Thinking Like A Forest
We use the word sustainability so much that its become a big soggy and watered down – what does it really mean? We like to think about sustainable systems as one that is balanced in its inout and output, which is a far cry from the usual systems in our culture which take and take and do not give back. The garden is a perfect metaphor for a sustainable system–the more we amend and tend the soil, the more productive the garden gets. If you continually take from a garden and put nothing back in the soil, eventually you find yourself with a dessicated, dead patch of dirt. We have found this to be true in lots of other parts of our lives as well, specifically our human and community relationships. The more we give–the more we love–the more love there is around us. With gratitude as well, it’s a gift you give to others, but it’s also a gift you give to yourself. The more you give, the more grateful you feel.
The dominant culture doesn’t work on this model of sustainability in any way. It’s an endless series of open loops that take resources, chews them up, and leaves them behind in a wake of destruction. The corporate model of agriculture and economics and human exploitation is a dead end, just like a garden that is never fed. The myth of never ending profit and ever increasing growth is a pyramid scheme that is doomed to fail. As global events, and global instabilities, get more and more pronounced, it seems like this failure is closer than ever. All of us pay the price for participating in this kind of system. While most of us are not going to take on the megalithic corporate system, enough people are putting their attention and energy into small and beautiful solutions that can make a difference. That’s what the urban homesteading movement, and the book we wrote, is all about–homescale solutions to global size problems.
A Personal Sustainability Plan
In some ways we are preaching to the converted here–we’re assuming you signed up for this newsletter because you feel the pressure and the crunch and the general wrong-ness of our corporatocracy (is there such a thing? it sounds bad, like whooping cough or life-long chicken pox). Wile some of you may have taken on some sustainable solutions in your life, you may be ripe to take the next step in creating a personal sustainability plan. Perhaps you’ve already tried growing tomatoes, or carrots, or canning, and you’re ready for a foray into chickens, or water harvesting, or better waste management. We want to encourage you to try something new each season and to set a reasonable goal for yourself that you can accomplish and maintain. So if waste management is a goal, set yourself to reduce consumption by 10% (rather than starting with the ambitious goal of 60%). Then when you succeed you’ll be inspired to do more. Many people don’t realize that practices like greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting, solar energy, natural building, small animal husbandry and all the heirloom kitchen skills are practical and affordable and doable on a small scale, whether or not you rent or own your home.
Making a personal sustainability plan is a first step in understanding and reducing your carbon footprint. This is work you can do alone, with your family, community, or neighborhood. Sometimes the best way to do it is with others – take an action and inspire your neighbors. Watch what they do, and get inspired too! Reciprocal synergistic inspiration is the best way to generate community resilience.
Our book can connect you to some of these simple homescale solutions, but we also encourage you to look around the place where you live — are there any farmers or gardeners you can learn from? greywater guerrillas? rainwater harvesters? natural builders? There’s no substitute for live teachers–seek them out and learn from them.