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Home / Articles / News / News /  Relocalization may be the key to not exterminating ourselves
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Thursday, October 22,2009

Relocalization may be the key to not exterminating ourselves

By Pamela White

In the novel Time Enough to Love, author Robert Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long opines, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Born in a small Missouri town in 1907, Heinlein must have grown up knowing people who could do many of the things Lazarus described, average people capable of growing their own food, building their own homes, and governing their communities. America was still largely a rural nation then, a nation in which people worked both individually and together with their neighbors to feed, clothe and house their families. Quilting bees and barn raisings weren’t events held only by the Amish, and backyard gardens weren’t a fad, but rather the sensible norm.

By the time of his death in 1988, however, life had changed. Most Americans lived in cities, working specialized jobs that required special training. Though many had the skill necessary to change diapers and cook decent meals, few had a clue about building walls, setting bones, or butchering hogs. And what does “conn a ship” mean, anyway?* It was surely this shift from self-reliance to economic codependency that fed Heinlein’s creative imagination. By Lazarus Long’s definition, we have become a planet of human insects, each of us trained to perform a particular task, driving to work in long lines that stretch for miles along the highway like ants marching single file.

Though collectively humanity possesses more know-how than at any time in human history, that knowledge is spread so thinly that nearly all of us depend on the rest of society for our survival. Our skills these days are too often limited to the tasks required by our professions — writing computer code, running an x-ray machine, researching the population dynamics of the pygmy loris — and have little to do with actual living.

As a result, we’re vulnerable in ways our more broadly skilled grandparents were not. A hurricane hits coastal refineries, and high gas prices leave families thousands of miles away struggling to put food on the table. A snowstorm drops 18 inches on the Front Range, and grocery store shelves grow empty, leaving people to truly wonder what’s for dinner. In Manhattan, bankers and brokers make bad decisions that send unemployment, foreclosure and poverty trickling down to millions across the country.

What happens when humanity is hit by a bigger challenge, such as depletion of fossil fuels, global climate change or a prolonged economic crisis?

A growing number of people believe the answer lies in relocalization — transforming individuals and communities into skilled, self-reliant entities capable of meeting their own needs using locally produced resources. Not only is relocalization a way of combating global climate change, but it may be humanity’s only viable way to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

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Learning how to grow food and preserve it is a good skill to have. However, I don't think everyone has time to become a complete homesteader and have a full time (specialized) job. I like having a special skill and a purpose in life other than diaper-changing, sock darning and slaving away in the kitchen all day.

I hope that in the future we find a way to preserve the freedom of choice and purpose as well as live sustainably, so that we can all have opportunities to contribute in creative ways to our community without breaking our backs trying to do it ALL for ourselves.

True prosperity may not be all about mindless and pointless growth, but it's also not about limiting our options.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

THANK YOU Pamela for writing this article. This is what I've been saying for a long time now and have been re-skilling myself along the way. This article is the truth everyone needs to hear and take very seriously. Our lives, health, and happiness depend on it!

@Ficklecat

Don't have time? That is the saddest excuse I've ever heard. You "don't have time" because you are dependant on your job for paper currency to buy your food, shelter, and clothes with. If you could do it yourself and we re-adopted the bartering system, you wouldn't need a full-time job to support yourself. You may not need a "job" at all. And that, my friend, is true freedom of choice!

And I don't think it was implied that one would have to do it all themselves either. You may have missed the part where the community supports eachother in survival.

"True prosperity may not be all about mindless and pointless growth, but it's also not about limiting our options." True prosperity has NOTHING to do with mindless growth and your options are already limited. Can't you see that?

 

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Ciaradugas, don't get me wrong, I think the article is good and I agree with the concepts. I DO have time - I have time to garden, can food, read, spend time in nature. I grow most of the produce I eat in the summer and can a lot to eat throughout the fall. I just don't have time to do everything as the article states (fix your car, fix your house, sew your clothes...) and I don't want to become a farmer. I like what I do for a living and I don't desire to spend my days mucking out the barn or tending to my crops or making my own clothes. I have more choices now than my grandmother did, and she was a homesteader. My choices aren't that limited. Hers were! She never went on vacation and barely left her house (cuz you know, the animals need tending and milking).

You say that "community supports each other in survival" - isn't that what we're doing now? Someone in Alaska fishes for us so we don't have to. Someone in Asia sews our clothes so we don't have to.

I have no desire to "have no job at all." I like what I do for a living and I get a lot of satisfaction and happiness from it. If I had to trade my career for full-time homesteading, well - I probably wouldn't like that much.

My point is that we need to examine this idea of self-reliance and incorporate it INTO the progress we've made in society, such as equality and equal opportunity for all men and women.

 

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To begin, we ARE NOT supporting eachother as a world-wide community, alright? The children in Asia making your clothes are sweatshop children on the dime of a rich, white capitalist who took advantage of a destabilized economy and put his wares there either through american-govt sponsorship or illegal corporate tactics. Foreign fishing out of state is better? Do you know if your Alaskan fish are bred in a farm, pumped with steroids, or fed nothing but corn like all the American chicken and beef?

I'm glad you get satisfaction out of what you do, but how do you know your satisfactory career will always be there? I'm a graphic designer and my boyfriend is a computer specialist and his jobs are outsourced all the time and i'm not even payed my agreed upon market-salary. These skills ensure survival when a federal-reserve based economy ensures nothing and no stability at all. "Maybe the economy will be better next year" or "Oh, its gotten so bad it can only get better" are the worst and least-secure perspectives. The only way to be free of these problems is to be completely self-sufficient.

Equality for all? Really? Sexism and Racism in America are ALIVE and WELL. Just because we have a black president doesn't mean things have turned around for everybody! There's still insignificant success for gay rights, women are still payed lower than men in many fields, and all ethnic communities and subcultures are still afflicted with stereotypes and given the cold shoulder unless there are extenuating circumstances or affirmative action comes into play! What country do you think you live in?

Older communities had less options than we did? Your ancestors at least owned their farms fully and had access to a wide variety of stock and seeds. Now, corporations are buying the patent on the DNA for seeds and saying that certain things cannot be grown or stored or both. Monsanto, Kroger Farms, and various other corporate entities have all passed patents against farmers to limit their power. Less than 3% grow for the enrtire country of 300 Million people. Pathetic. Your ancestors also owned and tilled the land and had no need to get corporate jobs because they had all the food and sustenance they will ever need instead of corporations feeding you daily. They knew how to survive and they actually lived longer. Due to privatized food, Diabetes, Cancer, Obesity, lack of skill, and laziness are all increasing tremendously. Your ancestors lived much more fortunately then you will in your lifetime, trust me.

Travel was not an issue anyhow. Your grandmother is not the national average. Older communities had trustworthy neighbors to help them manage their animals while they were vacant of home. My boyfriend has a grandmother who was an Accountant but was also from tribal-Costa Rica and knew all the old skills. She's traveled all of Europe, Spain, Portugal, Japan, China, India, Nepal, and most of South America. She was of your grandmother's generation and look what she accomplished. Not traveling sounds like it was your family's choice, not a circumstance. I dont know who your ancestors were, but people travelled all the time and more of them travelled than DID NOT travel.

I'm not saying that we need to go back to the stone-age, but we need to learn how to make technology work for us and this precious planet that we have been given. To not consider this and continue on while the planet is destroyed by reckless industry and this ancient and confident wisdom is lost forever can only force us into servitude and despair permanently after...

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