Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8

=introduction=

The Vision: Beyond the Boundary

hen you look at the borders of your garden, I


assure you that youre seeing a mirage. There
are no borders around your garden. Your garden is
more like a pebble dropped in the waterwhat you
perceive as a boundary is just the innermost ripple;
countless other ripples spread out from there and
bounce back from afar. This must be so, else how can
we call a garden organic? I mean organic as in organism: a unified living system whose parts function to
the benefit of one another and the whole. Sounds
grand, eh? Well, it is grand, and minuscule at the same
time. For meand, I believe, for everyone elsethats
the challenge: to focus on the minute details while
constantly remaining aware of the big picture. Its
what motivates me to farm, indeed to live, as I do.
Im always peering beyond the apparent edge of my
garden, to see how I fit in with the cosmos. And it is
what motivates me to write this.
Some of what I do in my garden is radical, but
much of it is ordinary. The radical essence of my
garden is the visionary context underlying it, a set of
assumptions that inform what I do and dont do there.
Our assumptions always arise from the scenarios we
envision (consciously or not), how we perceive our
present, and what we expect in the future. Here are
some of my scenarios.
Coping with the present. Times are tough, at least
for most of us, always have been for me. However, Ive
usually been able to mitigate the lack of income by a

lack of outgo, producing a substantial part of my own


food and fuel needs and doing without those things
I considered superfluous (in more recent years that
strategy has been challenged by a growing family
with their own ideas of what is superfluous). Hence
my emphasis on personal self-reliance; I cant afford
to do otherwise. I must often make do with what I
already have at hand. This approach is self-serving;
it doesnt do much to address the larger problems of
the world, but its fine as far as it goes.
Surviving a future catastrophe. (Remember
Y2K?) I call this the Titanic Scenario: Most of us
passengers can see the iceberg ahead, but no one
can seem to change the ships course in time. A
self-reliant lifestyle might seem like a viable lifeboat, but its probably useful only as a short-term
strategy. Reliance on self-reliance presumes that
youre so fully detached from the ship that you will
not be sucked down with it (but its a very big ship,
and the suction will be incredible). It also presumes
that you have an ample supply of every necessity
and that other survivors (who will all be in the
same boat) will let you keep it to yourself. (Should
you even want to, considering that you will all need
one anothers help.) I want to note that the Titanics
lifeboats never even tried to row to Newfoundland
that was out of the question. Rather, they sat tight
until another ship could save them. What if there
had been no other ship?

2 ||

Will Bonsalls Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening

No, by far the only realistic approach is to change


course before its too late. Mind, were already scraping the berg, but were not sure whether the hull
is broken through and beyond repair. The captain
and crew may not be open to our suggestions (dont
waste time blaming them, we insisted they get us to
New York in record time!), but we must convince
them (and one another). Its time for lots of dialogue,
and fast! It couldnt hurt if we knew of an alternative course, a path through the pack ice that we had
already paddled ourselves, something that might
give the helmsman some ideas. That of course brings
us to a third scenario.
Transforming civilization while we still can. We
can vote at the ballot box, we can vote at the checkout counter, we can teach a new vision. Although it is
terribly frustrating to try to influence the juggernaut
that is modern civilization, we have many allies. And
while we must tend to our own little patch (il faut
cultiver mon jardin), we can keep noticing that our
garden has no borderlines.
Since we cant be sure exactly which scenario is
most likely, perhaps we should act on all of them; they
are by no means mutually exclusive. As someone has
said: What if all this global warming stuff is a lot of
bunk, and all we do is make the world a nicer place?

Distortions of the Big Picture


As a teenager I began my working career in the
mining business, prospecting for copper, lead,
zinc, silver, and the like. This was before recycling
was such a watchword, but even then it occurred
to me that aside from all the environmental havoc
wreaked by the extraction and smelting of all
that metal, much of it would wind up in dumps
in the form of discarded motors, batteries, and
appliances, where it would continue to poison our
world. If all that stuff could be salvaged and reused
over and over, how much mining would humanity
need anyway?
Glad to be out of that business I eventually found
my way into organic farming. I met Robert Rodale,
who lived just over the hill from the Pennsylvania

farm where I visited on school breaks; his wife


showed me around the farm, including the Sir Albert
Howard plots. It made lots of sense, as far as it
went, but it still seemed to lack something: a wider
perspective. Removing the chemicals was great, and
turning wastes into food was a no-brainer. But
no one in the organic movement was talking about
the more fundamental questions: Where does this
organic stuff come from, why isnt it needed there,
and where does it wind up? And all this mining of
lime and greensand and Sul-Po-Mag, to be shipped
hundreds or thousands of mileshadnt I left that
business behind?
When I finished college and went into homesteading (it was 1971 at the time), I had the great good
fortune of not getting into market gardening. I tried,
but I wasnt very good at itI dont mean growing
the food, I mean selling it. I quit rather easily when
I discovered how much more profitable it was to eat
my crops rather than sell them and do something
else to earn money. Ive never been too good at that,
either, but my focus on spending less rather than
earning more had some unforeseen advantages: It
cleared my vision. I gained a better understanding
of the economy of the land than does someone
who buys in soil amendments and ships them off
in the form of farm products. Im not suggesting
its wrong to grow food to sell; Im warning that
in the marketplace our calculations are skewed by
externalitieshidden costs that no one recognizes or
deals with. For example, even though meat and other
animal-derived food products are a very inefficient
use of land, the public craves them enough to pay a
price in dollars that obscures the inefficiency. Things
that make sense economically may not make sense
ecologically and vice versa.
Fortunately, I couldnt afford the country lifestyle magazines, which portrayed a vision that was
more fringe culture than actually counterculture,
even before it became gentrified. I quickly gave up
on livestock after discovering that they were an
obstacle, not an avenue, to self-reliance. The effort
to grow their feed, instead of merely buying it in, was
a real eye-opener.

The Vision: Beyond the Boundary

Perhaps the greatest distortion of our thinking


about sustainability is due to the elephant in the
room, which almost no one mentions though everyone stumbles around it. That elephant is the sea of
petroleum that washes over our entire civilization,
including agriculture. If the price of petroleum
included the externalities, or hidden costs, the flaws
in our global food system would become starkly clear.
These two distortionsthe marketplace and
the sea of petroleumare barriers to sustainable
agriculture, indeed to sustainable civilization. The
marketplace, in addition to distorting values, is the
second, if not the first, greatest form of soil erosion.
Even if the farmer avoids any nutrient loss through
runoff or leaching, a vast amount of tilth-building
substance is lost when a crop is sent to market. In
bygone days that tilth (in the form of night soil)
would have found its way back to the farmers fields,
creating a fairly tight loop. Today of course that
fertility (waste) ends up as sewage in landfills or the
ocean, or as turf builder for golf courses, or in places
other than the land that produced it and still needs
it. It robs the ecosystem whence it came and poisons
the place where it is dumped.
Petroleum use is obviously unsustainable because
the source is finite and non-renewable. New oil-field
discoveries and extraction technologies merely
postpone the day of reckoning, while releasing yet
more dinosaur farts into the atmosphere. Even most
recycling of plastic isnt really recycling; rather, it
is salvage. Reprocessing used milk jugs into parka
filling and park benches is a onetime linear extension
of the use chainits a chain, not a cycle. A use chain
ends with a waste product; a cycle, such as aluminum
recycling, can go around and around endlessly.
One way I avoid the perils of the marketplace is
to be as self-sufficient as possible for food. The few
things I grow to sell are niche crops, such as seeds
and nursery stock (hardy kiwis and hazelnuts).
These seem to return a lot in terms of cash income in
proportion to what they cost the soilthats because
rather than selling biomass, Im selling information in the form of DNA. All the same I do have to
replenish what they remove from the soil. Their

|| 3

production is not a sustainable cycle, so my priority


is the subsistence crops.
My region is hardly a banana belteven with global
warming, I can rely on barely 120 frost-free days and
not very hot days at that. Nevertheless I can grow
and eat a wide assortment of plant foods. Though
exotic foods like peanuts, bananas, and citrus are
occasional treats for me, I find a vegan locavore diet
to be not very constraining at all. There are so many
food plants that people could grow here in the North,
but dont, that most animal-based store-bought diets
look rather monotonous by comparison. Aside from
the fact that I enjoy a varied diet, an added benefit
is that Im not ruled by the marketplace: So many
market gardeners dont make room in their plantings
for unusual food crops because it wont sell, and
therefore they wont even bother to grow any for
their own use. My goal is not to feed the world, but to
feed myself and let others feed themselves. If we all
did that it might be a good beginning.
I am sometimes asked whether I am a gardener
or a farmer, and I have to ask myself, what are the
criteria for those? Farmers have many acres; I own
many acres, but only farm a couple of them. Farmers sell their crops for income; I sell very little of
my crop, and it is not a very significant part of my
income, although it certainly slashes our grocery bill.
Indeed over the years my greatest farm income by far
has been from talking and writing about it; therefore
my main cash crop has been information. Of course,
gardeners grow vegetables (mainly tomatoes), not
staple crops like wheat and soybeans and oilseeds
and sugar beets. Farmers do grow those things, but
by the ton, not in single-digit bushels. Ah, but farmers usually keep livestock; yes, but gardeners usually
buy in their fertilizer and seed. I give up; youll have
to decide what I am.
Since Im trying to minimize food purchases in
general, I dont limit my gardening to vegetables.
There may be more profit in mesclun mixes or salsa
ingredients, but they do not mean self-reliance. Im
more concerned with staple foodsgrains and pulses
and oilseeds, as well as the usual (and often unusual)
greens and root crops. Although my preferred diet

4 ||

Will Bonsalls Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening

consists of those plant foods that I can grow to maturity here in western Maine, no one should feel sorry
for me. When people hear that my family and I do
not eat meat, milk, or eggs, they often ask: So what
do you eat? Silly geese, little do they know that the
diversity of tastes and textures found in plant foods
dwarfs the paltry range of flavours found in animal
foods (which even as a meat eater I found rather
boring). Im aware that because I eat so largely from
my own soil (although it comprises a great assortment of glacier-borne igneous rocks), I run some
risk of deficiencies in obscure nutrients found in the
global foodshed. Therefore I keep my diet as varied
as possible (plus I like it that way). By the way I feel
extremely healthy for my 65 years, thank you; my
doctor confirms that.
I try to keep my use of petroleum products,
especially fuel, to a minimum. My tractor hasnt
run for years, and anyway its meant for work in the
woods. Most of my cropland has not been ploughed
for two or three decades. Some areas see occasional
rototiller use, by no means every year, usually
for incorporating grain stubble and heavy green
manures, and not always then. My walking tractor
has a mower attachment and a chipper/shredder.
The latter sees frequent action, as Ill discuss later,
yet its consumption of gas per unit of work done
(costbenefit ratio) is very moderate. I use no
plastic mulches. Add in my chain saw and weed
whacker (which others use; I prefer my scythe for
tight places) and that pretty well accounts for the
petroleum use in our farming system. Although it
is proportionately small I am always mindful that
no amount of petroleum is sustainable, since to my
knowledge none is currently being created. My ultimate goal is to have done with it altogether, about
which Ill have more to say later.
Of course, no amount of gnat straining and camel
swallowing will change the fact that our biggest
use of petroleum is in moving stuff (including people) around, a huge argument for locavorism and
anti-consumerism. In general I prefer to avoid going
anywhere or buying anything, and when I must Im
careful to factor those costs into my decisions.

Whence Fertility?
For a very long time the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) couldnt have cared less about
organic. According to Earl Butz (secretary of agriculture during the 1970s), it was a recipe for global
starvation (which his system was preventing?). Only
when the marketplace began clamouring for organic
commodity crops (an oxymoron?) and when US
farmers began to recognize the enormous potential
for organic exports (yet another one?) did the USDA
decide it needed to weigh in. Not to promote organic,
mind youthe marketplace was way ahead of them
therebut to concoct some watered-down standards
(including GMOs!) that would pave the way for
imperialistic agribiz. A useful side effect of those
USDA attacks on the integrity of organic principles
has been to make the movement define itself more
precisely and to engender a lot of soul searching
about our values. A less useful side effect has been
a tendency to separate local from organic and to
pit them against each other. I want to address that.
Lately, Ive noticed some bumper stickers that
say: to hell with organicbuy local! It saddens
me because it shows an erroneous assumption that
the two concepts can be somehow separated. They
cannot. When someone in my community brings to
market locally grown food that has been grown with
applications of chemical fertilizer shipped in from
hundreds or thousands of miles away, how local is
that food? Conversely, when winter lettuce is shipped
in from certified-organic factory farms located in
California or Chile, how organic is that lettuce?
Truly local and genuine organic are inseparable
you cant sell out one for the other.
Fortunately for me personally, defining organic is
barely relevant, since I have no need to certify what I
myself eat. I hew to a line that is more strictly organic
than the standards set by USDA or any other certifier.
What I do call my garden is eco-efficient, because that
reflects what is important to menot to the USDA.
There is a movement called the veganic (veganorganic) movement, composed mainly of animal
rights advocates, that eschews the use of manure and

|| 5

The Vision: Beyond the Boundary

other animal products, largely because of the cruelty


associated with livestock raising and slaughter. I
dont use that stuff, either, but for somewhat different reasons, which go beyond compassion. Im into
the compassion thing, too, though it doesnt stop me
from swatting blackflies and squishing potato bugs.
My big problem with moo-poo and the like is that it
is inefficient, unbusinesslike really. It is unbusinesslike to view manure (cow, horse, chicken, yours) as a
source of fertility, because it isnt. Remember way
back in high school biology, that textbook chart that
showed the Food Energy Pyramid (soil fertility is
another form of food energy)?
In the bottom layerProducersthe only organisms shown were plants; everybody above the base
layer (including earthworms, gerbils, and us) was
given the undignified label of Consumer. Oh, there
were different Orders, or hierarchic labels to make
you feel better or worsebigger numbers carry
some sort of stigmabut the idea conveyed was that
we critters were not doing anything useful (at least
not compared with, say, ragweed). In fact we are
serving a good purpose, but we are not producing
food energy and were not producing fertility. No
one denies that a cow flop contains lots of fertility,
but the cow did not produce that fertility, the grass
she ate created it out of dirt and rain and air and
sunshine. (How cool is that?) The cow, bless her,
merely collected that energy and concentrated it and

Third-Order
Consumers
Second-Order
Consumers

First-Order Consumers

Producers

Figure I.1. This is the traditional textbook graphic for


explaining the Food Energy Pyramid.

moved it around, destroying a great deal of it in the


processes of living. We mustnt blame the cow any
more than ourselves for living, but neither should we
look upon the cow as a net source of fertility; thats
just kidding ourselves.
If you really feel a need to keep animals for their
meat, milk, eggs, et cetera, I say go for it. And of
course you will then have a supply of manurekinda
hard to avoidand of course you will use it on the
land, foolish not to. But if you find, as I do, that plant
foods are more easily produced and satisfying, you
will have no further use for livestock and thus no
manure. No loss, because what is more businesslike
is to use that grass for compost or mulch, which will
put the nutrients back in the soil directly.
Although the veganic model looks mainly at grass
for its fertility, there is another model, or vision, that
takes an even deeper look into the business of soil
maintenance. Eco-efficiency (a word I coined, only
to discover that somebody else already had, fortunately with a similar meaning) describes the ratio
between an organisms intrinsic food energy and the
food energy (or soil fertility) required to produce it in
the first place. As the Food Energy Pyramid showed
us, only the plants with their photosynthetic chlorophyll have a positive ratio; the rest of usa bunch of
losers reallyhave a negative ratio. But just as different animals vary in their eco-efficiency (pigs have a
better feed-to-weight-gain ratio than horses), plants

Third-Order
Consumers
Second-Order
Consumers
First-Order
Consumers

Producers

Figure I.2. Heres a more accurate image, based on


known eco-efficiencies.

6 ||

Will Bonsalls Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening

likewise vary hugely in their ability to transform little into much. Lets look at some examples, starting
with the typical vegetable garden.
Most of the vegetables we like to grow and eat
are basket cases when it comes to soil building. For
example, if you sow a plot to leeks or pumpkins but
harvest nothing and instead turn under the crop at
maturitythe whole works: roots, leaves, fruits,
seeds, eating nothingwould the soil be enriched
thereby? No doubt, though not in good proportion
to the fertility it took to produce the crop. Thats
probably why seed catalogues never have leeks or
pumpkins listed in their green-manure sections.
Rather they suggest more vigourous grasses like rye
and oats or pasture legumes such as clover, vetch, or
alfalfa. Those are far more eco-efficient.
The problem with most veggie plants as
soil-builders is that they are Band-Aid species, by
which I mean that they are natures quick-fix shortterm remedy for disturbed soil. They dont need to
be particularly eco-efficient; they just have to sprout
and spread quickly to cover and protect the soil. In a
natural system they will soon be replaced by perennial weeds and grasses, then in turn by woody shrubs,
eventually succeeding to forest. The problem is that
humans cannot eat grasses or woody shrubs or forest
trees. Our tummies have adapted to those Band-Aid
speciesthe succulent, easily digested weeds from
which our vegetables have evolved. Theyre all well
and good in our pampered gardens and on our plates,
but for powering a dynamic soil community, we had
better look elsewhere.
What about those perennial weeds and grasses
that make up our hay fields? They are certainly no
wimps at creating much from little: Consider that
they generate a huge surplus of biomass that is
removed in the form of stuff from cows, with very
little returned for the plants themselves. Yes indeed,
grassland is a very eco-efficient ecosystem; one
British veganic writer described it as the ultimate.
Understandable error, I suppose, since they have lots
of pastures over there and very little of something
my fellow Mainers take for granted: forests. You
see, forests (especially old-growth hardwoods) are

even more eco-efficient than grasslands. How do I


know? For one thing, if you look around the planet,
most climax (self-perpetuating) ecosystems are
forests. The exceptions, places like Kenya, Mongolia,
Patagonia, and Wyoming, are climax grasslands
prairiesbecause they lack one essential: water. Add
rainfall to those regions and they, too, will begin the
succession to forest.
It isnt hard to see why forests are so eco-efficient:
Grassland sod is only inches deep, and the top growth
is rarely over 6 to 8 feet (1.82.4 m). Every year it dies
back to the sod, which must reinvest itself the following spring. The main component, grass, has most of
its solar panelslong narrow bladesarrayed in
a rather awkward manner for sun catching, which
is why the broadleaf dicots can live so well among
the grasses, grabbing the escaped light. In contrast,
forest trees dont die back. They merely shed their
leaves and go dormant; their incremental gain
(as trunks and boughs) is retained year after year.
Although the larger supporting tree roots are within
the top few feet, I have found feeder roots at the bottom of a 15-foot (4.6 m) well, pumping up minerals
that would otherwise never be part of the biosphere.
Most hardwood trees grow to 80 feet (24 m) or more
and have many layers of chlorophyll-laden leaves,
all arranged to trap a maximum of sunlight. Clearly
forests are natures most eco-efficient ecosystemif
only we could eat directly from them! Well, perhaps
we can a little; some archaeologist calculated that
in all human history more folks have been nourished by acorns and chestnuts than all other foods
combined. Ive been experimenting with those
and other tree crops for years, and I hope to make
them a much bigger part of my diet. However, I do
not see them supplanting wheat, corn, potatoes, et
cetera, and therefore I ask myself: Is there also some
way I can eat from the forest indirectly, by using the
residuesleaves, brush, and the likeas soil-building
materials for my tilled cropland? Can I parlay stuff
thats deemed of little fertility value (yet theres so
much of it) into the foods I love to eat? Can I spin
straw into gold? I can, and so can you; in chapter 12
well discuss how.

The Vision: Beyond the Boundary

How to Use This Book


I apologize for dragging you through so much
abstract explanation, but I feared that otherwise
you might try out some of those ideas that serve my
purpose but perhaps not your own. For example, if
your goal is simply to make a good living growing and
selling stuff from your land, then much of what Im
saying will seem altogether pointless. Society does
not generally expect its farmers to be visionaries;
indeed, society really needs farmers to keep their
sights within a finite horizon and not question the
dictums of policy shapers. I cannot show you the
borders of your garden; I can only try to point out
that there arent any. And so, I now propose to share
with you a whole slew of ideas from which you can
pick and choose those you feel will serve your interests, regardless of whether you share my ideology.
Most of what I write about draws from my own
direct experience over 40 years of growing and eating
my own food. But I also share a lot of hearsay, which is
important but risky. What do I mean by hearsay? Its
things Ive heard said, or have read about, but never
directly experienced with my own eyes or hands. For
example, when I talk about nitrogen, understand
that Ive never actually seen any nitrogen, but Ive
heard say that there is such stuff and that the air
we breathe is laced with it, so who am I to quibble?
Just please dont go telling others that Will Bonsall
saw some nitrogen somewherethat would be misleading. Its hearsay and I share it for what its worth.
Also because Ive noticed that if you only talk about
your own personal experience without sticking in a
bit of hearsay, then folks just dont take you seriously.
My farm and the gardens therein are not linear,
and its impossible to describe them and my way
of cultivating them in a linear fashion. And so this
book tends to cycle back around to key ideas and
principles, with specific ideas and practices running
sometimes haphazardly from one part of the book to
the other. I begin with what seems most fundamental to my way of gardening, and that is building soil
fertility (part 1 of the book). From there, in part 2 I
spend time telling you how I grow and save seeds and

|| 7

propagate plants, because without employing those


techniques, gardening cannot be a truly sustainable
cycle. Part 3 is my thoughts about growing particular
cropsnot just veggies but also grains, pulses, oilseeds, and permacrops.
In part 4 I take those first three parts and explain
how the garden is integrated into the context of
land, rocks, and water; how plants are intermingled
in gardens to make the most efficient use of space
and fertility; and how I cope with the other living
creaturesthe insects and bugs, the animals, and the
disease organismsthat may want to feed on those
crops. And finally, in part 5 I share a hodgepodge
of techniques for processing crops into flour, meal,
juice, puree, sauce, kraut, and much more. Better
still, youll find a few of my favourite ways of preparing foods for the table, including some wholly new
food items.

A Place Called Esperia


It is difficult to discuss truly sustainable agriculture
outside the context of a sustainable civilization. The
ideas behind my or any other food system make
certain assumptions regarding the society it feeds.
For example: Is there a marketplace, and what is it
like? How does it work? And what industrial and
technological inputs are available? Are those all
sustainable? While these questions demand far more
answers than I have to offer, they may at least clarify our vision beyond the immediate borders of our
garden, and perhaps serve as a scorecard for judging
our progress.
Let me digress and tell you about a place called
Esperia. It is neither here nor now, but rather a fictional place described in a novel I wrote a few years
ago called Through the Eyes of a Stranger. I mention it
here only because it offers a paradigm, a framework
for discussion. Here and there in this book, I pose the
question, How do you suppose they do that in Esperia?
Understanding the principles embodied in my mythic
Esperia can help you understand the question.
Esperia (several centuries in our future) is a
sustainable society, in that it is based on endless

8 ||

Will Bonsalls Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening

cycles and ever-renewable resources. Fossil fuels


and petrochemicals have no place there. There is a
strong focus on eco-efficiency, for many reasons, but
largely to maintain a viable population level without
excessive impact on the land base; hence theres a
preference for permacrops, especially trees, and a
lack of livestock.
Out of a desire for stability and security, Esperia
is governed by the Vine Laws, which mandate a
high level of self-reliance at various levels of society; for example, each household is responsible for
producing its own staple foods and domestic fuel.
Even tool and machinery production is as locally
based as possible.
If this sounds totally alien, perhaps it is because
the civilization we have today is so unsustainable
and so insecure that we have difficulty envisioning
anything else. The fact that there is no such place
as Esperia (and never has been) is only because we
havent built it yet. I believe, though, that we can and
must do so if we are going to continue this experiment we call civilization. The marketplace could
actually be a useful vehicle for making this happen,
but only as long as we learn to control it instead of
letting it control us. In the meantime Esperia might
serve as a paradigm, or a frame of reference, giving
us a canvas on which to paint our vision, if not the
vision itself.
If I were to suggest that we are headed for some
disastrous times when our access to the essentials of
life will be disrupted by unforeseeable events, most
people will not challenge that, beyond disagreeing
over details of when, how, and so on. From religious
fanatics to money market managers, there is a general
sense of malaise thats hard to ignore, though most
of us tend to avoid taking any action beyond praying,
buying gold, and stocking up on peanut butter and
ammo. Some such Great Crisis (Esperians refer to
it as the Calamitous Times) must be factored into
our vision of a garden-without-borders, if we are to

come up with solutions that are anything more than


personal stopgaps. But how to prepare for a crisis
when we cannot predict its time or the scale of it?
Perhaps by at least preparing for those scenarios,
we can predict. For example, we can assume that
supplies of petroleum-based fuels and materials
may become scarce or prohibitively expensive. We
can assume a much more challenging climate, with
generally higher temperatures and erratic weather
extremes. Even basic tools and seeds may become
hard to obtain as our manufacturing and transport
infrastructure are impaired or decay.
Of course, any strictly personal solutions only
guarantee that you will become a target for those
who have not developed any of their own. Thus the
most stable and reliable security measures will be
those involving cooperative, collective, community
action. Those solutions also give some efficiency of
scale and specialization. In short, while it is imperative that we all develop some degree of self-reliance,
we must also look beyond any particular strategy for
self-reliance. We must consider all possible solutions
and more: We must be adaptable and resilient. Thats
a lot to ask.
Of course, the Esperia in my novel is my own
particular Esperia, just one vision of a Land of Hope,
and it includes details that are uniquely mine and
may not be essential to a sustainable civilization.
That Esperia, like my garden-without-borders, is not
predicated on utopian perfection; its members are not
saintlike and the children are not all above average. It
has flaws like any other society, but it has one asset
that compensates for every other wart and pimple,
and ultimately trumps every achievement of our own
civilization: It is sustainable. Without sustainability
all other accomplishmentsincluding democracy,
arts and culture, technology, and civil rightsare
superficial and transient. However important those
may be it is not enough merely to rearrange the deck
furniture on the Titanic; we have to change course.