Turning our head from the probable future, let’s talk about what happens if civilization does not crash and burn.
First, even if the crash does not occur, learning skills like the ones listed in the practical skills section is not a waste. If nothing else, people who know these skills get automatic cool points. Also, there is the added safety in emergency situations of being able to survive without outside assistance. And the psychological advantage of not being a stranger to the land you live on. The last is difficult to explain to a person, unless they already know exactly what you mean.
Perhaps more importantly is the fact the benefits of community are inherent to a community. Living in a community, even one inside of civilization, offers advantages. With or without the collapse of civilization we can still obtain these advantages for ourselves. We can still have the social support structures of a community. Support which extends from cradle to grave and is only conditional on you offering your support to your family in return.
The proceeding are known qualities, but we can also consider further possibilities. For instance, if civilization does not collapse it would mean several things had occurred. First, a suitable replacement(s) for oil must have been found. Second, we would have had to get our pollution and deforestation problems under control. Third, our population explosion must have been stopped and reversed. If you are reading this and scoffing, you have read the situation fairly well in my opinion. It is not likely. It is not impossible, but the only reasonable thing for a person to do is prepare for both possibilities.
Our problems can be summed up very succinctly as “over-consumption.” Like every living thing on the planet we have to consume, and consumption by itself is certainly not a bad thing. The only problem is we are currently consuming the resources required by other species. This is a problem for a simple reason: we rely on the other species on this planet absolutely for our existence. Without them we would all die. The solution is then obvious, all we have to do is reduce our consumption to a level sustainable indefinitely. Currently we are in a self-perpetuating feedback loop forcing us to constantly expand our consumption beyond even our current unsustainable levels. This is bad.
To reduce consumption we need to reduce our population. Fewer people consuming means less consumption. We also need to reduce our individual consumption. Community is a way to do both. The second is easier to explain than the first. Individual consumption is reduced because each person does not have to have their own ladder, washer, drier, television, etc. The community as a whole has them to share. There are two washer/driers for ten people, rather than ten for ten people. And thus consumption is reduced.
Human population responds to natural pressures in their environment the same as any animal does. Evidence indicates our individual ability to make choices does not affect our species as a whole. In the wild, animal populations correspond to food supply. Human populations have done the exact same, even though our greatest minds have been recommending smaller families since the Ancient Greeks. Apparently individual choices cancel out. But, because humans have cultures and societies our population also responds to societal pressures. This is why people in Western Countries can eat the way they do and have negative population growth. Socially, having too many children is selected against. In this specific instance it is simply too expensive to have a large family. In Third World countries it is the opposite. It’s too expensive not to have large families. This, combined with the growing availability of food to the general human population, continues to fuel a continuous, net population growth.
In self-sufficient communities, it works a little differently. Having children at or above the replacement level is encouraged, the same as it is in Third World countries, and for the same reasons. But, because it is a community, it is the community which is encouraged to have more children, not individuals. So while a community might very well have ten or more children, it would tend to average out at one per person unless another force causes it to change. The reason it would tend to average out to replacement level is because families needing many children need many children because they need them to work. In a self-sufficient community, especially one relying on foraging, much less work is required. In fact, raising children becomes the most labor intensive undertaking of the community. But the economic restrictions preventing Western Countries from expanding their population are not present. Hence, in a self-sufficient community, population will remain stable, unless food availability drastically increases or decreases.
It is rather ironic, but assuming the technology is present, which it is, the very same techniques we intend to use to save ourselves are readily adapted to repairing the system without a collapse, or with a greatly mitigated collapse. Unfortunately, the natural resource we have run shortest on is political will.
– Benjamin Shender