Dec 152010

For those who might consider Dmitri Orlov’s collapse scenarios fantastical, let’s consider an actual case study of collapse in the US of A. That would be Detroit, once the envy of the world as headquarters of the automobile industry. When Henry Ford announced the $5 work day, thousands came to take advantage of the opportunities which grew into well-paid career jobs with outstanding benefits. Then, it all fell apart. Now, Detroit has 25% unemployment and one wonders how good the jobs are for the 75% who are working. Detroit is a sad case but the bright note is that there is resilience there in the form of urban farming. This excellent video featuring and articulate former school teacher (now grower) tells whats going on in Detroit.

What struck me watching this video and trying to relate it to the future of Lummi Island is the age group we see working on these Detroit farm/garden projects. Somehow, we will need to figure out a way to provide land and recruit this kind of people in this age group to live and work on Lummi.


  6 Responses to “A Case Study in Collapse”

  1. ” Somehow, we will need to figure out a way to provide land and recruit this kind of people in this age group to live and work on Lummi.” Well said.
    From the mission statement of the Lummi Island Heritage Trust .. “to create a legacy of abundant open space, native habitat, and natural resources on Lummi Island by inspiring people to protect and care for the island’s farms, forests, wetlands and shorelines forever”
    The Curry Preserve, owned by the Trust, was once a wonderful farm of fields, veggies, and fruits. It now supports 10 organic gardeners in a community garden using but a fraction of this wonderful resource, with a waiting list of eager gardeners every spring.
    What a wonderful way to preserve a historic farm as part of our heritage. That’s a huge start right there.

  2. This blog is not truly about transition of a community toward sustainability in the genuine definition of the word in today’s pecarious environment. Your proposal is about continuing to be spoon fed by imported labor so the community does not have to get off its leather couches or step out of its mercedez benzes. The LI community is definitely doomed at this rate! This is a pathetic blog; I have better places to spend my internet dollar than here. Goodbye.

  3. Cripes Gunar, If I gave up on all my patients that easy I could have a second job as an undertaker. Hope you find a good community for your ideas. Me, I’m sticking put. I can’t think of a better community to be in for the hard times ahead. Can you say temperate climate, driftwood, farmland, reefnet salmon and moat. We all kind of hoped you’d show up for the potluck, anyway good luck. ciao, Jim

  4. Jim: Just read your story about a shipwrecked sailor, grounded on one earth’s MOST habitable places. We are all, in our own ways, tethered to a people and place of magnificent bounty, much the same as Don was tied to his bottomless bottle.

  5. I see nothing in any LIHT / Curry preserve documentation to suggest any other intent than nature preservation. Nor, looking at the beautiful slide show, do I believe the holdings are appropriate for other (sustainability) purposes.

    Things may change if people get desperate, but then desperation, or even a mild interest in a better standard of living, is what has depleted forests and nature preserves all through history, including England, ancient Lebanon, Easter Island, the Amazon basin, and our own great dust bowl.

    The way to balance ecology and sustainability is to make the most of properties which have already been developed. For instance, France gardens the areas between airport runways. In the case of Lummi Island, that would mean peoples own front and back yards.

    I would be all for helping locals convert their property, workshops, and utilities to sustainability, but only if I had some support and assurance that this investment of effort was guaranteed to keep serving the entire community, and couldn’t be retracted if a property was resold.

    So the question stands, what is really hoped for by attracting ‘this kind of people’? ‘This kind of people’, as I understand it, by nature of their values and occupations, can not afford to buy five acres of land and repurpose the island themselves. Sustainability is a highly skilled profession, but not a very profitable one, so those who could have such skills are much more likely to get sucked into running a company instead.

    I have no plans to get into full-tilt sustainability myself. A goat, some fruit and berries, wine and cheese making, energy independence, and aside from that, I plan to make music instruments.

    I doubt though that the island will ever recruit more than that, or even that it’s neccesary. What is more important than an upheaval to large scale farming efforts and such, is that every member plays their own small part, whethar that be raising a llama, knitting sweaters, catching crabs, helping others set up their water systems and tool shops, or providing locally built guitars and harmonicas.

    Synergy is what is required. Some people can provide gardening labor, others provide sunny front yards, and everyone shares the harvest. Without 20 member families working 100 acre farms and ranches (last century’s model of self-sufficiency, which won’t be returning), this is the only way L.I. can ever convert. The various models of western society used in the last millenia are not going to work anymore, except perhaps that of gaelic clans from 400 years ago.

    Activities need to be non-profit, resources need shared, and communities need to be democratic (while trusting elders). That’s not to say people can’t have plenty of personal private property, or diproportional wealth, just that there also has to be plenty of communal property to efficiently provide community needs. Although the wealth was way too disproportional, even 400 years ago England had methods of sustainable forestry which can’t be matched today.

    I’m not hoping to move to some hippie communist camp, nor an unrealistic dream requiring resources no one can afford, but rather to a community which recognizes what inevitable changes must gradually be made to our way of life if we are to continue as a species, and acts upon them.

    The first thing which needs changed is people expecting more than the resources of this earth can support. Our last three centuries have been built upon fossil fuels, and yet the global population has soared in that time. If not for all the engineering advances in efficient production and minimal material usage, that would indicate that we actually have to step back to a standard of living substantially less than that prior to three centuries ago.

    Alas, our material uses aren’t certainly as minimal as they can appear. The average person consumes more than 2000 gallons of water per day. It goes into manufacture of the commodities you buy.

    Like carbon credits, the answer to this is taxes based unit cost accrual accounting of ecological footprints of products. An apple requires some water. Photographic film and batteries have a high toxicity impact. The global cost to human life can be roughly estimated for every product though. Tax that and people will automatically choose the more sustainable ways of living without having to be educated themselves.

  6. Wait, ‘and moat’? That’s a scary shred of potential realism. Better support neighboring transition movements, and be thankful LA & NY are rather distant.

    If anyone is looking for cheap young farm-hands though, the economy is encouraging. I can see the map revisons now, ‘Lummi Island Barony’.

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