A Homesteader Grapples with Climate Anxiety and Finds Self-Sufficiency

Reader Contribution by Jo Devries
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Jordan envisions this balsam trunk as a squared post.         

Photo by Jo deVries

Ever since the beginning, man has messed up. We are told not to do things, and we do them anyway. In many ways, nothing has changed. It has always been only a tiny minority that seek the truth and who practise self-control. I’m just as guilty as the next person of being stupid and doing things I darn well know I shouldn’t. If that’s the case, then I have to forgive everyone else of being stupid, on occasion. But the mass of stupidity on this planet is staggering. That’s because it’s not stupidity that is driving humans to negative behavior. Many of the actions are intentional. It’s greed. It’s pride. It’s selfishness.

We are destroying our planet at an alarming rate. The words “climate change” were too easy for detractors to dismiss; the climate always changes, as they say. How about the cold, hard truth? Or, would that be too inconvenient?

Joseph Jenkins, brave forerunner of simple living and author of Humanure, brings to our attention the similarity between humanity and pathogenic organisms. A pathogen kills its host, not caring that the result is in fact, a slow suicide. We are killing Mother Earth, the very fabric from which we were made and eyeing other planets to inhabit and conquer. We have been warned and warned of our need to change. The result of that apathy toward clear scientific evidence is now being suffered by many and witnessed globally. Will even that make us change?

The Climate Truth Has Become Clear

Scientists and Believers are apparently aligned in their thinking, these days. They are both using the word “apocalyptic”. They believe, based on decades of study, that destructive weather patterns, floods, fires, droughts, earthquakes, disease, pestilence and suffering, injuries and death as a result of these, are not only becoming more frequent, but going to get worse. Our circumstances reflect our conduct; a simple case of action and reaction. There should be no mystery as to why we are in the state we are in.

So, knowing that, how can we remain not only hopeful and positive, but downright happy? Believers have something tangible: written documentation of what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what is going to happen in the future. We are never alone.

We were put on this plane and asked to take care of it. We were told to love our neighbours as ourselves, and it was made clear that everyone is our neighbour; in fact, we are really just one big family. We were warned not to be greedy or selfish, but to have a simple eye towards earthly treasures. If we had listened to that practical, wise, Fatherly advice, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Jordan’s first attempt at squaring logs was a great success!
Photo by Jo deVries

Shifting Away from a Mindset of Wastefulness

But we didn’t, and now we are facing the consequences. A proper parent disciplines their child; it is an act professing love. No good parent wants their kid to turn out to be an idiot. The advice we had been given thousands of years ago remains as solid today. It is for our own good. That makes no difference to a pathogenic organism or a self-serving human.

It is very clear, that those who have more, consume more and waste more. The more spoiled we are, the lazier and more demanding we become. In North America, we package, handle, transport, bury and process tons of garbage on an ongoing basis. We waste clean water to flush away anything we don’t want to deal with. We think everything is disposable. Most of us don’t recognize it, because consumption has become the norm, and our waste is hidden from site. As long as the weekly garbage collection runs smoothly, our buildings can be tidy, and our streets are clean.

Imagine your garbage not being picked up for a month… six months… a year. How would your life look if all your waste was staring you in the face? That’s our problem: We lie to ourselves about our participation in climate change. We pretend recycling works and have little interest in studying garbage and poop, anyway. We consume fuels and materials as if there’s endless stock. We talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk.

In Joseph Jenkins book, we learn that we could be composting everything organic through the simple yet magical process of thermophilic composting. If we used every bit of natural material that leaves our bodies, our houses, our chicken coops and barns, to create new healthy, rich soil, we will have completed the natural cycle of life. There is no waste in Nature.

Homesteaders Share Their Knowledge in a Community of Solutions

I have recently done a great deal of research on “sustainability” by watching a lot YouTube videos on my phone. I am extremely grateful to those who are willing to pass on what they have learned, be it videos, books or magazines. There is a wealth of information out there! Somebody, somewhere has already faced what we are facing, and is sharing their trials, and more importantly, their solutions.

One thing back-to-the-landers have in common is their general satisfaction in their decision to separate themselves from the rat race, and embrace nature and the simple things in life. Good food and hard work results in a healthier body and a good night’s sleep. Knowing that you’re on the right path helps raise one’s spirit when the trials come, and come they will.

The state of things in the world has made me get far more serious about living as simply as possible as soon as possible. I’ve been living without electricity for 21 years but still have a long way to go. I’m working on designing earth-integrated homes: small structures with high ceilings and plenty of light that can withstand tornadoes, are fire-resistant, remain at a constant temperature even when empty, integrate a successful greenhouse and root cellar, are heated with a simple, wood-burning boiler system, and possibly boast a small therapeutic pool.

My pilot project, is a tiny greenhouse adjacent to my chicken coop. Excavation is well under-way.

Excavation (by hand) for a tiny, earth-integrated greenhouse
Photo by Jo deVries

In the late 1800s, John Ruskin wrote, “What we think or what we know or what we believe is in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

Let’s tackle the day with a positive attitude, counting our blessings if we have fresh air, water, shelter and food, and doing our best to make sure our brothers and sisters, near and far, enjoy the same.

In all the great stories, we know that while there were many struggles for the characters to endure and suffering that broke your heart. The heroes held a light inside them that could not be extinguished. And in the really, really, great books, there was always the hope of a better life, in Round Two.

In the words of J. R. R. Tolkien, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time we’ve been given.”

May your efforts be blessed in making positive changes in your life, and in preparing for the changes that lay ahead. We’re all in this together.

Jo deVries(Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author ofDoes Your House Know Where South Is?and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land in to a self-sufficient homestead. Connect withJo of the Woodsand read all of Jo’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.


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