Saturday, November 15, 2014

What Am I Doing Part 4: What I'm Actually Doing

What does real 'sustainable living' look like?
A sustainable community protects the health of the things it depends on for its way of life: it's that easy. Unsustainable communities either a) are ignorant of what they depend on, and so cannot protect those dependencies, or b) choose to ignore their insight and persist in behavior that damages or uses up things they depend on. At a minimum, these dependencies include access to healthy food, water, and shelter. American industrial society has others: access to fossil fuels, complicated and long-distance logistics chains that enable the construction of complex technologies, stable currency, fresh water in huge quantities, etc.

I want to learn how to be part of a truly sustainable community. I've broken that into two parts:
  • Regenerative relationship with my ecosystem: I want to learn to live with the land; that means nurturing the life systems that nurture me and my family
  • Become part of a happy, healthy human community: at a minimum, communities must be able to discuss difficult issues and act effectively to protect the resources they depend upon
Regenerative Relationship With My Ecosystem
This is pretty simple in theory: if I decide to eat deer, I'll learn what plants deer like to eat and spread those plant seeds throughout the woods. I'll make sure that I don't waste any of the deer that I kill, and I'll make sure I don't overkill - that enough deer live each year to perpetuate the population. If I eat acorns, I'll spread them around and nurture the trees that will grow up to feed my family. Beyond food, this applies to plants that provide cordage and building materials, and everything else I'll depend on: I'll learn how to care for the animal and plant populations I depend upon - and care for them effectively - so I can pass on the same life to future generations.

Become Part of a Healthy, Happy Community
Sustainable communities must be able to effectively communicate about very trying issues and be willing to make short term sacrifices for long term gain (even gains generations into the future). This requires a degree of wisdom, emotional maturity, and communication ability (both sharing and listening) that astounds me to think about. The common alternative, which we see in industrial civilizations, is a large heirarchical, unequal society where a few people make decisions for the whole, often for their personal benefit to the detriment of the group.

The good news is that humans evolved to live in sustainable communities - we're happiest and most fulfilled when we grow up in communities that enable us to sustain ourselves, grow into emotionally strong people, have meaningful spirituality and rituals, and develop intimate bonds of interdependence, friendship, love, and even sexual intimacy with many others. Communities where each person is closely connected to many others have a huge advantage in communicating and making hard decisions.

And afterwards?
I've read about this way of life and community, but I want to immerse myself to learn first hand. And so I'm traveling to South America where there are many indigenous, partially indigenous, and newly-indigenous communities living in the way I hope to. Afterwards, whether I join such a group or co-found a new one somewhere or do something else entirely, I will apply what I learn in my own life and be part of a broader movement for protecting the healthy ecosystems we all need to live.