Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why our tribe members should have a general skill base

Ran Prieur posted this which really resonated with me, and helps clarify one of the needs Tulsi and I listed in our Needs/Wants list on this blog: "All tribe members reasonably well-versed in all survival skills". Specifically, this statement by Ran encapsulates my thought: "I can see only one way to have a non-repressive society of any size. Every person has to have the ability, whether or not they use it, to connect their work (or the work of their close friends and family) directly to their food (and also shelter)."

Central powers (whether a civilized government or a tribe chief) have far less ability to control you if you know how to procure everything you need. Obviously you still need access to land, but we plan to take care of that part by moving to fairly remote wilderness with lots of land and few people. So as long as we each know how to procure food and water, and make shelter and clothing, we always have the option to move away from unwanted domination.

As a small note, I disagree with Ran's belief that complex human cultures are inevitable, and his belief that it will be impossible to limit cultures to hunter-gatherer tribes and permaculture villages in the future. So I'm not trying to promote his discussion and exploration of ways to have sustainable cities and universities and airplanes and computers. I just agree with his point that "For any system to control you, it must stand between your work and your food."

A related thread I've been thinking about: Sustainability more or less requires direct relationship with the beings you're using for your life. How can you give back more than you take when you take from other landbases you never visit, or from parts of your own landbase you rarely visit and don't really understand? Conceivably you could maintain sustainability by trading surplus you gather sustainably directly with other people who are doing the same. But given the unsustainable relationship almost every civilized human has with their landbase, it will take a lot of trust that your trade partner knows how to give more than they take to their landbase. I think any introduction of a middleman makes sustainability exponentially harder, since suddenly you're not even dealing with someone with a direct dependence on their landbase. The middleman profits from trade and probably does not have a direct connection to the landbase of either originating trade partner.

A section in Alan Weisman's Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World has really stuck with me. I don't remember the full details and don't have the book handy to refresh my memory, so feel free to correct me if I butcher important details. As I recall, the village was paying residents in the surrounding areas to harvest a naturally growing plant which hadn't had economic value in the past. As Gaviotas ramped up their use of the plant, they had to start employing middlemen to find more sources for the plant. At some point they discovered that at least one of the middlemen was procuring the plant from people who were obviously overharvesting it in their area. Although Gaviotas was able to detect and belatedly correct this excess harvest, I have to wonder how many other instances they didn't know about. If you need a middleman because you can't trade directly with the people supplying you materials, how can you expect to monitor all those sources for sustainable harvesting?

OK, enough theory--time to get out into the sunny garden!


Anonymous said...

Recently I read several fiction books that I was reminded of by your post. First, there is a series of books my S.M. Stirling which take you through the years just after all technology ceases working. Archery ends up being important both for hunting and for protection. Second, I am reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my six year old and we are currently reading On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura was talking about how Pa got a "boughten door" that was so fine and she went on to describe the differences between the "boughten" supplies and ones Pa had made in the past. The point is, Pa could do/build pretty much anything. I would like to be more like Pa. :)

Anonymous said...

Sustainable city!? I'd say that's an oxymoron.geo

Anonymous said...

Sustainable city!? I'd say that's an oxymoron.