Climate disruption. Floods, drought, fire and hurricane. Peak oil. Peak everything.
There are massive, unprecedented changes under way around us, giving new meaning to the notion of “home” and “shelter”. Scientific consensus not only confirms that anthropogenic climate change is happening, but also that it’s too late to halt it. Even if we stopped emitting climate-disruptive gases entirely, today, there would still be large effects of the past century playing out all around us for the next one.
What should you do? Naturally enough, many people take a survivalist posture by installing solar panels, rainwater catchment, durable bicycles, composting toilets, organic gardens, and other measures of self-sufficiency. Which is generally great, but misses a fundamental truth: we are social primates who survive and thrive mainly by working together or at least cooperating. “The most important technology for your future well being”, said Stewart Brand, “is your neighbors!”
For a long time Brand has been one of the great thought leaders of our time, and sure enough others are beginning to echo and embellish on his insight. Most recently, Eric Klinenberg published “Adaptation” in The New Yorker, and quoted Nicole Lurie, a former professor of health policy who has been President Obama’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response since 2009: “There’s a lot of social-science research showing how much better people do in disasters, how much longer they live, when they have good social networks and connections . . . so promoting community resilience is now front and center in our approach”. How much do you want to be warm, fed and comfortable if you have to be surrounded by people who aren’t? Not a very happy or durable scenario.
It’s not that the solar panels don’t matter. They do! You do want to be as energy and water and waste treatment independent as you can. (For guidance, check out Alex Wilson’s latest venture, the Resilient Design Institute.) Maybe even become active in moving us towards a sustainable society, in whatever way you can.
But know that can never be enough. For your future well being – and maybe a bit of happy today – go out and meet a new neighbor, make a new connection, hear someone’s story. You don’t need to buy anything – the most important technology for your present and future wellbeing is around you right now. Don’t just put on a solar panel – help your neighbor put on hers, then let her help you insulate your roof. It might seem like an odd proposition, but that’s actually the way we have lived and built, all over the world, for thousands of years. The coolest technology of all is nothing new: community! Who knew?