I posted this question in the comments section of a different blog this morning:
Have you ever had your eyes so wide opened by something that you can’t ever close them again?
That’s how I feel about Peak Oil. I came, innocently, across Life After The Oil Crash in early 2005 and things just have never been the same. I had an infant daughter, my son was in the hospital, and I was pissed off that we couldn’t buy a house because the housing market in Las Vegas had gone haywire. All the babyboomers in my family and my husband’s family had bought nice houses for $150,000 or so within the past five years–and we couldn’t even get a dump for that much at the time. I was angry.
But I could also see clearly that what was happening in the housing market couldn’t be sustained. I had no real idea what was happening, but it made sense that it would correct at some point. So I started to do some research, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. What had caused the house we were renting to go from being “worth” $150,000 one year and $350,000 the next? It felt like the whole world had gone off it’s rocker.
So that’s how I came across Peak Oil. I read Matt Savinar’s entire website, and scared myself half to death. I realized that living in a place that absolutely depended on electrcity for survival was not okay. In Las Vegas it’s more than 100 degrees during the day from about May to November. It’s 100 degrees at least round the clock and often 110 or hotter during the day July to September. I spent one August when I was a single mother deep in poverty with no air conditioning. That is NOT a long-term solution in that desert city.
So we moved two years later. We didn’t go far, and we went to the only nearish town where we had some family–but we got out of the heat. Of course now we have winter for nine months out of the year, but it’s much easier to stay warm sans electricity than it is to stay cool in that kind of heat.
Two years later, I know that this is not a long-term solution. Here’s why:
- Our town is very remote. All food, gasoline, goods–anything that we buy has to be shipped at least 250 miles to us. There are only about 5000 people in this town, so if gas went high enough it might just stop being worthwhile for anyone to want to ship it to us at all.
- We have to drive here. There are no choices. We drive probably 80 miles a day total, between Kevin, Adrienne, and I all needing to be in town at various times during the week for work, school, and school activities. There is a public bus, but it’s unpredictable and only comes to our part of town once per day, which means that round trips are out of the question. (Silly, I know.) I’ve seen gas as high as $4.25 a gallon here. (See number 1…we pay a premium because it’s trucked up from so far away.)
- The growing season here is only about 75 to 90 days (depending on the frost dates.) People do grow things here, and there are alfalfa farms. But it’s very difficult. And irrigation is needed, because it’s so dry up here. We get only about four inches of rain during the summer.
- This may be the most conservative place in America. I’m not going to debate politics in this post, but the few times I’ve tried to discuss Peak Oil or Climate Change or why there is no recycling program here, I either get blank stares or called a Damn Liberal. I am a Damn Liberal, so that’s okay. But it would be nice not to be the only one.
- There is no secular homeschooling community here. I firmly believe that parents have the right to raise their children in their religion, but it would be nice to have a home school community that wasn’t so tied to religion.
- The housing market has not corrected here, and is showing no signs of doing so. The house next door to Adrienne and Nick’s grandparent’s house is on the market for $250,00o (!!) and it will sit there at that price forever, because the people who are selling it have had it paid off for thirty years and they just don’t care. They assume at some point someone will want to buy it. That’s the mindset here. I’ve seen houses on the market for outrageously inflated prices like that where the owner paid maybe $40,000 for it five or six years ago and put it on the market two or three years ago and have no incentive to really sell it because they’re getting good rent (the rental market is really tight here, so people can get high monthly payments.)
- While Kevin and I are both working in our fields, there are very limited work choices here. This has become glaringly obvious to me lately as things have happened at my job to make it miserable for me, and I can’t just quit or move on. This is a very seasonal place, and as few jobs as there are, in the winter they are nearly non-existent.
- There are no sources for local food there. The semi-exception being that we have a few cattle ranches around. But those animals are shipped to Idaho (at least 500 miles) to be slautered, and then shipped back here (another 500 miles) to be sold. So while I have a cattle ranch literally in my back yard, the meat from those cows still travels 1000 miles to get to my freezer. Okay, one other tiny exception is that we have an itty bitty farmers market here in August and September. The one thing that grows really well here is fruit, particularly apples, so we can get local apples during those months. These are just from people’s frontyard trees, as there are no orchards or farms, so the cost is outrageous ($4 a pound.)
- This one ties into our town being very isolated. There is very little to do here. Our only stores are very expensive locally-owned shops. There is no bookstore (!), we get one movie every three weeks, and very few community events. I think that community is going to be the only way to really get through whatever is coming, and there just isn’t a cohesive one here unless you’re religious.
- Which brings me to religion. This town is about 75 percent Mormon. There are is a Baptist and a Catholic church as well. I have aboslutely no problem with any religion. None. But mine (Unitarian) isn’t represented. And neither is Jewish, Buddist, Quaker…this is a very non-diverse place to live. So maybe number 10 is about diversity. All activity revolves around church here, and if you don’t belong, you don’t belong.
All of that being said, I’ve really enjoyed living here. It is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. The people are kind, I’ve got job experience I couldn’t have in a bigger city, and it was a good segway between Las Vegas and where-ever we end up.
But it’s time to start seriously planning to move on. For whatever reason, I’ve got Seattle stuck in my head. We’re still investigating though. Our goal is to move in 18 months, when Adrienne graduates from High School. Secretly, I want to be prepared to move much quicker if the state of the world doesn’t cooperate with making this place safe for that long.
Here is our list of requirements from The New Place:
- We want to stay in the West, although we’re open to moving further away from Las Vegas (and our families) than we were two years ago. I have a feeling we’re paving the way for a mass exodus of our families to where we are.
- Public transportation is a must–well established and inexpensive. Being near an Amtrak station is also important.
- A thriving homeschool community.
- Politically liberal.
- A decent growing season, and plenty of rain so that irrigation isn’t necessary.
- Naturally beautiful. This is important to me for the long-term. I spent 20 years in ugly Las Vegas, that’s long enough. The color green is important to these desert dwellers, too.
- Casinos. Kevin is a poker dealer. He may not be able to be one forever, but while the casinos are still open (and I suspect they’ll be amongst the last things to go under) this is where his experience is.
- An attitude of sustainability. I doubt there is any city that is fully prepared for I’m afraid is coming, but there are places that are more open to the changes that will have to be made.
- Affordable housing. Where we live now is so-so in this area. We pay $1200 a month for a four-bedroom house (a teenage boy, a teenage girl, and a preschooler…they don’t combine well. Not to say they couldn’t, if need be.) There are places, obviously, with much much higher rents. We don’t want to live there.
- A place that is neither extremely hot or extremely cold. We want to be able to survive without electricity if we have to.
- A place neat enough that our families would want to come there if (when) things get too bad in Vegas for that city to be liveable.
- We want to live in a small city. I think the days of living off the land out in the middle of no where are limited, unless a family is completely self-sufficient.
- This is a personal thing, but I would LOVE to live somewhere with an active community of writers.
For some reason, about six months ago I got it into my head that we should move to Seattle. I’ve never been there, so I don’t have any personal experience that I’m drawing on. It is in the West, my sister’s house near Boise is about halfway between Vegas and Seattle, so it’s got a pathway to our families. From what I can tell my perusing Craigslist, we can rent there for not too much more than we are renting here and pay is much higher for both casino and social workers. There is a homeschool community and a writing community. It’s liberal, gets plenty of rain, and the ocean keeps the weather temperate (we have a 110 degree swing here, from highest high to lowest low during the year. In the summer the days can be in the 90s and suddenly in the 50s as soon as the sun goes down. The ocean keeps those wild swings from happening.) My brothers are all in their 20s, and Seattle would appeal to them. Seattle also has several casinos, and a casino cruise ship industry. Seattle has about 500,000 people according to Wikipedia, which is 1/4 the size of Las Vegas and seems perfect to a little big to me.
Another option is Oregon. We have distant family in Portland, and Oregon is closer to Idaho than Washington is.
Research is called for. Good thing I love research!
I’d love to hear from you guys about what you think about sustainable places to live.