Sometimes I need a little humility in my day and need to remember that off grid homesteading is a great low impact way to live, but wouldn’t actually be possible on my own. And when I say on my own, I mean on our own as a family, or even a local community.
I take, for example, the making of soup. I find joy in making soup for lunch. It’s made with veggies from the garden that were preserved from last fall. It feels like a huge accomplishment to be able to eat food that I’ve grown myself. Sometimes I let the word “pride” slip in there and I need to zoom out a bit.
Growing and preserving our own food is amazing. It reduces the footprint of the food we need to eat. Awesome. But there are so many other pieces to that bowl of soup that still rely in supply chains, slave labour, resource extraction, etc.
- the stove the food was cooked on and the electricity use to power that stove
- the spices and stock that went into the soup
- the pot that was used to cook the soup
- the bowl and spoon that are used to eat the soup
- the rice that was added to the soup as filler
- the ingredients that went into the biscuit that accompanies the soup
- the transportation required to get all of those things from one factory to another, to the store, and to my house
- the trucks, planes, cars that were used in that transportation
- the oil and gas extracted from the Earth to power those vehicles
- the tools and vehicles used to extract that oil
- the roads built to facilitate transportation
- etc. etc. etc.
There are alternatives to the stove, the bowl, the pot, etc. that might be sourced locally. The artisan producers of those items might even source their resources in a more sustainable way, but I don’t have control over those choices. And often we have to balance the cost of items versus the sustainability of them.
When people talk about the myth of individualism, I believe this is what they mean. When people say “we can’t do things on our own, we need to work in community”, I believe this is what they mean. It’s so rare that we zoom out so far to think about how our consumption creates this endless ripple effect based on the systems that we have been born into. I personally have no interest in being part of these systems, but the amount of work that it might take to detach from them is beyond overwhelming.
Along with this truth, however, I think there is another. Every time that we choose to detach from part of these systems, something happens. We claim a bit more self-sufficiency. We seek out alternatives. Maybe we even help build alternatives. Those alternatives might not topple the economy, but they might build something new in a very small, very localized way.
Each time we acknowledge our involuntary participation in late stage capitalism and the endless harm that it causes, we wake up – bit by bit – until we start to see more of the whole picture and how all these individual bits are connected. Just because the entire problem is unsolvable from an individual standpoint, it doesn’t mean that we give up. It means that we dive deeper, seeking out other options, and trying to find new ways to live.
Growing food is awesome. Buying second hand is awesome. Avoiding plastic packaging is awesome. Building local community and mutual aid networks is awesome. Don’t let the enormity of the problems overwhelm you. We may never fix this and we may never recover on a global scale, but we can still make individual choices that point to something better.