The Great Recession temporarily slowed the internal migration which has seen the population moving steadily south, west, and into suburbia. There were arguments about the overall shape, size, and significance of the shift but now that the dust has settled somewhat every source that I have seen indicates that once again native born Americans are resuming the old pattern with the Carolinas, Florida, Texas, and Arizona becoming the primary destinations of choice.
There is, however, a much, much smaller counter movement taking place; a nearly imperceptible shift of the most influential bloggers and podcasters in my life, none of which is aware of my blog or even my existence, to the north, to the east, and, unsurprisingly, not into suburbia. Of the 4, I would say that 2 made the move to where they now reside very thoughtfully in the sense that the place and form of their relocation was intentional and designed to provide for them as the world changed in ways in which they have foreseen. The other 2 moves seem less systematically wrought, but are still conscious manifestations of how they see the world.
Jim Kunstler foresees a Long Emergency. Read the book of the same name or the World Made by Hand series of novels, or listen to a dramatic reading of his play Big Slide and you get an idea of what he envisions and why he lives where he lives. Having predicted (over and over again) the real estate crash of 2008 he rented a place in Saratoga Springs, New York, and used the crash as an opportunity to purchase a home with a sizable chunk of land just outside the small town of Greenwich, New York near the confluence of the Battenkill and Hudson rivers because he believes that waterways, walkable small towns, and local food are the future. For 30 years he looked at what was and what was to come and decided on this:
Chris Martenson has only been on my radar for a few years and he moved from the Gold Coast of southeast Connecticut to Monatague, Massachusetts long before I ever read any of his work. He filmed an infomercial promoting his Crash Course at the local PBS station studios not a 10 minute walk from where I sit right now, but I didn’t see the special until recently and I somehow completely missed the Crash Course for years. It takes everything I’ve lazily and unsystematically believed and coalesces it into a coherent worldview. I’m not sure if Chris relocated to rural Western Massachusetts because he sees it definitively as the best place to be given his take on the condition of the world, or, more likely, that it was the closest and cheapest of a number of places which fit the bill. Read Chris and Jim, or read my prior pieces on them and you’ll see that as closely as I feel my thoughts align with theirs on the shape of the world to come they would both see my choice of living in a majority minority urban location, albeit in New England, as risky and unwise.
K.M.O. interviews a lot of people and talks about a lot of things that don’t interest me in the slightest, but when our interests do coincide I find his insight and humility to be enlightening and, of all things, very much grounded in the idea of actually experiencing life. He talks quite a bit about his excessive zeal with respect to the singularity, Peak Oil, doom and gloom, and has a nice way of expressing profound ideas in simple ways. I can go months and months and do nothing but delete his podcasts, but when one sticks, it really sticks. He has moved from the Deep South, to New York City, and now to Bellows Falls, Vermont. His many relocations as described in his own words seem to me to be a sort of performance art with every new chapter a response to the previous one as artistic movements react against the constraints and expectations of the older paradigm. He will probably be off soon; his sojourn in New England just another episode in an eventful life.
The newest New Englander is John Michael Greer. If Kunstler built the foundation of my ideology it has been “The Archdruid” who has refined it over the last three years. His weekly blog and his books “The Decline and Fall of the American Empire” and “Dark Age America” have helped me to better envision what my world might look like in the coming decades and puts my preparations for the future in a more hopeful and less panicked light. He credited, at least in part, his neighbors in Cumberland, Maryland with helping him predict the electoral victory of Donald Trump before he was even the front runner among Republicans. His essay on class and politics in America is still, to me, the single most important work for understanding our current political situation. If people would prefer that the upcoming populist rebellion have a left wing rather than a right wing worldview his essay is essential reading. Hint: calling everyone you disagree with racist xenophobes is not the path to electoral success.
John Michael has moved not just to New England, but to a dense, urban, multicultural, economically struggling city in New England, though sadly not my quaint little dense, urban, multicultural, economically struggling community; he now lives in East Providence, Rhode Island. I had somehow missed this but it seems he wanted a bit more mobility in his carless life than a transit poor city in Appalachia could provide, but he wanted a place which was inexpensive, and diverse as well. As his most recent novel was set in Rhode Island he and his wife explored the area and decided to give it a shot.
As JMG has often appeared on all three podcasts of the others mentioned in this essay, I hope that he will soon reappear on them and that the topic will turn to his most recent move. As with K.M.O. I don’t believe this move represents any sort of definitive statement as to where best to live in order to survive the ongoing catabolic collapse of Industrial Civilization, but I wonder if Chris and Jim in particular will open up and confront JMG on his choice given their views of the latent threat existent in America’s cities.
Johnny Sanphillipo (Maybe he’ll move here too!) wrote that he recently sat in on a Peak Prosperity get together and brought up how his city place had acted as a refuge for people living as homesteaders during the most recent Northern California wildfires. Did that resonate with Chris at all I wonder? Not that he is going to move to Springfield any time soon, but can he see any wisdom in a more urban prepper strategy?
Look, I’m here. I could see a handful of scenarios that could cause me to move, but it doesn’t seem likely. I live in a walkable place, with improving transit, excellent natural resources and a resilient infrastructure. I have a plan for the future which includes food, folks, finances, and fun. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and it will all have been for nought; the denouement of my favorite Twilight Zone episode can manifest in an infinite number of ways. Life is a game, and the rules, the board, and the players are constantly changing. Enjoying it has to be the goal, because if only survival is winning, in the end we all lose.