Wyrd Words: Pagans: IN SPAAACE!!!

 For the month of March, our Managing Editor has given us an AWESOME writing prompt.

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Much of the current dialogue in the Pagan blogosphere is about carving out ways to explain and justify our personal experiences and beliefs in relation to other traditions, but without a clear vision of the place our own traditions and experiences might have in an ideal world. Will the Pagan movement become one tradition-heavy set of religions with several “fringes”? Will it split apart into competing factions? Or will we find a way to unite using some shared cultural language? What institutions will we build, or will we build institutions at all? What rights or recognition will we have in the larger society?

What does your Paganism look like in 50 years?

How could a complete nerd, like myself, NOT take a prompt like that?

But if we’re gonna jump down this rabbit hole, let’s do it properly!

OFF TO THE FUTURE!!!

One of the most important things to remember when making predictions like this is that no community exists in a vacuum. We are the product of physical and social stressors in our environment, which change our behaviors as we adapt to the changes in our surroundings. So before we can think about what PAGANISM will look like in 50 years, we’ll have to figure out what America will look like in 50 years. I’m focusing on the USA, because there’s just NO WAY IN HELHEIM that I’m going to fit the entire world into 1000-ish words. (Sorry U.K. readers, I still love you!) So let’s throw the bones and see what we find!!

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The Environment: It’s getting hot in here…

The southwest desert of 2064 is a VERY different place. In 2014, Arizona and New Mexico both have some of the fastest growing populations in the country, and (not coincidentally) a quickly dwindling water supply. Even if we assume the BEST CASE SCENARIO, the average temperature on a summer day in Phoenix is probably going to be between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Most estimates predict that the Colorado River will dry out by 2050, meaning that all fresh water will have to be shipped in. (Which is EXPENSIVE)

In addition to current climate trends, the agricultural industries will continue to degrade soil and deplete fresh water supplies. Why would they keep doing this? There are lots of reasons, not the least of which is because the government pays them to. The unfortunate reality is that the most environmentally damaging crops tend to be the most profitable.

As this happens, the states to the north will start to get more arid, killing of most of the wild plant life, which will raise temperatures. By 2064, the southwest desert will probably cover most of the great plains and the west coast. That’s about 90% of the land west of the Mississippi, the majority of which is currently where pretty much all of America’s food comes from. To top that off, rising sea levels will have taken away a fair amount of potential farmland in the south-east.

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The Economy: With a map like that, do we really need to say it?

With such big changes in the environment on the horizon, what could that mean for our economy?

First, and most importantly, in this model by 2064 the agricultural industry has been DECIMATED. What was once the “Bread Bowl” of the united states is once again the “Dust Bowl”, and farmland is a rare and expensive commodity. This means that only the biggest, corporate farms will likely be able to afford to stay in the business. As rural farming communities slowly collapse, most people will move to more urban areas, which will be supported by these giant corporate farms.

So now that I’ve lulled you all to sleep with the boring bits, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Mostly that food will get much more expensive, and the rich are just going to get richer. Sorry Occupiers, the future doesn’t look like that’s gonna change any time soon.

 

Society: This part actually doesn’t suck

Believe it or not, this isn’t a doomsday article! Things will probably get pretty rough in the coming decades, but we’ll survive. If we’re lucky, we might even come out on top. Current statistical trends indicate that our our population will become much more diverse, and with the rate that our medical technology is advancing, we can look forward to increased life expectancy. Most of the population will live in dense metropolitan areas, and with that shift comes some interesting data on changes in political and ideological perspectives. (Hope you like your states blue…)

One social trend that I predict will likely gain steam in the coming decades is the “Grow Locally/Community Gardening” trend. It may be in its “hipster” phase, but already there are dozens of communities across the country that have built local food gardens that are maintained by local residents. In a world where food prices are just going to keep escalating, this high-minded idea could easily become a purely practical exercise. When food is expensive and space is limited, neighborhood gardens can provide some much-needed financial relief to those in the lower income brackets.

 

Paganism in 2064: So where do we come in?

Even today there are plenty of organizations that are attempting to build up Pagan infrastructure, but in a world where fewer and fewer people are interested in attending regular religious services, what would a successful Pagan infrastructure in America look like?

To figure that out, we’ll have to build off our model of (America: Circa 2064).

If our model is accurate, we’ll have a densely populated, urban landscape, where a large percentage of people are going to be migrating east due to lower cost of living and more fresh water. Where we were once a community that was scattered across a large country, we will suddenly be much closer to our fellow pagans. Space is limited and temples are expensive to maintain, but by the 2060′s we’ve started building another type of community infrastructure.

 

Pagans and the Birth of the American Kibbutz

In the 1960′s, parts of the Pagan community adapted to embrace a growing social movement that was changing our society. The Feminism movement and Paganism collided, forever altering our community in the form of Goddess-centered Paganism. A hundred years later, our community will be faced with a whole new set of social stressors, and may adapt to embrace yet another cultural movement. As community gardening becomes more and more common for purely economic reasons, those Pagans who are seeking to build physical community centers may take a whole new direction.

The Kibbutz is an Israeli concept that started in the early 1900′s. These are small, intentional, religious communities centered around a communal resource, like an urban farm. People in these communities are usually skilled artisans and farmers, who work to make self sufficient communities of like minded individuals. Given the environment that the Pagans of 2064 will be working with, I predict that those of us who want to build Pagan institutions will develop a type of “grove culture,” small communities or apartment complexes that support urban gardens and artisan crafts. Some of these may be tradition-specific, others might be more eclectic, but those will likely be the common elements between “groves”. These are two popular trends within our current community which could become valuable commodities within the next 50 years, and these groves could allow for both community and financial security.

Hearth, Home, and Temple all wrapped up in small, self sustaining communities.

 

This is just one of many potential paths that our future could lead to. My predictions are based as firmly in scientific research as I could manage, but humanity has a way of being unpredictable.In 1894, the Times of London predicted that every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure by 1950. This was backed by decent math, but nobody foresaw the invention of the “horseless carriage”. So when I say that these predictions are based on the idea that we’re going to continue plodding along in pretty much the same way we are today, one should keep in mind that we might discover cold fusion TOMORROW, and this will be nothing but a silly story to laugh about in 50 years!


Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/

  • stevewhiteraven

    You start with “Much of the current dialogue in the Pagan blogosphere is about carving out ways to explain and justify our personal experiences and beliefs in relation to other traditions, ”

    but why Justify ? i do not need to justify my experiences or faith because i am not lesser or lower than any other .I do not need to explain unless asked on a genuine interest level . i am = not less than

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      While I get what you’re saying, that wasn’t exactly the point of my article…

  • http://endlesserring.wordpress.com/ Treeshrew

    You know, I should comment on your insightful analysis and predictions, but all I want to do is say how much I love that you open with a ‘Pigs in Space’ reference! Well done that man!

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      YES! SOMEBODY GOT IT!! Ha!!

  • Bianca Bradley

    You are assuming that Arizona and New Mexico will continue to grow. Growth like that is not guaranteed. Housing markets have booms and busts, like the stock market.

    Droughts happen, Colorado, happens to be in one of them. Once the hurricanes come back, you might see a resurgence in rain. Also, yes the govt gives subsidies, but corn and the other depleting nutrients aren’t planted in the same place year after year. You plan corn, and then you plant some soil enriching crop afterwords, like alfalfa. You till that back in the soil. Crop rotation.

    Ummm, you might want to go to Kansas State University and check out the agricultural writings sometime.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      Well, you’ll note that I provided sources for my estimates. I didn’t just pull numbers out of nowhere and “assume”, I’m working off of the best data that I had available. It’s important to keep in mind that the Housing market is only a small portion of the growth factor down here. A big part of our population boom has to do with how quickly we’re breeding. It’s also important to note that even if population growth in Arizona stopped TODAY, we would probably still run out of water somewhere around 2060. I really recommend reading the “BEST CASE SCENARIO”, it’s very illuminating.

      AS far as Colorado goes, yes, Droughts DO happen. This one is likely to be happening for a very long time, even if some big storms do reach the region a couple of times a year. Arizona DOES get rain, but it’s mostly in a few huge Monsoons a year, and it’s not enough to hydrate the soil. If you take a look at Colorado history, you’ll see that the land was pretty dry and dusty when we found it. The current climate in Colorado is due to intense crop and tree planting programs, put in place to try and hold down the soil. Unfortunately, much like Arizona, Colorado’s current level of water usage is unsustainable, thus the prediction that the landscape will likely return to it’s natural state.

      Crop rotation is a decent solution that is often used to smaller farms. The issue is that these “Mega Farms” don’t bother. It’s actually MORE PROFITABLE to just keep planting corn season after season, and artificially pump nutrients into the soil. IF you wanna read some interesting info on Farm subsidies, check this out: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/02/27/us-farm-subsidies-absurd.aspx

      I didn’t just pull these predictions out of nowhere. These are the predictions that have been made by some of the top scientists in their fields, based on the current data. All I did was compile and summarize. My only addition, and the only part that’s not backed by tons of research, was the part about where Paganism fits into this changing landscape.

      • Bianca Bradley

        Mega farms use crop rotation as well. The dust bowl taught farmers and mega farmers what not to do.

        KSU, is a big university, and one of the major majors here is agricultural. That is why I suggested you look at it. They have publications. Besides, it’s where people go, who wish to work for those big mega farms. It gives you a good indication of what info that the big mega farms are looking at. Betcha the mega farms also donate to those universities and look at what experimental stuff is going on. http://www.ksre.k-state.edu

        Florida, and California have the citrus farms. California also has many of the veggies. MS, LA, and Al, have the cotton farms. KS, Nebraska, and a lot of the midwest, have wheat, corn and soybeans.

        Tx is in a drought, that can be correlated to the lack of hurricanes, which don’t just give a few rainshowers. In Ms, it brings in 30 inches a month during the hurricane season. Hurricane areas are TX, MS, AL, FL. The hurricanes then turn into weather systems that move north. In Ms, they go up to TN, and up to the bread bowl states.

        Other areas they get rain from, is from the weather systems coming in from the pacific. Ks saw a lot of rain, this year and that corresponds to the weather patterns coming in form Washington state and the pacific.

        Mega farm corporations, aren’t going to waste the land and kill it’s nutrients. It’s a valuable resource. It’s run by people who have bachelors, masters and doctorates in what to do. Not doing crop rotation or putting nutrients back in the soil(and that doesn’t just count the petrochemical fertilizers) is asinine and stupid and takes away their profit.

        Another way for farmers to get profit, without selling out to the mega corps, is becoming a coop. You see that with the Potato farmers in Maine, and the citrus farmers in FL.

        While the birth rate may be growing in Arizona, that doesn’t mean that they will stay there. Kids move. The housing market is a better indicator of where people will be in the future.

        Colorado is arid, due to the mountains. You see that in Washington state. The west gets more rain then the eastern half does, because the rain runs into the mountains. However this year, saw rainfall that they haven’t had for about 10 years, thus the flooding(if memory serves from a friend who lives there). Cycles happen.

        A doctor writing on farm subsidies does not a good source look.

        http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

        What you are talking about is monocropping. http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-monocropping.htm#didyouknowout

        However, part of those farm subsidies, is you get paid to not farm the land, in order to let it rest. One of the places I learned about crop rotation and letting the land rest, was at Maines Potato board while I was in highschool. The Potato board, talked to the farmers and COOP owners and taught them more sustainable ways. They worked hand in hand.

        Your extension offices are going to have a lot more information on what local farmers, COOPs and the industrial farmer are looking at. Your extension office is also going to have the numbers of the local beekeepers, in case you have a honey bee swarm, or have a weird bug.

        • Alyxander M Folmer

          First and foremost, Nice link :) Interesting stuff there!

          As far as big farming goes, my main point was that agricultural soil degradation (which is a real, observable, scientifically verified phenomenon) does contribute to the strain on any given biome. The BIGGEST concern however, is the amount of water that the industry uses. (Which is why, as I pointed out earlier) even if the population stopped growing, it would only delay the water crisis by a few years.)

          Regarding the population levels, it’s important to remember that the portion of the population with the highest rate of growth is also in the lowest income bracket. These are people who often can’t afford to move.

          Most importantly, I’m wondering if you actually read to the bottom of the article. You know, the part where I put a huge disclaimer, explaining that all of these predictions are based on current statistical trends and the assumption that we will continue on in much the same way that we have been.
          Somebody could invent cold fusion tomorrow, and this will all be meaningless, but until that happens, this is what the best scientific research in climatology suggests the next 50 years is going to look like. That could change, I’m aware of that, but it hasn’t yet. This isn’t some kind of agenda, this is what the numbers say.

          • Bianca Bradley

            I read to the bottom. I found the kibbutz idea interesting, and found a call there. However…. I wonder just how applicable it can be. I’m thinking of the drama llamaing that will happen,, and the politics etc.

            • Alyxander M Folmer

              I agree that it could be a difficult process, but ideally a Kibbutz is communally managed. Rather than having a “leader” who dictates who does what, the community acts as a self regulating collective, using social incentives to support the “rules” rather than enforcing them through any kind of hall monitor type program. It’s basically a social contract. You get to live here and make use of the communities resources, but in return you’re expected to contribute to those resources.

              Obviously it never works out as cleanly in real life as it does on paper, but some of the Kibbutzim in Israel have been functioning successfully for decades so we know that it CAN be done!
              I think creating a kind of “Grove Culture” among American Pagans could potentially be a great way to give a sense of physical community, while still allowing autonomy. Groves would be self governing, and could adapt to cater to their members needs.

              • Bianca Bradley

                Pragmatic concerns.

                1. money, how to buy the land, taxes, lawyers, make money to continue for it to be self sufficient and to pay the light bills etc.

                2.Communication and conflict resolution(both skills lacking in the greater Pagan scene that I’ve encountered) in order to self govern. How do you keep it going, and not party to popularity contests?

                3.Where are these places going to be?

                4. Space(will it accommodate families, as well as singles or couples? Another concern for conflict resolution, parental discipline and others thinking they should have a say.) Or individual and the community concern.

                Also, I disagree on the climatology concerns. I’ve read the pro and the con sides. The con sides to me make a lot more sense.

          • Bianca Bradley

            I’ve asked my local pastor(methodist and interesting person) to comment. Turns out she has 21 years exp in agronomy. Which I just googled. https://www.agronomy.org

            and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agronomy

            The first link btw, shows you soils and something magazine. You would probably find that interesting.

      • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

        Our water usage and a lot of our water laws here in the Southwest were also created during a year where we got abnormal amounts of rain – which has caused so many problems and not been properly addressed. Overestimating how much water we’d get and where we should put it? Has totally messed us up even more than we would have already been.

  • Leslye Coon Haller

    I’m nowhere near an expert on farming, but I can share what I learned
    working in the Cooperative Extension Service in the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University for 21 years. Their entire focus is teaching farmers sustainable farming practices. The one thing I want to comment on
    is that farmers are not degrading the soil. They are a population that possesses a deep love of the land and focuses everything they have on preserving the soil–it’s their
    very livelihood. Researchers at K-State in the Wind Erosion Lab have gone to great lengths to study
    how to preserve the soil so the mistakes made in the “Dirty
    Thirties” won’t be repeated. I can assure you that soil conservation is the focus in all
    farming operations. Farmers are about preserving the soil, not
    degrading it. Sadly, family farms are going away. This breaks my
    heart. Small family farms can’t compete with large corporations and
    land and feed prices are so outrageous, it’s out of reach to all but the
    wealthy.
    We are in need of more community gardens, food co-ops and natural
    alternatives. Absolutely! I belong to a food co-op and it’s the wisest
    use of money I can think of. Natural food is what farming and farmers are all about.

  • An Elder Apprentice

    I like the concept of Pagan kibbutzim.
    First a kibbutz is a model of collective endeavor that was meant as an alternative to both Capitalism and Communism. Self directed, leaderless, decisions made by consensus, collective ownership of property. Attempts at radical new social structures. More open sexuality, woman’s equality, collective upbringing of children. Manifesting a eutopian life, one that was a respite from the other social options and having some success.

    Second, the kibbutz began as a back to the land movement. The ideal was a deep connection with place. It was a rather pagan in concept.

    Third, the people who founded them were rebels and idealists, yet they worked through enumerable practical, philosophical and spiritual issues required to actually succeed while maintaining as much as possible their original vision.

    There is much to learn from them.

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