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Rural Revival: 3 Unconventional Ways to Resurrect the Rust Belt & Beyond

Thursday, November 17, 2016 11:56
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--Earlier this week, you’ll recall, we asked you to give us any problems and (ideally) solutions in the world which you find pressing. Today, we’re going to reach into the mailbag to respond to your answers and inquiries.

First, we’ll look into the possibility of never having to worry about water scarcity ever again, and how that could eventually mean we could even turn the deserts back into lush rainforests.

Then, we’ll look into the individuals who are escaping the rat race, finding their “tribe” and building “intentional communities.” And how, if this strikes your fancy, you can too.

Last but not least, we’ll dive into three (extremely) unconventional ways to spark a Rural Revival in America. It comes down to hipsters, freedom zones and scrip. Mix them together and people will be flocking out of the cities to make rural America great again.

Let’s begin. First up is fellow LFT reader Robin D.

ROBIN D.: “In answer to your question, my attention is grabbed recently by two things. 

“One is the major increase in the capture capability of solar systems, from improved efficiency of panels to major improvements in the efficiency of inverters (the little box which changes DC to AC). Add to that the likelihood that we’re on the brink of major capacity improvements in battery storage, and pretty soon houses will not need to be ‘on the grid’ for their daily needs.

“The second is the minimally reported discovery of molybdenum disulfide nanopore filters, which may lead to the ability to vastly improve desalination of seawater to the point that drought, such as currently on the U.S. west coast, becomes irrelevant.  Of course then we’ll have to worry about how weather patterns might change if we’re turning formerly desert areas into greenbelts, but hey, won’t that be fun?”

CHRIS: Indeed. On your last point, two months ago at Burning Man, while filling my lungs full of dry heat and dust, I pondered the likelihood of technology being able to terraform deserts in the near future. (If so, hopefully that stupid joke about selling seafront property in the Gobi desert will finally die.)

It might be a pipe-dream, but one might do well to find some dirt-cheap desert land in California and sit on it just in case.

One thing’s for sure: It’ll either be the stupidest or the smartest investment you’ll ever make. If it turns out to be the smartest (and only if), remember, you heard it here first.

Now, go. Before this investment opportunity doesn’t dry up.

DAVID M.: “I dream of (perhaps fantasize would be a better word) assembling a small group of people for the purpose of building a town of hobbit houses. Sometimes called earthships. Think of the movie.

“They would utilize the temperature stabilizing effect of the earth. And employ the sun. To be built out of things generally thrown out. And to have no or limited outside source of material/energy. They would be arrayed around a large geodesic dome to provide vegetables/fruit and possibly an income. I would encourage continuing education of a social nature. I have learned a lot reading your newsletter… persons, viewpoints, books, etc.”

CHRIS: Well, your fantasy is becoming reality for A LOT of people.

I just met a guy named Marc Angelo last weekend who started what’s called the Valhalla Movement on 60 acres of land in Canada and is slowly turning it into a global movement. It sounds like it’d be up your alley. If anything, you should contact Marc about suggestions for building these earthships. According to him, he’s tried building almost every eco-sustainable trendy building in the infosphere, mostly out of materials generally thrown out. And now he knows what works and what absolutely doesn’t.

And, hey, maybe you could give him a few ideas he hasn’t thought of yet.

If Valhalla isn’t really your thing, not to worry. I also met a few liberty-minded guys from California who’ve jumped ship and started a permaculture farm in Colombia. And a few more doing a sustainable village in Chile.

In fact, one of your fellow LFT readers just wrote this last night: “My story is I am in the middle of building an integrated homestead educational center  that I call AnimAJourney. This is an intentional raw/live food vegan place for people to gather around the values we have in common.”

Point is, more and more, I’m meeting people all over the world who are participating in what most of them call “intentional communities” outside of the traditional ticky-tacky dissociated suburban lifestyle.

They’re attracted to this sort of lifestyle for a lot of reasons, but the biggest seems to be because they want to find their “tribe.” Beyond all of humanity’s superficial attributes, what really brings people together are shared values. So find a community which shares yours and you’ll be likely to find the “tribe” you’ve been looking for.

The intentional community movement is growing and it’s global. And if you feel the itch, you should tag along. It’d be an exciting movement to be a part of right now. Find the others. I’m confident you’ll figure it out. You’re far from the only one fantasizing about such a life. And it’s more than possible.

WAYNE S.: “There are thousands of factory buildings now sitting idle in what is called the Rust Belt. There are millions of Americans in that area and across the country who are unemployed or underemployed because the business of making things died in America.

“There must be a way for a consortium of residents, small business owners, factory owners, local leaders and government officials and representatives from state and federal governments to formulate plans to revitalize America with these assets. If nothing exists now, it should.”

CHRIS: In Prague, they transformed the old wastewater treatment plant (or, in their words, the “old sh*t plant”) into a conference and meeting hall to attract people into the city for events. In Austin, they converted the old power plant into what is mostly a modernized co-working space for entrepreneurs.

Now, off of the top of my head, apart from simply decriminalizing weed and creating an economy around growing marijuana and hemp, there’s possibly three opportunities the Rust Beltians could take advantage of.

(Which, by the way, if you’re keen on making money off the coming Green Rush, you should check this out immediately.)

Sure, the following ideas are unconventional. But if someone could actually pull any of them off, in the words of a Joe Biden meme I saw yesterday, it would be a “big [expletive deleted] deal.”

So, here are my three — out of the box — ideas for any struggling vicinity.

1] Find ways to attract the hipsters…


2] Push for hyperlocal economic freedom zones…


3] Create local currencies…

I find the hipster idea intriguing for a few reasons…

Big cities are ripe for disruption by rural America because a) rent is too damn high, b) a lot of millennials are able to work from anywhere they want and c) soon, millennial hipsters, those who thrive on doing the exact opposite of everyone else their age, will realize that the rural life, living on the land out in the country, is where it’s really at.

Think about it…

San Francisco, for example, is rife with communal-living spaces full of artists and hipsters forced to pay $1,500+ per month to share a closet with some creep who sleeps naked, smokes way too much pot in bed and never washes his socks. As far as lifestyle goes, that’s not high on the list for most people. Even hipsters.

And if you think about the direction in which the economy is headed — toward a more decentralized and remote work environment — some towns could use this to their advantage.

So, number one: Hipsters (and I use this word loosely referring to any counter-cultural persona) are traditionally the first ones to move into “bad” or neglected neighborhoods (because they’re cheap), clean them up (kinda) and make them “hip” and interesting. Then, once the grunt work of making an area “attractive” and “cool” is taken care of, comes the investment money. (Then come the jobs.)

Hipsters who have the freedom to work on their laptops, but no longer want to pay 75% of their month’s salary on rent to sleep in a shoebox next to a guy that smells like cheese, might be interested in living in an “intentional ecospherical co-working free-range community” in some old revived factory out in the boondocks.

Part of the Rural Revival may arrive when hipsters begin to think it’s cool to live in the country and blog about keeping chickens as pets, growing designer baby carrots and perfecting the ancient arts of essential oil soapmaking and mincing exotic cocktail herbs.

Also, there’s something to be said about helping to match aspiring farmers with land (as one organization, called Rural Revival, is apparently doing) in order to create local food systems for communities. This could incentivize people who are interested in permaculture and sustainable food systems to move in or get more involved in the growth of their neighborhoods as well.

Number two: Push locally for economic freedom zones, as Rand Paul has suggested we do in neglected areas of America since 2013. Here’s the bill he proposed.

Paul wrote: “‘Economic Freedom Zones’ allow blighted and bankrupt areas to remove the shackles of big government by reducing taxes, regulations, and burdensome union work requirements. These zones give parents and students the flexibility to find better schools, allow talented immigrants to pursue entrepreneurial and job-creating endeavors, and will provide additional incentives for philanthropy to help those in need.”

Last week, I saw a man speak from a venture capital firm which focuses on setting up the proper incentives for economic freedom zones around the world. It’s called NeWay Capital.

I’ll contact César Balmaseda, their Director of Cities, and see if we can do an interview soon to talk about what the chances are a struggling town in America could create an economic freedom zone as an experiment. (Or if something like that’s even plausible in the Land of the Free.) Maybe… maybe… it’ll jog a few ideas.

In retrospect, it’s probably a better idea than trying to introduce hipsters to the boonies. And once you get one area to do it, and others take notice of the effects, it could spread like wildfire.

Number three: Introduce local currencies into these areas.

“It’s an almost long forgotten historical fact,” Murray Hunter writes in OVI Magazine, “that most trade was undertaken by local based currencies right up to the 20th Century. Australia had a number of colonial currencies before federation in 1901. The United States of America had a number of currencies issued by private banks before the Federal Reserve Bank was formed in 1913, and individual states of the European Union had their own national currencies before the mega-currency, the Euro was launched in 1999.”

During the Great Depression, in fact, hundreds of local currencies, called “scrip,” popped up to replace the dollar when it dried up.

“A given type of scrip,” Loren Gatch writes in a paper called Local Money in the United States During the Great Depression, “might have served one or more functions: as a stimulant to business, relief for unemployment, a weapon against chain stores, and/or a means of municipal finance.”

“A local currency,” Hunter adds, “coupled together with a hybrid of crowdfunding organized by local cooperative banks, would be a powerful alternative for providing credit to local enterprises that the conventional ‘big’ banks have been hesitant to service.”

Again, any one of these unconventional ideas will either be the dumbest or smartest projects you’ve ever participated in. If, by chance, any of them become the latter (and only if), don’t forget:

You heard it here first.

[Have anymore unconventional solutions? Email it:]

Until tomorrow,

Chris Campbell
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today

P.S. If you haven’t already, check out this strange presentation about a $50 Marijuana Stock Blueprint. It shows you the absolute LAZIEST (and most bang for your buck) way to invest in the coming Green Rush. Click here for all the details.

The post Rural Revival: 3 Unconventional Ways to Resurrect the Rust Belt & Beyond appeared first on Laissez Faire.


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