“I got out all my pretty covers, baskets, books, etc., and tried to make it look home-like and comfortable, but this was hard to do. The little house looked so unattractive that we facetiously decided to call it Hardscrabble.”
– Julia Dent Grant
“hard-scrabble (adjective)involving hard work and struggle.”
The picture is Grant’s cabin and his attempt at 19th century homestead farming.
When you read this some of you may think I am whining. So many people are suffering and locked in deprivation. I respect and understand this. This is not my intention. My intention is to relate how hard it is to follow an alternative life that seeks to be more secure in localism. This is about my internal struggle of meaning. I am actually firmly middle class and happy with my affluence. I am much better off then the 6BIL poor of the world struggling daily with food, water, and shelter. The point of view I am making here is the battle with the status quo that is destroying human nature, the web of life, and forcing abrupt change in a stable planetary phase. I am trying to use my affluence to reconnect to an early time of relative harmony. I am not upset with my affluence in fact I am well off. Now, keep in mind I could be rich but chose to be a degrowth doomer. The result is a happy middle-class life with meaning.
When I talk to you about REAL Green, I make it the point to emphasize this is significantly behavioral as opposed to tech driven. It is about behavior to manage knowledge and tech. Yet, a behavior adaptation also relates to the management of feeling, attitudes, and common sense. REAL Green is a difficult mental activity of juggling two worlds. Man is gripped with a search for meaning. Our daily lives in our local of people and place is more real than the outer world media blasts into our safe space daily but this is clouded and must be renewed. The key point to this behavior is a wisdom of insecurity in response to an age tipping over into decline. Your sense of self must be sorted out when you call into question the lies.
The social narrative will never change until the Baghdad moment when tanks are in the city center. This is the nature of it so don’t get angry and frustrated. Make an effort to distance yourself from the many lies of the status quo or suffer the consequences. The consequences are a meaninglessness that occurs when all those beacons of meaning in the status quo fail. They are failing now dramatically. Instead begin your journey into this new age of decline. Be prepared for a struggle. The struggle will be as much internal as external. The struggle is the path to meaning. Here truth to power occurs. The spiritual asset of meaning will offset the coming decline in affluence of comforts and things.
This internal reconciliation is the reconciliation of the absurdities of this decline trap. It significantly involves reconciliation of the dissonance of the absurdities of required dualistic solutions. On the one hand you will be drawn to succeed in the status quo of growth by playing the growth game. These path dependencies incudes all those seductive dopamine activities of consumerism and leisure. You feel safe and secure so you indulge in material and physical satisfactions. On the other hand, there is the sobering task of increasing sustainability and resilience of existential survival in the real world. These activities are efforts and struggles against a narrative telling you safety and pleasure are assured if you play its game.
Permaculture localism does not pencil out economically. If you believe in permaculture localism you will be embracing increased poverty. You will have to invest in things and do activities that do not create a return that will cover the opportunity cost of the investment. What I mean is you will invest in things that could otherwise bring greater profit. Green activity is not profitable in the sense of ROI (return on investment) but it is very profitable in the sense of EROI (energy return on energy invested. EROI is simply the energy a fox expends to catch a rabbit. ROI is money invested to achieve a profitable return. This is mostly abstract and often does not relate to the real world of survival.
The modern green solutions out there of net zero and decoupling from the destructiveness of affluence are lies. TRUE Green is embracing a lower affluence quantitatively not theoretically. Affluence is the reason man is at the brink. Affluence includes population not just consumption. A poor location with too many people is still an affluence of sorts. Most importantly it is the nature of life to avoid discomforts in favor of comforts. Where this instinct of life becomes delusional is with humans and their oversized frontal cortex where we construct and abstract world. This place of abstraction n our mind must have the checks and balances of wisdom. This place of abstraction allows for creativity but also destructiveness. This has to be controlled in the sense of remaining scaled to the real reality not the reality of the status quo.
The other issue is green and brown. TRUE Green mean you will do things that make room for the health of the planet and the web of life in a greatly reduced footprint. The status quo will force you to make brown decisions or FAKE Green decisions. These revolve around delocalization and more importantly the car culture. Just because you are in a city and walk and bike ride does not get you off the hook. Cities are completely brown because they cannot sustain themselves. They extract and import so if you live there as a green, you are provided for with brown extractions.
This green and brown tension is very important even for those of you who do not care about green issues. This is because what is green is more prepped. Localism and permaculture will make you more survivable so even if it does not pencil out with the status quo it is highly beneficial in relation to the tipping point of decline we are now facing. So, choosing comforts and profit in the status quo will mean you are significantly exposed to a cascading failure or even a slow boil of decline. Having stable food, water, and shelter has no price, it is pure existential value.
I speak to you about hard-scrabble because it goes to the heart of what I am doing. Ulysses S Grant coined the word for me. I am a voracious reader of history because your history is a defining attribute of your local. Look back at least 120 years and determine what worked in your local because that is likely where we are heading. Grant left the military in the 1850’s. He took his wife from a wealthy background and started his own farm near his father-in-law’s large affluent farm. Grant made a home and farm in what I would call 19th century permaculture.
Their farm was called “hard-scrabble” because even in the 19th century these efforts when compared to the luxury of the then budding industrial revolution was a struggle. The explosion of growth was the budding of a new age so Grant left after only a few years. At this time in history brown became the tipping point. Industrialization of tech and knowledge was at this time the new paradigm but now this arrogance of humanism is in reversal. This is why hard-scabble is the name of the game.
I come from a wealthy family. I could have chosen comfort instead of hard-scrabble. I chose a struggle instead but one of meaning for me. Keep in mind I am humbly grateful for my opportunity. Many do not have the time, money, and or experience to do what I am doing. Many who are doing this in different aspects have far fewer resources and opportunities. There are those who are doing permaculture localism that blows me away in achievements. Yet, this is not about others as much as about me. It is about my nature and nurture being applied to my local of people and place. This is about my struggle to be greener and live in the absurdity of a dualism of green and brown. It is about the inconsistencies of permaculture localism and the status quo of profit and comforts.
I struggle with the absurdities constantly even more than the comforts. Keep in mind I am REAL Green which means relative and realistic. This is what I call “Moss” which is the color you get when you mix green and brown. I have plenty of comforts. My life is filled with vigor from doing what I find meaning in. Where my struggle develop is with the inconsistencies of living in both worlds honestly. Investments made and activities undertaken that do not pencil out are disconcerting. Seeing my labor applied unprofitably when a huge opportunity cost of greater returns is apparent.
Investments made in infrastructure that does not compare to the status quo version. Wood heat system, solar, and insulation strategies are much more expensive and lower return than just doing it the easy status quo way of throwing power at it or building bigger and cheaper. Short term advancement ignoring longer term value. For example, my recent appraisal on my REAL Green homestead for a refi mortgage spells out the status quo. A normal person would see a nice home, barns, solar, wood boiler, and 23 acres. I have 80 acres but for a good appraisal I divided it up as 57 acres and 23 and a home. My alternative energy systems and Amish barn added little to no value but a big swimming pool would have. To me that reflects the absurdity of the status quo.
I struggle with the daily grind of low carbon capture with a grazing system of animals that barely covers cost. I harvest hay with low horsepower equipment and lots of manual labor. I have a garden, orchard, and grapes that do not bring a return. I do redundant unpleasant labor I can’t find anyone to do. If I wanted to get a higher return, I have to greatly industrialize the effort with high stocking rates, fossil fuels, and chemicals. That is not green and permaculture but it brings more comforts and greater profitability. Yet, in a green point of view it is delocalizing and does not offer resilience to shocks. It is not sustainable when complexity declines but the hard part is waiting until complexity declines. I might be dead by then.
What I try to do is mix what works within my struggle to be local and permaculture. This is similar to my efforts at localization. My local is so delocalized there is little interest in my REAL Green. In fact, I don’t advertise REAL Green because people would see me as a nutter. I am already looked upon as odd. I am looked upon as a gentleman farmer because you know people need a classification. I am considered a gentleman farmer because they know I don’t have to do this.
People do not have time and they have their own interests be that church or hobbies to invest in a system of localism. We are more local here than any city but still increasingly delocalized by affluence. The Ozark region was just a few decades ago very poor in relation to the big cities. Today the Ozarks has caught up in a relative affluence. Most people are now locked into the delocalization of the status quo and when they have time off the want comfort and enjoyment not a hard-scabble. So, I feel absurd approaching people for localism strategies that involves less comforts and affluence.
I struggle with the effort especially as I age and my mind and body are in decline. The struggle is keeping me younger in a way but at the price of pain. My body always hurts and my disposition is often cranky. Not cranky at others but with myself. Many of my mistakes are my own doing. Many of those things that breakdown are items that have useful lives I am pushing to their limits. I am one man taking care of 400 acres. This is my 80 and the 320 of the family farm bordering mine. I have 4 barns, a guest cabin, and a house. I have 5 wells and associated water systems. I have a small garden, grapes, and orchard. I have a rewilding effort to manage and cattle, goats, and dogs in my grazing system. I have a wife and kids to spend time with. I have a wealthy family constantly making me feel guilty because I avoid their high impact life by trying to stay local. I have a family farm of 320 acres I have to be careful to not upset the family status quo.
The struggle is with consumerism and my need to outfit this effort and try to remain green. This is a tough trade off because I need to outfit my life boat for the coming decline but how I do it is critical. Many products that are brown are essential for the journey into this new age of decline but many are not. The dissonance of choices is always an issue. Being prepped means being stocked and when you have things they must be stored and managed. So, you then have more efforts that are another struggle of how do you maintain your warehouse of resilience and sustainability?
How do you avoid downcycling with logistics? This is where you are spending too much time and money with prepping supplies needed for resilience and sustainability. Keep in mind because of this dualistic world a green prepper is trapped in, this means the inconsistencies of sustainability in the status quo and a green prepping. Green prepping seeks sustainability in the age of decline. Sustinability in the status quo is financial wealth and class attainment.
This is another juggle game like my appraisal indicated with status quo value of my homestead and REAL Green value in a green prepping sense. I talk about using the status quo to leave it but this is a tricky business. Too much either way is distorting and unproductive. You must have key instincts of both worlds and this is a moving target. Just look at how many greens are delusional with economics and how many browns have no sense of resilience and sustainability in regards to he reality of decline. In a nut shell you live this surreal world of incongruities.
So, this paradox of existentialism is a mixed dualism that must be balanced by a reality you have marginal control over. You will be burning the candle at both ends trying to be profitable and trying to be resilient and sustainable. Somewhere in between you will have your permaculture homestead and monestary of knowledge. It is this surreal of the mind and the incongruities of green value and status quo profitability that will constantly gnaw on you. The physical pain that comes with hard manual labor but also the mental pain of juggling alternative life styles is draining. Do I take the easy way out or follow my green instincts? Remember non-greens what I said by what is green is more survivable so green instincts means more survivable yet, to a point. Bankruptcy is likley if you disregard profitability.
There must also be the acceptance of failure even with good wisdom. I am light years ahead of most with my prepping but this may only offer me a few weeks or months of security. It could be worse and I am destroyed immediately in a collapsing situation. Collpase is very consuming and the chaos means rational responses have limits because of fate. If your local of people and place is not prepped you are greatly at risk. My local is good but not great. If you are in a mega city, I would be extremely worried. I would almost tell you just live in denial and enjoy life. Forget about worrying about safety because you are very exposed.
I sometimes feel like where do I start? I have so many things to do and not enough time, money, and help. So, what I often do is just something. I work every day I can baring weather, health, and family responsibilities. The weather prevents me from working sometimes especially here in the Ozarks with its many seasons. I am approach 60 so my body is beginning the breakdown process you notice at the end of the day and when you wake up. My body is creaky when I get up and hurts when I go to bed. I am already a cancer survivor. I went through that during covid BTW. I have two 14 year old boys to take care of and attempt to train. Instead they love video games but I can’t force REAL Green on them. I have a wife to be a loving husband to.
Some days it is just like riding the wave of a chaos in my mind of prioritization and firefighting. I do what I can do and hope my instinct of prioritization is optimal. Some days everything is breaking. My problem is partially I am a perfectionist and a bit obsessive. I am obsessive about efficiency so when I do things sloppy, I am very hard on myself. I get cranky with my family for food and energy waste when the reality is they are not an obsessive green like me. They are normal and I am abnormal so I just suck it up.
Yet, at the end of the day I look how far I have come and sit in amazement sometimes. I am now a specialist at REAL Green. I feel this is a vital way of life for the future for many of you. I am an artist of natural beauty and a practitioner of a REAL Green permaculture localism. In the past 10 years since my effort coalesced and formed into REAL Green I have done so much. This is a journey of discovery and meaning. It has been with lots of luck but also lots of skill.
I credit much of this to mother nature and our planet supporting me. What I mean by this is I have embraced the wave of destiny. I am following its way and not taking this special power for my own advancement. Where I fail is with my arrogance and sloth but I am in acceptance I am an imperfect vessel. I am in acceptance that most around me are not green. I accept that civilization is either FAKE Green of pure brown because of its carbon trap and path dependencies. This civilization gave me the nature and nurture that became REAL Green so I have to give thanks to it despite its dirty nature and absurd behavior.
I leave you with a word of encouragement. I would not trade this life for anything. I know it is a journey to death for me, my creations, and the civilization that birthed me but this journey is of life with meaning. It is meaning that matters. It is meaning the springs from truth. Truth to power is what drives REAL Green. If you embrace this life, it will bring rewards but keep in mind at great costs too.
I have to be honest that many do not have the right stuff to do what I am doing and I humbly offer my acceptance to this reality. This is why I am a servant not a master. So many are trapped and unable to find meaning they deserve empathy and compassion. There are also evil ones who I will fight as needed. Yes, I am a soldier too, ready to fight when confronted with danger. I also recognize I am one injury or accident away from being back in that world of helpless and delusional. There is no security or refuge from this reality there is only the wisdom of insecurity where you embrace the acceptance of death.