Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Should you stay? Should you go?

posted by Rod Dreher

Long, engaging post from Sharon Astyk laying out conditions under which people should abandon the idea of adapting to coming hard times in place, and should move. If you believe that oil will always be plentiful and cheap, and that climate change doesn’t exist, don’t bother clicking on the link. But if you do think that most of us are going to face huge disruptions in our way of life from both oil scarcity and climate warming in the years and decades to come (to say nothing of economic trauma from government indebtedness), you’ll want to check out Sharon’s post. As she points out, she’s not saying “if this, then you must move;” she’s just saying, “if this, then you really want to think about moving instead of trying to adapt in place.”
I found these particular points personally engaging, because they went through my mind a lot when we lived in Dallas. Excerpt:

4. If you live in an extreme climate, likely to become more extreme with climate change, but you are not particularly and unusually well adapted to it. That is, unless we check climate change, which at this point seems unlikely, (if highly desirable) at some point, many places are going to be uninhabitable for many of the people who presently live there. Some may become literally uninhabitable over time, but more likely, what we’ll see is that small populations, extremely well adapted to their environment, and extremely attuned to it, become native to many places as long as they are even marginally inhabitable. But the question is, are you one of them?

I hate hot weather. Always have. In Dallas, it’s beastly hot for most of the year, and pretty humid too. One of my friends here in Philadelphia said that it gets up into the 90s here in the summertime — as if to warn me. I told her that in Dallas, it’s common to have two, three straight weeks in the summer with daily highs of over 100 degrees. The prospect of spending the rest of my life in a city that will get even hotter as years go by has bothered me for years. Plus, knowing how badly I fare without air conditioning, which I may not be able to afford to have on all the time in the future, made me wary about adapting in place in Dallas. And having lived through a severe drought in North Texas, I feared for the prospect of growing our own food under conditions of water rationing.
Sharon again:

10. If you are native to another place. By native, I mean that many of us have a strong sense of place, and a strong sense of belonging to a place. My husband once went on a job interview at UIL Champagne-Urbana. He recalls looking across the land and seeing the horizon and thinking “oh, there’s the ocean.” But of course, there was no ocean there – his misperception lasted only a second, but revealed something about his ability to live in that place – he comes from people who live on hilly land around water, and know the flat horizon as the space of the sea. It is possible that he could have adapted to the flat open land of the midwest and learned to love it – but it is also possible that one’s sense of place should be respected if possible.
I know people who have never fully adapted to their place, in the sense of being truly native to it – desert born people who could never breathe comfortably in the humid air of the southeast, warm climate people who found the cold of northern winters unbearable, city folk who find the country abnormally empty and silent, water folk who can’t imagine life away from a boat, country people who can’t tolerate the city. Most of us can endure these things if we have to – but why not be happier if it is possible?

I grew up in a green, forested, somewhat hilly place, and never felt at home in the two flat places I’ve lived: south Florida and north Texas. It was strange how the intense heat and flatness of those places made me feel so alien to them. Even though north Texas culture is far more familiar to me, as a Southerner, I feel more geographically at home here in southeastern Pennsylvania, because the hills and the woods remind me of home. I have enough experience now to know that I am not adaptable to just anywhere, especially not to the desert, or the plains. When we lived in Dallas, I always felt a palpable sense of relief on the long drive to see my folks in Louisiana, when we’d reach the Piney Woods of east Texas, and suddenly there would be thick stands of trees, and hills. I finally learned to pay attention to that feeling, and not to think of it as something easily overcome.
In another of her points, Sharon talks about moving if children or parents you’ll have to care for live far away, and cannot move to you. I hadn’t adequately considered how hard it would be to travel to see my Louisiana family from Pennsylvania. With my sister Ruthie so sick, I wish we could all go down and see her and the rest of my family more often. But it’s unaffordable; we’re trying to put together a family trip now, and the best airfares we can get would cost us about $1,200 for a family of five. A car trip would eat up two days of hard driving, one way, which we’re not prepared to do right now. As Sharon points out, a big increase in the price of petroleum, which is to be expected in a time of shortage, would make it even more expensive, even by car. This is a problem.
Check out Sharon’s list, and add some of your own in the comboxes.



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David J. White

posted June 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm


I told her that in Dallas, it’s common to have two, three straight weeks in the summer with daily highs of over 100 degrees. The prospect of spending the rest of my life in a city that will get even hotter as years go by has bothered me for years.
I hate to break it to you, Rod, but Philadelphia is far more humid than North Texas, which can make even lower temperatures harder to take. Some July and August days in Philadelphia I felt as if I were walking through a bowl of hot soup.



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Randy G.

posted June 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm


Is this not really a population/over-population question? If everyone, or even a significant percentage of people living in “unsustainble” places choose to move to places where more sustainable ways of living are possible, we will end up with massive population explosion, resource over-use (unless we INCREASE shipping distances), and pollution. Check Jared Diamond’s COLLAPSE: HOW SOCITIES CHOOSE TO FAIL OR SUCCEED on that.
This is and will continue to be THE problem with trying to live sustainably — People must find and select ways to live sustainably where they are, perhaps learning from ancient, or at least pre-modern peoples. Relocation by itself, or any solution by itself will prove unsustainable.
This relocation idea also ignores any scriptural or spiritual commitment to a place or the place, and so is theologically untenable as well.
Peace,
Randy G.
Captcha: coercion future



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bill holston

posted June 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm


Well, Dallas was very sorry to lose you. I was sorry to see you move. I relate to what you say, as a native of Mobile, I really hated the topography of dallas when I moved here in 1973. That said, I’ve adapted. I find theirs plenty of beauty here, in prairies, creeks, and in my very shaded back yard.
I’m a bit of a Dallas booster, because I’ve found many people who do not fit the Dallas stereotype in the human rights community and in teh artist/muscian communities.
Finally, aging parents is a huge factor. I honestly don’t know what my father would have done if my brother and I didn’t both live here. If you don’t have syblings to rely on that will likely be a problem some day.
that said, if you have to move for work, then that’s what you gotta do.



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Erin Manning

posted June 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm


My in-laws are trying to sell their house in Charlotte, NC to come join us here in Texas, because we’re pretty well fixed here at this point (work, other family members, etc.). When Thad and I lived in NC in the early years of our marriage, I had the opposite reaction to the hilly, tree-covered landscapes: born in the Midwest, I *like* to be able to see miles ahead in every direction. The first thing I loved about Texas was the sky–just being able to see so far into the horizon, with the deep blue and amazing cloudscapes overhead. When we drive East to go visit relatives, I hate it when we hit that section of the interstate where the pine trees loom up on either side, cutting out the sky and closing us in. To me, it’s stifling, and I love it when we get back to the open vistas on the way home.
I wouldn’t have pegged myself as someone with a strong sense of place, because my parents moved so much. But we did live in Illinois until I was nine or so, and apparently I learned to associate wide-open spaces with a sense of comfort and security, because we’ve now lived in Texas longer than I have ever lived anywhere before this.
It would be a real adjustment to handle the summer heat without air-conditioning, but I’d rather do that then try to live in a cold climate without adequate heat. That’s one thing from my childhood I never learned to love–I hate cold weather, snow, etc.



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Joe Magarac

posted June 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm


I’ve always been fascinated by the way that in many cases, Europeans who emigrated to the USA moved to the parts of it that were most like home. There are lots of examples of this, but my own will suffice: my people are from Slovakia, and Western PA is a dead ringer for it. A good bit hotter in the summer, but topographically and seasonally very similar. I think a sense of place is a great thing, and wish that we as a country had more of it.
Side note: it is possible that in the future, oil will be expensive, but more sustainable alternatives will allow us to live more or less as we do now. You can join Sharon Astyk in subscribing to peak oil (I do) without sharing her view of what the future will look like.



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Rod Dreher

posted June 3, 2010 at 2:47 pm


Bill H:
I honestly don’t know what my father would have done if my brother and I didn’t both live here. If you don’t have syblings to rely on that will likely be a problem some day.
My only sibling lives across the road from my mom and dad. She was diagnosed with stage IV cancer one month after we moved to Philadelphia. Sigh.
Erin:
The first thing I loved about Texas was the sky–just being able to see so far into the horizon, with the deep blue and amazing cloudscapes overhead. When we drive East to go visit relatives, I hate it when we hit that section of the interstate where the pine trees loom up on either side, cutting out the sky and closing us in. To me, it’s stifling, and I love it when we get back to the open vistas on the way home.
Funny, how we differ. What you find stifling, I find comforting. Julie and I have this long-running conversation about just this point, re: tornadoes. She, a Dallas native, tells me she likes open fields leading to the horizon, because you can see the damn thing coming. I tell her I hate them, because there is no place to hide — by which I mean that psychologically, the lack of trees and hills make me feel vulnerable. But to a prairie dweller, the presence of trees and hills can seem threatening, because of what they conceal.



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Al-Dhariyat

posted June 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm


The geography question is particularly interesting to me. Here in Western PA, we have hills, hills, more hills and water. I can’t do flat-land. And though I’m not a boating person, I ‘need’ running water. The presence of water, in particular, may explain why my parents have felt so comfortable here over the years (Bangladesh, from whence we hail is essentially a river delta and the topography, while not as hilly as Pgh is not flat either).
So my sense of place is almost always tied to flat vs hilly. So the midwest is not for me. Further, the topography of the int’l cities I’ve visited has definitely contributed to my ability to see myself living in a place – hills in Andalucia, the sea in Casablanca and Malta, the south bank in London.



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Geoff G.

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm


I used to live in Phoenix. That city exists only by the grace of air conditioning. And cars to get around the massive sprawl (Phoenix is not really a city, it’s one huge suburb). If high energy costs hit, Phoenix will be one of the first to go.
I now live in Denver. Winters are relatively mild (compared with the areas around). Summers aren’t too bad most of the time because of the dryness of the air and the altitude. We have A/C but keep it off pretty much all the time and just use fans and open windows. Swamp coolers are also an option here. Bicycling works in the city itself.
Of course, the big ecological problem facing Denver (and most of the west) is potential lack of water. That’s a fight that could potentially get very ugly.
***
As far as “a sense of place” I basically don’t have one. We moved a fair bit when I was a kid and lived in some pretty radically different environments. The good news with this is I’m home pretty much wherever I rest my head. The bad news is I really don’t have a home in the sense Rod likes to discuss.



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Rick

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm


Well, I’ll offer my thought, rude as it may be: I don’t think one should make major life decisions under the influence of Apocalypse-hype.
I’ve seen the sad results of Apocalypse intoxication too many times. Folks who put lives and careers on hold to scout out places of “refuge” before the coming “chastisement.” Others who sold everything to head for the hills before Y2K.
Life has certainly brought these folks their share of pain and disappointment. They didn’t avoid it by moving and fleeing; in a lot of cases they increased it.
If I were advising someone in the developed world where to settle, I’d start with this: In all likelihood, you are going to die of old age wherever you live. Don’t choose a home based on where you will be safest; choose one based on where you will be happiest, starting on the day you move in.



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r

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm


I tend to be more pragmatic about the “geography issue”. More important to me, the relocation of educated and wealthy populace. Their migration will be a precursor of new developing areas. Oil scarcity is coming, but that only means certain areas of the country will be less influential and wealthy. As solar, wind, nuclear and coal degasification research are giving adequate funding, we will eventually pass “peak oil”. (Much like the steam era of industrialization.) Make no mistake, there will be relocation. But it most likely won’t be to areas that were benefited by oil exploration-e.g. West Texas, Louisiana and the general Gulf Coast. It will be to regions that have nurtured education and environmental regulation. And due to these facts is found the reason for the sizeable opposition to alternative energy.



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Helen

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm


Caring for aging parents when you live far away is going to be an increasingly difficult problem. My father-in-law died last year after an eight-month battle with cancer. When he got sick my father-in-law moved in with my husband’s brother and his family (my FIL was an American living abroad at the time). We live no where near my FIL or my BIL, so my husband and I took a very limited role in caring for my FIL as he approached death.
Having my FIL in the house was enormously stressful and time-consuming for my brother-in-law and his family. My BIL basically put his business on hold for six months as my FIL declined. The whole family put a great deal of time and effort into caring for my FIL. As many people know, caring for the elderly is not always rewarding.
My husband and I are enormously grateful to my BIL and his family for all they did. I don’t know what my FIL would have done if my BIL had not been willing to take him in. There’s no way he could have come to my home — my family and I live in a two bedroom apartment with one bathroom, and we have two small kids (and my FIL was decidedly NOT a kid person).
Rod, do you have a plan for how you will care for your parents as they age, if your sister is not able to?



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Douglas_MacNeill

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm


I expect that climate change will bring one great benefit to Canada: Americans will finally stop suggesting that Canadians have such a hopeless task in rebuilding what little civilization they have that survives Canada’s endless winters.
Indeed, if I were to role-play an American talking about Canadians, I would say this: “Canadians have such a hopeless task doing so that those hopeless people may as well give up on their equally hopeless efforts and become a few more States within the Union.”



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Chuck Bloom

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm


First, a bit of housecleaning. The University of Illinois is located in CHAMPAIGN-Urbana, not the drink. FYI.
Second, While North Texas is nobody’s topographical dream (it’s selling point is its relatively affordable housing compared to most of thecountry – most would be shocked what $175,000 gets you here), it’s better than Midland-Odessa, Lubbock and other garden spots of the Lone Star State. It’s not the desert that is Phoenix or even Las Vegas.
Yes, tornadoes are commonplace but not like Oklahoma City, which is struck annually, and more than once a year, and most in the nation. Flooding isn’t as big a problem as in the Midwest (although if the Trinity truly flooded, we’d die of the toxicity, not the high water) and there is no real hurricane threat here. There are no mudslides, forest fires (despite the lengthy drought) or record blizzards (one flake sets people’s freak meter here).
In ALL cases involving relocation, the pertinent question to ask is simple: is this move BETTER for you and your family? And each place has its own charm and qualities – no one place is better than any other (except for, of course, HAWAII).



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Your Name

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm


I’ve always had a very strong sense of place; I’ve always lived within a 10-mile radius of Portland, Oregon. The terrain matters to me; I want to be around trees, rivers, mountains–AND have the ocean close by. This is where my family, friends, and church are. God willing, I’ll die here, too.
Some of the comments about living in the flatlands remind me of my ex’s grandfather. He came from Nebraska, and never got used to the Pacific Northwest–he always said that the mountains blocked the view.



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Charles Cosimano

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm


I’ll worry about as much about coming hard times as I will the Black Helicopters coming out of the Mayan Spaceships in 2012 bellowing about peak oil.



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Susan Davis

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm


Shoot, the “God willing, I’ll die here too” was mine. Sheesh.
At least this has a better captcha: “soloists expensive”!



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Houghton

posted June 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm


The hottest places on the planet were the seats of civilization. They had to put up a big sun canopy to prevent heat stroke and sunburn when they tried Socrates. It’s the colder regions that have tended to produce the barbarians in human history.



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the stupid Chris

posted June 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm


I’m third gen Angeleno.
One of the things I love about LA is that it’s easy to know where you are just by looking at the horizon. Mountains run pretty-much east-west across the region, downtown is far enough east that you can use it to tell whether you’re in the basin or the SG Valley. Couple of helpful hills (Signal, Baldwin, PV) when you get too far from the mountains.
I’ve travelled all over the world, and the only place that’s ever really thrown me is Chicago…too flat and the water is on the wrong side of the city!
The other thing is the weather, out here it’s time for an alert if it’s not going to be sunny and mid-70s with a light breeze from the west.
Having spent considerable time in Hong Kong, Atlanta and Orlando for work I learned how to deal with heat and humidity, and with freezing cold in GA as well.
But I learned that I need to be near an ocean or large body of water to feel comfortable, even if the water is on the wrong side of town. ;-)



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Your Name

posted June 3, 2010 at 6:55 pm


I am known to pooh-pooh catastrophism on this blog, but that doesn’t mean I think we face no trouble. Along those lines I don’t think air conditioning (and electrical applications in general) are going to be a problem: there are many ways to generate electricity and we burn very little oil to do so nowadays. However transportation is going to be a problem. We will see spot shortages of gasoline, like the one that affected muich of the South after Hurricane Ike in 2008, and we will see price spikes like the one we all endured two years ago. Best advice I can give: live in a walkable community and someplace there are alternative ways of communting to work (bike?, mass transit?) Sharon Astyk has moved to the country and I have no doubt that this fits her life just fine; but for most people it’s the worst thing you could do. People in rural areas are utterly dependent on cars and are going to suffer a lot as gas prices go up and up.



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Jon

posted June 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Um, that was me just above.



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MH

posted June 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm


I’m squarely in the go camp.



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Quiddity

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:52 pm


You perhaps should also consider genetics. I was born in and have lived in Los Angeles all my life. However, my parents are both from northern Europe (England), and I think that’s why I find it too hot most of the time.
I always dress lightly and on the rare occasions when it’s pretty cool here (mid 40 degrees), I still dress lightly because I’m comfortable with it. And on those days I’ve received not a few remarks about how I must be from the east coast.
Reading Rod’s remarks about Dallas makes me wonder what will happen if it get ten degrees hotter. I suppose we should look to the Middle East or Sahara-bounding communities to see how humans can bear to exist there. It doesn’t look like much fun.



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Cecelia

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:53 pm


We bought our home in our 30′s but as we approach retirement it is clear to me that what was great for a young family will not work for us when we get older. I love our house and I like the area we live in and never thought we would move but age and all the issues that accompany it suddenly make us realize that this may not be the best place to stay.
I’d suggest to others that while it may seem absurd to consider how well your home and neighborhood will suit you in your late 60′s and onwards when you are only 30 – it is something to consider. And it will spare you having to pull up stakes and relocate when you do hit your 60′s.
Plus – I did not consider that at some point I’d be caring for my Mom. She is really isolated here – an in town house would have been so much better for her. And our hilly location and the stairs to the driveway make it very hard to get her to the car. If only I had known then what I know now!
So I would add consideration of how well your home and its location will serve you if you do need to care for a parent and as you get older.



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Julia

posted June 4, 2010 at 12:53 am


From “R”:
“Oil scarcity is coming, but that only means certain areas of the country will be less influential and wealthy. As solar, wind, nuclear and coal degasification research are giving adequate funding, we will eventually pass “peak oil”. (Much like the steam era of industrialization.) Make no mistake, there will be relocation. But it most likely won’t be to areas that were benefited by oil exploration-e.g. West Texas, Louisiana and the general Gulf Coast.”
I’m in West Texas so I can’t speak for the others in your list but you do know that the Panhandle-Plains of Texas have large, extremely productive wind farms, right? Our area is among the world leaders in wind technology and power. There’s also a state-of-the-art clean coal plant in the works for our area. West Texas isn’t just about oil.
And that leads me to my point. I think the topography and geography is far less important than the PEOPLE. People love to put down the state of Texas and stereotype the heck out of us but the fact is that Texas is home to a largely independent mindset that adapts and gets things done. Folks here saw long ago the problem with depending too much on oil (energy-wise, economy-wise, etc.) and diversified.
Housing here is affordable, the cost of living is lower, and employment is more plentiful. That’s initially why people relocate here but, for those who truly make Texas their home, the independent spirit and resilience become infectious.
That’s what impressed me and why I chose to move here from the Northeast 16 years ago. I’m not into apocalyptic fears but, if I were, I’d be grateful to live in a place where people have proven to be strong, good at adapting, and working together. I fled Western Pennsylvania right after my graduation from university because I saw the hand-writing on the wall — the people would not (could not?) re-imagine a future after steel and manufacturing. Pittsburgh has done a good job of it but the small towns have not.
Home is more than trees, hills or plains and relationships go beyond blood relatives. Whether climate change brings on stifling heat or bitter cold in my lifetime, one thing that likely won’t change is the fact that the wind here in West Texas blows long and hard. And I’m already using the cheaper electricity it provides for my home and comfort, thanks to people with capital and foresight.



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J.V. Sharpe

posted June 4, 2010 at 12:58 am


I live in an area of upstate New York (Buffalo-Niagara region) that could likely adapt to fuel shortages and vehicular travel restrictions a bit more readily than some other place and that has wonderful agriculture. We have miles of farmland, access to two of the great lakes, and a relatively friendly climate (obviously excepting for the sometimes unforgiving snow), so I see no reason to move, much top my wife’s chagrin. As an aside, my wife has introduced and reintroduced the idea of us moving numerous times over they years (she hates the cold), but for one reason or another it’s just always felt intuitively like a bad idea. I suppose time will tell.
JVS



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Marie

posted June 4, 2010 at 9:22 am


I’m a native Floridian living in the Washington DC metro region. I’ve lived up and down the eastern seaboard all my life, I’ve visted the west and middle America. Provided my “stay” place is south of NYC and north of Cuba, it looks as if I’ll live most of my life in the mid-atlantic if not the Southern States. I like the flat of the coastal region. I can’t stand the cold and the Planet be damned come winter, because I am a misirable horrid person when I’m cold. When it is 100+ outside and humid, I’m okay enough. I’ll complain but I’ll find non-AC ways of staying cool. A fan, some spicy food, and a lot of water will do. So I tend to have a lower carbon footprint in Southern states with mild winters.
Most of my family is spread along the Eastern Seaboard from NYC to Florida. Where I am now I am in regular contact with aunts and uncles and cousins. If I ever have children, they will tap into this small band of family also living in the DC region. Holiday’s are a matter of driving 1/2 an hour to gather. My parents are in Florida and there are more family members and their children to help out, as they’ve done before.
I’ve adapted to my surroundings but I’d proabably be a better fit in Florida. But here is where my job is and here is where I got the job offer when looking for jobs in Florida as well.



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Northerner

posted June 4, 2010 at 10:10 am


I live in Edmonton, Alberta. I have a very good job and both my and my wife’s families live here. I have been watching the energy situation and have read books on peak oil. Some very accomplished geologists and petroleum engineers I have seen stated that oil probably peaked a couple of years ago and we will be in for some very difficult times over the next 10 years. In a northern climate, you are very dependent on petrol for the transportation of food and other necessities from warmer regions. Another concern is heating your home during the winter. Edmonton has nearly a million people as does Calgary just to the south. In the pioneer days people had the skills to survive and with a much smaller population, there were easily enough trees to keep everyone’s ovens burning. With today’s population, I do not believe this city is sustainable in the event of a shortage of energy resources.
I have been contemplating moving to Vancouver Island in that the climate is much more temperate. On the downside, I am uncertain on whether I will find a comparable job as to what I have now. It may result in a lowering of our standard of living. On the upside we would be able to grow and raise our own food for much of the year. This is something that we have been seriously pondering over and if the looming energy crisis is just around the corner (and the evidence certainly points in this direction) then a move may be necessary in the near future.



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sigaliris

posted June 4, 2010 at 11:34 am


My relative absence from these virtual parts has been due to the fact that Mr. Sig and I are in the midst of coordinating a move to Grand Rapids, MI, which is where I’m posting from now. He came up here to start work June 1, and to find a place to rent for the coming year. We won’t actually move until our daughter gets married in late July. We’ll be back and forth a lot between now and then.
We didn’t actually plan this. After being laid off twice in the last twelve months from jobs in the East, this is where Mr. Sig found work. But it is a move home for us, because we both grew up in Michigan, and he actually lived in GR as a boy. My parents will be about 2 hours from us. My father has Alzheimer’s and my mother is also in fragile health. The last couple of years have meant many difficult 10-hour drives for me, as they went through various crises. They are now living in an assisted care facility, and I highly recommend this. They fought it tooth and nail. Trying to take care of them in their own home was very destructive to all family relationships, and a partial cause of one of my sibs’ move to Florida to get away from it all. Even with the good situation they have now, though, they still need family close to manage their care and help with many things.
We’ve been in a circle–Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania. Now we’re going home. I learned to love PA, especially after the five years in TX that nearly killed me, but I think we’re going to love living here again. The first night we arrived, we dined on delicious tapas–in downtown GR. Who’d have thought! There’s quite a local food movement here, and plenty of locally grown supplies to choose from. There’s wonderful fruit here–cherries, peaches, apples–and Michigan wine has improved a lot from the days when my father used to buy it for a dollar fifty from the bargain bin at the party store.
We’re renting while we look for a place of our own, so I can’t start digging up my yard, but I’m coveting the neighbors’ nice black dirt, so different from my PA red clay. And one thing’s for sure, we won’t run out of water. ; )



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naturalmom

posted June 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm


Hey Sig — Welcome (back) to Michigan! I’m waving to you from Lansing. :o)
I saw Sharon’s post yesterday and was happy to realize that I’m pretty good right where I am here in Michigan. My family and our tight-knit religious community are near by, and I’m a “forest/woods” person as far as natural landscape goes. (My mom is a water person, so the Great Lakes area suits us both.) As Sigaliris points out, water is less likely to be a problem here than just about anywhere else, and while we currently import too much of our food, our climate and soil are adaptable to a wide variety of foods. (Michigan is already 2nd after California in agricultural diversity.) Plus, I think we are the state least likely to suffer from natural disasters. We get some tornadoes, but nothing like they do on the plains. So while our manufacturing economy is shot to heck, we are in pretty good shape in many other respects.



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Rombald

posted June 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm


I second the comment above about this all really being about population. I live in a semi-rural part of the north of England. In most of the categories for staying:
1. Modest house, mortgage paid off.
2. Parents, some other relatives, and friends within 15 miles.
3. Children living with us.
4. Non-extreme climate: mild winters, cool, wet summers. Sometimes I wish it were more extreme, so I’d get more chance to ski and/or swim outdoors more often. As far as agriculture is concerned, a slight temperature increase would be beneficial.
5. Values not obviously lousier than mine (!)
6. Not sure, but not obvious that children could not stay here.
7. No real plans to move.
8. I would like a more rural life. I would happily live without a car, although my wife insists on having one.
9. Not really outer suburbs, although a bit dormitory-town-ish.
10. Native here, by centuries or millennia.
The fly in the ointment is population density. In a real disaster, life in England would be horrendous, as we cannot feed ourselves. People in the Mid West, say, might sulk about not being able to drive to the city, but at least the area could feed itself. I never see how Rod’s pro-natalism fits in with the rest of his values.



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Andrea

posted June 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Norwegians supposedly ended up in Minnesota because of the similarity between landscapes. There are fjords in Norway and Minnesota is the land of the 10,000 lakes. Germans from Russia saw a lot of similarities between the Ukraine and Russia and North Dakota. I’ve gotten used to living in western North Dakota, which is much hillier than the north central part of the state where I grew up, but I still prefer flat plains and feel a bit freaked out by too many wooded areas and hills and curves. I also prefer colder weather. I guess I’m staying in this part of the country. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that I like areas with lots of water even though I grew up as far away as possible from the ocean. I loved San Francisco and all the light and water. I love Duluth and the light houses and the Great Lakes. Maybe there’s something in my Scandinavian genes calling me to watery places.



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Rombald

posted June 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm


About climate in particular, it’s odd, but I don’t share the common English desire to “escape to the sun”. I found summer in Tokyo (10 years) utterly horrible. Admittedly that’s hot and humid, but I don’t particularly like what I’ve seen of Mediterranean summers, either – I also find dry-climate landscapes a bit depressing – rocky, brown and parched – at least the Japanese countryside is extraordinarily green and beautiful, just unpleasant to be in (!).
I often think my ideal would be something about the same average as England, but with colder winters and warmer summers, like Poland or New England. I liked this winter, the coldest for 30-odd years, with snow on the ground for weeks on end, and it’s also nice when we get a proper summer (note: temperatures above 75F are not counted as hot anywhere else). However, that’s a very un-crunchy desire, as this non-extreme climate means we have no air-conditioning, and only need heating for about 4 months of the year.



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Jon

posted June 4, 2010 at 5:54 pm


Re: I liked this winter, the coldest for 30-odd years, with snow on the ground for weeks on end
Next year I will invite you to Baltimore to shovel us out if Mother Nature dumps another four feet of snow on us in one week. :)



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Jon

posted June 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm


Naturalmom – I often miss Michigan’s natural beauty. Happily, I have occasion to go back to visit once or twice a year. I am looking forward to a Charlevoix trip next month! But I don’t miss the ravaged economy or the hollowed out cities. Ann Arbor is still OK, but many other cities in Michigan are rotting like over-ripe fruit.
Also, Michigan can get droughts. I recall a terrible one in 1988 when the Huron River was reduced to a large mud flat with a suggestion of movement here and there, with lawns turning brown, grass fires along the freeway medians, and trees shedding their leaves in August (and some never coming back)



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sigaliris

posted June 4, 2010 at 6:03 pm


Hi, naturalmom! You’re just around the corner, the way I think of things now. When we lived in southeastern MI before, I thought the 5-hour drive to the lake was a looong way. Now that I’m used to the vast distances of Kansas and Texas, the hour between here and Lansing is a bagatelle.
The little house we just rented is in a modest part of East Grand Rapids (not the part with the stately homes). It’s within walking distance of shopping and the library, and I’m looking forward to that very much, after years in semi-suburban areas. Part of me hopes to end up in a place with more land, closer to the lake, but as long as Mr. Sig is working, I think he might get hooked on the 10-MINUTE commute, after the last ten years of driving to the train followed by a 45-minute trip into the city. Living and working in the same area has much to recommend it.



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Chuck Bloom

posted June 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm


It’s sad for me, a native Detroiter, to say this: Michigan is a place I’d visit often (except for Detroit) but I would never consider living there again. Outside of Detroit, there aren’t enough major league sports for me (Ann Arobor is now a Detroit suburb where it used to be the country – as was Pontiac – when I was a youth).
Even my college home (A2) has gotten TOO big and too urban for my taste.
I’d spend the summers in Traverse City/Charlevoix or Mackinac, IF I had the money and will need LOTS of it to do that. Back in the day, they were small podunk towns – quaint to visit for cherry picking or Mac fudge.
Texas is slightly more affordable; hence the high amount of relocation. But every place has its bright spots.



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naturalmom

posted June 6, 2010 at 12:23 am


Jon, I would certainly not describe Lansing or Grand Rapids — the 2 major cities I know best — as “rotting like over-ripe fruit”. Far from it! There is quite a bit of local cultural revival going on in spite of the tough economy. The transition from the 20th to the 21st century is tough for us, to be sure, but we’ll make it. We’ll likely become a less populous state (so it’s probably best if you and Chuck don’t come back), and Detroit is already contracting significantly, but I’m hopeful.
As for the drought, I remember 1988. I spent that summer working outside! At least I didn’t get rained on much. I remember the day late in August when it finally rained. I was driving and rolled down my window. When I got home, my sister, my mom and I took a walk in the rain, and saw quite a few of our neighbors doing the same! That was 22 years ago. No place is perfect, I guess. ;o)
Sig, my husband has a 10 minute commute and it’s a *big* reason we keep hemming and hawing about moving somewhere more rural. Especially with young children, it’s very nice that he doesn’t have to waste much time in the car. (Plus there’s gas prices and carbon footprint and all that.) I hope you like Grand Rapids. I’ve never lived there, but I’m pretty familiar with the city and like it.



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