Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why Go Nomadic - Climate Change

Strictly speaking, moving on from where you live because, let's say your house is under water or because drought makes it impossible for you to get water does not make you a nomad, but rather a climate refugee. But if you go nomadic before things go to bad, you can move ahead of disaster instead of clinging to your homestead as long as possible.
With these thoughts in mind, here is the latest on the California drought and repeat disaster areas in the US.

Here in the SF East Bay of California, we are still in an extreme drought although it has been raining quite a bit lately.  This is the fifth year of the drought.  Hardly anyone talks about it any more because quite frankly, the topic gets boring after a while and does not really affect most people in Urban Areas in any life-threatening way.  At most, for people in cities, drought is a lifestyle issue, causing inconveniences such as not getting water in a restaurant unless you ask for it, or not flushing after you pee.  But out in the Central Valley where food is raised, lack of water is an issue and impacts livelihoods of people.  So far, big ag businesses have drilled deeper and deeper to suck irrigation water out of the ground with ever longer straws, but when they can't do that any more, towns will start going empty.  
Of course, the drought might end at any time and things will be fine again and Californians will be able to water their lawns guilt free.  But if they don't, migrating out of the area early might be a good strategy.  

The map above shows places where people have filed for disaster relief more than once since 1998.  That seems to average out to once every ten years.  You can't blame people for sticking around in a place where disaster strikes once, but if it strikes twice and you've filed for disaster relief twice, you might be inclined to see a trend.  Time to move?
Apparently, more people don't move out of disaster prone areas because  they can get disaster relief and insurance.  FEMA is starting to think about whether people should be cut off from federal relief aid after some number of claims because they are simply supporting bad habits.
More on this topic here. Time to move?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nomadic Living, Is it Time to Give it a Try?

Here in the US, the election is over, Donald Trump is said to have won, barring some sort of challenge to his legitimacy.  With every passing day, his presidency becomes more of a sure thing.
If past elections are any indication, his presidency will not alter my life in any significant way.  I see the present election as yet another signal that industrial society is heading into decline, not that Trump will be a cause of decline, but rather that he will be presiding over an accelerating rate of decline, a decline that he has little power to slow but perhaps some ability to accelerate.
I do not claim to have any psychic powers or analytical skills that allow me to predict the future, but I do have the ability to look at the present and compare it to the past and see how things have changed.  I also have access to other people's predictions of what the future will be like and I favor the pessimists.
What does any of this have to do with nomadism?  Simply put, the Trump election when seen as a signal of accelerating decline of industrial civilization means that it might be a good time to look at nomadic lifestyles.  I feel that our future will not look like the past and will start sliding into chaos.  Entropy will accelerate whereas in the past it has been held at bay. It takes energy to hold entropy at bay and the energy available to us is declining.
Aside from societal decline, the end of the stable climate we have had since the end of the last ice age is also at hand.  Rising sea levels will start flooding coastal cities before the end of the century.  Droughts, rising temperatures, extreme floods and storms will make agriculture less of a sure thing.  The state will no longer be able to guarantee food to all of its people. Do you sit and wait to be flooded out, dried out, devastated by storms and starved or do you get rid of your excess stuff and go mobile, ever ready to move on to a cooler, drier/wetter, calmer place?
Nomadism, the ability to improve one's quality of life by changing one's location will be a good strategy for minimizing the impact of societal and climate decline on one's personal life.  The individual has very little ability to affect large scale events, but the individual has the ability to walk away from events. The nomad, not being tied to stationary possessions will have few obstacles to walking away.
The nomad, more than the settled person also has the ability to avoid the worst aspects of state governments.  The nomad lives for the most part outside the reach of the state, away from the state, immune to the state, going within reach of the state only briefly to harvest some of its product by means of trade and then sliding out of its reach again.

The notion of living outside the control of any state may seem impossible to someone living under the control of a state, paying taxes, being pressed into military service, being kept in line by the state's police and military.
And yet, as James Scott, in his book, The Art of Not Being Governed points out, people do manage to live outside the control of states. As one reviewer on Amazon put it, "Scott argues that many "primitive" tribal peoples actually made a conscious decision to adopt a "simpler" lifestyle in order to avoid the burdens of living under organized states. For much of history, the "civilized" state collected taxes and enslaved people, but didn't do much to help people. Tribal societies, Scott argues, adopted a nomadic lifestyle, planted root crops that were more difficult to find, and unlearned literacy all in an attempt to separate themselves from a certain political way of life they found oppressive."
I haven't read the book yet, but intend to.  My own experience with spending time in remote areas is that the reach of the state is long, but it is not infinite.  The less money the state has, the shorter its reach becomes. The farther you go from the centers of power, the less likely you are to be molested by agents of the state.
But avoiding the state does not mean that you have to leave society.  Society, companionship, family, clan, tribe, these are all possible ways of living with other people that don't require a state and its nasty practices.