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Lucky for you that you had 36 years of cheap fossil fuels to get where you are today. Retirement, perhaps?, in a "little rural enclave".

My goals, when young, always included a rural bias. I started to head back to the land with my young family when I was 27. That, of course, meant that I was part of the long-distance daily commute for 36 years (and was, therefore, a serial polluter on a significant scale). It also meant that I built up my garden and other rural accoutrements gradually and within my means.

And this is precisely the problem, in my opinion, on both a micro-scale and a macro-scale. The only way most Americans, er USians, can replicate what you advocate is to follow a similar high-polluting life choice while building up a green arsenal.

We, as people of this plant, cannot afford to have more "serial polluters" working in one area and living in another. We're over the redline for greenhouse emissions  already, this approach will not work and without the 'city' job funding the 'rural' survivalist lifestyle, it is a fast road to poverty, in my view.

On an international level, this is life the West, especially the U.S., living the modern fossil fuel lifestyle and becoming prosperous and then telling the developing world - that sorry the way to become prosperous is to burn fossil fuels, but its too late for that because the West has burnt too much already.

It's never too late, until it's too late, to paraphrase a great American philosopher.

But I think it is too late to follow your specific example. Another path must be blazed. The destination may need to be the same, but the world cannot afford any longer for Americans to travel there in the same way.

by Magnifico on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 05:11:22 PM EST
True.  And were Paul 27 today I suspect he would chose a different path. These problems have been and continue to be an existential dilemma.  For 27 years while raising a family in Los Angeles I lived in the San Fernando Valley and worked in the Basin, most of the time somewhere within seven miles of the intersection of the 405 and the 10 in West LA.  My average commute was about 25 miles each way.

I read The Limits to Growth when it first came out in paperback and it seemed well presented and intuitively obvious to me.  I responded favorably to Jimmy Carter's infamous "sweater speech", a member of a decided minority.  Had I done the "smart" thing and towed the official line on wars and foreign policy I would have been able to get a job with one of the defense contractors, say Hughes, could have purchased a house on the West Side while the rents were still low, had a short commute and ridden the real estate escalator to a significant personal net worth by age 35.  

But I never even tried.  I despised the Vietnam war and everything that supported it and didn't even want to apply for a job that might require a security clearance.  I loved the technology involved in the defense industry but unfortunately was encumbered with a conscience.  In 1978 I was offered a job at Hughes in technical instruction.  It was tempting, but I would have literally been teaching mixed classes of Greek and Turkish military personnel how to use the same weapons systems!  I knew that I could excel at that task, and I was assured that they got along well in class but teaching Greeks and Turks how to kill each other I found unacceptable.

Instead I built recording studios, deferring income that never actually materialized and ended up in electronics contracting, earning less than I could have.  I loved the work and could sleep at night, but ended up with a 40-50 mile daily commute in order to have a single residence dwelling in an area with acceptable schools that I could afford: Van Nuys -> Reseda -> to Northridge over 27 years.

Where we find work and where we chose to reside are complex choices.  I have always supported policies, such as mass transit, that would reduce the impact of such choices, but was never in the position to personally benefit until we found commuter buses that my son could use to commute 35 miles to college while living at home.  Nor were such choices mine alone to make, once I was married, if I wanted to stay married and be a part of my son's life. This is something we all face--a dilemma of our existence.

For me the compromise consisted of driving Japanese cars and putting close to 200,000 miles on them before donating them to charity for the tax deduction.  From 1972 until the mid-'90s the wife's vehicle was a 1972 Honda Z-600, with a 600cc engine!  Got >40 mpg and would pull the Sepulveda grade southbound without dropping below 50mph and requiring a downshift!  We both loved that car.  I drove a '67 Toyota Corona with a 2 liter engine that was almost a hot rod, then a '78 Corolla wagon, a Volvo 140, a Mazda and an Altima, all the while doing my part to melt the polar ice caps.

What can I say?  It was the best I could do?  The greater problem is that the American Suburban Middle Class even now refuses to consider that this must and will change.  The real challenge will be managing that change while retaining any vestige of democratic governance.  Treasure all of the allies you can find, regardless of how sordid their past.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 11:24:01 PM EST
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man i feel your pain ARG... compromises always leave some blood on the walls. well done for listening to your inner yearning to live more appropriately than the model the cultural forces were pushing you towards. you certainly have a more interesting story to tell because of your choices, and those years of better sleep will help you stick around longer, and help educate future generations. i'm sure your efforts to hew to principle have done much to encourage others to strive similarly.

great diary, paul. well written and personal. i really liked your inclusiveness.

@magnifico... i see it differently. the means used to reduce carbon eventually first used more, (the 'speeding up to get to the rest spot' syndrome.)

ultimately though the means to get there (simpler, less consumption-driven life) can be upgraded, what's important is to keep the thread unbroken between city and farm, and to keep alive the knowledge and skills.

with the global exodus towards cities, any move the other way is worthwhile in the interests of balance.

there are already too many overcrowded cities, overdependent on fossil fueled supply lines.

some people will still move from countryside to city without any economic pistol goading them, for though farming supplies physical needs, it cannot concentrate culture like cities can, so we need transport and travel between the two, though i suspect it will have to be a lot more ecologically justifiable than popping out to the local bigbox supermarket a few dozen driving miles away for something trivial, or just going out for a spin.

it comes down to country culture desperately needing right sustenance revival, and public and/or private transport that is both carbon neutral and plentiful, both tough nuts to crack, though i believe we the people have all kinds of intelligent solutions that are being and have been suppressed in order to keep the dying elephant stagger on another few miles.

but die it must, and unless more people do similarly to paul, there will be far too many city folk wondering where their next meals are coming from, and realising late in the game that farming is not going to be as simple as chemfert-plough-herbicide-combine-truck-to-table has been making it since the beginning of the last century.

it's not whether we can't afford it, we have to, instead of dismissing it we need to make it easier and above all ecologically cheaper, that way removing, by incremental amelioration, the validity of your objection.

some things are worth the cost, most aren't. time's lessons will add considerably to our somewhat atrophied powers of discrimination in this regard, methinks.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 03:20:34 AM EST
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ARGeezer:
I read The Limits to Growth when it first came out in paperback and it seemed well presented and intuitively obvious to me.
How unserious™ of you. Don't you know that book is still not even wrong  even after its third edition?
In 2008 Graham Turner at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia published a paper called "A Comparison of `The Limits to Growth` with Thirty Years of Reality".[5][6] It examined the past thirty years of reality with the predictions made in 1972 and found that changes in industrial production, food production and pollution are all in line with the book's predictions of economic and societal collapse in the 21st century.[7]


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 04:06:28 AM EST
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We need a mechanism that rewards Unserious PeopleTM when, after 30 years, they are proven right.  I want my prize!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 09:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
And were Paul 27 today I suspect he would chose a different path.
I am in a very small minority among my immediate coworkers riding the tram to work. Most drive, some of them up to 30 miles (in heavy traffic, so lots of pollution). And the development model I see in the outskirts in Madrid is just like California's suburban sprawl. Outdoor malls with fast food restaurants, pillbox shopping and entertainment centres, the lot.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 04:10:24 AM EST
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for defending me - but Magnifico has a legitimate point. I can list some mitigating factors, but, ultimately, I was exploiting the situation/system. I got mine, so to speak.

The diary, however, was simply using my experience to try to demonstrate some lifestyle - what shall I call them? - imperatives, perhaps. Skill development, physical labor, simple recreation, and political/social involvement are my prescriptions. They are all important factors in the present and - in my opinion - will be more important in the future - especially in the U.S.A.

I left out some of the more speculative elements of the rural/urban interface in the future. Melo touched on some of them in his comment. The interdependence of the two sectors is skewed a bit: the urban areas are more dependent on the rural for essentials. And I don't think that urbanites - and suburbanites - appreciate that fact. When disruption occurs, the urban areas are going to need plenty of spokespersons with some 'standing', such as myself, to maintain the interface. The simple fact is that we can survive out here on the land, and the urban areas cannot - at least they cannot survive intact.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 10:47:17 AM EST
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I was less defending you than joining you in the defendant's box, Paul.  But honest, Judge, I didn't want to do it!  Life just made me do it! ;-/

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 02:53:58 PM EST
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... acting collectively, even as a minority but one willing to vote transport as their primary local issue, gaining a dedicated transport corridor can cut the vehicular commute down to NEV range, an outer suburban village with far less reliance on petroleum comes into the realm of the possible.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 12:42:12 PM EST
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