Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Five "Fun"damentals of the Simply Good Life

hey i decided to include a bit of an article i have been working on...
let me know what you think
enjoy, jt
Five “Fun”damentals to the Simply Good Life

During the 1990s I was a student of environmental conservation at the University of Colorado. I studied the problems of the world including over population, resource depletion, habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and species extinction. This catastrophic situation challenged and inspired me to become part of a quest for a sustainable future. Sustainable solutions provide for human health, wellbeing and ecological coexistence within the resource limitations of the natural world. Towards this goal, D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead was founded in 1997 to seek practical solutions to the Sustain-Ability opportunities of today.
Development Aimed at Creating a Rural Ecological Society is a land based organization that builds skills and raises awareness as a non-profit education entity. Two fundamental principles of the organization are Localization and Food. These themes are interrelated as we pioneer a system that provides for the essentials without polluting the planet. Localization revolves around developing a socio-economic system that relies on the local natural resources. Food is everything including nutrition, exercise, connection to nature, resource conservation, social bonds, community security and sheer enjoyment. Localization of food and economic efficiencies build personal, community and ecological health.
The goal of this article is to identify the five principle and essential needs of humanity that form our “Fun”damental priorities to focus our efforts of Sustain-Ability. This is not an attempt reduce the complexity and interrelation of the global crisis, rather to recognize a practical needs assessment of humanity is in order. By compartmentalization of the five fundamentals, we are inspiring a systematic approach to identifying human needs with more sustainable actions. By pairing our essentials with solutions we hope to inspire direct action on the individual and community level to meet the challenge of the crisis today. The sustainability solutions overlap and complement promoting strength through diversity and multi-functionality of our sustainable system.
The five essentials can be summed in no particular order as 1) Food & Water 2) Shelter 3) Clothing 4) Medicine and Preventive Medicine 5) Community & Experience. The goal is to produce these necessities through sustainable production that enriches the environment of the future. The strategies to provide these essentials are based on natural resources and climate. The goal is to find an evolving equilibrium where humanity can perpetuate on the planet. This task of providing these essentials sustainable will require ingenuity, sacrifice, cooperation and motivation. The reward of pursuing solutions to the global crisis is the perpetuation of life on this planet

Food & Water
This essential ingredient of life must be maintained free of pollution through mindful production, usage, and recovery. The cycles that purify, replenish and provide nutrients and energy can be observed and mimicked to meet human sustainability goals.
Food production in the industrial model is very inefficient. Conventional industrial agriculture with its reliance on mechanization, oil, processing and transportation uses approximately 20 times the calories it produces. Humans working on the land without “modern” polluting, inefficiencies can reap 10 times the calories they invest in manual labor. Sustainable food production must be localized in terms of soil building, seed saving, cultivation, distribution, preservation and preparation. Water must be purified and utilized through designed natural processes that do not diminish the resource for the future.
Building soil through no-till techniques mimics natural soil systems while also being functionally appropriate for human powered agriculture. Rich mulch serves as nourishment for the soil, weed suppression and moisture retention. Biomass varying from leaves to seaweed to finished compost can be locally sourced dependent on your bioregion and ingenuity. We utilize a kitchen soup approach to building soil at DAcres blending straw, woodchips, manure, leaves, cover cropping and compost. By incorporating poultry, pig, cow and horse manure into the compost we are able supply a balanced nitrogen source to blend with the abundance of woodchips and leaves provided by the forest.
Through the vitalization and perpetuation of soil on our farm we are investing in the future. There are also plants that can be utilized as an investment in the future. Designed perrenialization of food production by introducing herbs, fruits and nuts into the food system has the advantage of low maintenance, strength through diversity, and cumulatively richer harvests yearly. Combining polycultures of herbs, shrubs, vines, and trees mimics nature and provides dividends in terms of food, pollinator habitat, medicine, and fuel.
Our diets can be correlated to seasonally induced availability. This approach dictates that distinct climates would eat differently. At D Acres our diet is rich in greens, fruits, eggs and fresh vegetables in the summer whereas the fall and winter are richer in root crops, winter squash, chicken and pork. Food preservation is a key component in our sustainable dietary choices. Canning, smoking and dehydration requires initial energy investments in time and infrastructure though provide long term low energy storability. The freezer sucks energy while producing an inferior taste and texture to food. Root cellars are ideal for storage of fresh foods of root crops like potatoes and carrots while the upstairs closets and attic can serve to season nuts and preserve winter squash and alliums. Fermentation is a practice that preserves and also provides nutritional benefits.
Integrating availability of resources is important for our diet decisions. DAcres has relations with local restaurants, grocers and cafeterias to divert food from our landfills and incinerators. This service recycles food that would otherwise be wasted to feed our pig population. Food is integrated into our decisions on land utilization by incorporating pig and chicken tractors and grass loving herbivores to maintain, improve and expand the fields. Food preparation techniques are also based on natural resources and climate factors. On sunny days solar cooking is the preferred way to prepare food though wood combusted in designs such as traditional woodstoves, cob ovens and rocket stoves can provide the heat.
Water availability is a climatic factor. Purification, storage and conservation techniques can assist with providing useable water. By using compost toilets we eliminate the wasteful usage of drinking water and enrich the local soil. Greywater and wetland systems can purify water through designed mimicry of nature. Rainwater catchment from roof structures and landscape features provides for collection and storage. Water heating for domestic usage is primarily accomplished with solar with fuel wood as a backup. Utilization of biodegradable products in the water supply eliminates the problems poised by contaminated water. Water polluted by persistent contaminates like toxic household cleaners, pharmaceuticals, pesticides or fertilizers is a situation we should choose to avoid.
Food and Water are what we can call the necessary and enjoyable ingestibles. They provide the nutritional, caloric, natural connection and social glue that sustains a healthy and secure humanity. Producing rich food and clean water is a cultural heritage based on local climate and resources that are the responsibility of the local populace to conserve, perpetuate and promote. The hard work and pleasures of manual farm labor has been denigrated by the industrial model while the real-actualization of food production can inspire and invigorate everyone to take part in growing good food. As our culture evolves with a fundamental emphasis on healthy food and clean water, we will benefit from knowledge, investment in the environment, consciousness and natural connections not provided by the industrial model.
Conventional industrial agriculture is heavily subsidized and inefficiently using fossil fuels to produce nutrient poor food. As we evolve back into human and animal powered agriculture, we will need more farmers on the land. The era of oil driven cheap food production where one farm can produce for a hundred mouths is drawing to an end. We must transition to a society that provides for a portion of the food they eat through small scale garden plots and direct relations with farmers. The population must be directly responsible via physical and mental tasks involved with food production. The land base must be made available to farmers who are valued economically and socially. Buying directly from food producers through farm-stands and CSAs is a responsible step towards economically supporting this revival. Innovative approaches such as land sharing and nonprofit farm management must provide an opportunity for equitable work and residence. The people must be allowed a mechanism to re-colonize the landbase and provide the human capital to produce the five essentials.

Design and materials are crucial elements in providing sustainable shelters. Sustainable design incorporates strategies such as passive solar, which utilizes the seasonal variations of the sun to provide for heating and cooling of the structure. Solar power is the fundamental source of heating and cooling which can be supplemented with fuelwood. Passive solar design also incorporates the concept of providing substantial insulation when necessary. Insulation is crucial to conserve the energy of heating and cooling shelters.
A general theory that actualizes “good boots and hat” by providing a strong, durable and impermeable foundation and roof with proper overhangs and water resistance is crucial in design and implementation. If the foundation is stable and rot resistant, and the roof provides proper protection, the structure can sustain in its struggle against the destructive forces of weather and time. Climate based particulars such as snow loads and high wind contingency are factors that should not be overlooked.
Reuse of building materials is a practical way to provide sustainable structures. Windows, wire, chimney pipe, metal roofing and hinges can be reutilized from renovations and diverted from the incinerators and landfills. Tires, bottles and tin cans have been recycled into wall and foundation projects.
Natural materials such as adobe and strawbale can be combined with wood and stone to provide the structure and insulation of our sustainable shelters. Natural materials are locally available and do not produce the toxins of industrially created building materials. At D Acres wood is a primary building material that is supplied through our forestry program. Although our neighbor has a bandsaw mill to produce dimensional lumber we prefer the lower impact of round wood stripped of its bark whenever possible.

The functionality of clothing is tied directly to our localized climatic factors and natural resources. The warmth of clothing for people in Florida can be compared to what is comfortable in New Hampshire. Currently North America has clothing sufficient for many years to come. While we can always reinstitute natural fibers such as hemp, wool and flax the current focus can be to utilize our existing clothing resource. Shipping clothes to distant continents and flooding the economy with free clothing thereby destroying the fabric of existing cultures is not a sustainable solution. We need to wear our clothes out. As a culture we need to transcend our admiration of new, stylish, unblemished attire and instead focus adulation to the frugal with practical patches and skills in the fine art of mending socks. Clothes stylish in by gone eras are still functional and the style goes in cycles to be repeated. Fabrics should be cherished, handed down through generations and worn until the rags can be reutilized for household cleaning.

Medicine & Prevention of Illness
Sustainable living can prevent illness through the lifestyle. Healthy food and exercise are the answer to problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We have approached health by focusing at intervention at critical stages when the condition is grave rather than systematic illness prevention. Medicinal plants are a key component of the agricultural system and a daily tea tonic of available herbs brings the healthy, natural connection to palpable levels.
Avoidance of the toxicity of our industrial pollution also will reduce the level of illness.

Community & Experience
The community consists of people of various ages, skills, and commitment to one another. Direct communication is important to maintain the trust and knowledge for optimal community relations. Families, non blood related households, workplaces, political and government entities can all be considered communities or an element of a community life. These organizations share resources in skills, people power, and infrastructure. In life long learning community provides, teachers, students, and mentors the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences. Community provides support to those who require additional assistance, mentally or physically. Community provides for the education of the youth and there is caring and respect of the elders.
A community must be the archives of experience in regard to infrastructure and techniques that have been historically effective in zones that share similar climate and natural resources. Information and trade of goods and services between the global community will still exist though limited by the reduction of cheap oil.
Community is always evolving as relationships develop and generations age. There is ebb and flow in activity though the commitment to mutual aid and dialogue needs to be apparent. Within groups with an agenda, facilitation and transparency is necessary to make shared decisions transform into actions. By opening the door to process and the possibilities of collaboration we are engaging a societal revolution towards the next stage of human development. When we can transcend our individualistic and egotistical needs we will be empowered to act in the interest of the present and future community. To grasp the extent of the global crisis and not engage in the rational and spiritually enlightened pursuit of a community sustainability is at the least denial and could be construed as suicidal and genocidal.
Community provides a commonality to this sustainable quest. This shared challenge is to provide our subsistence in an enjoyable manner. This immense and complex challenge is an opportunity to re-combine human energy and ingenuity with the resources of the natural world to provide a sustainable future. By directing addressing the problems through identifying the essentials needs, we can work towards solutions while building links between these essential processes. This is not a simplification of a complex situation; this is a direct attempt to identify what are the components for a sustainable life that is simply good.

There are several facets of modern life such as energy consumption and transportation that can be considered essential. I have chosen to focus on what I consider the absolute necessities of successful human existence and primarily avoided what is a luxury beyond that level. In this urgent time of energy descent and global crisis the principle necessities provided in a sustainable fashion is the model that should be demonstrated to North Americans. To address this situation I offer my thoughts on what some would consider essential though I see little that could be construed as essential in regards to something with as large an impact as airline travel.
How do we replace our current energy consumption levels? We need to revert to human and animal powered equipment to provide the kinetic energy for necessary tasks. Animal and human waste should be converted to methane for combustion and subsequent fertility. Conservation and improved efficiencies are the priority in the short-term though we need a radical transformation away from the fossil fuel powered world. Energy amenities for electronics can be provided by photovoltaics while water and wind power can be efficiently used for tasks requiring prolonged kinetic energy such as water pumps and mills. Alcohol and vegetable oil are options for continued usage of combustion engines. As to our infatuation with travel and transporting goods, water (canal, river, & sail) and rail can be utilized to transport heavy cargo. For people, walking, hitchhiking and biking should be considered as the common code of sustainable conduct. There will always be caravans, gypsies, nomads and seasonal workers who shift across the landscape in search of work and adventure. The culture of travel shifts from direct focus on the destination to a blend of the journey along the way.

So is this transformation to a focus on essential factors of sustainability possible or even desirable? We must be proactive at this juncture. We need to address these issues on a local community level. By identifying the critical necessities of humanity and providing for those essentials in a sustainable manner we are addressing the contemporary global crisis. If we are not responsive in developing systems to provide the essential necessities of humanity sustainable we will destroy our ecosystem and the life that we cherish. The natural laws of evolution favor life forms that are responsive to change. If our species is to continue to thrive on the planet we must depend on our timely realization of a crisis situation and an appropriate response.
We need people to be committed and responsible for the long term welfare of the land base. There is a need for individuals, collectives and organizations to invest time in the sustainable long term viability of specific land parcels. I am uncertain if transferable ownership and equity can serve to motivate the long-term investment in the land or is it the awakening to the realization that the proliferation of a healthy productive land base provides for the collective welfare of all humanity. Personally a journey of mutualistic collaboration with the land invokes the humility and inspiration that energizes the natural connections and manifests into fruitful realization of spiritual sustainability.
People are apathetic to be personally responsible for our negative contributions to the problems of our contemporary crisis. We are accustomed to the luxuries of modern times and would prefer there was a quick easy solution that would maintain the status quo. This is a self service and a quick fix. The changes are that are necessary to promote long term sustainability diverge from the model of global consumerism and perpetual growth. Necessary changes, such as reverting the population so that 50% instead of 1% lived on farms, are dramatic, radical and rational. While promoting this strategy of focusing on essentials as principal to our existence is a worthwhile commitment for humanity, we are dependent on collective actions and conscious collaborative efforts for success.
A true commitment to the essential goals of sustainability provides the sustenance of life lacking in our consumer society. Our “real” limits to growth are grounded physically by our daily dose of solar radiation while our spiritual growth in the pursuit of sustainability is without limit. Perpetual growth and consumption glory is an illusion; what we are seeking is a comfortable homeostasis. To continue the metaphor, any profits generated in a homeostatic system are naturally reinvested for the health of the organism. These five fundamentals can be achieved on individual and community scale and we need to seek this equilibrium for our future. Variations of enduring sustainable culture have been practiced throughout the history of the world. Only in the last 100 years have we become dependent on fossil fuels for our lifestyle. We must perpetuate a path of human development to coexist with the mother earth.

What to do first?
1) Change your perspective. Look for satisfaction through conservation rather than consumption. Take pride in turning off lights, spending time with community instead of the tv or skipping that airline travel in favor of the bus or simply staying at home to relish life. Look for the low energy alternatives that provide happiness and wellbeing.
2) Change your perspective. Look at the challenges of sustainability as an opportunity. Spiritually and physically sustainability has many benefits. Instead of fearing pain of sacrifice find the rewards of sustainable thought and actions.
3) SustainAbility is not something that will happen overnite though do not put it off until tomorrow. Get started with small incremental steps NOW, make priorities and goals that can be fulfilled.
4) Share food and work.

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