Our Fifth Sacred team is all about community.

But when we think about community, the 2015 version is debating where to settle, so that our communities won’t have to relocate due to climate change.  

Thanks to the industrial revolution and short-sighted civilization planning, we are in the midst of a big problem that will affect everything: sea level rise, rising temperatures, drought and forest fires, natural disaster size, climate refugee movements, energy availability, and basic city functions. I’ve been researching this topic for some time since my M.A. with the United Nations in Environmental Security and Peace. Though the information on environmental security is still in its infancy, a smattering of articles (such as this, that and this one) have all pointed the same direction in the U.S. In the world, 75% of the most vulnerable countries to climate change are in Africa. The closest safe haven in North America is Canada. Developed nations score best, with Canada on top, followed by Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

But if you are looking a little closer to home here in the U.S, all eyes were on the Pacific Northwest. (We’ll talk about that past tense in a second.)

“The answer is the Pacific Northwest, and probably especially west of the Cascades,” said Ben Strauss, vice president for climate impacts and director of the program on sea level rise at Climate Central, a research collaboration of scientists and journalists. “Actually, the strip of coastal land running from Canada down to the Bay Area is probably the best,” he added. “You see a lot less extreme heat; it’s the one place in the West where there’s no real expectation of major water stress, and while sea level will rise there as everywhere, the land rises steeply out of the ocean, so it’s a relatively small factor.”

The reasons weren’t hard to find.

  • Latitude above the 41st parallel decreases the risk of infectious disease migration of insects carrying malaria, Dengue fever and the like. (These are increasing along with increasing temperatures.) Oregon is above this line, though SF is not.
  • Forget most of California and the Southwest (drought, wildfires). Ditto for much of the East Coast and Southeast (heat waves, hurricanes, rising sea levels).
  • Steep cliffs by rising water.
  • Less extreme heat, more fresh water.
  • Smaller city sizes in the state of Oregon.

“Some of the world’s most densely populated and economically significant cities already fall within the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects’ category of exposure to “3+” (meaning three or more) major risks — ranging from droughts to earthquakes to volcanic eruptions. The list includes New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai and San Francisco.” (Reuters, 2013)

However, a recent New Yorker article just went viral faster than an earthquake basically reversed all this thinking of Oregon as a safe haven. It is an excellent read, even if it will cause nightmares. If you don’t have the time, here’s the basic horrifying gist:The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.

  • Big and Terrifyingly Big earthquakes are coming to the P. Northwest via the Cascadia subduction zone (otherwise known as the new nemesis of my waking reality).
  • The V.B.O. (Very Big One) will send a tsunami onshore in 15 minutes. Meaning = You will have 15 minutes to live. This is about how long it takes me to water my plants.
  • This would be North America’s worst disaster, and 13,000+ people would die.
  • The odds of this happening are 1:3 or 1:10. YES, you read that right.
  • It’s happened before (in the 1700s), and it’s supposed to happen again every 243 years. Guess where we are in that cycle? A horrifying 315 years in a 243 year cycle. OVERDUE.
  • The Northwest is totally, woefully unprepared, despite the greentopia that is Portland. Just to give you a comparison: The recent offshore Japan earthquake and the tsunami it triggered killed more than 18,000, devastated northeast Japan, caused the Fukushima nuclear-plant meltdown and cost $220 billion. Japan is the most seismically prepared nation on earth. (Read that twice.) “If that was Portland,” quake expert Chris Goldfinger Told The New Yorker, “let’s just say I would rather not be here.”

The Fifth Sacred Thing was ahead of the curve when talking about COMMUNITY as RESILIENCE in the face of climate change.

But the search for safe zones is still on. Once upon a time, we were tribal and moveable. Has that time returned?


12 Responses to Safe places to settle.

  1. No one said this was going to be easy. One step at a time is how every journey happens. We need green sci fi to inspire change. What’s happening with the production?

    • Maya Lilly says:

      I wish movies and tv shows just happened, but development can take 5-10 years. We are in healthy stages of development, but development nonetheless. 🙂

  2. kayla starr says:

    I live in Oregon now, in an area that has long experience with living in community and people who know how to survive without outside “services. We are near a clean river, in the mountains, with low population density. I’m selfish. I really don’t want lots more people coming here, because that will make this place unsurvivable also. Just saving some room for my kids and grandkids, who live in the BayArea. It is hard for me to understand why people who live in big cities and who know what’s coming in the next 30 years, can stay there and keep having babies.

    • Maya Lilly says:

      I don’t understand it either. The only thing I can think is that the issue is simply too big for them to comprehend, so they just ignore it. Al Gore talked about that years ago in his book, Earth in the Balance. He said that if a problem is too large for any small action you take to have an impact, you will shut down rather than take more small actions.

  3. cindy prince says:

    my first instincts when reading this were fear-based. the way the info is shared about the PNW is very extreme. facts can speak for themselves w/o the charge. i have found that if we say things in a supportive, positive way with our aim on solutions, we all can respond from a more functional place.

    that said, i live on the Big Island of Hawaii, where a massive earthquake, lava flow, hurricane, geothermal explosion can happen any time. these things are a way of life, and Life has a way of going on. you will never escape earth changes, because everything is interconnected. our time on this planet is very precious, no matter what is going on. (i spent all my life trying to escape; now i just use books and movies for that, but willfully stay present with what is happening on our beautiful gaia).

    my prescription for a fruitful time on the planet: go BE where you are happiest, surround yourselves with loving conscious people, and stay present, and gift your self and your knowledge freely.

    mahalo, much aloha

    • Maya Lilly says:

      Hi Cindy, I appreciate these comments, and love the Hawaiian islands after spending much time there. The original New Yorker article was more fear based as it focused on impacts on the people, and what I was going for with MY take on the article was to lessen the fear with comedy. (Thus the insertion of all these little comic asides.) That was my way of making it a little more in the light of which you speak of: yes, we can be willfully present even if there is no safe zone.

      However, my training still wants people to be prepared for scientific realities, which I think is common sensical rather than fear-based. I wrote the article in the light of Knowledge is Power, rather than a Head Under the Sand approach. Unfortunately, even my most educated communities are not talking about these issues as much as they should, especially if they are choosing to have children. Since humanity are the ones that created this issue, I think at the very least we can be figuring out solutions rather than just holding on and enjoying the ride.

  4. I follow ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’ Facebook page and I’ve read Starhawk’s wonderful book of the same name. I’ve lived in yoga and permaculture based communities on and off for the past 20 years with people of like mind.
    I live in Australia and visit NZ often so I’m interested to find out why this article, Safe Places to Settle did not mention Australia or New Zealand as safe places to live.

    • Maya Lilly says:

      Australia is considered an extremely threatened country, unfortunately. I’ve visited several times and lovely friends there, so it pains me to write that. However, it is at a higher risk than other countries. Please see this article from The Guardian. Reasons for Australia being at higher risk are extensive, but include its extensive arid and semi-arid areas, high annual rainfall variability, and existing pressures on water supply. The continent’s high fire risk increases this susceptibility to climate change. Additionally, Australia’s population is highly concentrated in coastal areas (sea level rise issue), and its important tourism industry depends on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which is not doing well.

      As for New Zealand, the effects are not as severe, but problems will include: higher temperatures, more in the North Island than the South, (but still likely to be less than the global average), rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts (especially in the east of New Zealand) and floods
      a change in rainfall patterns – higher rainfall in the west and less in the east.

      Feel free to clue us all in to any other research you find.
      Mainstream media tends to NOT talk about any of these things because they don’t make for good ratings, but researchers and scientists are.

  5. Miriam Weinstein says:

    Reporting in from Marin County and let me tell you, we’ve been broiling (though not in Sausalito or by the ocean.) Hot, hot, hot. Just broke a heat record today that went back to 1934. And I do believe coastal CA, OR, and WA are all in a severe drought. Not so great or green.
    Try again. Maybe Alaska or the Olympic Peninsula?

  6. Two Eagles says:

    Some of us are counting on north central Washington, specifically the Okanogan Highlands, as a place where we can survive as a tribe and a community. There has been a thriving alternative community here for over forty years. We have our Natural Foods Coop, that nearly forty years ago was pretty much a small hippie hangout, and is now a thriving business with customers of all sorts shopping or eating from our deli. We own the building, as a non-profit, and we own a large building next door, as another non-profit, that is a much used Community Center for the whole community, plus we have a revolving loan fund that has loaned out well over $100,000 in small business loans over the past 25 years, plus we own 120 acres land 12 miles out of Tonasket, (that no one lives on) that hosts our forty three years old Family Barter Faire, which each fall regularly draws five to ten thousand folks, both locals and many from further away, and which gives away thousands of dollars of grants to the community each year.

    This county (Okanogan) is larger than the state I grew up in (Delaware), has three stop lights in the whole county, the largest town has about 35,000 people, and almost all live within five miles of the Okanogan River, that flows down the middle of the county. Got mountains on both sides, insulating us from the cities, a big stretch of wilderness to the west, and we’re just south of Canada, which I can see out my front window. It’s said that this chunk of land between the Okanogan River and the Kettle River to the east, and from up in Canada to the bottom of the Colville Reservation (one of the largest in the nation) is an ancient piece of land wedged between these larger pieces to the west and east Local natie legends says that this area is a refuge from times to come. Edgar Cayce mentioned, in one of his trances, Chesaw, one of our tiny local hippie towns, as a new cultural center after the earth changes.

    Wildfire is our biggest threat. Lots of forest up out of the valley. Lots of orchards and wineries in the valley. Some cattle, a little mining, significant logging in the mountains. Hot summers, cold winters, incredibly beautiful country. Good folks. Check out the documentary video by Kevin Tomilson titled “Back to the Garden; Flower Power comes full circle,” for a glimpse of our community a few years back. One of the main people interviewed, Michael Pilarski, who currently isn’t residing here, is a long time Permaculture teacher, and started our Barter Fairs years ago, and also started our Healing Gatherings, Herbal Fairs, and the Human Fairy Relations Congress gatherings. Almost everyone in that video was living here at the time, most still do.

    Anyway, this area might be a place to consider. By the way, I believe that Starhawk knows, (knew) a witch named Willow who lived here, and I believe that another long time resident, River Jones’, sister, who’s name I don’t remember, is a friend of Starhawk also.

    I am eagerly looking forward the the completion of the movie, love the book, of course. By the way, you can find me on Facebook, under my name, also my Modern Tipi Living page, and my Zaishta Church page, and the Rebirth of Mother Earth Medicine Wheel Gathering Reunion, that I am involved in.

    Keep up the good work. Blessings.
    Two Eagles

    • Maya Lilly says:

      Two Eagles, thanks for sharing these details. I was hoping for that with this article: people sharing their challenges and triumphs. It sounds like you’ve built beautiful community in Washington. -Maya

Leave a Reply to Marcella Guerriero Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *