Surviving, Thriving in 2020

Charles Hugh Smith, one of my perennial top fave bloggers (, posted this excellent piece about how to survive (and thrive) amid the economic challenges of this year and beyond. As I’ve been saying for awhile (not only about the pandemic but about our economy in general, and about restoring our planet’s ecosystems to health): Building local community is an essential element. And taking charge of local supply lines (including creating our own supply lines).

CHS echoes my sentiments here: “The strongest ‘survivor’ is not the most heavily armed individual but the individual surrounded by a community which values his/her contributions and support, and who cares whether he/she lives or dies. Nobody gives a damn if the individual holed up in a bunker somewhere lives or dies, and that’s the fatal weakness in all too many survivalist scenarios.” (CHS also provides a link to one of his previous posts, about the weakness of survivalist thinking, which I somehow missed the first time around but I just now read it, and it is a goodie, again corroborating my own experience and observation.)

He also voices “my sentiments exactly” about the importance of taking charge of one’s own health and fitness.

And about the financial unsustainability of government on its current path. The pension obligations alone are staggering, and I always think how could the whole thing not crater? And in the meantime, as CHS puts it:

“We pay high taxes and make a fraction of what the public employees make and have nowhere near their healthcare benefits, working or retired, but then we get to hear about how poorly paid they are compared to private-sector jobs. Get real, people; the pay in the real-world private-sector is lousy and going down. If you’re so underpaid, go onto and get yourself one of those plentiful high-paying private-sector jobs. You will find them less plentiful than you might have imagined.” (All of which has occurred to me, but one can feel like a traitor to one’s city by voicing such thoughts. I hear local people in public-sector jobs saying a person can’t get by on 40K, but a lot of the local people I know who work in restaurants and hotels and such are getting by on a half to a third of that, without benefits. When you point this out, people look at you like you’re from Mars. Of course, when I say people are getting by on this amount, I don’t mean they are thriving. Without conscious conservation and thrift practices, and a sense of higher purpose, living at such a low income level in our society is a constant brutal slog. My heart aches for the people who are trying to get by on that without roommates/housemates, and/or with the expense of a car.)

But my point here (as always) is not griping about how well-off some people don’t realize they are; it’s about personally taking charge of one’s own life, and finding some measure of creative freedom and economic independence regardless of one’s income. It really can be done, as I hope my book and other writings are helping people to realize.

Everything that makes sense is pointing to personal responsibility; building community from the neighborhood level.

Other tips from CHS: Prune away debt; get a job closer to home; stop moving all over the country and put down some roots. Grow at least some of your own food. Learn permaculture design principles and start applying them to every area of your life. All stuff I’ve been saying repeatedly, but I really really like how he says it. He offers a bunch of other stellar tips also; I particularly like what he has to say about weaning ourselves off of cable and other passive entertainment. Really meaty post. If you feel so moved, you can contribute to his “tip jar” or buy his books, both of which I have done.

When all the truth-arrows are pointing in the same direction, I tend to listen — and to feel vindicated in my own opinions, though my take on things has been considered “eccentric” or not even worthy of response in some circles.

I have friends (mostly fellow activists of the older Boomer generations, but a few younger folks as well) who have always earned a solid middle-class income, and who refuse to believe it’s even possible to live, let alone live happily, on less than 40K. When I tell them I can live fine on 12K and live like a queen on 15K, they just look right through me. And the truth was I have lived on 7K in some lean years. Not saying it was a picnic (and in fact, was at times quite the opposite of a picnic, as some skipping of meals to make rent was involved), but I survived, and have never been on any public assistance nor would I want to. (It doesn’t really go with being a libertarian.) There are more of us on this Possum Living–type path than one might think; I introduce several in my book and on this blog. (Possum Living by Dolly Freed is a classic; check it out if you haven’t already.)

On a note of supporting local micro-enterprise and rebuilding the community fabric: Yesterday I ordered seven hygienic masks from a local woman who started up a sewing business. She is soliciting business by posting on the NextDoor app (one of my favorite fusings of new technology with old-school neighborliness). She offers customers a wide choice of fabrics from her collection. I picked seven different prints out yesterday; she is sewing them of fabrics of my choosing and will deliver them today(!). Now that is service!

Yes, I could sew them myself, but straight-line precision-measured sewing is not my strong suit; this lovely lady only charges $3 per mask; and she’s doing this to make her livelihood. Win-win!

Oh, and to top off your reading for today — another great “Surviving 2020” post by Charles Hugh Smith. Readers of Deep Green book & blog will find some overlap of the good ol’ familiar solid advice here, which also happens to reduce one’s eco-footprint: cut expenses to the bone; build multi-layered local networks; create a business that meets a non-outsourceable local need; have “hybrid work” of multiple income streams; and (I know I keep saying this but I can’t emphasize it enough) get to know your neighbors by sharing things you have with them, and realize you don’t need to be best buddies, just be able to cooperate and get along.