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Civic Ecology: Where Do We Go From Here?

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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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'Civic Ecology' wasn't even in my vocabulary, so I did some reading... The general feeling I get regarding the use of the term is that our old system has failed, and we are grasping about looking for something that might replace it... Or perhaps that's just my world view coloring everything that I read.

In any case, one of the great sadnesses of my life is noticing the failed infrastructure in my community. I see abandoned orchards, and fields left fallow for decades on end. I see fruit and vegetable gardens that go unharvested. I see barns falling down when a nail here or there would extend their lives for decades. Roads don't get maintained, and when a bridge/culvert fails people fill it in with gravel, or drive around it through the borrow pit. I notice surreptitious plantings of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs in parks, along roadways, and in the national forest. I notice fruit bearing branches grafted onto decorative street trees. I also see a government intent on poisoning every square inch of land that it can claim as it's own, and much that is private property in a futile attempt to keep out any foreign weeds or bugs. Around here the government claims ownership over every drop of rain that falls onto the roof of anyone's house. I see about 1/3 of my community without jobs and with no prospect of ever holding another job so they hustle for a living. Perhaps they sell black market food, eggs, or milk. Or offer childcare of massage. The licensing requirements and regulations are so onerous that there is no hope of making a legitimate living. I see people that are so disgusted about the indignity of applying for a driver license identity document that they have stopped driving. The interplay between these two ways of living is fascinating to me... As far as I can tell, the technocrats are not only bankrupt, but more bankrupt than all previous bankruptcies in the history of the world combined. In the long-term, it seems obvious to me that the free-folk will win this particular struggle. Looks to me like technocratic government is no longer affordable now that we have burned through half a billion years of fossil fuel in a few decades. I wonder: What will the replacement look like? Feudalism? War Lords? Hopiland?

When I do the math, the cost of driving has become so expensive that the work I have to do to pay for a truck, and all the associated expenses, takes longer than it would take to walk where I need to go. Whenever I mention that to my family, they respond with something like "We ain't poor!!!" So the motivation to avoid simplifying my life to live in harmony with the new reality seems to be all tied up in not being perceived as being poor. I keep thinking that it is better to choose to simplify ahead of time than to be forced to simplify by a crash or disaster.

I gave up a career as a research chemist in order to become a farmer, because I think that farming is one of the safest occupations during a crisis or disaster. I have put great effort into growing all of my own seeds for every variety that I can coax to grow in our climate. I suppose that I give away more food than I sell.

Marianne: Lucky you to be in the midst of observing the restructuring of society... Do you have a best guess about how the tensions between the free-folk and the government will play out over the next few decades? What aught I to be doing as a small-scale farmer to keep myself safe and to nourish my community? I'm an introvert, so networking isn't my thing... In general, what would you like to see the average Joe on the street doing to make life easier for us all in the coming decades?
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Hi Joe, I am not sure I have an answer for your question as the book is more about how people take responsibility for restoring "broken places" like vacant lots. It doesn't specifically critique the government, but suggests that often when government neglects responsibilities for stewarding public spaces, people find another, often positive solution. Although the book focuses largely on urban areas, my co-author Keith Tidball is engaged in habitat restoration projects with Ducks Unlimited and veterans groups in agricultural and forested habitats. If you want to take a look at the book, it's now available through iTunes (although I think the hard copy is the same price as the eBook). Best of luck, Marianne
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