Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hell is Other People

So said Jean Paul Sartre, and on occasions I’d be inclined to agree with him. For the purposes of this blog, however, I’m thinking that it especially applies to people in collapse scenarios. Well, not all people of course, but SOME people.

I don’t know about you, but when I was young – young as in pre-adult – we lived in fear of nuclear annihilation. Growing up almost next door to an American forward strike base near Oxford practically guaranteed that me, my family and my trusty bull terrier Brutus would go up in a puff of smoke if the Ruskies pressed the red button. At the time we were told that we’d have a four-minute warning, meaning we would have four minutes to prepare to be turned into shadows. What the hell are you supposed to do with that kind of information?

Naturally, my peers and I had our own plans for what we would do during those four minutes (it never occurred to us that we might not be stood next to a radio or TV set when the warning was issued and might never get the full 240 seconds). Sensible people might be expected to drop to their knees in silent prayer, or perhaps hug their nearest and dearest as they prepared for the next life. But we were not sensible people – we were schoolboys and we had different plans. These plans tended to involve freaking out – or more specifically, freaking out in a way that ensured none of us died a virgin (even if Madame Burke, the French teacher, was the only nearest available female).

So from this we can deduce that a sudden scare like, um, an imminent nuclear holocaust has the power to turn a group of angelic-looking choirboys into psychopathic wannabe rapists. Of course, had the unthinkable actually happened I’ve no doubt that the lot of us would have fainted dead on the spot, evacuating our bowels as we slumped gibbering to the floor.

So, it’s a moot point whether certain types of people will freak out when they realize the direction industrial civilization and all its benefits is heading – especially if a black swan event has just appeared on the event horizon. Images of ravaging mobs and flesh-eating zombies are not too hard to conjure, but those were not the kinds of people I was thinking about when I picked this week’s provocative title. No, the people I was thinking about are a lot closer to home: your family and friends.

I was spurred to think of this because I got an email from a reader who, having read up on peak oil and all that, is facing the familiar dilemma of where best to position himself to avoid the worst for when the airborne faecal matter impacts on the rotary ventilation device. I imagine plenty of people are thinking the same kind of things as Jim – I know I am. Anyway, here is what he wrote:

First off let me say I'm an avid reader of your blog. Ever since I stumbled across it while reading The Archdruid Report, I've checked it almost daily for updates. I made a comment on the Hobbit blog you wrote last week explaining that I'm a fairly recently reformed Orc. My discovery of the concept of decline, and a de-industrial future, happened this past spring. Right up to that point I'd been one of the most fervent believers in the faith of progress and science; no matter how bleak the future looked, technology would find a way to save us. Needless to say it was quite a shock when that belief was shattered, and it's left me a little bewildered and directionless. That's why I'm writing to you now.

I've lived a very stable life. My job as a web developer at a Canadian federal agency has lasted almost eight years now. I fell into it mostly out of convenience and because of the money and benefits. As time progressed I became less and less enamored by the job's "golden handcuffs" and I've been feeling the urge to expand my horizons. Maybe that's why I found the concepts of peak oil and the de-industrial future so compelling. In any case, this spring I went on a sabbatical to pursue my passion for drawing and illustration.

Things were going quite well until I stumbled upon JMG's blog and finally took notice of the serious predicaments our societies face. Now, all of a sudden, spending all that time becoming an artist didn't seem like the wisest choice. I spent my sabbatical instead learning gardening, volunteering with a local community co-operative, and reading about the topics that your blog and JMG's talks about. Since I was no longer studying art, I felt I had to return to my job and cut the break short. I've regretted that choice ever since.

To adjust to the reality of our situation, I sold my house that I built myself last year, moved to an apartment downtown that's within walking distance of my job, and sold my gas guzzling mustang. I've also started selling/donating all of my stuff that I don't use anymore that's been taking up space in a storage rental. The strange thing about all of this is that it felt so right doing it. I really do enjoy living simply, and I'm at a point now in my life where I have maximum flexibility to basically do whatever I want; that's where I'm stuck.

Everyday is a battle in my mind about where I want to live and what I want to learn as a vocation going forward. Currently I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba; it's the geographical center of North America. It's also one of the coldest places to live in the winter with -20C degree weather being typical for January to March. I have family here, and a lot of friends that I've made over the past 12 years or so. All that being said, I've always been in love with British Columbia. That's where my family is originally from, and some members of my family still live in various cities there.

Considering that I have nothing really tying me down here, I've been giving serious consideration to moving out there for the improved climate, and because my instinct says it's the right thing to do. Any time I stop to consider our declining future it scares me away from moving. It's safer to stay in a place with a large network of friends and family, right? I think that's the part of me that's driving me crazy: always wanting to play it safe instead of going for what my gut is telling me is the right thing to do for me.

You've moved a lot, often to very different places, and I can't help but feel I'm missing out on valuable life experience. Travel is going to become more difficult and expensive over time as well, so I can't hum and haw about it indefinitely. Maybe I'm subconsciously asking for permission, I don't know. What are your thoughts on moving away from what you know to align your life with your beliefs?

Finally, I've been trying to summon the courage to leave my federal job for a few years now. I'm stagnating there, growing neither professionally nor personally. I am certain that defined benefit pensions will be long gone by the time I retire (that would be 28 years or so from now). I still secretly hope that somehow I can make a living drawing and illustrating, but that seems to be a fading prospect as well.

I've considered and tried blacksmithing, which I enjoy, but the question remains whether that will be a viable career during my lifetime. I noticed your work experience varies quite a lot, and perhaps you'd have some insights to share about what pursuing jobs or careers will be like in the near future. Sometimes I feel like I put too much weight on the particulars of what I want to do for a living, rather than focus on staying flexible.

I really appreciate you taking the time to read my ramblings. It's been difficult finding others to connect with who share a similar outlook as I do. As close as I am to my family and friends, I feel there's a divide now because I've moved away from the faith of progress. I can never go back to that again because it would be tantamount to willful ignorance. I'm rambling again. Any insights or thoughts or opinions would be wonderful.



Naturally, it’s nice and flattering to think that someone would seek my advice on something of such life changing importance, but as to whether I’d be the right person to ask, well … my experience of Canada is limited to spending a couple of weeks paddling around Algonquin Park in a kayak, trying to avoid bears and moose. So instead of offering sage advice on where or indeed if to relocate, I thought I’d proffer the one thing I did learn when I experienced my warm-up collapse lite in Spain five years ago. And that involved people.

Yes, people freaking out when the chips are down is something we are going to have to learn to live with. Because, in my experience, when things go wrong, the immediately noticeable human reaction is not to try and fix it but instead to start pointing fingers and jumping up and down on the spot shouting ‘It’s YOUR fault!’ over and over again.

And if they are not blaming you they are quietly trying to screw you over and make sure the same fate doesn’t await them. I know this sounds pessimistic, and I’m not a pessimistic person, so I shall balance it by saying that we’ll also get to see the best of people too. There will be people who will be willing to help you out, listen to your woes, offer a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on, and fix your car when you can’t afford a mechanic.

The trick is to figure out in ADVANCE which type of person will be good in a crisis and which will not, and start being nice to the former right now. It’s not really that hard to figure out. I’ve identified four basic types, based on my own experience:
  1. People who are vain, shallow and financially successful, will tend to be looking out for numero uno when TSHTF. That’s what they are good at. These are the kind of people who will take snide pleasure in seeing you failing because it boosts their own sense of being better than you. They might even take you for a ride, lending you money at inflated interest rates and pretending to be concerned about your welfare. Steer clear of these types – let’s call them predators. They are recognisable right now because they will collect interiors magazines, send their children to expensive music academies and possess spotless shiny cars. The men will have partings and firm opinions on sound investments and the housing market. Avoid.
  2. The second type is the flake. They are probably lovable and witty in normal circumstances, but when circumstances stop being normal they go to pieces. Suddenly, their knowledge of computer games, iPhone apps and the plotlines and actors in every boxed TV series and Hollywood movie released in the last 25 years will be of no use to them and they don’t know what to do. Given that they’re generally quite harmless, you might want to stay friends with flakes, as long as they are not eating all your food and begging for favours all the time without giving anything back. If you can, try and train your flakes to be something useful.
  3. The third type is the robot. These are the oil age people who have been programmed to expect no deviation from business as usual. Having never spent more than 30 seconds contemplating their own existence they just assume that business as usual is the only modus operandi of the entire human race. Their religion, although they don’t know it, is scientific progressive materialism, and their cemented minds are incapable of accepting any alternate reality* [see footnote]. If the mythic narrative instilled in them by society and TV is interrupted for some reason, then it must be somebody’s fault and somebody had better punish somebody else so that business as usual can resume. These are the kind of people whom Dmitry Orlov memorably said would sit in their darkened houses wearing dirty clothes waiting for the lights to come on again - until they shiver to death. 
  4. The fourth type is the type you should not just befriend but actually aim to BE. These are what you might call genuine people. They are down to earth, empathic and practical. They share what they have and are good company. They are probably hopeless at financial matters, which is why they are already quite good at being poor. These are people who are not materialists or conservatives, in the sense that they already see the world in many shades of grey and are not hopelessly hooked on the naive assumptions and alleged benefits of industrial society – so when bad things happen, they’ll just sit back, take a toke on their woodbine and tell you they’ve been expecting it for a long time. This is why they’re already multi skilled and living in small insulated houses surrounded by organic vegetables and genuine friends rather than living alienated lives in McMansions surrounded by plasma screens and fake predator friends. They are easily recognisable because they will probably be wearing hand-knitted and brightly-coloured sweaters and will have laughter lines, sparkly eyes and a collection of mongrel hounds which they’ve rescued from various unpleasant fates.

So, having just neatly divided all of your friends and family into four basic categories, I’m now going to tell you the bad news. The bad news is that quite a lot of your friends and family belong to the first three categories. Hopefully none of your friends will be ruthless predators, although you’ll doubtless have some relatives who fill that role. Most of them will in all likelihood be flakes and robots, and this is where things can get painful because in the case of robots when business as usual is interrupted they will be looking for someone to blame, and that person might just be you. Yes, in their minds, all that talk you had been spouting about financial meltdown, oil crises, and their pensions being worth nothing has actually CAUSED it to pass. By refusing to believe in the mass hallucination of the modern consumer lifestyle, you and people just like you went and caused it to disappear.  And for that you shall be punished!

So there’s my advice in a nutshell. My internal jury is still out on what John Michael Greer calls ‘collapsing in place’ (surely if you live as an outsider in a tinder box inner-city area this is not such a good option?) but you can at least surround yourself with people who are not likely to freak out during the long descent. Luckily, if you look around, there are plenty of places with an above average number of category four types. I know I have certainly found one, which is where I was last week sans-internet.

But perhaps someone with better knowledge of North America has some more concrete advice for Jim?

* To resurrect Jean Paul Sartre for a second time in the same post, it is useful to consider that he had ideas about the people I have harshly labelled as ‘robots’, saying they are in thrall to bad faith. This is defined as follows (according to Wikipedia):

Bad faith (from French, mauvaise foi) is a philosophical concept used by existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to describe the phenomenon where a human being under pressure from societal forces adopts false values and disowns his/her innate freedom to act authentically. It is closely related to the concepts of self-deception and ressentiment.

Which would imply that the robot personality is a victim of him/herself, although in my opinion for practical purposes that doesn’t necessarily excuse them.


  1. BTW apologies for changing the design theme of this blog YET AGAIN! I felt that the black theme, whilst being suitably depressing for a blog about energy death, was hard on the eyes. Hence the new look.

    I promise I won't do it again.

    1. Personally, I prefer the new look - it is much easier on these old eyes. Thank you.

  2. Good piece as usual, though I think its actually too optimistic.

    First, I think its harder to spot the various types of people than you make out. In particular the "predators" are quite capable of disguising themselves as "genuine people".

    Second, as this thing continues to deteriorate and people become more stressed, I think you will see fewer "robots" (and most of those who are left will be elderly), and more "flakes" and "predators". People will react either by essentially freaking out or grabbing as much as they can, by any way they can. And actually the predator behavior when you think of it is really a way of freaking out, unless you have cut a deal with the space aliens to haul yourself and your stuff off the planet.

    It will be a problem putting together a support network when most of the potential network is trying to con you and/or suffering from various sorts of personality disorders. There is no good answer to this one.

    Also, I am of the age where I am used to thinking in terms of outbreaks of nuclear war as the ultimate disaster, but I think that "the sh-- hits the fan", "when the balloon goes up", or other phrases we have for that are not a good mentality to get into. This is a little too meta for a blog comment, but I think its important to at least try to be clear-headed as to what is happening.

    The big push to increase agricultural yields through "the Green Revolution", essentially expanded use of (mostly petroleum based) fertilizers, and selecting for types of crops with the highest yields (at a cost to nutritional value and hardiness) resulted in an explosion of the planet's population up to the limits of the expanded agricultural production, exactly as Malthus predicted.

    The attempt to move more of these people into industrialized society resulted in so much pollution being pumped into the atmosphere that we actually may be in a situation where the climate heats up to a point where it can't sustain human life. Even if that doesn't happen, the increased demand for resources of all types has led to all sorts of stresses, including the depletion of the cheapest-to-extract fossil fuel reserves (this is what "peak oil" means). More resources are being devoted to extracting fossil fuel as a result, meaning the world is getting poorer.

    This is a long-winded way of saying that things going bad means living in an overpopulated world that is steadily getting poorer. Basically what is happening now. The future will be a somewhat bleaker version of what is happening now. Well absent actual nuclear war, which is still a possibility, or the global heat death planet thing.

    So my advice to Jim is to stay in Winnipeg until he gets laid off from his safe government job due to budget cutbacks. Try to amass some savings with the salary. At that point use the freedom to travel or move someplace else. The thing with staying on the job is that salaried, permanent positions are probably one of those things that are features of a more prosperous world and will get steadily rarer, so if you have one, keep it unless the workplace threatens your sanity too much. The thing with collapsing in place is that this is global, and the reaction of TPTB is unpredictable, so there is no "good" place to go and wait out the storm. But ties to your current location will likely weaken, and you may be happier elsewhere.

    1. Ed - yep, there is no 'safe' place to escape to. I have come to think of late that the reason peak oil, energy speculation etc is so hot in the US as opposed to, say, the UK, is that we (in Britain) have been trudging this long and weary road for many decades.

      Back in the 1970s we were basically in a state of collapse. Margaret Thatcher and co. hauled us out of it by flooding the economy with cheap oil (courtesy of an obliging North Sea). We thought the party was never going to end, but the reality is that the planet doesn't owe us any favours.

      I should have included another type - the whinger. These are people who never stop moaning about how everything has gone to the dogs and how great it all used to be. I suspect there will be a fair few whingers around in our low energy future.

  3. Great post, touches on many of the themes I've thought about since my mind lost its progress habit. Generally I think it is right to stay in place, and adapt - learn skills, grow some food, work with your hands, build up your local contacts, all that stuff. Nobody knows what's going to happen, so making bold plans to go somewhere new is always going to be a shot in the dark to some extent. But there was another line on JMGs blog some time ago that also stuck with me - find a place out of history's way. And maybe out of extreme weather's way as well. Since Jim is in super cold Manitoba, it might be a good idea to get to someplace where getting through a winter without fossil heat is more doable. But who knows? I'm living in southern Connecticut, where I've chosen to stay, and right now Hurricane Sandy is barreling down on us. So I'm going to keep adapting in place, but mostly I'm focusing on enjoying each day, doing practical things, and accepting that I don't have a great deal of control over events anyway.

    I don't want to complicate your four categories, but one type of person we have over in my neighborhood are people who are quite sympathetic to the idea of an energy-limited, economically challenged future, and who wouldn't be surprised if it all comes tumbling down. But at the same time they don't seem to do much in their own back yard to prepare. So they are aware, but flakey - flake-savants perhaps? In general, these people think that some big political solution is what is needed; growing their own food or insulating the house or something isn't on the radar screen. I'm sure we'll see a lot more sub-categories open up as we go down the road a while.

    1. Don't worry about complicating my categories - there's only so much you can say in a blog post. I could have included many more, but from my own experience, these were the ones that stuck out in my mind. I should point out that mine was a bit unusual because most of the people involved already considered themselves pioneers, to some extent. They had already packed in their previous dull lives and taken the leap to move to Spain and try their luck (well, most of them). When the Spanish economy collapsed and the little expat bubble with it we quickly found ourselves divided into predators and genuines - or wolves and lambs. The robots came in from outside in the 'real world' we had fled. As for the flakes, that was more of an observation from life here in Denmark, observing people who have hit financial hard times.

      As for finding a place out of history's way - exactly! I'm trying to develop a formula along the lines of: lack of historical invasions+lack of stealable resources+numerous hobbits (see last post)+fertile land+lack of natural catastrophes and nuclear power stations = one of the safer places to position yourself. I sense a new post coming on ...

  4. My advice to Jim, would be to quit his job, fly to Peru and spend 90-120 days in the jungle, acquainting himself with Ayahuasca, with the intent of opening himself up to the divine, to find his purpose. That, or find a place to land in BC and start smoking copious amounts of pot and consuming every so often about 5 grams of Stropharia cubensis. Or do that in Winnipeg, while planning how to stop suckling at the great beast tit.

    Now is not the time for half-measures and hym-haw I'm comfortable in the status-quo but I'm screaming inside. Make a commitment to yourself Jim, to take your awakening somewhere you know you must go, despite what anyone you know might say about it. That may very well be Winnipeg, but if you stay make it count. Trust your judgement and become a genuine one - and I recommend blogging about your transformation - you write well.

    Nice assessment, Hepp. Hopefully what remains after this all shakes out is mostly the #4 type.

    1. Amen, William. Also, given that Jim seems to have become 'aware' only recently, it's likely that his network in Winnipeg consists mostly of the first three types.

      If was a young man and didn't already live in a really good location for adaptation, I'd likely hie for B.C. myself.

    2. William - I sometimes wonder whether my occasional acid trips while I was living in London had some bearing on my outlook in life. Then I think of the people I was with at the time - they have all turned into investment bankers and IT people, so maybe it had nothing to do with it.

      BTW, did you know they are now trialling magic mushrooms on cancer patients? Apparently it gives sufferers a chance to 'put things into perspective'.

    3. Martin,

      Best of luck in your locale. Adapt well.


      Back in the day I hear, CIA agents were fond of LSD too. A very neutral hallucinogen. As for the shrooms, it's about damn time they started testing. I heard too they started testing ketamine on people with depression. It is said to work in the extreme, instantly.

    4. Thanks William - doin' the best I can with what I've got.

      However, the adaptiveness of any location is, I believe, highly subjective. For example, the Archdruid used to live hereabouts but left for a 'better place' for a variety of reasons, among which may have been the rather strange mix of personalities here in our smallish enclave.

  5. once again you've managed to pen another seriously synchronistic blog. So much so, in fact, that it sparked me to wake up at 5 in the morning to write a blog in response to the gears you got turning with the bad faith bit.

    I linked to your blog several times in the piece and gave credit where credit was due. I'd say more but I blogged it already. Jim may find some value in reading it. He should just know that I don't know what the hell I'm talkin' bout half of the time.

    1. Lucid, maybe there's some kind of mind meld going on here :-)

      Great post, btw. I'm not the best one to give advice, but I have had the experience of being hauled out of blissland back to 'reality', so can appreciate your dilemma. I have plenty of 'genuine friends' in the same position down in Spain - only thing is they'd love to have jobs but there aren't any! Not quite sure how they manage to stay alive, but somehow they seem to (and enjoy life too)!

      I read a book called Farm City last year by Novella Carpenter (whose blog sometimes appears on the right hand side here). That gave me a few ideas ... I'd recommend it.

  6. The best way to adapt to a life with less is to start living a life with less. If you are married and have children, that may be a difficult sell for the rest of your family. However, if you are single, you are all set to go.
    I suggest some long camping trips as a good way to practice simple living. For one thing, you have less when camping, and for another, you get to meet all kinds of people who are not camping for practice but out of necessity. These are the people who have already stepped off the bus so to speak. And they are out there living at campgrounds.
    If you have the stomach for it, try some urban camping. Live out of a backpack or a shopping cart. Sleep on door steps. In less than a week you and your clothes will develop the kind of patina that will make you invisible to most people except the ones living on the street.
    All of this by way of mental conditioning and to develop some appreciation for which part of society is willing to accept you as a member when you have nothing.
    I would not quit my job just yet but use it to finance my education in low entropy living, learning some new skills purchasing some new stuff like tools or a vegetable plot. And if nothing else, if you discover that you are not cut out for poverty, hang on to prosperity for as long as you can and embrace poverty only when you must.

    1. Some sterling advice there Wolfgang. When I was young free and single I lived out of a backpack for a year around Asia and Australia, picking up seasonal work in the latter on fruit farms. In Asia I learned how people could live with next to nothing and still get by (whole families living in cupboard sized 'houses' in India, including workshops) - so if this is what in store for us I am not worried at all.

      These days I am working in a 'safe' job, but spend a lot of my time (and money) buying old tools, learning new things and generally getting ready for whatever direction the universe cares to take us in next.

    2. Here's a link to a how-to site on which I posted some pictures of a guy living off his bicycle. Also lots of good comments there from people who have done similar things.
      The instructable web site is also a great resource for making almost anything on the cheap by yourself from stuff other people have thrown away. Type in bicycle trailer or yurt or tent or anything you want to make and you will find a whole handful of instructions on how to make your own.
      And yes, I believe that in third world countries most of the people are already living the kinds of low-entropy lifestyles that may be in store for the rest of us. Maybe that's a good place for Jim to do some research. In the US and perhaps to a lesser extent in Canada which has better social services, examples of off-the-grid living are probably harder to find, but they are out there.

  7. Hi all,

    Jason, I'm another reader who found you through JMG, and I really enjoy your perspective from Europe. By chance, I live in BC, blogging about my homestead on Vancouver Island. Jim's question is a tough one for me, as my husband and I have wrestled with the same question of would we be better off somewhere else? I've come to believe it's a bit of a futile question for us, though perhaps it isn't for Jim.

    First, I think it's a very natural reaction to "waking up" to feel like this is all SO dramatic, that we need to take what feels like equally dramatic life changes. That urge to DO something in the face of the coming crisis can be overwhelming at times.

    But I think moving is something to be cautious about. The question of who you want around you, and what services and resources will be available to you where you are is really important. Winnipeg, or any city downtown, has some advantages and disadvantages. The culture of the Prairies is a down to earth, can-do, not phased by much one, which has a LOT to offer. Winnipeg's isolation will also mean that it is out of the conflict zone--and being a little farther north of the US border than some Canadian cities may also prove helpful! It's also a big plus in my mind that you don't have to go far out of the city to access cheap land. And even though the winters are harsh, they will be warming, and the big plus relative to BC is that MB has sunshine all winter, which makes greenhouses a really viable proposition (if you can anchor them from the wind!). As in the US midwest, there's lots of opportunities for the resourceful.

    BC may be a romantic option for some, and I'm born and raised throughout the province. I love it here, but mostly simply because it's my home. But there are major downsides to someone new. Number 1 is the cost of living--it's WAY higher than other parts of the country. Culturally, the leftist pockets are counter balanced by a lot of right wing survivalist and corporate-dependent communities. Cheaper places to live are those already devastated by resource-busted economies. It's a province polarized politically, which can make it hard to get things done.

  8. Many from elsewhere also find BC's personal communities hard to break into. The Prairies and the Maritimes have the reputation for being socially open and welcoming places; BC is often not--people have established communities that they are not always willing to bring new people into, despite friendliness on the surface.

    Vancouver Island has a lot going for it, but it's expensive and will be affected by sea level rise; personally I would stay out of Vancouver and out of the desertifying Okanagan. The rest of the province has winters not dissimilar to those in Manitoba. So I would be wary of romanticizing.

    That said, I am all for following your heart. My suggestion would be to come out for a couple of weeks and explore a bit and talk to people with a realistic ear. Listen to your heart. But for us, family is a really important factor. Our options are hub's family on the east coast, in the weather-battered zone, or here, where we suffer the expenses and more financial risk, but where we do have jobs right now and a house with a big garden that we're expanding every year.

    I have to say that I have recently also begun to feel like the time to move has actually come and gone. When I first began to think about what was coming seriously, I too had the "we're still mobile" feelings. But I'm actually starting to feel like that's already an illusion. Perhaps it's different in Jim's case, as a renter (?), but around here, things aren't selling. The economy is OK, but not great, and most people are in limbo. I actually think that we could make a decision to move and then be hit by the economic reality that there is no longer a real estate market that makes that viable--sales are down by 30% here over last year. Prices haven't come down yet, but nothing's moving. I think those like JMG who are suggesting that we have to adapt in place because where we are now IS where we're going to be forced to stay are right. We're beginning the collapse in slow motion at the moment, IMHO.

    That said, whatever's true is never true for everyone. Some people are still successfully moving and starting over even now. There's no perfect place. There are some bad places that are worth getting out of. But there's so much unpredictability that your evalutation of "who do you want around you" is as good a criteria as any.

    Hope that's helpful--sorry it's such a long comment!
    Good luck to Jim with his decision,
    Toni @ BackyardFeast

  9. Hi Toni. Thanks for your enlightening comments. I agree that collapsing in slow motion is what it's all about. When we look back in a couple of decades we will realise that the music stopped fairly abruptly, but that it didn't seem so at the time. Financial paralysis and worries about job security seem to be the things keeping people stuck to the same spot. And although I (cheekily) only really mentioned people in this post, I agree that there are a host of other factors to consider (with a great big one being sea level rise, as you mentioned). Anyway, I will check out you blog. Thanks again.

  10. There certainly is some synchronicity going around. I posted a similar essay on my blog two days before Jason:

    As far as advice for Jim, I'm in a similar spot. Currently unemployed, I fell into web coding and UX design. The pay is quite good when I can find a job, and I have about two years' savings. I'm taking the time off to meet some writing goals I've had my whole life, as well as relax post-divorce and post-white-middle-class life expectations. I bought a new townhouse in Seattle and spent a whole $200 for extra attic insulation, to further lower my negligible electric and gas bills. There's no emergency, but I'm depressed at the sudden, unexpected passing away of my cat and the letdown after a summer in NYC, so would go back to work again if I could find anything.

    The advice, such as it is, would be to not panic. The point I made too many times in my blog, and probably to convince myself, is that nobody knows the future. Certainly the consumerist cornucopia we've known cannot continue, but exactly how it won't is really anybody's guess. I would disagree with drawing and illustrating being without value. It is important to follow bliss, and you're learning many other things while you're learning that.

    Accepting your freedom and that nothing but fear holds you back is the most important thing. I could move to New York or the beach right now. The true friends I have will stick with me, by phone, email, or letter, or whatever happens in spirit and thought. In the end we are just poor mortals and we should be kind and honest about our powers. There are many ways to save yourself.

    I hope this is helpful and not condescending. Thanks Jason for a great blog.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.