Best state to live in?

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V2's picture
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Best state to live in?

A hypothetical: If you had the freedom to move to any state in the US, which one would it be and why?

Put another way, what US state do you think would best accomodate preparations for a difficult future?

Consider geography, climate, political climate, laws, prominent industries/careers, etc. The whole package.

I'd love to start with a suggestion of my own, but I have no idea! I suppose that's why I'm asking. smiley

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I looked for 4 years and

I looked for 4 years and considered many states all in northern US because of climate change.  We chose Vermont because so many people there are already practicing and living low energy environmentally conscience life.

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welcome, karenf

Enjoy the site. I hope you meet lots of like-minded people here. Maybe even some in your area. What part of VT are you in? My folks (now deceased) retired to Plainfield, NH, right across from White River Junction VT. They were on the Connetticut River, and could see Mt. Ascutney out their window,  so I spent a lot of time in VT.

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VT/NH

I have heard people from VT/NH sing their praises before. I have a friend who often rents a lakeside cabin in NH, and I accompanied him one winter. It was a beautiful place. A very quaint, pleasant town (forget the name). Lots (and I mean lots) of snow though. You say climate change was a factor for you...how have recent winters been? I'm not too keen on cold weather myself, so I'm not sure I could endure all those long icy months. I guess you have to focus a lot of prep time on food preservation and generating heat in grid down scenarios.

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Some Parameters

I tend to put alot of emphasis on growing things, especially organized in permaculture. With this in mind, I wouldn't go anywhere colder than USDA zone 4b, or anywhere with super-irregular annual rainfall especially if the average is less than 30 inches. A place colder than 4b or drier than 30 inches per year both seem to be notable drop off points for what can be grown. Make no mistake, there are wonderful workarounds for both lack of moisture and cold, but they require more forethought and work.

Political climate is something I am less able to weigh in on. . .  I have found Pennsylvania to be pretty good for me, as my personal ideology incorporates some aspects of so-called right and left. There aren't too many regulations against greywater/natural building/homeschooling either. Not that these things are necessary, but its nice to be free to decide. Other states I have heard good things about in terms of personal agency are West Virginia and Idaho. Laws like these can change at the whim of local or state gov, so I don't research them much though.

The careers thing is a HUGE topic. What it comes down to is that anywhere there is a community there is a possibility for productive interfacing among residents. For other careers, a solid university or college in the area or town often helps, especially if the city is smaller. I feel like I can't give a good answer bc there are some sectors in which only one city is an option (international development), where others can be found anywhere (healthcare).

In any case, hope this helps.

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It is so personal

As I am thinking about this subject, I find it is hard to say objective things. Linving in Western MA I may be partial, but here are some things I find about it (I think this is the best place to live for me, because I already know a lot of people here, I am part of the community):

* The winters are cold, but I have an easier time to accommodate cold, than hot - heating is easier than cooling, either my house or my body. And I appreciate the seasons, as they remind me of impermanence.

* The town I live in is not that far from larger centers, and compact too. That means I can live here without owning a car as long as I can negotiate getting entirely around by bike, which I can. If I put a larger emphasis on an all-of-a-sudden full-blown collapse, I would be more concerned about overpopulation, but for a slower decline (that we have been in for a while now) this works.

* CGolias commented about smaller college towns, which I agree, as in case of a larger blow-up many students would leave the area, which is helpful for the then-compromised infrastructure to deal with.

* Political organizations will affect life everywhere, can't get away from them. The more traditional aspect of New England provide for slower changes, more inertia towards how society is already progressing, and that can help us through shorter crises.

* And again community: I cannot emphasize enough, this area is the best for me because I already am an insider here - people know me, and I know the local habits, the landscape what is possible and what isn't. That is invaluable for me - without the social connections and social/geographical knowledge I would feel severely disabled.

* Kunstler's Long Emergency had a very interesting evaluation of the 5-6 main regions of the continental US as far as general livability. I learned a lot from that description and his no-nonsense opinions relating to those 5 areas. There are many good places to live in the US, and none of them are ideal. I think a more important aspect is: is one able to live in the present and enjoy life today, knowing that each day can bring something totally different. If I am all caught up in my predicament, whatever I believe it may be, I cannot really experience life no matter how long I live and in what luxurious circumstances. 

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Depends...

...But I happen to like the great lakes region (maybe Michigan).  Plentiful water, good soil, opportunities for oil-free transportation and trade.  I'm also partial to Chicago.  The tax situation is not ideal, but who knows how that will look in 10 years.

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Meteorological Perpsective

KarenF,

I wanted to offer some thoughts about the environmental aspects of choosing a location. This is in no way a measure of climate change, but rather an offering of some insight on how climates work during periods of macroscale heating and cooling. 

1. Temperature isn't Linear
Temperature is a function of a variety of different phenomenon - amount of solar radiation, amount of vegetation, obliquity/solar angle of incidence, year, latitude and probably most important, pressure and water vapor saturation. 

As we look at a general "heating" trend, from a climatological perspective, we need to keep in mind that an overall warming doesn't necessarily mean that latitudes more northerly will become warmer, and more medial or equatorial latitudes will become scorched deserts. While these are certainly possibilities, it's important to note that as recently as 1816 - there was an unusual cooling trend which cause large scale crop failures. The reason was, as it is now, related to dioxides in the atmosphere, though in different form, and different elevations. 

Point is, solar cycles are much more important for determining long-term temperature trends. We're in the midst of an unusually long rise to a solar maximum, and although I'm out of the loop at the moment, I don't believe we've officially seen the decline begin, and it's been ~14 years of an 11 year cycle. 

The 1816 even happened during the Dalton Minimum - an unusually inactive solar environment. 

2. Temperature is part of a transport mechanism
What we register as temperature is very often an associated element of a pressure gradient. This means that air is moving along a gradient between air masses. Increases in temperature are very often associated with increase relative humidities, and at altitude, cloud formation - the Warm Front is a great example of this.

This amount of water vapor directly impacts the amount of INSOLATION, which - as simply possible - traps IR energy, which deteriorates the photosynthesis of UV energy which plants require to produce cholrophyl. This is a very difficult concept to explain, but a good attempt can be found here: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Clouds/

3. Water is paramount
Beyond a doubt, the ability to catch, and utilize water is a tremendous aspect, but too much can also be a burden. I live in the PNW, and this year, we're having quite a lot of rain. Things are growing, but if we don't get more sun, we'll start seeing an influx of nematodes, fungus and poor development in our crops. 

No place is immune to problems, so it becomes an issue of managing them as sustainably as possible. 

All in all, we still live on a planet that is very friendly to homo-sapiens. A good amount of our surface land mass is "capable" of sustaining human life, so the question becomes comfort. 

As far as the other concerns on the list proposed by V2 - I'd say those are almost entirely subjective. 
While I might not mind living on a farm in a town with 200 people, if I have children, how will they adjust to this? Will it offer the mental stimulation needed to develop and prosper? 

Likewise, would the over-stimulation of an urban environment impact them in such a way that they're unable to focus on any one thing on account of the overwhelming options? 

I myself am particularly fond of New England (Vermont/NH) and the Utah, Idaho, Montana area, as all of these states have relatively relaxed political atmospheres and are not dependant on any single industry, many of the residents are already used to a slower, less opulent life, and there are simply fewer of them.

That said, I don't think there is a nicer climate I've ever seen than Northern California. 

Just some thoughts.
Cheers,

Aaron

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NJ

Thanks for the contributions so far, some thoughtful responses.

I feel I should contribute even a little something, so I'll give what I perceive as reasons NOT to choose NJ...

1) Strictest gun laws in the nation. If personal protection with a firearm is a must for you, look elsewhere. It's a painfully long process to obtain one. Want to change the address on your ID card? Get ready to go through the entire process all over again, as if you're a new applicant. It's also virtually impossible to get a carry permit. The only way that's happening is if you have some real connection to law enforcement.

2) Most densely populated state, or close to it. It seems no matter what direction you go in, there are people and cars everywhere. NJ is a bridge between Philly and NY, the Turnpike being its main thoroughfare. You can find isolation southeast, towards the shore, and I believe the northwest corner still has some scenic solitude to offer, but even in this economic depression, it feels like development will soon consume the entire state.

3) Highest property taxes in the nation, or close to it. These taxes make renters of us all, and you will pay quite the premium to "own" here.

4) Massive budget problems, which makes me think the tax burden won't improve at all. NJ is usually a member of the "blue team", but they voted in Chris Christie to get things under control. He talks tough, but seems to be your typical actor, not truly willing to make the drastic, pain-causing changes that are needed. This paragraph probably applies to just about every state.

On the plus side, the climate is suitable for growing, potentially long seasons. The weather patterns have seemed more volatile in recent years. We've had an on/off cycle of brutal/mild summers and winters. Didn't have a drop of snow this time, but the year before we got clobbered. Humidity is guaranteed each summer.

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Michigan / Chicago

We recently moved from Chicago area to Texas, mainly for family reasons, but also because I feel that Illinois has a world of hurt to get through at some time since the state is such a financial wreck.  Luckily we got out at even, as the housing meltdown was in progress.  

Not that Tx is in the clear -- Repubs here still want to spend on too many roads and have a large pension obligation too.  But we have a ton of energy at the center of our economy here.  Chicago has more finance, lawyers and others which I lump into "the parasitic class" which is a red flag for me.  Michigan is an option, but only after the state discharges a lot of it's debt (i.e. clears out those pension obligations).  Wisconsin from Madison to Debuque(sp), IA is beautiful country, but strongly Catholic so there's a cultural issue there (for some).

So like you, I suspect the tax climate in those states will be much worse in the next 10 yrs, even while residential house values continue to decline (in real terms).  

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Use History As

Analysis of past history...glean 3 key factors.

  • Rural Areas tend do better than urban.
  • The more productive the rural area (soil, climate) the more resilient the area to economic shocks.
  • The morals of the people to promote self sufficiency, local community and support.

However, keep in mind these are agricultural based regions.

In the USA...per above criteria...the Midwest and eastern Great Plains are logical candidates.

2 cents.

Nichoman

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Rural vs Urban

Nichoman,

History's take on Rural vs Urban hasn't been quite that one sided...
Up until the last couple hundred years, the standard of living in the city has had a greater spread, but those who dwelled in the country were generally serfs, living in abject poverty. If you didn't own, or conquer the land, you weren't likely to be leading a very satisfying existence. 

This comes up pretty routinely with some of the other preparedness minded folks I know... while the rural landscape seems like it'd be a lot easier to manage during a collapse, if it's long and severe enough, those areas will be hotly contested. Where urban dwellers might not have the raw land, history has shown that food grown in the country is generally brought to the cities, not away from them. 

Meanwhile, the cities have more diverse opportunities.

I hate cities, personally. I can't relax in cities. 
But, I don't think that they're going to be all gloom and doom in a crisis, and I don't think the countryside will be all peaches and cream. A lot of the folks who "know how" to produce food, couldn't do it without petrochemicals... Don't want to end up between land barons and their fueds.

Cheers,

Aaron

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Strategic Relocation

Hi everyone,

For those looking to relocate but not sure where to start, Joel Skousen's Strategic Relocation is a good resource. I actually picked it up after I'd already made a decision to relocate to Colorado because I was curious. It's certainly the most impressive compendium I've come across. It's a great overview on the strategic considerations and questions you should ask yourself when considering your options, with an emphasis on risk mitigation. Please note, however, that Skousen's worldview is embedded within an anti-globalist framework, so some may be put off by the more conspiratorial threads or puzzled by his prioritization of the nuclear war threat, for example. I personally feel he's the real deal, whether or not he's "correct". I subscribed to his World Affairs Brief after reading this book, and his analysis is refreshingly free of the dubious logic that is common in this field.

Anyway, here's a link to the book on Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Relocation--North-American-Places-Editio...

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on Colorado

For us, we were really looking for a balance of natural beauty and community when considering where to relocate for a more sustainable lifestyle. Colorado is gorgeous, with lots of national parkland, and what I consider a positive mix of conservative and liberal attitudes. Boulder for example has been a leader in "green" initiatives, while many of the smaller towns are populated with people who have been prepping for years.

I'm sure there are lots of great options out there -- you really have to think about what matters most for you, and go from there.

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Indiana

I cannot say what is best, but can offer comments on places that I have lived.  Right now, Indiana is where we call home.  We've been here for 17 years and I feel this is a good place for us to ride the storm out.  The growing season is fairly long and the winters are not overly harsh.  Throughout most of the year, rain is common except for a usual dry spell from mid July until September.  Even then, there are usually a few downpours that would fill a rain barrel.  The water table is not overly deep, so wells are not to difficult to dig or pump from.

The community is fairly strong in most areas.  It's an area that still has a lot of small town local functions like the strawberry festival to raise money for the local fire department, or the evening concerts in the town I live in.  It's one of the more gun friendly areas and was the first state to adopt the lifetime carry permit.

It's by no means the perfect place to weather the storm, but it is far from the worst too.

Tim

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Northwest MT

My state borders MT, but if I had the means I'd go there.  I find it odd that there haven't been alot of "live by the sea" folks posting - I would have guessed that would be more popular.  The Dakotas will have to do for me.

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My Pick Is Wisconsin

Wisconsin is one of the only states that has the retirement tax problems under control so tax wise we won't be expecting the shocks so many area's of the country will be or already are. Social Security is not taxed in Wisconsin and we have plentiful farm land and reasonable taxes and land prices in the outer areas, i.e., St. Croix/Dunn County. It is also an open carry state and recently concealed carry was passed so the Constitutional rights are respected. Water is plentiful and the land is beautiful in Northwestern Wisconsin. The people are nice and more then willing to help a neighbor. 

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live by the sea?

Tree magnet, most of the overpopulated areas I have seen are by the sea. I lived on the East coast of the USA most of my life, and during the five years I worked for American Airlines I saw a lot of the world. It's based on the history of "we can move things by ship" I suppose, but ocean cities--especially those on river mouths--tend to be large and populous worldwide. Most folks on this site would agree that a large, populous city might not be the best option for riding out an economic decline.

Maybe living on Long Island NY and working in NYC soured me on high-population areas, but living by the sea was (for me) not much fun. I lived, theorectically, 10 minutes from the Atlantc Ocean most of my adult life but most of the time on hot days the horrendous traffic would take you two or three hours to get there. Do I miss the ocean now that I live inland? Sure, but I do not miss the population.

A plug for the Deep South: we have a very long growing season and lots of water, generally unrestrictive gun laws, and extremely friendly people. Taxes are minscule: Where you would pay $500 a month in property taxes back in NY, here you pay $500 a year. This is the Bible Belt, however, and it does get wicked hot, but for me . . . it works.

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US population distribution

I found the following chart interesting:

First, it really hits home how little of the world population lives in the west hemisphere.

Second, it shows how similarly lopsided the North American population distribution is.

For example, despite large cities like LA, the NA west (i.e., west of the Rockies) has a surprisingly small fraction of the total continent's population. Water plays a big role in that, of course, but there are plenty of areas in that large region with plentiful water supply and excellent growing climates (e.g. northern California, and much of the Pacific Northwest).

So if low population density, productive land, and good growing seasons are priorities for you - look west young man (or woman)...

Now, that's not to say there aren't material shortcomings to living in the West. In my state of California, state taxes are painfully high and headed higher as our bankrupt government flails & drowns under the weight of its unservicable debt & deficits.

But my logic is: one day this unsustainable system will collapse under its own weight. Maybe the state declares bankruptcy, etc - who knows? Whatever happens will be unpleasant in the short term, but a new system will emerge from a lower and much more rational baseline (e.g., we'll likely have much less funding for centralized services, but taxes will likely be a lot lower). The sun will still come up in the morning, and plants will still grow.

And when that day arrives, sitting on some of the best productive land in the country, with a near year-round growing season, in a reasonably-populated area, sounds to me like a good position to be in.

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Adam

I think you need to be a bit more specific when talking about the American west.  Between the Rockies and the coastal ranges, much of the land is desert or near desert, heavily dependent on irrigation for any agriculture.  That also accounts for the low population density.  And, most of what population there is is concentrated along the coast.

But, west of the coastal ranges, Cascades in the north, Coastal and Sierra Nevadas in the south, agricultural is easy and abundant.  I lived in the Pacific northwest for a while and the abundance of food production, even on very small farms, was astonishing.  That's part of the reason why I am skeptical of the various alternative agricultural models like permaculture.  Most of the videos and how-tos out there use operations in those areas to demonstrate how prolifically those methods produce.  My fanciful description is that you can throw seeds vaguely in the direction of the ground and food bursts forth.  Those models won't work that well in most areas of the US.

That said, the country along the west coast is incredible.  Just in terms of beauty,outdoor recreation and natural ecosystems it is hard to beat.

Doug

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yes, water is critical

Agreed. That what I was getting at here:

For example, despite large cities like LA, the NA west (i.e., west of the Rockies) has a surprisingly small fraction of the total continent's population. Water plays a big role in that, of course, but there are plenty of areas in that large region with plentiful water supply and excellent growing climates (e.g. northern California, and much of the Pacific Northwest).

but I suppose I could have been even more overt about the point. For certain, access to dependable water supply is absolutely critical if living west of the Rockies.

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water supplies

Living in rural Pennsylvania I'm surrounded by a sea of farmland that produces amazingly abundant crops, especially corn, soy and wheat.  It's said that Lancaster County has some of the most fertile soil in the world.  The area is heavily populated with Amish and they own farmland here and throughout many areas of Pennsylvania.  The Amish have been focused on self-sufficiency for generations and I used to think that they would be a good fallback to any local needs for basic food.  They don't use petrochemicals to grow crops and horses are their 'tractors and cars'.  

What I've learned though from my close association with them is that there's been a hole develop in their self-sufficiency bucket.  They use propane for their kitchen stoves and household lamps, as well as kerosene for their table lanterns.  In addition, they've become increasingly dependent on diesel fuel to run generators to milk their herds of cows, to run their refrigerators and to pump their water wells.  Most of those windmills that you see dotting the Amish landscape are disconnected and no longer used.  My Amish farmer friend told me that the farmers now have more animals than they used to and the windmills didn't bring up enough water for the needs of the farm, so they were switched at some point to pumps powered by generators.  Many of the farms now don't even have the old windmills on them at all.

I raised the question with him about what would they do if the electric grid went down and they couldn't get diesel fuel, propane or kerosene because the local suppliers couldn't pump it or have it delivered.  And what would his family and his animals do for water?  He said he had never thought about any of that.  Geesh.  I encouraged him to talk about it with his group and to consider having at least an emergency supply of water on hand.  Food is perhaps less of an issue because all the families I know have hundreds of jars of meats and vegetables in their basements on an ongoing basis.

Interesting how this long-standing Amish culture has had modernity subltly creep into their lives and they are more tied to worldly energy supplies than they realize.  Especially for having enough water.  Yes, some have small ponds, many have thin creeks meandering through the fields, a few have access to springs and rain is often plentiful here.  But we also have dry spells and occasionally we have had drought.  Something to think about....

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Deep South

I'm wondering if you can speak to how true some negative stereotypes from the deep south might be (i.e. intolerance). I have heard some horror stories from people who visited, but I've never been there and can't comment on it. For example, you say everyone is extremely friendly in the Bible Belt, but how neighborly would the people you know be towards an atheist? Would someone like that have a problem? Do you have to share in the culture and world view to thrive?

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intolerance in the South?

Hey, V2

Understand that I am a northerner transplanted down here and as a writer and blogger I am in the position of an observer.  I was born in PA but  lived in NY most of my life. I worked in NYC for ten years.

For what it's worth, I found New Yorkers in the City to be incredibly intolerant of certain things. I met a southern tourist once at the World Financial Center (across the street from Ground Zero) who was wearing a tee shirt that said, "Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco. Where are the chips?" He said he was nearly mugged by irate people in NYC. Was the tee shirt in poor taste? Yes, of course, but the man was spat on. And don't even try to think of wearing fur or saying anything nice about George Bush in NYC.

But you wanted to hear about the South.

As far as intolerance toward athesim in the South, to answer your question, and to quote my husband (who was born in Huntsville, AL and lived in the South his whole life), "As long as you not running around shouting 'God id dead' and you behave yourself, you should do fine down here." The local politicians might have positions on social issues that will try your soul (if you think you have one) but that should be your only stressor.

Very often northerners do not understand two important cultural things in dealing with southereners. First, there's a reason southereners talk slowly. Talking slowly is part of an expectation that you will listen and care about them as human beings, and that they will listen and care about you. When a northerner, used to a faster pace of life, talks rapidly, without realizing it they are tellng a southerner that they do not give a rat's rear end about anybody. And if a northerner gets impatient with a southerner for talking slowly the southerner gets insulted because you are asking him not to care.

The other thing is mostly important with older southerners, espscially the white ones. You know how New Yorkers feel about 9/11 and the missing World Trade Center Towers? That was war and violence on their soil. Well, we had another war on our soil. Most of the destruction that happened in the Civil War occurred in the South. Sherman's march on Georgia leveled the nearby city of Columbia SC, and completely destroyed the downtown of Lexington SC where I live. I think Civil War reenactments are popular in the South because they are a way to deal with the feeling of being surrounded by a thousand little Ground Zeroes.

So don't rub in your northerness with the older folks here. Their grandparents told them stories of the horrors of war where we fast-talking northerners were the bad guys. Best not to bring that up, however inadvertently.

Now a word on racism. After three-plus years in SC I can honestly say I have met only one rabid racist, and he was a transplanted northerner. Were any of the 'horror stories' about he south you've heard recent? Because my experience has been that I left racism mostly behind when I moved here. The reason for that is, in my opinion, the very strong military tradition in the south. Here in SC we have Fort Jackson (Army) which takes up 1/3 of the land mass of the city of Columba, Shaw Air Force Base, Paris Island (Marines) and various National Guard and Air National Guard stations. - and more. The military was integrated far before the rest of the country. I have great respect for those who were trailblazers as minorities in all branches of the military, but the fact of the matter is the inegration happened, and the whole concept of promotion by merit and advancing through color-blind hard work gets rewarded down here.

Of course a lot of people I knew up north loathed the military, so moving to a heavily military-friendly area like the south might be contraidicated for them. 

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Really?

Is the slow talking really due to that?  I didn't know that - never heard such an explanation before. I like your version, I hope its true.  Between the drawl and the slow talking....for me personally, I just hate it - but thats just me and my singular opinion.  For work, I have to call down there alot - both parties get equally frustrated.  They don't seem to be interested in changing either, and I can respect that.  Buy y'all

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@Adam

I wondered about you persisting in CA, and your logic makes sense to me. Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for the detailed

Thanks for the detailed reply. Lots to think about. Sounds like anywhere else, where if you're mindful of your words and actions, and don't go out of your way to ruffle feathers, you can live your life. 

How pervasive is the military across all southern states, not just the Carolinas? I'm definitely concerned about the increased militarization of our country.

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Idaho and Utah?

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who can speak about Idaho and Utah. We live in TX and while it's easy to live here now, summers would be intolerable off the grid. To someone who has never been to Idaho and only visited Utah, they seem like attractive options. Not just for the weather, but in terms of soil/living off the land, water resources, political environment, and social structures.

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