Sunday, November 23, 2008

Local Sustainablility

     The idea of limiting the amount of mass production that is done on a global scale seems like it would be a fitting and obvious solution to the environmental crisis we now find ourselves in. Currently, mass produced industrially made objects are the norm, but just a few hundred years ago, sustainability was the only option. Nearly all things were locally made, simply because that was the only option, transportation and importing products was out of the realm of possibility. If you wanted a chair, you probably would make it yourself or had someone in your town make one. If you wanted a jacket, you or somebody in your family would make it, and you would probably get the wool from the sheep you kept in the barn in your backyard. This idea of locality seems essential to sustainability. It has also worked for thousands upon thousands of years. Could this work today then, or is the society of today somehow to radically different from that of the past for it to work? One difference that could cause it not to work includes population. The population of the world has increased so drastically in recent times. Imagine that synthetic materials never existed, and everyone relied solely on natural and organic things to live on. That would mean using only things like wool and organic cotton, and only naturally grown food, etc. On top of this, all of these things would have to be produced in very close proximity (relatively speaking) to the place of their distribution and use. People living in densely populated areas, or places with limited resources would have a very difficult time getting by. People have become so accustomed to synthetic materials, imported goods, and other similar recent developments, and have built lifestyles, industries, and societies around them. Shifting over to a local sustainable way of life would be a difficult move, and would probably be best dealt with over a long period of time.

     Perhaps the biggest obstacle to reclaiming this long forgotten sense of sustainability, besides the economic upheaval it would trigger, would be the strain on our resources. If everyone made their own clothing out of wool collected from local sheep, that would mean a lot of sheep for every single person in the world. Going from where we are now, as in our heavy reliance on synthetic materials, to this kind of local sustainability would be a huge jump. A lot of space is required to live organically and sustainably, and to grow and produce products properly. Current industrial and societal practices have all but used up this space and the resources and possibilities the space contains. It is beginning to seem like synthetics and industrially made objects, perhaps offset by local sustainability projects would be a fitting solution for our current crisis, or at the least be a good transition into true sustainability, if that is indeed possible. 

1 comment:

Deborah said...

This is a great post! My family moved to the country six years ago to live a local, sustainable life. Sheep are just one of the animals we have on our farm.

It really would not take a lot of sheep to clothe a person. One of the problems with the way we live today is that we think we need a lot more than we do. My family is no exception. I know I have many more clothes than I need. If I only bought what I REALLY needed, I wouldn't buy any new clothes for another 10 years.

A single sheep could clothe a person. We have Shetlands, which are one of the smallest breeds. They produce about 2-4 pounds of wool per year -- that is the washed and carded weight. It would be enough to make several articles of clothing.

Example: We have made scarves of different sizes, using as little as four ounces of wool or as much as a pound. The one-pound scarf keeps me warm on the coldest and windiest days. It is extremely thick, wraps around my neck and hangs down to my waist.

And the test of true sustainability is that an animal is multi-purpose. On our acreage, we have decided that we don't want more than about 20 sheep, so now that we have 18 adults, we have decided to butcher ram lambs for meat and pelts. Ewe lambs are kept as replacements for their mothers as they get older.