A radical a departure
from standard practices of energy and housing facilitates an economic
healing. As the cost of living is reduced to a fraction of that to
which we are accustomed, we are free to escape the rest of economic
maelstrom as well. None-the-less, a money-based economy is a
transitional reality that needs to be addressed at at least a token
The ideas suggested
here are for people who have fallen out of this system or are about
to, and any dollar they have is carefully managed. Beyond immediate
provision, they also target commodities and services upon which
mainstream society will increasingly depend. They are building blocks
for a society that is more sustainable and secure.
Rules For Prosperity
Historically the best
businesses pioneered new niches in a changing culture. Blockbuster
video stores arose as video tape players became available to the
public, and now their stores are closing as service has become
faster, cheaper and better over the internet.
OK, so I'm old, and
I've seen a lot of changes in this world. The disconcerting thing is
that the rate of change is increasing. Things we may not have
imagined a few years ago are commonly making news today. The good
news for the visionary and the bad news for the insecure is that the
passing of some segments of our economy comes opportunity for new
ones. It's difficult to get started in the oil well business right
now, but many new solar energy companies are doing well.
It is the challenge
of the visionary to not only see what's ahead, but to discern its
timing as well. The increasing populations and decreasing fossil
resources can only translate into less for everybody (increasing
poverty) for those who depend upon them. Less money means decreased
access to commodities that have been expensively mined, expensively
refined, expensively taxed and regulated, and expensively transported
The ramifications of
this are two-fold: 1. Lifestyles based upon a global economy are
going to change (decrease, obviously). 2. Lifestyles based upon that
which can be produced at local levels will become more common. Herein
is opportunity: Energy, structures, materials, and food that can be
produced locally in small-scale business will become increasingly
dominant. This does not imply that they will prosper in terms we
commonly view as prosperity, only that they will be the best of
what's available to increasing segments of the population.
is another matter: As mentioned above, the rate
of change is increasing. Political
and economic gyrations and increasing violence are accelerating
factors of unpredictable scale. I'll leave the rest of this
prognostication up to you.
Some form of self-employment is the
We have all
experienced the frustration of meaningless servitude to jobs where
reward was not tied to performance. I have spent years in situations
where my pay and benefits had far more to do with politics than
performance. Whether I worked hard, or did as little as possible had
little to do with advancement. In a socialist system, where you are
deprived of benefit or consequence for your level performance, there
is no reason to be productive. This is why state-mandated communism
is history's most consistently proven economic failure. Don't be
deceived by China's appearance of prosperity today; it exists only
because of free-world markets, and concessions to free-enterprise
within its own system.
Minimize non-productive expenses.
The talons of control
have created avenues of access to the prosperity of those who are
willing to work.
Taxes: How much do you get for how
much you pay?
companies live on the difference between what you pay and what you
Middle men: If you market
directly, you keep all your productivity.
License, permit, and other
regulatory fees are overhead you pay people to control you.
Regulatory compliance, vehicle and
structural codes: Ostensibly for your own protection. Since you are
not considered competent enough to look out for your own interests,
burdensome and expensive regulations are imposed to protect you.
Interest: Foreclosures are only
possible because slaves depend upon their master's money. Avoid
slavery by avoiding debt.
Produce things people need.
When the economy
falters luxuries are the first to go. We live in a world of
decreasing natural resources and increasing population that can only
translate into a decline in resources available per person. Since
there is no foreseeable end to these trends, planning for the future
requires alternative solutions to provision of the basics. By
producing the basics of food, shelter, and energy locally, you can
control access to your basic needs regardless of surrounding economic
and political conditions. In the long run, these will be the most
important games in town.
All need not be
austere. Make opportunity to add life and art to all you do. As you
consider antique versions of functional items you will often find
elegant craftsmanship and decoration. The art nouvoeau movement of
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries combined grace,
beauty, and creativity with functionality. Remember that life it more
than existence, and express it by adding love and creativity to
whatever your do.
Network – Function within a
society has made it practical to live your life without knowing or
caring about your next door neighbor. This is wrong. We need the
power of relationships with people around us to prosper in a changing
world. Within this context be willing to freely
give, and receive with gratitude. We all go through cycles of life
and prosperity so be a part of an organism, rather than a stand-alone
god in yourself.
The object is not to rejoin society,
but to become the envy of it.
would life and it's pressures change if you paid no mortgage, rent,
vehicle expenses of any kind, income taxes, license fees or car
maintenance? Work is an easy walk or five-minute bike ride and you
get to decide how to spend what you earn. Remember that money is only
a tool, and by meeting your needs through labor and creativity,
living requires far less of it. Living expense saved is the same as
tax-free income. This also frees you from the insult of having to pay
people to teach your children twisted social concepts and
philosophies in public schools. Focus upon doing things that are
worthwhile and fulfilling, rather than paper with fickle imaginary
Picture a graph with
line beginning at the upper left and making a gradual jagged descent
as it move towards the right. This represents the standard of living
in industrialized nations as natural resources decline and
populations increase. Now picture a line beginning at the lower left
corner and creeping upwards as it moves to the right. This is the
off-grid underground economy. It is the homeless with no legal place
to live, and the people in disaster-stricken areas working to
reinvent a new way of living. At some point these two lines will
cross, and when they do those who know how to live responsibly with
locally sustainable resources will have an advantage. It makes sense
therefore to accelerate the rate of the ascending line to make the
point of intersection as high as possible.
Reinventing the world
on a sustainable basis would be well served by providing products and
services compatible with a long-term economy. Ideas offered here are
partially based primarily on alternative technologies of off-grid
living – begin by considering opportunities at the homeless
Many homeless have
regular small checks from SSI of other government agencies, so even
services to other homeless should be considered. For those who may
not conceive such a thing, homeless people do indeed sell things to
each other besides drugs and alcohol.
Recycling has long
been a mainstay of homeless and others with inadequate incomes –
keep up the good work.
Day labor is a common
mode of employment, but perform exceptionally for every opportunity
you have. By doing so, I was soon being requested by name when I was
doing day labor. Go beyond waiting at employment agencies and
personally market yourself to construction companies on a regular
basis, and keep it up. Believe it or not, some people even get tired
of always saying no. If you've no place to live or have
transportation problems, you could offer the extra service of camping
at a construction site to provide security
A few simple hand
tools can enable a broad spectrum of fabrication and repair
capabilities – consider:
high-efficiency wood stoves can be made (see Fire under Energy
for more details) This category also enables ceramic projects for art
If there is a person
willing to let people camp on their property, significant dome frames
can be fabricated form low-cost metal tubing. A couple weeks ago I
spent less than a half day fabricating struts for a dome of over 200
square feet. The cost for this frame (counting tax) was $106.00. If
you don't need it for yourself, you might consider collecting a third
of that amount for monthly rent from someone who does. See Metal
Frames under Structures for
helpful information and instructions along these lines.
Many years ago I
built simple solar panels that could bring heated air in through a
panel in a partially open window – something like a
window-mounted air conditioner.
There are many people
doing yard work, but few creative artists. Design and market specific
container gardens so people can have fresh vegetables or spices on
their patios or balconies.
someone comes by asking if I'd like our address painted on the curb.
Their so-called “highest quality” paint usually washes
off within three or four months. Do a good job with good materials
instead, and show up periodically to “check up” on your
work, and to offer other services – like washing windows or
installing specialty gardens (see Food).
ideas can be found under More Technique.