John Robb highlights one of the big scandals of our time:
“Everywhere I look, I’m finding the same thing: In some of America’s poorest towns, it’s currently illegal to become resilient.
Wow. This means that the people who can benefit the most from vigorous self-help are being denied the freedom to do so, by towns that are wedded to a dysfunctional past.
Take the example of Jason Canfield.
Jason owns a home in Holland Township. Holland Township is a small town in rural Michigan with a per person income of only $16,000. As a point of reference, that’s about 50% of the per person income of Americans (a level of income that hasn’t changed in 38 years! which means we’ve been doing something wrong nationally, for quite a while).
Jason wants to become more resilient. He wants to increase his family’s food security and improve his future. To accomplish, Jason started small. He decided to raise chickens and turkeys to feed his family.
What happened next is perverse. Due to pressure from some of his neighbors, the Township is now forcing Jason to get rid of his chicken coop, 26 chickens, and 3 turkeys.
It appears that there’s an artifact of industrial suburbia in place that prevents him from becoming productive. A town zoning ordinance that decrees that raising chickens on less than five acres is illegal. Raising chickens is designated a “farming activity” that can only be done on parcels of land over five acres and zoned for farming.
What? Essentially, this ordinance means that being productive or engaging in economic self-help is a crime unless you own five acres of land.
What makes this particularly painful is that in a large and growing number of more well-off US communities — communities with family incomes three times higher than Holland Township — there aren’t any restrictions on raising chickens.
Here’s an important message to Holland Township and other towns like it:
DON’T make resilience a crime based on notions of what a home and community used to be in a fading industrial era.
Instead, make it easier for your community’s residents to produce the food, energy, water, and products it needs. Build the platforms that allow members of the community to more easily export what they produce. Embrace the future and the prosperity it offers.”