I moved to Willits, California, with hopeful expectations led by WELL, Willits Economic LocaLization. Their mission:
To foster the creation of a local, sustainable economy in the Willits area by partnering with other organizations to watch for opportunities and vulnerabilities, incubate and coordinate projects and facilitate dialog, action and education within our community.
For a start, let me say that I found myself somewhat confused as to whether WELL embraces an isolationist policy that focuses upon further exploiting remaining local resources or seeks to leverage local opportunities for attracting new sources of income from outside the Willits area. My confusion was increased by a recent presentation on economic opportunities that in some way was based on what sounded like the Chinese 5 Element Theory.
To be clear, a local, sustainable economy in the Willits area will either reach out to greater markets or turn inwards towards a subsistence model that will devolve to Medieval standards. A dwindling number of logging operations, a handful of ranches and a few vineyards produce much of what is now traded to the world beyond Willits for its sliver of the contemporary lifestyle.
By contemporary lifestyle I mean a daily existence based upon the interlocking triad of cheap energy, industrial metals and widespread electrical distribution. Currently, Willits is not partnering with any organization providing these, except as a consumer.
As the United States economic bubble continues to shrink, Willits will be challenged as a community to produce enough of value to meet the increasingly inflationary demands of a national policy of money debasement. This is the reality of economic collapse.
You see, the primary raw material in the Willits area was the timber harvested by the Rockefeller oligarchy and that is all but gone. The ranchers that followed occupied vast tracks of land in the effort to make beef production profitable. Compared to the vineyards and orchards of Sonoma and Napa Counties, similar local efforts seem meager at best.
The so-called fall of the Roman Empire resembled more a long term transition to what became known as feudalism than the series of catastrophes commonly presented in fall of the Roman Empire scenarios. As what passed for Roman economic policy debased Roman money, people fled the city of Rome to take up subsistence farming with the large land owners. These evolved into the feudal keeps so familiar to fans of the Middle Ages.
Those living through the transition from American Empire to whatever comes next will witness the birth of new institutions. One remarkable difference between the American Empire and previous empires is our unprecedented urbanization and integration with high technologies that are not land based but based upon the triad I mentioned above.
Unlike ancient Rome, most of the citizens in North America will not be able to return to the land to support their lifestyles. That option does not exist for the vast majority.
Willits is somewhat central to producing medical and recreational marijuana. This situation needs to be put into perspective.
Most of the large grows function as isolated and self-contained operations remarkably independent from local economic conditions. After a successful growing season, most of the product, as well as the profit, leaves the county.
Marijuana is not grown in the mountains because it is optimal for the plant. Marijuana is grown in mountainous Mendocino County because the growing scene there overwhelms local law enforcement.
It is grown by opportunists, in some cases the third generation of opportunists, who take advantage of local conditions and leave with their bounty, investing next to nothing in the local economy.
Can WELL keep the marijuana growers in the area long enough that some of that money gets spent locally? Can WELL develop new markets for local products beyond local borders, establishing contact with retail customers?
It seems odd to me that these issue cannot be found on the WELL agenda. Perhaps that is the source of my confusion.