You Can’t Eat Silicon

Even the New York Times is feeling apocalyptic, with a nice piece about folks learning primitive skills. There’s an air of novelty about the article, but shouldn’t be. The back-to-the-land counterculture didn’t all turn into Yuppies, and there have been intentional communities, some maintaining older traditions, for centuries. That diversity is good and useful; someone has to remember how to make things.

As Shane Hobel said when No. 1 Daughter and I took his survival course for Girl Scouts, we once were a sophisticated people in a primitive world; now we are a primitive people in a sophisticated world.

How to Prepare Now for the Complete End of the World, The New York Times, March 8, 2020

“One day I was like, ‘This is crap. We live month to month. We spend all our money on booze and coffee. We can’t save like this. We can’t live like this. We all talk about getting back to earth, but we didn’t know anything about it.’”

Living on Margin

Instant gratification is made possible by just-in-time delivery. What if just-in-time never arrives?

I have four eggs left in the refrigerator and half a gallon of milk, so if I want to make waffles over the weekend, I will need to purchase more. Assuming that I have money to buy more. Assuming that there are more to buy.

I know someone with chickens, so eggs might not be a problem if, for some reason, I have to beg favors, or the local grocery store closes, or a delivery can’t be made because all the drivers are ill or fuel is scare, or the farmers or their robots can’t milk the cattle or gather eggs from the chickens. But do I know anyone with a milk cow? It’s still Winter; do I know anyone with greenhouse? (Actually, I know several, but they’re in Virginia and Connecticut; I’m in New York.)

What will you eat when the world ends?

What is your margin of error?

Age Segregation

From grade schools to senior villages, we now spend much of our lives on separate generational islands. Can we reverse the trend?

What ‘age segregation’ does to America,” Boston Globe, August 30, 2014

I certainly hope so. This segregation by age is one of the more ridiculously, annoyingly persistent legacies of the Industrial Revolution.

Three things would help:

  • Stop approving “Over-55 Only” developments. These are often requested by planning boards because we’re scared about how more houses and thus more children might change our school taxes, but couched in terms that sound reasonable, such as “caring for our older neighbors.” The former argument is silly anyway: we’re having children later in life. When I’m 55, I’ll still have children in school. But I also need a place to live now. Age-restricted developments not only separate older adults from their children and grandchildren, but they constrain the housing supply.
  • Let the older children teach the younger. Sort school children by ability rather than age, if they need to be sorted at all. If you have more than one child at home, you may have noticed that kids do this already by themselves. They pretty much still do on playgrounds.
  • Play. Stop treating sports and the arts as only for children. Get up off the couch and dance.