“We have an absolute way to measure a person’s consumption: How much do you spend? The correlation is pretty perfect. I like that I live inexpensively. Living on public land for free is very low impact on our environment.”
I met CB, and his friends Randy and Barb, on a large tract south of Santa Fe where a longtime friend of Randy’s lets the trio park their RV’s for extended periods. The three itinerant RV dwellers each occupy their own trailer but usually camp near each other. Sometimes they share meals. Often they make music. They consider themselves a band. “A band is a group of people that is small enough not to have a leader.”
CB began trailer life at 9:09 a.m. on September 9, 2009 when he pulled his used 2007 Airstream away from the house he sold in Atlanta. Aside from two daughters, whom he sees often in his travels, CB never mentioned any aspect of his past life. His focus is on current mode.
CB explained his rig: solar-panels on his truck for electricity; propane for the refrigerator, stove, and heater; a 39 gallon fresh water tank that recycles grey water and then black water. “As soon as you get off the grid, you realize that conservation is key.” CB is an electronics junkie. “If it doesn’t take space on my hard disc, plug into the wall, or use batteries, I probably don’t want it.” Still, he uses less than 1 kwH of power a day, about thirty cents worth.
Randy, Barb, and CB’s life is a grand scale board game; an ongoing search for places that provide warm climate, good scenery, solar, and Internet access. “There are only three places that are sure to be warm in mid-January: South Florida, South Texas, and Arizona/Southern California. Of those, only Arizona and the California desert have public lands where we can camp.”
The band often camp on National Forest land, where people can camp for up to fourteen days straight before they have to move. “There is no value in thwarting the law. It’s pretty generous. If people flaunt the law, they might make more regulations, such as registering where we park.”
A person is not allowed to live full-time in a National Park or National Forest; you must have a permanent address. CB uses his sister’s home address. “We are not on vacation. We are not needing to see the sites. We are at home with movement.” They had been in Santa Fe for over two weeks during the Albuquerque balloon fest, but never managed to get down there this year.
CB lives the way he does by choice, the fact that it’s more sustainable than most Americans’ lives is a secondary benefit. “If you are willing to live on few resources, you are doing everyone a favor.”
CB’s teaching himself the bass. He plays along with Garage Band, at peace in his small space. Are there any downsides to his nomadic Airstream life? “The biggest complication is the whole girlfriend thing.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I believe we live at the peak of civilization and it’s downhill from here. There is one issue, overpopulation, that transgresses all others. From an anthropological perspective, say a million years, what we have is ridiculously fragile. Something will go wrong, probably triggered by humans. There are too many people, too much poverty, too few resources.
“There is this personal connection with having children, thus so many people. There is nothing greener a person can do than have no children. If there were one billion people on this planet we wouldn’t have global warming. Sustainability can be achieved either from way fewer people or a much lower standard of living. If everyone lived like we do in the United States, we’d use five times as many resources. Our continued prosperity depends on their continued poverty. Everything comes from that.
“The major, room temperature, progresses in science have been discovered. The 21st century will not have the same advances. It is irresponsible to continue to believe that technology will solve our problems.
“It irks me how religious people create a special perspective. It comes from the perspective that the world is made for us. If we come from that perspective, we are done.
“I can construct positive scenarios for the future, but they are not realistic.”