I've been thinking a bit about this whole hurricane thing, and as is often the
case, it has turned to more permaculture-related thoughts.
When my grandfather was a boy, he had a little kerosene lamp to light his way to
bed every night. You see, they didn't have electricity yet. During Hurricane
Sandy, my mother used this very same lamp to read by and navigate through a
I find it amazing that in around just one generation's time, we've gone from
having no electricity, to being so UTTERLY dependent upon it.
I recognize that this is largely due to the fact that electricity has been built
into our infrastructure. Generally, we don't put wood-burning stoves in new
homes or apartment buildings. We think of fire as a potential hazard, even if we
cherish the warmth of a fireplace enough to make electric versions of them.
All of this brings me back to my grandfather. In his childhood, they had a lot
less "infrastructure", but stronger social relationships. I've had a lot of
discussions about alternative infrastructure, how to strengthen it, getting off
the grid "in order to be self-sufficient", etc.
But none of those are really the same as talking about the idea of
infrastructure ITSELF as being a crutch or a potential obstacle to resilience.
Back in the day, my grandfather's community, in a town next to where I still
live, had a very important discussion. These people were very hard-working folks
who believed very much in the church as center of community, and in helping your
fellow person out. These people also invented the very first insurance company
in the U.S., and the idea of "insurance", and this was almost a scandal inside
Why? Because they recognized that it had the potential to "relieve" folks of the
moral responsibility of helping their fellow community members, since insurance
would step in and do what had traditionally been done by people: re-build houses
after a fire, loan resources, etc. In the end, it was decided that they would
only make "insurance" available to "heathens outside of the church", in order to
not make their own people complacent and apathetic. Obviously, the idea grew
past those boundaries, and we now have a nationwide epidemic of insurance fraud
and a litigious court system. Our good natures are now actually HAMPERED by
insurance liability in many cases. Which is exactly the kind of thing that they
were worried about. Oops.
My point is this: is infrastructure that is not based in social relationships,
but rather, in contracts, actually an impediment to resilience, both physically
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