Keeping the Googling Good Life Going in a Post-Box Store era: Doug Fine

We covered Doug Fine's radical off-the-grid lifestyle experiment last year on Boing Boing TV -- embed above. He is the author of Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, and he's still going strong out there on the Funky Butte Ranch. When he's not out in the fields turning the compost heap or feeding chickens, he's working on his next book, which I'm looking forward to reading. Doug has a thought-provoking piece out in this Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, here's a preview:

I have a fiancee and a son to provide for, so I decided to take a hard look at our prospects for survival if our consumer safety nets went away. For now, my green lifestyle choices at my remote 41-acre outpost in the American Southwest are optional. You know, growing lettuce instead of buying Chilean. Using organic cotton diapers instead of buying Pampers. But what if one morning in, say, 2049, I wake up to milk my goats and find out that supplies are no longer streaming in from China and California? What would I do if both box stores and crunchy food co-ops suddenly were no more? In other words, I'm examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.

Now, I'm not rooting for such a thing. Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it. I love that I can email a musician in Mauritania and ask to download his latest album. And anyway, lots of people still see globalization as the economic model for the foreseeable future. But when I was covering the former Soviet Union as a journalist in the 1990s, every single person I met told me that they'd thought pigs would fly before the Politburo crumbled.

On My Ranch, Ready for the Great American Meltdown (Washington Post)


  1. If both box stores and local co-ops are no more, and we’re in a truly “post-consumer” society? This guy may be food- and energy-independent, but most of us are screwed, which means he’ll have more to worry about than just milking the goats. If our economy collapses to a point where we don’t have anywhere to go to buy food, he’ll be fending off the hordes of displaced city-dwellers and suburbanites roving the countryside scrounging whatever they can get.

  2. @#1, he does live in the middle of rural New Mexico though, so maybe it wouldn’t be as rough as someone like me, who lives in the middle of rural Michigan (close-ish to Detroit).

    I enjoyed his Farewell, My Subaru book and look forward to his next.

  3. Take every person in New York City and give them the same amount of land that this guy needs to grow food for himself and then tell me how environmentally friendly he is being. Subsistence farming is over, get used to it. If you want to reduce your environmental impact, move to a city, share your water, sewage, transportation, shipping, food production and live suspended in mid air, sharing a tiny footprint of land with thousands of other people.

  4. Evan Rappaport: What you type is true, but I believe you’re comparing Big Apples with oranges.

    In the Washington Post piece, Doug Fine states early on that “I’m examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.”

    Given the assumption of little or no available petroleum, I’m not sure how many people NYC can support as currently configured. The food now floats in on a river of gas and diesel, for example. Seems like there would be an interesting period of adjustment that the city would have to go through to get back to a stable economy that consumes little or no petroleum.

  5. #5 So the food will float in on a river of bio diesel and hydrogen, big deal. There’s more then enough time to make the change over seamless and non-destructive, meaning, that no one will have to grow their own food, drink recycled urine or herd sheep through rush hour traffic.

  6. The original “Farewell My Subaru” post was and is my favorite boingboing post of all time. Just seeing basic self-sustinence hand in hand with modern amenities like Netflix or laptops being done by someone who wasn’t raised that way is more inspiring to me than anything else I’ve read here.

  7. “Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it.”

    For one thing, it’s a lot nicer than the days prior to increasing globalization. The ones with slave labor/serfdom, forest depletion, massive extinctions, and wars over the local water supply or sheep herd. Except now _everyone’s_ not living in wattle-and-daub huts with the family cow.

  8. Trent Hawkins: You’re right. I was assuming that the transition would inevitably be abrupt and therefore messy. You may well be right about there being more than enough time. Here’s hoping.

    My own gloomier outlook was probably influenced by this disturbing article I saw earlier in the day.

  9. A post-consumer sociey? I think there will always be some kind of trade going on. We have bought and sold stuff for many thousand years. There will always be some people who got too much of one thing and want to swap that for another.

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