Or, the answer to a question nobody was asking: How do we prevent ‘small town syndrome” setting in? (If that’s not an actual thing people have researched, it ought to be.)
So I see a lot of posts saying that we should decentralize our society; it will be better for the environment, it’ll allow us to form deeper connections, etc. I agree with all of that. I support it. But there’s a reason that small town America is so feared and loathed by everyone (especially the people who live in one, aka me).
Traditionally, small towns are close-minded, resistant to change, and unwilling to welcome strangers. How would a solarpunk society, one based on diversity and celebrating multicultural heritages, deal with this potentially isolating town structure?
Okay, here’s my answer: a Wandering. Just imagine that when a kid reaches maturity (anywhere from ages 16-26, whenever the CHILD feels ready) they are sent on basically a world trip. Some of them have specific destinations, and some don’t. For example, my city of Roanoke Virginia has a sister city in South Korea, Wonju. We have a whole street named after Wonju, and they have a whole street named after Roanoke. Imagine that we create closer ties with each other by sending our Wandering youngsters there - it’ll expose them to new cultures and by the end they’ll have travelled across a good portion of the globe.
The point of a Wandering isn’t just to get someplace: many don’t have concrete destinations because the point is in the trip itself. Find new places, see new things. And most important: look for someplace you belong. For a lot of kids, that place could be back at home. But if you don’t fit in where you grew up, your Wandering is your key to freedom. Settle down someplace you belong, even if it takes you years to find it.
Wanderings usually take at least two years; transportation is mostly by foot, bike, or boat. But with the solar trees and smart-phone technology, it would be easy to keep in touch with your folks back home.
On top of that, people often go Wandering in groups. The kids you grew up with (probably a pretty wide age spread, but waiting for your friends to be ready to Wander isn’t unheard of) will be the ones to go exploring with you. Safety in numbers, and all that.
Often you would stay in the homes of people willing to host Wanderers, but there might be hostels kept up by the community depending on how often they get travelers. If the town you’re staying in has a lot of Wandering traffic they might keep up a building just for travelers, for example.
So that’s my collection of thoughts on how we would remain connected to a global community while calling for a return of power to individual communities. Those supporting globalization will call it a paradox: it would be easy to say that our wish for empowered communities means shutting down communication and leads to isolationism.
I say that the internet has opened doors to communication that we haven’t even touched yet. And a network of communication that extends across the globe is already in place, can be powered by solar energy. Easy.