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Note From Kim: Going Back to the Land -- and Posting About It

kimsnote.jpgIt fascinates me to no end as I watch the newest generation of digital native super-hipsters embracing what many are calling today's "new industrial revolution" -- an age filled with futuristic innovations like 3-D printers and assembly line-working robots -- with such a fast-spreading borderline obsession for low technology. Yes folks, the yin-yang cocktail of high-tech mixed with low-tech is trending with the first generation of kids to come of age never knowing life without computers. Theirs is a brave new world filled with Pinterest-ing food foragers, Etsy-centric craft-sourcing enthusiasts, DIY apps, tweeting urban farmers, folksy food sites like scanwiches.com and online micro-granting communities for meal-sharing. These are kids with their groovy-looking handmade slingshots and artisanal painted axes crammed into their rucksacks snugly next to their iPhones and MacBook Airs. Because of course they need to be able to Instagram those pale-blue and pink eggs from that backyard urban henhouse or photograph food porn from that 25-year-old Noma-trained chef who just served them locally collected fried moss sprinkled with fresh-picked baby nasturtium blossoms, salmon roe (from a freshly caught fish) and seaweed dust. The irony never ends.

kimsnote4.jpgRabbit Island (rabbit-island.org)

Recently I heard about a young Brooklynite who was cruising the real estate section of Craigslist and stumbled upon a listing for a remote never-been-touched island in the middle of Lake Superior. So he bought it. Why? Because he was inspired to turn the isle into a small utopian project: an off-the-grid sustainable solar-powered residency for art, architecture, science and even food. He named the new wild-forested island (which he snagged for a mere 140k) Rabbit Island, and, wouldn't you know, RI now has a Tumblr page, a Facebook page, Flickr page and a Twitter account (@rabbit_island). Oh, and don't forget their Kickstarter campaign, which, so far, has successfully raised enough dough to build the first sustainable structure on this undeveloped island. I love seeing this crazy connection between future and past. It's like The Flintstones meet The Jetsons.

I also love that in the midst of the skyrocketing growth of digital media and plummeting support for the printed page, there seem to be more young indie print magazines of all shapes and sizes popping up than ever before. These are thoughtful zines, covering low-tech topics from heritage farming to ice cream-making to artisanal product research with lovely names like Kinfolk, Inventory and Gather. Recently browsing in some of the cool shops that sell magazines like these, I noticed a lot of other low-tech stock, from the hand painted axes and folding wooden rulers for sale at New York's Best Made Company to a primitive hand-cranked coffee bean grinder at Foggy Notion in San Francisco to a hand-carved wooden slingshot from General Store in Los Angeles.

kimsnote3.jpg"Courage" American Felling Axe from Best Made Company

The future might be now. But you know what? Sometimes it doesn't look so different from the past. As an art student forty years ago, I worked for the futurist architect Paolo Soleri helping pour concrete slabs for Arcosanti, the utopian sustainable "city of the future" he was building in the middle of Arizona's pristine Sonoran desert. We lived off of the organic food we grew in our garden and every day I spent hours straightening bent nails so they could be reused. When I moved to New York in the late '70s, I remember meeting Wildman Steve Brill who was (and still is!) obsessed with foraging for edibles in New York's Central Park. He was actually arrested by the NYPD in 1986 for eating a dandelion in Central Park (I kid you not) and later ended up working for the city, leading tours and teaching the public about the abundant edible wildlife that grew in the middle of our own city. We started Paper in the mid-'80s to connect our rich local creative community together and extend it to other places. Decades later, new technology has enabled PAPERMAG.com and our social networks to reach much farther around the world to more creatives and like-minded enthusiasts than we ever thought possible. But the essence of what we do and stand for is still very much in line with what it was almost thirty years ago. In much the same way, Paolo Soleri's idealistic spirit is not so far away from the Rabbit Island kids, nor is Wildman Steve Brill's from the Foragers City Table that opened on West 22nd Street in Chelsea just last year.

kimsnote_edit.jpgLeft to right: Hand-carved slingshot from General Store; Hand-cranked Camano Coffee Mill from Foggy Notion.

I truly believe that human nature remains the same no matter how high- or low-tech our tools are. We will always yearn for a like-minded community to surround, comfort and inspire us and many of us will continue to long to return to the simplicity of life on our earth before we fucked it all up. What the next generation of kids is confirming to us loudly and clearly these days is that all this amazing and futuristic technology that surrounds us will never change the world without great creative and idealistic people who are dreaming big and figuring out how to utilize the potential of these amazing advances.

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