Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
In previous blogs I've shared my thoughts on the connection between humans and nature and how global warming is a sign of a weakening spiritual link to the natural world. Most agree nowadays that climate change is indeed caused by humans' actions but it might not be as clear as to why humans proceed with these actions when they are obviously threatening our own existence.
Abundant fossil fuel has allowed us to remove ourselves from nature, to be protected from inclement weather, live untouched by natural limitations of resources such as food and water and take charge over other, or most, living creatures whether it's hunting wild game or raising livestock for meat production. We are here and nature is there. What happens in nature, to many, simply doesn't happen to them.
But once we have established, and accepted, that as a problem, many now start to look for a solution. A lot of people would say that Dennis' and my way of living is part of the answer. Homesteading, a self sufficient, organic food production, solar power, simplicity. But in all reality, any individual's actions only matters so much – even someone with a considerably bigger carbon footprint who — for example — drives his or her car to work every day, live in a conventional house with an oil furnace and several appliances and follows a pretty typical western consumer pattern would still, in the greater scheme of things, only be responsible for a fraction of the problem. Hence, up against China, the tar sand extraction, dysfunctional global summits and the endless cry for economic growth, changing that lifestyle would only contribute to a fraction of the solution.
The life Dennis and I pursue as homesteaders is the result of our concept for what a sound and healthy life in this world looks like. I walk through life on a path blazed by ethics and values based on my respect for all life and on a long term sustainable approach where I wish to leave this world a better place than when I came. Every day I'm faced with a number of choices and decisions that I make based on what will best keep me on my path and allow me to navigate through life with intention and focus on those values. Every day I choose how to spend my time, how to interact with the people and the place around me, I choose where to get my food from, how to make my money and what I do with it, if we really need the purchase we consider or if we could make it ourselves. Often I have to decide whether to ride my bike or take the car doing errands around the island and if, on a day off, we should go for an outing that involves a drive or stay closer to home.
Some days I feel like I did pretty good, that I thought things over and didn't rush and take a short cut by — for example — throwing industrially produced grain to our pigs instead of going to our neighbor to gather wind blown apples. Other days I don't do as good, I get impatient and hop in the car to get the stuff from the hardware store just so we can keep doing what we're doing but rarely at the end of the day do I feel that I gained much in the greater context by that little bit of time saved. But when it's all said and done and I lay my head to rest at night, I think that this is as close to saving the planet as I'll come. To form a set of principals for my life, to let that be my path and to follow that path to the best of my ability, one day, one decision, one question at the time.
So I don't look at China or the tar sand or the global politics when I think about saving the planet. With all due respect for those who fight the cause on that level, it is not where my heart and mind are. My greatest influence is over my own life and to stay as close and clear to my values as possible. To share this lifestyle is a social responsibility, through the Hostel and by going out in the public to say that you too can find a path to follow. And in that message lies that it's okay to do something, even if it's not on the level Dennis and I are doing it. I often find myself telling people “every tomato plant counts” as a way of saying that if your life only has room for one tomato plant, go out and plant it. All the small things and the good heartened attempts that brings us closer to nature count. If one tomato plant will keep someone on their blazed path, I believe it will make a difference. It might not be highly visible in the context of global warming and increased carbon dioxide but it matters if it means we can go to bed at night thinking, and truly believing, that we did our best.
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