Input from others with different perspectives often encourages me to look more closely at my own views. A comment to my recent post, "THE NECESSITY OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY IN A SELF-SUSTAINING LIFESTYLE" did just that. In examining my own views on life and goals of self-sufficiency, I realized two very important considerations: That TRUE self-sufficiency, at least for the individual, is near impossible; and there are many levels of self-sufficiency along the way toward that near impossible end. Some of these levels, I have lived at some point in my life, others I have studied and worked toward, and most (if not all) levels are among my goals for the future. Obviously, we would all like to be as independent as possible, so with your indulgence, I would like to share some thoughts and experiences on those many levels.
LEVEL I: Level one, in my opinion, has to start with a mind set. As infants, unable to do anything for ourselves, we learn to expect others to give us what we need to survive, grow, and be comfortable. As we grow, the desire to move freely and do for ourselves also grows, driving us to walk, communicate and reach for what we need. This develops to the mind set of "I can do it myself", which is the point at which, as a parent, I had my first twinge of having to let go a bit. And that twinge just got worse from there, but that is another story for another time.
As teenagers or young adults, having developed the mind set and entering the work force, we reach level two.
LEVEL II: Level two is what our society has come to expect and strive for to a great extent. As teenagers, we are expected to at least finish high school (and a college degree is preferred) and then to get a good job (or preferably, a career), thus being able to make enough money to pay the bills, buy a home, raise a family etc. This in itself is truly a tangible level of self-sufficiency, as compared to those who choose to rely on others (family, friends, church, government assistance, etc.), for their needs. Please do not consider that I am passing judgement on anyone for their choices, and it is important to note that many people, through no choice of their own, require assistance for their survival and we should all do our best to help.
With that said, this level of self-sufficiency can provide all the requirements of survival and comfort. It does not, however, give the individual any control over many aspects of life. For example, you have no control of the price, quality or availability of food, fuel, utilities, building materials, services or anything that has to be purchased. More money can get better quality, but only if the product is available in the first place. In short, though we work hard for the money to provide what is needed for ourselves, we still depend on, and are at the mercy of, others.
LEVEL III: Level three is about the point where people start talking about "back to basics". I am very happy with that concept but not so much with the wording. The basics haven't changed, so going back to basics is essentially the same as staying here with the basics. In fact, the basic NEEDS of humanity are still simply water, food, clothing, shelter, warmth, tools, weapons for hunting and defense, and for spiritual and/or psychological well being, interaction with others. What HAS changed is how we fulfill those basics. In my opinion, (and remember, it is just my opinion), it is a matter of resources and how they are used. From this point forward, these basic needs and how they are, and can be, used will be incorporated into the levels as appropriate, so bear with me.
The level three basics include food and water. Chances are, you, (like so many others), do not live in walking distance of your water source. If you are fortunate enough to have a well or spring on your property, that is a good head start, and if it is a well or spring with a hand pump or other people powered means of getting the water, so much the better. Far too many people are using water that is pumped in from such a distance that they don't even know where it really came from or what chemicals it has been treated with. A resource to consider is rain water, which can be captured with guttering from roofs of houses and other buildings and used for watering plants and animals, washing or filtered for drinking. The amount of water that can be captured from an inch of rain falling on the roof of an average sized building is surprising. At just over a half gallon, (.623 gal. per sq. ft. per inch of rain, to be more precise), a building the size of my chicken house and tool shed combo will capture about 94 gallons of water from an inch of rain. The calculations are simple, just multiply the number of square feet of roof surface by .623 to find out how many gallons of water you will have from your roof with one inch of rain.
Food is another necessity that many take for granted. It is convenient to just go to the grocery store and buy what you need. With prices rising, quality declining and the now constant threat of various contamination related illnesses, it doesn't seem so convenient as it once did. Growing your own food is becoming more popular and this is a good step toward this level of self-sufficiency. No, not everyone can plant a huge garden, a field of wheat or corn for bread, and raise livestock for all their meat, milk and eggs, (though that would be REALLY NICE). There are ways (even in an apartment in the city) to raise at least some of your own vegetables, and with a back yard or small acreage, there are endless possibilities.
Though being able to produce all of the food on the table would be ideal, anything you can produce for yourself lowers the levels of dependence on others and is a good step toward self-sufficiency. Remember, it all starts with the mind set, the questioning of where your basic needs come from and how to change that source.
I will post other levels soon, as well as related posts involving more information on specifics, as there just isn't room in a single post for all the information. I will also be considering your input to help me give you the information you need to follow your own path toward self-sufficiency, so please use the comments to let me know where you are in the journey and any questions you may have.