‘Change is coming’: meet the Englishman who is preparing for the climate apocalypse in a former German barracks | Climate crisis
Ben Green need not worry that Vladimir Putin might cut the gas in Europe this winter, worry about a seasonal upsurge in Covid-19 or panic about a looming global food crisis.
Green weaned himself off petrol when he bought the five-hectare (12-acre) plot of an abandoned East German army barracks three years ago: the previous owner, who used it as an open-air museum for period tanks, had emptied the building of water and gas pipes. Green patched up the canteen’s roof and insulated the windows so that temperatures inside wouldn’t drop below 5°C at night. He bathes by pouring a bucket of cold water over his head and cooks on a wood stove.
A 49-year-old Englishman with a graying red beard and the word “Vegan!” tattooed on his upper left arm, Green is unaffected by the unraveling of supply chains as he lives almost entirely off the vegetables and fruit he grows on his land. If, as Green hopes, friends gift him an oil press for his 50th birthday, he can soon cut the occasional four-mile cycle to the nearest village for cooking oil.
On these trips, he stocks up on tea, coffee and chocolate, but these are luxuries he could do without in the event of a systemic breakdown in supply chains. The fact that his food miles are still measurable is due to the bottomless appetites of Fat Tony, Brunhilde Demagogue and Marilyn Monroe, his three Mangalica pigs.
Coronavirus is no cause for concern – partly because Green is vaccinated twice, despite what one might assume is his enthusiasm for herbal remedies, but mostly because he lives alone in the middle of a remote spruce forest in Saxony, whose exact coordinates he keeps secret and rarely receives visitors.
Green worries about the extreme heat and drought this year, which is jeopardizing his race to fill his cellar with 100 pots of tomato stew, 180 kg of potatoes and 22 kg of dried beans in order to survive Winter.
But soaring temperatures this summer could also lead more people to recognize Green’s experiment in self-sufficiency as a model to emulate in the run-up to climate catastrophe. A catastrophe, Green believes, which is inevitable and imminent.
“When I was born, we were at 324 parts carbon dioxide in a million parts air. This year we’ve reached 420. Change is coming, and if you’re not prepared for it, it’s going to be enough. horrible.
“What we envision is not the end of humanity but the end of capitalism,” he said, describing climate degradation as the common denominator behind the various political, food, energy and health crises that are taking place. have started to converge in recent years. “The meltdown is going to happen, and this is the year people will take notice.”
Living in expectation of the apocalypse is no longer a minority position. A YouGov survey taken at the start of the coronavirus pandemic found that nearly a third of respondents in the United States anticipate a life-changing disaster in their lifetime. A separate poll conducted in five countries in 2019 found that more than half of respondents in France, Italy, the UK and the US believe that civilization as they know it will crumble in the years to come. come.
In America, anxiety over a systemic breakdown has fueled a trend of “preparers” stocking up on food and weapons to care for themselves and their families. During the pandemic, U.S. underground shelter sellers have reported an increase in demand.
Green, who recounts his life as a hermit on his Instagram account, The Pirate Ben, sees himself at the forefront of a more positive and less selfish European counter-movement: “happy doomerism”.
“The problem with preppers is: what do they do when the baked beans run out? I don’t want to be scared here – that’s where the whole white power thing comes from.
He doesn’t believe in the need for population reduction, as some on the fringes do where the far right and eco-activism overlap. If people can retain or relearn their knowledge of how to work the land sustainably, Green argues, there should be enough food for everyone: “What I’m trying to do is preserve the best of our society for when we come out the other end. .”
There is more of The good life that Extinction Rebellion to its decision to save its pigs from a butcher – an act of “efficient selflessness” that the three huge pigs are clearly unwilling to repay. Their endless hunger for horse muesli mixed with hay pellets and stale buns from the nearest village bakery is what still prevents her from living a 100% self-sufficient and climate-neutral existence.
“The pigs were the worst decision of my life,” he said, giving Tony an impassioned pat on his muddy back. “It was stupid and clearly detrimental to my goals.” Eating them would be the logical conclusion, he admits. “But that won’t happen.”
To call Green a humanist would be going too far, he said. Building a self-sufficient community after climate change takes discipline: he gets up at 6am, feeds the pigs, tends his crops, mows the grass, feeds the pigs a second time, then goes to bed around 10pm.
And such discipline requires a strong belief in good and evil. He blames climate change not just on a few powerful people, he wrote in a recent blog entry, but on everyone who has participated in a world-destroying economy: “Anyone who works for a fossil fuels in any capacity should be tried for genocide. From kids in the mailroom to CEOs.
Green reiterated this point when asked about the blog entry. “A few genocide show trials would go a long way.” What would be the punishment for genocide? “I think it’s pretty well established.”
Before moving to the barracks in the Saxon Woods three years ago, the Brummie native pursued a successful career as a computer engineer. Stints in Austria, Spain, London and Berlin ended when he was made redundant from his last job in Zurich in 2018.
With the severance pay and his savings, he bought the former barracks of the East German National People’s Army.
Although he is fluent in German, the choice of location was the result of a rational cost-benefit analysis rather than a strong affection for the eastern German state bordering the Czech Republic. “You want to be as far north as possible for the heat, but also as far south as possible because of the sunlight during the growing season.”
Self-sufficient lifestyle seekers creating communes in Spain or Portugal, he said, were “crazy” because they would struggle to work the land amid rising temperatures.
Preppers take care of themselves. Green wants to set an example for others, but for now Happy Doomerism remains a one-man movement. After starting out with occasional volunteers who helped him work the land, he now runs the project on his own. A strict no-drugs policy at the barracks is designed to discourage half-hearted dropouts.
“The first follower will have to be very special,” he said as he sat down in the dining hall to escape the midday sun. “They’ll have to believe in the project in a way that even I don’t believe.”
Anyone seriously interested in joining Green in the event of a climate-induced famine can pay €3,500 (£2,950) to be put on a waiting list, although he gives no guarantees that will automatically guarantee a place. Someone has already made the payment.