I’ve been pondering on what the nature of some surviving communities might be like once the economic collapse play itself out, once the vat majority of the remaining fossil fuels have been exhausted and once the last of the big military hardware has gone down to the bottom of Davey Jones locker. Let’s put this about 100 years into the future. This is going to be a rare one for me, an Upbeat and fairly positive spin on how some communities might survive and prosper.
Post Apocalypse Scenario 1: Neo-Medieval Towns
The first is a favorite among many owners of small farms out in the boonies of places like Vermont and Oregon, the quintessential “Small Town” economy. However, as it evolves, I don’t think the current morphology of a typical small town will hold up, its just not defensible enough. Widely scattered individual Doomsteads are too vulnerable to attack, as was the case on the Frontier back in the day when Europeans were displacing the local natives off their land.
Like in those days, each small town will need some type of Fort or Castle where the locals can retreat to when confronted by an attack on their lands. I could see large Malls being retrofitted to serve this purpose, adding in time defensive structures like Thick Walls and Moats, as well as more recent innovations like Barbed Wire. In this model, the small town becomes something like the way it was in France during the Huguenot period.
Out on the Growing lands surrounding the central Castle, there would be small huts with very little in them of value, just some beds, a fireplace a couple of days worth of food at the most. Not a very worthwhile target for raiding. On nights during the planting and harvesting seasons, these huts would be occupied, the rest of the time they would be empty. Such huts might be the old Garages of the McMansions that once dotted the landscape. The McMansions themselves would over time be gutted and dismantled and used as materials to create a more closely packed community inside the “Castle” Walls, which would be built on the old Parking Lots surrounding the central Mall.
Of course, inside the walls the community would need a steady source of potable water, and most Malls aren’t necessarily in such locations, so they wouldn’t work. The Mall would have to be in a location where the Water Table was within reasonable depth to drill out wells. Removal of Sewage would also be a factor, but you probably would want to use human feces for fertilizer as the Japanese did, so some collection method for this utilizing a closed system of piping to a composting area outside the Castle Walls would be likely.
In the fields surrounding the Castle, you would grow a variety of Crops utilizing conservative and human labor intensive permaculture techniques. Probable Crops to be raised would be Hemp and/or Flax for fiber for clothing, legumes to help replenish the nitrogen in the soil and grains like Barley which give good yields per acre. Closer in you would have gardens where you grow leafy green veggies and tubers like potatoes and carrots.
Meat from cattle would likely be minimal to non existent. Most animal protein would likely come from Goats and Chickens raised inside the walls or very near on the outside to be easily herded inside in times of trouble. You also would likely be raising Horses for transportation and as draft animals and to help Patrol the borders of the land you were controlling.
With good management and reproductive control of the population, such a cell would likely be sustainable for a very long time, possibly indefinitely. You would have to figure out just how many people the land you control could support and not allow the population to exceed that number. The alternative to that is you grow and eventually make war on a surrounding community to take over their lands, which may happen but if the communities are on relatively equal footing with respect to weaponry, its doubtful you would do much more than whittle down both populations some during such a local war
Post Apocalypse Scenario 2: Neo-Polynesians
This is a less considered lifestyle which might lead to nomadic communities of people who travel the oceans of the world in sailboats. There are a few doomers pursuing this lifestyle to an extent already, Dmitri Orlov is probably the most Doomer Famous among them living aboard his sailboat which I think is currently parked somewhere around Boston, MA. I ran into another one over on the Peak Oil board who went by the Nom de Plume of Sea Gypsy.
There are many boat hulls out there now which will last well into the next century, but even besides those its always possible to build new hulls out of the vast amount of flotsam and jetsam of the age of oil, as well as of course building out of wood. Sailing communities would come in the form of fairly large Flotillas of a loosely associated group of people on boats ranging from the very small, perhaps as small as 20’ in some cases up to probably a maximum of 80’. Bigger boats are possible of course, but rigging them up for sail is quite a challenge and its likely that once you take Cannon out of the picture, many smaller boats in a flotilla is probably better than a few really big ones.
Such flotillas would have to map out locations which were relatively inaccessible by land and defensible from attack from the sea. Such areas would be the Fjords of New Zealand, British Columbia, Alaska and Norway, along with the many widely dispersed archipelagos and isolated islands dotting the Pacific Ocean, as well as coastal islands like those in the Meditarranean Sea around Greece.
Life would revolve mainly around fishing and harvesting up naturally growing foods at different mapped out locations on a general North-South route, stopping off at each location in time with its harvest season. You might supplement the natural growth by planting some crops which grow well on their own with little maintenance, Coconut Trees and Banana Trees come to mind here You would of course keep your locations Secret as much as possible to prevent raiding from other groups of Sea Gypsies living the same style of life. Conflicts and Sea Battles would likely occur when different bands ran up on each other.
Maintenance of your ships is probably the biggest problem for the Tribe Without a Country, particularly the sails which take a LOT of fiber and weaving and sewing to put together. Getting this material for the most part would have to be done by Trade, although if the sailing craft are small enough then even grasses can be used to weave up a decent sail.
Eventually however, these Nomads might establish a few stable Port Cities and develop a steady Trade Network in conjuction with their yearly Global travels to harvest food. Of course with such a trade will come increasing Piracy, but again here these battles basically serve to keep in check the total population pursuing such a lifestyle as long as the weaponry is relatively equal on both sides.
Post Apocalypse Scenario #3- the Neo Mountain Men
This is likely the most limited scenario of these 3 in terms of numbers and where it could be effectively pulled off.
First off, you need mountainous terrain that also supports a good ecosystem sufficient for a few people to engage in a hunter gatherer lifestyle. The only places that might be left where this could be effectively accomplished are probably in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, certain portions of the Andes Mountains around Chile and Peru and the Himalayas and possibly around Kilimanjaro in Africa. I leave Switzerland out because this area already is converted to a farm/small town paradigm and fits under Scenario 1.
Living in the mountains in this way is TOUGH. As in prior generations, only a few would undertake such a lifestyle, they will mostly be Men and mostly those seeking to escape one sort of slavery or another down in the flatlands. It is unlikely such folks would be reproducing themselves by taking wives and raising children, rather they reproduce because in each generation a few new guys will take to the hills as their means of escape from slavery or economic captivity of one sort or the other.
Post Apocalypse Scenario #4- The Neo-Slave State
This is the likely medium term outcome in the agricultural flatlands of the Midwest of the FSofA and the grain fields of the Ukraine and the fields of France and Germany. The necessary Human Labor to run large farms in the absence of Oil powered machinery will be forcibly enslaved from the local populations by ruthless Warlords. Slaves will be acquired first from the starving Big Shitties, so here in the FSofA they will likely be Black and Hispanics again. In Europe, the imported and impoverished Muslim population will likely be the first to be enslaved. Those who are not enslaved will be eliminated by Genocide in a Neo-Holocaust.
The process of re-enslavement will be long and vicious, with many revolts and once the military machine breaks down, at times the Slaves will win these battles and enslave their former Masters. The overall productivity of the lands controlled in this manner will gradually diminish, and the population of both Slaves and Masters will diminish with it.
In the end, these Slaves societies will devolve to small groups of nomadic wanderers, much like the Mongol Horde of the era of Kubla and Genghis Kahn, although its probably going to be a while before one Warlord assembles them all up under his control. Once assembled though, this horde will attack the Sustainable Cities of Scenario #1 at the periphery of their territory.
The result of that set of wars is cloudy in my Crystal Ball. Either side could win, it depends mostly on numbers and defensive and offensive strategies that might be employed. Likely again you would see an ebb and flow here as the wars commence and then enough people are killed off on both sides that they retreat to their own borders for a while until the next round begins.
Medium term here, nobody “wins” and leads a perpetually “peaceful” life. The kind of life the Tinglit lived for a few thousand years with a Gift Economy isn’t coming back in the near or medium term. Regardless of the type of community you become part of, you will also become part of some competition for resource until the population has been knocked down by a very large percentage.
Still, clearly for the medium term some alternatives are better than others and to an extent it depends on what your predilection is for a lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle seems best served by the neo-Medieval Small Town and Castle, the Nomadic lifestyle seems best served by the neo-Polynesian model. For the loner and rugged individualist, the neo-Mountain Man seems the best option. For anyone but an aspiring Warlord and perhaps his direct Lieutenants, the neo-Slave paradigm wouldn’t be one you would want to pursue I think.
Long term, diminishing resources will likely take their toll on all the paradigms, until inevitably there is a major Game Changer like Yellowstone going Ballistic or a 20 mile wide Asteroid impacting the planet. As it did with Toba, as it did in the Permian Extinction, when the inevitable Geological or Cosmological Catastrophe hits the Earth, we will be fortunate if one Tribe of 10,000 Human Souls makes it through that Zero Point.
If they don’t, the great experiment that was Human Sentience on Earth will be over. If they do survive, they will be very fortunate people indeed, for they will be the first people in the millennia since Toba went Supervolcanic to have TRUE freedom again, and a world to explore once again.
I hope for the latter case to be true, and for perhaps in the far distant future the dreams of getting off this planet and colonizing the Universe might eventually be realized, perhaps through some spiritual revelation of controlling Gravity with the mind, or some equally outlandish Sci-Fi concept.
For me, I can be sure of only one thing at the moment, which was that I did live this life in the penultimate years of the Age of Oil, which was for the most part not too bad for me being born into the culture that reaped most of the rewards for the exploitation of this resource. When I walk into the Great Beyond, I don’t know what my choices will be, but if there is only one Eternity and I can choose where to place myself in it, I do know where and when that place was. It was on a Catamaran Rigged Sailing Canoe that left the shores of the Society Islands and successfully made the first voyage to the Big Island of Hawaii. That is my vision of Heaven and Freedom, and that is where I hope my eternal soul will rest.