Thursday, June 9, 2016
Cities have risen and fallen. There are cities that once were the biggest and brightest in the world that are nearly lost to history. Some were lost until explorers hacking their way though the jungles and wild places of the world discover their remains. Humans have gathered together in cities for a long time.
People have been moving from the country to the city for as long as there have been cities. There's the opportunity for trade, culture, religious gatherings and pubs. Don't forget pubs. Some researchers have speculated that one of the major reasons we've settled into cities is so we could stay in one place long enough to brew beer.
For all their attractions cities usually were very unhealthy places to live. Things go wrong when you put lots of people together, add questionable food, water and sanitation. Cities could not sustain their populations from internal growth. The death rate was high enough that cities only grew because of the constant influx of new people from the countryside.
In more modern times that changed. Sanitation improved. Food handling got better. Water systems were made safe. Advances in technology made cities much more livable. Many cities in warmer climates owe their recent growth to the invention of air conditioning.
During the Great Depression, on average, people survived better in the cities than in the country. At first the country folk had the advantage because they were more self reliant for basic needs. As the depression wore on, the greater financial and political clout of the cities overwhelmed country folk. Think of all the farms that were lost to predatory banking practices and you have just one major example on how country folk lost out. There were those who survived but they were smart enough or lucky enough to avoid the traps of the greater society around them.
Today most cities are growing. Even Africa is experiencing huge urban population growth. Subsistence living has a hard time to compete with the lights of the big city. Security is another factor. Small villages do not have a lot of protection against “revolutionaries” or even just plain bandits.
So the cities win? That's the place to be?
Maybe not for much longer. Cities are bigger, reliant on technology, and infrastructure has gotten more brittle. War can now be waged against cities without ever marching troops. Clever teams of computer hackers can take down city services from thousands of miles away.
If you physically attack a city, your best bang for the buck is attacking the grid, communications, transportation, water, and other services. That can be done with everything from high tech weapons to small commando teams with small arms and explosives. If biological weapons are also employed when services are down things could get very bad indeed.
So what's a person to do? In a slow grinding economic collapse a person might be better off in a city where there's more opportunity. As a country boy I hate to admit it but that's certainly a good possibility.
Should there be direct attacks against major cities, you are much better off in the country. If you've prepared by having access to food, water and can provide your own security, so much the better.
Events in the real world, however, tend to get messy. Even in a time of major turmoil some cities may do quite well while others burn to the ground. Parts of the countryside could be doing well while other parts are unsustainable.
My personal hell would involve cities being totally unlivable, yet still having enough financial and political clout to reach out into the country for the resources they need. That could get very messy indeed.
The point isn't to get all depressed about no place being safe but to open one's eyes. Look at where you live now and take a cold hard look at the potential hazards. Then keep an eye on what's actually happening in the world.
Of course there are people who only want to live in big cities and those who only want to live in the country. It's hard to get those folks to admit that their chosen location might not be the best. I'm one of them as I am not a city person, even though there would be some advantages to me living in one.
No matter where you are, having a plan and some supplies can make a big difference.