Others are approaching the future differently, believing the biggest threats we’re facing are problems that we’ve caused ourselves. Richard Heinberg is one of the world’s foremost peak oil experts, who warns that we’re addicted to fossil fuels and must adapt before they run out. David takes us to a Los Angeles suburb to meet the Dervaes family of so-called ‘urban homesteaders’. They’ve already adapted and are living self-sufficiently and almost entirely off-grid.But are they all being over cautious, or will the rest of us be under prepared?

Heinberg thinks that if we’re going to survive, we need to change the way we live.

RICHARD HEINBERG: We’ve got to work together on this because individual survivalism just isn’t going to cut it. You know, if I’ve got my vegetable garden and my neighbour is starving, then the only way I’m going to be able to continue eating is to stay up all night with my shotgun to make sure no-one goes over the fence. What kind of life is that? We’re creating out of this paradise, Earth, we’re creating a hell for our descendents. I think it’s our duty, not just to somehow try to survive this but to change what we’re doing and to create a survivable planet for everyone, for our communities and for our descendants.

I met a family that’s doing just that.

JULES DERVAES: Some more tomatoes here, we’re about 90% self-sufficient in the summertime because this is all our bounty.

Jules Dervaes lives in Los Angeles, right next to a major highway, but he’s turned his backyard garden into a farm.

JULES DERVAES: These are heirloom squash from Italy, and they hang from the trellis here. Just watch your head.

He’s got two daughters and a son.

REPORTER: How do you like this yourself?

JUSTIN DERVAES: I love what I do, so I can’t complain. I’ve got a green thumb.

They grow 350 different fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries. They all survive on what’s grown here.

JULES DERVAES: This is our barnyard. It’s in the city, so we’ve got a nice little animal enclosure here. We’ve got five ducks, eight chickens and two goats.

And while I’m there looking at these goats and chickens, I can hear the traffic next door, whoof whoof up and down the highway, but you could be in the middle of the countryside.

JULES DERVAES: We’re looking at a planet that has run amok. So you have to be sensitive about which direction you’re going. If it’s going the wrong direction, it’s either you’re going to turn around early or you turn around at the edge of the cliff.

Come up here to our store on the front porch – Nice to meet you.

They obviously had a fear for the future too of what’s going to happen. But they’re going around it in a different way.

JULES DERVAES: This is a completely different dream, we’re talking about self-sufficiency, we’re talking about neighbourliness, we’re talking about a community of helping one another.

ANAIS DERVAES: It has the herbs from the garden. And we’ve already made some ice-cream. Yeah we have a hand-cranked…

JORDANNE DERVAES: It’s cool, yes, it works for us. But it’s a little scary because out there, it’s no. It’s, you know – you could actually forget about the bad things out there.

There seems to be this common strand running through America right now – A fear of the future, and a sense of doom. But I saw people responding in very different ways – from preparing to hide from change, to preparing to make change happen.

JULES DERVAES: So we figure we’re preparing ourselves to live simply. I mean this here is riches, but people don’t understand. If you look around, you’ll see riches here but it’s in the form of tomatoes and peppers and animals. So we’re going backwards, and I say a step backwards is progress.


Though Mr Brill was here for well over four hours, tis a shame that the piece didn’t capture the entire workings of the urban homestead – we’d need a whole show or two, there! A seasoned and well traveled journalist, was really taken with the place and after the filming as the sun set we sat down to a homegrown meal (which he enjoyed) there in the garden while Blackberry and Fairlight looked on.

We received an email from one of the SBS staff which said:

“We had so much wonderful footage and it was such a such a shame that we couldn’t have included much much more of the Dervaes’ in our piece (especially for me as a Researcher who sets up stories and then hands over the reigns to a producer and editor).”

Perhaps if enough folks write in?

The debate continues, what happens when the times turn bad? Escape or take a stand? There are the extreme preppers and practical preppers – what’s the future going to be? Is sure is a scary thought, especially for us in the city who have, as urban homesteaders, taken practical steps towards positive change. Of course, it’s not just an American problem like it sounded in the piece, we are all are on the same train – though some countries may be slightly behind we are all traveling the same track. One day we are going to have to deal with the future because it’s happening now.

So what are you doing to prepare for an uncertain time? Which side are you on?


  1. Melina says:

    Very interesting contrasts between different ways of dealing with change. I’ve always tried to be a positive person. Tell me what you’re for, not what you’re against. Planting, growing, preserving, that’s much more appealing than preparing for a move to a bunker in the desert. That wife sure didn’t look happy at the prospect!
    Path to Freedom is my model for future living. I’m going to pick up my new chicks today, I’m putting the garden to bed in this Rockies locale. I’m searching for more ways to be independent. Not searching for a bunker!

    • Dan Langhoff says:


      I agree Melina, I wonder where that wife in the first segment is going to get her nails done in the middle of the Mojave desert?

      I am always inspired by the path to freedom to become more self-reliant and grow more and more of my own food.

  2. Gardening4Life says:

    I consider myself a positive practical prepper. I could live in fear of what tomorrow brings or take some control over things I can today. I believe its wise to not be so dependent on such a fragile system. Anything can quickly send us into a tailspin whether its bad economic times, natural disaster or whatever disrupts our basic survival. What I find today is that people have lost most of the skills they would’ve commonly had even 50 years ago. So even a small downturn in things can really wreak havoc on them and cause harm to those around them. Now is the time to inspire friends, family and neighbors by being an example so they will be able to help themselves when needed.

    On a very certain note in our country, things have changed. We are going to have to plan our “retirement” years differently. Many of the things available to those who are retired now will most likely not be there for us. By investing in our own property, skills, tools etc, we are investing in those years so we can live on less. It gives me a a better sense of control to whatever changes may be ahead.

    • Chris says:

      I am of the same mindset as you, Gardening4Life and agree with everything you have stated. I’ve watched “the system” eat up the retirement income of family and friends while providing minimal services to support their golden years. The time to downsize isn’t when you are 70 years young. It’s now. Like Farmer D says, work with what you have and take it one step at a time.

      It’s is ironic that these “preppers” are concerned about a natural disaster, etc. It is my belief that the elephant is already in the living room with Genetically Modified Crops, Agriculture and the current human consumption of GMO’s in foods (food additives) and pharmaceuticals (prescription drugs, vaccines, etc). While we are Millions Against Monsanto, there are 10’s of millions who still believe that the USDA and FDA are protecting the US food and pharmaceutical supplies that are released in our marketplace. The environmental and health-related fallout from GMO’s is yet to be seen. Adapting organic, sustainable agricultural practices is the only solution for the survival of humanity and our planet.

      Showing others how it can be done (on any scale) is our hope for our future. Affect positive change. Be the example. Overcome Evil with Good! My two cents …

  3. Jeni says:

    I to wish they could have shown more about what your family is doing now to help the planet. I do not see spending 50k per person to live in an underground bunker a way of life. If the time comes and I am meant to die then that is what is meant to be, but that is my Christian belief.
    Do not get me wrong for some it is a great idea. Like the first two comments say we need to focus on doing what we can now and inspiring others to do the same, rather then living in fear of what is coming.

  4. Ginger says:

    After nearly killing myself with stress and worry over things I can’t control, I’ve learned to prepare for the worst with an eye toward a positive future. I’ll get better and better, closer and closer to my goal of my entire vegan diet and herbal apothecary coming from my own yard. I’ll drive a very old 40 mpg car. I’ll enjoy not spending money on things I don’t need. I’ll sew, can, and teach a homeschooler or two how to write and study. I’ll live with hope and happiness, where I’ve been planted.

    Some dear relations gave me a book, The Patriot, which is a novel written about some extreme survivalists. They wanted us to join in their gun and ammo craze. I prefer to be the doctor, gardener, and teacher for the next generation, while they stake out the place and keep guard. I’ll live in peace and calm until the storm.

  5. Rhonda Watson says:

    I enjoyed the seeing all of and your wonderful Homestead. Despite the doom and gloom at the beginning of the segment the visit to your place was uplifting and motivating showing there is hope and self sustainability is achievable
    Thank you all for being who you are
    Warmest Regards

    • Eloise Martindale says:

      @Rhonda Watson,
      I’m with you Rhonda, I find the Homestead very inspirational, presently practical and achievable. I’m more concerned about the present problems of GMOs and food recalls than about fear of the future. We have solar for power, line-dry clothes, cook in a solar oven, raise 3 chickens, and grow as much food on our urban lot as we can. That is practical for right now and for the future.

      • Rhonda Watson says:

        @Eloise Martindale, Yes Eloise I wholly agree we have 11 chooks and five acres to grow and provide for our selves. We have a solar shower so to speak and cook mostly outside but coming into our spring/summer we will be eating from the garden salad range and not a lot of cooking

  6. Radhika says:

    I must say that when it comes to the Earth, I am happy to go down with the ship. I simply could not live on a planet with only humans and no plants or animals – they really do complete me as a being (I’m sure many of you are like that too). I can’t see much point in hiding, especially if there’s not much to come back to.
    I will learn and grow/produce/do what I can, all the while trying to be an example to the folks in my suburban community of the incredible wealth an abundance that urban homesteading brings.
    (It kind of scares me a little how valuable it all would be in the state of collapse (be it economic, environmental, social, etc. You’d find find yourself going from being frugal to being one of the wealthiest around)

  7. Debbie says:

    I’m doing what I can with what I have and trying to be an example to others. Being scared of the future isn’t productive. I just hope that the changed catches on with enough people to avoid a big reset. I am with the previous commenter in that I wouldn’t want to exist if things changed too drastically. I will keep learning and trudging forward and will pray that it’s enough.

  8. CE says:

    Find your joy and treasure and try to make it a big part of your life. Whether you can earn a living at it or keep it as a beloved hobby, you can find a way to do it now.
    As to the prepping: Almost a year ago I saw a European chat site with the europeans bashing American preppers. The preppers were calmly responding on why they do what they do. Now there are prepping sites for many countries and more every month. People are nervous all over the world. I wonder if it was that way before the Great Depression or WW1 or WW11? Did they feel a shaddow of something comming? Or are we just way too in touch with information via the abundant media? Prepareing is good, worrying is not.

  9. Sadie says:

    Now that your interviewing on the subject of practical preparedness you should reconsider an interview with Mr.Jack Spirko. To live simply and independently whether times are tough or not is the only way to guarantee choice when you need it the most, whether its personal, regional, or global. Loosing a job or a loved one is a tragic event and it happens daily. Getting stranded unexpectedly does too. It could very well happen to someone somewhere at any time. It’s not all about pandemics and government breakdowns or ecological events. It’s not about fear, tinfoil hats, black helicopters, or the end of the world. It’s about choice and not being in a position to have someone else make it for you. Plain and simple.

    The secular media are idiots! They just don’t get it. I really hate when they put focus on the “tin foil hat brigade” types to create a sensationalized stereotype. It is very damaging because it demonizes the concept of basic human resourcefulness. A hundred plus years ago you’d be insane or dead if you did not carry a bag of necessities, or grow food, or think there is someone who’ll magically show up and protect or save you. Imagine 100 years ago and all of history before that. Only a tiniest fraction of time in the history of humankind did we not prepare and provide for our own survival.

    Future fear? If my happy lifestyle remained the same with or without tragedy why on earth would I fear the future? Wisdom, not fear is what sets most on the the path to self sufficiency and preparedness.

    NEVER disregard self-sufficiency or preparedness because you think “preppers” are all crazy fear mongers. That would be really, really stupid on anyone’s part.

    I didn’t choose to live wisely and self-sufficiently because I fear the future. I do it because I’m wise enough to see that it’s the smart thing to do and it gives me choice whether I need it or not.

    “Agriculture… is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.” –Thomas Jefferson

  10. Cameo says:

    This picture is hilarious!

    The lot of you are spot on about preparedness; what short memories we humans have of our own history, tut tut. I’d like to commend you, Dervaes Family, for your awesome efforts at building community (and everything else you do!). The more people are informed, connected, prepared and able, the less there will be to fear. It’s enough to cope with an unforseen future – we shouldn’t need to fear each other. Cooperation is one of the greatest skills we have and is largely why as a species we are so successful. Let’s learn and teach that others may do so also. 🙂

    Sending Love and Light.

    • Anais says:

      @Cameo: Thanks for the positive comments. We appreciate your feedback. Blessings to you

  11. martin, outer hebrides says:

    Glad to read all your comments here, lots of sensible and optimistic debate. I am so happy to see what you (the Dervaes and others like you) are doing. I think the next step will come when one or two neighbours start doing similar things – if you have bees and they have hens, and people will start sharing, swapping etc. I think that could even work with city blocks of flats, using verandahs for plants etc .
    I don’t think people are likely to turn their backs on technology, and nor should they, but should use it to help us live lives more like the dervaes – renewable energy etc. Sharing experience, such as the Dervaes are doing here via the web, is a great idea. To anyone who looks at these websites, reads these articles etc and thinks they cant do it, much as they’d like to, don’ be daunted by the dervaes incredible achievements. As the saying goes, every journey starts with one step. If you even grow one plant in your window box, youve taken a step!
    Good luck to you all (preppers & planters & everyone), i look forward to following your progress now that i’ve come across your site.

  12. Cynthia Tyson says:

    I just ran accross your website today and I must say ..I am so fired up!!! Like most american’s my family and I are feeling the brunt of this economy…My husband recently lost his job. We live on 1 acre in Michigan and just reading your story has given us hope that there is something we can do (or at least a direction we can begin on) to take care of ourselves and our family and neighbors. Could you please give us somes book, websites etc that can give us info for how to do some of these things ..cause right now we need info as we are city slickers that don’t have a clue where to begin. You folks should write a book on the how too’s. Thanks so much in advance for any info you can send our way! I am finding alot of info on your site of course also. Your family is a real inspiration.

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