By Thomas H. Greco. Jr.
People these days are beset by any number of worries — global warming, climate change, economic collapse, inflation, depression, war, terrorism, etc., etc.
I am often asked what people ought to do to be prepared. Here is a list that I first prepared in the mid-1980’s and have revised slightly from time to time. It may be of some use now. Do what you can for yourself, but keep in mind, that ultimately our security lies in our relationships and the kindness and helpfulness of those around us.
HEALTH, SAFETY, AND SELF-RELIANCE
Learn healthy living and acquire a diversity of skills. Cultivate a low input lifestyle. Secure your own material needs as much as possible, and find a safe place to live.
COOPERATION AND MUTUAL SUPPORT
Build mutually supportive relationships. Nurture the development of networks and self-contained, cooperative communities.
Reduce your reliance upon conventional money, financial assets, government and institutions. Get out of debt.
BE ALERT AND BE INVOLVED
Keep attuned to the changing global conditions of humanity and its habitats; help to solve regional, national and global problems as well as local ones. Participate in local politics. Ask tough questions.
Specific Possibilities to Consider:
1. Food. Grow at least some of your own food, store staple food items, save seeds, plant perennial food plants, especially fruit and nut trees. Learn how to forage for wild foods – many “weeds” are edible. Support local (preferably, organic) farmers.
Participate in “Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), also known as “subscription farming.” This is an arrangement in which a group of consumers contract to support an area farmer who in turn delivers his produce to the contracting group. The farmer is guaranteed a market and the consumers are guaranteed a supply of fresh wholesome food.
2. Collect valued items and commodities that are likely to retain their value and can be used as an exchange medium. Some favor gold and silver coins. In modest amounts, these may be useful in the event of inflation or collapse of the currency. I prefer to hold things which are more useful, like tools and books.
3. Get out of the large cities, if possible. Locate a country place which you can retreat to if and when it becomes necessary. Buy productive land that can support you and your family. Choose land that can provide food, clean water, and fuel. Ideally, locate near small towns where you have access to helpful neighbors and common facilities. If you lack the resources to buy land on your own, consider buying in partnership with others or organizing a Community Land Trust, which holds corporate title to land while assuring secure tenure, but limits individual speculative gains.
4. Build community where you are. If you must live in a city, get to know your neighbors and organize neighborhood cooperatives and mutual-support structures. Large cities depend on a complex and well maintained infrastructure, and the importation of tremendous amounts of resources from distant places. In hard times these systems may fail, in whole or in part. Learn about critical systems like water, electricity, sewage disposal, health care, and police protection. With your neighbors, plan back-up strategies and create back-up systems that will assure at least minimal life-support. Get involved in local politics and hold officials accountable.
5. Disengage financially. Begin to disengage from the conventional financial systems as much as possible. Don’t depend too much on banks or other fiduciaries, and avoid, as much as possible, the use of the conventional money system. If banks fail, you may loose your deposits, while finding that your debts remain in tact. Convert most of your financial assets to real (tangible) assets, while holding some in liquid form for payment of taxes, utilities, and other necessities that require monetary payment. Support the emerging decentralized economy that promotes humane values, equity, social justice, sustainability, and local self-determination.
6. Become debt-free; kick the credit habit; pay as you go. Don’t get caught in the “usury trap.” Especially, avoid borrowing from predatory lenders and credit card companies. Do not borrow to buy consumer goods; purchase these only when you can pay for them in full. Get out of debt as quickly as you can and stay out of debt. If you must borrow, borrow from people, not banks. In a crunch, it’s better to have your debts in friendly hands, someone who won’t take advantage of your distress or press for foreclosure. If you have a home which is mortgaged or are making payments on a major durable item such as a car or truck, you might consider the following possible options:
a. Accelerate your repayment schedule by making extra principal payments out of current income.
b. Refinance using funds obtained from individuals-relatives, friends or associates-to pay off the bank. You might obtain from them non-interest-bearing loans or, better yet, negotiate a contract which will allow for sharing of both the risks and benefits of ownership. You might give the new fund providers a part-ownership in the property. You, the user/occupant, would pay rent and they would receive a part of the rent in proportion to their investment. You would also buy back their investment over time.
c. In the case of a farm or multi-unit residential property, you might create a “community land trust” or LLC to hold title to the property which you would then lease back on a long term basis. Others would put up enough money to repay the bank mortgage in return for equity in the buildings or a leasehold on the land.
d. Another possibility is to sell the property and buy one you can afford to hold free-and-clear.
7. Simplify your lifestyle and reduce your needs. Learn how to live better with less. Do it yourself, fix what you have, reuse, make-do, or do without. Share with others. Kick the shopping habit and emphasize non-material satisfactions and gifts.
8. Learn to share and cooperate. Secure your basic necessities like food and shelter by creating community and cooperative arrangements. Possibilities to consider are neighborhood associations, buying clubs, food cooperatives, shared or co-op housing, barter clubs, trade associations or mutual credit clearing exchanges (like LETS).