Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Underthrow

Many people are wondering what comes next. I don't pretend to have the answer, but I do have an idea. The next step is community self-sufficiency. What I mean by that, is that all those things that are critical to survive and thrive should be produced by someone in your community. I don't mean high technology, I mean food, tools, water sources and necessary services. The longer we wait to become interdependent, the longer we will be dependent on global systems of trade that don't always hold to the highest ethical standards, and that rarely keep their systems of production within the limits of natural systems. If we do not live within the limits of natural systems, in the long-term we doom future generations to decades of preventable starvation, disease and conflict.
But we currently live in a time and culture where truly being self-sufficient is nearly impossible. Our food is shipped to us from across the world, often our water comes from a state away and the sources of water that we have near us are so degraded and polluted that they are unusable if any of these artificial systems of distribution break down. Without food and water, the veneer of civilization is stripped away and it is every human protecting their own. We see this played out in disaster after disaster across the world, yet we think we are different, when in fact, we are just lucky. Therefore self-sufficiency and a community that looks after their own and prepares to protect their own is a step ahead of the game if anything untoward should happen.
Even barring catastrophe, the current paradigm is unsustainable and every person paying the slightest bit of attention knows it. So what do we do? What are some possible solutions that build community at the same time that they make community more interdependent. Many of these solutions will sound and be familiar, but we've yet to link them all together and unify to make them the new reality.
1. Growing Our Own Food
As hard as it is to imagine, many of the key components of the US economy and distribution system are not guaranteed. We have a stockpile of oil, but not nearly enough to keep our distribution system running for long if there is a great supply drop. At this point in history, Iran, who the US keeps labeling a threat for what could be very good reasons sits in control of one of the most important chokepoints for Middle Eastern oil distribution. If the saber-rattling over Iran's nuclear program intensifies, Iran could very well work to cut the US off in the Straight of Hormuz. Obviously the US would respond to this, but as oil is a very critical component of our current armed forces, it could easily be that we are forced to severely ration our oil consumption in the US for the war effort. This is just one plausible example of one way that our supermarkets might not be able to magically fill themselves any more. If a community grows their own food, many of the possible negative effects, like food riots could much more easily be avoided. So much of our backyard green spaces could be converted into gardens, and fallow land nearby could also be so converted, but it demands the will and the shared labor of the community to make these gardens a reality. In World War II, American citizens were asked by the government to sacrifice their green spaces to produce food, and we did so. They were called victory gardens. There is no reason why this concept should not be implemented on a broad scale as soon as possible.
2. Buying Local
here are some very good reasons to buy local, but I'm going to ask that you step out with me on a limb to understand that buying local is one of the more radical things that you can do. But first, I'm going to explain why we should even care. Most of what we buy in American culture nowadays is made by multinational corporations. There is nothing inherently wrong with corporations, but many of them have decided to sell the American public down the river by shipping their production to places where human rights, worker rights, and children's rights are only a dream. By doing this, formerly American corporations have shifted the balance of production overseas, and the effects of this are staggering. In America we used to export much more than we import, now we are importing MUCH more than we export. The main country that has gotten our corporations business and factories is China. So American companies moved their production to Chinese factories, put millions of Americans out of work and now what country owns the largest percentage of American debt? China. We were sold out by our corporations, and almost every purchase that we make from these corporations puts us ever closer to the time where China calls in it's debts. Therefore, we need to start making the things that we need, and we need to invest our money in the people locally that are doing that. When we start moving in this direction collectively, we will start moving out of the spiral of debt that seems to go on forever. Plus, if the item that you buy is locally crafted, that means that people are working crafting them, and that you have an actual person to talk to if it doesn't perform as advertised, not a fifteen minute wait on the phone to talk to someone who can't answer your question. Local production will likely lean towards durability and quality and lean away from cheap and made to break so that you will replace them quickly products.

The Underthrow Part. 2 will be coming soon, but I'd love to hear any feedback or ideas on what building a more sustainable and locally self-reliant community looks like to you.

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