Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
A generation or two ago our society had vegetable gardens and fruit orchards in our back yards. Now many of us don't have significant back yards, and what gardens we do have are planted with lawns and ornamental plants. We have lost the ability to produce any substantial part of our own food. I am sixty years old. Throughout my lifetime people have tended to become more and more specialised and less and less self-reliant. The numbers producing a significant part of their own fruit and vegetables in the back garden has declined - it has become cheaper to buy everything at the supermarket. You need only look at a retail plant nursery to see that the great majority of plants traded are ornamental rather than productive.
In the future the transportation of 'low-value' goods, things that have low prices per kilogram, over long distances will become less economically viable. But the world has become addicted to cheap fuel, cheap transport and cheap imports. Consider a common household item like the refrigerator. Its steel is mined using methods that consume large amounts of diesel, its plastics are made from petroleum, it is most likely manufactured in a factory overseas somewhere that relies on cheap energy, then it is imported on a ship that uses bunkering oil. The costs of every step in the chain will increase as petroleum becomes scarcer and more expensive. Finally, the refrigerator uses electricity which is probably either generated in a coal fired power station (and coal mining uses huge amounts of diesel powered machinery) or from an oil or gas fired power station.
As all costs go up what will the cumulative effects be on national economies? I think we will be lucky if they are no worse than the depression of the 1930s.
For the good of all, we should work toward increasing our self-sufficiency. We should try to develop the ability to provide our communities with essential survival goods.
The USA has enormous debts to other nations. Should these debts be called in, or should the US dollar fail, the effect on the US economy would be disastrous. There is a saying that 'if the US sneezes the rest of the world catches cold'.
China's and India's economies are growing rapidly and at exponential rates, but can they keep it up with the disruption to their societies and the equally steeply rising rates of pollution and other environmental problems? If the economies of these two countries suffers a serious set-back the price of raw materials will crash and this, in turn, will hit Australia's economy very hard.
Considering all of these factors it seems to me wise to start moving toward some degree of self-sufficiency.
Some of the steps that I have taken toward self-sufficiency can be found on Clare Trees (my experiences in growing trees, particularly trees for food production in the Clare Valley) and Clare Plants (my experiences in growing smaller plants, including garden vegetables, in the Clare Valley). My pages on a cellar and firewood are also relevant.
Not only will an increased level of community self-sufficiency insulate the local people to some extent from the worst effects of a possible economic down-turn or depression, but it will also increase the interactivity and cohesiveness of the Clare region's society.