William Cobbett wrote Cottage Economy, published in 1821, with a twofold aim. First, to promote his personal philosophy of self-sufficiency, which he viewed as the foundation of family happiness. And second, to “instruct country laborers in the arts of brewing beer, making bread, keeping cows, pigs, bees, ewes, poultry, rabbits, and other matters.” The book has enjoyed classic status ever since.
Though over 180 years old, Cottage Economy has lost none of its relevance or inspiration for anyone in search of what Cobbett called “a good living.” Written with Cobbett’s typical wit - and bulldog curmudgeonliness -it deserves its reputation as the founding bible of self-sufficiency and one of the greatest rural reads in the English language.
Joanna Macy outlines a three-dimensional model as a guiding tool for how we can achieve “The Great Turning”: essentially, the “transition from the “industrial growth” society to a “life-sustaining” society.
Macy frames this as the third great revolution in history after the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions, and as one that will be occurring much more quickly than the previous two, with an active and conscious participation on the part of humanity as a whole.
The model imagines work in three distinct areas: holding actions (or what we normally call activism or direct action); structural change (where we actively work to build new societal forms, new economies, new ways of being together and organizing); and shifting consciousness (the work of inner spiritual and psychological transformation).
The Great Turning is the essential revolution of our time. It is impelled by the fact that the industrial growth society is now out of control and destroying the bases of life itself. Our globalizing political economy, driven by its need to accelerate growth and measuring success by its rate of growth, is what systems theorists call a ‘runaway’ system.
It is, in effect, a suicide economy. We’re all part of it.
Life, however, wants to go on and continue to unfold its 14-billion year story of dazzling creativity. It is virtually inevitable that a transition is underway toward a life-sustaining civilisation.
Village Repair: Permaculture Design Maquettes for Small Towns and Villages
Village Repair focusses on creating relationships, gathering places and habitat that promotes healthy interactions between people, animals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants, fungi and all other living and non-living links in the ecological community. As an activated social permaculture program and transition initiative, Village Repair hopes to inspire communities to redesign their own neighbourhoods into thriving, abundant and diverse ecosystems which support the web of life for all living and non-living things.
"Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever,” [Margaret] said. “This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won’t be a movement, because it will rest upon the earth."
— E. M. Forster, Howards End, (1910). Taken from the opening of Wendell Berry’s 2012 lecture It All Turns On Affection.
The skills, resources, and lifeways needed to get by in a disintegrating industrial society are radically different from those that made for a successful and comfortable life in the prosperous world of the recent past, and a great many of the requirements of an age of decline come with prolonged learning curves and a high price for failure.
Starting right away to practice the skills, assemble the resources, and follow the lifeways that will be the key to survival in a deindustrializing world offers the best hope of getting through the difficult years ahead with some degree of dignity and grace.
Collapse now, in other words, and avoid the rush.
The industrial revolution, coupled with its move towards privatisation of land and resources and its focus on capitalisation, has had effects which can be somewhat imperceptible when viewed over only a decade or so, but which become pronounced and dramatic when viewed since its inception until now. While the industrial revolution has brought not a few benefits — to some at least — it has also brought a host of significant negatives. The most obvious of these negatives, of course, is that the human race is, rather efficiently, bringing itself face to face with a potential complete meltdown of planetary biological systems, or, at least, with dangerously abrupt changes to them.
But looking deeper at the problems of environmental collapse, we should quickly discern that our crisis is less about environmental systems than it is about people systems — the invisible structures that frame and facilitate the fulfillment of our needs, our ambitions and the form, and subsequent result, of the economic activity that comes from these.
Showcasing the Sustainable Agrarian Movement
During and after the Great Depression, Americans left the farm en masse. The farm was viewed as a place of hard work, poverty and limited opportunity. Cities were opportunities for jobs and change and new ideas, with new and different people and where one wasn’t limited to the small community where everyone knew everyone.
Now, three generations later, there seems to be a new Agrarian movement.
Educated urbanites, aware of the deep issues of food safety and quality connected with industrialized/factory farming practices, are starting “micro farms” and produce operations, focused on sustainable and organic traditions.
On tiny plots, a new generation of farmers emerges
For these new farmers, going back to the land isn’t a rejection of conventional society, but an embrace of growing crops and raising animals for market as an honorable, important career choice — one that’s been waning since 1935, when the U.S. farms peaked at 6.8 million.
It’s about creating something real — the food people eat — and at the same time healing the Earth, says Severine von Tscharner Fleming, 27, a farmer in Nevis, N.Y. “The America that I want to live in will support people who are willing to work their asses off, who want to do good things for their community. We’re patriots of place. Here I am, I’m planting my trees.”
Three factors have made these small, organic farms possible: a rising consumer demand for organic and local produce, a huge increase in farmers’ markets nationwide, and the growing popularity of community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs.