Dropping out - Dec 6
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My Back to the Land Fantasy (And why it feels more real every day)
Dorothy Woodend, The Tyee
"Can we talk about something other than the end of the world?" someone asked me the other day.
Okay, I suppose I do talk about it a bit much lately. The feeling has been there for a while. It comes on strong whenever I stand in line at the Safeway and look at the magazines filled with stories about Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, or watch television, wondering, when did it all get so dumb and pointless? It's a terrible thought: maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the planet went through a people purge.
There's an odd split in our culture at the moment. Doom and gloom glowers from news headlines and movie documentaries. But the cars roar up and down Vancouver's Oak Street night and day, the coffee shops are full until midnight, and the price of real estate, especially anything with even a distant view of water, continues to shoot through the roof. A big lie maintains we can continue to have our consumptive lifestyle, and stave off environmental chaos, if we use only one coffee cup at Starbucks, turn off the lights, walk to work and recycle plastic bags. We can have our cake, and everyone else's cake too.
And yet, underneath the ordinary activities of daily life, many people have the anxious sense things have gone too far, and something is coming that will push it back in the other direction -- hard.
(29 Nov 2006)
Dorothy Woodend interviews her mother about her experiences with the back to the land movement of the 1970s. Well worth a read.
How to Drop Out
Ran Prieur, RanPrieur.com
Introduction May 2006. I don't eat from dumpsters any more -- I'd like to, but I spend most of my time in cities where there aren't any good ones. Even in Seattle they've been drying up because of this "security" fad. So having to buy all my food, my yearly expenses are now more like $3000. I still dodge rent by housesitting and staying with people, and in case that dries up, I got lucky and bought a good piece of land, which you can read about on my landblog. When people email me all excited about dropping out, I often find myself talking them down: The goal is not to get out of the prison, but to get out in a way that enables you to stay out. Be patient. Think ahead. Getting free is not like walking through a magic doorway -- it's like growing a fruit tree.
I didn't even start dropping out until my mid-20's. Unlike many outsiders and "radicals," I never had to go through a stage where I realized that our whole society is insane -- I've known that as long as I can remember. But even being already mentally outside the system, I found it extremely challenging to get out physically. In fourth grade I wanted to blow up the school, but I didn't know how, and even if I had done it, it would not have meant an endless summer vacation. In high school, inspired by Bill Kaysing's The Robin Hood Handbook, I wanted to go live off the land in the Idaho wilderness, but actually doing it seemed as remote and difficult as going to the moon. (Kaysing later wrote the book We Never Went to the Moon.) So I continued to bide my time and obey the letter of the law, like the guy in the Kafka parable (link). In college, when Artis the Spoonman performed on campus and told us all to drop out, I thought that was ridiculous -- how would I survive without a college degree?
A few years later, with my two college degrees, after jobs operating envelope-stuffing machinery and answering phones in a warehouse, I was finally nudged toward dropping out by the Bush I recession and my own nature -- that I'm extremely frugal, love unstructured time, and would sooner eat garbage than feign enthusiasm. More than ten years later I'm a specialist at eating garbage -- as I draft this I'm eating a meal I made with organic eggs from a dumpster, and later I'll make a pie of dumpstered apples. I live on under $2000 a year, I have no permanent residence, and moving to the Idaho wilderness now seems like a reachable goal -- but no longer the best idea.
(4 Apr 2004)
Great essay, as much about slowing down as dropping out.
Aaron, Village Blog
There’s a fascinating discussion happening on Living in a Van Down by the River about dropping out. It started off with a worrying attempt to define what dropping out was until Devin turned up and reminded everyone that “Dropping out is not a fucking club”.
He pretty much summed up the spirit of dropping out at the same. Aside from the semantic impossibility of being ‘in’ an ‘out’ club there is also the danger of creating a new ‘thing’ that would merely end up being something else we need to drop out of. It’s something that seems to happen to most ‘out’ groups, often because they are co-opted back into the system but if not then because the whole act of creating the ‘in’ group is such a civilised behaviour.
(5 Dec 2006)
Added Dec 7
Self-Sufficiency Plan for a Suburban Home
Sharon Astyk, Casaubon's Book (relinked)
I have been talking a lot lately in various places about adaptation - the ways in which we can use our existing infrastructure to live a lower-impact life. And so, I wanted to describe how that might work. I chose as a model the suburban home of a college friend of mine, who coincidentally has become aware of peak oil and asked for my advice not long ago. She lives in an exurb of Boston, with no direct public transportation (there is a train line 15 minutes away), in a fairly conventional suburban home with her partner and two children, 1 1/2 and 5.
(16 Nov 2006)
Sharon's list of suggested preparations helps anyone see what kind of steps are involved in becoming seriously more self sufficient. -AF