welcome to DEEP GREEN blog!

Greetings! As I mention on the Home page, this site is dedicated to low-footprint living. I’m out to promote what I call a “Grassroots Green Mobilization.”

Although a low-footprint lifestyle is fun and rewarding, it is not always easy, even if you are doing it for your own benefit (for example, to radically simplify your life in order to free up your money, time, and energy for things that really matter to you.) The dominant mainstream culture has waste and hyper-consumerism baked into every layer of life, and a person setting out to live light on the earth encounters many obstacles both physical and cultural. (Car-dependent housing developments; unavoidable single-use plastics; buildings designed to require climate control 24-7 … to name just a few examples.)

That’s where this blog comes in. I am here 100% to offer you tips, resources, and moral support. The posts aren’t in any particular order; I write about things as they come up in the news, or as I see them out in the world, or as they pop into my mind. If you’re new here, you might find it helpful to orient yourself by reading the following posts:

Cultural Roots of the Eco Crisis

Footprint Isn’t Everything

Using Bad News

In my book, I mention that I follow the news just enough to be aware of what’s going on; not so much that I’m overwhelmed with hopelessness. My main information diet is successful case studies and low-tech, decentralized solutions.

That said, when bad news hits, I use it as an opportunity to redouble my commitment to popularizing low-footprint living, and to remind myself why it matters.

In this week’s news I found two such stories.

A Quarter of Bangladesh is Flooded. Millions Have Lost Everything (nytimes.com) “The country’s latest calamity illustrates a striking inequity of our time: The people least responsible for climate change are among those most hurt by its consequences. …The average American is responsible for 33 times more planet-warming carbon dioxide than the average Bangladeshi.”

• “When Disasters Overlap” (by Christopher Flavelle in the New York Times “Climate Forward” email newsletter): “…[T]his is what living with climate change will look like: Not just an epic, Katrina- or Sandy-scale catastrophe every few years (though probably that, too), but a relentless grind of overlapping disasters, major and minor. The number of disasters that FEMA is handling is about twice what it was three years ago, before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, and that doesn’t include its pandemic response. Disaster preparation and recovery have blurred into a single frenzied motion, never ending but also never quite succeeding. The consequences of that shift are only starting to become apparent. Homeowners begin rebuilding after a flood, only to flood again; cities watch their tax rolls shrink as property values fall; emergency managers at every level of government are exhausted. And then, there’s the money: Federal watchdogs have begun warning, with increasing urgency, that the nation’s disaster spending is not sustainable.”

Although my low-footprint lifestyle seems wacky or extreme to mainstream folks, and even to some fellow environmentalists, it is deeply rooted in heart AND reason. Reading these articles might help people understand why I’m so committed to showing that a resident of the United States can have a high quality of life while radically reducing their eco footprint. And it helps me to remind myself that I’m not crazy or extreme. What’s extreme is what we (residents of rich industrialized nations, especially the United States), are doing to the planet (ecosystems, wildlife, and of course traditional cultures and indigenous peoples) with our overconsumption.

The Covid shutdown has had a silver lining of showing us how much of a difference it makes, rather quickly, to the environment when millions of people in the wealthy industrialized nations cut back sharply on transportation and other consumption.

Every bit you do to consciously minimize consumption (especially electricity, gasoline, jet fuel, and discretionary shopping are biggies), and to socially de-legitimize excess and thoughtless consumption, helps. And I thank you for your participation in the #GrassrootsGreenMobilization .

Kettle Thrift

If you boil water for coffee or tea, there’s usually some hot water left over in the kettle or pot. Making hot water takes a lot of energy; don’t let that precious resource go to waste! Pour the hot water onto a washcloth and use it on your face. (Thanks for that one, Ro!) Wonderful not only in cold weather but in HOT weather too, believe it or not! I think it must have something to do with the hot water making the hot air feel cool by comparison.

Other uses for that leftover hot water in the kettle:

• pour into a greasy cookpot to rinse out the grease (and when you’re done, dump this hot water outside on a bare path of soil or driveway etc rather than down the drain, and rather than onto the yard where it could burn plants and little critters)

• pour onto a slightly used dishtowel or washcloth to give the cloth a quick refresh without having to launder

• add to your wash-bucket to create warm water for washing

• pour onto household rags and use for cleaning

• etc etc etc – how will YOU use your leftover hot water today?

More kettle tips:

• Train yourself to hear when the water has reached your preferred temperature for drinking, washing, or other use. There’s a significant energy difference between bringing water to a boil (212 Fahrenheit or 100 Celsius), and only needing to bring it to (say) 170 or 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Whether I’m using an electric kettle made of plastic, or a conventional teapot on the stove, I can hear by the sound of the water (or a certain way the kettle is ticking as it heats up) when my water is ready, and immediately turn off the kettle.

• A kettle in which you have just finished heating water, and poured the water out of, still contains enough heat so you can put a bit of cold water in the kettle and get some “free” warm water. In other words, you are capturing the heat from the kettle walls. This heat-capture technique works better with a metal kettle on the stove than with a plastic plug-in kettle.

#MindfulUse #EveryLittleBitCounts #NormalizeConservation

Suburbs Don’t Have To Suck

“Widening roads to cure traffic congestion is like buying a bigger belt to cure obesity.” One of my favorite transportation-activist maxims. And it’s been around for a while! Yet the powers-that-be in so many places where I’ve lived don’t seem to get it, and they keep widening the roads to try and cure traffic congestion.

In my home region (and maybe yours too), we are getting a lot of new housing development outside the urban core. People expect to live in these car-dependent housing developments, and drive to everything, without ever having to sit in traffic. That’s not going to happen unless we change our approach to development.

In the land of Jenny, no sprawl developments would get built, ever. There’d be small town or walkable city, then straight to farmland, wetland, or forest. Plenty of space for wildlife; low-footprint outdoor recreation such as hiking or kayaking. Fish camps; hunting areas. But, the land of Jenny exists only in my head. And besides, I want to be sensitive to the needs and wants of others, even if some of those “others” want to live differently than I do.

To the world we inhabit today, I propose the following two basic retrofits to make sprawl development less bad. Or maybe even good in some cases!

• Widening roads is fine, as long as we do it only by adding bicycle paths, sidewalks, and trees.

• All new residential developments need to include their own supermarket, pharmacy, and other basic services within two miles of any house. Existing developments should try to attract this as a retrofit. (I’m happy to see that at least some of the new residential developments in my region are starting to include food markets and other everyday retail.)

Imagine if we had sidewalks and bike paths everywhere, and there were all the basic necessities located close enough to residences so that non-automotive transport was a reasonable option. Imagine if people started getting out more on foot and bicycle, to get their exercise and avoid being stuck in traffic. That’s been my approach for years and it works great.

From this standpoint, traffic congestion can be seen as a blessing because it invites people to consider walking and cycling. But in order for them to do so, the bike paths and sidewalks need to be there.

By the way, the actual quote about traffic congestion comes from architectural critic and urban planner Lewis Mumford, and it goes: “Curing congestion by adding more lanes is like curing obesity by buying bigger pants.”

Further Exploration:

Village Homes (Davis, California) is a suburban-type housing development crisscrossed with cycling/walking paths and lush with fruit trees and veggie gardens. Residents feel safe letting their kids roam, and parents get to have plenty of time to themselves. This development was built back in the 70s. I think you’ll enjoy this 11-minute YouTube video. It’s part of the “Global Gardener” series narrated by Bill Mollison, the “Father of Permaculture.” We could have more of these kinds of housing developments!

“What Happened To Our Neighbor-Stores?” by Mike Paulus on volumeone.org . “Little shops and markets just don’t exist in the middle (or even on the edges) of neighborhoods anymore. So what’s up with these neighbor-stores, and why don’t we see more of them?”

“Neighborhood Vibrancy: Older and Smaller Can Sometimes Be Better” (by Edward T. McMahon on plannersweb.com ). “Why is it that neighborhoods with older, smaller buildings often seem more vibrant than those with larger, newer ones? Historic preservationists have long argued that older structures play a crucial role in contributing to the livability of cities and the health of local economies. Most preservationists are familiar with Jane Jacobs’s book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which she argues that large-scale demolition and replacement of older, smaller buildings with large new structures drains the life and vitality from urban neighborhoods. But the world has changed a lot since Jacobs penned her thesis. What role do older neighborhoods and smaller buildings play in 21st century cities?”

“2 Reasons Why the American Approach To Congestion Is Totally Wrong” (by Rachel Quednau on strongtowns.org ). “[N]ext time you start getting frustrated in a traffic jam at 8am, remember: We’ve created this situation by the way we’ve designed our roads and our communities. Expanding highways won’t solve the problem, but building complete communities and strong towns will.”

“Dealing with Congestion” (by Charles Marohn on strongtowns.org). “When we want to decrease flooding in a watershed, we go to the source. We try to retain that water, to absorb it as near to where it originates as possible. We understand this is way cheaper and vastly more effective than building massive infrastructure systems to handle the runoff once it is sent downstream. For automobile flooding (congestion), the only way to deal with it and still have a successful economy is to address it at the source. We need to absorb those trips locally before they become a flood. Instead of building lanes, we need to be building corner stores. We need local economic ecosystems that create jobs, opportunity and destinations for people as an alternative to those they can only get to by driving.”

Deep Green Storm Preps Revisited

With a hurricane headed this way, I searched this blog to see if I recalled correctly that I’d given you a post about storm preps at some point. Sure enough, I had! It was about 11 months ago today. Here’s that post “Deep Green Storm Preps.”

A couple of updates to that post: I’ve expanded my rainwater-collection capacity to 450 gallons (it was just 100 gallons back then). Also, since I’m in the middle of my longest-ever “fridgeless living experiment,” I no longer have to worry about eating up all the food in the fridge (or pre-freezing bottles of water to put in the fridge if the power goes off).

Other than that, and the fact that I now have a housemate, storm preps in the Deep Green house are pretty much the same as written here.

Enjoy! And stay safe.

P.S. A reader on my Facebook page just commented, “I’m interested in the ‘fridgeless’ experiment. What foods do you eat and how do you store them? Especially keeping foods free from ants & roaches!”

Great questions! I posted the following response:

“That is a challenge for sure. I keep veggies and fruits in ventilated containers that (mostly) don’t let bugs in. And, I shop once a week rather than once a month or something. Certain fruits & veggies last a few days without refrigeration, as do cheese and butter. Yogurt will keep a couple of days. Meat and milk, if I want them
I either buy them and eat them that day, or order from a restaurant. Ice cream — order a cup or cone at an ice-cream shop. Also: there are wild edible plants growing year-round in Florida so I eat quite a few of those. And I grow a few veggies in my garden (if I had a greener thumb, it would be a LOT more). If you can have food out there ready to pick, it’s way easier than trying to store it (whether with or without a fridge).”

(And of course: If you are into drying or canning food, or want to learn, definitely go for it!! Those skills are a great asset to fridgeless living. I’ve made pickles and sauerkraut on occasion, and really should do more; they are wonderful foods for all-around health. And I made some kale crisps and collard crisps in the solar oven a few months back; those turned out sublime and are definitely worth repeating.)

I’m a huge fan of condiments. BBQ sauce, Sriracha sauce, Sambal Oelek, wasabi, various mustards, jams and jellies … bring them on! The condiments I use don’t require refrigeration. (Anything with mayonnaise I would refrigerate but I don’t like mayonnaise.)

Considering Homeschooling? Go For It!

Worried about sending their kids back to school this fall with the pandemic still going on, many parents have decided to homeschool/unschool or are considering it. I’m all in favor. 

I believe homeschooling has the potential to be good not just for kids and their parents, but for the social fabric of neighborhoods as well. Right now in some neighborhoods in my city (and maybe in yours too), we have kids who are the same age and live in the same neighborhood but are being bussed to different schools far away. (The neighborhood I heard of is one where multiple school-district borders come together. It also happens to be a historic Black area of town that is economically disadvantaged, which would merit anything we can do to improve quality of life for kids and families. And one of the best ways to improve quality of life for households with school-age kids is to have good schools in walking distance of their homes. This goes for households in any economic bracket, not just low-income. That, and support homeschooling.)

With more people homeschooling, kids from the same neighborhood might get a chance to bond more. Also, if homeschooling gets really popular, maybe we will start to see more kids’ activities available right there in each neighborhood, such as a swimming pool and a sports field every few blocks, so kids can get to activities without the parents having to drive. 

Speaking of activities, neighborhood-based homeschooling could include empowering kids to start micro-businesses with other kids in their neighborhoods. Errand-running, community gardens, dog-walking and pet-grooming services, you name it — all offering abundant opportunity for learning math, reading, and science, as well as developing common sense and social skills. 

Neighborhood-based service activities such as picking up litter, monitoring algal growth in canals, and cataloguing plants and wildlife would be another rich addition to the curriculum, while providing valuable services to the community. Kids would gain self-esteem and personal responsibility from knowing they’re essential to their local economy and society — something every bit as important as academic learning. 

Many parents like the idea of homeschooling but aren’t sure they can handle it. This past week the City of Daytona Beach radio show focused on homeschooling. Featured guest Dannette Henry, a City Commissioner who is a former schoolteacher and a longtime homeschooling Mom of several kids, offered many reassuring pointers. 

I’ve provided a link below to the recording of the show. And in case you can’t access the Facebook Live recording, here are some of the main takeaways: 

• You can homeschool your child in just 2-1/2 hours a day! And it doesn’t have to be during typical school hours; it can be in the early morning, evening, or whenever works best for you and your children. So, working parents, put your minds at ease.

• Don’t worry about not being able to make your child sit at a desk or table for hours every day. In fact, that’s a bad idea. Most learning will take place through activities beyond the desk.  

• Let your child sit where they’re comfortable working. Also: Give them a certain amount of work they have to complete each day, but let them eat when they’re hungry and take breaks when they choose. This teaches self-regulation. 

• You and your children will probably have to go through a “de-schooling” phase. This means dismantling your institutionally conditioned ideas of what school and education are “supposed” to look like. Homeschooling is a whole different ballgame.

• In Florida (and I imagine most if not all other states), you need to notify authorities that you’re homeschooling your kids; otherwise you might get a visit from a truant officer. 

• Don’t go it alone! Form a co-op or support group with other parents. There may already be such groups in your area that you can join. One such group in Daytona beach is the Mocha Homeschool Collective, founded by Commissioner Henry. (And an idea from me: If you have tween/teenagers, encourage them to teach and help the younger kids in the family, and in the neighborhood.)

• Can’t afford fancy educational materials? Save your money; lots of excellent materials are available for free. 

• And a suggestion from me: Start a little fruit and vegetable garden if you haven’t already. Even just a few veggies or dwarf fruit trees growing in pots on a balcony or patio can offer a wide universe of learning opportunities in math, science, reading/writing, social sciences, art, home ec, and more; as well as foster organizational skills. If you want to get really ambitious, look into raising bees or chickens. (When I lived in Japan, I was impressed to see that most elementary schools even in population-dense Tokyo have gardens and chickens, which the students are responsible for taking care of.) Or raise monarch caterpillars — some friends of mine raise them in a safe enclosed space like a screened patio. Kids (and adults) love watching the butterflies emerge. You can also plant wildflowers (be sure and choose ones that are native to your area) and observe the native bees and other wildlife they attract. Don’t have expertise in gardening? No worries; there are lots of free resources out there, and you can learn alongside your children while also leading them; nurturing their spirit of inquiry and observation.

Another note about school in the time of Covid: Various political leaders and special interests are pushing hard for kids to go back to school “so we can save the economy.” In other words (as I interpret it), kids need to get back to the kid-holding tank — the de facto daycare — so corporate America can have its profit-generating wage-slaves back. At least that’s how I can’t help but interpret it.

School shouldn’t be a thing parents need to send their kids to so the parents can go to their jobs. This dynamic has been going unquestioned for too long. We need to figure out real solutions, be it ensuring affordable daycare or making it feasible for parents to stay home and raise their kids if they want to; not have to work outside the home.

Another thing school shouldn’t be is something parents rely on to supply their kids with a free meal, because the parents can’t afford it. In the wealthy USA, where most of us have access to way more calories than we need, we have to figure out how to make sure every household has all the healthy food it needs.

School is for education. And, there are many ways to educate our kids other than the traditional model of school. I hope that one of the silver linings of Covid is the popularization of homeschooling as an option.

Public education in the United States is afflicted by many ills. Euro-centric curriculums, and the “school-to-prison pipeline,” are two that come to mind. Such systemic problems are hard to cure from above, via the same system that created them. But a large-scale grassroots migration to homeschooling might well help fix them.

Finally, on a green note, homeschooling has the potential to significantly reduce our eco-footprint. Transportation, mainly car and air travel, is a big component of our collective footprint. And the clearer skies, cleaner waters, and more-abundant wildlife we started seeing during the strict shutdown period give me great hope that we can heal planetary ecosystems faster than we think, by significantly reducing our car travel. Homeschooling could help with this, in addition to its many other benefits.

Further Exploration: 

Facebook Live recording of Daytona Beach City Commissioner Dannette Henry being interviewed by show host Dr. L. Ron Durham, Community Relations Director of the City of Daytona Beach. I’m pretty sure it’s accessible to the general public, not just Facebook users.

Also, here is the website of the radio station itself, WJOY 106.3 FM. I couldn’t find a way to listen to past shows, but maybe you can. The Homeschooling segment aired Wednesday, June 29, from noon to 1 on the City of Daytona Beach radio show.

The Power of Microclimate (2)

On a cold windy winter day (which is the opposite of right now, at least if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere and are reading this post in realtime), there are places where one can sit outdoors in short sleeves and still feel warm. Sheltered “sun-trap” areas on the south sides of buildings, for example.

And on a hot, still, buggy, muggy summer day (like right now), there are places where you can sit and catch a cool breeze, and get away from the bitey crawly insect life.

In permaculture terminology, this concept is called “microclimate”. Microclimate is powerful; it overrides the prevailing climate as a factor in human comfort. Thanks to micro-climate, we can find a still, sunny place to be warm in shirt-sleeves in the dead of winter; we can find a breezy, shady place to cool down to the point of needing a sweater at the height of summer.

At this time last year, I wrote the following journal entry:

Last night I had a wonderful evening, sitting on the steps at the clock-tower/fountain on the Daytona Beach Family Boardwalk. I had a good book with me, and was easily able to read by the lights of the fountain.

Right there by the Boardwalk, the temperature and humidity felt significantly lower than at my place just a couple of blocks away. This is typical. My place is muggy and buggy on a summer night; the Boardwalk is always cooler and drier and less buggy.

The clock tower/fountain offered an excellent microclimate. After sitting there for a couple hours, I really was cool and was on the brink of needing a sweater! I ended up getting up and walking along the beach.

Bonus: Though it hadn’t been part of my evening’s plans (my only plans were to find a comfortable place to sit and read my book), I got to take in a music show. Gentle, family-friendly country tunes by Tony Vanic, at the Waves Beach Bar Hilton, that cute little open-air hangout right by the clock tower. (BTW you can go hear Tony this evening Tony Vanic Live At Oasis Tiki Bar).

And of course, another great bonus of yesterday evening was being OUT and about, amongst people, without having any social obligations. It’s a joy to watch people. Couples, families, little kids, older folks. Just everyone. I like my solitude AND I like being among people.

I guess you could say that in addition to being a good microclimate in physical terms, it’s also a good SOCIAL microclimate there by the clock-tower!

As is probably obvious from the mentions of tiki bars and live music, this was a pre-Covid slice of life, with no need for masks or social distancing. But even now, sitting out at the clock tower or other public space remains an option for breaking out of routine and getting some fresh air. It’s not hard to social-distance outdoors.

Back when I lived in Austin, we’d go to Barton Springs. With a water temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round (imagine how that feels when the air temperature is 108, whch in Austin in summer it not infrequently is!), you could cool off just by sitting on the hillside above the spring-fed pool! The pool was open til 10pm, with free admission after 9. So there were always at least a few people there, and there was a feeling of connectedness and sharing with other people, even if you came alone and didn’t speak with anyone. Like the clock tower, that was a nice social microclimate as well as physical.

What have you noticed about the power of microclimate? Do you have any favorite spots to cool off in the summer without artificial climate control? And what are some of your favorite social microclimates?

Further Reading:

The Power of Microclimate (1), a post I made in December 2018. A winter version of this post!

“Home” Economics

For most of us, our biggest expense is the roof over our head. One of the best tickets to gaining financial freedom and minimizing one’s eco-footprint is to reduce that expense.

The following story of a house for sale in my Daytona Beachside neighborhood is an example of a phenomenon I see as harmful, that is playing out city-wide (and across the whole country).

Last year at this time, the house — a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 800-square-foot bungalow typical of our charming though somewhat blighted historic neighborhood — went up for sale for 70K.

What would have been great is if some local who works at one of the nearby restaurants, stores, hotels, or other nearby businesses could have bought it. Someone currently renting, paying $900 or $1200 in rent — if they were to buy this house, their monthly payment (total of mortgage + taxes and insurance etc) would be below $900. If two people went in together, that’d be 450 per person! Wow! They could buy it and fix it up themselves and have a stable place to live.

The problem is, of course, that the working people in this neighborhood don’t tend to have the credit rating to get a loan, or the cash for a down payment, etc.
So the house got snapped up last year by an “investor.” Sometimes these investors do little more than slap on a coat of paint and put in new (supposedly attractive) counters and cabinets before putting the house on the market at a jacked-up price. In this case they did a pretty extensive rehab. Then soon after, a tenant moved in.

But now, a year later, the house is up for sale … for 178 K. Of course no local will be able to buy it now, if they couldn’t buy it last year for 70K. And I assume the tenant will be looking for a new place to live (unless the new buyer wants to be a landlord, which would be OK, except too bad the person living in the house paying 1,200 a month could not have afforded to buy it for 70K last year and would now be the owner-occupant).

So the cycle starts again. The ad starts out with the inevitable words, “INVESTOR ALERT”!

I don’t have any easy answers for this, but it keeps me awake at night and it is part of what motivates me to want to set up a grassroots local housing fund, which anyone could invest in, with the intent of helping locals buy homes and live in them.
Have you noticed this phenomenon in your neighborhood, of houses being bought mainly by investors rather than by people who just want to live in the house? I see signs all over town that are obviously targeting investors. I live in a tourist town so to some extent that’s inevitable. But I Zillow-snoop houses all over the country and see that it’s a pretty widespread phenomenon.

In small towns and historic urban cores, particularly, it’s pretty easy to find houses for sale for 50K, 40K, 30K, or even less. (Try Baltimore or Detroit if you want to be really startled at how low an old brick house/rowhouse can be priced.)
And yet the rental estimates are always hefty, like 900 or 1,200 a month or more, even in what are obviously blighted areas.

As I said, I don’t have any easy answers for this. However! From a reduce-your-overhead, low-footprint-living standpoint, there is a potential bright spot. In these times of rocky job prospects and high housing costs, houses for sale in old downtowns might just be the next frontier for many people.

My suggestion would be: If you don’t already have an occupation that is location-independent (writing, computer stuff, art, some sales and customer-service jobs, etc.) or universally in demand (carpentry, nursing, sewing, plumbing, midwife/doula, food-growing, landscaping), try to get yourself into such an occupation.

If you feel you need more education, look into trade school, community college courses, or even an informal apprenticeship. No college debt, and you will always be able to get work. Our communities can use many more skilled tradespeople right now.

Then, if you can manage, pool money with family or friends and find a low-priced fixer-upper house and buy it free and clear rather than take on a mortgage. Live there together and fix it up. I researched house prices in every state, and except in 3-4 states I found at least some houses under 50k, or even 30-40k, or less, in small towns or central urban areas.

If you have a useful trade or skill, you will have work wherever you go. So pick the place where you have friends, or where you like the climate (meteorological AND social), or where you can move together with a few friends/family members and be pioneers together. You might not even have to leave your own town to do this.

I have recently seen a number of houses for sale for 50-60k right here in my own adopted hometown, Daytona Beach. Rather than become investor-fodder, they could just as well be bought by people who just want a place to live, and create a resilient community together.

Same applies to commercial buildings. Buy one and contribute to the revitalization of a historic Main Street. Find meaning by building a life in a new place; adopt that place; really contribute.

If all of this sounds like too much work, or if you’re not willing to be a “pioneer” on the “next frontier” of old small towns or rundown urban core areas, well, I understand. For me, though, knowing about these low-priced houses represents a ray of hope. A ray of hope for myself, yes (in some hypothetical future, should sea-level rise or societal shifts force me at age 65 or 75 or older to leave my nice little $124K paid-for house near the ocean, I now have the reassurance I’d be able to find another place where I’d be able to live comfortably at my preferred income level of $1,000-1,300 a month before taxes).

But even more, the existence of $50K houses in almost every state of the union represents a ray of hope for the many people right now who are dealing with precarious employment and housing instability at the same time.

With the job market rocky, people might not be any worse off in a small town or a “run-down-but-livable-with-the-right-companions” industrial burg than in the more bustling, bigger, shinier cities where they’ve been living for job reasons, but where jobs are not such a sure thing anymore and costs remain high. Moving to some new place and starting over isn’t easy (between growing up in a military family and then, as an adult, needing to undertake a decades-long quest to “find myself and where I belonged,” I’ve done it many times), but it can be richly rewarding.

On that note, my favorite tip for surviving and thriving in a new place: Go there with the determination to give as much as you get, or more. A sense of mission, even. Be it protecting the environment, starting an urban agriculture movement, promoting literacy in an under-served neighborhood, or whatever your passion is. A lifelong dream of living in walking distance of the beach was what brought me to Daytona Beach. But what has kept me here, even when I went through some extremely lean times (as my “freelance eco educator” skills/knowledge that had earned me a livelihood back in Austin were not valued in the local economy here), was a sense of deep purpose. A deep-seated drive to contribute.

If you move to a new place with a heartfelt wish to serve, you’ll do fine and eventually find your niche even if you first end up going through some rough times like I did for a few years. That determination to serve will get you through hell and high water.

And that low-priced house will help you a lot with the financial part. By the way, my paid-for house was bought with money I inherited after my Mom passed. Had I not inherited that money, I would take the “find a 50K-or-less house and two friends to co-buy it” approach. There are lots of ways for three industrious people with good hearts to scrape together 50K, even if the goodness of their credit doesn’t quite match the goodness of their hearts.

Further Exploration:

• Ooh! Check this out!! On the tangent of the “grassroots local housing fund” which I suggested above … As opposed to a general fund, Small Change takes a project-by-project approach. Various in-town projects such as constructing 2 starter homes on a vacant lot; renovating an old motor court to be homeless housing, etc. Most of the projects appear to be in LA, Philly, Pittsburgh; I’m posting it here as an example of “grassroots investment oppty + socially beneficial building/rehab”. For each project, the amount being raised and the expected return on investment is listed.

House listing: Canadian Ark for Sale (house + thrift-store business in Hope, BC). They don’t list the price, and I’m pretty sure they would want quite a bit more than 50K. But I include this here because the lengthy write-up is an example of the pioneer mentality I was talking about. Moving somewhere with the idea of making yourself a pillar of a small local economy.

“A Bigger Picture,” by James Howard Kunstler. I read Kunstler’s blog regularly and I have had many of his same predictions about how things have gone and will go. Some might find him doom-y at first. But I feel he’s realistic, as well as offering pragmatic hope, as evidenced in this quote: “Many people will seek to escape the places they live now to find new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. These demographic movements are already underway. … Right now, start planning where you might go and what you can do. The turmoil will be filled with opportunity to find ways to be useful to other people, to devise work-arounds for ruptured systems and relationships, in getting food to people, making things they need, distributing them, fixing things that are broken where possible, and moving people and stuff from point A to point B. There will be plenty of work for people who are willing to do it. Keep in mind that it’s entirely up to you to make good choices. Don’t despair, and if you find yourself veering toward it, get over yourself. It’s just part of becoming stronger than you thought you could be, and the times will require it of you anyway.” By the way, this article was the source of the “Canadian Ark for Sale” link that I posted above.