Dig This: Living in the Age of Survival

In my last piece, “The Future is Exciting,”  I started a couple of lists, inviting you to add your ideas about what’s wrong with our society and what should be done to make a better life for our grandkids.  So, I would like your help in coming up with some specific ideas on how you plan to cope/to make your lives—and those of the next generations–easier, safer and healthier. I’ll start, you add.

  1. The first thing that comes to mind is controlling directly the food that I grow or buy, cook and preserve. Unfortunately for my peace of mind, I’m reading Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown in which the pending food scarcity is documented.  The future of food looks bleak.  I’m coping by growing lots of our food in a year-round garden.  What we don’t grow or raise ourselves, we trade, barter or buy from our neighbors.  When I suggest growing food, people have many excuses: no space/place, bad soil, no time, too old or infirm. My impatient retort usually is, “Where there is a will, there’s a way.” But I do understand that there are three generations that don’t know how to grow their food and two generations that don’t know how to cook or preserve what they’ve grown.  Gardening can appear overwhelming.  If it seems that way, use the KISS approach: Keep it Simple and Small at first. It may take years to learn, so start now.
  1. Educating ourselves:  Since we didn’t get much help from our schools and government in learning how to cope with life’s problems, educating ourselves is a full-time job. What’s the curriculum? The subjects that worry me most are: untested chemicals and GMOs in and all around us, the role of big Pharma in our health, corporate capitalism in the destruction of our democracy, and control of information by corporate media.  A useful book is The Future, Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore.  Be forewarned; it’s full of facts like a college textbook. If we don’t know what’s happening around us, we are more susceptible to control by corporate capitalism.
  1. Managing our time may be the key for me to make the needed changes to create a comfortable life and to survive. We made time to cook and to teach our kids how to cook. Here is a little story that illustrates the time problem.   Our adult son was telling a friend how he made fruit jelly the night before.  The friend interrupted with this question, “You don’t have a TV do you?”   It’s easier to watch TV than to make jelly.  Less satisfactory, maybe, cheaper, maybe.  Regardless how entertaining TV and computers are, they still use up lots of your time.  Remember the old science fiction stories of how humans were controlled by machines and robots?  I think that time has come, but with TVs, computers, video games, I-Phones.  So we end up without enough time to work on our survival.  I’m ambivalent regarding these machines, not wanting to live the rest of my life controlled by them.
  1. Cooperating with others will bring good results.  Too much competition is a dead end street.  Therefore, we have deliberately formed neighborhood, community and friend groups to share ideas, methods, tools, garden space, and social time. I think it’s a democratic activity to involve kids, friends and neighbors in cooking and sharing meals.  It’s E.O. Wilson’s and my belief that altruistic cooperation is the only way humans will survive on earth.
    1. Learning how advertising (propaganda) is controlling our desires, our purchases, our votes, our lives:  If we learn the tools of critical thinking, then it would help us understand the controlling power of ads.  On the flip side, we could use propaganda to lobby for regulative changes if we know how it works.  Take for example tobacco.  It’s addictive. I’ve known that since I was in 8th grade in the mid 1950s. A guy came to our school with a short film, a live rabbit and a smoker’s lung in a jar and told us what smoking does to our bodies.  But this Red Cross program was quickly stopped.  Why?  The tobacco corporations fought tooth and nail to prevent the harmful image from being accepted.  I used to think this addiction was an individual problem; now we know it’s a societal problem and it took governmental efforts to reduce tobacco addiction.

This is a short list of key areas in my effort to strengthen control over my life.  I’m sure that I’ve overlooked some that are important to you, so it’s your job to seek more ways to control your lives.

Wayne Kessler is the former owner of Shambani Organics, former Peace Corps volunteer, and founding member of Growing Local.

Following his grandfather's advice, "Grow food. People always need food," has led Wayne to a lifetime of cultivating and processing food. He spends much of his time encouraging people to become more food independent by growing their own.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Doug Bennett says:

    You have given us a good place to start. This model would produce Americans that are healthier and more independent of the larger predatory market that has lowered our standard of living, deprived many of gainful employment and destroyed local economies.

    The next "economic downturn" may make this model necessary.

  2. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    Thank you for some frank ideas in a clear format! I will take your advice and more importantly share it. Many good points.

  3. Avatar Michael Allison says:

    I love these ideas. Realistic and doable. Really like Kessler's writing.

  4. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    Wonderful photographer, too.

  5. Avatar Annie says:

    Sadly, I'm afraid this is all too optimistic. First, the majority of people will only change their lifestyle when they are forced to do so. Second, even if everyone changed to a very minimalistic lifestyle today it would still be too late to avert climate change and a major population crash.

    Nature Bats Last.

    I'd like to think I was wrong, and we grow a good deal of our own food, drive a Prius, have solar, etc. But the data does not look good.

    • Avatar Pamela says:

      It's true. The data doesn't look good. So, the next question is–what do we do? I guess we grow good clean food and try to be as responsible and sustainable as possible–as well as try and educate others. I really don't know because you are correct about climate change; poisoning of water, air, and soil; 200 species go extinct per day. It doesn't look good.