Rural economics: a lifeboat

I’ve been travelling the Celtic crescent, learning more of its ways and looking for somewhere I could afford to call home. A self-employed creative selling exclusively online with advanced professional skills, the gift of the gab and a warmhearted smile, I find many corners of wonder, and many welcomes.

I’m a native of the gnarly woods and rugged heights of the sublime but conservative desert that is Dartmoor. I left its raw beauty, artistic networks and counter-cultural cleaves in an unavoidable wrench that felt like divorce six years ago: left the smallholding of my dreams because I was not able to do the smallholding of my dreams on a rental property in a monetary economy. Let alone make art at the same time – or love.

Indeed, very few are able, and if they have a car, as every country dweller must in a monoculture countryside hollowed of social and economic life, then their ecological footprint goes straight into the measure of multiple planets. (And that’s just smallholders; my good farming neighbours are dysfunctionally subsidised to take part in one of the dirtiest industries in the world: industrial capitalism both over-inflates and fatally undermines agricultural business in toxic co-dependency.)

My understanding is that the logics of subsistence and monetary economics are in irreconcilable conflict. My theroetical analysis tells me that the latter will always subsume the former due to the voracious dynamic of the debt based monetary system. My own and others’ personal and professional lived experience, as well as my reading of history, tells me that the conflict will, except for the most privileged, generally lead to breakdown in any individual or community that tries to straddle both logics. The problem is that the very desirable comforts of the industrial economy necessitate certain conveniences which short-circuit the subsistence model and undermine your very ability (skills, community networks, art creation) to self-subsist.

As long as you are part-plugged in to the monetary economy and trying to participate in mainstream society as is, you are extremely unlikely to contract your carbon footprint as much as is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5º because the monetary economy requires you to grow, not contract nor even just maintain, your consumption levels. Furthermore, as soon as you depend on any one product of industrial capitalism, you are dependent on the whole filthy, exploitative, growth-dependent, global infrastructure necessary to get that one artefact to you for your pleasure, convenience, business or so-called health. And the system owns you too – even if you are one of the lucky ones who is not in debt.

I think it may be all or nothing, but stepping outside of all this alone is nigh-impossible; stepping out of it with others is very much hard enough. Yet staying in it is disastrous; staying partially in it, torturous. Our ships are sinking at different rates, depending on how high up the capitalist pyramid you already are. With talent and privilege like the cultural capital I have, I could elbow enough of you out of the way, capitalist-style, and climb up over you to get higher up the pyramid, but what choice is this?

Instead I’m inviting you to join me on a lifeboat of our own making to go and build something different; something truly sustainable; something that will stay standing when all else collapses.

Does our society make sense to you? Does capitalism work for you, morally and spiritually as well as materially? Does your life make sense as it is?

Do you want to own land? Do you already own too much land and wish to sell or give away a little, or co-operativise it?

The lifeboat looks like this.

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