Friends: About Self Sufficiency and Interdependence
At Manure Depot I write about Embracing Our Interdependence With Nature, but I also write with self sufficiency in mind. In contemplating self sufficiency you may as I do come to the conclusion that it is an ideal concept, but a very difficult practical achievement. I personally know just one farmer I would call self sufficient. She is definitely off the grid. But I am not sure she is exactly self sufficient. She counts on the efforts of a volunteer force of farm workers as well as some interns who come each season to exchange their efforts for the education they gain in working with her. She barters with neighbors and others in the town nearby for things she needs but doesn’t produce, and she brings her food to several markets during the growing season to sell to the townies, and she sells her corn, bean, and herbal salve products online at Local Harvest. I think what she has actually achieved is not complete independence, but rather interdependence.
If we are dependent, we are like children, dependent upon others to assure our survival. If we are independent we are counting only on ourselves. If we are interdependent we have formed a community in which we are active and contributing members. It broadens our resources as well as our own value to others. If we consider interdependence as a goal rather than self sufficiency or independence we can more easily imagine achieving that goal.
When I hear my farmer friends speaking of the farming communities from which they came I learn that it was common place for the neighbors of a farmer taken ill to join together to harvest his crop for him at the proper time. These people may not have used words like interdependent, but in describing the way that they could depend on one another this is the word that comes to my mind.
No man is an island unto himself. We are very much of the world in which we live. We are best served by becoming productive and interdependent members of our communities. All around us in nature we can observe examples of interdependence. Plants and soil organisms do best living together. Plants feed, hydrate, house, shade and protect insects and animals. Insects and animals fertilize, pollinate, propagate, prune and provide pest control for plants (say that fast three times in a row). There are many interdependent relationships formed between different species of animals too, like between insect eating birds and grazing animals. People develop interdependent relationships with horses, donkeys, dogs and cats. Even between predator and prey there exists an important interdependence as the prey animals are culled, keeping them from over using their food source, and over populating their environment, and fostering health and stealth in the herd and in the gene pool, while the predator feeds itself and its offspring.
We can observe interdependence in nature and we can strive for it in our human communities, and in doing so I think we will find more satisfying and sustainable ways of living.