Greeks Go Back to the Land

In today’s New York Times there’s an article about Greeks returning to the land and reclaiming practical skills in the wake of their financial crisis. Well worth a read:

With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land

“I will take the rock in my hand and squeeze it, and with the water that comes out of it, I’ll make pilaf to feed my daughter. We’ll manage.”

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  1. Kelly,
    Where do you think we are, compared to Greece, in the “back to the land” movement? Maybe that would make a good analysis post or a compare/contrast article. (This is not an assignment.) Three sons with engineering degrees and out of work sounds pretty drastic.

    My friend is an industrial engineer who had only worked two places in over 30 years and lost his job due to none of his own making. For eight years, he has not been able to find work in his field, yet works at menial jobs. At 59, he holds no hope of finding anything in his field or a professional job, EVER. He will never take up any endeavor to raise even a tomato plant. I let him practice on mine, and I spend time trying to revive the plants after his care.

    Do you think Americans will just grow food in their yards? Most Americans don’t have family land, inherited, to fall back on.

  2. I remember my grandmother telling me how her family was able to make ends meet during the Great Depression on their farm. But the number of farmers has slipped from 40% in 1900 to less than 1% today. No wonder we find it so difficult to shake off this recession, after losing so many practical skills over the years.

  3. @Parsimony:

    I’m not expert enough to compare the financial situation in Greece to the US, but in a nutshell, what I think is that the US is on a long term downward spiral. Despite my joking about zombie apocalypses, I don’t think an apocalypse is on the horizon, only a long future of things getting slowly and steadily crappier. I don’t think it’s good idea to wait for the economy to “come back”.

    Instead, what I’d recommend to everyone is to scale back and get practical. Plant a few fruit trees. Learn to grow food. If you live in an apartment, get a space in a community garden or work with others in making your own community garden from abandoned land, or see if you can share someone’s yard in exchange for produce. I don’t mean that people need to plan to live off their own land–very few people have that much space. But combining your own fresh produce and eggs with inexpensive staples can go a long way in hard times.

    Practical skills are going to mean a lot in the near future, so I’d say, learn some. I mean everything from learning to do your own plumbing and home repair, so you don’t have to pay for it, to learning skills in order to make products that can be bartered. I believe the informal economy is going to be more and more important as the dollar weakens.

    Do I think lots of people are going to do this? I don’t know, but I do know that necessity drives behavior. And there is lots of interest in these subjects right now, that’s for sure.

  4. In terms of how we compare to Greece, we’re already there.

    1. Like Greece, many Americans (47%) pay no national tax.

    2. Like Greece, many U.S. workers work in the “underground economy”, pay neither state nor Federal taxes, and suck social services out of the System from those who do work and pay taxes.

    3. Like Greece, many recent college graduates (30+%) can find no jobs and live with their parents.

    4. Like Greece, American politicians are gutless and place their own re-election interests ahead of the Copuntry’s fiscal health and refuse to cut entitlements (Medicare, Medicade, and Social Security).

    From Erik’s recent poll, it seems a majority of his readers agree.

  5. Not entirely off topic… Reading about Venice lately re: water.

    Before they had an aquaduct bringing water from the mountains, Venice doubled, tripled its population by creating squares which were actually huge rain catches, siphoning rain water to cisterns, diverting rain thru sand filtration systems and then to public wells.

    Problem is I haven’t seen a picture, diagram or description online about these rain catches/squares/wells. Would anyone know a book or video or website?

    Are there any landscape designers doing this type of work with rain catch?

    Most importantly, do we in LA, Socal, have anything similar in our history prior to Mulholland’s great water diversion to LA?

    Very interesting.

  6. @Max: Don’t forget the “third leg” in the budget-busting gov spending – we are spending WAY to much money on Dept. of “Defense” (the Ministry of Peace, per Orwell).

    Lemme just use this as a plug for Ron Paul – Go Team! :)

    -RJC

  7. I agree with Mrs. Homegrown, we are in a long spiral downward. Not necessarily a bad thing over all, but for those who are unprepared, its pretty devestating. Unfortunately, our society has been pushing for years away from the old skills, the old way. Go to England and still find avid gardeners, the community alottment. A very alien concept to most Americans. Food comes from the grocery store, and that’s as far as they want to know. Food, jobs, etc. are all someone else’s responsibility. Anything else takes away time from social networking and video gaming. Its going to be a painful transition for most.

  8. RJC – Obama is already taking care of the “third leg” . . . a proposed cut of 490,000 active duty personnel. I’ve done the math: That’s a 32% cut in active duty personnel. I may have to add some guns and bullets to my stockpile of seeds (just kidding). He needs the money for an entitlement, subsidy, and welfare system that is spinning wildly out of control.

  9. “I don’t think an apocalypse is on the horizon, only a long future of things getting slowly and steadily crappier.”

    Having less disposable income doesn’t mean that things are getting crappier. The real income levels of Americans are still far above what they were in the 1950′s, 1960′s, and most of the 1970′s, leaving the real problem to be that we have greatly expanded our view of what material possessions we need in order to live a “good life”.

    Leaving behind some of the mindlessness and voracious consumption that we’d grown accustomed to while living in the paradigm of ever expanding economies isn’t really something that I’d describe as getting crappier.

    Although I don’t live in the US anymore, I think that there’s a real chance to reinvigorate society, and therefore individuals, through the problems that we’re going through. Not through politics, but through the actions of people and groups of people.

    There’s a steadily expanding circle of people who are realizing the value of “doing”. Taking an active part in life might be called simplifying it by some people, but it is really a recognition of and a participation in the complexity that undergirds their existence.

    And maybe we’ll bring back some Stoicism to help us see things a little more clearly :)

  10. @Cameron: I agree with all you say re: taking an active part in life, positive outcomes through people, not politics, etc. — and stoicism! I’d just say that when I said “crappier”, I didn’t mean disposable income. I’d agree we don’t need more toys. I meant, among other things, the decline of public services and institutions. For instance, public schools and universities and libraries are all under siege. Or basic infrastructure: in LA, roads and sidewalks are falling apart and the city has already admitted they cannot repair the sidewalks. Little things like that add up and make for crumbling cities. And of course I also mean rising unemployment and ongoing foreclosures. That kind of crap.

    I guess what I mean to say is that there will be both opportunities and pain.

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