“Cities are doomed”

This idea in various versions will just not die. And I don’t necessarily recommend engaging in arguments, because this particular one is an endless rabbit-hole, I have found.

That said, here are some responses I made recently that might help if you choose to try to engage the rural zealots.

“Cities will run out of water in two days if the grid goes down.”

No, not necessarily. I collect enough water off my tiny urban roof to keep my household supplied exclusively with rainwater if we need to, and I can quickly teach any neighbors how to do the same when they want to. (On that note, I am actively setting about educating my community and city about rainwater collection.)

Also: All of us expanding out into the country is really not an option. Since you are a person who seems to adamantly prefer living in the country, you’d best not wish that on yourself: all of us city-dwellers spreading out and wrecking your rural utopia. (Not to mention destroying whatever last chance the wildlife and forests might have on this planet.)

As has been the case throughout history, it will continue to be the case that some people will live in the country and others will live in the city (or town, village). And that there will continue to be social and economic interchange between the townies and the country-dwellers.

The Nature of Cities is a worldwide organization and movement that is actively working on “retrofitting” wild nature back into towns and cities. And restoring the food-growing capacity of the urban setting, and localizing transportation, and so on.

I do expect that megacities will shrink, and resume their former form of being a collection of towns and villages.

Added later:

Well then you’d better hope that a bunch of us city-dwellers commit suicide, or die of thirst or whatever, so we won’t wreck your rural idyll.

I cannot imagine what argument you are trying to win here. All of us spreading out into the country would be an absolute disaster, ecologically and socially.

Cities are not a “recent invention.” Neither are towns and villages.

And added:

And yes we absolutely need to retrofit all cities with garden allotments. Including rooftop gardens where people live underneath.

Of course canals won’t work without water. That’s what a canal is.

By the way, in our area, we get so much rain that if we were collecting and using it wisely we would stop being plagued by flooding. AND we would have enough water to share with other places. One of my fronts of effort right now is to get local and regional governments to stop the wasteful, destructive development and landscaping practices that are wrecking the water cycle and preventing healthy recharge of groundwater.

Each area — town, city, or village — needs to have relationships with local farmers. Mutually beneficial relationships. In my region we are actively cultivating economic ties with our local farmers and ranchers. We are also big on mutual aid of all kinds. We share tools and resources. etc etc etc


I never really know what the motive of these “back to the land” zealots is. Why can’t they just be happy with their excess acreage “Green Acres” trip and leave the rest of us alone?

Maybe some of them actually don’t really like living out in the country, but they thought they had to move out there to be “sustainable”. And because misery loves company, they want to lure a bunch of us out there so we’ll be stuck hoeing potatoes with them like some post-apocalypse version of American Gothic.

(Or, maybe they’re simply realizing that they can’t run their neo-plantations without serfs. And permaculture-minded city-dwellers who are struggling with housing security and such will make easy targets. Yikes, now there’s a doomy thought. To put a more positive spin on it, some city-dwellers might be looking for exactly such a bucolic live-together situation. My thought remains, though, that this pattern of purchasing big acreage that only one or two or a few people live on is basically re-creating plantations and colonization. We still need to atone for what we did the first time around, not do it again!)

Bad idea, by the way: Squandering all our physical and mental energy toiling in isolation, reinventing wheels that other isolated people toiling on other excess acreage are simultaneously reinventing.

(On this note, I often hear versions of the following from people who have moved out to the country, especially if it’s some very different bioregion from where they’ve been living: “We are working towards some self sufficiency, learning a lot and making many mistakes.” Arghhhhh!! I cringe every time I see this. When we humans try to live and learn without community, it’s almost like we lose our whole history, whole knowledge base. And self-sufficiency is not the aim; self-reliance plus interdependence is.)

When what we need is to be bringing our highest creativity and energy to building social capital; learning how to live well in dense settlements (so that the ecosystems can recover, and so that we can flexibly accommodate fluid migration of peoples fleeing drought, famine, and other disasters). Maximizing abundance by doing more with less space; going vertical with plantings; stacking and packing beneficial interrelationships among things and people to maximize food and energy and beauty and learning and emotional nurturance and everything else we need; learning how to live deeply interconnected with each other.