For those who read any of our posts on Facebook, you know that they are a mix of advances and retreats, of good and bad news. This missive we are writing is similar because while we cry for Gaia, we celebrate the opportunity we have to take action, however small, to help mitigate the damage that has been, and continues to be, done in the name of “progress and growth”.
Over the past 6 years, and since we moved onto the farm and started building it, we have had one overarching goal, to have as small and as sustainable impact on the earth as possible. That goal has been modified to include passing on what we have learned so that others can also discover that they can live a fulfilling, sustainable life without doing further damage to the environment. We have learned concrete lessons and taken intentional steps to accomplish this goal. In fact, we are of the opinion that anybody can have an immediate effect if they want to help mitigate the actions of the destroyers and help our kids and grandkids have as fulfilling life as will be possible in the near and the not too distant future.
What are these “magical” acts that we have learned and that you can adopt? When we moved here we wanted to, and continue to strive to, live frugally. This was partially forced upon us by circumstances but we readily embraced it. One of the first actions we took was to take a 3-month class in Permaculture. It is a design system, and more, which has at its core three ethics – care of people, care of the earth and sharing of the surplus. These three ethics drive a design system with 12 principles –
Observe and interact– Get to know our community, our land and how others work and live;
Catch & store energy– We capture rain, sun and use the energy from soil biology as well as the knowledge that abounds in our community;
Obtain a yield– We work to achieve success but also try and measure success in sustainable ways;
Apply self-regulation and accept feedback– We live, eat and play in healthy ways and strive for as much self-sustainability as we can without isolating ourselves;
Use & value renewable resources – The resources we do gather and use on our farm and in our daily lives are those that are produced in the most sustainable way. We eat organic as much as possible, we shun plastics and look to nature to provide other resources – leaves for compost, manures, friendships with like-minded people;
Produce no waste– we suck every possible use from every resource we use. We strive to take as little as possible to the local solid waste disposal site. If it can’t be eaten by animals, composted, or re-purposed, then, and only then, is it discarded;
Design from patterns to details – We look for patterns in nature, behavior and community and try to design simple systems that work to naturally evolve into complex ones. We take our lead from the bigger picture, the holistic view;
Integrate rather than aggregate – We try to find the cooperative relationships, create beneficial connections where each element performs many functions and each important function is supported by many elements. We recognize the needs of our community beyond just our own.
Small and slow solutions – We try to keep our solutions to an appropriate and human scale. We start small and build in room for initiative and innovation not only originating from ourselves but from others with whom we interact;
Use & value diversity– We value biological and cultural diversity as a way for us to achieve balance, realize creative possibilities and increase self-reliance and resiliency;
Use edges & value the marginal– We look to the margins of our land and our community and recognize that here is where sometimes resides the source of diversity and transformation;
Creatively use & respond to change – This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where our systems are applied and tested and if found flawed or wanting, where we act on the elements of the systems – sometimes slowly, sometimes fast-paced – but always with the goal of maintaining stability on the system level.
These have provided a framework that has guided our actions. They continue to show us ways to design systems for our farm, and our lives, that imitate the ways nature answers similar questions. As importantly, they provide a means of repairing damage that occurs on our land, in our community, in our region and, if adopted and applied conscientiously, on a global scale. This is what is available to each and every one of us this new year. This is the choice we have to make NOW. Do we contribute to a solution or do we contribute to destruction. Ayn Rand, the darling of the right, in her novel Atlas Shrugged, categorized the peoples of society into two groups – looters and producers. We must redefine those two groups with the looters becoming the destroyers of nature and the producers becoming the saviors of nature. Which will you choose to be?