I just finished two books about deliberately supporting our local economic infrastructures to save the environment, foster community and happiness and to live healthier. The books: Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology and Deep Economy point out how hard it is for most of us to actually do this without a lot of consideration.
The thrust of both books is that Americans have more stuff than they’ve ever had before, but we’re not happy. We don’t feel responsibility or connection to our neighbors or environment. And all of the shit we buy to alleviate the angst of living in a world going to hell in a global-warming-holywar-handbasket is actually feeding the life sucking, big-agro, big-oil Jack Abramof Satan machine in Bentonville and Washington that continues to make us fat and stupid while poisoning/starving the rest of the world.
Luckily, I live in Eugene, Oregon where this is old news. In fact, I had to wait for two months to read Deep Economy because all three copies have been on hold in the library non-stop since it was published.
I read Flipping the Switch first. Eric Brende set out to write a book about living without technology, and determining how much technology we need to have in our lives to be happy. I didn’t necessarily get that out of the book, but I did get an entertaining overview of Anabaptist philosophy and a solid argument for community-based subsistence and support. It gets a B+ reccomendation.
Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy (grade A) had a lot of similar ideas — and a lot of great modern, secular examples of communities living on local goods and services. McKibben points to peak oil and global warming and says we may be passed the tipping point. It’s time to start supporting your local farmers before the Cargills of the world wipe them all out; the bottom drops out of the cheap oil equation and there is no more fertilizer, no more energy to pump irrigation; the mono-culture of big-Ag turns all the topsoil into a nutrient starved, eroded desert.
Because when Mad Max time comes around, I think I’d rather be friends with the back-to-the-earth dude who’s got 11 acres planted with pumpkins and tomatoes and knows how to cure his own ham, rather than the poor bastard sitting on 800 acres of dried up, subsidized frankencorn, and half a million dollars in farm equipment he can’t afford to use.
Let’s get serious: I’m not a farm policy expert. But I’ve got to believe that Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben and Eric Brende are right. This country is broken. And the first steps to recovery are going to be local. That’s why I plan to one day, drop off the EWEB grid, move to a shared-housing community and raise goats.
Some of you might say, Matt, you don’t know anything about goats. You get paid to write stuff for the Internet every single day. Get a hold of yourself.
And I say: I’m hedging my bets. Sure, I love being a tech journalist — it’s a blast. But I’m also going to learn how to preserve food without refrigeration, learn how to grow plants through the winter, and maybe meet more neighbors. Because when the big meltdown comes, MySpace social media skills aren’t going to amount to much.