Cities Aren't All Bad.

It seems to me that there will be some large cities livable in in the future, I'm just not sure which ones. Resources of all kinds will become more scarce as our population increases including most notably, energy, water and arable soil. A truly walkable older city, as in pre-automobile, with fairly low tech utilities like water, sounds great.

I've never been to NYC but I believe the water is gravity fed for the most part, it sure looks like people can walk just about where they need to, or at least they once could.

Newer cities, large and small aren't as fortunate, they were designed with the car in mind. There isn't a house within miles of the city center or the light industrial section - the zoning board won't allow it. These cities were either conceived after Levittown or simply renewed their urban core to such a point as to be inextricably linked via freeway to suburb.

But don't count Levittown out yet:

In brief, we find that the more suburbanized is employment -- that is, the more sprawl -- the shorter the average commute.
--Traffic and Sprawl: Evidence from U.S. Commuting, 1985 To 1997: UCLA

So even if you live in the ever-maligned suburb but can locate near your work, you are almost as well off as the city dweller who walks everywhere, at least from the commute perspective. After all these suburbs near business parks and strip malls are sort of like the the pre-auto cities albeit with much much lower population density.

Really I'd prefer the well rounded 'burb with some light manufacturing to most any large urban center simply due to the huge expense of changing infrastructure even slightly in the city. The 'burb could change relatively quickly and cheaply to meet dire needs much like some have done to gradually meet lesser goals.

If the energy fairy pulls a Mr. Fusion out of her ear to fuel the commuters and the transportation of goods and food in and out all will be well until we run up against one of the other key resources I mentioned.

Norman Borlaug is still out there trying to encourage triticale to provide (like he hoped his improved wheat genetics would);
'a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation,' a breathing space in which to deal with the 'Population Monster'
Of course the last time around we didn't deal with the monster, we just ate more.

The infamous 1,500 mile salad, overpopulation, and arable soil limits along with a good measure of extreme monoculture and the limits of our ability to control nature are coming together right in plain sight:

The once-mighty water infrastructure is old and insufficient, with new canals and storage facilities years if not decades away from completion. Meanwhile, the state's population may double by 2050, heralding bigger water battles between cities and farms.

Water scarcity clouds California farming's future



Owning Verses Working

There are a multitude of factual reasons why re-localization might be a good course for families going forward. But I want to start off with some more subjective observations about why people chose working for wages vs. working for something they own.

Historically and currently in many areas of the world, subsistence farming is one of the hardest ways of making a living, it's hand to mouth, hard, dirty work with frequent set backs and periodic starvation. It's no wonder industrialization quickly lured - still does in fact, many off the farm with the promise of relatively easy work and all the store bought luxuries available in the cites.

Like most lures the benefits were many times imaginary, at least for the first generations. But as the manufacturing base grew, many struggled to find a way off the spinning room or killing floor and even into ownership of their own business.

But odds are the majority populated what was the growing Working Class, and their kids followed in their footsteps.

None of that is news, but the thing that stands out to me is at the very time they abandoned ownership of a hardscrabble plot of land to toil for wages for another, was the exact same time that mechanization was making it's way into farming and transforming it from a struggle for basic survival into a business!

Like in many things, the amount of breathing room and opportunity for profit provided by the mechanization of agriculture allowed just enough slack for innovation to accelerate at a rate far beyond what it had been in previous generations.

To be sure, much of that innovation was misdirected, which is a different topic but the fact remains, many with a great understanding of the land and seasons quit just at the time of greatest opportunity. And yea, you guessed it, there was somebody right there to snatch up that land for a pittance.

This continued all through the 19th century at the very time huge strides were taking place on the farm. The thing that is so striking about this period is that between 1820 and 1890 the effort required to produce 100bu of wheat declined from 300 man/hours to 50! And although the turn of the century was also a time of increasing pressure from railroads, bankers, etc, it was also a time of relative prosperity for farmers.

My great grandfather was in the Run for the Cherokee Strip in the 1890's. In researching old land records in a dusty little clerks office trying to locate the original homestead a few years ago it struck me how many homesteads were sold as soon as they proved up their claim. And even more interesting are the pages and pages of newly deeded farms bought by one person and then pages more bought by another and so on.

Now whether those homesteaders were shills from the get-go or couldn't make a go on a small plot of land in that country or were just ready to get back home I have no idea but the fact remains there were willing buyers with cash in hand to snap up those properties and amalgamate them into huge tracts for ranching, farming, and oil drilling.

But still most of those original homesteaders sold out.

By the way, my great grand father didn't sell, in fact he bought the neighbor's place.


My Grandkid's Farm

Most of the time when I post on some message board it is about "Doing". This is a place for me to ruminate on the point of it all - all the doing that is.

One thing I have realized in web posting from time to time is simply seeing my own words on a screen helps me understand the things I feel in a more concrete way - Chew my mental cud in other words.

So while I'd be happy to hear input or have others take something away from whatever ramblings I come up with here, I guess this is really more for me and hopefully my grandkids someday.

But you are welcome to eaves drop...


What I what to hash out in my mind is how it may be possible for future generations to "Advance to the Past", not by retreat but by taking the best of what we've learned about science and technology and downsizing it to a more human scale. Or put a different way, take the lessons of the past, good and bad and combine that with lessons of the present, good and bad to create something better than either.

Obviously, my thoughts are to a future of little farms and tight knit little towns where I hope my grandkids will one day live.

Speaking of tight knit, there have been arguments why industry, agriculture or even culture in general, may or may not be sustainable or even moral raging since way back. And Bumper Sticker Slogans are nothing new either, the derogatory term Luddite comes from a mostly mythic figure who inspired tradsmen to go around trashing hosiery looms in the early 18th century - not out of fear of technology but anger at it's effect:

The knitting machines which provoked the first Luddite disturbances had been putting people out of work for well over two centuries. Everybody saw this happening -- it became part of daily life. They also saw the machines coming more and more to be the property of men who did not work, only owned and hired. It took no German philosopher, then or later, to point out what this did, had been doing, to wages and jobs.

So I'm not a Luddite in either sense, not in fear of technology, nor anger at the machine. But by the same token I don't have fear of the opposite either, which would be the fear that at some point technology will fail to save us - which I'll call Peterism, or just fail and kill us, which I guess would be HALism.

I guess I'm more of a Claptonite. The key is to use any resource whether it be natural or man made, to it's best use before it's gone and those things that you can preserve, don't ever let go.

Its in the way that you use it,
It comes and it goes.
Its in the way that you use it,
Boy don't you know.

And if you lie you will lose it,
Feelings will show.
So dont you ever abuse it,
Dont let it go.