Criteria we looked at for relocating:

Remember you are relocating to live there in the present as well as the future. And the future is unknown. So don't use ONLY criteria based on one hypothetical future for your decision. My major criteria were:

-- Cost of land, and the rate at which it is changing. Rapidly rising land costs indicate impending sprawl; rapidly falling land costs indicate social and economic disruption.

-- Climate conducive to growing food. This includes being able to own your own water rights, which you often cannot do in the west. In the west I'd likely be breaking the law every time I dip a bucket of water from the creek and pour it on the tomatoes.

-- Being far enough from major urban centers that suburban sprawl is not likely to swallow you up in the next few decades. Like it or not, sprawl may not yet be a thing of the past. We may endure another round or two of it as people continue trying to jump start the good old days.

-- Not being so isolated that paid employment is difficult or impossible. In the transition decades, having access to old-fashioned jobs can be really important, even the possibility to reach them via long commutes. It's not the way you want to live forever, but the transition takes a lot longer than you think, and your cash reserves are a lot smaller than you think, so you need this option.

-- Local culture with a demonstrated acceptance of weirdos and hippy-freaks who move in to the area and start doing strange things on their land. In our county we have an elephant sanctuary, a surviving (flourishing) alternative community from the early 1970s, and a Yoga retreat center. These were all taken as very positive signs by us.

-- Proximity to our family, especially our elderly mothers who will need (are needing) elder care in the near future (present day). It turns out my mother moved here to join us; this often happens, so be prepared for the possibility!

-- Lack of major social disfunction, often reflected in crime stats. Rural areas can be surprisingly variable in their crime data, and in my experience this reflects real profound differences in culture. Areas with higher crime rates seem to be more invested in cultures of violence, graft, organized crime (which is RAMPANT in some rural areas) and greater disparities between rich and poor, even on a fairly small geographic scale. For example, these data directed me to look at middle TN, not west TN, which in hindsight has proven to be a very good decision.

--Finally this is kind of an obscure one, but I looked for areas that had higher natural biodiversity (again, on a fairly small geographic scale). To me this indicates a more complex natural environment with a greater variety of ways for biological things to make a living there, which to me seems like a good sign for a person trying to make a living in the same ecosystem.

That's how I did it; other people will likely have different priorities but it is really helpful to make them explicit and specific, look up real data, and map things out.

7/6/10 10:47 AM


First, none of the reasonable climate scientists are predicting changes that would be so rapid as to, say, change your USDA climate rating by a full zone in as little as a decade. There are plenty of doomsday scenarios out there, of course, but we've covered the psychology, mythology, and general lack of science and history behind those things pretty exhaustively over the last few years here. Many tree and shrubs crops can be brought to yielding in about 5 years and yielding heavily in much less than a full decade. Perennial herb crops (asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, artichokes, etc.) can produce good yield in just a few years. So I would say yes definitely they have a role even in a world of global change, especially when you consider the nutritional and culinary diversity they can bring to your home-grown food supply.


Obviously, the way to deal with this is not to plant things that are anywhere near their hardiness limits in your current climate. And don't assume your spot will get uniformly warmer; all the models predict localized but persistent anomalies wherein peculiarities of atmosphere and ocean circulation can make some regions get colder even while the globe on average gets warmer. The cold winter we just had in the southeast U.S. was cause by abnormal warmth in the arctic messing with the circumpolar air flow. Patterns like that could settle in as a "new normal" for a decade or more. Plus, even in a warmer world, if your region also gets drier, you might see larger daily temperature swings and your frost-free season might actually get shorter even if your annual average temperature gets hotter! Ask anyone in the mid-latitude steppes and deserts about freezes in late May and early September that come literally out of the clear blue sky.


So... for example, if you live in USDA zone 7 at the present, don't plant things that only do well in zones 4-7, or in zones 7-9. Find things that do well in zones 5-9. If your annual average rainfall is 40", make sure the things you plant can perform well in a rainfall range of 25-60." And, of course, plant a diversity both of species and varieties; don't plant the whole orchard at once, but a few trees each year, adjusting as you see how things really are going in your microclimate. Plus, don't be shy about turning a tree that seems to fail every year into firewood and planting something else in its spot.


As a broader point, my experience with organic tree and shrub crops, as well as wild fruit and nuts, is that you tend to only get a heavy crop every 2nd or 3rd year on average, in a compeltely irregular schedule. Sometimes the reasons are obvious -- freezes, drought, etc. but much of the time it's just a mystery -- swimming in walnuts and apples this year, nary a speck next year, no obvious reason why. It's really bad when they are all in synch -- one year we had a 100% failure of blueberries, apples, hickories, peaches, cherries, persimmons, plums, and 1-year acorns all at the same time (thank the gods for the blackberries!). The wildlife populations are just now recovering from the famine that triggered. SO, food preservation is especially important for these crops that come in all at once, in great heaps, and not reliably every year.


So -- I vote "yes" for keeping the perennial crops as one of many food production tools in the wizard's toolkit, with the recognition of and accommodation to their limitations (as is essential for all appropriate tech, of course!)