It’s pretty much impossible to predict what will happen far into the future since there are so many unknowns, but we can study emerging trends and make some educated guesses about the short term future and be reasonably accurate. The following list is my current best guess at where things are headed.
One major trend is the shift to local versus top down solutions. People are wising up to those tasteless tomatoes that have been shipped 2,000 miles and cost a small fortune, low quality items shipped from the other side of the world (ex: tools that break in 5 minutes), and corporations who abuse their workers and yet raise prices as the quality drops. This trend is evidenced by growth in farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA), home and community gardens, ecovillages, and off grid homes that use alternative energy, roofwater catchment, greywater recycling, permaculture and other practical features.
There is a definite increase in low cost, owner built homes made with locally available materials such as earthbags, adobe, straw bales, wood poles, recycled materials, thatch, etc. The low cost of natural materials makes it possible to build with cash without a mortgage. The high cost of factory made materials is already out of reach of the masses and escalating fuel prices will likely continue the trend. Building officials may eventually lose their grip on regulating home construction as the number of high dollar new construction projects fall off a cliff. With people moving to rural areas with fewer building codes in the way and/or people deciding to take things into their own hands out of necessity, people will naturally gravitate to lower cost building materials as explained in my video Building Supply Centers of the Future.
Here’s what I’m seeing on a regular basis in my community. In short, everyone is hustling to provide for their own needs despite a faltering economy. It’s part of a shift away from working for big business and becoming independent and self reliant.
I’m seeing massive numbers of street vendors selling everything imaginable (which means fewer goods sold through brick and mortar stores): countless food vendors, locally made knives, machetes and garden tools, super low cost business cards printed from a computer, repair of appliances versus buying new, low cost shoe repairs done on the spot.
People are offering services and selling lots of things from their homes: plant starts, flowers, bundles of kindling and fuel for starting fires (branches and scrap wood), food, including grilled meat, baked goods and snacks, homemade soy milk, surplus food from gardens, eggs from family chickens, all sorts of computer services such as computer repair, photocopying and faxing, as well as cutting hair, sewing, child care…
Many of these things are part of the booming underground economy. For an excellent view of this subject, be sure to read a recent article called The Shadow Superpower by Robert Neuwirth, in Foreign Policy magazine. They refer to the underground economy or black market as System D — a slang phrase from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. Here are some quotes.
“Forget China: the $10 trillion global black market is the world’s fastest growing economy — and its future… Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It is where the jobs are. In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world — close to 1.8 billion people — were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.”
Read the full article The Shadow Superpower at Foreign Policy Magazine.