20 April 2007

Considering Plan B

One of the main tenets in my life I try to subscribe to at all times is to always maintain a Plan B for the situation I am currently in or planning to get into. Sometimes theory is easier than reality, but most of the time it works out pretty well to maintain that Plan B. I'm putting together the most ambitious Plan B ever in my life right now. It is my intention in partnership with my brother to purchase the home family section of land in Manitoba. For so many years, I had no interest to have anything to do with this land. Stupid remote rural Manitoba! Why the hell would I ever want to live there again? If my brother felt the need to buy it (it is a good area to raise a family after all, I believe), that was of his own volition. However, I'm older and wiser now. I'm a lot more interested in open space and clean environment and sustainable, humble living. As I've come to see how we're fucking up so many places and things and as I learn about all the potential clusterfucks that are looming over us at a societal level, from global warming to peak oil, mutating superviruses and immunity system weaknesses, pollution and environmental degradation, food distribution problems, overpopulation, resource depletion...I've been trying to figure out the best ways to implement a Plan B that would allow me and the people I care about to weather as many storms as possible that might come our way.

People ask me why I want to learn so much about all this 'doom and gloom' stuff -- it's not like the more I learn the better I feel about things in general nor do I have any control to effect the direction of how these things will play out, but I respond by saying that by understanding how all these things work and interact with all the other systems, it is a lot easier to be able to see the warning signs of something imminent happening, and hopefully by being aware of it, I'd be able to react much sooner than someone who has no idea what is going on. That's my expectation, anyways.

One of the fascinating (and regrettable) weaknesses of our society is to completely put our faith in the continuation of our Plan A...that it is and always will be there for us. Who needs a Plan B when your Plan A works so well? Even if logic and reason screams at us that what we're doing is unsustainable we continue on as if everything's okay. The energy basis of our entire society is a finite resource with lots and lots of byproducts. We've known this for almost 100 years, yet we continue to expand our dependency on it? How messed up is that?

First of all, I honestly believe that there aren't many places in the world that will be optimal to shelter the storms if/when shit hits the fan, but Western Canada in my opinion could be one of the best. In particular, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- relatively remote, sparsely populated and undeveloped, climates that could only improve from an increase in temperature (maybe? -- one certain unknown to be sure), very few possibilities of natural disasters (right now), lots of arable land, plentiful freshwater sources, dependable long term energy and building sources (hydro, uranium, minerals, forests, etc.) -- might be good places to hide out as the rest of the world deals with overpopulation, resource depletion, desertification, lack of dependable water sources. Of course these areas have also been damaged from intense industrial farming and resource extraction, but topsoil and natural resource loss has been comparably low to the rest of the North American breadbasket and might be the best at bouncing back if things change for the worse in quick order.

Weird how your priorities and worldview can change in light of new information, eh? Now, that rich farmland of my family's legacy (it's been in my family for over 100 years) shows more promise and potential to me than it even did a few short years ago. My priority, even more than buying a house here in Calgary, is to ensure that that square mile of land in remote Manitoba stays within the control of my family, no matter what we decide to do with it in the short- and long-term future. The reason my brother and I need to buy it now rather than have it willed to us by my dad is to release some of the equity value in the land for my dad's retirement. He owns the land outright, therefore most of his value-generation over his working life has been tied up in the value of that land.

Right now, the decision to do this might look only moderately attractive -- general remote-area farmland value is stagnant and relatively low since farmland is not considered very high priority in North America at the current moment. It's much more valuable as a suburb or resort development, or if it has something considered valuable on it or under it.

Fortunately for me, even at a minimum, it's not a bad investment. It could be a fantastic investment. It could save my life someday. It's high-quality arable land, which I believe can only go up in value in the future. It has its own dependable water supply, is only a few miles north and south of some of the best natural wilderness areas in Manitoba and has temperate climate buffered by its location in the valley between the Duck and Riding Mountains, thus the weather is never as intense as you will find in more southern areas of Manitoba where most of the people live. In the future, demand for this type of 'pristine' location might become very desirable and I want to be the one in control of how this is managed, at least for the little bit of land that I will own. I see now how very fortunate I am to have this opportunity to do this, as not many people have the same offering of a big acreage of good land to call their own.

Of course, this future event timeline could change in the blink of an eye. Considering worst case scenarios, what if the government had to enforce martial law and expropriate all privately owned farmland for food production purposes? What if global warming runs away and all this land desertifies and becomes completely worthless? What if collapsing food distribution and energy systems, or rising sea levels and shifting climate patterns forces thousands of people to become refugees and relocate thus creating problems in this formerly remote part of the world? What if I die prematurely and none of this matters? Realistically, in a worst-case scenario, hiding out in a relatively safe place may be a pipe dream anyways.

Oh well, I have what I consider my main Plan B. It gives me a bit of comfort in a world that seems to be heading straight down the craphole (yes, cynicism abounds, but the alternative, hope, isn't any more productive now, is it?). It's not even that bad of a Plan A, or Plan C either if it ever came to that despite what might be happening elsewhere. I urge everyone to start thinking about Plan Bs if you haven't already.

I don't have the answers. Hell, I don't even know for sure if my concerns are defendable. Twenty years from now I might be able to reflect and laugh about the paranoid doomsayer thoughts I had in the naughts...

Yes, there are a lot of things to factor in and a lot of uncertainties and unknowns that you will never be able to predict about the future, but there are obvious, reasonable, affordable opportunities that everyone should seize on when they present themselves. I believe in technology and science and that our society has achieved many wonderful things. I believe that we have the intelligence and wherewithal to mitigate all the problems we are facing and might have to face in the future if we can get our collective shit together. Maybe it's all a matter of timing. All I know is that I can count my blessings that I at least have these choices. And I will have a good Plan B that works for me.


Jeff Skybar said...

Well, I'm going to the North Pacific Gyre when things get bad.

Buying land is a good investment. Heck if the world turns out OK, you can always build condo's on it, make it a gay village or open up a trailer home for people who are snowbirds. The ideas are endless. Or perhaps a place where prayers can grow.

Reid Dalgleish said...

I know. What's great about this opportunity for me is that barring any horrendous unforeseen disaster, it's a win-win!

Reid Dalgleish said...

I'm sure the center of the Gyre is now solidified enough you can spread the proposed sand and palm trees on it, and there you have it! Instant resort! It will be slowly turning clockwise, so make sure you factor that into the landing patterns of the jets bringing the tourists.....

doug said...

Yeah Jeff...."a place where prayer's can grow" Now that's my kind of little house on the prairie! I guess you could say that would give the Mormons "growing" competition? Seriously, though I have no doubt that land will become the most valuable commodity on the planet. The question is when will the shit hit the fan? That is assuming we have power to run the fan and people are still full of crap?

RD said...

I don't know Doug. I like to think that everything will happen very slowly; spikes in inflation and then everyone adjusts, a recession here or there, more adjustment, while the oil slowly depletes more and more and we adjust to that too while bringing alternative energy sources online.

BUT (the big BUT), our economy is completely, utterly dependent on continuous growth and all of that fuelled by a cheap, plentiful energy source. Our energy is going to get more and more expensive, our growth will be in jeopardy, and if the economic system can't adjust fast enough, you're going to see a nasty, brutish, possibly very fast collapse of everything economic. The repercussions of this event alone will be dire. What do you think people will do once they realize their entire fortune/worth is now worthless? Once everyone collectively loses faith in fiat currency? Crap, it's scary.

You're right. At that point, if it gets to that, self-sustainment will be the name of the day, and those with land and food-growing opportunities, AND marketable skills in a new paradigm will be the ones that will fare okay, as long as everyone does go nuts and start marauding, lynching and shooting everything and everyone up. I don't think it would take much for everything to collapse completely, just like a house of cards.

Oh yeah, and if we get through that, then there will be the seas of humanity on the move from the changing ecosystems and rising sea levels due to global warming.

See, no problem at all!

RD said...

At least we'll still be able to grow some good prayer stuff? HA!