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Remote Land Investing: Part 3 [Agriculture
Posted on March 27, 2019 @ 12:45:00 PM by Paul Meagher

One question left unanswered in part 1 and part 2 of this series, was what exactly does "remote" mean? One interpretation would be "far away from other people"? Which leads to the question of how far away does land have to be from other people to be considered "remote"?

What I consider to be remote is likely nowhere close to what someone living in high northern areas of the US and Canada would consider remote. The distance from my remote property to the nearest full time resident (2 km) would be considered a short hop for people living in sparsely populated areas of the high north. Lola Sheppard and Mason White have compiled alot of useful and beautifully illustrated information about remote northern living in Many Norths: Spatial Practice in a Polar Territory (2017). There are many cutoff lines that can be used to define where the north begins depending on what criterion or indicator is used to define north. You can use physical indicators such as the tree line, the permafrost line, the line where ice stays year round, or the line where the ice roads end. You can also use economic, military, political and architectural criteria to define different lines that define where the north begins. Lola and Shepard identify at least 10 ways of indexing north.

The lines corresponding to these different ways of indexing north can be found on this map.

It would be interesting to study the price of remote land at these various cutoff lines to see if these boundaries also have an effect on the price of land. As these northern areas begin to heat up due to global warning perhaps they will be viewed as more attractive places to live, while land in southern areas will become correspondingly less attractive? How quickly, if ever, might that happen?

The type of remote land I am principally interested in, however, is land that was formerly inhabited but which people left because they could not make money to support modern needs, they were too far from markets to buy and sell goods, their access to the world was too difficult (up and down long steep hills) relative to people in other areas (traveling over relatively flat terrain), and where young people left and never returned. There was a time when people lived there and perhaps there will be a time again when people will want to live there to grow their own food, cut wood for heat, put up solar collectors and wind turbines for hot water and electricity, and be as self-sufficient as they can be like they were 100+ years ago.

I do think we need to realistically prep for a future that could be very different than the one we experience today because of climate change, peaking supplies of energy/materials, and growing populations. How can we do that? One way might be by investing in remote land not simply because it may be a good financial investment, but to have a place where you might grow food, collect wood, and survive if things get worse in the next ten years. Getting back to previously inhabited lands may be one strategy that will be important in adapting to the future as outlined in The Future is Rural: Food System Adaptations to the Great Simplification by Jason Bradford (Feb 19, 2019).

Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren has done some important future scenarios work that those of us thinking about a New Green Deal should keep in mind. Most versions of the New Green Deal envision a future where we will scale up our renewable energy economy, make our buildings more efficient, invest in public transit and many other measures to mitigate the effects of climate change - a "Green tech" future. There are other scenarios, however, that we need to consider, such as the "lifeboats" scenario where we are too late and need to start getting ready for what is to come. If you believe in this more pessimistic scenario, then some of the New Green Deal actions we should be doing today to prepare for the future are quite different than if you think there is time to turn this ship around. David provides a nice overview of his future scenarios work in this video:

It is important to note that David believes there is alot that can be done to Retrofit Suburbia in order to adapt to future scenarios and he may not agree with my assessment that we may have to move further afield to adapt. David's free Feeding Retrosuburia Ebook offers some more recent discussion of his future scenarios work.

In this blog on remote land investing I have stepped back to consider what "remote" really means and some of the macro forces at play in the world and how remote land investing might fit in. In a rosy "green tech saves the day" scenario remote land investing may not be a particularly good investment or that important to consider. In a less rosy "lifeboats" scenario, we might want to reflect whether we will need to start moving back to rural areas, areas we may have abandoned, and way up north.

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