The Podunk Wars
Hardcore analysis and whining from the Fringe Editor.
As the earth fills with people, societies need to more highly regulate where people build and how they use the dwindling amount of arable land. For the remaining rural people, it’s going to suck.
The EPA assumes that any plot of land which made, or could have made, $1000 from selling a food product is a farm. That doesn’t set the bar very high, but even so, there are only about 1 million farmers left in the U.S. You can almost count the number of families who still make a good living from the woods on one hand.
In California, 80 percent of the people live in just 13 counties. About 94% of the population of California live in cities and suburbs; only 6% of the population is meaningfully “rural.” Sierra County is one of four counties that are “entirely rural”.
Further, rural people also tend to be poorer than people in urban areas, since rural resources are generally owned by and exploited for people elsewhere. Our very small number and our relative poverty explain why so many urban people look on us as caretakers, rural servants with odd and probably unwholesome ways (I’ll plead to the latter, at least). Cutting trees and turning the earth are dirty, crude means of making a living, though many gentlemen like to play at these things, buying a Farmall 8n, a couple of cows and a nice Stihl. They manage to keep their hands clean, though.
Who We Are
There is no question there is a rural “culture” but it isn’t clear who keeps it. One can go to roping contests and find cultural connections between Sierra County and counties in Nevada and even Oregon. Ranch owner culture is a subset of rural culture, just as forest worker culture is and ranch worker (distinct from “owners”) are. While it is not easy to distinguish purely rural values, ethnographic evidence indicates that rural people from different parts of the country, and even different parts of the world, share more “world view” in common than they do with urban people of their own society. Sociologists and anthropologists have been studying rural people, as distinguished from people who live near centers of finance and production, since the 1800s. Still, there are no clear qualitative or quantitative guidelines for what constitutes “rural culture”.
Rural culture is further diluted because rural kids have so much access to urban culture through electronic media. OMG, C21 is, IMO, HAN. (Oh, my God, the 21st Century is, in my opinion, here and now.) All humans learn through stories, our hunger to learn from the experiences of others drive us to watch movies, and you to read the marvelous Prospect right now. The stories rural kids get are most often from urban film and television producers. Without stories of our own to tell our children, our rural culture, like rural cultures all over South America, India and the Pacific, will disappear, leaving rural children with no useful skillset for where they are, and no profitable environment for the skills they have, as happened to many Native American peoples here and Aborigines in Australia. This is why it is so very important for us to support local 4H, the Future Farmers , and all the organizations which keep our culture alive by teaching rural skills and values to our children.
We are in the role of conquered people, we live in colonies of the wealthy urban centers. This might seem insulting or dramatic, but it isn’t. Macro sociologists classify nations and portions of nations as “core, semi-periphery, and periphery.”
The core, where wealth and population is concentrated, survives by pulling resources from periphery areas at a reasonable price. History buffs will remember how hard Rome fought to keep the supply of Egyptian grain cheap, and the supply of African wood (Rome drove several species of trees to near extinction) and rural Europeans for soldiers. In return, all wealth returned to Rome, which then metered it out in dribs and drabs to underlings in rural areas. When Rome destroyed the local livelihood, as when it stripped the forests of Southern Britain to make glass, ships, and charcoal, those displaced from their livelihood often follow the resources to the cities to find work, sometimes building ships or making glass. This happens with us, too.
Indeed, in addition to taking or not taking what they want of our timber, beef, minerals and water, the urban areas also take our children. Rural kids with good grades and good test scores are assumed to leave the hinterland to go to college and eventually work in urban areas. Happily for us, they often return.
There are other pressures which will impact our rural way of life in the coming years. We all understand the burden on those in rural counties of meeting the requirements of laws which are more appropriate in urban counties. The impact of these regulations often fall most heavily on rural populations, who own land but don’t have much capital. The problem will become worse, and the impacts will hit us more directly.
It is the efficient use of resources which compels these changes. Clean water and air, and open land are resources.
Rules of Efficiency
Rural people are under attack now because of the relatively high use of energy and corresponding “carbon footprint”.
The person who has the least carbon footprint looks like this:
Kim: She’s a 26 year old single female who shares a small apartment with two room mates, is a vegan, walks, rides a bike or takes public transportation and purchases only fresh “near” food grown within 100 miles of her home.
A person in about the same wage class who has a very large carbon footprint looks like this:
Bubba: He’s a 56 year old truck driver who has 10 kids, lives twelve miles beyond the pavement and forty miles from the nearest town, burns wood in an old fashioned stove, eats meat at three meals a day, loves lobster and enjoys water-skiing.
In the first instance our hive dweller uses very little resources for travel, and even insists her food come from near by. She only eats from the low end of the food chain, eating only simple plant products. She doesn’t heat her apartment by herself, she enjoys the efficiency of a large building. The small amount of waste she generates is recycled. She’s slender and has a tiny green carbon footprint.
Most of us don’t know her. We probably do know someone like the second guy, though. He and his brood burn through the biggest GMC every five years. They live at the end of the road and burn dinosaurs to take the kids to school, to town to the doc, and shopping. They have plenty of firewood and a lot of hands and they keep their rambling, poorly insulated house in the high 70s. He loves meat, it’s what gives him is bulk and the energy to work. They head to the dump twice a week to heave cans, glass and milk cartons into the landfill. His carbon footprint is like a full sized 1985 Blazer.
There is really no way for everyone to have a big carbon footprint. It isn’t just global warming, it’s other things, too. Five families on a sewer system have less impact that one person on a septic tank.
Indeed, twenty-five Kims wouldn’t have nearly the impact that Bubba, his wife Raedine, and their ten little burger munchers do on the environment.
In short, if the population of the world is going to keep growing, we’re going to have to become more like bees living in a hive, and less like coyotes, which is how we live now.
Rules of Order
The other thing you need if you are going to live a million to a city is order. Not just law-enforcement, but the kind of order that begins within the person. It’s the kind of order that makes one seek to reach compromise, and to maintain the appearance of harmony. This way of thinking holds the individual responsible to the collective for deportment, and the collective to the individual for well-being. It works like this: if the police will come when I’m being assaulted, I’ll avoid using police resources by obeying the law. People don’t need guns, because they aren’t properly trained to know the difference between a situation where shooting is appropriate and when it is not, so all shooting will be done by police: I’ll give up my right to defend myself if the state will defend me.
There is no end to this way of thinking, but we’ll bring it back to the wild Sierra. For many local people, the last thing they want to do is leave their home, where the population density is a few people per square mile, and go to the Lakes where the population is a few hundred or thousand people per square mile. That isn’t “getting away from it all.” That’s “it all came up here and to get away from it I have to stay home.”
But, for many people, it is un-nerving to sleep where there are no other people. Many people feel like a crowded campground is escaping, but sleeping miles from anyone is frightening. That’s good, it’s anti-social to camp outside the campgrounds.
Increasingly, the wild Sierra is a commodity too valuable to be owned by hayseeds. As urban people move into the Sierra to recreate, their values come, too. Good old fashioned cow shit becomes “raw sewage.”
A Traditional Sierra County Family
Most of all, people want to be safe in the wilderness, so old mines have to be cleaned up, and certain areas too dangerous for regular folk make off limits. Rural people are too unschooled to act responsibly with those resources of water and air, so well trained urban people have to help.
What can we do?
Last April, French farmers took a thousand tractors to Paris, to block traffic and make the statement that their costs were increasing, but their prices were being driving down, and the people in the cities would have to be willing to pay more for food, and the government would have to help. In May, they trucked earth, sheep, cattle and food crops and blocked the Champs de Elysees, making it rural for ¼ of a mile. Currently, Indians in the jungles of the Amazon are in court trying to prevent their lands from being taken by multinational corporations or by poor farmers being pushed into the jungle. Today, at the G20 summit in Toronto, rural people from all over the world are trying to gain attention for the disparity between urban centers and rural producers of food and natural resources. We might protest in some way.
We could insist that the trees that get turned into lumber keep on giving; buildings made with lumber should pass some of the annual tax back to rural, lumber producing areas. We might insist that urban dwellers pay a tax to us for keeping their water clean.
In the final analysis, though, there is no out-running the problem. It is more efficient to house people in blocks, to provide for their needs, to encourage them to police themselves, and to expect the wilderness to be understandable to the urban mind. It is Kim, not Bubba, who will be comfortable in the new, over-populated world. Those of us like Bubba will be happiest if we don’t live too long.
The U.S./World population is HERE
Over Population, and some remedies.
As has been popularly mentioned, the Black Plague was good for the environment and good for rural people. The plague spread best in cities where there were many victims a day (a pattern in epidemics) but spread less well in rural areas, particularly when some of them shut down their environs to fleeing city dwellers.
As horrifying as it will be, a world plague is now just about inevitable. Most likely, it will be a simple virus that will wait about three days before killing its victim. One day up and spreading the virus to new hosts, a second day spreading the virus to care taking family members, and a day to die.
While it is statistically very likely, there is no way to know how it will play out. Probably, though, it would evolve to a second, more hardy but less virulent form and stay in urban populations, taking the weak. That would eventually reduce the population to the sustainable point. Eventually, though, like the population of Europe, it will be back up again.
There is the Voluntary Human Extinction movement, found HERE