Small communities in the Age of Climate Change
Those who spent their time and energy arguing whether the climate change is anthropogenic or not and what governments should do about it, are missing three essential points:
- The climate change, anthropogenic or not, is killing people all the same.
- The very momentum of the system (as we know, the changes were visible already almost 50 years ago) means that whatever can be done, will bring real effects no sooner than two generations down the line – and that means some permanent changes in human civilisation have to happen anyway.
- The current elite – top capitalist and political actors – are not really focused on saving the humanity. They rather plan to save themselves1 with selected “personnel” and perhaps some genome pool for the fresh start2.
Among other things that means exactly that we, less privileged, need to cut the bickering and start adapting our own communities to new reality. And this reality is going to be harsh.
As a rule of thumb, current climate change influence on our environment means more extreme weather. Drought and floods, wind and rain. Their consequences: soil erosion, wildfires, destruction of infrastructure. On a longer run, the shift of vegetation zones and permanent changes in living conditions, especially closer to equator. Currently inhabitable and productive areas of our planet are gradually changing beyond comfort zone limits. Historical global pollution dumping zones – permafrost in polar areas – are melting down and releasing a lot of dangerous substances, kept inert for centuries and millenia.
One could imagine that Mother Earth got fever and is now sending antibodies to quell the factor that caused the illness – which includes us and quite a lot of other (essentially innocent) species.
In the age of global economy, every disaster sends ripples across the planet. Climate change influences logistics, food production and mining. Puts quite a load on infrastructure and makes people move between continents. Above all, increases wealth concentration and inequality. Harsh climate makes people quit their land and leave. Rich ones, through corporations they own or control, grab the land3 and, using their resources, benefit of it.
This is happening not only in Africa or Middle East4. In Europe, while it is not officially reported as land grabbing, agricultural land is being leased long-term for more than two decades now, usually with the first refusal clause. “Target countries” are mostly “new EU members”, with a notable exception of Greece, which is now practically the first EU-member colonial economy.
As vegetation zones shift towards poles and logistics start to suffer from hurricanes, the advantage position of EU will become even more visible. And, of course, it means more people trying to get here.
All together, it not only means less availability of materials and labour from traditional sweatshops of global economy. It also means structural change in demand – people will need means to survive in the environment growing more hostile every year. But the supply may develop in two directions: one is “more of the same” – products and services keeping people alive and not rioting, but under (stricter and stricter) control of the rulers. Another one is towards sustainability and resilience on community level5. That means products and services based on local (natural or reclaimed) materials, possible to make (once developed and tested) on a community level, generally following the rules of appropriate technology6, only this time applied to us, firstworlders.
During last decades, the “Western style of life” developed towards strong dependence of “the grid” – infrastructure services and media, delivered by more of less centralised institutions, through extensive logistic systems. Economy of scale and other reasons made this partly reasonable. But there are also bad consequences. Access to basic amenities: water, electricity, transport and communication became highly controlled. Getting connected to distribution networks now needs more than just some money. One has to be registered, prove “legal residence”, tax number etc. On the other hand, the need for infrastructure is used to coerce people to do other things: half of electricity bill in Greece is municipal tax, not related to electricity at all.
As we discuss above, the climate change puts pressure on infrastructure and once abundant, resources become scarce. The control over access to amenities becomes a tool of exclusion. Society gets divided: good (and tax-paying) citizens have better access to shrinking resources; the have-nots are handled through dwindling social services and charity actions – except for those who are not eligible and thus left out and criminalised for “stealing” shelter, water, electricity and internet bandwidth.
The latter group includes growing population of New Europeans7 – those who came to Europe, lured by propaganda of German and other governments, or simply pushed out of their places by natural and human (mostly European and US) made disasters.
But it also includes those among old Europeans, who slipped through the bottom – missed that single monthly pay, separating them from loosing their apartment, credit standing and all tiny stabilisation they were clinging to for last several years.
In rich countries of old EU it is still less visible. Just being born in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, France – let alone Scandinavia for example – makes a person financially sound at the level highly desired for a Greek or Polish citizen. The core of Europe is taking care of their citizens. Not necessarily of anyone else.
Big parts of the continent will undergo similar “austerity” process as it happened in Greece, or will be converted into buffer/filtration zones against future, really serious waves of migration10.
What it means we see in Greece: weak state (as an anarchist I am the last to mourn it) replaced effectively by transnational corporations and administrative bodies. Growing militarisation, less and less public space – in physical and political sense. Protests, dissent and all kinds of “radicalisation” criminalised, under general banner of “war on terror”. There are people and groups who will thrive in these conditions, but I have nothing to do with them.
In such a landscape small, confederated, resilient communities, living sustainably “under the radar” and keeping communal values alive, may become humanity’s last stand. But their physical survival depends on development of tools they need. Among them technology and economy are ones of the most important. That is why, on my microscopic scale, I am working on it. You are also invited to support, contribute and get involved. See you at Walkaways website. There we can start doing something to save ourselves – and those important to us.
Petros Kanenas Polonos
Karlovasi, Samos Island, Greece
26th of August, 2018
2 Nothing new under the sun: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strangelove#Plot
4 See partial data here: https://landmatrix.org/en/get-the-idea/global-map-investments/
5 If you, Dear Reader, need explanation why I skip fantasies of classic lone-wolfish survivalism, I promise you a separate piece on it. But not today nor tomorrow.
6 And yes, open source is a no-brainer here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_appropriate_technology
7 Aka refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants etc. etc.
8 Both were known well in advance and both are here to stay.
9 If you like my long-winded style, see my old article on it: https://freelab2014.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/house-of-glass/
10 The Mediterranean provides quite a protection against people coming from the South and South-East. But the East direction is wide open and Central Asia is yet to hit the road.