I can still recall the moment I decided to start growing my own food. It came with an odd sense of urgency, not of an impending sense of doom (the GFC was in full swing at this point in time), but because I knew there was so much I wanted to learn, so much I didn’t know, and being in my late 20s’, probably should know!
I decided on tomatoes, in pots, on our 4 x 4m deck with terrible aspect and poor sunlight, yet I was not deterred! I bought my pots, potting mix and seedlings, grabbed a notebook and for weeks set about moving the pots daily to ensure they caught the most sunlight. Of course, I grew tired of moving them and settled for a location for each that caught as much light as possible.
Come early March, I’d managed to grow about 30 very tasty tomatoes. I knew this to be a rather poor return for my efforts, however the taste, oh the taste! So sweet and the flavor punched like a heavy weight compared to the store bought variety that had the punching power of an unconscious feather weight. I also grew some coriander that year which was surprisingly easy, and the convenience of having ready to pick fresh herbs became quite a simple pleasure.
The following year I added a small garden bed out the front of the unit where we grew some salad greens and cucumber. Within 2 years we bought our neighbour’s house on a 900sqm block and were growing around 20 different varieties of vegetables. Our tomato crop that year totaled over 60kg and we had enough to bottle for the winter. We’re now saving seed each year, creating a closed loop system.
Now let’s think about this from a sustainability point of view. I’d reached my late 20’s, had been well educated and yet knew nothing about how to grow food, the very thing that sustains me. Every morsel of food that entered my mouth required fossil fuel inputs to get it there. Take this to the macro level, both history and the present day highlights that the demand for oil and gas leads to a great variety of mischief across our globe. Author of ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ John Perkins sums it up well in what he refers to as the death economy, ‘It is about moving from ideas about merely being sustainable to ones that include regenerating areas devastated by agriculture, mining, and other destructive activities. It is about revolution. The transition from a death economy to a life economy is truly about a change in consciousness — a consciousness revolution.’
When I started growing my own food, it was a change in consciousness. Fossil fuels have their place of course, they’ve helped us as a species to solves some very complex problems. However we’ve become addicted to the conveniences they have provided. The greatest benefit of getting back to a simpler lifestyle has been the mental health gains. I feel less harried, more reflective. The acquired skills have brought with them a sense of being a more effective and useful citizen of the earth.
Fossil fuels are finite, we won’t have them forever and to think that we’ll discover a techno-fix silver bullet isn’t a stable plan for the future. Planning for a world without fossil fuels and using what’s left to get there through responsible consumption seems a more sage and noble plan. We can’t leave this up to governments or corporations, the only narrative our leadership reads from is economic growth through consumption. Perhaps we should consider the words of the famous Japanese natural farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, ‘Why do you have to develop? If economic growth rises from 5% to 10%, is happiness going to double? What’s wrong with a growth rate of 0%? Isn’t this a rather stable kind of economics? Could there be anything better than living simply and taking it easy?’1
1. ‘The One Straw Revolution’. Masanobu Fukuoka, 1978, pp158.