Shelter: Location

The first thing anyone lost in the wilderness needs is shelter. It’s a safe place to be. In prepping and survivalist circles, there’s a lot of discussion of ‘bugging out’ and ‘bugging in’ but here I’m only going to consider the ‘bugging in’ side of things.

Why? Because bugging out is running away from a problem to a safer spot while things settle down, and when the whole planet’s in an uproar, there’s nowhere to bug out to. You can’t flee from climate change, it’ll be at your destination same as it was in whatever spot you left behind. Worse, in fact, because scampering away in search of a safe hidey-hole wastes time and energy you could have used to adapt and mitigate the situation where you were.

When I move house, I have a certain list of things I check out in a property before I decide it’s suitable. Is it in a floodplain? What are the neighbours like? Does it have enough bedrooms for everyone in the family? Everyone does this, for their own list of priorities. Very rarely does a property tick every box on the list, and then we decide if we’re willing to compromise to make it work – or not.

Here’s a few points to think about when it comes to choosing or evaluating your location with regard to climate change, given the known effects we can expect in the next 30-odd years:

A coastal view: with possibly up to half a metre of sea-level rise by the middle of the century, this is a really bad time to move into a house that’s below sea-level or right on the coast. If you’re already in such a property, try to move, pronto! If you’re a few metres above sea-level but near a tidal river, it’s worth considering how high the tides might rise in the next few decades – too near, or bearable? Remember some tides are higher than others – and a storm surge might add more water rise again! There are lots of interactive sea-level rise maps on the web; google them, pick one and zoom in on where you live. Explore how much sea-level rise may affect you. Where I am, it’ll take 50m of sea-level rise to cause me immediate problems, and that’s more than even the worst-case scenarios have suggested, let alone what’s likely in my lifetime.

Flooding: as many residents of the UK are currently discovering, flooding is a horrible thing to happen. Your house is full of slime and sewage, you can’t get in or out, your electrical appliances and furniture are ruined, it takes months to fix, the insurance premiums go through the roof (or the insurers won’t touch you at all) and you’ve just got it fixed up when the next lot of floods arrive to start all over again. If you live in a flood-plain, then think about the meaning of that term. It’s a flat area of land (a plain) that floods regularly. My advice would be – move. Move to at least above any historical flood extent, and preferably more than that. I’m about 40m above the nearest water-course and that has lots of unspoilt natural flood-plain to fill up before it starts rising onto the built-up land.

Transport Links: This won’t make me popular with anyone who thinks they have a right to race round the countryside in a powerful sports car, but if we want to cut carbon emissions and do our bit to reduce climate change, we need to use less fuel, and that means driving less miles, driving more sensibly and economically, and even avoiding driving whenever we can. So, does your location have bus routes or rail links? Can you walk, cycle, jog or otherwise travel to shops/schools/work by muscle-power instead of motor-power? Let’s not get into the peak oil debate here but at some point, oil and its derivatives, petrol and diesel, will get too scarce and expensive to support the multi-car household anyway, so think ahead and ask yourself, could I cope here without driving so much? Or even at all?  My village has a post office, a couple of shops, a feed merchant and a bus link to a nearby town. I’ve managed to reduce my driving to under 1,000 miles a year by shopping locally, buying a bike and hiking along footpaths to reach services I need to access in nearby towns. This is also a lot cheaper and healthier than driving everywhere! Where’s the down-side?

National Resources: this will sound harsh, but are you living in a country that has, or can acquire, the natural resources (water, food, fuel) to keep its population alive? Here in the UK, the answer is a qualified ‘yes’ – there’s abundant rainfall to provide clean water, there’s a moderate shortfall in food production over food requirements and there’s probably enough solar, hydro, wind and geothermal energy available to power the country sustainably – if we get our skates on and develop it. This is more than most countries in the world can muster – to put it mildly, this is  not going to be a good century to live in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance.

Population Density: another harsh one, and related to the previous point. How many people are competing for resources locally? To be brutal, if the worst happens, are you going to be one of quarter of a million people fighting for the contents of the local shops, or only a few hundred? There are ways to mitigate this particular hazard, however, which I’ll deal with elsewhere.

The actual property: is your house as future-proof as you can get it?  Not everyone (certainly not me!) can afford to triple-glaze, insulate throughout, fit water-protected air-bricks and raise the electrical circuits in flood-prone areas and put in a solar array and a wind turbine! How much needs doing, and in what priority? We have insulated the loft and the cavity-walls, fitted double-glazing throughout and are already seeing the benefit in reduced heating bills (which means less emissions!), but our property is unsuitable for roof-mounted solar panels or a wind-turbine, so we can’t go as far as we’d like down this particular road at the moment. At the moment we have an open fire in the lounge – and we’re looking to replace that with a more fuel-efficient closed stove sometime reasonably soon.


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