Back to the Future

SUBHEAD: But what may happen as things unfold is that you are trapped in place as well as time.

By Juan Wilson on 31 May 2017 for Island Breath -

Image above: Michale J. Fox as Marty McFly, the 1985 time traveler as he appeared in 2015 (Back to the Future II) and in 1885 (Back to the Future III). Same guy - same place. From (

According to the US Census 26% of Americans described where they live as urban, 53% said suburban and 21% said rural. With what appears to be an approaching crunch on resources, energy, food and water availability it would be wise to evaluate where you want to be when the shit hits the fan.

In all likelihood the urban and suburban areas will be less hospitable than the rural areas not long after any significant interruption of truck, rail and sea transport takes place. Food security is an obvious vital requirement for living anywhere for a length of time.

It may be that cities will be serviced longer and better than suburbs. That's because of current arrangements of distribution networks from major hubs.

Urban centers won't have the food security they once enjoyed when the areas around them were filled with truck farms and dairies that were close by - but have since been converted to suburbs.

But, none the less, some, like Ugo Bardi think cities will do better than suburbs after the coming crash. See ( Some cities, like New York, secured vast water resources two centuries ago that could support millions on urban dwellers.

However, places like Phoenix and Los Angeles will not fair well as we regress into the 21st century. Their urban and suburban areas will suffer greatly.

Here in Hawaii we have the potential to weather the oncoming collapse better than most places. Although Oahu's population of almost one million is doomed if it had to rely on that island's resources, the outer islands still have low enough populations that Hawaii, on the whole, could feed and water its people.

Kauai Land Use Plan

Image above: Proposed Land Use Map for Kauai by Juan Wilson presented at the LEGS Sustainability Conference 10/13/07, and published by the Garden Island News in November. Click to enlarge. From ( See also (

Over ten years ago I wrote about this future though the year 2050, here: ( I certainly got many things wrong in the view forward. I thought then that tourism would collapse in the near future... tourism (escapism) has never been bigger... yet I believe tourism is still about to fail. I also predicted many things that I thought would have already happened... and didn't. I wrote in the 2006 introduction:
Failure of the Suburban Dream
The sourness of the underlying US economy will be tasted for the first time by many who thought they were immune; they were living in the “non-negotiable life style” of America. But an economy with a foundation of building suburban sprawl and filling it with cheap plastic crap will soon seem quaint and naive.

Our efforts to forestall economic disaster with lower interest rates and taking on more debt will fail. The dollar will further erode as the Chinese and Japanese look at our economic death spiral and decide that it’s time to stop enabling us.

Bottom line: America is heading for an economic collapse worse that the crash of 1929. Many of the same elements of speculation and economic risk taking will be at play but the underlying failure of growth based economy in a world of finite resources will be clearer. There won‘t be an easy way out. Epochal change will be at hand.

The signs of the economic collapse of our growth economy are inescapable. The housing market is tanking. People are stretched too thin with too much debt. There will be mortgage failures. Credit cards bills will go unpaid. Chevy Suburbans will not be sold. Plasma HDTVs will never make it past the demo floor.

The crap could really hit the fan as early as the first half of 2007. It could coincide with the beginning of our exit from Iraq. And that does not mean we should stay there. The alternative to leaving Iraq and dealing with the aftermath is worse for America and the world.

If America, feeling cornered and hungering for a sense of power, chose to be lead by a charismatic fascist the damage would be incalculable. Self delusion might drive us to seek past glory. That leader is likely preach “It’s Not Twilight for America”. The hidden message being it is time to grab what we can from the world and bunker down for the end times.

But the world won‘t put up with that solution for long. Even as the only “superpower”, we had been fairly ineffective fighting people hand to hand in their own neighborhoods. Being in a bigger more widespread war with the world won’t save our idea of civilization.

Sustainable Self-Reliance Can Save Us
Let me say, before we begin, it is my opinion that many negative effects on the future could be controlled or modified by reasonable action today. These actions include increasing energy independence and greatly reducing consumption, achieving a moratorium on speculative development, reforesting mountain foothills, and becoming self sustaining on local food production.

But without a compelling reason (like economics) people are unlikely to make the changes in lifestyle necessary to avoid future trouble. Thus this cautionary tale may even be too optimistic.

In any case, with or without a fascist political sidetrack, America will face what much of the world already faces - at best dealing with self sufficiency and diminishing expectations - and at worst dealing with starvation and barbaric conditions. We can only hope that the effort to obtain sustainable self reliance reaches a level that preserves a fair amount of knowledge, culture, and civilization.
There is a case to be made for staying with Urban - if you are there already. Cities flourished in the past without automobiles or electric lights - even without running potable water and flush toilets.
That is if food and energy are going to be available at a reasonable level when the fossil fuel powered delivery system tanks.

My recommendation for the last decade has been that the State of Hawaii reevaluate it's Land Use. See my Garden Island News article from November 2007. (

It made the point that currently there are four land use designations: Conservation (~47% of land), Agriculture (~47% of land), Urban (~5% of land) and Rural (~1%). I have no problem with Conservation being 47%, but Agriculture, in the form of sugarcane and pineapple plantations is all over. Note that depending on the source and time these percentages vary. Most agree that Urban and Rural make up about 10%.

A new designation should be created I call Forest land. That is land that has no residence or homesteading. Forest land would take the inland half of Agriculture for growing timber trees and food bearing trees that would be sustained indefinitely.  It would also have some pastoral and support hunting.

The lowland half of Agriculture would be converted to Rural Land. Rural Land would support homesteading and residential farms like what is currently done on Rural Land. That centers on growing food: fruit, market vegetable as well as traditional taro and rice. It also means raising horses, tending fish-farms and rearing egg laying and meat birds.

People sense time travel is not possible. We know we cannot go back. But Americans have always felt mobile and that were plenty of wide open space available. We were not trapped in place. There were always new new horizons, new fields to plow, new lakes to fish and new forests to hunt.

Well as the old real estate saying goes: "They aren't making land any more." In fact what's left is being devoured. So get to be where you want to ride out the future pronto. It will only be harder later, and you will need lots of practice up front to live in that future.

But what may happen as things unfold is that you are trapped in place as well as time. If that's the case you will have to make it happen where you are... even if you are in the suburbs or in town.

If you are trapped in place, yet imagine a rural homesteading, my advice is to start doing just that wherever you are. - again - you'll need all the practice you can get at any scale. In a dense suburban settings it is possible to grow a food forest and raised-bed garden.

And even if your a renter and do not control the land you live on, you may be able to convince a landlord of the advantage of cost-free fresh garden produce on his/her table.

No comments :

Post a Comment