Stone Soup

Let's play "What do we know?"

1) We know that sudden, catastrophic collapse is imminent.
2) We know that, right now, virtually no one in our respective locations is open to the idea of discussing this, let alone preparing for it.
3) We know that, no matter how much we stock up in the way of emergency supplies, those supplies won't last indefinitely and we will need to find new ways to sustain ourselves over the long haul.
4) Long-term survival in the aftermath of systemic collapse will require community.

So that brings us to the key question, "How can we foster community?" All of us reflecting upon the inevitable impending collapse of the global economy, peak oil, and climate change have similar concerns and many of us who have some experience and knowledge feel led to share our insights with like-minded folks. The problem, of course, is that we are widely dispersed and, in most cases, will never lay eyes upon each other, let alone plant potatoes or set up water filtration systems together. The folks who could potentially be there for you when your husband falls off a ladder and breaks his arm--or weevils have destroyed your stored grain--live within walking distance of your home.

Let's be honest about this. We don't trust our neighbors. This is true in the cities of Vietnam, as well as in America. Vietnam has a history of civil war and a more recent one of migration due to economic circumstances (i.e.; the dearth of economic opportunities in the countryside.) The media in both America and Vietnam harp on crime (be wary of the other) and individual success stories (lottery winners, movie stars and successful entrepreneurs). You'd be hard-pressed to find compelling stories in either Vietnamese or American media of unrelated individuals banding together to support one another. And yet that's exactly what tribes of traditional people do. Plains Indians both hunted and processed buffalo as a community. Hog butchering, likewise, was traditionally a communal activity in America. The Amish do not charge their neighbors by the hour when they participate in a barn-raising. And both Irish and Vietnamese traditional cultures dictate that neighbors step forward to help prepare the body of a deceased community member for the wake which is held at the family's home.

It's obvious to us that many of the trappings of "normal" modern life must fall by the wayside as we spiral into the collapse of our globalized, petroleum-dependent society. We stand ready to give up Hummers and Big Macs and maybe even Diet Coke. But I think that, if we have any hope of having a life worth living after all is said and done, that we need to examine carefully the baked-in assumptions we hold as a result of having spent our lives thus far in a corporate-produced culture. Your neighbors may have "incorrect" political views and some funky personal habits but, in the end, it won't be Dennis Kucinich or your sister in Poughkeepsie keeping a nightly look-out for chicken thieves with you. And none of your virtual friends at Peak Prosperity will be there to help you patch your roof--it will have to be those less-than-perfect neighbors. So here's my idea: consider investing in a BIG (restaurant/institution-sized) pot, a long-handled spoon and maybe a free-standing propane gas burner and a bunch of stackable plastic lawn chairs. Now go out and buy a LOT of soup bouillon and perhaps some dehydrated veggies, bulk rice, oatmeal, grits, or whatever seems right to you. Then, when times get tough, you'll be ready to serve up a hot daily bowl of fill-in-the-blank in your carport or garage or front yard to whomever shows up. Invite folks to bring their own bowls and to settle down to eat and talk. You'll have planted good seeds in what will certainly, at that point, be fertile soil. See what develops . . . maybe you'll grow a community!