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.
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.