Monday, April 16, 2012

Relocating: What is a good sized town?

At the turn of the century I retired in my mid-thirties & moved to a
very large city.
Lots of fun. Easy living.
Then the financial crisis hit & things declined very quickly. I moved
to a small 30.000 inhabitant farming town.
Today, most farms are in receivership & the population has dropped to
ca 9.000. Most services have closed. The place looks run down.
What is a good sized town?
You retired in your mid-thirties? Good for you man!
What you describe is basically the problem with thinking that a small rural town holds the solution in terms of survival. I’ll again blame Hollywood for these weird ideas people have.
I get it that the romantic notion of going back to the old ways is very appealing, the nostalgia of the “good´ol days” lives in our memories, even for people that have never seen them! TV plants that seed and some people want to believe that after the infamous “SHTF” or “end of the word as we know it”, it will all go back to being as it used to be, or more accurately, as we think it should be given the notion implanted in our heads by movies and TV shows.
We want to believe that Jericho would be true. Hey! What can be better for a small rural town than a nuclear war, right? Wrong.
As you noted in your area, smaller towns are usually hit bad by hard economic times or times when resources as scarce, the smaller the town and the further it is from main populations the worse it gets. People lose their farms, their jobs, younger folk move to the city looking for jobs, the cost of transportation takes a toll on more distant communities and closer ones that end up being cheaper to transport back and forth from are preferred.
The same can be said of mining towns or cities that depend too much on one specific industry. When that industry suffers, a smaller town or a too specific community will be at risk.
Lets start by what you want to avoid. First of all you want to avoid anything too isolated. If you have to drive 15 minutes to buy a Coke then you probably have to drive 15 minutes or more to get immediate medical attention, and this is the kind of thing that you want to avoid. When you suffer a serious accident or stroke time is the key to your survival. I’m not saying live and die by this because people have to live wherever they are happier but from a strategic point of view its still worth considering. After 10-15 minute of the incident, your % of survival starts decreasing by the minute. The way I see it, being more than 15-20 minutes away from basic medical care , especially if you have kids, that’s the kind of risk I at least would not consider acceptable from a preparedness point of view. Mel Tappan himself died of heart failure at the age of 47, located in an isolated ranch in Oregon.

Then there’s the lack of services and infrastructure. Soon enough you realize that everything is several dollars worth of gas away, and it gets old fast.
From a survival perspective it also has the significant flaw of being less of a priority compared to more populated regions. If money has to go to fix roads, if help has to be sent or if internet connection has to be improved, will they do it in the 1.000 population town or the 100.000 population one first?
This is something that a lot of people don’t get but I’ve experienced it first hand in Argentina. When power went down, the closer you were from Buenos Aires the sooner it was restored. Some of the smaller most distant communities would go without water or electricity for weeks. When arsenic was found in the tap water, they took care of it first in Buenos Aires and the larger nearby cities, and it stayed contaminated for years in the smaller towns, the infrastructure repairs needed always being to expensive to do given how few were affected.
On more mundane ground, it also means less jobs for you and your kids and less education opportunities.

Being isolated, too far from main cities or in towns too small is something you want to avoid.
Big cities aren’t a good idea either. People themselves are generally the problem during disasters, and even on daily life its just unpleasant to be in crowded locations. Homo homini lupus. Man is man´s wolf. While civil unrest isn’t 1/1000 as dangerous to people that stay put as the media or fear mongers want you to believe, its not fun either. Big cities can also be favorite terrorist targets and if there’s social degradation they will be centers of common daily violence, drug and crime. When crime gets out of control bigger cities may still be safer than the outskirts where police hasn’t got a solid presence, but this is more of an extreme case of general social degradation.

Most of all, you want to avoid Alpha Cities, this is main Global cities such as New York, Paris, London, Buenos Aires, and such. Millions live in these places, usually its people packed in very small area which could get ugly if there’s a disaster. They are also favorite terrorist and war targets.

Choosing a location
Based on my experience and research, while there’s no perfect location that fits everyone, this is one of those cases where you usually want to compromise and end up in an in between point.

I would go for a 50.000 population town. This is usually big enough for the things you want a city for yet not so big that it would fall apart. Small enough that people eventually get to know each other and there’s a sense of small town community yet at the same time tis not that small that no one would give a damn about it. This size of town usually means that there’s acceptable services, hospitals, maybe a community college or university your kids can go to rather than moving hundreds of miles away.

I would avoid main alpha cities, but still be close enough to large ones, Beta and Gamma cities, cities with a population of 250.000 or 300.000 give or take. This is important in case you end up needing more advanced medical care and trips to the city become more frequent, or if for financial reasons you or your wife are forced to find a job and none happen to be available in the population 50.000 city you happen to live in.
A town or city of 50.000 with a diversified enough economy should get by in spite of a recession or at least has better chances of doing s, while at the same time enjoying a better life quality than living in a main metropolitan location.
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serge said...

hey fernando, have you heard about this news story?

• Incensed Spain threatens Argentina after YPF seizure
An incensed Spain threatened swift economic retaliation against Argentina after it seized control of YPF, the South American nation's biggest oil company, in a move which pushed down shares in Spanish energy giant Repsol, the major shareholder.

serge said...

here's a direct link to that story

LukeP said...

Thing of note is immediate access to public transport grid.
In case of unrest, the railroads would be priority for any government: troop movement and the like. This also mean there is goods flow.
The further from "backbone" transport system, the less priority the stuff will be.
When looking for such transport nodes, sometimes it is usefull to look at history: the transport hubs are also natural marketplaces, which means more opportunities.