Enforced Relocalization
by Bill Henderson
25 Feburary 2006


Most relocalization planning (that is available on the net) is for an optimum, sustainable socio-economic configuration after a slow energy descent or powerdown. There seems to be hardly any focus upon forced relocalization as a result of a severe economic dislocation and hence relocalization planning akin to civil defense/disaster emergency preparedness. Enforced relocalization is perhaps the more likely prospect and preparing for conflict during relocalization deserves more attention.

By now it is common knowledge that we are in a period of transition at the end of relatively cheap oil. Not the end of oil; certainly not the end of fossil fuels which remain abundant. But close to if not past the peak production of conventional oil.

The most informative analogy is with AIDS: AIDS is a long term debilitating disease; a person doesn't die of AIDS but is increasingly susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancers that take advantage of a weakened immune system. Petrocollapse isn't the danger. We will not run out of oil - just the cheap oil we have become used to - but depletion of our socio-economy's primary fuel has made us vulnerable to a Great Depression style dislocation.

Commentators predict variants of the following scenario:

oil spikes upwards over $100 a barrel, perhaps $200 a barrel;

companies in key industries - airlines, tourism, distribution, etc. - go bankrupt and resulting deflation pounds existing speculative bubbles - real estate, stock markets - which burst and, as the deflation accelerates, lack of demand plus increased energy costs for production and distribution, plus strikes/fuel price protests, rapidly paralyses existing trade.

Places like where I live on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast are forced to become largely self-reliant with little support from provincial and federal governments overwhelmed by widespread demand for disaster assistance while revenues plummet and governmental agencies and resources atrophy.

Our local pulp mill and other forest industry employers cease production. Tourism dies. Pensions and investment income fade away. Present imports of food and other commodities including medicines, perhaps energy, information, etc., are seriously disrupted. Local governments are besieged by desperate constituents as a drastic relocalization of the economy is forced in a very short timeframe.

Is this scenario going to happen? Probably not - hopefully not. If such a severe dislocation occurs reorganization of finance and trade may happen quickly; the dislocation will be analogous to a power outage or brownout. But re-establishment of trade and a service economy might not be possible in the short term due to increased energy costs on top of costs of dislocation itself. Higher level governments will no doubt still have some resources to provide some degree of support for local government.

But is there any question that all local governments should initiate and/or support both economic disaster and relocalization planning NOW given some degree of increased probability and the utility of such planning if such a disaster does happen? Local governments of smaller, rural
communities close to conurbations especially.

Relocalization planning found on the net includes an inventory of local resources, an inventory of critical imported products that could be effected - machines, technology, medicines, seeds, professional services, etc., an inventory of possible alternative energy sources, local food and material production capacity, possible rationing, local currency options, etc. Where food and electricity could come from and possible alternative reconfigurations for self-sufficiency

As most of this planning is within energy descent not enough thought has been given to possible governmental/societal re-organization and planning for conflict. Dislocation and forced relocalization will be a tremendous strain on governments, on remaining local governments. And not enough thought has been given to relations / membranes with the outside post dislocation.

Dislocation will bring social chaos, anger, irrational expectation and demands on what ever form of government remains. For only the most obvious example, truckboys - a crude but useful caricature - co-evolved with the deceased economy and now unemployed, angry, no gas, no toys, no future except what they perceive as serfdom, are going to be immediate and dangerous problems for relocalizing governments. Social hierarchies collapse with the economy and resulting herd dynamics will probably be painful. Consideration of these problems beforehand should perhaps be the beginning of relocalization planning.


Membranes and relationships with the 'outside world'.

There were massive migrations during the last Great Depression. In the event of another, this time peak oil caused depression I'd expect that balmy West Coast Canada will seem a pretty attractive alternative to freezing or starving to death. If a community here through enlightened preparation did manage to set up a working, new relocalized economy, how do we keep the rest of Canada and everybody else out? This is a practical lifeboat ethics consideration. There is a finite carrying capacity of the Sunshine Coast already stretched by the existing population, now with diminishing energy inputs.

Additionally, there will be conflict and legacies of conflict from the deceased economy.

For example, wealthy people fleeing Los Angeles could buy a relocalizing Willits lock, stock and barrel with just the money they made on oil stocks and property bubbles in the runup to the crash. Say they have already smartly got out of dollars for gold - is everything fungible? Can those with wealth buy enough to own the town? Or do they buy mercenaries like generalissimos elsewhere in places today without strong functioning governments and then settle in as feudal barons?

There will still be governmental organization of some sort in surrounding jurisdictions and new trade networks will spring up - well thought out communications between relocalizing governments could greatly assist each local government endeavor to facilitate, enhance, speed up recovery. A little emergency preparedness planning now developing relocalization networks with surrounding jurisdictions could prove invaluable.

The Church of Business frowns on any talk of economic disaster but emergency preparedness shouldn't be heretical. And if we don't want to be serfs in our relocalizing home places in the event of such an increasingly possible severe economic dislocation, we should give a little forethought to governance and what social hierarchies will emerge during and after relocalization. Inventories, local capacity vs demand, alternative resources and permaculture, energy sources and possible pathways - plus some deep thought on government and who we are probably going to be in this new world.



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