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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Organic gardening in Ireland / Alternative and Sustainable Gardening practices

Self Sufficient or Self Reliant?

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Joined: 27 May 2007
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Location: inishowen Ireland

PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:16 pm    Post subject: Self Sufficient or Self Reliant? Reply with quote

Great Expectations
I dabbled in the world of 'Self Sufficiency 'for a long time, if you can do such a thing. It's probably a bit like being 'almost' a vegetarian or 'nearly' stopping smoking. Attempting to become totally self sufficient in anything sets the bar of expectation so high that a majority of us would give up with a huge feeling of failure. I'm not sure if it's the recession or just a shift in consciousness but the emphasis is changing from "Self Sufficiency to "Self Reliance", which I am all in favour of because it potentially makes our lives that little bit easier.

So what's the difference?
'Self Reliance' accepts the fact that we are interdependent on other people, but it still shows that we choose to trade as locally as possible for other products that we simply can't produce ourselves.

'Self Sufficiency' tries to encompass everything in a daily life from producing your own food to making your own solar panels; it would mean you are able to maintain yourselves without any outside aid.

Both 'reliance' and 'sufficiency' can be achieved but total self sufficiency will leave you with little or no time to do anything else but provide for yourself and more importantly you wouldn't be contributing to the local economy.

High water content
Vegetables have high water content and can be as high as 98% in cucumbers, but they are low in calories. If you grew 100% of your own vegetables it will provide you with 15-20%of your daily calorie amount, it's bit like starving to death by eating celery as you use more energy eating it than you do from ingesting the nutrients. Most calories come from grains, meat and dairy products, so if we don't have our own livestock or wheat field then we only really supply 25% of our own food needs. Self sufficiency gets more complicated when you look at other commodities like fuel, do you make your own? Will you save your seeds this year? Do you sew or make your own clothes and if so where does the wool come from? All questions that total self sufficiency would ask of you.

Trading Zones

I like the idea of trading with the local community for products and services. This is important at any time but seems to be even more vital in a recession. The old saying "if you want a job done well, do it yourself" seems a bit outdated now and simply shows poor management skills. We can make life easier by working together and putting our trading into Zones, suggested by author Toby Hemenway.
Zone Zero. This is your home and land and the relationship you have with it.
Zone1. Is the connection to other individuals and families.
Zone 2. Is dealing with local commerce and other activities in the immediate area.
Zone 3. Dealing with regional businesses and organisations in the country.
Zone 4. Larger and more distant enterprises.

By limiting the amount of times we need to use zone 4, by buying petrol or metal for example, and concentrating more on the zones 1-2, shopping, trading and socialising locally we build up a stronger community. There really isn't much sense in staying in zone 1 all of the time, it would get very lonely.

Australian wisdom
The Australian "Father of Permaculture" Bill Mollison makes a good observation in his Introduction to Permaculture book ""We can also begin to take some part in food production. This doesn't mean that we all need to grow our own potatoes, but it may mean that we will buy them directly from a person who is already growing potatoes responsibly. In fact, one would probably do better to organize a farmer-purchasing group in the neighbourhood than to grow potatoes."

So this year I can grow some tasty salad vegetables in containers and maybe join the Tidy Towns initiative to help clean up the streets and beaches to be a part of the community. It certainly takes the pressure off from the massive task of being "Self Sufficient"!

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