Don’t Just Stand There, Grow Something!

Timothy Wilken

Imagine you own a comfortable 3000 square foot home with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big  family room, and a three car garage located on over an acre of land. Your home provides very comfortable shelter for you, your spouse and your three kids.

Then your spouse’s brother loses his job. Soon he and his wife can’t make their mortgage payments, and so they move in with their two kids. Now your home is less comfortable with nine people living there, but with some creative scheduling, it is livable.

But the economy continues to worsen, more family members lose their jobs, and suddenly you have twenty people living in the house. With this four-fold increase in population, living conditions in your home have changed from being livable to being nearly intolerable.

You are reaching the limits of your home’s ability to shelter you. After all the home is finite—it is limited to 3000 square feet.

Now humanity’s home is the Earth. While the Earth is quite large, it is still finite.  As in the example above, living on Earth was comfortable when the number in the human family was under one billion. Our species, Homo Sapiens, has existed for over 200,000  years on the planet. For 199,790 of those years, our population remained under one billion.

We reached 1 billion humans in 1800. By 1900, the world population was 1.5 billion. At that time, my grandfather was a young man raising his family that would eventual include 8 children. I was born in 1945, and would be one of three children. When I was a freshman in high school in 1960, the world’s population had doubled to 3 billion. Today, as I write this essay the World census is estimated to be 6.8 billion.

Humanity’s home, the Earth, is getting full. Our human population has increased over four-fold since 1900. We are reaching the limits of the planet. This is what really lies at the heart of our current world economic crisis. We are encountering Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak Soil and Peak Food as a result of overpopulation, and the political-economic policy of over-consumption in order to maximize corporate profits.

Modern humans are no longer called people, they are consumers. Remember, when George W. Bush called on the American people to: “Go out and buy something.” Peak does not mean we are out of oil, water, soil or food. It means we are reaching the Peak of possible production for these necessities of life on a global basis.

Our current system of Market Capitalism, which is based on the premise of unlimited growth, has collided with the reality of a finite planet.

Things must change. We can expect no help from Big Government, the long term for Government is the length of time before the next election, and all political decisions are based on one dollar = one vote. We can expect no help from Big Business, they are only interested in the bottom line of their Profit and Loss Balance Sheets, and they clearly own our government directing it to base every political decision on what will increase the bottom line. Remember, “What is good for business is good for the nation.”

It will be up to us ordinary humans to solve our own problems by ourselves, and despite the actions of our government and corporations.

So, what can we do?

Imagine, if every human limited themselves to having only one child, the total population could be reduced dramatically within a few generations. This is something we can do voluntarily, if we choose to. Human reproduction remains in the control of ordinary humans.

In the meantime, there are lots of very practical things that can also be done. Today’s author shares two proposals that you can begin implementing tomorrow.

Andrew MacDonald

Be a food grower in some small or large way! You’ll connect to nature, our “daily bread”, and some fundamental political realities. You’ll educate yourself and redefine your relationship to fundamentals – and I didn’t even mention “cheap” yet!

I use the word “growing” in preference to gardening because gardening sounds like a hobby.

The good news about gardening can’t stay underground forever – it’s going to grow! Growing food – and eating local and simple food  – is at the heart of relocalization.

Growing has a way of plugging you into that beating heart. It’s a simple and deceptively multi-layered activity that you can find a way to be part of, whatever your background. Growers get that they’re connected to a deep natural process, as of course they are, and that connection is close to the heart of relocalization.

My partner Lynn’s and my growing efforts are new and so far we’ve been on the receiving end of local food abundance as neighbors and community members have shared with us. We hope to pay’em back over time.

The two interconnected ways to start are 1) to grow something right now, and 2) to learn to enjoy eating simply and low in the food chain.

1)  Grow something, whether it’s sprouting, growing a few pots of tomatoes, putting in a garden, joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group, or connecting to a local gardening group or food initiative.

Lynn and I have set ourselves the goal of  growing all our vegetables and some of the beans. We’ll have to buy others – we love lentils which don’t grow so well here (in southern Canada). Some of our grains come from local farmers but we buy our rice from away and we’ve harvested some “wild rice” (not really a true rice) too though we’ve not learned to thresh it.

2) The other part is to eat in a way that respects natural realities and limits – not just because it’s “a good thing,” though it is, but because eating a low-impact, mostly local diet will be the future in a world defined by peak oil, shifting climate, and high population and unrest from all of these. It’ll be your future and certainly your kids future. Eating simple is simply getting with the program, which in turn helps others do the same.

We’ve been eating a simple, tasty, nutritious and inexpensive diet for a while now. My partner Lynn has been experimenting and refining how to do this for years and I recommend what she’s developed as something to explore and adapt. It’s a total system that makes it easy to cook healthy food conveniently while keeping your grocery bill under $150 a month per person. That’s from the get-go, before you grow your own. It’s a way to fast track to a simpler, more local and more peaceful life. It’s totally possible to really enjoy food while eating more like the majority of people in the world. It’s a vegetarian diet, but you can add meat where you will. No shame but stopping eating meat is one of the simplest ways you can make a real difference in what you personally are putting into the atmosphere. Full disclosure, we do eat meat if we’re at someone’s home and it’s offered and we eat game when it’s given to us.

There are political-economic  ramifications to food and soil too . . . .think “peak soil” to go along with peak oil. As Wendell Berry says, “If we continue to be economically dependent on destroying parts of the earth, then eventually we will destroy it all.”

Visit the author’s website: Radical Relocalization

Read Poster artist, Judy Wilken’s StarChild Science Healthy Living Initiative