I posted yesterday about Terry Tempest Williams’ collection of essays in Pieces of White Shell and have more thoughts on this today. After reading the essay, “A Potshard and Some Corn Pollen,” I began to see the past and future in a different way, regarding local economies. I am a big proponent of local living economies: let’s do everything, product everything we can in our own locals, or own counties, or own states (I know, it’s idealistic!). However, as Tempest Williams writes about the Anasazi culture, they were basically built on local living economies. The individual villages and clans produced their own products, food, and goods, some of which were consumed and used within the immediate place of production, others of which were traded for other products. It seems the process of trade was done sustainably, by traveling on foot or by horse with only a few tradespeople. This allowed the Anasazi culture to thrive for a long time, until whatever befell the people (drought, disease, meteorite, or a combination?).

This essay was not particularly about local economies, but it spurred me to realize that our entire pasts were built on local economics: Because people did not have the same kind of petroleum fueled transportation, they HAD to have a local economy. Only when the Industrial Revolution and a change in transportation (trains, autos, planes) was spawned, did our economies change. And, here’s where we are today. A product of the Industrial Revolution. Some of which is progress, the rest is destructive. Is there some kind of balance between the post Industrial age and the processes of the past? How do we truly become less dependent on oil? I often joke that I’ll trade my 40 mpg car in for a horse, but how radically altered would my life become? (I already even walk and ride my bike 5 days a week to work). Much slower paced, that’s for sure. But so much more rich with details and observations of our planet. That’s another reason why traveling slower by horse, bike, or foot is so attractive in this ultra fast paced world. Think for a moment, what would your life be like if you gave up the car for even a few days a week? What if our individual communities COULD and DID produce their own food and goods? We would certainly eat very differently and our clothing would not be mass produced. What would our dishes, toothbrushes, and collectibles look like? How about our toiletries and other products? Soap from France? No more: learn to make your own from lye and oil/fat.

For a few great books on living a sustainable life, check out The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour or The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen or Five Acres and Independence by Maurice, G. Kains. It’s about a back-to-the-land approach, giving the production of consumer goods BACK to the people, for better control. Perhaps this level of responsibility would even change the welfare system, the working poor, and the hungry or homeless people in our own country.

For a local living economy project in Colorado, check out http://www.belocalnc.org/.

I’d love to hear about other books and resources on sustainable living and local living economies. Are you already living the sustainable life? The “Good Life”? Or even producing over 50% of your own food, goods, and clothing?  Here’s to local economies and sustainability for our future!