Sustaining a Life in the Desert

The New York Times just ran a story about John Wells, who lives off the grid on 60 acres of West Texas desert. He calls his place the “Southwest Texas Alternative Energy And Sustainable Living Field Laboratory.” As Wells hit middle age got tired of a city-based life style and mounting debt. His father died and Wells began to rethink his life. As he says at his website:

Several years ago I began experimenting with alternative energy. I feel that the technology today has advanced enough and the costs have dropped to the point where just about anyone can make the move to off the grid living. This just happened to coincide with discovering accounts of pioneer life of some of my relatives from over 100 years ago. Their lives were difficult back then, but I sensed a feeling of great joy and accomplishment in overcoming hardship – where hard work payed off and living life was a fulfilling experience. I began to envision my life as a pioneer in the 21st century, and have chosen to follow that path.

In taking inventory of my life to this point in time, I believe that over the years I have picked up just the right skills and mentality to live my dream of how I would do it if I had it to do all over again. I suddenly found myself at the perfect point in my lifetime to go for that dream.

And so he sold his house for $600K, paid off his debts, and moved from upstate New York to Texas. He lives on rainwater, solar power, composts his wastes, and is grows vegetables. He’s got a blog going back to 2008, and a bunch of photos at his Flickr site.

Wells, of course, is in a long tradition of go it aloners. One suspects he’d be doing this regardless of the society-wide need for Transition. And that’s the point, our society needs to make such a radical decision. We don’t all have to make the decision together, but by ones and twos and tens and more, we’ve got to start moving and start changing our communities.

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  1. #1 by Charlie Keil on March 10, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    One person at a time. Couple by couple. Families. One Parish at a time; people gather twice a week to sing, pray, trade food, goods, services. One Ecostary at a time.
    From reading J.L. Hudson’s “The 2011 Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds” I get the idea that desert permacultures are not just possible but absolutely necessary for healthy, happy living. Cisterns for water storage are crucial. And those best practices will be needed in more and more areas of the world, not just Texas and the Cycladic Islands.
    Put cisterns per capita on the resilience list.

  2. #2 by kubla on March 10, 2011 - 4:34 pm

    Done. It’s added to the list.

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