Maximum size city/town
Longtime lurker first time poster.
First like to say thanks for all the great info on this site. Its been a huge eye opener for me and my family (well the ones that are willing to listen with an open mind).
We have our eyes on a small college town surrounded for several miles in all directions by small to midsized farms. Its population is about 20,000 from what I’ve been able to gather, with 7,000 of those being students at the college. Currently we live in a large city with a population around 1.7 million and don’t want to be here for when it all starts coming apart.
In preparation for TSHTF whats the largest size city or town you would consider as being safe/sustainable?
Just my personal opinion, under 500.
Any bigger and factions can easily develop and you cannot have a personal relationship with each member of the community at 400 you’re stretching that anyway.
One of the problems I could see with college towns is that you have late teen early twenty year olds who are likely to freak out at a serious TSHTF situation occurred, or do something dumb. Plus depending on the ratio of the college students male-female there could be a little too much testosterone if there are some breaks or collapse in law enforcement. How do you enforce frontier law, for rape or violence? Or just plain entitlement, if they’re not prepared to pull their weight?
The other issue is how the remaining 13,000 view the college students, if they’re seen as good for the town then it should be ok but if there is resentment of the college students, because of previous friction, then that might be its own problem.
One good thing about college towns (at least the ones I’m familiar with) is that there are often quite a few people who are interested in organic food, co-ops, recycling, etc. You might also see if the town you’re considering has people involved in the Transition Town movement. I think smaller is better, but proximity to like-minded individuals with whom you can form relationships is important, too.
My observation is that it’s more important to have time in a smaller town than the actual size of the town. About five years ago, I made my move from large city to small farming community, I was more-or-less welcomed by my neighbors (at least they didn’t shoot at me) but it took another few years to make actual friends and feel a sense of community. It helped like crazy that I knew how to do a bunch of different things which make one valuable and hence, accepted.
The folks around here could care less if you know how to give a really slick Power Point presentation (not directed at Dr Martenson!) but if you can weld, fix a tractor or know how to build stuff, it makes it so much easier to become accepted. Small communities are very much self-supporting and what you can contribute to those efforts will probably determine how the locals view/accept you. Case in point; we had a new neighbor move in a few years ago and he has yet to be accepted, in fact the locals avoid him like the plague. First mistake he made was to take down the flagpole. That was a biggie around here. Then they found out the only skill he seemed to possess was ‘copier repair’ which is not in very high demand, to say the least. Eventually, they may all decide he’s OK and welcome him to the community but it’s going to take a lot longer,
I agree that the smaller the town/city, the better. Our community (though we live a few minutes from a town of 5000) is only about 25 families, spread over several hundred acres of small farms and woodlands in a fairly narrow canyon that defines "our community". Close enough to keep an eye out for each other and help out as needed but far enough apart to avoid getting on each others nerves.
hope that helps a bit
I do not agree with the "smaller the better" sentiment, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.
Rural living in a very small town (<500 people) in 20 years is likely to be very different than it is today. Your entire life will have to be centered in that town: your job, the products you buy, the food you eat, the services you require, the people you associate with, etc. Most people in small, rural towns are heavily dependent upon cars at present. Many of them work, take their kids to school, or rely on other services from larger towns they must drive to. This is not true in all cases, but it’s a safe generalization.
A small town of 20,000 with adequate rainfall, surrounded by arable hinterland and a dense retain core with housing in walkable or bikeable distance is arguably a better choice for most people than living in a tiny rural village. Again, it depends what you’re looking for and what your skills are. Do you want to be responsible for producing the majority of what you use? Do you want to be mostly self-sufficient? (This is a nice sentiment in theory, but in reality it’s extremely difficult – as anyone who has experience with it will tell you.)
Or do you want to live in a small town with a "critical mass" of people? In this scenario it still makes sense to be as self-sufficient as possible. But there are enough people with different skills and resources to share that one need not be entirely self-sufficient. It will be easier to live without a car in such a place, provided you can walk or bike to your job, the farmer’s market, etc.
Sharon Astyk and John Michael Greer, along with other writers, have suggested living in towns no larger than 100,000. I tend to think 40,000 is a better cap, with anywhere from 5,000 – 25,000 being the "sweet spot".
i think this is germane. i suggest a read of the book "broadside to the sun" it was written by don west.
he was a college prof who moved to a remote valley in the ozarks over 60 years ago. it is filled with lots of humor and wisdom.
(broadside to the sun is what animals normally do in the winter).
one story if i remember correctly (it has been over thirty years) they had ot go to the hospital which was over thirty miles away all they had was a horse drawn wagon. it took two days.
hope this helps with your decision.
I grew up in a small town, have relatives in a tiny farming community, have lived in a college town, and now live in suburbia, near several cities. If I was starting from scratch, I would probably pick the college town or the farming community (because I have family there). If I didn’t know anybody, the college town would be preferable because it offers more options (local businesses, hospital, mass transit, bike-friendly, more open to newcomers — because there are new college faces every year). I would advise spending as much time as possible in a place before making a decision. See if you can either subscribe or read the local newspaper online. Read the editorial page and letters to the editor. Make sure you are moving to a place where there are some like-minded people (you don’t want to end up being the "crazy new person" — and in some small towns, that label could last a long time).
I’m not sure what my maximum would be, but I know that London 8-10 Mil is the last place I’d want to be.
we now live on the edge of a city, 80,000 and if we move it will be to a smaller place still,
I think our ideal might be about 5 miles from a town no bigger than 50,000 perhaps. That would put it in easy walking distance, but also a good distance away. We would have the beneft of employmet opportunities and a town of that size would have many sub-groups so it would be easier to find like-minded people and form community groups.
thats my 2 cents,
in an actual economic disturbance (i don’t believe in TSHTF) you can bet those college students are going to disappear back to mom and dad. no matter how bad the situation is at home, my educated guess is that there will be a flight to familiarity. so we are really talking about a community of 13,000.
i made the move to a small communtiy of 9,000 back in 2006 and i think the largest advantage of this size of community is the diversity of people while also offering a small town atmosphere. i’ve found that i can barter for most everything and shop locally for crops grown within a twenty mile radius. if shipments of any sort were to be disrupted i think that this community could switch to self sustainable within weeks. the one dependency is obviously energy sources. i’m trying to educate myself on different ways to get around this,
if anyone has knowledge of biodiesels and biodiesel generators please email me.
Thanks for all the great replies.
We had initially thought about buying some acreage and trying to become as self sufficient as possible. After being honest with ourselves though we realised this just wasn’t going to happen. The town we’re looking at has a hospital, some modern manufacturing, the college, a large amish community nearby, and a retail sector that hasn’t been completely deserted as is the case in so many other small towns. It looks to be a very walkable community which is similar to our current location (older suburb built up between 1900-1930). Currently my wife rarely leaves a 2 mile area with work being nearby and a grocery, shops and a library just a few blocks away. The only negative about our current location is being completely surrounded by the city (1.7 million) our suburb is only about 7,000 or so and is like a little 2.5 square mile bubble. I think the college town will match this pretty closely.
Another bonus to this move would put us closer to family (about a 20 minute drive vs current hour and half drive) and would include the real possibility of family moving into the same town after we move (Grandpa and Grandma would like to be near the little one). Maybe the best bonus is that the move would make us completely debt free, the profit from the sale of our current home is more than enough to buy a large home on a larger lot in the new town and taxes are about 1/10th of what we are paying now.
I would worry about living on a farm or more rural location just because of the likely increase/shortage of gasoline and the security aspect. Atleast in a town the local police should be around as well as several neighbors to hear our cries for help. I just hope they wouldn’t ignore them. I don’t think we’ll see a complete breakdown of society but I think we might see a big downsizing in terms of our standard of living along with all of the ramifications associated with it. In that situation I’d rather be in a small town rather than a city or a more rural location.