaw’s property and lose the friends and neighbours I’ve earned in MY neighbourhood. (Or the distance from the inlaws that I rather cherish. This is MY house, not my MIL’s house and I’m not living here on her good graces. I can decorate, clean and cook as _I_ wish, not as she tells me to.)

    Having said what we’re doing individually, as Kerry pointed out, there ARE CSA’s here in our area, as well as a lot of small homesteaders growing pigs, sheep, cows for 4-H and homeschooling lessons. Folks raise rabbits, chickens, bees around here without raising an eyebrow from any of their neighbours, because it IS normal. Homeschooling is a major thing around here, as so many people DO live “in the bush”, whether that means an actual villiage, or in a cabin in the woods totally distant from neighbours. And this wide availability of home-schooling resources means that those of us in public school districts can also take advantage of the home-schooling resource availability, even if we COULD actually send our kids to public school. This is what I and my husband are doing this year with our daughter.

    The state has been set up in a way that allows for a much higher sustainability level than most people assume. Unfortunately, in the past 2 decades, as “driving” has gotten so easy and has been highlighted to such a high level, we’ve gotten away from that. Our town (Fairbanks, that is, not North Pole individually) was based on river travel in the summer months, and hunkering down in the winter months. Could it be done again? You bet! Will it be the easy life we’ve become accustomed to? Nope! Are some of us willing to work through the pains of giving it a try, for better or for worse? YEAH! Why? Because I honestly cannot imagine wanting to live in any other place in our country for too long. This state has resources (and I don’t mean gold and oil) that are relatively untapped. And there’s a common sense of “do for yourself” and “help your neighbours if they need it” that I think has gone by the way-side in the “lower 48″. We’re accustomed to facing the hard winters and helping each other through, and even sharing public property in a way that makes us much better neighbours. (At -40 in January, if you want to get out of the house, move your legs, get some “fresh air”, the only option IS to go to a public space like the library or the store to hang out for a while. It can often mean interacting with folks you don’t like, but we all appreciate that this IS public space and if we don’t want to be stuck at home, that means temporarily sharing space with those we may not like that well. This communicates over to the public parks in summer.)

    As for the alcoholism problem, when “we allow” the Native population to return to their more traditional ways of community and life, maybe the issues of alcoholism won’t be as much a problem as they pick up the skills again that were poopoohed to such a point the drunkards among them felt the need to turn to alcohol. In the past 10 years, much attention has been paid to bringing back some of the traditional ways. Many of the elders in the Native communities realized that their time was limited in this life, and so they’ve pushed to return some of their traditional values to the children. Schools have been opened that focus on these traditional values, more schools are in the works that celebrate the locality and values of Alaska, and the Interior more specifically. And if we’re “THISCLOSE” to the financial and physical collapse of the USA, those Native Elders will have a couple of years with us (hopefully more) to pass on their wisdom, before they are lost to us. Almost makes a girl wish the collapse had happened a few years ago, giving us MORE time with those Elders. As it is, hopefully they’ve still got the time to teach us youngsters what we need to know to live in this environment without all the trappings of “the western world”. I’m willing to learn.

  50. auntiegrav says:

    On the house thing: Over at minyanville, (before the crash), I tried to explain to the ‘experts’ that a home does NOT have an inherent value. A location does. If your home is where your work is (a farm?), and it provides shelter during the worst of times (you don’t evacuate every year), AND you can survive with the neighbors (they aren’t going to be the zombies you’re shooting at), THEN and ONLY then does it have an inherent value as a home. Otherwise, it’s just a luxury, easily ditched when you are starving or scared.
    Our place meets 2 of 3, but either me or the neighbors are insane, and I’m not sure about me.

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