The first-world-living folks are a pretty dependent bunch.
Every single day we wake up in a house built by someone else, turn on the lights using electricity from some magical grid, heat the house with gas from hundreds of miles away, then drive our car to work with gas that costs less than bottled water (per Litre) and sit at computers that operate with complex microchips and quantum mechanics. Then we go buy perfect-looking food grown in places we’ve never been and buy cheap items and clothes made by foreign workers we’ve never met.
We’re all driving the dream lifestyle vehicle, but we have relatively little idea what’s going on under the hood, and what exactly keeps it moving. How does our fridge work? Where does stuff go when you flush the toilet? What does an avocado plant even look like?
Realistically we don’t need to know this stuff because there’s someone who knows or someone we can pay to fix it when it breaks, right? Well unfortunately there’s many delicate systems in our lives that we have no control over and can’t simply be fixed.
Never in the history of mankind has it been like this!
Life up until around 100 years ago used to be simple enough that in order survive, humans required at least a basic knowledge of every aspect of life or the ability to build it or grow it themselves.
But now our basic needs are just handed to us for a reasonable cost:
It’s ‘normal’ to us to have perfectly round cantaloupes available for purchase for most of the year usually for only a few dollars. But we know so little about that cantaloupe– it was most likely turned by hand several times in a hot field in a poor country, picked, sorted and sent halfway across the world- but all we see is the end result- the fruit sitting quietly on the produce shelf.
Check out this great article Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers, where she defends the simple, independent farm lifestyle. “There is a surplus of mediocrity in this nation and deficit of bravery. Let your children grow up to be farmers.”
We don’t have to go fetch water, the clean drinkable liquid always just flows when you twist open the tap. We never think twice about the massively complicated process it took to get there, and whether there will always be enough to go around. What we would do if one day you turned the tap and nothing came out? What if we caught and stored our own water?
Most of us take on a house mortgage assuming that life will be status quo enough for interest rates to stay similar to current levels for the next 25 years or so. We also buy ‘houses on life support’ as Rob Roy calls them, author of “Mortgage Free.” Houses that aren’t built to adapt to the environment but rather are hooked up to tubes and cables to keep it, and their inhabitants, alive. If one of these systems gets turned off, the house can’t survive.
I’m not forecasting doomsday scenarios here, I’m just saying we need to take our lives into our own hands instead of relying on outside systems we know nothing about to take care of us. We need to take responsibility and take back our independence.
Rob Avis from Verge Permaculture suggests that we need to be ‘Anti-Fragile,’ which is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb who wrote a book called Anti-Fragile. This idea suggests we need to be not only resilient when life throws a proverbial wrench at you, but actually prosper from it.
Think about a bike shop when gasoline prices go through the roof, or the guy with a backyard garden when drought causes skyrocketing food costs.
“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better” – Nassim Taleb
How can we become anti fragile and reduce vulnerability? Here’s some examples.
1. Love biking. With fluctuating gas prices and the huge expenses of driving, a bike is clean, cheap and great exercise. You can afford to ride a bike in any economical situation.
2. Learn a new skill. My wife taught me to use a sewing machine, and now I get so much more life out of my clothes, and I’ve even made a couple original things!
3. Grow a garden. With droughts and flooding becoming more frequent, the availability of cheap food may not be as dependable in the future. A garden is fun, healthy and beautiful and doesn’t require 1000’s of miles of food transportation.
4. Catch rain water. Put out a barrel and water your new garden with the rain. The soft, non-chlorinated, non-treated water will be loved by your plants.
5. Learn how something works! Once you learn the basics of all the many tools we use in our day-to-day life, the better chance you can fix them and appreciate them.
I don’t know what the future holds but I can only guess that one of the many complicated systems in our lives will have some troubles down the road… but you’ll be ready for it, right?