I saw a website where a couple was quoted, “We are pretty poor and have decided to live off the grid to make ends meet. Can someone suggest a place?”
The answer, of course, is that it generally costs a lot more to move off the grid. If you are poor, it is better financially to stay in the low-rent neighbourhood in a poor city. Think Detroit.
OK, maybe your ammunition costs go up but food, transportation and gritty reality-type entertainment plays out on a daily basis much cheaper. Cities can often offer up adrenaline spikes in traffic alone. Bored? Go to a demonstration or protest and get tasered, walk a few blocks late at night from your local community centre, stand outside the local emergency ward, get caught in the crossfire between youth gangs. Move to Surrey.
It’s a rush.
The cheaper cost of living in the city is somewhat offset by the misery and danger but going off the grid is just NOT even remotely cheap. Well, it might be if someone gives you a house and you can walk to town to shop….maybe. But, generally speaking, everything is more expensive the further from the centre of the city you go. Wanna go cheap? Go urban.
Having said that, that is changing. Some. Small towns are getting cheaper to live in. Overall. Some are actually desirable places to live. Especially if you are of retirement age. The stats indicate that rural life is shrinking and that includes a large number of small towns. But some small towns are actually growing.
Young people head for the big city and create vacancies of a sort (jobs, housing, activity) in the more attractive small towns. Local rural industry is shrinking even faster than large heavy urban industry and the effects are showing up in lower small-town house prices. And housing is a big factor. Food is more expensive in small centres and so is transportation but small-town housing is a real bargain. And there may even be a good community to belong to….
And people are noticing. So much so that, in some places an equilibrium of sorts is playing out. The housing prices in Courtenay/Comox and Qualicum Beach are actually pretty high by small town standards but still low compared to Vancouver. Campbell River and points north are very inexpensive. Small towns in the interior are even lower. Life is actually getting less expensive if you live in a small town and don’t drive.
But stay on the larger grid. It is the grid that makes it cheaper.
Craik, Saskatchewan, is one of those desirable places, it seems. They sold building lots there for a dollar and then made a real effort to foster community. And they made it a GREEN one as well. As a result, Craik is a ‘happening place’ to be. Who woulda guessed?
“Why are you telling us this?”
Because we don’t need to flood valleys or pollute oceans to make a buck. We don’t have to rape the land, despoil the sea and harvest every living ounce of life off the planet. We don’t even need bigger bridges, highways and airports. We can create community and we can sustain it with a considerably smaller impact following something like the Craik model.
And Craik is not unique. There are many small, resurgent communities working well on the small, sustainable level all over the developed world. A leading segment in Britain refers to themselves as ‘transitional communities‘. It is encouraging to read about even if it is hard to actually describe and define. One thing is for sure: their economies are more local, the people are more engaged with one another and they are proving Green can work.
And it is nice to be able to write about that.