Is it possible to be self-sufficient? Is that even a goal someone should strive for? Here are out thoughts on those questions…
Is self-sufficiency possible?
We love growing organic food and making things. There’s no way to express how rewarding it is to take a tiny seed the size of a freckle and nurture it all the way to harvest, producing delicious food and countless seeds for future growing seasons.
We also feel a deep kinship with other organic/permaculture gardeners, farmers, and foragers. As such, we feel the need to provide some constructive criticism about certain language that we’d like to see permanently “weeded out” of our shared lexicon…
Please, please, stop talking about how you’re self-sufficient or marketing your company’s products/services towards making people self-sufficient. It’s not true — and it’s not possible.
No, you’re not self-sufficient and neither are we
If you’re reading this sentence, you’re not self-sufficient. The phone, tablet, or laptop you’re using is made of products mined in dozens of countries and assembled in factories across the world.
You likely didn’t grow, process, and weave the clothes you’re wearing.
Your truck? You probably didn’t make that by hand either. If you walk around your home, you’ll likely find that most of the things in it were not sourced or made on your property by your own hands.
And that’s ok!
The only human beings that have ever truly been completely self-sufficient independent of other human beings are those unfortunate souls who happened to be marooned on an isolated island and forced to fend for themselves with every waking hour. That’s not a good way to live and it’s not attractive to people on or off that proverbial island.
Your hunter-gatherer ancestors? No, they weren’t self-sufficient either. They likely lived in tight-knit communities of about 150 people, all of whom were highly dependent upon the group for their continued survival. We are social organisms, like it or not.
Just as plants thrive and are made resilient through interconnected, biodiverse ecosystems, so too are human beings and human communities. Friends, let’s aim for that target, and tailor our language accordingly.
What’s better than self-sufficiency? Deep engagement and thoughtful community.
Now, let’s assume you don’t want to live in complete social isolation without computers and cell phones. Let’s also assume you don’t want to produce 100% of your food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and other technologies.
What’s a viable alternative to self-sufficiency? How about creating rich interconnected communities who are thoughtful about their relationship with nature (or which they’re a part) and each other (of which they’re a part).
It’s perfectly reasonable to be more than a little disgusted by cheap products made by de facto slaves overseas, CAFO-grown meat, or the latest greatest combination of synthetic pesticides designed to make monoculture crops survive. The best way to combat these deficient answers is not alternative deficient answers or social disengagement, it’s deeper engagement.
Create thoughtful alternative solutions that make your and other peoples’ lives better. Care about what you buy and how/where it was produced, doing your best to price in negative externalities. Invest in quality over quantity. Invest in people and companies doing things better/right — and try to build yourself into one of those people and develop one of those companies.
Again, self-sufficiency isn’t possible or broadly enticing so let this NOT be your aim, just as it’s not ours.