WorldChanging's Alex Steffen and I sat down last week for a cup of coffee and got to talking about post-apocalyptic life. I noticed that while there's a whole ton of stories — and people who emulate them — about heavily armed survivalists bravely holding off the twilight of civilization after the Big One, there are damned few stories about super-networked post-apocalyptic Peace Corps who respond to the Great Fall by figuring out how to put it all back together. I even came up with a name for it: the Outquisition; the opposite of the Inquisition — missionaries who come to your town to remind you of how awesome it can all be, leave behind a bunch of rad, life-improving systems and tools, and generally get on with the business of being happy, well-fed and peaceful.
Alex wrote up a great post about this and 24 hours later, some WorldChanging readers created Outquisition.org. I'm not sure what they'll do there, but in my dreams, they're off building a non-secret society of emergency-preparedness Nice People who think that the response to catastrophe isn't lifeboat rules and militias, but humanitarian aid and kick-ass tools.
What would it be like, we wondered, if folks who knew tools and innovation left the comfy bright green cities and traveled to the dead mall suburban slums, rustbelt browntowns and climate-smacked farm communities and started helping the locals get the tools they needed. We imagined that it would need an almost missionary fervor, something like the Inquisition (which largely destroyed knowledge) in reverse, a crusade of open sharing, or as Cory promptly dubbed it, the Outquisition.
Imagine these folks like this passing out free textbooks, running holistic programs for kids, creating local knowledge management systems, launching microfinance projects, mobilebanking and complementary currencies. Helping rural landowners apply climate foresight and farm biodiversity. Building cheap, smart, quality housing for displaced people (not to mention better refugee camps), or an Open Architecture Network for cheap informal rehabs of run-down suburban housing. Hacking together DIY windmills and ad hoc smart grids, communication systems, water treatment systems — and getting really good atadaptive reuses of outdated infrastructure. In other words, these folks would be redistributing the future at a furious clip.