Over the past five years many people have praised my wife and me for living self-sufficiently and sustainably. We’ve done a little homesteading and are currently in the process of setting up our own place after years of living and working for other people on their properties. Homesteading is basically small scale farming but as far as being a self-sufficient lifestyle, it is not. Homesteading relies on the importation of goods and services just like those living in a city or a small town. It requires everything from manufactured tools to store bought seeds to clothing made in factories. It cannot be sustained without Industrial Civilization.
If you’re homesteading with Stone Age tools without domesticated animals and are collecting seeds that you naturally harvested from wild plants and then domesticated on your own, then you can begin to call yourself a self-sufficient, sustainable human being. Anything else is just another version of civilized living. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to live and your footprint will be modified but self-sufficient you are not. In fact, depending on the size of a particular homestead, an individuals footprint may be larger than someone who lives in an urban setting. The only way to sustain such an existence is to rely on an industrial model that believes in infinite growth on a finite planet.
My point being, these words along with the likes of green living, permaculture, vegetarian, and vegan get thrown around all the time and labeled as solutions to our civilized predicament. They are all by-products of civilization and used by many (not all) as negotiating practices with Mother Nature. Our mother doesn’t cut deals. These are however gratifying and healthy alternatives outside the status quo. They allow a person to have a relationship with their food and land base. This creates more healthy living choices. When we cut out the middle person we have more control over our health and therefore our lives. Growing food and raising animals are not however, self-sufficient or sustainable. They require commerce on an industrial level … even if it is local. We are literally soaking in petroleum.
As my wife and I attempt to solidify our own homesteading practices we will honor our land base as best we can but we will not claim we are somehow being self-sufficient or sustainable. After all, I still buy beer at Walmart and my tools from Ace Hardware. We do what we can and I’m positive it won’t make any difference as the consequences of civilization wreak havoc on all those (human and non- human alike) that suffer for our lack of self-sufficient, sustainable living practices. It will however, continue to enrich our personal lives as we evolve and grow in a setting that brings incredible joy to our daily existence. Stepping off the industrial treadmill is nearly impossible but moving towards such a step means personal growth and a stronger connection to what supports our lives and for that we are grateful.
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